*WARNING: This post may not be suitable for a male audience.*
If that's not enough to get every male reader scurrying away with his tail between his legs, then I'm a monkey's uncle.
I want to talk about menstruation today, or, more specifically, what we as women do with our menstruation every month.
Mark and I try to look for ways to cut back on the amount of waste we produce as a couple. We're not stellar. We still have paper towels at home. We do buy paper plates once in a while to use when we have Bible study at our house. (Sometimes we get out the real stuff for Bible study, but sometimes I just can't bear the thought of that mound of dishes staring at me late in the evening after everyone has left for home.)
When I was studying abroad, in Belize, through the Creation Care Studies Program, one of my classmates mentioned the fact that every month we as women use a lot of disposable materials. Between light day panty liners, maxi pads, and tampons, our bathroom wastebaskets are filled every month. And it's not just one woman who fills a garbage bag with paper and plastic waste every month. Most women in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 45 fill a bag every month!
I had never really given a thought to cutting back on that kind of waste before. We're women, right? It's unavoidable. But that classmate of mine planted a little seed in my mind that has continued to grow slowly over the last couple of years.
I first discovered these:
These o.b. tampons don't have any extra packaging other than a thin plastic film over the tampon itself, which made me happy. Less waste! True, you have to be willing to get a little comfortable with yourself to insert them, but they're really not hard to get used to. I like these a lot. I'm planning on taking these on the mission trip Mark and I are going on (which I will be posting about soon).
Then, a good friend and pen-pal of mine mentioned these:
Lunapads are washable, reusable menstrual pads. She said she'd been using them for quite a while and loved them. I was entranced. A way to cut the amount of pad waste every month to zero! I explored the website a little bit and was excited but also skeptical that a cotton pad could keep me feeling dry and comfortable (and not embarrassed) during my period.
My dear friend gave me my first Lunapad for Christmas. What a good friend! I enjoyed using my one Lunapad so much that I purchased a few more. I'm still not brave enough to try them on their own, but I do use them regularly. The only thing I don't like about them is that they don't stay in place as well as sticky-backed disposable pads.
Because I seemed so excited about the Lunapads, my friend decided to share with me that she also has been using this:
What, in the world, you might be asking, is that?
That, my friends, is a Diva Cup. It is, in essence, a reusable tampon.
I can see you shuddering and moving your mouse to hover over the big X in the top right corner of your screen. Stay with me.
My friend told me that she has been using this little device for over a year and loves it. She explained to me that you only need to empty this baby about every 12 hours. Empty it, wash it with a mild soap, reinsert, and you're good to go for another twelve hours. She said that at the end of her period each month she plunks her Diva Cup into boiling water for about two minutes to zap any germs, dries it off, and stores it in its handy little pouch (pictured above) until it's needed again.
I was, to say the least, intimidated. But I trust my friend's judgement, and the allure of a waste-free tampon was strong. I ordered one of my own.
My Diva Cup finally just got its trial run (stupid infertility, stupid irregularity), and I was cautiously thrilled with its performance.
The Diva Cup, as you can probably see, is much wider than a tampon, so insertion follows a different process. I won't go into details here (I can tell you're relieved). But, as you may imagine, I was really nervous the first time I used my Diva Cup.
I still remember the horrible stress of trying to use a tampon for the first time in college. I was in Belize, and our class was heading to a river. The plan was to work first, swim later. I was in the middle of my period and had never used a tampon before. My roommates encouraged me: "You can do it, Hillary! It's easy!" "Here, take one of my tampons! I know you'll love it." I did not love it. I could not figure it out. I did not go swimming. Ugh.
I eventually did figure out how to use tampons, thankfully, but the memory of those stressful moments was pretty strong as I read through my Diva Cup directions for the first time. Surprisingly, learning to use the Diva Cup was actually less stressful for me than learning to use a tampon. Who would have guessed?
It worked like a charm, and it wasn't uncomfortable in the least. I like it so much, I'm thinking about getting one for my little sister for Christmas this year. (Isn't that what every 16-year-old wants?)
I'm not sharing this to try to guilt you into purchasing a Diva Cup or your own or Lunapads or even o.b. tampons. And even though all of these options are cheaper financially than traditional American menstrual protection, I know they aren't for everyone.
But for me, all it took was a solid recommendation from a friend to take the plunge and try reusable pads and the Diva Cup. I love them all, and except for international travel, I'm not planning on going back.
If you're interested enough to take a leap of faith a try a Lunapad or a Diva Cup, I'd love to hear about it!