Each week, we will be asking people who get their periods to talk about their relationship with their menstrual cycle. Feel free to get in touch with us via email in order to submit your own Period Piece. Thank you to all menstruators who choose to share their stories. By doing so, you are helping to break the taboo and normalise the topic of menstruation.
I don’t really remember the specifics of when I got my first period. Other than the fact I was around 12 years of age, I don’t remember exactly where I was, if I experienced menstrual cramps, or whether I was suffering from PMS. As I’ve gotten older and more accustomed to my menstrual cycle: undoubtedly, I will get stomach cramps of varying severity, feel irritable and moody, suffer from anxiety, and get a little bit pimple-y during the luteal phase of my cycle.
I don’t have any particular memories of being surprised or confused at the time of my first bleed: my mother told me all about the intricacies of puberty and what to expect from a young age. My mother was - and is to this day - one of the most open minded and forward thinking people in regards to championing sexuality and the female body. When I was growing up, we had an open door policy where we would chat to each other from the bathroom or walk around the house in various states of undress. I never grew up ashamed about my body, nor did I ever think anything strange about seeing my mother naked. She would dutifully buy me tampons and pads when I was an embarrassed teenager. As a fully fledged adult (ha, maybe), my mother and I still talk about periods a lot. I’ve been using a menstrual cup since I was 18, so whilst my mother no longer buys me disposable feminine hygiene products, we still chit-chat about why I am being particularly grumpy...
My cycle has always been like clockwork: though I don’t specifically track it, I know when I’m due to bleed thanks to the array of PMS symptoms my body likes to gently nudge me with a few days before my period. Weirdly enough, I quite enjoy menstruating. Once I actually start my period, the PMS symptoms ease off: I don’t have a particularly heavy period (despite having the copper IUD), and it’s always regular. From the tender beginnings of my first period up until I was 18, I had used pads as my main form of backup to soak up my flow. I had tried tampons many times, but always found them extremely uncomfortable. Even just thinking about the dry, cottony feeling in my vagina still sets my teeth on edge.
I hadn’t even known about the existence of menstrual cups until one of my closest friends emptied and rinsed clean her menstrual cup right in front of me in a public bathroom. I was completely caught off guard and had so many questions to ask - why the hell was my friend pouring blood down the sink? That menstrual cup looked pretty big… how does it fit up there? That’s a lot less blood than I thought there’d be! Well, after asking a lot of questions (and presumably, initially feeling icky and grossed out), I came to the conclusion that it was worth trying. Period pads, to me, always felt disgusting. The feeling of your flow gooping out from your vagina onto the cotton pad that you then have to wear for several hours never really appealed to me (shocking, right?).
So I tried out the cup. I don’t recall having any issues with insertion or removal - in fact the whole process came naturally to me and I thanked my lucky stars (and my friend) for showing me an alternative to nappy-esque pads and squirmingly uncomfortable tampons. I’ve been a convert ever since, and you’ll frequently find me trying to convert fellow menstruators to that sweet #cuplife.
The only times I’ve had to use period pads again is when I got my IUD put in (lucky me, I’ve had to endure two very painful IUD insertions). The experience of returning to pads after years of menstrual cup living was horrible. I felt like an overgrown, helpless baby in my bloody nappy. I felt awful for contributing even more waste to landfills and loathed feeling so constrained by the pad I had to wear.
I enjoy getting my period because it’s a mini-hallelujah for me that I am not pregnant. Now, I have complete faith in my IUD, but because of the very small percentage of failure rates, I like to take a moment out of my day to be humbled that I am not graced with an unwanted pregnancy.
Using a menstrual cup makes my period extremely manageable: I simply empty it out and rinse it clean first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I can wear it for up to 12 hours a day, without having to worry about leaks, unpleasant oxidised blood smells, or carrying back-ups in my bag. Plus, Zero Cup is reusable for TEN YEARS!! It's so easy to have a zero waste period that any other option is just environmentally irresponsible! Menstruating is simply another part of my (occasional) day-to-day life and it doesn’t bother me at all.