Why Are We Not All Talking About The Menstrual Cup?

One of the greatest parts about being pregnant – apart from the obvious ‘baking an adorable baby’ bit, is that your period leaves you in peace for anything from 9 months to 2 years, depending on how long you breastfeed for.

However, as they say, what goes up must come down, and so when Aunty flow does finally come back, she brings her extended family and their in-laws and it’s a fucking party in your pants, and you’re reminded once again just how little control you have of your own body.

Men, queasy folk and those sensitive to gore, stop reading.

It’s a literal blood bath and renders you exhausted, anaemic and stocking up on hand washing powder on a monthly basis.

Roughly 2.0705 billion women in the world get their period. Yet no-one ever talks about it, and when they do it’s usually a poorly narrated Tampax ad with some sunkissed blonde haired beach babe wearing tight white jean pant playing volleyball or leaping in the air in a cream tutu while the camera slow pans over her crotch mid flight. Look ma, no blood!

And because no one ever talks about it, no one ever knows if what they are going through is normal. I just assumed that everyone was like me and went about my business for 21 years before finally plucking up the courage to ask some girlfriends about their flow.

I was shook. Apparently bleeding out like a sacrificial lamb for eleven days a month is actually not normal. Apparently having to change pads and tampons and underwear every 45 minutes is also kinda odd. So I’ve basically spent the equivalent of a newly legal American thinking that everything was OK DOWN THERE.

It was only when I started talking to friends that the channel of communication opened. One friend, after a Whatsapp conversation detailing the goriest details about my life, suggested I try a menstrual cup. She caught me at a weak moment and I decided that spending R250 on an egg cup shaped piece of silicon couldn’t hurt. Plus, it was pink.

I did some research, jumped online and 2 days later it arrived on my doorstep.

Honestly? I was terrified to try it. It looked big and bulky and I could not fathom how I would ever fit that up there. Turns out, a quick YouTube tutorial and I was good to go. They are remarkably easy to use – out the box you do need to pop it in a cup of boiling water to sterilise it, then in between cycles it needs another good sterilisation, but during your cycle you can simply rinse it off and re insert.

Let me interrupt my self here by saying that this post is in no way sponsored, I just had to share a product that Ive been using because I truly think it’s amazing. It does take some trial and error so I’ve answered the FAQ’s you probably don’t have yet, below:

  • Often referred to as the moon, cup, goddess cup, diva cup etc
  • Any woman over the age of 30 or who has had a baby (regardless of how said baby came out) is a size ‘large’
  • The cup can be inserted in a few ways – I use the C fold, but each to their own
  • The cup is designed to stay in for 12 hours at a time so you can (if you aren’t me and need to re insert a lot during the day) plan it so that you do it in the morning before work and at night before bed.
  • They hold between 20-30ml depending on the brand. It’s frightening to see how much you do or don’t bleed. For me it was enough to see my doctor and for him to be absolutely horrified. Again, sorry queasy readers. And my dad.
  • No, you cannot feel it.
  • Yes, taking it out feels totally weird. Tip – take it out slowly and at an angle. Don’t just yank it out unless you’re keen on a scene from Kill Bill
  • Yes, it can leak if not inserted properly. There are tons of tips online, I wont bore you here
  • Yes, if it’s in properly it will not leak. I have done a shoot with it, chasing a 5 year old, a 1 year old, a LabraDane puppy and a grumpy husband and it stayed put. An early Christmas miracle
  • It has a lifespan of 10 years
  • I got the ‘Pink Cup’ from Takealot, but there are tons of options out there.
  • Its eco friendly and saves you money on buying sanitary products. Fuck you Li-lets and your overpriced toilet-rolls-with-string!
  • I have now converted 10 mates to try this product, and I like to think of this post as a way of cutting out the bullshit from your period. Period.

Try it, and let me know?

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Surviving The First Month – Boobs And All (Plus, Win a Breastpump!)

Piper is nearing her one-month birthday. I KNOW.

It’s been an incredible (and incredibly fast) first few weeks. She is amazing. I’m drowning in every bit of her, because she really is growing up way too fast for my liking. In fact, I had a little moment this past weekend when discussing birth stories with friends (yes, this is what we talk about now) and I realised she will be my last every baby. I’m devastated that I wont ever have that experience again. But, I digress.

Coming home with a new baby is always a daunting exercise – regardless if you’re like me and it’s your second, or if it’s baby number 5 you’re bringing home to the family.

You forget everything. It’s amazing how the brain retains only what you really need to remember, and discards the rest. Jokes, you’ve just had a kid, Your brain retains nothing, you are all dumb now. So, in the spirit of helping other new moms keep their shit together, I’ve decided to put together a little ‘Surviving The First Month’ series and chat about everything from boobies and body to blood and ‘bloody hell!’

To kickstart, I’ve decided that the most important thing to discuss is feeding. And in my case, breastfeeding. Apologies to the formula mums – I will be there in a few months when I go back to work (although at times I’ve considered hanging up my boob straps and switching to Nan because of, well, all the below reasons)

The latching… Unlike Carter, when Piper was born they popped her directly on my boob and she latched first time, like a little star. I have nightmare memories of leaking nips from Carter days, so my hospital bag was 3/4 breastpads. Although, you don’t actually need them for the first few days as you are making tiny amounts of colostrum and baby really only needs a teaspoon or less, per feed. So all was good under my proverbial hood and little Pip latched and ate and slept and poo’ed. On day 4 my milk came in, and with it, my boobs doubled in size and became rock hard. Piper was still latching but it was so incredible sore that my toes would literally curl in and I would levitate every time she came anywhere near me. I was using these hideous nipple shields to try get her on (because on top of milk coming in and boobs growing, they also become so rock hard that for baby to get a grip is the equivalent of them trying to wrap their lips around a soccer ball). I was in agony and the breaking point for me came on day 5 when after a feed, I looked down and her little face was covered in blood. I immediately contacted a lactation specialist – Sally – from Noobebe Baby Clinic  who came to my house and sat with us for an hour teaching me how to properly latch my baby. That and a session of physio** helped me so much and I cannot stress enough what an investment this is. I can understand why so may moms give up trying to breastfeed, the pain of early onset mastitis, cracked nippled and rock hard goombies is enough to make even the most hardcore crunchy mom give up and grab a bottle.

The mess… Guys. You must never underestimate the messiness of milk. I can only speak from my experience, but when the milk comes in, it comes in fast ad furious. Like the cast of Absolutely Fabulous at a gin sale. No amount of breastpads can prevent this:

Or this (Incase you’re wondering, this is my duvet cover, which means I leaked through shields, a bra, a top and actual linen.)

And even if they do, its a fucking nightmare when boob is out, baby’s on and she suddenly pulls away. Milk streams out at ferocious 90 degree angles. If a forensic expert had to come in to my home they would find traces of Kates Dairy all over the house, from the curtains to the carpets. I took a break from writing this blog to feed Piper now, and this is legitimately what she looked like after her first suck:

My advice? Stock up on breastpads and keep them everywhere. Baby’s room, your room, under your pillow, wedged between cushion covers and in your car. Also, you will be very sleep deprived and therefore very stupid. Top tip? Don’t apply them sticky side down on your nipples. It’s not pleasant.

Feeding in public… I could never get this right with Carter and hated the thought of going out with him when he needed a feed. The amount of times the poor Woolworths change-room assistants let me borrow a stall is beyond me. It also got very expensive as every-time I used a room to feed I felt obliged to buy myself new clothes. Nursing covers are hot and stuffy and unpleasant all round, plus, they could be the size of a picnic blanket but you are still guaranteed a nip sip when shifting baby from boob to boob. I find it incredibly difficult as I have to help her get latched which means both hands need to be under my top, and in order to see what Im doing that also means that I need to also be under the cover. There is not less conspicuous than a hot sweaty woman with a bright pink shawl draped over her shoulders in 30 degree heat trying to wrestle an infant octopus between oversized leaky mammaries. If I have to, then I will feed in public. If not, I express, bottle the milk up and actually just save us both from tears.

 

Expressing and bottle feeding… I used the Medela double electric pump with Carter and am using it again with Pip. This thing is terrific, the only downfall is that you have to hold the pump in place while expressing which meant you were very limited for however long it took to get the milk out. That is, until Michelle from BreastPumps and Beyond came to my house to deliver, what I fondly refer to, as THE BIGGEST GODSEND AFTER HAVING A BABY. She also brought me chocolates, so she’s basically my favourite person.  It’s a click on bra that allows you to hook the pump in so you can operate hands free. This thing has actually changed my life. I can read, work, blog, watch TV, take hideous selfies or wash dishes while expressing. Jokes. I have a dishwasher for that.

I debated for hours over posting this photo, but decided that in the spirit of honest parenting, you needed to see what real motherhood looks like. It ‘aint pretty. 

I’m using the Medela Calma bottle and teat which mimics the sucking action of a nipple. (God, how many times can one person actually say ‘nipple‘ in a post?). I’ve been expressing from 4 days and giving Piper the occasional bottle since she was 5 days old – so I can get a break, or feed in public or so hubby can feed and I can sleep lie awake wondering if he’s going to remember to change her nappy afterwards. Oh, and also so I can drink. heavily.

So, what have I actually achieved with this post? Apart from perhaps causing a spike in the sale of the contraceptive pill? Well, hopefully to help you realise that you’re not alone in this messy journey of motherhood, and also to help you stock up on shit you really need, versus shit you really don’t.

Shit you really need:

Breastpads. Any brand. The large box. keep them everywhere

Towelling nappies. Not for nappying, for absorbing spillage and mess and milk and tears.

A Medela breastpump and THE WORDS GREATEST BRA. Get them here:

A nipple cream – I use the Medela lanolin. Yes you will gawk at the price. Yes, you will need it. (great for cuticles, too).

The number of a good Sister (like nurse, not biological or Whoopi) who can help you with your latch – chat to Sally from Noobebe. She also does vaccinations.

The number of a physio who can help you should you get mastitis or pain.

A comfy chair. I use the ComfyMummy chair with a foot cushion and it’s really helped with those 3 am feeds when you are so exhausted you can’ see straight Tip> Pay for Scotch Guarding. because, mess. FYI – they have recently moved their showrooms so give them a visit or have a look at their website.

Shit you don’t need:

Breastfeeding tops – They really make zero difference when you have to peel back layers of bras and pads anyway.

Overly warm breastfeeding covers – they are not fun for everyone

Nipple shields. If I can give up this crutch, so can you. I promise.

Judgy opinions. Do what works for you.

** Side note. When selecting a physio to caress, massage and laser your boobs, try not to book your husbands ex girlfriend. You’re welcome.

Competition Time!

The lovely folk at Breastpumps and Beyond and Medela want to try and simplify your breastfeeding experience, so we are giving away one Harmony manual pump to a lucky winner. I also have this particular pump as it’s super handy for on-the-go expressing. I’m shooting a wedding at the end of the month and will be taking it along to express between the ‘I Do’s’ . To enter, all you need to do is subscribe to this blog, like and share the post on your Facebook timeline (you can share it from here) and leave me a comment. Winner will be drawn and announced on Thursday.

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The Problem With Mommy Groups.

Falling pregnant is (relatively) easy. Being pregnant, and then spawning a baby, is the hard part. It’s only until you have this tiny, helpless infant in your arms that you think to yourself “shit, now what?”. 

I think I spent my entire pregnancy in denial – under a false illusion that once baby was here I would know exactly what to do, and that everything would magically fall into place. Except, it didn’t. Suddenly, I had this brand new, pink, squeaking, frog-like human in my arms and panic set in. How will I know when to change its nappy. What size nappy? What brand of nappy? When does it eat? How does it eat? How much does it eat? OhMyGodWhenAmIEverGoingToEatAgain?!

And so, I sought advice from the experts. Other moms. 

Facebook, with all its faults, does offer us one great thing – groups. And if there’s one thing a mommy loves, it’s a mommy group on Facebook. Before my baby was barely more than some drying wee on a dipstick, I had been added to more Faceook groups than I could remember. Breastfeeding groups, gentle parent groups, Joburg groups, groups about groups, groups abut those groups who group together. You get the point. 

My newsfeed was filled daily with panic stricken moms asking for consultations on their baby’s rash, moms asking for reliable family photographers and moms looking to sell little Johnnys ‘barely used’ burp cloth.

At first, I loved it, I sucked in the information like an alcoholic on relapse. Everything fascinated me! No ‘is this poo even normal’ question was too much for my insatiable appetite, no requests for ‘it’s little Julie’s birthday in 7 minutes and I need one hundred million gluten free Frozen themed cupcakes’ could scare me away. Oh no, I was mommy group befok. 

Until I started asking my own questions.

They started off innocently enough. One day I asked if anyone could recommend a good book to read during maternity leave (and we laughed and laughed). I also posed on the group the day before my son was born, and the love poured in. Then, I had the absolute gall, the CHEEK, to post about something that required a point of view. Circumcision. Words like ‘baby massacre’ and ‘genital mutilation’ spring to mind. My post elicited hundreds of responses where women, who I have never met and who have never met me unleashed their verbal abuse. 

I’m not alone. I have seen hundreds of moms torn to shreds for even mentioning the word ‘bottle fed’ or (gasp!) ‘C Section’. Questions around how many ml’s a baby should be drinking were met with very angry women lambasting anything that didn’t come out of the boob. Cute pics of ‘baby’s nursery linen’ were followed with Internet links to cot deaths and SIDS stats.

Eventually, I started to unfollow most of the groups, and retreated into the corner like a scolded school child. From there, I observed, and watched more innocent ladies fall to the merciless hands of the know-it-all-parent.

I have chosen to remain on two Facebook groups, where abuse is met with a quick removal by the page admin, but having been burnt a few times I am hesitant to post anything more than an innocuous update about something that can’t offend anyone. (puppies running through tulips, and that sort of thing)

Motherhood is fucking tough. We all have our days where we have no idea what we’re doing. I’m still so grateful to the few groups I remain on and the 99% of moms out there who are genuine and helpful, and don’t mind a difference of opinion.

To those moms, the invisible personas behind the profile pictures, I thank you. We may have never met, but you have helped me in more ways than you know.