Never one to resist a pun.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but I wanted to have a few months (a year maybe, now?) under my belt before going and saying something crazy like “we found an NFP method that works great for us and it’s been a game changer.” Before we go any further, however, the necessary disclaimer that I am not a medical expert, that my opinions are not those of a trained healthcare practitioner, and that what works great for one couple may not be so hot for the next. Which is why we have a proliferation of methods at our disposal. Some friends who learned the Sympto-Thermal method alongside us while we were going through marriage prep are still happily using it. Other friends have gone through one method after another, landing in their doctor’s office doing bloodwork and figuring out all kinds of hormone imbalances and health issues.
So the big fat disclaimer to this all is: NFP is women’s healthcare. And we women and the men who love us should take it seriously, and treat it as such. Which means seeking out doctors and nurses and instructors who are trained in the various methods, when we’re struggling with finding something that works and with figuring out our unique fertility. Facebook groups are super helpful, books are great, and online resources can be a godsend, but sometimes you need a trained professional to help figure out the language your body is speaking.
This is where I tell you that we found such a professional to teach us a wonderful new method of NFP well suited to my body, and we lived happily ever after. But no, I self-taught using the sage counsel of a combination of Facebook groups and my patient little sister. So do as I say, not as I do! End disclaimer.
Where were we? Oh yes, 3 methods in 3 years. Or just about. We learned Sympto Thermal through the Couple to Couple League when we were engaged, but perhaps because we were excited to start our family right away, I wasn’t paying the greatest of attention to that daily temperature taking protocol. Once baby #1 came along and I was supposed to start waking up at a reasonably early hour and testing again, along with making mucus and cervical observations, I was done. Between the night wakings, the nurse-a-thons and the unusual mucus patterns, we never found our rhythm (ba dum ching) with CCL again, and so we moved on to Creighton.
Creighton was great in terms of helping me to understand where I was chronologically in my cycle. Numbers are really difficult for me, and Creighton was more hands on (I’m sorry I literally cannot help myself) and helped make our fertility a more concrete concept. However. While I am nursing, it was basically an endless yellow sticker party for months and months and months. (For the uninitiated, yellow stickers are when your instructor gives you the green light to go ahead and consider some days infertile, based on observations over a period of months, and agrees that the hormones related to breastfeeding are also totally obscuring the cyclical mucus patterns your body is supposed to show once you cycle returns postpartum, and that you probably haven’t actually been in Phase 2 for the past 13 weeks. In my case, that return to regular fertility typically begins about 10 months after baby, as long as I’m breastfeeding.
The psychological toll of the yellow stickers was tough on me though, because it always felt very “fertility roulette” and very much all on my subjective shoulders to make the right observations and then to give the correct classification. Call it a lack of self confidence or just a body really intent on getting pregnant again, but I pretty much felt like every month we practiced Creighton we were going to conceive, so long as I was nursing. Enter the weekly Dollar Tree pregnancy test taking ritual.
After Luke was born in 2015, our 4th sweet bundle of joy in 5 years, I was very anxious for a break, both mentally and physically. Creighton did not seem to be a good fit for our particular situation, at least during the nursing months (and they were all nursing months, back then) so we sought out yet another method, one that several of my girlfriends had tried and found success with.
One thing I want to note is that because the postpartum season is so exhausting and so overwhelming, it is the one time I have really found myself tempted by contraception. I totally get it. I get that it seems like a godsend, like an obvious solution, and like the only non-insane thing to do when you’re bleeding and sleep deprived and financially bereft and just barely hanging on.
And I think a lot more of us have been there than are willing to let on in polite company.
But in my heart of hearts, and in the heart of our marriage, I know that God would not hold something good just out of arm’s reach from us. And that if contraption were a true answer to our hardships, the Church who is a good and faithful Mother would extend it as the healing balm to our fertility woes.
But she hasn’t. Because it isn’t. It isn’t the answer when you’re 7 weeks postpartum and haven’t slept in 44 nights, or when you’re struggling to make the mortgage payment, or when you’re teetering on the precipice of menopause and really, really afraid of having a baby in your mid forties.
Contraception is either good for human love, or it isn’t. It either builds up and supports marriages, or it tears them down. And it’s either something God has asked us to yield to His will over our own on, or else it’s something that everybody can freely partake of, no matter the circumstances.
Human circumstances are rarely black and white, but God is. And His guidelines for our happiness and holiness are unwavering, however wobbly and wrecked I might be in any particular month.
So, back to the new method. We ordered up a Clear Blue monitor (this one from amazon, use my pal Bonnie’s affiliate link to shop there), which comes in a really fun box with “helps you get pregnant faster!” scrawled on all four sides of it, as do the monitor sticks, which inspired a ton of confidence in me when I opened the package, and which I really love seeing under my bathroom sink every morning.
Basically, the Marquette Method did an end-run around this ovulation predicting and pinpointing urine-testing monitor and figured out a way use the monitor and to co-opt it’s data to reveal to a woman the specific parameters of her fertile window (Phase 2). The monitor uses urine test sticks which measure detectable levels of lutenizing hormone (LH) and estrogen levels and can give a pretty accurate picture of when ovulation is occurring, and then gives you a count down back to “low” fertility after peak day. I like the objectivity of the method tremendously, because I can put all my faith into a tiny machine instead of my exhausted midnight brain, and that seems eminently more reasonable to me. I’m only joking the very littlest bit about that. Which maybe I need to talk to someone about. But seriously, having an objective standard by which I am measuring my fertility signs has been a huge weight off my shoulders.
The postpartum period was a little tricky with Marquette (and a little more expensive with the test sticks) but it was hugely freeing for me to feel like I had a good understanding of what my body was doing, and that even with the continuous mucus patterns during breastfeeding, the hormone levels my body was producing were low enough to reassure me that my cycle was not yet returning. I think it probably bought us literally months of useable days during the postpartum period with Luke. And now that I am in regular cycles again, it has been extremely helpful in corroborating other psychological and physiological changes that each cycle brings.
Learning Marquette with a Creighton background helped me to not trust the monitor overly much, too, I would say. Because I know have what I think is the most possible data at my disposal, short of blood testing, I can make truly educated decisions about my fertility using what I learned with each method, checking the hard data against the more subjective. (Not saying Creighton is not scientifically rigorous, just that it’s easier to be objective with a little computer than with a square of toilet paper.)
Also, it should be noted that for couples who are struggling to conceive, Creighton is something of a gold standard for many people.
I hope this was helpful? Informative? Not mind-numbing or totally repulsive? And I may write a more detailed Marquette “how to” post one of these days, if I can work up the enthusiasm.