The Cup of Freedom?

The cup has been around for a while. Its popularity, although slow in number, is immense in intensity. Every woman I know, who uses the cup, has shared and proclaimed its wonder on social media. It gives freedom, it saves the environment, it saves money. Basically if you are a cool-ass new-age thing that bleeds voluntarily at regular (well almost) intervals, you have to do the cup.

Many years of feeling uncool last week I got the opportunity to see a real cup, hold it and hear panegyric about it from a user’s mouth. Although, it would have been more convenient if vaginas could talk. But there were technical issues and it was in public. It was Kabita who gave, a bunch of us periodically bloody people, a talk about the menstrual cup. She also had handmade cotton pads to show. But I have forgotten all about them.

I always had this feeling deep up my uterus that mother Gaia wanted me to have the cup. She proved me right by bringing my periods down the very next day, a whole week early. Well, every woman that bleeds knows these things are scientific. Periods can come whenever they want to. Sometimes two weeks early caused by your best friend, cousin or roommate’s period and sometimes ten days later just so you can’t enjoy your vacation completely because you are PMSing. Why, this friend who bought the cup on the same day as me is still waiting for hers to come while I am reaching out to millions with intimate details of my 336th period. Gaia is real.

Day 1

I have never been so happy and excited about getting periods. (Not even when I got them after unprotected sex scares.) I am going to try my cup. Yay!

And the perfection of mother Gaia times it till the minute.

9.10 am: daughter and partner leave for school.

9.12 am: I feel the red gold flow down my cervix. I put the water up for boiling. You have to sterilise it in boiling water for 15 minutes the first time. I pour myself a cup of coffee and wait in relaxed anticipation.

9.27am: I go to the bathroom, wash my hands and hold the cup in the punch-down fold (there is also a c fold that one can use). I am nervous for a moment but I do not hesitate. I insert the cup. It slides in and takes me by surprise. There is a pop sound and it’s gone! I feel nothing. I do a few Kegels to check. Nothing. Can’t believe it. I touch myself. I jump a little bit and I smile J. I try taking it out. It needs a bit of a squeeze. I can see difficulty for the wimpies out there. But I am an expert with fingers.

What a feeling! I don’t have to wear a pad! I won’t have to carry that sticky wet feeling between my legs! Kabita did say that you can even wear it without a panty. She is right! I think of my mother – a cup under her mekhela. How nice she will feel. And then remember, she is doing better than that. She stopped bleeding many moons ago. Damn! She wins again!

I carry the feeling of unbearable lightness (sorry for not letting go of the punportunity) as I dress. No panty-pad adjustment. No remembering to carry pads and paper to wrap. I walk out breezily to a full packed day. I feel like telling every stranger on the road about my feeling.

But like everything, I overdid this one too. The cup can stay for 10-12 hours without changing. Depending on your flow. I decided to test it to its limit. At around 10 hours, I am asked by Indrani – is there a stain on your skirt? Shit! I rush to the bathroom. The cup floweth to the brim. I should have checked earlier. I know I have a heavy flow on the first day. I have been feeling it flowing through the day. I thought about it a few times. But because there was no wet feeling, I did not check. Not a bad thing. Just remember to change sooner on the first day, I tell myself. I take the cup out, throw the blood in the pot, wash the cup with clean water and put it back in. This blood is so good, you can give it to the plant, Kabita told us. Juicy red tomatoes from my garden anyone?

I habitually look for a dustbin and look at my empty hands. Nothing to throw! No guilt feeling. Good job girl!

As I look at the now bright red toilet pot to flush, I realise, this is the first time I have seen my blood as it is. A velvety dark red liquid. A cupful of it. I hug myself. I have not felt this intimate with myself ever. More intimate than self-sex.

Day 2

I did not sleep well last night. And I woke up with a feeling that the cup is flowing over again. But it was cold and I laid about for some more time. When I went to the bathroom there was stain on the panty.

As I go about changing the cup like a pro, I remember being worried about the cup through the night. Will it slip? Will it leak? I realise it is the doings of a pad-trained brain. This is what pads make you do – think about it even while sleeping. It will need getting used to. Wait and watch. I message Shreejata to ask about it. She has been using it for two and a half years. She says, the only con about the cup is that I forget about it. So I forget to change and then sometimes it overflows.

I go through the day again like a breeze. I wash, clean, cook, garden. All along singing a song about the cup in my head. I want to share this wonderful feeling with someone. Last time I felt like this was more than 20 years ago when I wore the contact lenses for the first time. I had marvelled at the feeling of freedom from glasses and at the wonderful achievements of humankind and science. I have always been the scientific kind you see. And just than mother Gaia brings Papari home. To provide me with an unsuspecting victim. I eulogise the cup while Papari, typically like all women who have not tried it, shows disdain, doubt, suspicion. And then I describe how to change. She asks – you mean there is only one cup? You don’t throw it away? I smirk – not for 10 years!

There is a cramp creeping in just before bed. Ill fitting cups can lead to cramps it seems. Since I did not have any during the day, most likely this is the regular period cramps. It is too early to be absolutely sure. I will have to wait till my next period at least! I feel impatient and drowsy. I count my bleeding – three cups yesterday including at night. One cup today. That’s about 80 ml. Never knew how much I bleed. I pass out.

Day 3

Travelling to Aizawl today. I told you Gaia is real and this stuff is scientific. How else do you explain these perfect opportunities? I am as excited as Kalpana Chawla on her first moon mission (or was it space?) about this cup business and I get to fly, taxi, hotel, meeting, dinner and the package in the first period! To add to the creation of conducive conditions, there is a mega rally of the indigenous’ at Latasil. Means mega traffic jam. Means I have to leave two hours earlier than planned. Means my travel time gets lengthened by two more hours. Means more time in the ovarian lab with the silicone wonder. I can’t believe my luck!

I really can’t believe my luck. Gaia is beaming on me for sure. The flight to Aizawl gets delayed by 1 and a half hour. I reach the hotel 10 hours later. I have used the toilet 4 times during this time. You can pee and poop with the cup in. Without a worry, without changing anything! I don’t even have to think about buying pads.

Finally in the hotel bathroom I change. Not much blood today. Half a cup. And guess what? No smell! Imagine periods without that smell of blood mixed with chemicals from the pad mixed with sweat. Especially if you have been travelling for a long time. Now no smell at all.

In Aizawl I find a willing victim to talk about the cup. Msi came to pick me up and off we went on the scooty to West Cafe for dinner. After we finish talking about relationships and how difficult these things are, I broach my favourite topic of the year. From relationships we shift to periods and how difficult these things are. How bad we feel throwing pads into the fields or forests when travelling to the interiors? Sometimes when you go to someone’s bathroom and there is no dustbin? Sometimes you have gone to a public bathroom and you have forgotten to take a paper of plastic bag to wrap? And that awful smell! And the rubbing sound of pad that you can hear yourself while in the gym. And swimming. How many days I miss swimming because of periods? With the cup, none of this. It is the winner.

Then Msi drops the bomb. What about sex? She has always been the clever one you see. No, you can’t have penetrative sex with the cup in. You will have to take it out and do it. Much like wearing a condom you see. All you need is a little confidence and some swagger. You will be a leader. And for all I can imagine, this can only add….

Day 4

I am spotless today. Have not worn the cup since the morning and it is 10 at night now. However, periods have this nasty habit of giving you a last surprise spot before leaving. Especially if you have decided to wear light coloured clothing. For that it seems you can keep wearing the cup. Even when you are not bleeding. The cup does not block any flow, of blood or vaginal fluid. Therefore it does not dry up the punani.

There are some women not wanting to try it because of the fear of losing virginity. I, for once, can’t believe that there are still virgins in this world. Kabita shared this very good article on it.

I, as I have already mentioned, am of a deep scientific temperament and do not believe in superstitions like virginity. Mother Gaia is a super fertile pollinating being. If she believed in virginity none of us would be here.

There is a lot that has been said about the cup. Most of it is good but some also not good experiences. Before wearing one, read enough, attend talks, talk to women who have used it for sometime. In Guwahati, I know Kabita Ghimire is doing the work.

For me to be able to say it is perfect, I will have to gather some more scientific evidence. I know how much ever I pray to mother Gaia, my periods is not happening immediately. In the meantime do please write in if you have experienced the cup and would like to share some of your findings.


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Feminist, women's rights activist, social entrepreneur and mother from the North-East based in Guwahati at the moment. Partner at Back Benchers Cafe and NEthing - Everything North East.

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