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.
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.
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.