“I’m helping you take your temperature, Mom,” said my two-year-old son as he reached for the thermometer on the dresser. A 7:00 a.m. reading of 98.5 after a few days of similarly elevated readings seemed to indicate that I’d ovulated for the first time since he was born, 28.5 months ago.
I hadn’t been charting my temperature too closely yet but did take it on the occasions I seemed to be showing other signs of fertility, like cervical fluid. To confirm my suspicions and refresh my memory, I got out my books on Fertility Awareness, especially Katie Singer’s Garden of Fertility, which has a great accompanying web site with info and charts at gardenoffertility.com and now has a slimmer companion, Honoring Our Cycles. Another important resource is Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Singer’s and Weschler’s books were invaluable to me when I was dealing with a thyroid disorder and long cycles and trying to conceive (TTC). If I hadn’t been paying attention at least to my temperature, I might have thought I was pregnant several times instead of being sure I was simply not ovulating (a problem that was resolved when I stopped eating soy and began taking in animal fat and protein. See Soy Alert page from the Weston A. Price Foundation).
Moreover, my charting helped me claim my pregnancy in the face of at least one disbeliever. The midwifery practice believed me when I gave them May 14 as my last menstrual period but June 26 or so as the date of conception. However, the sonogram technician at our 20-week appointment was incredulous, literally asking, “How can that be?” My response: “I have long cycles.” If I hadn’t been charting and hadn’t done an early dating sonogram, we might have been told our son was too small for his age, and I might have been induced far too early.
Indeed, my son was conceived on about day 35 of what would have been an almost 50-day cycle — far from the 28 days women are sold as “normal,” with a standard ovulation date assumed to be around day 14. Watching my cervical fluid and my thermometer gave me peace of mind and saved me a whole lot of money on ovulation predictor kits, not to mention spared me a lot of potential grief from healthcare providers.
Some doctors are less willing to believe in a patient’s knowledge of her own body than my midwives were. A friend of mine was induced at what her chart said was 41 weeks because her practice calculated her to be at 42. Mainstream doctors might push me to stop nursing my son or to get testing done to check on a reason for my amenorrhea. By contrast, my alternative care providers encouraged me to trust in my body’s wisdom. Recently, as people have started to ask if we want a second child, I’ve told them it’s up to my son. If I think the person will feel comfortable with me sharing, I mention that I’ve not started cycling. All women are different, but in a culture where new mothers start taking the Pill only a few short months after giving birth, it’s hard to learn about what happens to bodies without interference. So I talk about it.
Having taken the Pill for eleven years prior to TTC, I understand the convenience. However, there is a gold mine of information in the books mentioned above, including recommendations for nutritional changes that can affect fertility and explanation of how night lighting in the bedroom can influence cycles. The biggest details for me have been those clues our bodies give us, clues I wish were taught in all health ed classes so that young girls would grow into women who know these strategies exist as much as they know about over-the-counter and prescription contraceptives. Those interventionist methods certainly have their place, but I hope to see a shift toward more self-knowledge and less willingness to let drugs (and products, like the ovulation kits) rule our lives where there’s a lot of great information our bodies will tell us if we can just pause to listen.