April 13, 2012

So we're all in this together

A quick follow-up to my No Sex for Months post.  Once again this may be too much information for some.  Deb, my dear mother-in-law, Grandma Joan, and Mom, you have been warned.

First: Thanks to everyone for all the feedback. Based on what I know about my body and the snippets I got from people via email, facebook, and the combox there is no way in the world that I am going to use my mucus to judge when I'm fertile or not. I don't care what Creighton people say, I am already convinced that Travis and I are two of the most fertile people ever and I am leaving no room for human error. So maybe we'll go with the ClearBlueEasy stick but probably we will do the only sure thing, which is not have sex for a long time.

Second:  Do you know how mortified my husband is about me blogging all of this?  He has not forbidden me to write about it, though, because I think he sees it as useful or something else that is good.  Which is good because I'm not doing this to be scandalous or shocking, I'm doing this because nfp is hard and I need help and it's a good thing to build up support and empathy - even if it is with people I only know via the internet.

Third:  I am actually amazed at how many of my friends, after reading my post, confided in me that postpartum they too went 4, 5, 6 or more months without having sex. Why have we never complained together about how much that sucks? And why have I never read about chastity in that part of marriage? Maybe because it's a little too personal for most people?

Fourth:  The other response that surprised me to the "no sex" post was how many people promoted Creighton to me. I have a lot of respect and appreciation for Dr. Hilgers, the Pope Paul VI Institute, NaProTechnology, etc. but personally I have had some really unfortunate conversations with Creighton people in my area.  The comments they've made to me - some more offensive and hurtful than what I've gotten from pro-contraception/small family people - have really turned me off from ever wanting to learn their method of nfp. It was refreshing to have people recommend Creighton to me in a way that didn't insult my intelligence, mock my marriage bed, or belittle my children's existences. So thank you for that!


  1. People can be such assholes about their favorite method of NFP. Sorry you had to hear it.

    Also, I'm glad you're writing about it too. We need to talk about this stuff!

  2. With 3 kids in 3 1/2 years, my husband and I are abstaining indefinitely, too. Thank you for writing about this topic! I am curious to hear what other couples do to stay close but remain chaste. -Paula

  3. So, I must say that your previous post on "No Sex for Months" is right on. I do not practice nfp, but I totally experienced the same emotions as many post-partum women about getting pregnant right after birth. I also thought that everyone's posts were beautifully written (not in a creepy sort of way, in regards to mucus and all), but it's nice to see a post where people don't blast each other for using different methods- even different nfp methods! I had NO idea there were so many! Thanks! :)

  4. I did not have a good experience with the Creighton instructors in the area either. We went twice and I vowed I wouldn't go again.

    My inability to respond was out of respect for my husband. He told me that I may share with you in a more personal setting and not online. I don't think I have much to add to the conversation, but my empathy, support, and love.

    Also, I wanted to add (as an "older" NFPer) that I really hesitate to share my negative experiences with NFP/abstinence for multiple reasons

    1) Guilt. I have been made to feel guilty that I don't think NFP is all peaches and cream. I think the "NFP is awesome" propaganda makes a lot of us feel inept, not faithful enough, or doing something wrong. If only I did A+B, then I wouldn't have a negative experience/attitude.

    2) Frequently when I've shared my experience as an older NFPer (using it,not being able to have another child, needing to space, wanting to be done), I get looks like I have horns growing out of my head. I've gotten the most negative and hurtful responses from young women new to marriage, children, and sex.

    As I reflect back, I understand that they can't learn from me or heed my advice because they too must forge their own paths. Someday, I just hope they remember. I also hope they know that there are good, faithful, Catholic, "older" women out there who are done having babies and need to find other ways to be "open to life".

    My heart is always with them and I am whispering prayers to a God who only gives good gifts (no matter how frustrating or annoying those gifts may be).

  5. I started off NFP using FAM. You may know about it already, but I thought I'd mention it. There's a book called, Taking Charge of Your Fertility and a website (TCOYF.com). This NFP method uses not only cervical mucus, but temps and cervical position (which require internal checks). I loved it because it used everything. Best thing is: ITS FREE (other than the cost of the book). No instructors or session fees, etc.

    It turns out I am infertile and not many doctors look at charts for fertility, so I switched to Creighton so doctors (NaPro) would actually pay attention.

    I don't know what it's like to be a super fertile person, but I am sure the months and/or years after birth are going to be difficult.

  6. I probably should have read this before commenting on the "No Sex for Months" post, but oh well. Our "temperature only" method still worked for us postpartum.

    I think that long periods of abstinence is the "dirty little secret" of NFP - I feel like NFPers don't really want to talk about it because that might turn people off to the concept, and there's already a lot of pressure against it. Apparently we have something to gain by being unrealistic?

    But, perhaps it depends on who's talking: I recall as a young newlywed talking to college students about how wonderful NFP is and how you don't have to abstain for more than 2 weeks even if you don't want a baby. Of course, that was before business trips, poorly-timed illnesses, and babies came on the scene. What did I know?

  7. Hello! I'm not a regular reader, but I happened to come upon your "no sex" post and this follow-up. I just want to say thank you for writing about this topic. I'm a single Catholic women so I'm not practicing nfp, but as a faithful Catholic who some day hopes to marry, it is something I hear and read about occasionally. It's really good to hear honest discussion that it's not all a bed a roses, and that there are often prolonged periods of abstinence. I wish there was more honest discussion with singles about the realities of married sex. I think a lot of Catholic publications make marriage and nfp out to be this fantastic, blissful experience.

    So, thank you for your honesty, and for showing at least 1 single woman that chastity doesn't end when you say I do. - TG

  8. I'm a little late to this party.

    But my hubs and I were just having this same conversation. Yes, NFP has deepened our love by adding a sacrificial element, blah blah blah. But my prayer the other day was, "God, I get it. Can we just have sex now?"

    I agree with others that this can be a difficult internet conversation and would be better in person. But basically, I understand where you're coming from.

    But you know what? Even in the midst of this, my husband, unprovoked, blurted out that we have a great marriage. Even in the midst of our postpartum abstinence. I'm sure Travis would say the same.

    And it's been too long. I should make a road trip to your neck of the woods soon.

  9. Thank you to everyone who's commenting(even anonymously); this is the conversation that has been totally missing from NFP discussions. Well done, ladies :)

  10. Hey my wife Liz asked me to check this out since I'm an NFP instructor to see where people are coming from.

    Wow... In all sincerity, I feel for everyone that is going through excessive periods of abstinence. I can't even begin to fathom it. We've gone through a max of 5 weeks abstinence in our 8 years of marriage so we are lucky I suppose. But I'm inspired with these stories of remaining faithful through difficult times!

    Anyway, we just want to help, we don't mean to paint some false rosy picture. Of all the people that have actually handed me charts to talk about postpartum issues, the max I've seen is 45 consecutive days of required phase II abstinence. So I'm sort of amazed at this. :( I wish I had numbers on how many people the methods work for and how many they don't.

    I've been thinking for probably an hour on why people haven't approached us with these charts and I've come up with some theories. Whatever the case... I would like to do something
    1. If anyone is doing sympto-thermal method and would like help identifying infertle postpartum periods, please let us know. There are common issues we might be able to help with! Plus we can connect you with the experts at couple to couple league that have been doing this for 40 years. They are really good.
    2. Some of these comments are not so much about postpartum, but generally abstaining *for a long time*. If one method is not working, why not try other methods? They all emphasize different facets of reading hormonal signs. For example, we've had people that their temps were wacky and Creighton worked much better for them. If anyone wants, we can get recommendations on other methods that may work better for your particular circumstances. We can also connect you with good teachers in that method.
    3. I read earlier that people aren't doing ecological breastfeeding, and that's cool (it's a personal decision). In case someone stumbles upon this Googling postpartum NFP, ecological breastfeeding has a 98%+ effectiveness to avoid pregnancy within the first 6 months postpartum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactational_amenorrhea).

    I'll be praying that God may make everyone's signs clear and easily interpretable!

    God bless,
    Bobby R.

  11. I think that for people of "normal" fertility, NFP is probably not that hard. I'm talking people for whom NFP actually works like the textbook charts show you it does. YOu know, 7 days of abstinence per cycle. Those people are all positive about it, and that's all you see. I am so heartened to see folks coming out of the woodwork who feel the same I do. I am totally committed to follow the church's teachings, but that does not mean I am happy about it.

    I second what Amanda S said about guilt. I do not feel guilty so much about my attitude towards NFP, but what it has done to our marriage. I hate the fact that my imperfect (but extremely fertile) body has made it so that I can't give myself to my husband more often. I love him so much, and it is so hard for me to keep telling him night after night that we cannot be together.

    Also, loneliness. No matter how much we talk about it, how much time we spend together, there is still something missing when we're abstaining. We feel divided and separate in a way neither one of us wants to feel. Sex is a natural part of marriage. It is really tough to cut it out of the relationship.

    Bobby- Well, I'm in the lucky 2% then. I stopped my postpartum flow at 3.5 weeks after my most recent birth and got a period at 5 weeks. And I cosleep, baby wear, and I don't even OWN a bottle and have never pumped. Go figure.

  12. I just wanted to comment on your mention of using a fertility monitor. My husband and I have learned the Sympto-Thermal and Creighton NFP models and they are both great. However, when my fertility returned after baby #4, I started looking into the Marquette NFP model www.nfp.marquette.edu and I really love it. We use the Persona fertility monitor, which is not FDA approved in the U.S. yet, but can be bought through a Canadian or U.K. website. The Marquette model is all online and your charts are all done on their website, so if you have questions about your cycle, one of their NFP doctors or nurses can take a look at your chart and respond to your questions within a day or two. You can use the monitor and chart before your fertility returns, so there aren't any surprises. It has been such a blessing to me to use Marquette, since we are young and very fertile and open to life, but aren't really aiming to be the next 19 Kids and Counting couple.

  13. Hi there - I know this conversation occurred awhile ago and you're now past due date, but I just wanted to chime in the you should REALLY look into the Marquette Method and the breastfeeding protocol. It's expensive, but we made it work (at the time my husband was a resident earning next to nothing and I was unemployed.....). I started using the monitor at 5 weeks postpartum...........it got us through 9 months of postpartum delayed ovulation, that crazy long first real cycle, and now more than a year's worth of regular cycles. And for the record, I had mucus all the time. As an aside, right now the primary research focus of the Marquette people is refining NFP methods for breastfeeding women and women with menopause.

    Anyway, the method gave us peace, security and allowed us to be intimate. You can chart online and the online forum is wonderful and run by Catholic medical professionals who will look at your charts and answer any and all questions (for free) within 24 hours. If you have questions please feel free to contact me (I can send you a private email address). Having used the method for nearly 2 years now I have some tips on how to use it more effectively and how to lessen the cost. I can't express how much the method and the technology helped us and in many ways made us more open to life (because I, like you, DREADED the angst and uncertainty postpartum time....). GOD BLESS! :)

  14. I do urge you to take at least take a look at the Billings Ovulation Method. It is simplest, least burdensome method of charting; it can be used in any phase of life, including breastfeeding; yet it is still highly effective. They have most of their materials online on their (Australian) website. www.thebillingsovulationmethod.org.

    Even if you use another method, Billings are the experts on the mucus symptom, so learning Billings may make Symptothermal or Marquette easier.

    Not a big fan of Creighton. It's very teacher dependent. If you have a good teacher, it's great; if you don't, it's terrible.

    P.S.: Electronic charts (Excel) are available on the website for Billings users. They work equally well for Creighton users. No more paper charts!

  15. Hi Bonnie. I am new to your blog and am really glad you have discussed this topic (even if it it too much information for some!). I also just wanted to second the recommendation for the bilings method. It took me a while to understand what they were on about, but I have really found it good (including post birth, when I did not ecologically breastfeed). I don't actually chart anymore because it's easy enough to keep all the rules in your head, and you are just looking at one sign (mucus). One point they make is that when you are in the fertile stage (pre peak) sperm can live for around five days (because it is a favourable environment), whereas the rest of the time they can only live for 1-2days. Aside from the NFP side of things it is refreshing to read about the joys and challenges of catholic motherhood - it makes me feel less alone in our brutally anti-motherhood world!