However, there's something good that's come from that experience. I realized that using pads during menstruation was part of what triggered my emotional reaction and brought up those feelings, and I've decided to approach menstruation in a different way.
When I was young my mother showed me how to use disposable tampons. She didn't let me use pads because she'd had some really bad experiences with them when she was growing up. She told me about having to wear an elastic belt to hold her pad in place, and it was obvious she'd hated it. I was given the impression that tampons were the best thing ever invented for menstruating women. I remember reading the warnings on the box about toxic shock syndrome, but my mother had never taken the time to explain any of that to me and I casually brushed it off. I figured what was best for her was also best for me, and I went on to use tampons for many years.
The first time I ever used a pad was after giving birth for the first time. It was such an odd thing to let the blood flow onto something outside of my body, and it was definitely awkward trying to keep the pads in place. If the flow demanded a larger pad it felt as though I were wearing a diaper, and I started to understand how my mother must have felt as a teenager. Not knowing about any other options however, I used whatever I had access to at the time. I continued to use disposable tampons, and pads were reserved for postpartum recovery.
As I got involved in blogging and started reading other blogs, I began to learn about some strange menstrual practices of other women. I discovered that some women actually use reusable cloth pads and washed them between uses. While the idea was intriguing, especially the concept of saving money and minimizing waste, it wasn't enough to cause me to change my own practices.
I also learned about menstrual cups, and that was the strangest of them all! To insert a flexible cup into one's vagina to catch the menses seemed bizarre! I posted about menstrual cups on my blog, more with a sense of odd fascination than a serious consideration.
Then a family member got a DivaCup and raved about how wonderful it was! I thought it was a little weird, especially when she invested in a cup for each of her young daughters, to save for when they would need it. She even got two other family members to try menstrual cups, and they seemed to love them just as much. It started sounding more like an interesting idea to me, and less bizarre. However, the initial cost of the cup was an issue for me. In the short-term it was less expensive to buy a box of tampons or a package of pads than a menstrual cup. Plus I couldn't find a cup at any local store. I'd have to order it online, pay shipping, and wait for it to arrive. It seemed like a lot of effort for something I wasn't sure I wanted to do.
Then I had two miscarriages. I had to use a lot of pads and look at a lot of blood during that time. I watched for blood clots and tissue to make sure that my body was appropriately flushing out what was no longer viable. It was intense.
Then my period came, and it all came flooding back. Changing pads, checking for anything unusual that might indicate a problem, paranoia and fear. It was connected to the pads.
I didn't like tampons. I didn't like pads. Neither seemed appealing in any way to me.
I considered using cloth pads, but I didn't want to spend money on something I could make myself and at the same time I didn't really want to do the work of making them myself. Plus, how would cloth pads work any better for me than the disposable type? The only difference would be that I was washing and reusing them. All the same annoyances were still there, and there was emotional trauma linked to them either way.
I finally seriously considered a menstrual cup. I'd done some research about cups back when I'd originally blogged about them. I knew there were many brands to choose from, and which were the most popular. Some prices had changed since I'd researched them before, and some newer companies had popped up on the market, but the basic information was still the same.
I posted on the Mamas and Babies facebook page and asked for input from the wonderful women there. I got so much helpful information, especially the personal experiences and reviews from those who had used menstrual cups. There were very positive responses along with some helpful tips about where to get a good cup, which brands to trust, and most of all how to use them successfully.
In my search I also discovered the option of reusable sea sponge tampons. I almost ordered a set because the price was lower than any of the cups I'd found, but I waited to make sure I knew exactly what I wanted before purchasing. I found out that the sponge needs to be changed as often as a disposable tampon, and that like disposables they can leak. I'd heard that menstrual cups only need to be changed every 12 hours, and that if used properly they don't leak at all. The sponges were recommended for use for 6 months, while the cups were recommended for a year. I also read that a menstrual cup can potentially last up to 10 years. There was also a rumor that the sea sponges, while completely natural and replenish-able, were potentially toxic because of the polluted nature of our earth's oceans. In the long run I would save a lot of money by making a relatively small investment in a menstrual cup now.
As I did some more searching I found the best price for a menstrual cup was on a website that I order homeopathic medicine and other supplements from fairly regularly. By including a DivaCup with my next order I would save on shipping costs.
So I've placed my order! I'm getting a menstrual cup, and I can't wait to try it! I find it so ironic that I'm actually looking forward to that time of the month, particularly after it had recently triggered emotional trauma. I think the difference is that I'm taking charge of it rather than letting it control me. I'm identifying what I need to change, and making those changes. I feel this is part of my healing, and I'm really looking forward to a healthier me.
A certified doula has started a new video series on YouTube called "Ask a Doula". The intent is to help expectant parents understand their options and be better prepared and able to make informed choices about their care. I think it's a wonderful idea, and I've subscribed to the series for future video uploads.
Here is the introductory video:
Click here to watch the video on YouTube and/or subscribe to the series.
I grew up with traditional “western” medicine with doctors and chemicals. I remember getting headaches as a child and my parents simply gave me some Tylenol. We didn't go to the doctor unless there was something seriously wrong, but we didn't have any other treatment options at home. If we were sick we suffered through it or took over the counter medicine and waited it out. We were fully vaccinated on schedule and never had any problems. It was what we and everyone else I knew did.
My husband's family is different, and they really opened my eyes to other forms of treatment and healing. They also choose to vaccinate, but because of their influence I've learned about homeopathic medicine, kinesiology, herbal healing, essential oils, and other things along the way. I've come to embrace these forms of natural healing and I've seen them work in my life. I've also learned about the risks of relying completely on medicine, and I've quietly questioned the safety of vaccinations.
My first four children were fully vaccinated on schedule, according to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control. I never questioned my doctor's suggestions, and I didn't feel a need to challenge them. My kids are all healthy and never had any obvious bad reactions to their shots. I felt the possibility of adverse reactions was obscure, and I didn't personally know anyone who had suffered any injuries from vaccinations.
As I had more children and moved along in my birth journey from medicated in the hospital, to natural birth in the hospital, and then to home birth, I came into contact with some really amazing people. It seems like there are a lot of things that go along with the natural birth movement, and one of those things includes questioning the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations. I started meeting people, for the first time in my life, who had gone against the norm and decided not to vaccinate their children. One of my family members even made the choice to stop vaccinating their children, and it shook the foundations of my upbringing and planted a seed in me.
At first I was hesitant to even learn about it. I didn't want to find out that I'd been making choices that were potentially wrong. I think I knew deep down that if I were to research vaccinations I would find out they weren't the panacea the media and medical community make them out to be. I knew I would find issues and risks, and I wasn't ready to go there. I wanted to stay in ignorance because I didn't want to admit that I might have chosen something that wasn't best. It wasn't something I could go back and change either. I had done it, and there was no undoing.
One my sons suffered from severe recurring bouts of croup. I spent more than one sleepless night in the emergency room seeking treatments to open his airway. In seeking for answers and treatment options other than the routine steroid prescription, we had a biofeedback assessment done on him which found his croup weakness to be linked somehow to the pertussis vaccine he'd received as a toddler. We were able to get some homeopathic drops specifically designed for pertussis, and they helped ease and sometimes prevent his symptoms. I learned how to treat it at home with other things like essential oils, and have since avoided further trips to the hospital.
My oldest caught Chicken Pox (varicella) when he was 6 years old, despite having been vaccinated for it. Even then I couldn't make myself take a deeper look at vaccinations. I didn't want to face it.
After my youngest child was born at home I went out of my way to schedule an appointment with the pediatrician to get his vaccinations on schedule. I think it was one of the things that helped my pediatrician support me a little bit after a home birth, because I was still being the “responsible parent” and getting my child's shots on time. That continued for about 6 months.
When my baby was almost a year old I started getting reminders in the mail from our insurance company that it was time for a well-child checkup and vaccinations. I had every intention of scheduling the appointment and getting it done, but for some reason every time I thought about it it slipped my mind. For some reason I could not remember to make the call and schedule it. I realized this was out of character for me, and I wondered if there was a reason I kept forgetting.
I had done some research about vaccinations a few years earlier when a family member had given me some information about them and asked me to look into it. I decided it was a good idea to do more research, so I did. I found that everything I needed to know about them I had already heard or learned from my earlier research and through friends who had talked with me about the issue. I realized I didn't need to do any more research on the subject, because I was already familiar enough with it. I felt the next step was to seek spiritual guidance through prayer.
I prayed and asked for some guidance, but I felt nothing. I was confused and upset. I felt that I was being led to delay my child's shots, but I wanted to know why and I wasn't being given that understanding. The periodic reminders kept coming in the mail, and the pediatrician's office even called and asked if I wanted to schedule an appointment. By that time I'd realized I needed to take my feelings seriously and I declined their offer because I felt it was best to wait and figure out the next step before I took any action. The more I thought about it, the more the idea of taking him in for vaccinations felt outright wrong.
I couldn't explain it, and I felt embarrassed that I was changing my mind about something potentially serious based on a hunch. I didn't want to face my pediatrician or my family, who I knew wouldn't understand my choice. I couldn't even give them a solid reason why I was making the choice, and I didn't fully understand myself what that choice was. Was I delaying vaccinations for a while, or was I stopping them from here on out?
A few months passed and I continued to pray and wrestle with the issue in my mind, until one day I had an enlightenment.
It wasn't a light from heaven or big booming voice answering all of my unanswered questions. I was reading an article about a particular vaccine. It was an interesting article, but it wasn't the subject matter that really caught my attention. As I was reading, words came to my mind and told me something. It wasn't about the shots themselves. What was important was that I was following my feelings.
In that moment I felt peace. It was peace I had been seeking for a long time, and suddenly the issue of vaccinations was no longer an issue to me. I knew that as long as I followed my feelings, as guided by God, everything would work out.
I still didn't have all the answers, and I still don't to this day. I don't know if we're delaying or stopping vaccinating our children, but I'm leaning heavily toward stopping. All I know is that as long as I continue to follow my intuition I don't need to worry.
That doesn't mean I never worry. When my toddler caught a cold and developed a bad cough, one of the first thoughts to cross my mind was that he hadn't been vaccinated against pertussis! A moment of panic hit me, and I let it leave as quickly as it had come. I allowed myself to trust my intuition and treat my child at home, and he was fine.
Each time he's gotten sick I've wondered if I would have to take him to a doctor, and then what would happen? Would they hound me about the fact that he wasn't fully vaccinated? Would they run pointless tests and jeopardize his treatment out of fear that he might have something that he could have been vaccinated against? Would they accuse me of being a negligent parent? And what argument could I give? “I have a strong feeling...”
These thoughts have crossed my mind, and I have to remind myself that I'm doing what I feel, and now know in my heart, is best.
The choice to delay or stop vaccinating has impacted other things as well. I realized that there was no point in taking my children to routine well-child checkups if they weren't going to be injected with vaccines. All that was really done at these appointments was checking their height and weight, discussing age-appropriate development and any issues that might come up, and giving shots. I've never had any issues that I needed to discuss with the doctor, and after having five children and raising kids for over 10 years I'm much more confident in my parenting abilities. I'm not concerned about consulting a doctor about my child's development, and if a concern comes up I can always just schedule an appointment for that purpose. So well-child checks are out. I never liked them much anyway.
I also realized I need to find a new doctor. I always liked our pediatrician and never had any complaints, but I've realized that he's extremely pro-vaccinations. When I declined to have my 5 year-old injected with the flu shot, the doctor proclaimed that “there are no draw-backs, only benefits”. That simple statement made me realize that my doctor wouldn't understand my point of view or my reasons for making the choices I have. So, I'm looking for a new doctor that will be more supportive of me making the decisions about the care and well-being of my children.
The United States has a culture that encourages people to blindly trust doctors and medicine, and anyone who chooses not to do so might be labeled "irresponsible", "negligent", etc. I don't believe medicine is bad. It has a place and is needed in certain situations. I just don't think it should be blindly trusted. My position on vaccines is an interesting one. I understand the risks involved and I stand firm in the choices I make for myself and my family, but I also support each person's right to make their own decision. I hope that no one makes anyone feel inferior or stupid for making the choice they feel is best for them, no matter how much it may buck the system.
One thing that I'm gaining through all of this is confidence as a parent. Yes, I have my moments of serious doubt, but I find if I pray and turn those doubts to the Lord I'm able to navigate my options more easily and with peace and confidence.