When my husband and I were engaged and first started talking about birth control/family planning, he said he wanted to use NFP. I had never heard of it before. We both wanted kids, but we also wanted me to be able to stay home with them. He was still in grad school, with at least 2 years to go, and we needed my income until he could finish up and get a job, so we wanted to postpone having kids until he was finished, or at least closer to it. Not knowing much about NFP at that point, I was skeptical. I talked to my mom about it, and she said it didn’t work for her because she had “mucus all the time.” She ended up using a just the temp sign, and a barrier method in the early part of her cycle (until she saw a clear temp shift), and then eventually my dad had a vasectomy. My mom claimed that because it didn’t work for her, it probably wouldn’t work for me either. (Now I know that it probably would have worked for her if she had been instructed in modern NFP methods and rules.) Obviously this made me worry. I also had very long, irregular cycles at the time, which made me worry even more. I wasn’t sure NFP would work for me, or that I’d be able to figure it out. My husband wouldn’t budge. Eventually I gave in, and decided to give NFP a shot.

Now, I’m not going to sugar coat it – learning NFP was HARD for me. There weren’t any teachers available in our town and we didn’t have time in our schedules to travel somewhere for classes, so we did Couple to Couple League’s home-study course. My cycles were so long and irregular, I could go months with no signs of fertility, no noticeable change in my mucus patterns, and kept wondering if I was missing it, couldn’t tell the difference, or just hadn’t ovulated yet. I would get frustrated and quit charting. Abstaining for that long, as newly weds, was hard, so we took some chances. I took a lot of pregnancy tests in case I had missed my signs of ovulation and pregnancy was the reason I wasn’t getting a period. It slowly got easier. For the first year and a half (when my husband was still a long way from graduation and our health insurance was unreliable with no maternity coverage) we were pretty careful and didn’t get pregnant. Once we had better insurance and my husband was closer to graduation, we started taking a few more chances in the early parts of my LONG cycles. A few days after one of those chances, I ovulated and 9 months later we had a beautiful baby girl. Did NFP fail us? Nope. We knew at the time that a pregnancy was possible, and we were willing to take that risk. We were thrilled to be parents. Since then, it’s gotten easier. I made it through the postpartum phase (twice!). I had a few short cycles in a row, which I managed to chart through and finally found out what fertile mucus looks and feels like! Having observed it a few times, now I’m much more confident in observing its absence. We’ve had two more babies -sweet little boys – both of whom were very much planned and spaced.

Now, I can’t imagine not using NFP. I have learned so much about my body. My irregular cycles, as annoying as they are, make a lot more sense. I don’t have to guess when my period is coming, because the signs of ovulation give me a 2 week warning. I’m not filling my body with harmful hormones or artificial devices. We don’t need any barriers between us when we have sex. Now, I can’t understand why anyone would NOT want to use NFP!

Long, hard cycles
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