Some stories are harder to put down in words. This is one of them.
There’s no pretty way of saying it. It’s dreadfully personal, but God’s been pulling at the strings of my heart to share this story. I want to raise awareness, and shed light on infertility. It’s still a taboo topic, and can feel like a very lonely cross to bear, and yet it’s estimated that one in ten women deal with infertility. In the midst of NFP awareness week, it feels fitting to finally sit down and share my journey through the murky waters of charting biomarkers, and the light it has shed on my health issues.
I’ve always had irregular cycles. Being very athletic in my teenage years, doctors brushed my concerns aside, or simply offered the pill as a band aid to deal with symptoms to what was a very real problem. It’s taken thirteen years for a doctor to listen. I am still dealing with the anger of years of no diagnosis, incredible amounts of pain, and being brushed off by practitioners. Asking grace to forgive and move on has not been an easy feat, and I’m still struggling to do so.
This past year I got engaged to a wonderful man, and in preparing for marriage, we decided we would use a fertility awareness method (also known as FAM or NFP; Natural Family Planning) to track our windows of fertility and infertility. This isn’t your grandparent’s rhythm method. There are many NFP methods, but we practice the Creighton Model Fertility Care.
The effectiveness of the Creighton Model System has been extensively studied and a meta-analysis of the system incorporating the data from five separate studies into a composite which includes 1,876 couples over 17,130 couple months of use has been published. These studies all utilizing life-table analysis and an objective assessment of pregnancies, reported the range of the method-effectiveness to avoid pregnancy at the 12th ordinal month to be 98.7 to 99.8 (with the five-study composite 99.5). The use-effectiveness to avoid pregnancy for the same time period ranged from 94.6 to 97.9 and was shown to continually improve over the 14 years of the studies (the five-study composite was 96.8) (Table 15-28) [i]
I’ve included this information because the most common remark I receive when I speak of using NFP is “I guess you’re planning on having a large family then”. That’s a faulty assumption. NFP gets a bad rep because of user error, and pharmaceutical propaganda. You see, NFP costs next to nothing. It also is safe. There are no medical side effects to practicing NFP, unlike many contraceptives out there. NFP can also serve to diagnose and detect fertility problems. It did for me.
While I am still working with a wonderful doctor, running blood tests in different phases of my cycle, and just recently undergoing an ultrasound to try and find the cause of my symptoms, I do know that I have anovulatory cycles. I’m still undergoing tests to determine the cause of these cycles, and the cure may be simple, or there may be none, but I know I have cried more times than I care to count over this cross.
I have felt like less of a woman. I have felt broken. My body isn’t working the way it is meant to, and it’s terribly humbling. I want to be a mother one day, and always thought achieving pregnancy would be easy. I was scared to death by teachers and doctors, being told how it’s so EASY to get pregnant and you have to be careful (because in our society pregnancy is viewed as a disease). Never once did someone tell me getting pregnant could be hard. Never once did someone prepare me for the terrible ache and longing for a child.
I have been faced with a two way path: despair or trust God. I choose to trust Him.
I have seen His goodness in this cross. I have felt the grace carrying me through surrendering my desire for a family, and knowing it may not be as easy to achieve, or look the way I have dreamed. I feel peace, and I know it’s of the Comforter. I have had so many wonderful women open up to me, bearing their hearts and sharing in this cross. It’s been quiet conversations over coffee or inside the walls of our homes, but I want these conversations to be heard. I want to be part of a community where we uphold and love women; a community that doesn’t abandon them in their hurt. Suffering is not without meaning. Its end goal is communion. I have a foretaste of the heavenly banquet when I choose to suffer with joy. May we always remember that we are not alone in our crosses. No matter how heavy they may be, God is always knocking at the door of our hearts, seeking to be in communion with us.