As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Finally NFP Makes Sense!

Do your New Year's Resolutions include getting a better grasp of Natural Family Planning? Mine doesn't.  Which might be why I don't find it such a chore.  In fact, for the first time in my ten years of marriage, I feel like I'm finally starting to get it.  I should clarify that this post is neither a baby announcement nor an announcement of postponement, because while I feel that the question of whether we are trying for another baby is a private one, the one thing I will offer is that we believe it is a decision to be revisted and discerned on a month-to-month basis.

But back to the point of my post, which is an exciting one for me.  NFP is finally starting to make sense for me.  For the first time since I've been married, I had two back-to-back cycles which I charted, and during which I was able to pinpoint when I was ovulating accurately.  I learned the Billings Ovulation Method of Natural Family Planning when Jeff and I got engaged, and have struggled to wrap my head around it ever since.  Five years ago after five years of marriage and five pregnancies (one of which we miscarried) we were re-introduced to the method through some friends and took some training to learn to teach it.  Our training hit a dead end when we were unable to find an objective couple to follow as our case study (our instructors were insistant that it could not be someone we knew) and so trusting in the Lord's direction we accepted that teaching must not have been where we were intended.  But the training we received went a long way to helping us better practice the method ourselves.

The Billings Method, like many other forms of NFP, relies on interpreting the body's natural signs of fertility.  The foundation is the understanding that infertility is unchanging, and that fertility is changing. So a woman's body has what's known as a "Basic Infertility Patern" (BIP) when her hormones are low and she's not fertile. Then as she approaches ovulation, her hormones rise producing any number of changes.  While all methods (at least the ones I'm aware of) rely on keeping a written record of these changes, some analyze the particular types of changes and what they might mean, which is where I think I got confused.  Somewhere along the way, I bumped up against one of these methods and began to analyze what types of mucus my body was producing at different times and what that means, usually in an attempt to not have to say "No" yet again. If I could identify a particular type of mucus as infertile mucus, then we were good to go.  The problem is that when you are over-analyzing all this information in the hopes of not disappointing your dear beloved yet again, it becomes increasingly difficult to be impartial.  NFP became such a burden to me, as under these conditions I was the only one who could have any real say in what I saw, and I had such difficulty interpreting it without letting my emotions get in the way.

I remember going over this with my instructors during our training, saying, "but what does this mean?"  and they just kept saying, "is it the same as yesterday?" At the time I found that so frustrating, but in the years since that training it has been the single most helpful and objective question I have ever had.  It's so much easier to answer, and so liberating to have such a short checklist (instead of the chart of fertile vs. unfertile signs - yikes!) Billings was tested throughout the world across many cultures and under many conditions, and in all cases proven to be recognizable to most participants.  Women were able to accurately predict their fertility based on sensation alone, and in one study even women who worked in rice fields submerged in water to their waists for a good part of the day were still able to identify the sensation of their BIP (which is unchanging) and when ovulation was approaching (based on a change in sensation).  

What does all of this mean? For me, it means that less is more.  One question instead of twenty.  One observation - the same as yesterday or different.  It frees me from my obsession over what this could mean and what that means.  Change means change, no change means no change.  What could be simpler?

There are many successful methods of Natural Family Planning that are all useful and accurate, for so much more than conception (although at least in our circles that remains the biggest reason people, including us, are inclined to learn about it in the first place).  If you are like me and find it difficult to be objective, or find yourself analyzing and over-analyzing information, if you lack discipline and need a simple, accurate, and reliable method of NFP, then check out the Billings Ovulation Method.  If are looking for a teacher, shoot me a message and I can point you in the right direction.  If you would like to check out other methods of NFP, my friend Melody is a certified FEMM (Fertility Education & Medical Management) instructor who I'm certain would be happy to help you.  I believe that only good can come from learning about our bodies and the way they work, and that NFP is one of the best things a woman can learn about her health.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

Psalm 139:14

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