Saturday, January 26, 2013
My Dog Ate My Chart
Hi! I wanted to thank everyone for the responses on the NFP post. I'm going to just put up a second post here rather than overloading the com-box, 'cause it gets hard for folks to follow.
I'll start with a frank and open declaration of what my problem with NFP is. I know that it works for some couples, and that's lovely. The problem is that it is presented as a one-size-fits all solution for all couples, and there isn't room made for individual couples to reasonably discern whether or not it's a practicable solution for their particular situation. I feel lucky because I'm a Canadian, and the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops has acknowledged this problem and allowed some wiggle-room for conscience in the Winnepeg Statement -- but of course that's severely controversial within the Catholic world.
My situation is that I've been trying to use NFP to "space" my births for my last three pregnancies. I've tried sympto-thermal, Billings, and ecological breastfeeding all with equally dismal results. I could learn Creighton, but there's really no point because I know exactly why NFP doesn't work for me, and it has nothing to do with the methods. NFP demands two different things of a woman: 1) Body awareness, and 2) Organizational skills. Different methods tend to emphasize one of these two poles: sympto-thermal demands an extremely organized life-style in which you have a consistent sleep schedule and are able to make a series of scientific observations at the same time each day. My babies generally do not sleep through the night, I'm an erratic sleeper, and I have an autistic son whose sleep schedule is extremely unorthodox. I'm one of these scatty, head-in-the-clouds creative types and in spite of countless attempts by my mother, my teachers and myself to instill basic organizational skills in me, I still haven't mastered the art of remembering to brush my teeth every morning. Even when my husband reminds me to do my charting, there's a better than 80% chance that I will either a) get distracted on the way to do it, b) have lost my thermometer and forgotten to buy a new one the last four times that I went to the drug store, c) have my temperature thrown off by random external factors, d) not be able to make head-or-tails of my cervical changes, e) have lost my chart, or f) swear in frustration and kick the wall as I realize that I haven't successfully entered any information on my chart in over two weeks. A typical NFP chart by me has five days of beautiful, perfect, by-the-book charting at the beginning of the first cycle, a couple of sporadic entries over the next week or two, and then completely random information written down at five to 40 day intervals after that. That's what it looks like if I'm really extremely motivated to avoid pregnancy, and very committed to making it work. If I've more or less given up and resigned myself to getting pregnant again, then my chart will look like one random piece of information written down on a random scrap of paper at the bottom of a drawer.
Which brings us to the less organizationally dependent Billings method. The advantage of Billings is that many women find that after they've learned to read their mucous symptoms, they are actually able to dispense with charting altogether. Lovely. Sounds like the method for me. There's only one drawback: Billings assumes that you are able to be aware of your body on an on-going basis over the course of the day. You're supposed to observe the natural changes in your mucous and track your fertility based on the most fertile symptoms as the day progresses. I am dimly aware of my body most of the time, and when I am aware of it I have trouble convincing it that it's female. Usually I reach the end of the day and I think "did I have any mucous symptoms today?" and the answer is, "I have absolutely no idea." So I check to see, do I have any mucous now? The answer is usually "I have absolutely no idea." Then I forget to write that down, for the reasons mentioned above, and I feel like I can't go and ask my NFP instructor what to do, because she's going to tell me that there is absolutely no way that the method is going to work if I don't pay attention throughout the day and don't keep records.
Now I'm sure that a lot of you out there are thinking "Just pay attention, keep records, and stop whining." I've tried. I have tried very, very sincerely. I've tried it three times, with the result that my pregnancies were spaced exactly the same distance apart as the pregnancies where I was not using any method, and was just getting pregnant. I've tried innumerable different schemes to try to get myself organized, and none of them work. Finally, I've had to deal with the fact that organizational skills are a cognitive thing -- that it is perfectly possible for a human being to have a legitimate neurological disability in this area, and that such disabilities are blatantly rampant in my family. That's not a moral failing, it's an inability to employ a particular technique. And a person's status vis a vis God and the Church should not be dependent on the performance of a technique.