Day 70-77: Periods and the Outdoors by ellie berry

ellie berry

From Day 70-77 we did some house-sitting and general recovery, so nothing spectacular happened that week. So I've decided to write about something that I wish was more commonly talked about and out there for myself and other women:

Periods and the Outdoors

I originally started this piece making a bit of a joke: 

"... if you are someone who doesn't like discussing or knowing how periods and the female body works, I advise you get out now. The blog post before this and after this are completely safe! But not this one. Run away, before the things you've read stain your thoughts forever."

However, after my sister proofread it for me, she asked why I was being so ... self-depricating about something that should be as normal as talking about the weather, and something that everyone should understand. So I'm not going to appologise for writing about something that is normal and should be discussed just a freely as what hiking boots work the best for what terrain. Thanks Sarah.

Back on one of the early walks I got my period, and I remember standing on a mountain side trying to clean up after my period had done a surprise attack blood bath. We had been walking on road when I realised I needed to stop ASAP and hadn't found anywhere all that secluded. I had to rush through everything, barely getting myself together again in time for a car cresting a hill and being able to see me. I felt so horrible, and knew there had to be something better. But I didn't really know what to do about it.  

A few people I know (and then some other just outspoken people) have asked me if we keep walking when I've got my "stuff" and how I deal with "everything". 

Yes, we walk when I've got my period, although some times I really wish we didn't. The first couple of times I just used tampons,  double ziplock bagging them and carrying them with me as we wandered, feeling like a ticking time bomb. When I'm walking I don't want to stop to have to change every few hours - which meant I would go longer without freshening up, risking ruining more underwear than I had to spare and generally making myself feel disgusting. 

When finally reaching a town, dragging out a ziplock bag of used tampons to drop into a bin was also usually impossible, unless I brought my whole large backpack into the toilets with me.  

One night while camping I woke up to realise in my tiredness I'd forgotten to change before going to bed, and there was a panic as I tried to change in the tent with a half awake boyfriend, and make sure that I hadn't completely ruined my sleeping bag. I felt like a child constantly at risk of wetting the bed, or making a mess - I hate not being in control of myself. This finally sent me on the hunt for something better. 

I did a little googling, and then suddenly all my instagram adds switched to stuff related to female hygiene and periods. I guess targeted adverts (while creepy) has been useful, just this once.  

The first thing to appear were Thinx Underwear. The underwear are designed with a magical pad/towel of some sort built in, that soaks everything up and somehow you still feel dry all day. Then you soak them and wash them and they're good to go again. This sounds great, but they're pricey for someone living in a tent ($36 each if I remember right) and I would need several pairs as I don't have access to a sink to wash them out in all the time - which still leaves me carrying around the worst blood bank the world will ever want to know about.  

Deciding that wasn't for me, I waited for my adds to show me more. And behold! I was shown the OrganiCup (the more common brand is Moon Cup). Basically you have a small plastic shot glass shaped like an egg cup. You fold your cup, insert, and hey-presto! It uses suction to stay sealed, and then you take it out and empty into a sink or toilet. There are two sizes - one for if you've had kids, one for if you haven't.  

When I got it I had a lot of questions - especially the putting in and taking out. What if when I'm taking it out the suction doesn't release and then I pull too hard and then cover myself in blood? What if the suction just doesn't work, and it falls out and covers me in blood? What if it's weird feeling?  

But I was so sick of tampons and pads that I knew I was going to try everything until I found or invented something that works.  So I practiced putting it in and taking it out, and just prayed to whatever goddess of periods there was listening. 

Originally I was going to wait to write this post until I had used the cup for a few periods, but it really has been so good that I decided half way through my first period that waiting for more wasn't necessary. You can wear the cup for 12 hours - so that's nighttime mostly sorted. (While you can wear it for 12hrs, it really depends how heavy your flow is).  
When I'm wearing it 90% of the time I can't feel it. I don't know how, but it's like it magically doesn't exist - which can be scary feeling when you want to be sure that everything is working. Also I guess from using tampons I'm used to feeling very dry when on my periods, but the cups does let your body act more natural and not just remove every scrap of moisture there is, which also made me slightly nervous once or twice, but all was fine. I did wear a light liner most days as I did get a tiny bit of spotting, but I feel like that's more just getting used to putting it in perfectly every time. On that topic, putting it in and taking out got easier and easier the more I did it, so I expect by the time my third period with this happens I'll have no worries.
  When I'm walking and have to change I dig a tiny hole with my heel and empty it in and cover it over again. No more contaminated horrifying blood bank in my bag! The period goddess listened!
 (I do have the tiniest bag for the couple of liners I use, but that's nothing in comparison and easy to dispose of.)

If you are someone who is squeamish about their own blood this might not be fore you, or just take a bit of adjusting to, as to me it's more envolved than other ways. Bringing in a small water bottle into a bathroom with you helps to wash it out. 

And! Apparently you're not at risk from Toxic Shock Syndrome! Woo!  


Period take two 

Ok, so in the time between writing this and publishing it, my time of the month has returned, so I thought I would add my extra thoughts.  

It took me a day or so to remember how to securely insert the cup again, so I'm not a professional yet. But it is still wonderful to wear. When I've accidentally put it in too high (as for some reason I seem to subconsciously think somtimes that further up means more secure?) I imagine myself, well, having a baby/pushing something out, and it just magically descends to within my reach. But otherwise it's still as great as ever. 

Also, the blood seems cleaner. It's still inside you and when i empty it the blood is definitely cleaner looking, and it also feels like less blood - I think this is because it's not being absorbed by something that has a finite absorption capacity, and therefore a grossness level that's easy to reach, but just held in a little cup. 

Apart from the cup and the Thinx underwear I haven't heard of any other period options (maybe they're the only ones who budgeted instagram into their marketing).  I would love to hear of any other options.

Also, if you want me to write about any other aspect of backpack-living life, or have ideas/tricks/questions about female hygiene or anything else, please let me know!