I am pleased to report I am still alive. Felt kind of strange all night and day, but that was due to a particularly bad dose of dysmenorrhea not botulism. Phew. Having said that, I did read botulism may rear its ugly head up to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria...
OK. This post comes with a warning. If you are male, queasy at the sight or sound of blood, or just not interested in female biology, this might not be for you. Quit reading now. On the other hand, read on if you
If the Red Tent by Anita Diamant is anything to go by, in ancient times women were well in tune with their sexuality and fertility. They menstruated in synch, withdrawing to the red tent to sit on clean straw and share their lives and their periods, their pregnancies and their loves.
What a long way off that seems from where we are today, when we manipulate our bodies with a pill, dull our fertility, push through the tiredness to fulfill our commitments outside the home, hide our cramps with medications, stem our flow through internal absorption. We are in complete control of our bodies but in the process we have lost touch with cycles and rhythms. We are not so good at embracing our fertility and sexuality.
I was recently interested to read a chapter entitled 'Feminine Hygiene (As Debated, Mostly, by Men)' in The Coming Plague by Laurie Garett. Garett details the commercial development of feminine hygiene products, and in particular tampons, linking their rise with the progress of women into the workplace. To my horror I read that tampons, which are inserted internally, were never subjected to safety tests, not when they were originally made with cotton in the 1930s, nor when super-abosrbant synthetic tampons were produced in the 1970s. By 1980 a surge in the recently described Toxic Shock Syndrome was being linked to these super absorbent, inadequately researched, insufficiently tested tampons. To this day TSS continues to occur and women continue using tampons, albeit with health information enclosed in the packaging.
My new knowledge set me to thinking about the way we are at the mercy of large corporations and their advertising. Women were taken in by tampons because they were promised comfort and security that would help them avoid embarrassing leaks in the outside world. They were out in the public marketplace inching their way forward into roles and responsibilities not previously performed by women. They required a reliable mechanism to control their menstrual flow. Feminine hygiene manufacturers jumped at the chance to meet their need and promoted their products shamelessly and the women jumped at the convenience. The more I thought about it the more I detested being at the mercy of corporations and companies and what they thought I was appropriate for my needs. I felt like a puppet dancing to the tune of whoever it is who says I should be always ready and available for work outside the home. But I kept buying tampons. They were so convenient.
Not long after this my journey took a different turn: I idly followed an unrelated link from Alotta Errata which took me to Treehugger. There I stumbled upon an article similar to 'Go with the flow' and was staggered to read how many pads and tampons end up flushed down the toilet or in landfill every year. Following up on the alternative feminine hygiene products listed on Treehugger, I learned more and more about cotton fabric pads and menstrual cups. Since I couldn't come at washing out my own pads I pursued the cup line of thinking. This 'Menstraul Cup' site was particularly helpful, if a little over zealous in its advocacy techniques. The biggest coup was discovering a dynamic, animated forum discussion that answered every question relating to menstrual cups I could possibly think of.
I don't claim to be an instant convert, but I was curious enough to give it a go. In January I decided upon a Lunette Cup and ordered one from Finland, via the UK, for $50. (Yay! They are now available in Australia) I won't kid you it was easy to use. It took me a couple of months to work up the courage, and another month or so to figure out how on earth to get it in, even with the detailed folding pictures I discovered in desperation!
It turned out getting the cup in was easier a lot easier than getting it out. While Frank was blissfully engrossed in 'The day after tomorrow', I was struggling with my cup, conjuring up new ways to extract it and wondering how I could explain my predicament to medical staff at the Accident and Emergency department. Thankfully it never came to that. And as they say, practice makes perfect. It got easier and easier to use. I find my Lunette so much more comfortable and practical than tampons I would never go back. The cramps are not as bad (except for last night - not sure what happened there), I have almost no problems with PV infections, once the cup is in I don't have to think about it all day (it was fantastic while we were travelling). Plus think of all the money I'm saving on pads and tampons! I love it.
I don't know, it's more than just convenience. Somehow I feel more in control of my body now... not quite getting back to the red tent, but no longer ignorant and at the mercy of unscrupulous corporations. No more landfill. No more expensive products. My periods have been transformed!