Here is a little story. We had just moved overseas and were welcomed by the most incredible group of people. I was so excited! We were still in a temporary apartment off-base waiting for our house to be inspected and repainted when I found out I was pregnant with our second child. Our first was only 11 months old when we saw the positive on the pregnancy test. Needless to say, I was tired and slightly emotional and cried almost the whole day.
I was mostly crying over the fact that we had just moved to Italy, and I could no longer drink wine every day. You might have cried, too.
Just for clarification, pregnant women cry about a lot of things, and before we jump to ‘accident’ conclusions, my second kiddo is no accident. If we had truly wanted to avoid pregnancy, we could have. We were just having too much fun to care or pay attention.
We could have gotten pregnant precisely because we had just moved to Italy and had an unlimited supply of delicious wine and were seeing the joys of children through merlot colored glasses. But, that’s another story.
We waited to announce until after the first trimester. The next wives coffee was full of congratulations and the subsequent conversations all about birth control.
When asked what I had used for birth control in the past, I responded, “We use natural family planning, so I chart my fertility.”
With that, I received many open mouths and silent gawks, then some nervous smiles and an, “oh that’s … nice.”
I have grown accustomed to all types of staring and inappropriate comments. The first question I often receive is, “why?” I think that is a great question because natural family planning isn’t all that common in our society.
When I give my real answer: Because it is a religious belief of ours that we should be open to life as part of our marriage vows, I get more gawking and comments like, “Glad I am not in your church” or “Ummm, OK, I didn’t know people still did that.”
However, if I answer in a way that is trendy like, “Oh we just want organic sex. I don’t want chemicals or foreign objects in my body,” than people seem to jump right on board with exclamatory comments. “Wow that is so amazing and so brave” or “so incredible, I have never thought of it that way before!”
It’s like choosing grass-fed beef instead of McDonald’s. People can get on board with being organic. Being organic is popular. Being devout is not.
But beyond just what people assume is ‘rule following’ is something so much greater for us.
Before you judge natural family planning, I want you to take a moment to understand that there is more to it than obligations. You don’t have to jump on board, but I think it’s important to realize that people who use it are informed, intelligent people who are open to discussing it with you.
Someone once asked me if I tricked my husband into marrying me or if he really knew he was going to have to practice natural family planning (NFP). Ouch! No tricking, ya see we communicate important things to each other.
That is one of the most beautiful things about NFP, the communication. It is a fantastic way to keep an open conversation about your sex life with your spouse. Every month, we have to decide if we are ready for more children or not, which often brings up other feelings that might otherwise get swept under the rug or shrugged off. For example, this month I don’t want to get pregnant because I am overwhelmed with how many activities we are involved in, and I feel like my hair is going to fall out because it’s just too much. Or, this month I don’t want to get pregnant because I am worried about our finances or spending habits, we should really create a better budget and stick to it, it would make me feel more comfortable.
There are enough things that can get lost in the noise of all the different conversations that we are having about job changes, kids after school activities, etc. At the end of the day, this is one thing that helps our feelings not get lost in the mix. Almost every conversation you can think of can start from this conversation of, “do we want a baby this month?”
Because let’s be honest, it keeps you honest.
The only time this really backfires is when the military life screws it up. Welcome home from your four-week TDY, honey!! Oh P.S., unless we want a baby, we have to wait another five days!
Another super perk is the knowing when to anticipate your period. Before charting, I was pretty much always worried about starting up to a week before I actually would. Now I can pin it to the day. It is a great perk, too, if you’re planning that magical weekend away without the kids.
Charting tells you a lot about your overall health as well. It can show you when you are stressed and may not realize it. This is totally me. I never really feel completely stressed; I seem pretty easygoing in that department. My problem is that I do not feel stressed until I am so stressed that I am going to rage. Sounds easygoing, huh?
But my chart will give me clues in advance that I am internalizing stress. The beginning phase of my cycle can change and lengthen indicating that stress can be inhibiting ovulation. It also can indicate an imbalance in hormones based on the different phases of my cycle or what observations I am making/irregular symptoms I might be having. It can even help you understand why you might be experiencing infertility. For example, we started trying for number three and realized I had been experiencing low levels of progesterone, and this realization was based solely on my indicators from charting.
Natural family planning is an incredible resource in helping you understand your body and its overall health. When used correctly, it is just as effective as any other form of birth control without all the side effects.
So basically, it’s just good for you. In our crazy military lives, it’s good for me to know what is going on with my body and even better when my husband knows, too. It is empowering. Society has told women that our fertility is something to be controlled or feared, but natural family planning teaches you that there is nothing wrong with you.
Knowledge is empowering, and so many girls grow up to be women without knowing a thing about their own bodies. NFP is a solution for that. It is a way to see that there is nothing wrong with how we are created. The knowledge gained from observation and natural family guidelines proves we don’t need chemicals or foreign objects to screw up a good thing and put us at unnecessary risk for future health problems.
With that said, next time you hear one of us weirdos say that we use that archaic form of the rhythm method (it is not the rhythm method at all, even OBGYNs are confused about that term), you don’t need to hang your mouth open and stare while trying to come up with something awkward to say. Now you know, those of us who choose NFP have made informed and researched-based decisions that include our spouses, without tricking them in any way.
Just because we choose organic sex doesn’t mean we are judging your McDonald’s. Don’t worry, we know we are the strange ones.