In praise of the Menstrual Cup

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Very often, when I’m going through the motions of the day, I stop to marvel at the ingenuity of some human invention. Sometimes, it is the hot water geyser (is there anything more luxurious than a hot bath?), sometimes the steam iron (like when did we humans decide that it was important and possible to get rid of the creases in our clothes?) And these are not even the most brilliant of inventions but just looking at these things makes me revel in the joys and possibilities of being human (because sometimes just the news is enough to make me despair about the lowly nature of humans).

And so a few months ago I stumbled upon the humble menstrual cup, which, from the details on the box has been around since 1932! My friend Priyanka who is always the first one to summon the courage to try anything new, told me about it and about the website hygieneandyou. This is a fantastic website that recommends a brand for you based on your body type, activities etc. and has many useful videos on the insertion, removal use and so on.

I went with the ‘Me Luna’, a German make and chose a cup in my favorite orange. Since I am a big scaredy-cat with a low pain threshold, I made sure the husband was around (Mummy will give me a withering look at this and say “Aaj kal chya Mulina saarkhe navre lagtat!” and it’s true haha).

I almost could not bring myself to insert it but I grit my teeth and thought of Rumi and of birthing her (my favourite fear-beating trick) and went ahead. And it really was not hard or terrible at all. It took a few attempts to insert it completely but once it was inside, it was amazingly non-intrusive and comfortable. And the best part came later with a comfortable, leakage-free night’s sleep where I could sleep on my tummy as opposed to the stiff ‘saavdhaan’ stance that I am forced to normally torture myself in. Because of my heavy bleeding, I invariably have to wake up feeling sticky and wet and thoroughly uncomfortable, only to face another long day in washing, cleaning, avoiding sitting down anywhere and looking for Rumi’s rubber sheets to spread on the bed but all that felt like ancient history with the cup!

I could move about freely, dance, hop, skip and jump and did not have to bother removing the cup for about 8 hours. Removal is fairly straightforward, once you get that technique of pinching the side of the cup to sort of ‘pop’ it and break the vacuum. I did have one sort of malfunction where I had confidently pushed the cup quite high and could not locate the stem to remove it. But the trick is really to stay calm so that your muscles are relaxed, and it does get easy with practice.

Women, I cannot recommend the cup enough! And as I repeatedly say, if I can, you definitely can! Just make up your mind to move past the initial trepidation and be willing to practice a few times. It will change your life and cycle! From being that week of the month that I dread, my period became something very comfortable and unobtrusive; something that did not interfere at all with my day (no more scrubbing clothes in the bathroom, yay!).

I was willing to give the menstrual cup a chance for the sake of the environment but I was bowled over by the comfort and convenience. Some tips and tricks that may make things easier for first time users: being in the shower helps. The idea is to relax your muscles as much as you can and use the water as a lubricant. Squatting on the floor works best for the first time attempt. There are loads of videos on YouTube and persistence is key. Please do give the cup a chance and see how it changes your life; join me and become a Cupvert!

The seemingly insurmountable peaks and valleys of ‘trying’

I have known forever that I want two children. Friends shake their heads at the living embodiment of a cliché that I am and it is true too; if I had been raised in the West, I am sure my idea of an ideal home would include a white picket fence. So I’ve always had this picture in my head of two kids, ideally one boy and one girl. Sometime last year, I brought up the topic of a second child with the husband. He likes the idea of a sibling for Rumi too and he would really like to adopt. I would like to adopt too, but then I would also really like to conceive again. It was so indescribably beautiful carrying Rumi for those 9 months; those kicks and fluttery movements, the thumb-sucking in the ultrasounds, the galloping sound of her heartbeat, I just loved every single moment of being pregnant. Even when it got hard and complicated and we got scared with preterm labor, I got an undying trickle of courage and peace when I placed my hands on my belly and asked her to stay inside for just one more day, one more week.

I am convinced that the birth of Rumi is truly a miracle, a gift that I will go down on my knees and be grateful for all my life. I have lost track of the number of hours spent with the radiologist monitoring the size of my follicles, the number of shots I took without a sound (and I’m petrified of injections!), the pills I took before just giving up and saying I could not possibly do it again, only to find out that our lil wormy had nested in the walls of my uterus as ‘naturally’ as ever. As it was meant to be.

Wanting to birth a child a second time over means opening those painful gates again. Of waiting every month and hoping and saying a prayer on the bathroom floor, only to find one pink line again. Of being petrified of finding blood on my underpants every time I use the bathroom. Is it worth it? And my PCOD has just gotten worse. I get my period once in three months. That means 4 chances a year? And the chance that I ovulate in those cycles is also quite low. In spite of knowing this, in spite of agreeing that adoption is completely right for us and for the earth and for the population, in spite of knowing how a second child will pull our finances paper-thin, I cannot stop hankering for those two pink lines.

I sometimes feel like a spoilt and petulant child who will ignore the hundreds of beautiful toys around and cry for something totally worthless in the shop window. My life has given me everything I ever asked for, even more than what I ever asked for. Then why am I hell bent on crying over that one thing that won’t come easy, or may not come at all? Why do I obsessively buy those stupid pregnancy tests and take them furtively and pray and almost believe for two seconds that this time it is going to be positive?

I don’t know why. I only know how it amazes me and makes me gape with alien wonder when I hear how someone conceived immediately or even accidentally. Like a missed period is enough to know. I keep wondering how that must feel like. Having PCOS is having my body plays these mean tricks on me. My breasts feel fuller and hurt. I feel nauseous and sick in the mornings. And I miss my period. And then I fall for these things and allow myself to hope, only to see that one pink line and spend a day crying and feeling sorry for myself.

I don’t know what the best way forward is. To just stop trying and adopt? To keep trying for the event that we will conceive, miraculously and unexpectedly like we did with Rumi? To be content with the joys of raising one child and look to find that same joy and spark in other dreams? I oscillate between these options like a lost soul. I really do not know.

What I do know is this: this is my burden to carry, my load, the tiny crack in the perfect, glazed porcelain of my life. I beg my mother, my husband, my close friends for answers and they can hold me close and comfort me as they know how but they cannot answer this for me or make this sadness their own. Whether I have to go through a thousand one pink line tests more, or get a ‘heart’ baby or raise Rumi as an only child, I have to carry this weight the best I can. A trivial burden as compared to the horrific tragedies in the world, but my burden nonetheless. I know that it passes. Sometimes by spending an afternoon in bed with a book. Sometimes by crying loudly into my husband’s chest wetting the front of his super-soft T-shirts. But mostly by praying. And whenever I go through these hard days and pray, I always remember a story about Jesus that was told to us in school about the crosses we all have to bear, and it sort of gives me strength. Here’s the link:

http://www.all-creatures.org/stories/theburden.html