I first came across a moon cup whilst browsing through a new age shop in Brighton, UK several years ago. I naively asked the shop assistant what it was and when she described it’s use to me, I was disgusted at the idea of getting so intimate with my menstrual blood. I’ll back track a little to explain my disgust…
When I was 14 years old and a year into my period starting, my mother gave me a box of tampons to use. Bless her heart, it didn’t occur to her to explain to me how to use them, and was instead told, ‘it’s about time you start using these things’. I thought they were just supposed to rest inside the outer labia and couldn’t understand why they weren’t very absorbent and definitely not very comfortable. For fear of embarrassment at discussing anything to do with my lady bits, I turned to the instructions and then worried about whether I might loose the thing up inside of me. It took me a while to get the hang of it…
In fact it was only when I discovered the self-applicator tampons that I finally figured out how to insert tampons properly. According to the marketing, their design made it really easy to insert the tampon and even better, I didn’t have to go anywhere near my own blood.
So when the lady in the shop in Brighton introduced me to the idea of a soft silicone cup that I insert into my vagina to collect my menstrual blood and then rinse out to reuse again and again, you can just imagine the look of horror on my face. After blushing profusely, I thanked the kind lady and very quickly walked out of the shop.
Fast forward a few years, an increase in my blood loss at periods, an increase in period pain and pretty much misery every single month and moon cups were once again introduced to me. This time it was at a showing of The Moon Inside You after which there was a discussion by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo. The idea of honouring, welcoming and enjoying my period was presented to me. A suggestion that my period might even be the thing that helps me navigate my life, showing me when I’m heading in the wrong direction with pain or providing me answers to questions when I bleed on them.
To say my mind was blown is an understatement. I sat in a room with a girl that described how she learnt to embrace her period by painting with her own menstrual blood for an a-level art assignment. At first everyone (boys and girls included) were disgusted by her idea and then soon afterwards were instead fascinated by what they saw.
I was horrified to discover the harmful substances that are put into tampons to make them white and absorbent and can cause all kinds of complications and in some cases tragedies. The moon cup was presented as a safe and loving solution that enables the blood to flow out more easily. A lot of menstrual pain comes from stagnation of the blood when it can’t flow easily and tampons restrict this flow. Using a moon cup helps to create a better flow for times when using a sanitary pad may not be an option.
If a moon cup was going to help ease my period pain I was prepared to try it. I purchased my first one and also bought a range of natural, non-toxic sanitary pads (I’ve since discovered cotton menstrual pads) to bleed into when I didn’t need the use of the moon cup. Within the first two cycles of using it I was amazed at the difference! The cramping and pain eased significantly and in the process I became far more connected to my bleed. I was able to monitor the flow and quality of the blood coming out to get a handle on what my cycle was like. Going back to using pads after over a decade was the strangest experience. I could actually feel my body releasing the blood and this in itself was a beautiful reminder to slow down and acknowledge the process that my body was going through.
With practice, I learnt how to insert the moon cup without leaving the bathroom looking like a crime scene After each cycle I boil it in a pot to sterilize it and store it in a little chitenge pouch to remind me of my Zambia roots.
The first time my daughter came into the bathroom while I was removing my moon cup she was curious about the sound. I hadn’t intended to have ‘the period’ talk with her so young and didn’t really know what to do apart from tell her it’s my moon cup. After hearing the advice of a friend with a son of similar age I realised that the sooner ‘the talk’ happens, the better really. Her son comes into the bathroom and just acknowledges that his mother is bleeding. A normal and very natural process with no other emotion attached to it.
It made me realise that my mother taught me in the best way she knew. She came from a generation of anything in ‘that department’ not really being discussed. My mother had to figure it out on her own, just like my aunt from the same generation who thought she was bleeding to death when she got her first period. I shared this blog post with my mother to run it past her first and funnily enough, my memory of the whole scenario wasn’t the same as hers. Apparently she kept trying to talk to me about the birds and the bees and I didn’t want to hear it. There you have it – there’s her truth, my truth and then there’s something in the middle
I think so much shame and pain has resulted from this lack of information being shared in some cultures and I feel grateful to know differently and to have an opportunity to raise a daughter that can be empowered by knowledge.
So if you haven’t tried a moon cup I really encourage you to go out and buy one. There are several different makes on the market and you can usually pick one up from a natural foods store and if you live in Turks & Caicos Dr Beate Gray stocks them. MoonCup in the brand I first discovered and I know that there are others out there like Lunette.
As always, I love to hear your thoughts on posts so please help create a discussion below.