Category: NFP

NFP is NOT the Rhythm Method (Part 3)

[Part III – Making a Baby]
Don’t worry – there aren’t too many details in this one! 😉

If you’ve been following along, you’ve read about my terrible experience on the Pill when I first got married and about the delight of discovering FAM. Let me emphasize how very great FAM was for us as a couple – we were not longer terrified of my horrific and senseless emotional crises, and we were communicating tons about whatever magic estrogen and progesterone were working in my body.

Side note: Matt knows so much stuff about lady cycles now! He had coffee with a youth whose girlfriend was trying to rope him into chancing sex with her because she was “very in tune with her body,” and it was hilarious. Matt had a lot of questions to ask with a lot of words this kid didn’t know, and thus he convinced him that knowing how many days had passed since your period started wasn’t actually that “in tune” with anything. While I’m on this little diversion about women being sensitive about their fertility, I have to say that unless you’re using this sense to try for a baby, don’t use that sense to make baby-making decisions. Also, don’t use a fertility app or online chart-your-bidness feature. READ THIS BOOK. ON PAPER. I mention this in honour of my dear friend who got married, knew that Matt and I do NFP, read some stuff on the internet, followed her gut and now has a 10 month old son. He’s the handsomest baby I’ve ever seen in my life, and he’s the happiest surprise I think she and her husband ever had. It is WONDERFUL, but it makes me feel the need to emphasize that this is something to learn and practice, not to jump into one day because you don’t “feel” fertile.)

It took a few months of charting before Matt and I were brave enough to take the leap and trust the chart and the rules and… you know. Over time though, it got less scary, and as I continued to learn about charting and we kept not getting pregnant, it became really second nature to chart and communicate and make FAM work for us. We also realized (because we hadn’t had anything to compare it to before) that the Pill had been causing sexual as well as emotional side effects, and not having THOSE in the mix was… great! It was also really nice never to wonder if I was a couple days “late”. Menstrual cycles can be divided into two phases with ovulation in the middle, and an irregular cycle length is almost always due to variation in the length of the first phase. Charting allowed me to identify when I ovulated and therefore to predict when my cycle would end, regardless if it was 26 days long or 55 (seriously, both of those numbers happened). Although my cycle length varied, my period never started later than 14 days after I ovulated.

Until this Summer. And this is the other reason I love NFP. According to my average cycle length (which had been pretty consistent over the past two years; wild exceptions were usually attributable to stress like travel or illness or an anovulatory cycle the previous month), I needn’t have expected my period for 3-5 more days, BUT I knew that I had ovulated earlier than usual (meaning the first phase of my cycle was short), and I did NOT want Aunt Flo to surprise me at work, so I packed my purse and prepared for the worst. Thursday passed, and I made it home from work, went to my Zumba class, and hung out with a friend. I started feeling really sick and crampy and figured things would get started soon, but then Friday I woke up to my highest temperature in the history of me charting. Normally my waking temperature drops due to the hormonal changes that trigger a period, so I knew something was up.

I don’t think the possibility that I was pregnant really sunk in until later that morning at work, and I spent the whole day wrestling with thinking about it but also paying attention to what I was doing and not making mistakes! When I got home I texted my friend Jo that I MIGHT be a little bit pregnant but didn’t want to waste money on a test if I wasn’t. The more I thought about it though, and the more I looked back on all my charts from the past year, the more I realized that something was definitely not normal. So I went on a walk in the rain to buy a test for peace of mind, said a little prayer to share my heart with God, and then… found out I was pregnant for reals.

Other than asking if we’re planning to find out the gender (the answer is not before the baby’s born), the most common question people asked when we told them about our pregnancy was if we’d been trying. Remember how I said I ovulated really early? The thing is, we weren’t trying to get pregnant, but we knew we were breaking the rules of FAM, that if I had a short cycle there could theoretically be a baby at the end of it. Was I surprised to see the second blue line? Totally. But not surprised like, “Hey your birthday’s not for 8 more months, but here’s concert tickets for a present!” surprised like “Hey it’s your birthday, want to come hang out for a quiet get together SURPRISE it’s a party!!” Especially if in hindsight you realize there were 30 pairs of shoes in the entryway and cars parked all down the street.

It took me way too long to come up with those examples.

The moral of the story is that FAM has been totally worth the learning curve and slight sense of danger. It has been reliable as a method of preventing pregnancy, and it has been empowering for me as a woman with a menstrual cycle. I’m enjoying the break while I’m pregnant but will definitely be picking it back up after the Truck arrives (yeah we call our baby the Truck so we can say fun things like “let’s get the Truck out of here”). If you are at all interested in FAM/NFP, check out that book and send me an email! alyssa at movingwithGod dot com. It’s good for more than just achieving/preventing pregnancy because it never hurts to understand your body.

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NFP is NOT the Rhythm Method (Part 2)

After realizing that the Pill was making me bonkers we decided to try out NFP….

[Part II – the Fertility Awareness Method]
When I stopped taking the Pill I didn’t expect to notice an immediate difference. Surprisingly, the first week or two off the Pill were markedly different than the past four months had been. I still stressed myself out by trying to do everything I thought I should as a now-married [and therefore] adult. It took more than going off the Pill to straighten those issues out, lol, and even now I sometimes catch myself heading into an emotional tailspin over something that doesn’t actually matter. The biggest difference I noticed off the bat was that I could attribute all of my emotions to events in real life. On the Pill I’d experience ferocious anger and/or sadness out of the blue, and I was powerless to control my emotions. Matt would ask what was wrong, and I couldn’t say anything other than that I felt so sad or so angry. Not having a reason didn’t make it any less real or intense, and I couldn’t rationalize my way back to a stable place. While I was in pieces, it was also devastating for Matt because he couldn’t fix me or help me, so he was left feeling like a failure.

I need to explain how bad things were so that it makes sense for me to say that off the Pill it was amazing to be able to connect my emotions with reality – I was sad that our bread had gone mouldy, or I was annoyed to wait 20 minutes for a bus. Having emotions was no longer something terrifying that happened to me, it was how I responded to events. Matt also noticed that I was generally happier and more relaxed, meaning he could relax and let his guard down too!

At some point around this time, Matt and I went to a seminar on NFP at a Catholic church in the city. I was surprised how many other couples were there, not to mention how young and normal-seeming they were! I had always thought that NFP was for hippies and/or people who wanted to have giant families (going off the Pill made me less crazy, not less judgy!). To put it in a nutshell, however, this approach simply recognizes that women have a fertility window of 6-7 days per cycle that they can become pregnant. The trick is knowing when those days are, and it’s NOT always the same! NFP means observing signs of fertility in your body as your cycle occurs so that you can anticipate when that window of fertility is occurring in order to achieve or avoid pregnancy (by doing it or not doing it y’all, in case that wasn’t clear :P). At the end of the night, we were definitely not ready to sign up for one-on-one coaching to put NFP into practice, but a lot of my misconceptions had been challenged, and Matt and I both felt that it could be a lot more reliable and definitely more feasible than we’d thought before that night.

I’m not 100% sure how I heard of Toni Weschler and her book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, but I now recommend it to EVERYone I know! I borrowed it from a friend (borrowed it for 2 years lol, but she has it back now), but most libraries have it, and I have told countless people to get their hands on a copy and read it! The book outlines a style of NFP called the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). The main difference between FAM and the traditional Catholic approach to NFP (NOT the rhythm method which is not really useful for anything except lame jokes) is that using artificial contraception during fertile times is not forbidden.

Reading this book and learning to chart my cycle was such a huge breakthrough in understanding and embracing how my body was designed to work with regard to fertility, and I loved watching each month go by as my charts filled up with information and I started to anticipate how my waking temperature or cervical position would change, when I could be sure that I had ovulated, and when to expect my period. That was a big deal because one of my favourite things about being on the Pill was my sense of control, especially never being surprised by my period. The difference was that being on the Pill actually hijacked my cycle, so while I knew when I would bleed, I actually had no idea what was going on with my body. The first few months off the Pill were difficult to chart because my cycles were really inconsistent as my body cleared out the old fake hormones and remembered how to do its thing, but it wasn’t too long before I got the hang of it and I loved it!

Then what? (Still to come)

NFP is NOT the Rhythm Method (Part 1)

I have been wanting to write a post on Natural Family Planning (NFP) for some time now but always put it off. I think deep down a tiny part of me was terrified that Matt and I were unknowingly infertile and that writing a smarmy know-it-all post about why NFP rocks would come back to bite me when it turned out we weren’t actually successfully timing anything around my fertility, we just couldn’t make babies.

Happily (and miraculously! Goodness it’s amazing), we have conceived a child, and although that positive pregnancy test was very surreal, it was not a big surprise. That doesn’t mean I want to get smarmy and know-it-all, but it does help me feel at least capable of sharing what a blessing it has been to me personally and in my marriage to learn and use this approach to family planning for the last two and half years. The story gets a little long though, so I am dividing it into three parts. I hope you enjoy!

[Part I – the Pill]
When Matt and I got married in August 2009, I was on the Pill. However, things quickly went a little nuts. That is to say, I went nuts. From the point that we arrived home from our wonderful honeymoon to Christmas when we made the switch to NFP, I was more or less a basket case. I was trying so hard to be a Wife (which meant keep the house clean, cook meals, shop, do laundry, put out), but work and school were taking up a lot of my time and required really early mornings. This meant most afternoons found me overwhelmed by Everything I Need to Accomplish before Matt got home so we could have time to relax together in the evening before I went to bed at a decent hour. I coped by watching TV or multitasking with the TV on, both of which had the same result of nothing getting done for hours. Matt came home and I felt like a failure; I cried. Matt felt like a failure for having a wife who was always crying; he asked if there was anything he could do. I said no because I wanted to do everything so that I’d be a good wife. Matt hid in the living room of our open concept basement apartment while I crashed dishes around in the kitchen.

That Winter it occurred to me that I might be depressed, and I decided to talk to my doctor about it. I asked Matt if he’d agree that I was crying 2-3 times a week (I wanted something concrete to tell my doctor, not just “I feel sad and overwhelmed”). He suggested nervously that 4-5 times a week might be more accurate. I knew that the Pill could have emotional side effects, but I had been on it for so long before our wedding without noticing a change that I didn’t really think it was the reason I was falling apart. I wanted to cover all my bases though, so Matt and I decided I’d go off the Pill for a bit and see if it made any difference. In December I finished my last pack of Pills and waited to see what would happen.

To be continued….