Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why Philip Does the Charting

Didja hear?  It's National NFP Awareness Week!  

If the world of NFP is foreign to you, be sure and check out what the Church has to say about NFP.  Mama Church knows what's best for us, and the Church definitely knows what the gift of our fertility and sexuality is all about.    

I wrote a post two years ago for NFP Awareness Week.  In that post, I talked about what NFP is all about, mentioned the benefits, and shared some resources.

Today, I want to zero in on how Philip's role in NFP (specifically with charting) has been a tremendous blessing for our marriage.  Back in the fall of 2007 when we were going through marriage preparation, we started taking classes at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Looking back, it is UNREAL to me how darn lucky we were to be starting our marriage with Pope Paul VI Institute in our backyard.  Nebraskans, most of us have no idea how lucky we are!)  

What's the Pope Paul VI Institute anyway?
The Pope Paul VI Institute, founded in 1985 by Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, is internationally recognized for its outstanding achievements in the field of natural fertility regulation and reproductive medicine — 30 years of scientific research and educational program development; allied health professional education programs for couples and professionals; professional, caring, and morally acceptable patient services. The Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction is building a culture of life in women's health care through its major developments — Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaProTechnology.      
Amazing stuff, huh?  Philip and I got to take NFP classes on site at Pope Paul VI with our own fertility care practitioner.  We met one-on-one with our fertility care practitioner during our engagement and shortly after marriage to learn the ins and outs of the Creighton Model of NFP.  I learned how to make accurate observations, and Philip learned how to become an accurate charter.  

The gist of the Creighton Model is this:

  • A woman's natural cycle has periods of fertility and infertility
  • Regular observations of the woman's cervical mucus indicate whether the woman is fertile or infertile
  • These observations help couples discern whether or not engaging in the marital act would help them in their goal to achieve or avoid a pregnancy
  • In addition to identifying periods of fertility and infertility, charting (writing the most fertile observation of the day) over a period time can help to identify other gynecological health issues
Six months before our wedding, Philip started charting those observations.  (We weren't together until our wedding night, but I wanted to know how to make accurate observations, and Philip wanted to understand the charting.  That way, we would know what my cycles looked like, seek any help if we needed it, and could better reach our discerned goal to achieve or avoid a pregnancy.  

We weren't living together before we got married, so we had to be very deliberate in making sure we charted at the end of each day.  Before we hung up to say goodnight or Philip would head back to his apartment, he'd ask me, "What was your most fertile sign today?"  I'd fill him in, and he'd put the info down on the chart.  Then, we would talk about whether that day was likely a day of fertility or infertility to better understand what it all meant.  

Philip was such a champ with the charting, and he had no qualms talking about cervical mucus.  Gotta love a guy who can ask you straight-faced, "Sticky, tacky, or stretchy?"  If you can talk about cervical mucus during your engagement, you can talk about anything!  Our fertility care practitioner insisted that my job was to make the observations every time I used the restroom, and Philip's job was to chart at the end of each day.  I'm so glad she did, too, because it turns out having Philip chart makes a big difference in our success with NFP.  

I didn't know it then, but having Philip chart let me "off the hook" from playing the role of sex broker in our relationship.  Every month, we would prayerfully discern whether or not we thought God was calling us to avoid or achieve a pregnancy.  Keeping that goal in mind, we would have our charting conversation at the end of each day.  If our goal was to avoid and it was a day of fertility, sex was off the table without me having to say so.  

We have our monthly goal of achieving or avoiding in mind every time we have our nightly charting conversation.  The conversation always goes like this:
Philip: What was your most fertile sign of the day?
Me: Fill in the blank with my most fertile sign. 
Philip: (Writing down the observation on the chart and pointing out any irregularities/concerns with my cycle.)
Philip knows whether my observation indicates a window of fertility or infertility.  Just sharing my observation lets him know whether or not being together that night would match up with our goal to achieve or avoid a pregnancy.  If I were the one charting, I can see how I could become the sex broker. Philip wouldn't be looking at the chart every night, so he'd probably lose a sense of where I am in my cycle.  Instead of focusing on my fertility, the question would likely become, "So, can we be together tonight?"  I'd be put in a position to say "yes" or "no" dependent on where I was in my cycle.  Having to give the green or red light would have attached strings or guilt.  I can see how that kind of relationship with NFP would likely lead to resentment of my fertility.  With Philip charting, he's in the know, and he sees the chart with me every night.  He knows when I'm PMS-ing, when I'm menstruating, when I'm ovulating, and everything in between.  With that information, he knows how to be as supportive as possible and what kinds of support will be best received.  Together, Philip and I have uncovered information that we probably would not have without the gift of the Creighton Model in our marriage.  We've learned that I struggle with PMS, I've had low progesterone, and my surging estrogen levels during ovulation make me break out like a teenager.  Having these observations in a chart helped my OBGYN to intervene with progesterone supplements during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage, taught me to apply benzoyl peroxide big time before ovulation, and help Philip to *try* to be more patient and loving when I'm PMS-ing.  

Having regular windows of abstinence when we are trying to space our children is a sacrifice at times, but it blesses us so much.  It makes the times that we are together so much more meaningful, and it forces us to connect on different levels.  When you're going through the Creighton Model classes, you learn about "SPICE"--the different ways we can connect with each other:

represents Spiritual sharing, expressed through praying together or meditation.
represents the Physical, expressed through closeness such as just being close to one another without genital contact.
represents the Intellectual, expressed through sharing a project, a book or new learning.
represents the Communicative/Creative and is expressed through an increase in written or verbal communication or other shared activities.
represents the Emotional and can be expressed through sharing feelings, desires and humor.
Our marriage is hardly perfect, but NFP helps us to regularly connect across the S-P-I-C-E spectrum.  We pray together, we are able to be physically close without it having to result in sex, we are constantly learning new things together or trying new activities, we regularly exchange written messages or try to give words of affirmation, and we connect emotionally by regularly checking in with each other.  With Philip charting, he's in a better position to offer the different kinds of connections when I most need them.  Likewise, I'm better able to connect with Philip across the spectrum, especially when we cannot be together.      

That's our story, but I also want to share some great things I've read to celebrate National NFP Awareness Week:

As always, please feel free to ask me any questions or share your comments!  I talk about cervical mucus everyday, so I can talk about anything.  :) 

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