So here we go, AWOT. I promised you my Mooncup adventures, and here they are.
Like Becca, I’ve never really got into the magical goddess running-with-wolves thing that other women manage to find in menstruation. I don’t find it particularly empowering that I’m in tune with the moon, and when Germaine Greer suggested tasting menstrual blood I put down the feminist literature and read the Famous Five for a week to try to erase the image. I don’t like the taste of blood when I cut my finger – I can’t imagine it’ll be improved by coursing down my vaginal walls. I have menorrhagia (aka the Raging Menses) and throughout my teens stuffed my vagina with tampax, my pants with Bodyform, and fainted in assembly every month. My GP didn’t quite tell me that it was the curse of Eve, but he basically said this was just something women had to cope with, so I did.
On arrival at university, the university GP – a woman who should be beatified for services to bleeding – told me this was nonsense and offered me a contraceptive injection that stopped my periods altogether. She was left cradling what remained of her offering arm, and for ten blissful years I didn’t menstruate.
Alas, after ten years, medical advice is to stop with the hormone-altering substances and so I’ve reverted to my natural state. But now, a reasonable number of my friends are Mooncup devotees, and evangelised to me the glory of the Mooncup. Once I’d established that it doesn’t sit over your cervix like a contraceptive cap, but in the vaginal opening, that you can wear it while exercising, and that it alleviates period pain in some women, I liked the idea.
The reality proved slightly more difficult.
The day before I was due, I popped into Boots. This was the first dilemma: Mooncup comes in two sizes, A (for all women over thirty and women under thirty who have given birth vaginally) and B (for women under thirty who have not had a vaginal birth.) I am exactly thirty, but I’ve never given birth, and since I don’t have sex with men the largest thing to go in there has been a tampon, or a finger. I’m also small in stature, with size 4 feet and miniature hands. I hesitated. I’ve made the mistake before of thinking I’m more petite than I am – memories of ‘petite’ shirts button-popping tight, or trousers wrinkling in defeat around the bottom larger than I thought it was. How vain would it be to buy a smaller Mooncup, only to have to return in shame to Boots for the larger one to fit my flappy fanny? I got the larger one.
In retrospect that was probably a mistake. This thing is huge. I mean, giant: I’ve drunk tea out of vessels smaller than this. But, undeterred, I took it into the shower with me the next morning when the Raging Menses arrived. Cocking a leg in ordinary tampon-insertion position, I folded it as instructed, brought it to my vagina, whereupon it unfurled with vigour. Imagine those little rubber toys that you turn inside out, place on a surface, and then watch them jump. Then imagine them doing that right on your vulva.
Undeterred, I tried again. This time I got it partly inside before it did the explosive unfurling. This pattern was repeated for about fifteen minutes, after which time my skin had prunified from being in the shower so long, and the shower looked like I’d tried to stage my own version of the shower scene from Psycho.
I decided to resort to lube. Clutching a towel around me, I grabbed the Liquid Silk – and then discretion got in the way and I checked the instructions. Do Not Use Lube.
Fine. So, with unusual foresight, I covered the bed in towels, lay down, and attempted to insert it. Some time later, and after much swearing and explosive-plastic-popping in the vicinity of my vag, I’d actually managed it, but only by virtue of lying on my back with my legs spread as far apart as possible: this is not a manoeuvre I can imagine doing in a public loo. Not without fear of arrest, anyway. But it was in, at least. The next instruction was to check that it had unfurled properly by running a finger round the edge. I had a bit of a rummage, gave up, and left it there.
Next, I discovered that the little plastic tail will indeed need trimming. As I walked round, the tail was catching painfully against my already bruised and battered ladybits. I put up with it for a couple of hours, then realised that I needed to trim it if I were to use this damned thing with any illusion of comfort.
Getting it out is the next item on the amusement arcade of Mooncup. Item 1: try pulling the tail. Nope. The suction is, as promised, firm. Item 2: try reaching up to squeeze the base of the cup. Seriously? Who on earth can actually do this? I couldn’t reach far enough in without getting back into the shower, squatting on the floor, bearing down with my pelvic muscles as though about to give birth, and finally yanking it out with brute force.
It had, I’ll grant you, done its job of collecting some menstrual blood. It didn’t spill as I yanked it out. I rinsed it out under the tap as directed and trimmed the little plastic tail.
I looked at the little plastic cup and contemplated another fifteen minutes of battle with my own vagina, which now felt as though it had been repeatedly punched by a gang of malevolent goblins wearing plastic boxing gloves.
I used a tampon.