Category Archives: Cycles & Charting

Can’t Wait for Wink!

I’ve blogged once or twice about this awesome non-hormonal birth control method called the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), and I’ve also highly recommended the amazing app called Kindara, which helps me out with charting a ton (and is really the only app out there that is really, REALLY using FAM and not just a period/ovulation predicting app, WHICH ARE TOTALLY NOT RELIABLE FOR EFFECTIVE BIRTH CONTROL, FYI!!).

I’ve also been using a run-of-the-mill BBT thermometer for the last 6 months. I have this one. It’s been alright! It beeps sort of loudly, which wakes up my light-sleeper husband, and makes it hard to discreetly use on family vacations in the little camper. But it’s fairly quick and has always seemed really accurate. It’s worked really well for me, but it got lost in the mail once when I left it in Connecticut. When I lost it, I stubbornly ordered a cheaper thermometer, figuring, “Oh, what’s the difference.”

Oh man. Let me tell you.

This thing was the worst. It doesn’t beep, leaving you with no idea whether or not it’s actually working. So, in the FIVE WHOLE MINUTES it takes to find your temperature, you occasionally take it OUT of your mouth thinking, “Am I sure I turned it on?” and completely screwing up your reading. Plus, it has no memory feature. So, you have to grab your chart and write down your temperature right then and there. My bad for not reading the details on Amazon, and for paying way less money for a thermometer. A few times I woke up at 7AM to take my temperature, and ended up wanting to snap the thing in half. So much for quickly recording and sleeping in on a Saturday. We didn’t have any unprotected sex during the time I had the thermometer, because I really didn’t trust a single reading. And the Golden Rule of FAM: When in doubt, DON’T! Lesson learned…

So, I bit the bullet and ordered the first Nexcare thermometer again, and have been happily charting again ever since. In the meantime, though, I pre-ordered Kindara’s amazing new development: Wink! I am so stinkin’ excited for this product to come out. This thermometer will send your temperatures straight to your smart phone’s Kindara app, virtually charting FOR YOU. It also doesn’t beep, but instead it winks at you when it’s done! How clever and charming… and quietly discreet. It is supposed to be fast and incredibly accurate, and basically looks like mascara. While I’m not super stoked about the whole “make sure you hide your feminine products” phenomenon, the thermometer is aesthetically pleasing, and that’s always a plus.

So, whether you’re already charting, or have been charting for a while, let me strongly recommend you download Kindara (if you haven’t already), and pre-order Wink. If you use my referral link here, Kindara will give you $10 off your order, and send me a check for $10, too.

Win-win-win-Wink.

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The One Thing Missing From The #LikeAGirl Campaign

The feminine product company, Always, put out a heartwarming commercial in June, explaining why and how to break down the “like a girl” stereotype. We see young women asked to perpetuate and explain the stereotype of running, hitting and throwing “like a girl.” Then some young girls, maybe unaware of the stereotype, show off their version of doing things “like a girl.” We see the discrepancy, and can all agree that putting girls down by categorizing femininity with weakness and physical inability is a disappointing part of growing up. We, of course, should encourage young girls and women to be themselves, run however they want, be strong, and make up their own minds about what it means to embrace femininity for themselves. I don’t disagree with this commercial, and I don’t think it’s bad or wrong in any way. Yes! Let’s empower women! I’m with you, Always!

maxresdefaultAt least on this commercial, I’m with you. (And after some research, I think Always is actually advertising to women quite well. They are selling period starter kits for young girls to get prepared for their cycle and releasing some charming ads to boot.) Always is, as you know, a feminine product company. Companies offering menstrual “clean-up”, not excluding Always, have not always advertised well to women. Always is not exempt from the list of advertisers that tend to misrepresent the monthly cycle; although, they are producing better ads than most other companies. In some of their other ads, like in most feminine product ads, Always is still representing menstrual bleeding with blue liquid. As every woman can attest, uterine lining isn’t blue. It’s bloody, for Pete’s sake! It ranges from bright red to dark brown throughout the 3-8 days of bleeding. It also doesn’t spill smoothly onto a flattened pad from a clear glass. Every single woman has a pair (or a few) of stained undies from the effects of the heavy day that no tampon or pad on the market could defend. Most commercials for feminine products is still telling a big lie that with the right product, periods can be masked and secret. Always goes by the name of Whisper in Southeast Asia. There is still a message sent to women that your period should be a secret.

Harry Finley, the curator of the Museum of Menstruation, claims feminine product advertising started as early as the 1800s. The ads, since then, have sung the same tune. “The companies (usually run by men) take advantage of the secrecy surrounding menstruation. They’ve always been about covering up any sign of menstruation, sight or odor. The worse women feel about menstruation the more vulnerable they are and companies make money from that.” he explains.

The marketing executives of Always are on the right track with their campaigning.They are well aware there is a movement of feminist advertising they can’t ignore. There is a growing market of well-educated women, looking to take care of their bodies and choosing wisely where to spend their money. We are growing less and less ignorant of the subliminal sexism and hyper-sexual material in most advertising, thanks to projects like Miss Representation. Always knows they won’t make money producing advertisements that claim your husband won’t want to spend time with you if you have your period. Other companies aren’t necessarily behind this trend yet, and are unfortunately still banking on the lie that your menstrual bleeding and natural functioning should be something to be ashamed of. There are still commercials for tampons that can be discreetly hidden, ads showing confident women wearing all white and proudly walking up to their man, proud that he’ll never know their big secret. Advertisers are still feeding into the idea that women should be ashamed of their bodies, and selling products with perfume and harmful chemicals that we all know we aren’t supposed to be putting in our vaginas.

At least advertisers don't claim Lysol is a helpful tool for saving your marriage anymore!
At least advertisers don’t claim Lysol is a helpful tool for saving your marriage anymore!

So, Always, a company dealing with our periods head-on, is asking us to embrace doing life “like a girl.” Then let me finish the ad with my own twist. Hey, Always! I want to get my period “like a girl”!!

Periods are not super fun, but they are just part of doing life like a girl, and I think we should all think a little bit about how we can open up to that fact. “Yes, I kick like a girl, and I swim like a girl, and I walk like a girl, and I wake up in the morning like a girl,” says a young woman toward the end of the commercial. Let me add, I also get my period like a girl. Because I am a girl.

My Introduction to Charting & the Fertility Awareness Method

In the big debacle over the Supreme Court’s recent decision on providing birth control health coverage (which, I’ve discovered I can’t really start talking about without entering a frantic “but I just…. but…. I…. AHHHHH!!!!-hair-pulling-esque hysteria), I was in the process of writing up this post. I’m on my own interesting journey with contraception, so I wanted to chime in.

Quick disclaimer, just by the by. I don’t, personally, have any religious opinion about the Pill, or any birth control for that matter. Everything in this post is altogether personal, it was just semi-relevant timing with the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling happening recently. I’m never really of the stance that we should tell anyone how to live life in the name of God, but I especially have no spiritual stance on this issue. I do, however, have a pretty strong personal stance.

I was on the Pill for years to combat terrible cramps, heavy flows, and an altogether bitterness toward the monthly “joys” of womanhood. For the time I was on the Pill, I really didn’t experience cycles of any sort. The cramps were gone, and pretty much any sign of life inside my womb was gone. Numb, and unknowing. Fine, just fine. Floating through life with 2 day spotting that I’d call a “period.” Life was good.

However, in an ongoing rebellion to many mindless choices that I made in the name of it’s-just-what-you-do-ness, one morning I decided to not take the next pill. And I never went back to the pharmacy for the next pack. And truthfully, I didn’t exactly know why.

It was in part thanks to Netflix. I’d been watching documentaries on natural birth. I’d seen documentaries on the shittiness of advertising, the farming industries, fast food, GMOs, you name it. All that hippie-dippie crap most of us wish we’d just skipped past and kept on bingeing Breaking Bad episodes. Unfortunately, the reality of what chemicals and hormones and it’s-just-what-you-do-ness of our society was all starting to seep into my subconscious. And suddenly, I decided pretty sporadically that I didn’t want to put a dose of hormones into my system every morning.

Another disclaimer: Randomly deciding to stop taking the Pill is not necessarily something I’d recommend to someone who’s sexually active and not looking for an unwanted pregnancy. I happened to not be active at the time, but if I was, I think I would’ve done a lot more research before simply stepping away so quickly from a highly successful form of birth control.

In the nine months to follow, I embraced nine full cycles of mood-swings, terrible cramps, and heavy flows. The joys. All of ‘em. I crumpled up on the bathroom floor, screamed, “I’M GOING BACK ON THE PILL!,” spent full days in bed, tried a menstrual cup, found a good pain-killer regimen, ate more bananas, got more exercise and ultimately, survived womanhood. In fact, I even began to enjoy it. I can’t necessarily explain why, but something about feeling the life of a healthy, working uterus was thrilling.

And then this March, Eric proposed. It was time to start talking about what to do if, in fact, I wanted to prevent pregnancy in September, once I’m sexually active and not at all interested in having a baby anytime remotely soon. [Personal note: We are waiting until marriage to have sex, so we won’t be actively using this method as birth control until then. The topic of “abstinence” is one I’ll write more on later.] My fiancee is a man of high value. Particular, holistic, and not afraid to do things that take a lot of work if it means getting the best possible outcome. And to him, getting to keep his wife all to himself for the first few years of marriage is absolutely the best possible outcome. No babies.

“I hate the idea of your hormones being affected so unnaturally.”
“Yeah. I think that’s why I stopped initially. I don’t want to go back on the Pill.”
We agreed.
So, no Pill, either.

So, where did that leave us? Condoms work. But what about when they don’t? The pull-out method works. But what about when it doesn’t? Latex and self-control seem to be fallible things. I’d heard some rumors that if you simply don’t have sex exactly two weeks after the first day of your period, then you’ll never get pregnant. Seemed good enough for me. But what about the fact that my period never actually seems to come on the same day every month? What’s up with the spotting that happens seemingly at random? What about the day before the two weeks exactly after the first day of my period? What about the day after? What about all this weird stuff that comes out of me kinda heavily 3 weeks after my period? Does that have anything to do with this?

In talking to more au-natural friends, wives, moms, and one Eric, I thought maybe some research would do. I heard about Natural Family Planning and the Fertility Awareness Method through a friend who has used a form of one effectively and happily throughout her marriage. No hormones. No (unplanned) babies. And an added bonus: You get to have unprotected sex sometimes. No pull-out method. No condoms. Au-natural, bay-bay.

The catch? This method actually takes some work.

Kindara is a free app developed by husband & wife team, William Sacks and Katherine Bicknell.
Kindara is a free app developed by husband & wife team, William Sacks and Katherine Bicknell.

The short of it: you observe and record (Every. Single. Day.) your temperature first thing in the morning, and your cervical fluid throughout your cycle. At first, it’s confusing, time-consuming and totally weird. But for those of us who don’t want to get pregnant, and who actually enjoy learning about our bodies and functions in a way we never thought possible, it’s totally 100% worth it. For those of you who do want to get pregnant, it’s also 100% worth it. No ovulation tests, no invasive doctor’s appointments necessary. If you try this method, your knowledge about fertility increases and so do your chances of conception. And if you do have a fertility problem, you’ll notice quickly and will be more informed when you visit a specialist.

This blog post is really just an intro to my journey with the Fertility Awareness Method. So far, it’s been a lovely ride. I’m incredibly aware (amazing, the name actually suggests it does what it says) of my body, my cycle, my health, myself. FAM is called a “cooperative method”. You and your partner have to communicate thoroughly. For birth control, this method is truly for monogamous, long-term, committed relationships. However, as a means of understanding and deepening your relationship with your natural functions, it is wonderful for absolutely everyone.

For resources and ways you can learn more about charting & FAM, click here!