Recently, a friend and I were sitting around discussing how our periods are like prison time.
I have an IUD that causes my periods to last for two weeks every month. On my heaviest days, I need to visit the restroom about every 45 minutes to prevent my underpants from turning out like a battle scene from “Game of Thrones”(both gory and tedious to make sense of).
I also have two small children, so I can’t go anywhere without decent bathrooms. Why, you ask? Well. I need to safely corral them but leave them outside of the stall. I want them outside because I’m just not ready to answer questions about what mommy’s doing with her “ba-gina”. I want the bathroom to be reasonably clean because there’s an excellent chance they’re going to lick something while unattended. So forget all playgrounds, walks, stores, parks, libraries…basically anywhere except a nice hotel that comes with a nanny service. So, I tend to feel trapped at home.
Any-who, I was whining about my heavy flow and the expense and waste of all those tampons when my friend suggested the Diva Cup. The what-a-cup? It sounded like horrible soup. She explained it was a kind of flexible cup you stashed in your business that collected all of the blood instead of absorbing it. So, maybe I could wear it all day. Even on the days when every trip to the bathroom felt like the equivalent of a Civil War amputation.
Coincidentally, I also stumbled upon this hilarious rant in the Huffington Post, An Ode of Hatred To My Diva Cup, by Alex Logan. Logan despises the cup for being messy, inconvenient, non-functional, and uncomfortable. Like someone asking you to smell something nasty, I felt drawn to the Diva Cup. It was possible the universe was speaking to me. I ordered one that very day.
One of Logan’s gripes about the DC was its cost. She paid $40 for hers at Whole Foods. Amazon only made me shell out $27.78 with free shipping, so already I was totally winning! I had to decide if I wanted Model 1 (Pre Childbirth or under 30) or Model 2 (Post Childbirth or over 30). So I either had a normal sized vagina or an enormous one. I’m not sure why on the last night of your 20s the vagina fairy bestows a cavernous birth canal upon you, but whatever. Since I have the aforementioned offspring, I went for Model 2 (huge vag).
As fate would have it, the DC arrived on the very first day of my period. I was pretty excited to try it! But when it tumbled out its box, I was really taken aback at its largeness. Logan had a similar complaint. The thing looks really intimidating. I mean, it’s a silicone cup that can hold two ounces of liquid (a little less than the amount in a shot glass), so buyer beware. However, having pushed two babies the size of medicine balls through my vagina, I smugly felt I could handle it.
There’s a pamphlet included that tells you how to get it up there. Before you can do anything though, you need clean hands and a clean cup. The instructions advise you to wash your DC in “warm water and a mild, unscented, water-based (oil-free) soap”. So if you’re one of those anti-bac people, line up your plain soap before it’s deep sea diving time. Tip No. 1: When you wash it, always use warm water. It makes the cup softer and easier to mess with.
Next you fold it in half, then fold it in half again. This is not difficult. After it’s in they want you to rotate the cup to make sure it’s in the right place and fully opened. I rotated the shit out of that thing. I turned it like I was winding a goddamn clock. Tip No. 2: Zealous rotating is not helpful. Coupla turns should do it.
Then, done! I was pretty comfortable. Like a tampon, I could faintly detect something up there, but it didn’t bother me at all. After a while, I totally forgot all about it.
Then, it was time to take it out. That was a little funky. The DC has a ribbed stem at the bottom to help you grasp the cup and pull it out. But I didn’t feel like it was that simple.
First off, you gotta have a little bit of fingernail to pinch the stem and pull the fucker out. But not TOO much nail. Please God, keep ’em trimmed down somewhat. You really have to fish around sometimes. Thinking of those long, sharp acrylics is giving me the horrors. Secondly, it kept traveling pretty far up there while I was wearing it. It took some bearing down to get it to where I could grab the stem. (Maybe I DO have a huge vag…?) Finally, pulling it out is vaguely uncomfortable. Like I said before, the thing is somewhat sizeable. Taking it out feels like a very tiny birth. I wouldn’t call it painful, but it’s something. I would maybe liken it to birthing the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Small-ish and soft, but not really a good thing. However, I didn’t find it a deal breaker. Tip No. 3: Relax as much as possible and the removal is more comfortable.
And then there’s the mess. As long as you’re in the shower or a private bathroom, it’s really no problem. Watch your pants for dripping, though. I kept dripping one tiny, infuriatingly bright red drop on the waist band of my jeans. Every. Freaking. Time. Anyway, you empty it into the toilet and then wash it with your special soap before reinsertion. You’ll need a little clean up at this point. Baby wipes are helpful. Tip No. 4: The very easiest way to change the DC is in the shower. If you can time it that way (in the morning, after the gym, etc.) that’s your best bet.
Tip No. 5: Wear a panty liner with the DC when your flow is heavy. There’s a little leakage but not much. I would call it a light dusting. Not enough to soak through your pants, but enough to ruin your underwear. I would wear a liner with a tampon on a heavy day anyway, so this is no inconvenience to me.
Here are some trials I did on a THF (Triple Heavy Flow) day. You could maybe compare it to the scene in “The Shining” when the elevator doors open and the ocean of blood surges forth:
1. Dancing. I put on The Weeknd and danced. I danced like, dirty. And…fine! No big leaks.
2. Water. On THF days I can’t go swimming because my tampon becomes water logged and blood starts to seep out. Very embarrassing and super grody. So, I checked out a hot tub. No leaks at all and I felt confident. I might have done some more dirty dancing in the tub just for fun. Just to double check! All went well, although my friends were a little alarmed at the dancing. Everyone else was just sitting and chatting quietly.
3. Vigorous Exercise. I got sweaty, girls!!! I worked it wicked hard. I’m a group exercise instructor and on THF days I have to run to the bathroom at least once during an hour long class. No more!!! I jumped, kicked, squatted, strained, and burpeed. Not one drop sullied my Lorna Janes!
4. Sleeping. Normally on THF days I have to stick three pads together to keep my overnight tampon overflow from ruining my sheets. My husband affectionately calls it, “The Diaper”. It sounds like a bag of cats ‘n candy wrappers when I walk. I wore the DC to bed (it’s safe to wear it for up to 12 hours) and for the first time in years, I tore off The Diaper in the morning and threw it’s pristine white triple thickness into the garbage. I’m freeeeeeeee! Never again! See you in hell, Diaper!!!
People who should not buy the Diva Cup:
-Women who regularly need to use public or shared bathrooms where the sinks are separate from the stalls.
People who should buy the Diva Cup:
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Image: Sarah Olive Bergeson