Deciphering the Postpartum Period with FABMs
There’s a lot people don’t tell you about what happens after you have a baby. In the movies, a woman cries gentle tears, overcome with joy as she gazes down at her newborn (who looks to be at least three months old). Her hair looks great, and we are led to believe she and her family seamlessly transition to this dramatic life change.
For most of us, the reality of the postpartum period is less glamorous. There may be tears of joy while gazing at a beautiful baby, but there’s more than that. If it seemed our bodies went through a great deal of change throughout the course of pregnancy, labor, and delivery, the year or so postpartum can be even more tumultuous.
Let’s Be Real
Your body is recovering from making space for another person. Your hormones are in flux and may feel unpredictable. And you’re probably not sleeping for more than a few hours at a time. If you’re nursing, you’re still nearly as hungry as you were when you were pregnant. The good news is that you require fewer trips to the bathroom, now that you don’t have a baby resting on your bladder.
All that said, the postpartum period doesn’t have to be a total mystery. Yes, there are a lot of unknowns. However, just as before you were pregnant, your body is producing observable signs that can be interpreted to indicate what’s going on with your fertility and your overall health. Now as much as before, Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABMs), also known as Natural Family Planning (NFP) can provide a window into your day-to-day status.
Every major Fertility Awareness-Based Method has a postpartum protocol for mothers who breastfeed and for those who do not, though they may not have been covered in depth in your introduction to the method. Now is the time to tap into these resources that are ready and waiting for you.
Here are three ways you can incorporate FABM or NFP to help navigate the postpartum period.
1. Stay in touch with your instructor.
In most cases, your postpartum charts are not going to immediately resemble those pre-conception. So many factors go into how your fertility returns. A trained instructor can help you determine when to start charting again—your readiness and your intentions are major factors here—and interpret what may look like wacky patterns on the page.
If you didn’t have an instructor before, take a few minutes today to find one. Often, trained instructors work remotely, so it only takes a trip to your method’s main website to locate someone who can work with you. While it may seem just another thing to do when you already feel overwhelmed, consider that the knowledge you’ll gain from an instructor’s perspective will offer insight into how you can best care for yourself during this transitional period.
2. Be open to a new method.
My husband and I learned the Sympto-Thermal Method when we were engaged. After the birth of our first child, it quickly became clear that waking up at the same time every day wasn’t a part of my lifestyle anymore. I hesitated to look into another method, namely the Creighton Model, because it hadn’t been well suited to a friend’s lifestyle. Eventually, I did look into Creighton and found that the obstacle my friend experienced wasn’t an issue for me. In fact, Creighton was much better suited to our lifestyle than any other method.
As our family has grown, we’ve found Creighton has remained a good fit for us. Learning it didn’t take more than a few video conference calls with an instructor, and the knowledge we had from one method made it easier to learn another. I’ve known other couples who switched to Marquette or went from Creighton to Sympto-Thermal. Sharing your concerns with instructors will help you know what is the best fit for you. You may also want to look into the Lactational Amenorrhea Method if you are breastfeeding.
3. Be patient.
You’ve got a lot on your plate. Whether it’s your first child or your fourth or your ninth, you are transitioning to a new stage of life. Postpartum periods can call for longer stints of abstinence than you’re accustomed to, which can feel like a burden.
Part of the beauty of FABMs is their awareness and appreciation of the whole person. Intimacy is about more than sex. The Creighton Model, in particular, encourages couples to nurture their relationship at all times through “S-P-I-C-E,” that its, “Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Creative/Communicative, Emotional/Psychological” interaction. When sex is off the table, how else can you show affection and affirm your spouse? What do you need to feel encouraged and strong? This may look different than it did before you had a baby, and it may not. Either way, make time to make your relationship a priority.
It’s Okay That It’s Hard
Change can be challenging, and we need to acknowledge that there is more to the postpartum period than meets the eye. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, reach out to a professional for help.
Communication—with your spouse, with your instructor, and even internal reflection—are key to fostering a healthy postpartum mind and body.