I’ll never forget our first meeting with a Fertility Care practitioner, a teacher of the Creighton method of fertility awareness. We were newlyweds and newly parents with our infant son redefining, well, everything. It was an exciting time in our lives and our family and we both knew that what this expert had to teach us was very important.
Our practitioner was a nun, an elderly nun, and I will not be ashamed to admit that, at first, I had misgivings about her qualifications. I mean, how is a sworn celibate woman who was also clearly menopausal supposed to advise us on our married life and my cycle? I swallowed my anxieties and let Sister Irene’s deliberate words sink in. Dry days. Fertile days. Count of 3. Peak plus 4.
I was a science major and big into biological processes so I loved the details about hormonal shifts and biomarkers. The charts and tables documenting the effectiveness of the method we were learning impressed me and there was clinical, standardized terminology describing fertility or infertility in concrete measures. This was no hocus pocus. It was a bonafide system of monitoring one’s own fertility – no, wait – our fertility – without leaving anything to chance or guesswork. We liked it; even hubby, who was not into biology, leaned in.
As we started using this charting system and went to our follow ups with Sr. Irene I began to realize a few things. First, not surprisingly, our practitioner’s position in life did not hinder her capacity to teach fertility awareness. Anyone with the desire to learn could actually train and learn to teach this method. But the analysis of my marriage, which resulted from Sister Irene’s teaching of Fertility Care, did surprise me. Learning to use days of fertility or days of infertility changed our married life forever. What marriage prep missed, Fertility Care taught us. So, if you’re choosing to take the healthier, natural route here are a few takeaways on how your charting system might impact your relationship for the better:
What’s mine is now not only mine but ours
We learn to give of ourselves in all our relationships but especially in marriage. However the gift of self goes beyond the physical acts of love. With charting, my cycle was now our cycle, my symptoms of ovulation were now our cues to choose between a new life, or continuing on as we are. What was happening inside my body was now intimate information shared only with my husband (and Sister Irene). And he was interested!
It made me realize that men don’t have to be aloof when it comes to “girl stuff” or “woman talk.” The information that was once “ick” in high school gym class was now an open topic of conversation instead of an awkward taboo. My body, because of its ability to support life, became our vessel of possibilities – possibilities that we could choose based on informed, shared decision making.
Charting “matured” our relationship
With the documentation of our markers of fertility, a new layer was added to our love life. In an era of planned parenthood that usually put the onus on the woman to figure out a means of avoiding pregnancy, we suddenly felt very “together” and “responsible” in our choice. It was not just something we popped a pill for, but an active, participatory, and co-operative aspect of our life. I believe it made other aspects of our life together more co-operative and unitive as well.
Anyone in a new relationship can appreciate the thrill of the romance and that lovey dovey, even lustful, feeling of being completely thrilled by the intimacy you share with your spouse. We definitely had that but charting elevated our ardor to something more than a thrill. We became more deeply aware of each other’s needs and our needs as a parenting unit. Because charting leads to time when we chose not to have intercourse, we discovered that we both really like to snuggle and enjoy hours of pillow talk. In hindsight, I think the late night talking cemented our bond in ways that more physical expressions of affection could not. Without charting, we probably wouldn’t have realized the benefits of “just snuggling” so early in our marriage.
Not doing it makes it better
Sister Irene told us about the “honeymoon effect.” Strange thing to hear coming from a nun, but it doesn’t matter. I was doubtful, and which made the effect even more enjoyable.
This is a hard thing to explain. How could not doing something for a while make that something better when you get around to doing it again? Well, not all things are “practice makes perfect” especially when that something is more about your brain than your body.
Perhaps it’s better to leave more up to the imagination.
Just know this, there’s nothing “just” about snuggling and hours of talking in the dark.
If you choose to chart as a couple, be prepared for your relationship as a couple to change. More often than not, charting becomes a catalyst for discovering new, deeper levels of intimacy. But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself. I’d love to hear how it goes.