“Was this pregnancy planned?”, the doctor asked, at my first appointment after discovering I was pregnant after my first cycle being married. The pregnancy was, in fact, not planned. We had taken a sympto-thermal NFP class three months before getting married, to get the hang of it. Only, in three months I had just slightly over one cycle. You see, I have PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome), which leaves me with rather long cycles (anywhere from 35 days to three months). We were NFP newbies, to say the least, when we conceived that baby during month two of married bliss.
Since I am also diabetic, I got an earful from the doctor about how my pregnancies must be “carefully planned” to avoid fetal abnormalities. Then she sent me on my way, to return the next week for an ultrasound. That ultrasound showed a baby the size of a jelly bean with no discernible heartbeat. We were broken. In an instant, that little unplanned baby, who we were so excited to know and love, was gone. Just like that.
Our doctor was less than sympathetic. She said she was “sorry for our loss” and then told us to wait one cycle before trying again, pointing out that really, we were so young and we could have others. When I met with the nurse practitioner for a follow up appointment, she asked us about birth control. We told her we were going to be open to another pregnancy, but for the cycle we had to wait, we were using NFP. She gave us the most condescending smile I’ve ever seen in my life and said, “I see. Well, make sure you use condoms until the first cycle is completed.” It was amazing. It almost seemed as though she hadn’t heard me speaking. Perhaps my words came out sounding like “wah wah, wah, wahwah, wah” rather than “We use NFP”. I will never know because we walked out that door and never went back in.
Fast forward the 13 months of trying to conceive, to my pregnancy with our daughter who is now nearly two. At my post partum exam, I dreaded the topic of birth control coming up. I just knew the doctor would be like the other one, condescending, assuming I must be an oppressed lunatic because I don’t use contraception.
Imagine the pleasant surprise of being proven wrong. Not about him asking, oh no, that’s a standard question. When he said, “What kind of birth control are you using?” I didn’t miss a beat, and answered, “Creighton model NFP which we have been working with a nurse to learn for the post-partum rules.” All of which was true. I was expecting an eye-roll, or perhaps an allusion to “the rhythm method”, or maybe even an exhortation to use condoms, just in case. However, my doctor just said, “Sounds good. As long as you are happy with that and it’s working for you.” I responded that I was and it was.
Then, to my complete shock, he asked me who my instructor was. “I’ve had another patient recently who was asking about NFP and I didn’t know if there were any doctors or instructors locally.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. I shared the info with him and left, feeling positive about the whole experience.
As I gained confidence in the method during the year practicing before we conceived and during the year and a half since her birth, I gained confidence in myself. Yes, there are times when I have questions about certain things that happen in a given cycle, but for the most part, I know what I am doing, and I convey that to my doctor. I trust the method, I trust myself and my husband. That goes a long way, I think, toward helping our doctors see that NFP is a healthy and wonderful way to monitor our bodies and make choices regarding family size.
What I’ve learned from those two interactions with doctors regarding NFP is this; you have to own it. If you are unsure, embarrassed, or self-conscious about your NFP use, the doctor is going to read that all over your face and take it to mean that you are unhappy with the method, so he or she will ask you about contraception. Confidence is key. It doesn’t matter if you are an engaged woman at a yearly exam, a newlywed with no children yet, a woman who has struggled to conceive, or a mom with 4 kids in 5 years. Own it. You are working with your body, not suppressing it. You are embracing every part of yourself, including the part that creates and sustains life. You are fearfully and wonderfully made