April 11, 2012

No sex for months

How's that for a catchy title?  It needs to be catchy because I need people to read this post and offer some advice, send me some links, lend me some books, and let me know if it's gonna suck as much as I think it's gonna suck.

And just to be completely clear - this is a natural family planning postpartum post.  Mucus, breastfeeding, gettin'-it-on, and Church theology will all be discussed here.  If that's not your cup of tea I think the Pioneer Woman is talking about being a rancher, or cooking, or something that doesn't involve my four topics of the day.  You'll be happier there.

In about five weeks I'm going to give birth to my fourth child.  We will be a family of six (6, yo) with all four kiddos being four and under.  As in L will have turned four two weeks prior, Ben will be two and three-fourths and JF will be one and three-fourths.  For the record, this baby was more or less planned.

But after this baby comes Travis and I don't want to have any more kids for a long time... or forever.  Who knows?  God knows.  And He also knows that I feel like the Mad Hatter and need a good, long break from pregnancy, babies, and buying a bigger van.  I've told Him so, and He has a first row seat to my life.


Anyways, all of this is building up to a point and that point is this:  How in the hell do people practice natural family planning when they are:

- breastfeeding, but...
- NOT ecologically breastfeeding
- prone to crazy, hard to read because it's almost always there and varying postpartum mucus
- super, duper, ridiculously fertile

I would really like to nurse this baby but co-sleeping, baby-wearing, nursing on demand, and not letting a kid who wants to sleep through the night, sleep through the night do not work for me.  At all.  Ecological breastfeeding is not an option for me because it transforms me into the worst mother, wife, and person in the world. 

TMI alert - after JF was born Trav and I were not intimate for four months because we did not want to get pregnant.  (That's right I wouldn't have even been able to take the Guttmacher survey about nfp and contraceptives because of the very fact that I was practicing nfp!)  I was also not nursing JF, just pumping for awhile but that had stopped by four months.

My husband and I are completely committed to the Church's teachings on sex, marriage, chastity, contraception, and nfp. But that doesn't mean I don't look at the list above and have to remind myself of why I believe those things.

There's also this:

Abstinence is probably our best bet if I really am going to nurse, and I know that because I will not be ecologically breastfeeding my cycles will return sooner.  But I'm still thinking I need to wait a good two or three cycles before we do anything crazy and that could very well mean four, five, six, or more months of postpartum nothingness.  We have done abstinence before but, I will be honest, chastity in those four months was pretty hard at times. 

So now the bottom line:  Does anyone out there have any experience with something similar?  Any advice to offer?  Anything?  Surely I am not the only woman God has put on His green earth with a similar situation.  Right?


  1. Bonnie - I'm in the exact same boat - literally! We have four kids (I'm four months postpartum right now) and are postponing indefinitely due to various issues. We plan to use the Marquette Method of NFP, which involves the use of the ClearBlue Easy fertility monitor and does have a protocol for breastfeeding.

    It's a bit more expensive than other forms of NFP - the monitor itself is $150, and then you need to buy test sticks, which are usually around $30 for a pack of 30, depending on where you buy them. But since it tests the hormones in your urine, it's very reliable.

  2. Also, I wanted to add that you're in my prayers.

  3. My suggestion is to learn Creighton if you haven't already done so. It's mucus only-so you get REALLY good at identifying fertile mucus (spoken as someone who also has it all the time) and you'll learn it from a one on one instructor. She'll be able to help you make sure your chart is PERFECT every single month if you wish. Then you can play it very, very safe-but still enjoy each other during those postpartum months. It's not cheap-you'll probably have to pay for every single follow up. But I think it's worth it.

  4. Oh Bonnie, I don't know what to tell you. I am pretty fertile as it goes, but while nursing, ovulation stays away for a long time (like a year or more). Not ecological and all that stuff, but regular breastfeeding and pumping--I mean I work full time, I can't ecologically breastfeed.

    If you are looking for nothingness on the charts, I never have that. But I do have a more or less steady state, a constant cloudyish, not really sticky, but not stretchy either. When fertility is returning, things start changing, maybe a bit more volume, a bit clearer, a bit stretchier, a spot of blood. It's hard to say exactly, but I am aware that it is different. When I realize things are changing, that is when I generally implement the 'stay away' policy. :)

    My youngest turned one in July 2011. I had my first indication of change at the beginning of August 2011. My face started breaking out. In mid-to-late August, I had one day of very light spotting. In September things were all over the map, but I don't think I actually ovulated. Cycle started at the end of September. And then I had months of a luteal phase defect which I have never had before, but that's another story.

    Anyway this has been my experience and I hope it helps you figure things out.

  5. Thanks, JoAnna and Kaitlin.

    About Creighton - I can already tell the difference between my fertile mucus and what's not but, at least with the last two post partum periods, the fertile mucus will come and go in patches every 5-110-15 days. There is never enough time for me to feel "safe" since I don't know how long the patches will be until they're over. Does Creighton have an answer for that?

  6. I made sure to be supervigilant and to talk to my instructor a few times whil post partum. I was confident in how we practiced NFP post partum but still with my cycles not returning until 10 months later there were a lot of (negative) pregnancy tests. My most direct advice for you, since I feel like you won't get a answer you're looking for from other people's accounts or suggestions, is to call some professionals. Ask the main office of Couple to Couple if you can talk to someone, call the Pope Paul VI institute in Omaha and ask them if they can direct you to something. Maybe you could even challenge them there needs to be more.

  7. Awesome timing for this post. I've been meaning to email to ask you for advice on how to know when you're fertile after pregnancy, since I know you use NFP. But now I know it's just hard to tell. My BBT is higher than pre-pregnancy, which (this is stupid) makes me constantly paranoid that I'm already pregnant again. After all, I skipped taking my temperature for a while after Jaedon was born, so I keep thinking that my temperature shifted BEFORE I started taking it again. I exclusively pump, so I assume that it doesn't have the same effect as breastfeeding, let alone ecological breastfeeding (honestly, I don't know how that's practical for anyone).

    I loved NFP before getting pregnant. It felt so empowering to know my body so well. Now, I'm just constantly paranoid that my fertile time is just around the corner, which of course, is driving Hector slightly (or completely) crazy.

    Clearly, I have no advice, but I'm just glad to know that the postpartum uncertainty isn't just w/me. Hence the rambling, which reflects my joy about not being alone in this.

  8. Travis can talk to Steve about "no sex for months" because that's basically how it goes around here. I don't ecologically breastfeed - we use pacifiers, give bottles occasionally, leave my babies for 4+ hours at a time, etc. Yet, my fertility didn't return until 9 months with the first and still hasn't 10 1/2 months in this time. It makes it so, so hard to trust NFP when you don't have a starting point for your cycle! The only advice I can offer is the Marquette method monitor (http://nfp.marquette.edu/), which is expensive, but gives us some peace of mind. There is a breastfeeding protocol on the website.

    To be completely honest, postpartum NFP has been the hardest thing for our marriage. I cringe when I hear "good" NFP is for marriages when it has made ours extremely difficult for 20 of the 45 months we've been married. I still know in my heart that it is God's plan for us and WILL be good for our marriage in the long run, but it is so hard right now.

  9. Okay, I didn't read JoAnna's comment which linked to the same stuff I did. So, I second what JoAnna said!

  10. whew I could write for days on this. :)
    1-YES! creighton can help you with that! You cant just research and learn online though - you have to learn it form someone. Melinda and I are possibly becoming practitioners but wouldnt start training until fall and that would be too late for you. :) but, therese kinsley might be able to help you. tell her you cant pay full price and maybe you guys can work something out. weused to do sympto-thermal, but when bridget was born, learned creighton, because i was convinced it would be better for our family. and it definitely is, no question. I think I might have three more babies right now if i had to do sympto thermal. :)

    2- even though i like creighton a lot better, some people really like sympto-thermal better. there is a cass now that was put out a year or two ago ONLY about postpartum charting. Liz Rairden and her hubby, Bobby, have taught it. ask her for the schedule. I know she said she likes it.

    3- After lucy it was almost 5 months until we had sex for the first time, (and i know im not alone in that)(and 5 months postpartum plus 9 months of pregnancy equals Bridget Maria. :) ) I was not worried about having another child (boy, was I naive!), but I just was nursing all the time, exhausted, and didnt feel like doing all the effort it took to make love. It was tough for Ryan - neither of us expected it to take that long. But, it turned out okay. Then, after the first child, Ryan knew what to expect. Things were much easier after bridget and anne were born. Its been pretty consistent that we dont have sex until around 4-5 months postpartum, so I cant imagine being worried about getting pregnant again at 2 or 3 months. ;)

    i know i had some other thoughts but i forgot them already after typing a page. :)

  11. So I'm the only crazy one having tons of sex when my newborn is only two weeks old because NFP breastfeeding rules don't really work AND this is the least likely month to create a new life? :-)

    I pray for us to all have more of God's peace. Sex is really important in marriage. Child rearing is really hard. It's hard to trust sometimes but God really does not want Catholic Moms to end up in the psych ward. If He sends you a surprise baby at a horrible time, He always sends you surprise bouts of overwhelming grace.

    I'm a poorly formed convert who never ever thought I could be a Mama to 5. My proof of his grace is that I'm still standing!

  12. I don't have any "get better at nfp" advice, but we've had to abstain for a few months, twicer due to bedrest in pregnancy. It's hard. On the other hand, we tried to foster our friendship- I know, even writing that sounds dorky and simplistic, but it was good for us, despite the hardship of abstinence. We read to each other, played card/board games, found TV series to watch together (that's when we got into Prison Break)... Not being on bedrest, you could go on long walks together (exercise!), go on lots of family dates, cuddle with your kids more... And, when it's really hard, give your hubby some garlic or onion food to eat and don't have any yourself. Nothing kills the mood like onion breath! Praying for you!

  13. Sent you an e-mail about some Creighton magic! Hope you find it helpful!

  14. So this is good stuff, ladies. I really appreciate the feedback (and prayers!) from all of you!

    Abigail - 2 wks postpartum? Ouch! I think you have c-sections but ouch nonetheless! ;)

    I don't think I need to learn nfp or my body better. I do not rely on my temp postpartum - I don't even take my temp - and I have learned to read my mucus, which is why this baby was not a surprise.

    I think the overall answer is "yes, it will suck as much as you think it will." Either shell our a lot of money for a Marquette and reassurance via technology or go old school and abstain for a long time.

    Why have older nfp-ers never talked about this? I feel a little confused that the suckiness of loooong periods of abstaining have never been discussed by the women I know who have been practicing nfp for much longer than I have. Do they know something I don't?

  15. I understand that the desert of no hanky-panky really sets in BIG time when we go into menopause... even women with "normal" mucous patterns, etc, wind up not being able to do it for a long time.

    It took my mother almost ten years from the onset of menopause to completion... A DECADE.

    I'm currently peeing on ClearBlue sticks in the hopes of conceiving (we lost our first baby at 11 weeks). But I have also peed on sticks to avoid. I have sporadic insomnia so my temp charts have always been worthless.

    I don't think the technology method would suck so bad, it's just expensive - but a surprise kid is also expensive and a troubled sexless marriage is expensive in other ways. So that is how I justify the cost to myself.

    Good luck. You are not the only one who has to remind herself about why we believe these things.

  16. We love the Billings Method! Similar to Creighton, but it doesn't have to be long periods of abstaining necessarily. If you get a change in mucous and you are unsure, it's 1,2,3 wait and see!! If after 3 days you are back to your basic infertile pattern go for it! If not, repeat! This method does not have to be expensive at all and has been great!! After 2 surprises, our youngest is 3!! I don't think NFP means complete abstinence all the time. Don't be overwhelmed with fear, just be educated and go to a class together, Creighton or Billings!! God is with you!! :)

  17. I'm just impressed that you know older women who've been practicing NFP! And who are willing to talk about it! The only ones I know of I don't know personally, and they all have more than 4 kids. And/or they are able to ecologically breastfeed, or breastfeed in the standard manner without fertility returning for at least a year.

    For me, in the beginning it's pretty easy to feel confident that I'm not fertile. Plus, I don't wanna be having sex then anyway. But after a few months, when we're both actually interested, that's when I start getting all paranoid that every bit of even minor CM means it's go time. And it never does. And all of my kids are at least 2.3 years apart. But yes, we still end up abstaining probably more than we need to due to my paranoia.

    My only suggestion besides all the other really great stuff here is maybe those packs of cheap ovulation predictor strips? You pee on 'em just like a pregnancy test but they're not as expensive as a monitor. I've never used one, but I've wondered about them a few times in the past.

    Good luck, sweetie! And yay...only 5 weeks to go!!!!!!

  18. I am pretty sure the Creighton answer for your 5-10-15 day patch would be "when in doubt, count three days and consider those days fertile". I heard that a hundred times. So you could have sex on the evening of the third day after a mucus patch.

    But I'm not a teacher-just throwing in that caveat.

    And yes Abigial-you are the only one ;)

  19. Yes, Creighton has answers. I hope the gal that sent the email answered them. I have lots of mucus as well. When you are just learning, everything is fertile, but as you can already tell there is point of change so that you know what is truly fertile and what is not. You can eventually start using the non fertile days even if they have mucus. Creighton is extremely versatile and reliable. That being said, we avoid entirely during pregnancies due to a different reason (we pass back and forth an infection that causes miscarriages) and I know how hard complete avoidance can be. I hope you can avoid that option! Sending prayers!

    1. My friend had this same problem with the infection being passed back and forth and causing miscarriages. She found an amazing doctor in NYC (one of the only ones who treats this) who gave both of them IV antibiotic treatment for 7 days or so and cured them both FINALLY of the infection. After 4 miscarriages-- she successfully carried to term.

  20. Hi Bonnie. I don't know about the different methods since I had just the one child and have abstained from sex for the past 15 years (not my choice, my hubby) but I did want to let you know that my mother had children just one year apart and I clearly remember her telling me that breastfeeding (for her) did not stop ovulation as three were born that way. 1962,1963,1964. I have to believe that science has gotten better about teaching the different methods and that we have gotten better learning about our body and what to look for. It also helps when ladies such as those on this board are open and feel free to ask and answer questions that may not ever have been asked until now. These discussions are wonderful. Keep up the good work ladies!

  21. I'm not married but I have felt the same way. I have this HUGE FEAR about getting pregnant using NFP when I thought "we weren't ready." Or getting pregnant too closely together. I still freak out about it. I can remember in high school when "everyone was doing it" and I wasn't thinking with my luck if I had sex (which I wasn't interested in anyway) I'd get pregnant and I def. wasn't in a situation to care for a baby.

    P.S. I LOVE your blog. You are so real and down to earth!

  22. Bonnie, I love that you wrote about this. One year ago, I was in the same boat just going OFF to my sister on the phone (who was also in the same boat - our kids are 10 days apart.) I, too, got recommendations to learn Creighton. But realistically I am not going to go to Peoria to learn it so I REALLY HOPE Veronica becomes a practitioner! :-) In any case, you are definitely not alone, I love your honesty and candidness and all I can is, to quote my mom and every other Catholic mom out there, "Offer it up!" :-)

  23. I used the Billings Ovulation Method for 25 years. I was (I haven't ovulated in about a year and a half) very fertile and nearly every day was a mucus day. But, it was easy for me to differentiate fertile mucus from non-fertile mucus (I did take the class 6 months before I got married, so I did have the opportunity to build up a lot of confidence). The Billings Method worked very well for my irregular-ish cycles, breast-feeding (the moment I let my kids have even one bottle a day, however, the fertile signs began to reappear), and menopause. I'm sorry that you are struggling so! I had three kids ... all three planned (two of them were short-term planned - I ended up being fertile on my honeymoon ... and yes, nine months later [8 months and 3 weeks, actually!] our first was born.)
    I will say a special prayer for you. More than three kids may very well have put me in a psych ward!!!!!!

  24. http://thenfpchronicles.blogspot.com/2010/01/and-now-some-pictures-of-stuff-i-peed.html

    Here's my two cents. I've spent literally years trying to find a better way to use NFP after having a newborn, but I think you've already figured out the bottom line: it pretty much means no sex. I will say though that the cheap LH strips were the easiest thing for me, and it took me years to discover them. Good luck!

  25. Bonnie! This was JUST what I needed to read today. I am so down on NFP right now. I'm miserable. I'm here to tell you that, yes, it is going to suck just as bad as you think it is. Vinnie is 12 weeks old, and I have stretchy stuff every single day and am in my 2nd cycle postpartum despite ecological breastfeeding and baby wearing, never used a bottle (did a paci, but after my period returned), etc. It sucks royally. We've been abstaining for 3 weeks and I am about ready to shred my house into tidbits to let off some frustration. Seriously. We are 23 and 27 years old. We're young, energetic, dealing with 3 kids is not that bad, and it is so hard to not be able to be together. It should not be this way, but it is.

    Abigail-you are my kind of girl. We were at it at 10 days postpartum this time. I don't understand why everyone doesn't have this kind of logic about the postpartum period!

    I use Creighton, and frankly, it is not helping me much. I can't use yellow stamps yet because my FCP and I cannot even pinpoint ovulation. The mucus is all the same and it is always there.

    Bless you, Bonnie. I'm sorry you have to go through this too, but I'm glad I'm not the only one who hates NFP. I get so sick of listening to people talk about how great it is for them. It is the hardest thing our marriage has endured.

  26. Another vote for Creighton... we had one surprise with it. A baby conceived 8 days prior to peak. Yes thats 8. yes I know it doesn't make sense.
    We did 6 months of abstinence until I got my first post partum period and then we stick to POST PEAK sex only. That seems to work pretty well. I also am breastfeeding on demand ( but not ecologically) and have daily mucus. If you can identify the point of change and peak day and wait till the 4th day post peak you should be okay to at least have a few post peak sex days a month

  27. I realize that I'm a bit late to the discussion, but I wanted to offer some sisterly support.

    We've been married for almost 11 years and we have three children all do whom were pretty planned. The youngest is almost 3.

    We've tried all sorts of methods and have settled very happily on Creighton. We've never had months of post partum abstinence, but we have had months of abstinence because we couldn't figure out what the h.e.doublehockeysticks was going on with my cycle. I used to pee on a stick on day 35, 45, 55, etc etc, all the while thinking 'how the heck can I be pregnant? I haven't had sex in three months?!'. Turns out I have PCOS, wasn't ovulating at all, so all that effort and abstinence was all for nothing. How's that for frustrating?

    I am now back to ovulating regularly, but I do have a lot of mucus etc. At one point, our instructor told us that we've used every single special rule that she has other than the ones for menopause.

    I can honestly also say that if we hadn't found Creighton when we did, we would have abandoned NFP and started contracepting years ago because we were so frustrated and confused and scared.

    In all those years of struggle, I did find that there was one good thing. Hardship, if you let it, binds you closer together with your spouse. It is all to easy to draw inward and not share your hurt and misunderstanding and hard feelings. But if you can turn to one another and say 'I'm scared that this will never get better.' or 'I can't turn off and on my emotions like this all the time' or 'i'm sorry my body is broken and inconvenient' (all things that I have said), if you can say those things, then you may not find a solution, but at least you're alone. And your spouse will have similar things to say as well.

    When it is working properly, any NFP method shouldn't involve months of abstinence. If it is, it's time to find a new method that works better for your body and your family. But, the most important thing to keep in mind, is that the real gift of NFP and modern methods isn't that its natural etc. The real gift is that the abstinence only has to be periodic. NFP isn't interruptions in intercourse. It's interruptions in total abstinence.

    I hope things are going well with your new baby and family of 6. Many blessings.

    PS. I found that all things marriage related got better around the 10 years mark.
    PPS. We usually have lots of sex in the first few weeks post partum because we know the chances of getting pregnant are so low.

  28. Oh wow! I'm rocking my 11 day old and my 19 month old is asleep in her crib. I had a 2nd degree tear that was interior ( I think I have that right) so we are waiting until my postpartum checkup. That being said we are REALLY wanting to wait three or four years before conceiving and this is THE BEST resource I've found!!!! Thanks SO much!

  29. Rocking my 11 day old & our 19 month old is fast asleep. REALLY wanting to postpone. This post and comments is the best resource I've found yet. THANKS!!!!!

  30. Got linked over to this post from the more recent one :0)

    I heartily second the comment ^^ about Creighton :0)

  31. I don't get all this 'creighton, marquette' etc. We used NFP before I became Catholic with the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It combines several methods: sympto-thermal, mucus and cervix size. It is extremely detailed and includes charts to match. I don't know if this will help at all, but if it does great. This book includes full color photos and other recommendations.

  32. I am going to plug the NFP-CLOSED group on Facebook. Join us and ask all the questions you want!
    Since the group is CLOSED, nothing you ask or post will be posted on your profile page or News Feed. I am not sure if the CLOSED group is searchable, but I know the regular/open group is. If I remember the URL correctly (I am currently facebook fasting) you can reach the CLOSED group via www.facebook.com/NFPFans