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Getting a Grip on My Fertility

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
 
 and the The OvaCue Fertility Monitor® from Zetek
 
 which I think looks like this now:
 
 and the Fertility Tracker Ovulation Microscope
 
 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.::