4 years ago

{NFP Awareness Week} NO H8, EDUCATE.

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“–You have GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!”
“What, Mom? What is it???”

My 4 year old standing in the bathroom door advanced toward me as I looked up from the toilet.
“Oh– QUICK! I need more toilet paper, can you go get some for me?”
“Sure thing, Mom!”
As my oldest boy, Lexington, zipped away, I took the extra seconds needed to confirm that yes, I’d started my period. ugh.

I’d taken religious care this time around to breastfeed on demand, and limit pacifier use for our newborn in order to delay the return of my fertility. We cosleep in order to nurse him throughout the night: the vital hours of rising hormonal levels (the fertile ones) which breastfeeding works to suppress. Maybe it all comes down to allowing Collin a pacifier. Maybe that’s our crux. Maybe.

Maybe it’s just how I am wired. Nevertheless, I’m pleased that I’ve made it 10 months without a period; however, I was dreaming of a paradise of 2 years sans menstruation, like a few friends of mine experience.

No matter. No use dwelling on it. Here it is!

So now. What does a non-contraceptive user do?
Well.
The truth: a lot of work.

If I’m not going to pop a pill which may cause
cancer,
or blood clots,
or weight gain,
or nausea,
or migranes,
or vaginal fungal infections,
or heart attacks,
or strokes,
or cholestatic jaundice,
or gall bladder disease,
or liver tumors,
or depression,
or death,
or the chemical abortion of a newly created human being,
–such a harmless, simple pill, so that I can simply forget about my fertility, my femininity, then I’ve got a lot of work to do. (Effects courtesy of NFP&Me and those are only the tip of the iceberg)

If you need the reminder, this is what NFP is.

NFP may also be known as FAM (Fertility Awareness Method by secular groups who include barrier methods (condoms, withdrawal, diaphragms, into their teaching.)

We practice NFP because only in NFP is a married couple fully proactive, responsible, and involved with a Whole Health approach to the health of the woman, as well as upholding and respecting the invaluable dignity of human life: from the consummation of the marital act to the conception of any and all human life. This epitomizes human equality on every level.

The basic run down of what I have to do when practicing NFP goes like this:

  • I have to take my temperature (orally, just like when you’re sick) every morning at the same time, and write it down. Check.
  • I have to examine any cervical fluid that may be present if noticed throughout the day, write it down. Check.
  • Check my cervix. If it’s open, it’s open for business. Are we ready for business? Write it down. Check.
  • Eat Healthy. Because why worry about hormone-free meats and GMO’s if you’re consuming the Pill?
  • Have hormone levels and vitamin levels checked and balanced by way of
    NaPro Technology
    -regular OB/GYN/physician checkups
    -taking quality vitamin & mineral supplements

These things I need to do consistently, instead of taking a Pill which may cause cancer, or blood clots, or weight gain, or nausea, or migraines, or vaginal fungal infections, or heart attacks, or strokes, or cholestatic jaundice, or gall bladder disease, or liver tumors, or depression, or death, or the chemical abortion of a newly created human being– I already wrote that, didn’t I? I’m sorry. I tend to see eyeballs glaze over whenever I mention them in person, so I’m assuming brains also become glazed when reading that contraceptives aren’t consequence-free.

Those things, as opposed to one little Pill, have no adverse side effects on my body.
Those things do not work against the nature of my female body, but with it.
Those things are key in helping me to read the map of my fertility.
…yes, there is a map. Yes, there is a “code”. But our culture is telling women otherwise.

Here’s where the hard part of NFP comes in:

  • It’s not easy to learn, though the teaching is quite simple.
  • I don’t recommend self-teaching… that is, at first.
    -Part of the learning curve is getting to know your body and teaching yourself. But initially, it helps to have an experienced or certified person/couple help to recognize signs of fertility or infertility.
  • NFP is not a “‘One Size Fits All” education. Every woman is unique.

Personal example:

I never have had regular menstrual periods. This makes my measurements more difficult to read.

My temperatures are icy cold. Bella Cullen-like. …kinda. Oh, if I were but sparkly in addition!
My temperature this morning was 96.5 degrees …and I’ve measured colder than that before.
WHOSE BODY TEMPERATURE IS EVER 96.5 degrees!?

Well, maybe a vampire. But also, mine. And other women with symptoms of thyroid issues* or a few other imbalances which our body is trying to tell us, which we would not otherwise be aware of if we were taking a Pill which forces force our body into submission and hides the illness or deficiency until the painful day when we need emergency intervention, or try to get pregnant, and can’t. The Pill tricks a woman’s body into acting as if it’s already pregnant, thus forcing her body temperature at a constant, heightened temperature. Thus, the reason you can’t take the Pill and do NFP together.

What’s more challenging is that I am operating on postpartum hormone levels. A postpartum momma, who has begun her cycles (her periods), likely has erratic measurements until her body naturally works out the kinks and regulates itself over a period of a few months up to a few years. Pregnancy really throws a woman’s hormones out of whack. Tell me something new. How can these very simple measurements become so complicated? (and stick with me here, I’m getting at something.)

Just like taking your vitamins daily, sometimes I forget. Sometimes I start off the day with screaming children, or poopy pants, or whatever creative things three children 4 years old and under could throw my way. Their creativity astounds me.

“Mom, Collin is eating the trash from the trashcan.”
Bath.
Cleanup.
Everyone is hungry.
Everyone is tired.
“Man, I need another coffee.”
Spilled by clumsy 4 year old.
Cleanup.
Everyone pooped.
Cleanup.
Naps. Maybe.

…where was I?

See how easily I, or anyone else, might forget to take my vitamins, or stick a thermometer in my mouth and wait 2 minutes?

So it’s important that I consistently “temp” (take my temperature) so that when it rises/spikes -even if the spike is only up to 98.6 degrees (AKA non-vampire temperature)- that temperature, in combination with my other measurements, signals the onset of ovulation. If during ovulation, I conceive a human life, my temperature remains high and will not drop again until either: I have a miscarriage or give birth. If I don’t get pregnant, my temperature drops back down to vampire status and I start my period (which would be a walking paradox for a vampire).
Voila.

…but a postpartum, breastfeeding woman may STILL have a few anovulatory (not ovulated, infertile) cycles.
But I won’t know that if I’m not temping.

Learning this has exposed the intricacies and profound complexity of the human body to me, and to many other women who practice NFP.
Every single woman is different. Every single woman has different cycles, symptoms, hormone levels or vitamin deficiencies.
NFP helps women to cue into her body, to learn her deficiencies, and work to build her body with proper nutrition, exercise and natural supplementation to its optimum levels …in order to achieve or avoid pregnancy, as well as to just be healthy. (Just a little further now, I really am getting to it…)

This is why I choose NFP. Health. Not convenience. There is no such thing as a miracle, man made drug. And the commercials claiming it are lying, and we all know it.

Craig and I don’t choose NFP because “RELIGION!”
We don’t choose NFP because “PAPIST!”
We don’t choose NFP blindly.
We don’t choose NFP out of ignorance.
It is, in fact, the opposite of all of the above.

It just so happens that Catholics and many protestant denominations have got it right.
Once I understood the science of it all, the spiritual stuff started clicking. And there are a zillion spiritual clicks I’d love to share, but they’ll have to wait for another post.

What I have to say now might be difficult to stomach.

We might not be given any more children.
But we might.
I might get pregnant.
Yes, AGAIN.
FOUR!? Yes, four. FIVE?!? Yes, Five. Six. Seven… If we are so blessed.

If we are so blessed.

Craig and I hit the ground running to learn NFP. I knew nothing about NFP until after I was pregnant with our first child. I only knew what the acronym N. F. P. meant: Natural Family Planning. And I was as skeptical as the next person who only knew that much as well. I promise.

We attended a multiple week series class, taught by a couple who were certified to teach the art.

But that still didn’t stop me from getting boiling mad when I casually took a pregnancy test 3 years ago, thinking it wasn’t possible, but figuring I might as well make sure before I hopped into the tanning bed, and audibly gasping “WHAT!!!” while I jerked my clothes back on, at our local tanning salon (don’t worry, no more fake n’ bakes, here).

Are we reading through the lines, here? My lengthy charting description was to illustrate something:
It can suffice to say that if my charting is thrown off, it’s likely that we will miscalculate my window of fertility. So, as a married couple, Craig and I then must decide if it’s prudent to sexually abstain for a longer than normal period of time. For any married couple “doin it”, abstaining can be a challenge. Even at that, we can still miscalculate. And we did miscalculate with the conception of Emmett.
Conversely, since the discovery of my low temperatures, 24/7 presence of cervical fluid, in combination with my other life long symptoms (which I’d always believed were just normal) of PCOS and PMDD, there is a possibility that it may become increasingly difficult for Craig and I to conceive, if I don’t stay healthy, or aware of my fertility.

Just because we use NFP does not mean that we don’t have temporal wants!
We had wanted to wait a few years.
And just because we use NFP doesn’t mean I should be happy to start my period again. YAY CHARTING! …said maybe only the nerdiest NFP-user ever.
What woman likes bleeding her guts out once a month?! I completely enjoyed the nine months while pregnant, and following 10 months without the visit of Aunt Ruby.
It is only my faith which prepared us to handle the unexpected pregnancy in the way Craig and I did: with open, peace-filled arms.
And it is only our faith which prepares us to walk the rest of our marriage together, saying a peace-filled YES to every child we and our co-creator, God, place in my womb.

Yes, we might get pregnant again.
No, we don’t have a magic number of children that we wish for, NOR that we wish against. (Plus, it’s nearly physiologically impossible at my age to go Duggar-style[edited: obvi I don’t follow the Duggars enough to spell their name correctly])
We only have one word in our NFP practicing marriage sacrament, and it’s the one that we professed to God at the alter, with our parish priest and family as our witnesses: YES.

“Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”

YES.

Not “Yes” to some children. Not “Yes” only to the children that the Pill’s contraceptive mechanisms failed to terminate. Not “Yes” to only the children we planned for.
Yes to all of them.

When Craig and I are asked by strangers or family members, “How many kids do you want?” our answer is: “All of them”.

This isn’t to say that we don’t want to wait a longer period of time to get pregnant again.
We do.
We have just reasons to delay pregnancy.
Those reasons are personal. But we trust in God to know us better.

So when you hear someone saying, “I use NFP”, it’s not that they’re careless, or insanely pious or religious, or ignorant.
It’s not that they particularly want to have 20 children, but that they have devoted their heart and their marriage fully to God, and they will not tell God “no”, even if they look (to everyone else) like they are failing at the family planning thing.

Oh, shame me for allowing God to be the blame for my 50 children and the tiny shoe in which I will certainly be condemned to live, but as a Christian, I already expect to be laughed at. So go have a riot:

“Look at her, she’s so ignorant! She knows nothing about her fertility! It’s obvious because SHE HAS CHILDREN! …obviously, NFP doesn’t work.”
Yes, NFP fails …to terminate newly created human life; fails …to force a woman’s body to reject her natural fertility. Man, what a sham.

“As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

And we’re likely building an army. BANGARANG.

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*my body shows most of the symptoms of PCOS and hypothyroidism which I’ve known for a few years, but I’ve never had an official diagnosis. I’ve discussed these issues with my OBGYN who agrees I probably have the two, but I’ve not had further testing done. Because, getting to the doctor for myself is a JOB.

{Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end, Amen.}

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59 comments

  1. From a mama with an army of her own… BANGARNG Back ‘atcha! Keep up the good work and God bless you, your hubby and every an all the babies you welcome into your lives.

    Reply
  2. Thank you for the great post! Wanted to mention just as a FYI to others that there is more than one method of NFP.
    For those who have a difficult time with temps, cervix checking, and even mucus (most people only know NFP as sympto-thermal method) there is a method called the Marquette Method. There are postpartum breastfeeding protocols, reg protocols, etc. You use a monitor and test sticks. No having to stay in bed and take temp right away, but are doomed if you did not get any sleep or got up at night…just have have a 4 hour concentration of urine.
    I would like if more Catholic bloggers would mention all the other methods of NFP and not just the couple to couple league one ;)

    Reply
    1. I was going to also recommend the Marquette Method :-) I’ve tried sympto thermal but it was difficult because of my erratic sleep patterns (due to newborns and toddlers). It’s also very reliable during the anovulatory post partum breastfeeding period.

      Reply
  3. claire kurdelak July 23, 2015, 1:59 pm

    Yes, you did a great job with this. Thank you. I will quote and share all over social media! As a mom with hypothyroidism, I want to encourage you how much it will likely help your whole life if you find you have the condition and start taking meds. Your choice, sister, but I encourage you!

    Reply
  4. Oh my gosh, I laughed so hard at the ‘Bella Cullen-like’ temperatures. Mine are so consistently low, that ALL MY CHARTS have to get the special edit of changing the 97 degree mark to 96 and the 98 degree mark to 97. ColdAsIce.

    Seriously, though, this post is just fantastic! Thank you so much for writing something about NFP that I’m not afraid to share with my non-NFP friends.

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  5. As I told my sister-in-law who lead me to this post; I want to print this out and hang it up every.where. for the days when I’m saying “WHAT THE HECK ARE WE DOING?!” I’m terrible at explaining what NFP is when people ask questions, but this gives me some wonderful talking points :) you are wonderful!

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  6. Thank you for writing this! My husband and I have been practicing nfp for our entire 7 years of marriage. We have 5 kids (although 1 was a miscarriage), so 4 running around the house and we just found out that we are pregnant with our 6th. My husband is in a doctorate program so we said we were going to wait until after school because that seemed like a just reason to wait. Well, my husband went out of state for an affiliation (rotation) for 6 weeks and I had a hard time charting. I charted as well as I could but I was very sick with fevers and then a lingering cough, got put on antibiotics, missed a few temps because of chaotic mornings with the children and one of them taking my thermometer. Anyway, after my husband and I reunited we struggled to abstain even with knowing that some of the temps were not accurate. We got pregnant. My husband is really struggling with this. He feels that we were extremely irresponsible, he’s worried about what others will think of us and of nfp, basically he worries about the example we are setting as nfp users. this has been the hardest pregnancy for my husband and I…for the first time we are on different sides of the spectrum. I know that even if it looks to others as if we are irresponsible, we know we are not. I think it’s important for my husband and I to set a good example of how we accept this wonderful child that God has blessed us with.
    This article, which is so beautifully written made me cry at the end and really hit home. THANK YOU!

    Reply
    1. claire kurdelak July 23, 2015, 2:09 pm

      I think I understand. Perhaps he feels like your life has to ‘prove’ to others that ‘nfp works’. Or maybe he is, understandably, influenced by the culture of overplanned lives around us. One feels the pressure to make a perfect plan and perfectly execute it! But as this post shares so well, our Christian life in marriage has to be one of trust in God, not just ourselves. God bless you and your husband; may you come to have peace and unity on this!

      Reply
  7. Wow, what a super amazing NFP post! You were so totally honest and you told it like it is :-) I appreciate your honesty! I’m sure many people who read this post do as well. I am a newlywed (going on 2 months) and a self-taught NFP user. Thank God for having regular cycles and not getting too confused, since I wasn’t able to take an NFP class and had to figure things out on my own. You know, I never looked into NaPro Technology though and reading your post made me realize that, I too, have zombie low temps!! I mean, my normal pre-ovulation temps are around 96.4 -96.5…sometimes even lower (one time it was 96.14)!!! And my post-ovulation temp “spike” is usually only up to 97.5ish…it doesn’t even get into 98’s. I knew that something must be up with me because some of those temps are literally OFF the charts…the chart that I’m using doesn’t go low enough for me to even mark it on some days! But I do use a phone app to keep track of my temps as well. I wonder if I need to worry about this, whether I need to get checked out by a doctor? I’ve actually never been to an OBGYN…yes, I know, never.. Sometimes I wonder if I’m hypothyroid…but I don’t seem to have any other symptoms of hypothryoidism…so maybe it’s something else? hmm…DO you think NaProTechnology is something worth looking into? Maybe that will help me answer some of those questions?

    Again, thanks for this awesome post! It’s ROCKING!! And your pics are hilarious! LMAO!!!!

    Love,
    Agnes

    Reply
  8. Hello! I have been NFPing on and off for 9 years – in between babies and I didn’t know the bit about low temps and cervical fluid. I consistently have both and thought they were normal….would love more info on this. Or I guess I could just google it but chatting with you might just be a bit more fun.

    I just had my 4th babe and I’m praying that the communist party doesn’t come pay me a visit anytime soon. I have had luck with my first and third child – my cycle didn’t come back until about 15 months but with my second child it came back at around 6 months. SO who knows!

    Reply
  9. Wow… Another amazing nfp post!
    I wasn’t one of those postpartum moms without periods for 2 years. Mine came back around 10 months with both babies. ….

    We proudly say: I use NFP!
    You go girl!

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  10. Fahbulous post! Not sure if I love the graphics or words more. I call it a tie ;)
    Happy NFP Week…and life–happy to be sharing it with you!

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  11. I love your posts and I admire you SO MUCH!! I’ve been charting as a single lady for almost 3 years, and my fiance is excited and on board about practicing NFP in our marriage. Your blog always gives me the inspiration and laughter that I need to keep on keeping on :) Thanks so much for being such an awesome woman of God, mom, wife, and witness of of our faith.

    By the way… Do you give talks? I work at a parish in Kansas and we’d love to have you out here some time!! :)

    be at peace
    Walk on water
    be not afraid

    d*

    Reply
  12. Hey Carolynn,
    I really enjoyed this post and the one after. Garrett and I did a lil nfp while trying to get pregnant with Makayla and did not do anything in between her and Jonathan but after your post I might start back up once I get my period back and look for a class to go to. I found it a lil confusing and hard to follow the 5 months I did it…would love to get together with your sweet family next time we are in town if you are up for it.

    Reply
    1. Hi Ashley! I still get confused about “Peak days” when charting, and still call my NFP instructor. A visit would be great, I would love to meet your sweet babies! FB me!

      Reply
  13. I have low temps like that! And I am “borderline” hypothyroid. Get it checked every year…always “borderline”. Not much they can do about that.

    I found Marquette extremely helpful with my low temps and my high estrogen/progesterone deficient imbalance.

    Good post!

    Reply
  14. You are awesome! I will be getting married in November, and I love reading your posts! You, along with my future sister-in-laws, are building my confidence up for NFP :)

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  15. Love it! My husband and i are still newish to nfp and its so nice to have people decode how they use it in their every day life. Have you visited 1flesh? You should see about posting your story on there!

    Reply
  16. LOVED this piece…thank you so much for your openness and honesty about using NFP. My husband and I are instructors and we are always so grateful to run into couples who faithfully use this method. The blessings that come from your faithfulness will outnumber all the sacrifice…of that I am certain. Blessings and Grace to you and yours…

    Reply
    1. Thank you so much, Mary. And thank you and your husband for dedicating your time to teach! It’s because of couples like you that Craig and I have been lead, taught, and continue to learn.

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  17. So well put! Fantastic witness. You should share this with some of the other big bloggers who are posting for NFP week. Maybe Carrots for Michaelmas?

    Also, you are SOOOO very blessed with those three little ones. I too have low thyroid and PCOS, and I’ve only been blessed with one living child so far. Use that fertility while you’ve got it!

    Reply
  18. This is an awesome post–really well-written and well-argued. I’ve been seriously loving your blog (from the shadows!) for a few weeks (your WIWS posts are consistently among my favorites). I especially love this post–it’s so intelligent and abounding in faith. I appreciate the vulnerability you show in being so open. You and your husband are phenomenal examples, and phenomenal witnesses.

    Also, the pictures are FANTASTIC. Well done!

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  19. I was so excited to read this post!!!! I am a late arriver at the NFP party. I had three kids before I even knew this existed (Catholic convert three years ago). Long story short, I’ve had our fifth baby now and have never gotten a chance to learn NFP because I become pregnant so soon after my “Aunt Ruby” (HILARIOUS BTW – I’ve never heard that term) returns. My baby is 8 months old and my period just arrived. I, too, was wishing for at least another 10 months period-free. So here I am learning NFP for the first time after baby #5. I’ve taken my temp for 17 days now. I take it as soon as my alarm goes off in the morning. I, too, have vampire-like temps. I thought my thermometer was broken at first. One day I even temped at 95.9 degrees!! I took it twice that day. So it sounds, from what you are writing, this isn’t normal. I will be signing up for the next NFP class thanks to your post.

    Reply
    1. Oh I’m so happy this helped you in some small way! Yes! Take a class! Some parishes don’t offer it– we had to attend a neighboring parish. And they will sponsor couples who can’t afford to pay (we couldn’t at the time).
      Connecting with an instructor who will take your calls is so helpful. It’s been 3 years and I still call my NFP instructor with questions.
      I’ll keep you in my prayers!

      Reply
  20. I love you. I love reading this blog, the style of writing that you use, etc… I am so thankful to read your witness as one using NFP. Lots of single ladies (myself included!) know SORT OF what NFP is and that we PLAN to use it in marriage… but something like taking my temperature is something I can start NOW and be prepared for when it comes to the rest of it. Thank you for writing this, thank you for your witness.

    Reply
    1. GAHHH! I am again so SO touched! I wish I had known to temp at the very least before being hit by the NFP bus! Thank you for visiting, and for encouraging me. I need it!

      Reply
  21. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH.
    also, I love you and your husband. such an awesome witness.
    this not-yet-married, still-childless girl really. really. really. mega. appreciates such a witness.

    Reply

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