It had all the makings of an adventure or romance novel- left with your lover on a nearly deserted island surrounded by turquoise clear waters.
And then it had all the makings of a horror novel- uncontrollable blood.
I had first learned about menstrual cups when I was asked to make a couple films on them in Malawi-one in a refugee camp and one with girl guides. The girl guides got really into it, singing and dancing about menstrual cups without hesitation or insecurity. The taboo of menstruation clearly outweighed the joy these women felt for a menstrual cup. As a menstruating woman I had to find out for myself.
Fast forward to the frontline of the Ukraine conflict, I was behind lines without any access to my usual menstrual supplies-about 2 years ago I switched to THINX and didn’t think of using anything else until the menstrual cup came along. Armed with it, I had no choice but to use the lessons I had filmed several months earlier and give it a go. Initial thoughts were:
More comfortable and reliable than any other option out there. I was converted! Until of course, I had to remove it.
In hindsight, I would probably suggest not trying something new on your body when you’re in a stressful situation or you could find yourself stuck and a bit traumatised like I did for an hour in my hotel room in Ukraine.
After filming and editing the training sessions over and over again, where did I go wrong? Confused and admittedly a bit afraid I asked someone I bumped into at a film festival who was a Cupper, how did I spectacularly fail to use it properly? Or is that how it always is?
“Remember what it was like the first time you used a tampon?”
The horror instantly came back-I remember crying and ashamed I couldn’t use one at eleven years old. It had been a while, but at that moment I was reminded how difficult and stressed I was back then the same way I was the first time I used a cup.
She said don’t worry, you’ll adjust to using it usually after 3 times.
My initial reaction was- I have to suffer through that AGAIN before it before I feel the same magic the Malawi girl guides did that made the jump and sing with pride about their cups. I wasn’t thrilled.
The second time was unexpected but fitting, I had already had my period that month but since it was irregular and probably destiny that I should get it a second time in July while filming my documentary on menstruation WOMENstruate in South Africa.
Still just as comfortable, just as reliable and I kept myself a bit calmer this time to change it. The process still took me half an hour in the shower, but that was half the time than before without the heightened stress. I still preferred my THINX whenever I could just because they worked well for me.
I’ve just turned 35, not filming on location for once but in a once in a lifetime location-the Maldives.
Every atoll is pretty isolated from the other, with only a single hotel on each. The seas are so clear you can see schools of fish or baby sharks swim along the shore. We had our own beach hut with our own private beach area in paradise. But when you have a milestone birthday in a turquoise water paradise, the absolute last thing you want is your period to be as irregular as ever.
I began to panic slightly that I would have to be cooped up in our beach hut for my own comfort in my THINX. Being marooned on a desert island suddenly had a whole new meaning for me-until I remembered I had my menstrual cup, and it was lucky number 3 for me this time.
As with the last two times, comfortable, reliable but this time easily removable! It turned my birthday back around all because it didn’t leave me on land for the rest of it! It was even easier to use in a beach setting because of the additional water sprayers in the bathrooms, I didn’t have to bring clean water into the toilet with me to rinse it.
I felt so relieved, like I could finally be in that circle with the girl guides jumping and singing my way into 35!
With many people insolation around the world due to COVID-19, there’s no better time to get through your first two struggles with a menstrual cup than NOW! They can be ordered online or purchased in most pharmacies that are still open during isolation periods. And then you’ll be ready to hit the road or skies with it when they open back up. I’m currently safely stuck in Bermuda, as I came here for a long weekend to visit my partner which has turned into much longer. When I was packing my carry-on bag, I was not meant to have my menstruation during my long weekend but I figured my menstrual cup took up no space and its something I would rather have than not.
It’s the most useful thing I packed that I did not plan on needing.
I’ve already used it once during my isolation ‘period’ (couldn’t help myself) and will most likely have to use it again. Now is the time to try it, because now all we have is time!
Lauren Anders Brown is usually a traveling self-shooting documentary filmmaker currently grounded in Bermuda, but thankfully with her menstrual cup. Her latest documentary shot in 6 days shares the stories of 7 African women from different decades and countries and their experiences with menstruation. WOMENstruate is currently being internationally distributed for broadcast but if you’d like to screen it at a festival or a private screening you can complete a license here. Follow the WOMENstruate accounts on Twitter and Instagram and Lauren on Twitter and Instagram @LABCollaborate.