I am woman.
I can’t count how many times I have asked somebody, or somebody has asked me “Women ovulate on day 14 right?” I can’t count how many times I said “yup, I think so. around there.” Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. There is a learning curve to life, of course, that’s nothing new or shocking. We’re always on it, and I feel like with each experience we endeavour on, that curve just keeps getting curvier and curvier. It’s sorta like the beauty of life, as frustrating as it is sometimes. Human beings are know it alls, we want to grasp information, take a hold of it by its reigns, and run with it. We like the tangible, and the intangible, we question and ponder and philosophize over. We love the intangible, as crazy as it can make us.
questionable ovulation the desire to further the connection to my body and my soul, and this guest post over at The Feminist Breeder inspired me to give my own readership a dose of Fertility Awareness Method. An emotional crash course, if you will. And then I stumbled across these amazing once in a lifetime (probably) photographs of ovulation actually TAKING PLACE. Unbelievable. A sign from somewhere, somebody, something, that this long overdue post had to be written.
After our lovely boy was born and I had healed well enough, physically and spiritually, to even begin thinking about the process of birth control and all it entails, I knew I didn’t want to go the hormone route. I was done da-done-done with that one, but as for my other options, I was clear on them, but not certain at all which would be right for us. I had done the birth control pill thing, and was not at all satisfied with it, despite being on it for about three years. A social work course regarding human sexuality, and an incredibly inspiring and empowering instructor to boot, motivated me to look at other options. I wanted to run far away from hormones, but I wasn’t quite sure to what else. I did a lot of Google’ing about IUD’s, because it seemed like an appropriate option for us. After a couple freak-outs about the process of having it “installed” (I use that term satirically, now) and reading about all the backlash against it, Kyle and I decided together that that would be a good choice for us. Ha. But really, I read a lot of good too, but I mostly just chose to hyperfocus on the bad. I had that sucker chillin’ out in my uterus for about two and a half years… until it decided to gently fall out of my uterus, which resulted in unknown zero protection, which resulted in our beautiful son. Yup, I was one of those who got preggers while having an IUD in. So fast forward throughout the pregnancy, and the post-partum period until it became a reality that we aren’t necessarily into abstinence and we aren’t necessarily into hormonal or mechanical birth control. There had to be another option.
Hence where FAM (we’ll shorten it up) comes into the picture. Some might say I don’t have a filter, and some might say I’m just really open about things that some people aren’t comfortable talking about, but obviously birth control is a huge topic of discussion among most of my friends and myself, especially given that a lot of my friends were in the same boat – not feeling satisfied with their chosen method of birth control. A couple of my friends had read Toni Weschler’s book, or just practiced something similar in the past, and so of course I had to check it out. Another option? You’re kidding me, I’m sold. I borrowed the book from a close friend, and off reading I went. I was fascinated from page one, and a sarcastic comic suggesting that the only form of birth control you need is to wear Birkenstocks? SOLD.
There’s SO much to the FAM but I obviously am not going to get into it all, mostly because I can’t do Toni justice, and because you really just need to read it. First and foremost, this book should be required reading for everybody, and especially every female. It’s important, critical information that we need to know. The title of the book can be misleading to some, but that’s only because when we think of fertility, too often we think of it in such a narrow scope, when really, the essence of our cycle is generally based on some sense of fertility, whether we think of it like that or not. But it’s so much more than that.
So I present to you The Nutshell FAM and How it Changed My Life
- FAM relies on charting your fertility signs – the primary ones being basal body (waking) temperature, cervical mucus and the variations throughout your cycle, and cervical position (which is optional).
- Don’t let the charting thing overwhelm you! It takes a bit of figuring out, but not long, and it’s so fascinating and empowering that you don’t think of it as work. After a short time, it just becomes routine. And if you get the Fertility Friend app for iPhone or Android, it’s that much easier and it does the “analyzing” for you, for the most part. The electronic stuff anyway, and then you assess on your own and go from there.
- It is NOT the Rhythm Method!
- My basic routine is: wake up, take my temperature with a digital basal body thermometer before I get out of bed (I keep it on my night stand so I always have it handy), and throughout the day I keep mental tabs on my cervical fluid as well as other feelings within my body, including but not limited to my moods, energy levels, irritability, fatigue, any sort of cramping or other pains.
- To check your cervical fluid, you can either do it with your fingers or with toilet paper. Egg-white cervical fluid is the noteworthy stuff, for the most part. If you’re charting to avoid, this is when you want to be REALLY careful (use protection or avoid intercourse all together), and if you’re charting to achieve, well, go at ‘er! Sperm needs an “agent” to stick to and travel to meet its bestie, the egg, and so this particular consistency of cervical fluid creates the perfect little journey-carrier.
- You can use this method as a way to avoid pregnancy, achieve pregnancy, to include your partner in your fertility and overall health, and to gain an empowering level of control over your gynecological and sexual health.
- It is incredible, amazing and (I keep using this word) empowering to be so on top of and connected with your body, to know what is happening nearly at any given time, and to be able to share this information with all of your loved ones, so they too can realize the benefits in charting their own fertility.
- I have charted, every cycle for the past 5-6 cycles, a very unique twinge of pain that happens at approximately the same time every month. Prior to charting, I never even noticed this, let alone knew what it was. But now that I’ve been writing it down every single month, I can go back and realize that yep, this happened last month too. Mittelschmerz? Potentially, actually… likely.
- I have NEVER felt SO connected to my body as I have within the last year. Bringing my son into this world, and recognizing the absolute intense need for me to be a strong, spiritual and healthy mother for this tiny little precious being motivated me to do anything I could to create that bond within myself, so that I could share it with him. FAM has helped me to do that significantly. And while this is another post for another day – I have had a tumultuous relationship with my body. Ups and downs like ca-razy and certainly not always healthy, in mind, body or spirit. But we are on a new path now. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but gosh damn, we’re doing it. I can’t believe I am charting my body and my cycle. It seems so primitive and natural. So common-place. But it’s not. I feel overjoyed, excited, and blessed by the notion that I can go with what my body needs, put my trust in it, and for now, avoid ‘external’ birth control methods. They’re just not for us, and if they are for you, that’s okay too. My whole motive is doing what works, but even more complicated than that, branching out – learning – putting trust in your womanhood, in your body, and in your brain. We’re more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. Women are in-friggin-credible, for reals.
- Kyle is 100% into this too, as much as he can be without actually charting. He’ll remind me to take my temperature if I am about to forget, we’ll talk about my fertility signs and what they mean, and we’ll, err, accommodate if need be.
- To reduce the pregnancy risk to below 1% per year (if trying to avoid pregnancy), a couple must abstain from intercourse during a potential 13 day fertile period, which could be a disadvantage to some. If that is not desirable, then a barrier method must be used during the fertile window (which is determined after charting a few cycles and recognizing your typical patterns), at which point the effectiveness of the method would essentially be as effective as your barrier method of choice.
- I know I’ve said it before, but this is what we should be teaching our young girls rather than some of the other garbage that is mainstream. Now hold on a second, I’m not saying it’s all garbage, but this stuff is important. If we ever have a girl, she will be getting gifted this book very early on, and we will be going through it together. Toni Weschler also wrote a book for younger girls that is just more health/cycle-focused rather than pregnancy achievement/avoidance focused, called “Cycle Savvy.” I’ve yet to read it, but it’s definitely on my list.
- The book has a LOT of great information in it. I have merely skimmed the surface. There is information on using the method while breastfeeding, while on the Pill, for couples with fertility issues (she talks about how so often there isn’t an issue, but merely, the misconceived notion that ovulation is on day 14 doesn’t happen for a lot of people and this results in a medical “problem”), and women who have PCOS issues.
- I would love to talk FAM with anyone that is curious. I’m still learning, but would love to help others learn as well It is phenomenal and a really powerful way to learn more about our bodies, and become more intimate with a very important person – ourselves.