periods. am i right?

in the last decade of bleeding, my menstrual cycle has been a point of contention for me. when i was in university, i saw it as a nuisance to my social life, even though i sometimes celebrated it’s arrival with a sign of non-pregnant relief. when i decided to go off the pill to see how my body functioned, it was no where to be found and led me to discover other medical problems. while i’m happy to have regulated my cycles again – yes, i went back on birth control – the act of shedding my uterine lining has never been a joyful week for me.

i’ve almost always used tampons. i got my first period when i was on family vacation in Georgia, and was given my first pad, like most adolescent girls. i remember them feeling bulky and uncomfortable, and was convinced you could always see them. i was also in the dance studio three times a week, and a pad did not lend well to tights and a bodysuit. i was asking for a leak. i asked my mom to make the switch to tampons and the rest is history.

that is until this cycle.

i started reading about menstrual cups a year ago. i was ramping up my hiking and i wanted to know if there was a better and easier way to menstruate in the wilderness. on a six-plus hour hike, where was i supposed to change my tampon? and where was i supposed to put it? i did not want to carry a used tampon around in my backpack, but that was the only option available to me as the majority of trails do not have restrooms at the top.

i did nothing about it until this month, due to the fact i was down to three tampons at home. i walked to shoppers to restock and there beside my usual brand of tampons was the diva cup. “why not?” i thought to myself and decided to bite the bullet and give it a shot.

so here we are at the beginning of my new experiment.

study: to find out what happens when you decide to switch from tampons to a diva cup.

hypothesis: i will be driven to madness.

sounds fun, doesn’t it? let’s find out!

the basics:
the diva cup looks like a funnel made out of silicone. it can hold up to an ounce of liquid and needs to be changed every 10-12 hours. each box comes with detailed instructions for insertion, removal and proper cleaning, as well as a cotton storage pouch (in a pretty pink and purple design *eye roll* when will periods and women’s things ever not be pink and purple? i’m surprised the cup itself isn’t pink or purple). there are two sizes of cups. diva 1 is for women under 30 who have not given birth to a child. diva 2 is for any lady over 30 or any woman who has given birth to a child. (sorry ladies, after 30 or childbirth, your vagina is now a bowling alley and you need the large size.)

diva cup

now let’s get down to business.

day 1

i took it out of the box, read all the instructions, cleaned it with “divawash” and made my first, second and third attempt at insertion.

first diva cup thoughts: it’s like reaching for your kidney through your vagina.

you have to fold up the diva cup to insert it, and once it goes in it’s supposed to open up and then form a seal, but sometimes (like when your nervous about inserting a diva cup for the first time) you clench your vagina and it might not open, so you have to gently coax your vagina walls to the side so the cup will pop open.

with the cup inserted and open, i retreated to the couch having no idea if i’d put it in properly. i spent the rest of the night a bit crampy. my vagina was weary of the foreign object i decided to stick in it.

vaginas. the weirdest.

day 2

i somehow woke up being a diva cup master. with a little bit more confidence under my belt, i wasn’t so clumsy trying to insert it.

i emptied it a total of three times (when i woke up, mid-afternoon and right before bed) and i mostly forgot that i had it inserted. there was no more cramping.

removing it was a bit of a funny feeling, as you have to pinch the cup to break the seal. if you don’t do this, you may suction out your cervix while you’re at it. kidding, of course, but you can feel a little tug, which can be uncomfortable.

day 3

this was the first weekday of my cycle, and i was taking my new menstrual companion to work and to a media event. luckily, my office has individual bathrooms, not multiple-stall rooms. i have the same amount of privacy there as i do my home bathroom.

i made sure to empty it before i left the office, as the media event didn’t have much privacy in the bathroom. it is not really something i want to wash out in front of others.

day 4

it was the last day of this cycle. i was still bleeding, although very lightly. i decided to keep the diva cup in to see how it functioned with an extremely light flow. often when i use a tampon on these days, it feels like sandpaper when trying to remove a dry tampon as it has absorbed any moisture there may be inside my vagina to lubricate its exit. because the cup is silicone, it did not do the same thing, and it wasn’t painful trying to remove it, even with very little liquid in it.

conclusion:
i ended up really liking the diva cup and will continue to use it for my future menstruations. i did not deal with any leaks, probably because i took a lot of time in the beginning to double and triple check that i followed the directions and had the cup inserted and opened properly. it was also interesting to see how much i actually bled. i always thought i had a heavy flow, but being able to inspect the cup upon removal i saw that it wasn’t even a quarter full any time i removed it. the average period produced 1.3 ounces of blood, and the diva cup can hold 1 ounce, so i wasn’t concerned about it overflowing.

every time i “changed” the cup, i would dump out the contents and clean it under running water. i would also cleanse it with divawash at least once a day. i spoke to Mary (she’s a nurse with very outdoorsy sisters) about the public washroom cleaning thing, and she said her sister would just dump the contents out in the toilet, wipe out the cup with some toilet paper and when she was home again she’d cleanse it with divawash or a mild, oil-free, fragrance-free soap.

note from divacup: they do not recommend cleaning the cup with an antibacterial soap, or using the following ingredients: vinegar, tea tree oil, scented/ fragranced soap/castile/peppermint soap or any other oil based soap, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, baking soda, pre-moistened wipe, hydrogen peroxide, dishwashing soap, bleach or harsh chemicals as some have been known to damage or compromise the silicone (such as a sticky or powdery film, severe discoloration or order, etc.) and the cup may need to be replaced to avoid irritations and/or burning.

you do need to get up close and personal with yourself. if you have never masturbated, or feel uncomfortable with touching your own vagina, i wouldn’t suggest this for you. i would suggest you get to know your genitalia, though, and maybe give yourself an orgasm while you’re at it.

since i am on a contraceptive pill, i have a better understanding of when my period will start, so i’ll be able to bring the diva cup with me on certain days, if i’m not lucky enough to begin my bleeding at home. if your cycles are less predictable, you may want to still keep a tampon or two in your purse or desk drawer for those surprise starts.

no leaks, and no descent into insanity. i think my first cycle with the diva cup was a pretty successful one.


curious about anything else? i’ll try to answer any questions you might have.

my grand experiment of sewing my broken heart back together started in february 2008. i wasn’t looking for a relationship, no, but i was looking to date. new men, big men, artsy men, tattooed men. the world was my man-oyster and i was going swimming. of course, i can look back at it this way now. in 2008 it all seemed like work. i was so comfortable being a pair, yet here i was teaching myself how to be singular again.

it felt like hard, overwhelming work until i locked eyes with a mid-20s, light haired man in a powder blue, untucked, slightly wrinkled dress shirt, jeans and brown loafers.

“i’m Laura,” i smiled, tossing my long blonde hair over my shoulder and extending my hand to shake his. i was at TSN to interview one of their assignment editors, and he was the just-above-the-bottom-of-the-totem-pole worker sent to fetch me.

“Ken is just finishing up a meeting, would you like a tour?” he asked.

i decided this was not the time to tell him how my dad had worked at the Scarborough campus for my entire childhood, and that between Christmas parties, take your kid to work days, and random weekends where he needed to go into the office, i had a great understanding of the twists and turns and expansive studios of the compound.

“sounds great.”

my 10-minute tour featured the endless grey hallways of cubicles and offices, and the bullpen of desks sitting below the SportsCentre studio. he proudly pointed to his desk in the middle of the chaos and exclaimed, “that’s mine.”

the tour ended at Ken’s office. “in case you needed anything else,” he said, pulling a business card from his pocket.

with one more hair toss, i accepted the card and turned my attention to Ken.

the interview with Ken was one of my best to-date. and while i am ridiculously proud of these moments, i know that’s not why you’re here. fast forward about an hour and a half, you’ll find me back in the parking lot, sitting in my subaru. i’ve exchanged my nude Nine West pointy pumps for flats and ditched my blazer in favour of bare arms.

still riding high on both the great interview and realization i remembered how to flirt, i pulled out my LG Chocolate slide phone and entered the number from the business card.

“hi, it’s Laura. i just wanted to thank you for your time today and the tour while Ken was occupied. it was a lot more fun than sitting in the lobby.”

professional.

i was taught at a young age that thank you notes were important, and often what set you out above the rest. i feel like dad would be proud of me, even if i had ulterior motives.

i threw my phone in the cup holder and started the long drive home in 401 rush hour traffic.

*beep beep* “what are you doing tomorrow night?”

i reached over and cranked the radio. she’s back, baby!


i’ve toyed with writing a memoir for years. this is a snippet. hope you enjoyed. 

read more of my story:
test pages, prologue.

 

growing up in dance, the studio was the spot where i continually went to to feel free and empowered. to this day, if i have the opportunity to be in an empty studio, i’ll put on music and break into free movement dance until i’m sweaty and smiling ear to ear…and most likely crying, because that’s what we do around here. there were many times when i was alone working at the yoga studio that i would do this. it really makes me feel like me.

putting my hand on a ballet barre is going home.

for these reasons, i have been on board from the beginning of the barre fitness movement. the first that i knew of in calgary was Barre Body Studio in ramsy. so when they invited us to take a class, i was the first in line; i hadn’t pliéd in a long while.

the two-studio space is bright and airy, with beautiful wood floors, exposed brick walls and the funkiest light fixtures. we moved into the smaller studio for our class, and when i saw all of the accessories Lanette had laid out for us, i knew we’d be in for quite a challenging workout.

a traditional class begins with a warm-up in the middle of the room, followed by a few weight tracks to burn out every little muscle possible in your upper extremities. from there, you move to the bar to do a series of pliés to have your legs feeling the same way as your arms. there are a few cardio bursts built in to get your heart racing. you’ll then move to the floor to burn out your abs, but thankfully you’re already on the ground and finish the class sprawled out. or, instead of starfish-ing, join in as everyone else stretches.

the muscle shakes and burn will play mind games with you, and all you’ll want to do is drop your arms, or come out of your plié. when you finally get to, you’ll feel like you just saved your own life.

for a better understanding of what goes on in your mind during a barre class check out the 57 things i think in barre class.

the class Lanette planned for us followed most of this general plan, but focused more on strength than it did on pliés. with bands around our thighs and balls between our knees, we bent into chair pose, and attitudes. “where were the pilés?” i kept thinking to myself.

i was bummed not to have more of a traditional dance-based class since that’s my favourite reason to take this type of fitness class. i think this ballerina needs to get herself into an actual dance class, or more of a traditional barre class.

the fine print:

if you’re new to the studio, their one month unlimited intro special is $65. a drop in is $25, and they also offer punch passes and memberships. you’ll also need a pair of grip socks which average about $15 depending on the style you buy. you can forget your locker, because their lockers have keys. creams and deodorant are also offered if you forget yours. they have a second location in calgary on bow trail that i haven’t been to, but it looks just as lovely. there are also two spots in edmonton.

let’s keep it simple:

is it a good workout? yes.

is it for me? yes.

for $10 off either a 10-card pass or 1-month new client intro at barre body studio, use the code: SASS10


are you a barre star?