Getting a Grip on My Fertility

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In a community where 3 kids make a family large, I have received my share of the classic dumb ‘big family questions’: “are you done?” “do you know what causes that?”

We’ve been greeted with congratulations upon news of pregnancy…and other less positive responses. We have announced a new baby to more than a few disapproving or at least “better you than me” shocked faces …sometimes even from relatives.
It doesn’t matter that my husband was one of 6 or that his Mom was one of 10…5 kids (plus 3 in Heaven) can be shocking and excessive, even to relatives, to people at Church and school and to strangers in the check-out line.The truth is, sometimes I have been overwhelmed too! We have had times of eagerness on the other side of the pregnancy test…and we have had a couple surprises too. What we can’t seem to express to most people is that we’re just trying to do what we think the Lord is calling us to do. We want to do our best to follow Church teaching and welcome and guide the children He has entrusted to us.

No one said it was easy! From our first year of marriage, we’ve had irregular cycles (sometimes 50 days long) and fertile symptoms that even the most seasoned NFP teacher can’t seem to explain. In our journey, we have tried the Creighton method, (a standardized modification of the Billings method), as well as a combination of the Sympto-thermal method.


We’ve tried the Lady Comp
 which I think looks like this now:
 which is a cute little microscope that I think we’ll be using for science projects.
I gave each monitor (Lady Comp, Ovacue) a chance, but I’m always suspicious when it asks for information about previous cycles. Is that all we’ve got? Is this a return to the rhythm method? Did I mention that my cycles range from 27-50 days? My body defies the normal pattern of ovulation…and I sent both monitors back when they assumed differently.
The Fertility Tester works soley on observation of patterns in saliva. It’s a neat concept and appeals to my scientist-of-a-husband, only until we realized that salty foods or a varying diet have an impact! Given that I am NOT the scientist type, interpretation of observations doesn’t boost my confidence.Check out another comparison of fertility monitors, in relation to OvaCue.
In the end, I have to say that Naprotechnology has impressed me the most. We were even part of the Ceiba study.  I still don’t have all the answers I’d like, but this seems to be the most specific (and scientific) method we’ve tried.See this cool NFP app that helps chart without the stickers and loose papers.  It allows you to add specifics and even email your chart to your NFP teacher!  It’s not free, it’s $2/month, but I was probably spending that in little stickers and charts (until I started making my own =).  It’s nice to have the info easily accessible on our ipad, for easy daily check-in and chart access when we travel.
I have to say that the Naprotechnology  method of teaching NFP, observing fertility symptoms and recording them, including the structured schedule of meetings, specificity of questions asked, explanation and descriptions of symptoms have increased my confidence in NFP. The sessions are not free, but the teachers are formally trained and can lead you through more diligent observations with specifics I had not learned about through the other methods.  Teachers of this method often suggest that other health issues have been discovered and monitored through the knowledge and practice of this method of NFP.
I will admit that we are cautious…and abstinence plays a substantial role in our practice of NFP, particularly amid ANY ambiguous symptoms or along any margin of the fertile time.
Sometimes I question how conducive substantial abstinence is to a healthy marriage.
I too, remember the talk at my marriage prep course from eager NFP advocates: “abstinence makes the heart grow fonder” and all that…but I’m not so convinced!  What about “out of sight, out of mind”?  I think that it can go either way.
With kids and stress and the busyness of life, another layer of logistics (this time a biological calendar) sometimes seems to impose impossible constraints.I know that there are many out there who would happily welcome the 3rd, the 6th or the 10th child. I know the Lord would stretch my heart to welcome another, but I don’t think He’s working on me in that way right now. It’s true that sometimes I feel pretty stretched with the 5 I have now.
I trust the wisdom of Blessed Pope John Paul II and I know that I have yet to understand all that the Theology of the Body can teach me. Fear of fertility doesn’t exactly fan the flame of intimacy and I’m not convinced that frequent and extended abstinence does either. I know that I have intimacy issues to pray and work through and they are just as important as getting a grip on my fertility.Am I doubting my trust in God?  Do I wonder if He will send me more than I can handle?  Is this the underlying issue affecting intimacy and undermining my confidence in NFP?
Lord, I choose to trust in You.

For an awesome website that suggests that I’m not alone in this struggle,
check out Real Catholic Love and Sex and here is a Catholic NFP community for more information and support: Living The Sacrament

::Monica is a wife, Mom of 5+ kids, a designer, an architecture school survivor, an author and a crafter who likes to infuse Catholicism into regular crafts and activities that kids like to do. She enjoys writing about Faith-filled activities and family traditions at Equipping Catholic Families.

Monica and her husband founded a family apostolate called Arma Dei, designing and publishing Catholic paper craft kits, books and quizzing cards available at the Arma Dei Shoppe.::

18 Replies to “Getting a Grip on My Fertility”

  1. Thanks for the link. In writing for the blog and in personal experience, I have found that method issues are behind about 90% of the complaints about NFP.

    NFP is wonderful when you “get it”, but can be a real struggle when you are trying to figure out your fertility.

    If you are still having trouble with your fertility, we have found a lot of success with the original Billings Ovulation Method. A lot of people like Creighton Model/NaProTechnology, but we had a lot of problems with it. Even though Creighton is a derivative of Billings, the two are VERY different and one may work better than the other. (The Drs. Billings were very critical of Dr. Hilgers’s modifications. See ) We also found the Billings training to be considerably better than the Creighton training.

    We also add a temp check to confirm that we correctly identified Peak.

    Our teacher does online classes ( and she has worked with us to helped us reduce our abstinence significantly. She was VERY sympathetic to that problem, unlike some other NFP advocates we have met. We learned that were using the method overly conservatively and some nutritional issues were making fertility symptoms harder to detect than they should be.

    Another method people have had success with is the Marquette Model, which uses a ClearBlueEasy fertility monitor., but I don’t know much about it.

    As for the intimacy, married couples need to be intimate. Some NFP advocates put so much emphasis on avoiding sexual sin that couples end up starving their marriage for intimacy. Learning how to be physically close without getting worked up is an important skill in a marriage, although it does take time to learn. Avoiding each other during the fertile time only makes the abstinence worse.

  2. This describes our situations almost to a tee – from the looong cycles to the various instruments to the five children and the struggles with intimacy and trust in the Lord. Thank you for writing truthfully. And thanks for the advice, Waywardson. I’ll have to check it out.

  3. Your passion and frustration come through so clearly in this post. Thank you for sharing your journey so candidly. It’s not always easy to be a faith believing wife and mother. You just let us all know that we are not alone… and we can trust GOD!

  4. Thank you for your honesty, Monica! This has got to be something that so many of us share in the silent prayers of our hearts. It helps to know we are not alone. God bless you and your precious family.

  5. Thanks for a great article. I’m glad to read that I’m not the only one struggling with irregular and often really long cycles. My last cycle surprised me by being almost text book at 30 days. But now here I am at 24 or so days and no signs of any mucous even, which I’ve never had before. Usually in my longest cycles I have incredibly long mucous patches. So this is new. After 5+ years of practicing NFP and four pregnancies (three babies in heaven and two (twins) here with us). It’s definitely a struggle! Thank you for sharing your story and for all the links.

  6. Thank you for your article. After 13years of marriage and trying desperately to find a NFP method that works, it is nice to see someone who gets the frustration. My problem is the opposite of yours – incredibly short cycles with either bleeding or fertility signs ALWAYS present, and a tipped cervix that makes everything more complicated. Except of course, when I’m pregnant, which I am a lot! I agree with the previous reply: NFP is great when it works and a huge stressor on a marriage when it doesn’t.

  7. Colleen, short cycles and constant possibly fertile signs were what we had to deal with.

    We never had long stretches of abstinence, but we very had few days available.

    We seem to have something that works now (see above) but we had to go through four different methods, then mixed and matched.

  8. Let me ask your indulgence while I interject a non-technical comment into what is clearly a technical discussion:

    It is this. It saddens me to know that there are so many young women and (not so young) women and men that will never even know they have access to these beautiful aspects of NFP. From the perspective of an outsider, I can’t imagine how blessed it must be.

    When I was young, I was taught to ignore or defeat my fertility through the use of the pill, or permanent sterilization. I knew no differently, though I should have. Today, I have been blessed to have a family through the grace of God who gave me the gift of adoption. Reading all this makes me even more determined that there will never be a day in her life as a woman that she will not know what a wonderful gift her fertility is.

    So , perhaps for some of you, NFP is a struggle, but from the outside whistfully looking in, you all look beautiful to me.

    God bless your families.

  9. I have six children, ages 13 to 3. We are now using the Marquette model of NFP, which combines NFP with the use of the Clear Plan Easy fertility monitor to double check all observations. Really helped out since my cycles have never been regular. I highly recommend it!

  10. I just returned home from a discussion with my priest about “where do we go from here”?

    I am 44 with 5 kids, 7 years and under (all single births; all c-sections). I am elated many days and exhausted many more. My cycles are just as you describe. I have yet to see a “grave reason” to even use NFP but lately, I feel the doubt creeping in.

    Thank you for your honesty. I’m not even sure how I happened on this blog but after the last few months, it’s just what I need.

    Praying that we can all find wisdom in God’s will for us. I know when I give it over to Him, I am always greatly rewarded.

  11. Lord,Thy Will be done!
    That’s the conclusion my husband and I came to when we were first married,we tried NFP despite my husband arguing that NFP was ‘really’ just another method of ‘CONTRACEPTION’ which is truly another ‘deliberate’method of avoiding pregnancy! And I defended NFP …Then! But, well my amazing husband was right!…. This was at a time too when my husband didn’t want more children! (We had just had our 3rd child an NFP fail and a God prevail moment lol)!Well bye,bye billings method! And we put our lives and our fertility in his loving hands. We are now proud parents to 9 amazing children 16 to 7 months and one who I can’t wait to meet when my eyes close here and reopen on the other side.
    And so now I marvel recalling how staunch my husband was then about not wanting more children…and how he now tells me faithfully how happy he is with his big family! Ladies, NFP didn’t work then…..perhaps it’s not meant too! And we spend too much time heeing and hawing about our limitations. But with God there are no limitations! All that being said…I can honestly proclaim along with many faithful Catholic’s that I don’t meet any of the five requirements of the church to use it with good conscience! So, let the public sneer, and make their rude comments! This is what God wanted of me when he joined me to my husband and he will strengthen me ( ok ! my husband too!)for the journey. Happy baby making! God bless your journey! Stay strong! And then laugh at the end of the day!
    Canadian mamma of 9

  12. We didn’t get a handle on things until we started using the Marquette Method. Google it. It’s the only way I have ever made it through the breastfeeding return of fertility without getting pregnant again–other than having my husband working out of the country. 🙂

    Btw, I tried Billings and Sympto-thermal first. I HATE the STM method. I know it works for some people and I’m glad for them. It’s very complicated for me (I’m a college grad) and we had bad experiences with condescending teachers telling us I was too overweight and/or we were doing something wrong. Ugh!

    We couldn’t use Billings because I had mucus all the time. If I’d had several cycles without getting pregnant, I might have been able to learn to tell the difference in the different types of mucus. We never achieved several cycles in a row with Billings, though.

    The worst thing about NFP and being a faithful Catholic is what I call “NFP Wars.” There are different camps aligned according to method and they all think the others are substandard. It’s awful. There are theology wars associated with it too–like CCL vs. NFPI.

    I know this post is old. I hope you’ve gotten things sorted out. It’s a jungle.

  13. I appreciate this entry immensely. My husband and I are discerning how to navigate the future of NFP and intimacy in our marriage with a special health situation. I recently gave birth to our 3rd child. She is a beautiful, healthy miracle. While our daughter was planned and conceived using the Billings Method on a first “try.”

  14. I feel for you, I was in the same boat.
    I was skeptical, but tried daysy(another NFP device) and I’ve been using it successfully for a while.
    Bless you all!

    P.S. here’s the device I use, hope it’s helpful

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