Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we’re talking talking more about fertility. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
As a single woman, I can recall with ease the items on my own “life goals” list:
Be accountable to a daily habit of prayer…be purposeful about deepening healthy friendships…never take Mass for granted…rediscover a lost hobby…
For many of my early single years what was not at the top of any goals list of mine was to gain a deeper understanding of my fertility. While I grew up in a home in which my parents honored the teachings of the Catholic Church and willingly practiced natural family planning (NFP) and fertility awareness, it really didn’t come to the forefront of my own mind and heart until I was well into my twenties.
A “Fertility Conversion”
I was 25 at the time and living in a house of seven young professional Christian women. I remember with great clarity standing in my kitchen making dinner and having an eye-opening conversation with a roommate about how that “weird mucus” I was seeing when going to the bathroom was actually a key indicator that I was entering my fertile time and preparing to ovulate.
This was news to me, and I was stunned.
I was painfully aware of how little I knew about my own fertility, but I was committed to diving in and learning more. With the prompting of a friend I found myself learning the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ system, one of a few effective ways to monitor fertility to achieve a pregnancy, avoid a pregnancy, or in my case, simply monitor and care for reproductive health.
Years later, I would become a Creighton Model practitioner myself, and have since worked with hundreds of women and couples who desire to more deeply understand their God-given fertility.
It’s Not Just About Having a “Regular” Cycle
As I often remind my clients, charting a menstrual cycle is far more than knowing “about how long” your cycle is or when your period is about to start. It’s about recognizing what a healthy period is (and what it is not), what a healthy ovulatory time is (and what it is not), and what a healthy post-ovulatory time is (and what it is not). It’s about being attentive to the emotional and psychological changes that come throughout the cycle and recognizing that these hormonal cascades are a beautiful symphony that God has orchestrated within us.
Being attentive to the patterns of our cycles is one of the best ways to know when we are well and when we are struggling.
While I love working with engaged and married couples and helping them to confidently identify their times of fertility and infertility, I have to say that some of my favorite clients are just like me—single women. Sometimes they show up to my classes with a simple desire to learn. Other times they are struggling with health concerns like endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, heavy periods, or debilitating PMS.
Beginning to chart is the first and best way for these clients to observe their own unique cycles so that they can get to the root cause of their health concerns and seek treatment.Being attentive to the patterns of our cycles is one of the best ways to know when we are well and when we are struggling. #BISblog #blessedchats // Click To Tweet
A Window Into My Own Health
Most recently in this highly stressful time (thank you, pandemic) I’ve seen first-hand how stress can impact my cycle, making it feel less like the orchestral piece that it is designed to be.
Charting the signs of my fertility has given me a clear window into my own health, reminding me that if I want to care for my fertility I need to eat well, sleep well, step away from screens, go on long walks in these picturesque autumn days, breathe deep, and find time for conversations with God.
My chart is the starting point for all of that.
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A Gift for All Women
While the practice of natural family planning has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few decades and I am deeply grateful for the wisdom of the Church to guide our conversation, in many ways we are still coming to realize and affirm that methods of fertility awareness are not just for engaged or married couples. They are for single women, too, who can greatly benefit from the wisdom that comes from charting. Whether you marry in six months, marry much later in life, or discover a religious vocation, charting is a beautiful practice for all. Age doesn’t matter. Knowing your cycle, and knowing it well, is a gift for all women.
If you aren’t charting your cycle yet and all of this is new to you, it’s okay. Remember my story? It took me a while to get there, too. Put it at the top of your own “goals” list. Take that first step to put those beautiful orchestral notes down on paper.
It’ll be totally worth it, I promise.
If you want more help with finding your own story, our popular Write + Pray course offers 9 topics, nearly an hour of guided video, and almost 50 Scripture verses and questions for you featuring Managing Editor Nell O’Leary. Find your story today.