I decided to try the menstrual cup. What appealed to me most about the cup was the concept of not much waste. I was living on a bus at the time with the intention of moving onto a boat, and not having to deal with monthly period trash was extremely appealing.
The first person to bring up the topic of a menstrual cup was my friend Aimee. For a couple of months, she had been bringing up forfeiting the tampon, convincing me to give this new method a try.
While at work, my co-worker, Paige, had also begun talking about using this Eco-friendly method. We spent part of our afternoon looking them up on the internet. We learned that "The menstrual cup" comes in multi-colors from yellow to pink to black. There are two different sizes and many different companies. After reading all the reviews, I decided on a size small based on the fact that I have never had children. Big mistake there. Let's face it, I'm not twenty-two anymore, and as many women may know, periods by no means get lighter or more manageable with age. In fact, they seem to get heavier and heavier each year, and in my case, more and more painful. So maybe I've never had kids, but I sure got periods as if I had. Anywho, I picked the ‘Aretha’ cup in a lite green color.
The cup arrived at perfect timing. I was set to get my monthly flow within days of receiving my package. I eagerly opened a small square box, pulling out a little bag with tiny yellow flowers printed all over it. My face lit up with excitement as I opened the small bag revealing the mini green cup wrapped in plastic. I held the cup up, examining it as if it was a rare diamond, pinching it together and then letting it pop back to its natural form. The top opening was about an inch-plus wide and about two inches in length, with a little tail that hung off the end.
I placed the cup back inside its little flowery pouch and stuck it in my panty drawer for safekeeping. And there it waited. Reminding me every day of my looming monthly event. As the week continued, my period became late, not an out-of-the-ordinary occurrence, just an annoyance due to my new experiment. My breast began to swell, warning me my time was coming. Then it happened.
I stumbled out of bed that cool morning, as I usually do. Clinging to the side of the bus, I carefully took a sleepily large step down onto a wooden platform made of pallets. Trudging through the uneven grass, I retrieved a hand full of toilet paper from the outhouse. (Side note: when living with an old-school outhouse, it is wise to separate numbers one and two as best possible. Keeping the two together creates a more potent smell.)
With toilet paper in hand, I retreated to my usual pee spot behind the bus.
T. Rex, my beloved orange tabby, followed close behind. I squatted down and took my pee position. T. Rex digs in the dirt, making a small hole next to the short stem of a baby sunflower plant. Following my lead, she also takes her pee position, and together we release our fluids. After I finish, I look down to see a smear of red across the white paper.
"I knew it!" T. Rex looks up stunned, from her hole burying. I pull my panties up and practically sprint back to the bus. T. Rex leaps out of my way. I quickly run to my underwear drawer and pull it open, revealing the flowery bag stuffed between two pairs of cotton panties. Smiling, I rip off the plastic case and head back to the loo. My excitement was overwhelming. I quietly wash the little rubber cup before closing myself in the outhouse. I stare at the cup for a moment, folding it, unfolding it, and figuring out how best to insert the small chalice.
Then I take a deep breath and go for it. It's in. It's comfortable enough; with a bit of worry that I hadn't placed it properly, I stepped out of the sugar shack and continued with my regular activities—soon forgetting about the small cup wedged inside me.
Later that afternoon, I met up with Aimee for some happy hour cocktails. So far, so good, no leaking, and I could hardly feel it. Then it happened. A trickle of warmth. I knew it was no longer holding. I excused myself and headed for the bathroom. Luckily, in a one-person washroom, I squatted on the toilet, trying to get the now buried cup out. I could find the tip, pinch, and pull, but it wouldn’t budge. The tip would slip through my fingers. I tried again and again with no luck. Shocked and embarrassed by the amount of time I'd already spent in the bathroom. I washed my blood-soaked fingers and lined my panties in toilet paper.
My face red with shame, I re-enter the bar, leaving the safety of the bathroom. I slide back onto my bar stool, and the image of the cup wiggling further up my cervix floats in my head. Aimee begins to tell me a story, but all I can think about is the plastic cup wedged in my uterus. I make an excuse to leave, not ready to admit my cup failure, and scurry out of the crowded bar.
Relieved to see my boyfriend was not home yet, I pull up to the bus and the little Hawaiian homestead we had built. I grab more toilet paper and a bag of wet wipes and hurry to the outhouse, praying my boyfriend takes his time finishing work.
The cup has retreated further up my uterus. I grab the tip and pull, but it slips, and my hand flies out like a rubber band on a slingshot. Blood coats my fingers. I try again, and this time I am able to grab the end of the cup. I pinch it as hard as I can, and it gives. The cup slides out with a gush of blood. I wash it in our little propane-heated shower. Not ready to throw in the towel, I fold it back into a narrow cylinder, then take a deep breath and slip it back inside myself. This time I let the tip hang out a bit, thinking maybe I had just put it in to far up the first time.
I curled up in bed and quickly pass out.
The next morning, I could feel the leaking, but I was so comfortable, cozily wrapped in blankets—my boyfriend playing on his phone next to me. I finally get up the strength, fearful from the event the night before. I prepare myself with toilet paper and wet wipes. But when I reach up to retrieve it, it's even further than it was the night before.
I take a deep breath and tell myself to remain calm. I reach up again, this time able to pinch the tip. I pull, but it slips. I try again, but this time pull so hard that my nail digs into my thumb, leaving an indention. Blood drips down my fingers. I try again, but no luck. I start to claw at it with the tips of my fingers, not able to grab the tip as I did before.
I stand up and reposition myself. Still no luck. I pull at the tip using my other hand; my breath becomes heavy. Horrible thoughts go through my head as I picture the look on the face of the ER nurse when I tell her what is stuck inside me. I think about the pliers in the driver's side door of my jeep. I wonder what's better to sanitize them with, hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol? Then I remember the tweezers on my makeup stand.
I shake my head and think, "I'm crazy; that'll never work."
That's when I decided to come clean to my boyfriend. I slowly walk into the bus, defeated.
I pathetically cry, "I have a problem."
He stares at me with both a look of worry and wonder. “Yes…" He carefully answers.
"Well, I... Um... My cup is stuck."
His face relaxes as he says, “well, sounds like something you should ask Google." Realizing he cannot help, I head for my iPhone, lying on the end of the bed. I sit down and open the common search page.
"Pinch the tip to make the cup release," I read as I scroll through the first website. "Try to get your pointer finger to the top, and your thumb placed on the bottom, then bend it to release." It continues. I backtracked to the Google page and saw a link for Buzzfeed. This could be the relief I'm looking for.
I click on the link:
"75 things to do if your menstrual cup is stuck inside you.
I start reading them aloud.
1.) Deny the fact that your menstrual cup is unreachable and continue to claw
at your insides like a panicked raccoon.
Checked that off my list.
2.) Slowly allow the sour wave of fear to rise up through your body when
you finally accept that it is, in fact, stuck inside of you.
3.) Quietly despair.
"How does buzz feed know me so well," I think as I continue to read.
5.) Switch to your non-dominant hand and retry the raccoon thing.
6.) Stare blankly at the bathroom floor tiles for a moment while
contemplating the meaning of life.
Check and check…
7.) Try again standing up.
8.) Try again sitting down.
Did that a few times.
15.) Consider for a moment leaving it stuck up there,
moving to a new city, finding a new job, and starting a new life.
16.) Realize that none of that will change the fact that you have a menstrual cup stuck inside your body.
17.) Emerge from the bathroom and locate your live-in boyfriend.
18.) Explain to your live-in boyfriend that the menstrual cup you were so excited to use has betrayed you, and now you both have to move to California and change your names.
I laugh as I read this one aloud to my boyfriend.
19.) Accept a hug while realizing this is as far as his help can go.
20.) Say goodbye to your live-in boyfriend and return to your bathroom lair—this is your home now.
My boyfriend laughs as he gets dressed, then walks over to me and gives me a sympathetic hug, patting my back softly before he exits the bus and heads for our outdoor kitchen located under a Costco canopy to make coffee.
I head back to the outhouse for one final try. I reach in. Pull at the tip of the cup. It gives just enough for my finger and thumb to pinch the tip, releasing the suction. Warm liquid starts to drip down my hand. Every muscle in my body relaxes as I stare at the small frustrating menstrual cup covered in deep red colored blood. I waddle to our outdoor shower, my panties hanging below my knees. I rinse the cup. Holding it up in the air, I examine the little piece of rubber. Taking note of its small details. Then with a deep breath, I fold the cup and slide it back into place. I'm still not ready to give up.
**Below is an update on current usage.**
It has been seven years since this dreaded moment of inserting my cup for the first time, and I can say that it has been a successful journey. My life’s landscape had changed dramatically; that boyfriend is now my ex, and my bus life got traded for a sailboat along with many nautical miles over the Caribbean Sea before leaving the ocean and heading back to the mountains of Boulder, Colorado. However, the cup has been my old reliable, coming to my rescue every month. I no longer dread it and have no intentions of giving it up.
The low environmental impact and the fact that I never have to worry about not having a tampon while traveling has been wonderful. However, the most beneficial thing that has happened since forfeiting the tampon is the change in my periods. At the time, I had struggled with mind-numbing pain every month. I saw doctors and specialists trying to figure out why my period was so excruciating and extremely heavy. No one could give me a straight answer and just wanted to treat me for Endometriosis.
I started using the cup because I knew I wanted to travel and had intentions of doing it by boat. One of the scariest things I could think of was not being able to find a tampon in a foreign country or, worse running out in the middle of a sail passage. At the time, I had no idea that this little cup was the answer to my womanly issues.
My periods are now shorter, lighter, and less painful. I went from having a seven-nine day period to a short and sweet three-four day. I still get pain, but nowhere near what it once was, with only one and a half days of heavy bleeding. I don’t know what it is in the tampons that had been poisoning me all these years but will never go back.
Whether you are traveling or not. I can highly recommend the menstrual cup.
Cindy Sherman inspired self-portraits taken by me, Cassidy Wayant, at the property of the bus in Holualoa, Hawaii. Copyright 2016.
North Carolina Heritage. Colorado Born. Aloha Spirit. Cayman Island Living.