Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Au Naturale: A Follow Up [Fertility and NFP after baby]


In this post, I mean to share our story with regards to our choices, and to make us a resource for others who might be interested in exploring their fertility in a natural way.  I wanted to share this because I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about natural family planning, and I wanted to give testimony to something that I think is really wonderful.  Please don't call me granola.


What and Why?

I would define NFP (Natural Family Planning) as: "fertility awareness" as a way of life, and a rejection of unnatural forms of family planning such as hormonal birth control, barriers, surgical sterilization and others.

Why do us Griffins practice NFP?  Well, there's me, with my [sometimes controversial] theological convictions; to put it gracefully, my perspective is that healthy fertility is a gift and an example of how we were perfectly and wonderfully made, not a disease to be treated with medicines and surgeries.  I also had a horrible bout with hormonal birth control in an earlier season of my life and have become a huge opponent of "the pill" ever since I stopped taking it about 8 years ago [don't get me started]. I don't really like taking medicines at all, actually.  Then there's my almost-sorta-pseudo-hippie husband, who doesn't want his wife taking artificial hormones or introducing unnatural devices to her lady parts.  And he's cool with the all natural stuff, actually prefers it.  So it works for us. 

This natural way of life has been fairly easy for us and has been 100% accurate. We used the Sympto-Thermal method when we were first married and I felt it served us well and provided all the benefits to our marriage that we were promised in our classes.  Spousal communication, natural sex, no side effects of contraceptives, learning and knowing what my body is up to, and my husband knowing and loving me in all my "phases".  Also, we had confidence in its accuracy and our ability to live it out in our household.

I won't tell you that going au naturale in this way does or does not make or break our sex life, but I will say that man and wife both being fully aware of the natural fertility cycle of their marital union is a really beautiful thing.

Pregnancy and Thereafter

While we had always been open to new life entering our home, it was when we had been married about 9 months that we felt ready to actively pursue that whole procreation thing.

There was that part.  Then later, there was pregnancy.  Then even later, there was Penny.

That's when NFP got tricky.

We believe that God is the author of life and death, and that children are a gift, always. If He wants to give us another one when we aren't exactly expecting it, that's His prerogative.  On the other hand, we also wanted to be smart in respecting the time it will take for my uterus to fully heal from a Cesearean Birth, a.k.a. major abdominal surgery.  And let's be real here... there are very healthy and morally acceptable reasons to space out the ages of your children.  To put it plainly, we really didn't want to get pregnant again right away.

I had heard from other women that their periods did not come back until eight, nine, twelve months after they gave birth. So I'm thinking, how delightful, no period for a year and a half? Yes please!  You can imagine my surprise when I sensed that I had ovulated when Penny was 11 weeks old. Really, body?? fertile 11 weeks post partum? Sure enough, I got my period two weeks later and have been regular ever since.  [I had also heard that you can't get pregnant while breastfeeding -- not true P.S.]  

You can't really keep a good basal temp chart if you aren't sleeping consistently day by day... in other words I haven't used my basal thermometer in a year and a half.  Joke... but no seriously.  So it's been all about the "Sympto" part (symptoms) of the Sympto Thermal method, which can be a little rocky when you've got breastfeeding hormones in the mix.  Read: paying very close attention and writing things down before I forget anything I experience!   

In other words, diligence has taken on new meaning.  NFP has taken on a new personality in our house.

The Personal Stuff

While Dan and I are pretty much an open book about our marriage and all of its facets, I am staying away from posting anything too personal. Just not really thinking the world wide web needs in on conversations we might only have with very close friends.  Plus my mom and mother-in-law read my blog... pretty sure a post called "Sex after Baby" might make for some awkward moments.  [If you wanna get real real personal, have us over for dinner and make sure there's sangria involved.]

But it's no secret that having a baby changes a woman's body, making it like new, totally different in some ways.  I've said before that it wasn't until about 8 months after Penny was born that I felt like myself again in my body, like I was back to normal and up for a normal amount of activity. I think this recovery time is probably different for all women, maybe mine was extra long. Six weeks... you want me to do what??  For us, the communication habits and openness that we developed from going natural from the get-go really helped us [me] in the gradual transition.  

My husband cautioned me about coming across as self-congratulatory in a post on this topic, or promoting our "way of life" through rose-colored-glasses.  I hope that is not the case, but let me be clear.  We are not perfect, our sex life is far from perfect, our marriage is far from perfect, and NFP is not a cure-all for any of these things.  In fact, Dan hates referring to it as "NFP" like it's a "widely known brand or something," when really it's just knowing when you're fertile and not fertile, and having sex or not having sex during those times accordingly.  It's not rocket science and it's not that crazy and it's not gross.  Also, it's not always convenient.

But I think it's wonderful.   I think it's been one of the greatest things for our marriage and my body.  I'm on the bandwagon. I've drunk (drank?) the cool-aid, now I'm passing out the cool-aid.

Going all natural and learning any one method of Natural Family Planning is a wonderful option for couples who might feel stuck, or who might be having second thoughts about other family planning methods.  If you are interested in learning more about our experience, please reach out!  If you don't want to post here in the comments, you can email me using the link up there in the right, or send to juliejanuary [at] gmail [dot] com.

Bottom line: It can be done, and it does work.  Even after having a baby.

You might also like:
Au Naturale
Give me an N give me an F give me a P!
A Memory Story: Are We Pregnant?
I Choose You: Staying Connected After Baby

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