Charting our fertility signs is about far more than avoiding or achieving pregnancy—it is about discovering who we are. My friend K. taught me that discovering who we are through charting has the power to teach us to love ourselves, even when it feels impossible.
K. is beautiful and doesn’t know it. I met her this summer through mutual friends, and, although we didn’t hit it off right away, we kept finding ourselves at the same parties. I’m so thankful we did. One Friday afternoon, a mutual friend invited K. and me out for smoothies. While we were waiting for our order, K. remarked that she hadn’t had a smoothie in months. After she made a few more comments about avoiding sugar six days a week and the way she controls her meal portions, it was not difficult for us to realize that K. struggles with body image issues.
When we gently asked her why she is so concerned about her diet, K. candidly told us that she has always hated her body. My heart broke as she admitted that she is so ashamed of her body that she feels uncomfortable every time someone hugs her or shakes her hand. She even hates it when someone accidentally brushes up against her. She despises having her picture taken and can’t stand clothes or fashion because she can’t imagine a way in which her body could ever look attractive. She has filled her closet with baggy clothing and avoids wearing skirts or dresses at all costs.
K. then shared with us that, despite all of this, she has a sincere desire to learn how to love her body. She explained that, as a woman of faith, she knows that all bodies are worthy and beautiful, but just can’t seem to believe it about her own body. Her courage struck me. She was wise enough to identify what troubled her, and brave enough to express her troubles to others. K. was already well on her way towards self-acceptance. All she had left to do was to transform this knowledge about her beauty from her head to her heart. But she didn’t know how.
Suddenly, I had an idea. What if I taught K. the basics of charting?
Charting is a way to record the fertility signs a woman observes about her body each day. These recordings help couples avoid or achieve pregnancy by indicating whether the woman is fertile or infertile. Because family planning is not a part of K.’s life yet, it probably seems strange that I thought charting could be useful for her. However, when my husband and I learned about charting, our teacher explained that it is about more than avoiding or achieving pregnancy. One of the most exciting benefits of charting has been watching how charting has strengthened our relationship as a couple
My conversation with K. made me realize that charting is also about strengthening our relationship with ourselves.
Our charts are our biological diaries. When we record our observations about our bodies, we are writing an important part of our life story. Charting requires us women to pay attention to our bodies several times a day. This constant connection with our bodies not only teaches us information we deserve to know about ourselves, but also empowers us to form a healthier relationship with our bodies. When I learned to chart, I was amazed by how many things my body does without my help, and even more amazed that I could tune into what was happening. Every night when my husband and I fill out my chart, I am in awe of my body and proud of who I am. Learning what our bodies do helps us appreciate and be thankful for our bodies. These positive feelings begin to chip away at the negative ones that burden us.
A few weeks after our smoothie date with Elizabeth, K. came over to my apartment for lunch and an introduction to charting. Although I am not a certified trainer of any particular charting method, since I chart myself, I was able to teach her the basics and to draw up a sample chart for her to use as practice. We discussed what our bodies tell us and how they do it. She poured through the materials I gave her and asked for more. She glowed with hope and I could sense her self-doubt beginning to evaporate. It was a wonderful afternoon to celebrate our womanhood.
K.’s story is not over—in fact, it is just beginning. The last time I spoke with her, she told me that, although she knows she still has a long way to go, she is confident that she is well on her way to healing her relationship with her body. “I’m so filled with hope,” she shared. “Although I’m still puzzled when I look in the mirror, I don’t cringe anymore.” Wow.
K. wanted to make sure I mentioned how much reading about other women’s journeys has helped her heal. She remains amazed that she is not alone with her struggles. K. and I hope that sharing her story will encourage others to learn just how beautiful they are—so very, very beautiful.