Becoming Kindred Blog

Cloth Pads and School girls in Africa

There was a time in the not so distant past where disposable feminine products were not available. As a convenience and a way to hide the “yucky” factor of menstruation, once created and marketed, they quickly became a big hit. Before long, using tampons and disposable pads became the costly norm. Most people I know don’t think about the cost too much because it is a necessity; they are something that we have to have. Or are they? One of my blog friends, Acquiring Balance, actually just wrote (totally unplanned:) about this as well where she talks a little about cost and has some links. I am just going to share a little of my own story here. Don’t worry nothing too extreme or detailed. Upon beginning my menstrual cycle just short of 10 years old, I quickly learned that having my period was something to be dreaded. Yes, there was the beautiful part of knowing that I was becoming a woman and that this was all part of my dream to one day be a mama but aside from that I learned that cramping could last for days, even weeks at times. Urinary tract infections would trade places with yeast infections on a regular basis. It only grew worse as I grew older. Switching to just disposable pads did little to alleviate the pain. By the time I was 16, I was diagnosed with endometriosis and after surgery (upon which I learned that I would likely never have children) I was immediately placed on high doses of medication to combat the pain of menstruation that by this time lasted about two weeks of every month. While the medication helped in some areas, other things only worsened. Fast forward. Into my twenties, I decided that I didn’t want to continue with medication and began to brave the horrible cramping and misery of menstruation again. Plus UTIs and the whole bit. But I also began to research natural ways to combat all of these things and found some methods to help by trial and error. Totally by accident, I came across a site selling cloth pads and a thing called the DIVA Cup. When I saw write-ups addressing all of my issues, I was sold. I could basically buy every thing that I needed for the cost of the antibiotics and other things anyways so it was worth a try. Fast forward again. I have had one UTI in four years (after a severe flu during pregnancy). They were monthly. The same goes for yeast infections. And the cramping, oh the cramping. I now feel a dull throb for a day or two. I never have to remain in bed or even lay down (as opposed to hardly being able to do anything). While I will sometimes take something for pain in my hip which is a by-product of nerve damage done during my cesarean, I no longer need even mild pain medication like ibuprofen where as I used to top up days before hand and rotate what I took every couple of hours on the counsel of doctors. I use a combo of cloth pads, even during postpartum recovery, and the diva cup and believe me, I will never go back. Nor will others who have tried them (some whom I was able to share my information with.).

If you are still reading, you are either intrigued or wishing that you didn’t know me this well. Or maybe both. Can I just say that it is a natural and good thing about our bodies. I am not going to say that I don’t get varying moods because of hormonal surges, but I can now work with them and am even beginning to see them as a great thing now that I am not clouded by pain during menstruation. I know my body so much better now. I am cleaner, fresher, and so much less inhibited by my cycle each month. If there seems to be interest, I will write another blog about the logistics of using cloth and the Diva. Or since, even though I view our menstrual cycles as a beautiful thing, it is still a private thing as many beautiful things are. I understand that not everyone would feel comfortable asking questions so publicly and I would be happy to answer questions via email or whatever form you would feel comfortable with. I would like to end this section with these thoughts, using cloth and the diva is no more messy or stinky or inconvenient than using disposable. Truly. If your grandmother didn’t use disposables, let me assure you, cloth pads have come a long way, they have improved even since I began using them. It is just too bad that the early manufacturers of pads and tampons didn’t focus their time and advertising on perfecting reusable ones.

Anyways, on to the next part of my heading. I mentioned that most people I know don’t even think about purchasing disposables but this is not the case in developing countries. I have read from reliable sources (and know from experience) that often it would cost a good portion if not all of a family’s monthly income to buy disposable feminine products for a month. And this is a big part of why I decided to publicly share this on my blog. Especially in African countries, girls will simply not go to school because of their period. They can’t afford disposables and will be teased and harassed if they do go using strips of cloth or whatever for obvious reasons. Or some of my reading has shown that they will use a product too long which can be dangerous. So they simply don’t go, but this is a problem because many school will not allow girls to miss so many days and so they will be removed from the school. I don’t think that I need to get more into how this is such a problem. I first got the idea of making cloth pads for African school girls last summer from my sister in law who had joined with some others make pads for some of these girls. I have wanted to do it ever since because I believe it is a way that I can use some of my gifts to help and encourage other women. I am putting this feeler out to see if there would be interest in joining me. I am currently in the process of setting up a link with some people who work in both the health and educational field, who would be in charge of distributing to the girls who need them. And I am going about collecting the materials needed to make the pads (and hoping to receive discounts because of where they are going.). Then at the end of March (hopefully), I will be hosting a African School Girls Pad Making Party. And I would love extra hands and/or sewing machines. You don’t even need to be a crafter or sewer for this because there will be so many ways to help. And as way to encourage trying them out yourself, I have been thinking that anyone who is interested could purchase materials and we could make some for personal use. You can just purchase pads which are really great, but I would like to be able to make more than what I could afford to purchase ready-made.

Now I know that not everyone who reads my blog lives near me therefore I could have shared this in a different venue, but I admit, I wanted to share it for any one who might want like to hear about it.

So is anyone interested? Or did I just further cement the idea that I am a little odd? That’s okay too, but I hope that it food for thought and I like helping people be odd like me.