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In Her Cups

I'm a reasonably healthy combination of neophilic and neophobic, which means that I don't always go diving after the latest new idea simply because it's new; I wait for the truly neophilic people to do that, and point and laugh when they encounter the latest weird new issues, then adopt it myself before most people quite know what it is.

One of the most touchy female issues there is (indeed, Connie Willis's science fiction writing considers it the female issue) is the periodic shedding of the uterine lining.

I had been sort of deciding that I ought to try the whole "cup" menstrual experience, given that it has got to be more comfortable than some of the other options. The Lunatic's general method of dealing with the fun has had several phases:

Middle school and high school: Wear nice thick tampon and pad that could be comfortably stuck to the bottom of the foot and ice-skated on. Change tampon as it sogged out and leaked; change pad before going to bed and after getting up in the morning.

College: Attempt to ditch the tampons, but discover why the tampons were a good idea. Hastily return to same after getting a few too many red wedgies.

Post-college: Get fed up with the constant cardboard ramming and continual fun of having something wedged in the narrow "neck" of the vagina, the part that only the string is supposed to be in, and even more fed up with them winding up either in upside-down or not in far enough and migrating out so the end starts sopping up urine and having to be pulled out and replaced at each bathroom stop, even while the tip by the cervix is only slightly bloody and still sticky-dry. Stop bothering most of the time and switch to impromptu TP padettes.

I decided that none of that was working very well, and began poking about for other things. A firm determination to never have to deal with soggy chafing items wedged in the crotch meant that the only other viable alternative was a cup. But. Invest in a nice sturdy re-usable cup without testing to see if I could stand a cup any better than I could stand a half-sodden mass of cotton being pulled out by a string? No way.

So the Instead cup was recommended to me, and I purchased a box, and immediately shoved one in my purse against the inevitable day when eventually my body will decide to cooperate and bleed at semi-regular intervals.

Friday at work was the day.

The cup's rim is all pink and plastic, with a clear cup/bag. It looks cross between a diaphragm and a condom with reservoir tip, except done up in checkered clear thin plastic instead. You squish it so it'll slide inside the vagina, which is easier said than done, but easier done than described. Good bits involve the fact that, well, it's bleeding already, so there's some moisture. Pre-lubed squishycups would be sooooo cool, sort of like pre-lubed condoms.

I wasn't quite sure that the cup had seated properly. In my mind's eye, I was thinking that the cup should be pointed up! up! like a tulip, in order to be in the right place. But when one is sitting down, the vagina kind of goes sideways. There was uncertainty, but I eventually left it as was without poking it in any further, figuring that the worst that could happen was a little leaking, and certainly the underpants could survive that.

I've taken to drinking like ten billion cups of tea at work while working on the database, on the argument that it's more hot and flavorful than cold water, cold water un-colds so quickly, the training room is cold anyway, and at least it's better than coffee or soda. On my next trip to the bathroom, I poked an experimental finger at my vaginal entrance. No blood! Just a trace of normal vaginal goo! Hooray! I did the happydance and resumed my database work with no more worries.

When it came time for the shower after I got home, I had no qualms about retrieving the cup from inside me. I hear all these scare-stories on the internet about women getting stuff trapped inside their vaginas, but I have no idea how they manage this. There's this thing called a 'pubococcygeus muscle', and when it is well-trained, it can do tricks like help you get whatever is inside your vagina out of it, especially when combined with a good dose of "reach in and pull it out"! The cup was right where it was supposed to be, and I grabbed it with my finger under the rim and slid it out.

The ad copy probably shows a fully expanded cup with water in it, held by a perfectly manicured woman's hand. The reality is a lot more like a crumpled cellophane bag in a tiny embroidery hoop, with cranberry juice concentrate splashed about inside. There really wasn't enough for me to worry about spilling it. A half-teaspoon of cranberry juice concentrate is really easy to wipe up off the floor if it happens to spill, or if you drop the lid to the juice can. (Mine didn't spill.) It's a lot more mess to clean up if it's dripped out of an eyedropper over a span of six hours, and repeatedly rubbed back and forth on clean cloth and spread out and squished and sat on while it's dripping. A little liquid goes a long way when making a mess.

The cup is theoretically not reusable, but it often is re-used in practice. I washed mine with water and a bit of soap, then introduced it to some hydrogen peroxide while I showered. Then I rinsed it again with water, daubed it with aloe vera gel, and re-inserted it. Knowing where it was supposed to go made a difference.

I repeated the process of remove, empty, wash, and re-insert this morning upon waking up, and again this afternoon. I'd not bled much overnight, but over the morning, I'd collected maybe a half-teaspoon's worth.

There are no bits of cotton fluff sticking where no bits of cotton fluff should be! I have not got padettes coming loose, nor have I pads glued to part of my underwear and the other half glued to my hair!

I would not recommend re-using when in a public bathroom, or any other place where the sink is not immediately accessible from the toilet. Doing the lame-duck panties-around-ankles waddle between toilet and sink is awkward enough in one's own bathroom, let alone a public one. However, I plan to keep using these, and keep having one in my purse in case of emergency, because they're ever so much more comfortable and convenient when at home. And honestly, if they can go twelve hours with ease, then I'm only rarely going to be out of range of a home-type bathroom for longer than that!
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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