Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Adventures in Family Planning

When we decided to add a person to our family, we had no idea what it would take to actually create the individual. Well we knew the fun part and the basic biology, just not the how much time/energy it would require. I had been taking low dose birth control pills for a few years. From all my reading and conversations with others I was under the impression that it would probably take a few months (at least) for me to ovulate and thus be able to get pregnant. Well, that ain't true for me, at least not in 2005. The very first cycle after I stopped the pills we got quite a surprise. We were planning (how silly of us) to start "trying" in December or January so the baby would arrive in the fall. This timing would go well with my work calendar, so I could finish up our major projects before checking out on an extended maternity leave. Well, our son was born in the beginning of August, right in the middle of the busiest time for my office. Not as planned, but surely perfect nonetheless.

Well, that was all prelude to now, 20 months later. I am home full time with O (and trying to do my own freelance thing), my partner works full time (and then some) so "we can have most of what we want most of the time", as he just quipped this morning. We are pretty sure we don't want any more children now, maybe ever. I say pretty sure, because we both make wistful comments about another child, but we also are reluctant to take on all the added pressure and needs a new family member brings. We enjoy our threesome; this kid is pretty close to perfect now. Who wants to roll the dice again? Not us. Not now anyway.

To add to this decision-tree of fun, I don't want anymore hormones pumped into my body for the purpose of preventing another pregnancy. Besides my general reluctance to ingest pharmaceuticals, I want my body to be relatively free of outside influences now. I am interested in seeing how it feels to be me without birth control pills, pregnancy or breastfeeding adding to the mix. Plus, for once I don't want to be the only person responsible for our family planning. I am tired of the responsibility the pills require. I rarely do anything on time on a daily basis. Even with my phone alarm reminding me, I still flaked pills once in a while. Ok, maybe it was more like once a month. Yeah, I'm not so good with taking multi-vitamins regularly either.

So I went to the midwife and asked about options. At the time I was still breastfeeding, so my options were limited. The things I considered: an IUD and diaphragm. The diaphragm got knocked off the list quick because I knew it just wasn't' going to work for me and could lead to some stupid and risky chance-taking. The IUD sounded good logically, especially because it could offer years of contraception, but could be removed at any time should we want to conceive. But there's just something about having something inserted into my body that would stay there for years; well, it freaked me out. Plus, I didn't want to have to check to make sure the string was still where it was supposed to be. I'm not giving any details, if you don't know what I'm talking about. Look it up.

Being the connected mommy I am, I sent a message to my like-minded mommy friends to see if they had any experience with natural birth control or family planning. Well, really it was prompted by this article about cyclebeads. I thought that the beads offered a no-brainer solution to lazy crunchy types like me. But thanks to my thoughtful and experienced comrades, I realized the potential problems with that particular method. For instance, what if I have a wacky cycle or forget to slide the bead (I did forget to take pills, right?!). But they didn't just nay-say. They offered two resources that I am loving and using today.

First a friend recommended the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I have read it and found it informative and practical. I now know more about my fertility and menstrual cycle than ever before, and I thought I was pretty informed. Basically, in order to know when you are most likely to become pregnant you need to chart a few data points: waking temperature, cervical fluid, and the optional cervical position. And then from this information you can follow four rules of contraception, which I'm not going into because the book can explain it far better than I. You could also know when it makes the most sense to try to conceive. All without fancy equipment, pharmaceuticals, or stress.

I have been charting for about a week: temperature and fluids. It's not glamorous, but with the help of my other new tool, Fertility Friend I see how this can be addictive. Well, for people like me who like charts and the illusion of control that information gives. If we ever do want to try to conceive again, I will be armed with some useful information (provided I keep up with the charting). If we are having difficulty conceiving we can look back on my data and see if there's a pattern indicating a problem with my cycle or an infection, etc.

As you can probably tell, I am in the honeymoon period with our new birth control method. Provided I do the work and we stick to the program, well we will remain a happy family of three. But if we get things a little wrong and it results in another member of the family, well, we'll still be happy. I think that's really the key to using natural family planning methods; you either have to be ok with the prospect of conceiving or be sufficiently motivated by not wanting to conceive that you abstain when necessary and not only chart religiously, but follow the "rules".

I'll report back with our progress. Pray for us.

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