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When fertility charting and life don't get along

Maybe this has already happened to you. If it hasn't happened yet, it will happen sometime.

Your charting and the rest of your life just don't seem to get along all that well.

Maybe right now your routine is set. Your good habits well established. Your charting impeccable. You're loving all the fantastic benefits charting can provide. All that self-knowledge, and the handiness of knowing with a day or so when your period will arrive. All that good stuff. Charting life is humming along nicely.



And then. Oh, then.


You undergo grueling intercontinental travel. Your dog chews your thermometer right when you were expecting a thermal shift to begin. Your child drops your fertility monitor in the bath. You are visited by large extended family and kept busy on sightseeing trips. You visit family and your cervical fluid observations get messed up because they have ultra-soft, super-thick, colored, fragranced toilet paper. You're on military exercises and they have you going in and out of water bodies all day, and up most of the night. You grow your family and are up every two hours with baby, and can't seem to get back to a reliable observational routine. You come down with an awful flu and spend days in bed incapable of heating up a can of soup, let alone monitor your fertility signs. A cycle that should have been clear thus becomes a mystery cycle where you probably ovulated in there, but you couldn't chart it. Or maybe none of these things mess your charting up at all! Maybe you can chart through any and all of these things without a hitch. Even then, that cycle you're charting doesn't always match up so well with your plans. You know, you hit the heaviest day of your period on the day you're wearing a big fluffy white meringue wedding dress. Maybe you are seriously avoiding pregnancy and hit peak fertility day on your wedding anniversary, birthday, Valentine's Day, or the day your spouse returns home briefly from a long deployment. This is life. At some point in every charting woman's life, something will throw a wrench in the works.

This is a normal part of charting experience. And it. is. ok. It certainly may not be your favorite thing, but it really is ok. If it's a temporary setback, you can just start fresh the next day, or with a new chart next cycle! If it's an ongoing difficulty, you might need some extra coaching or guidance from a Fertility Awareness Based Method (FABM) instructor certified in your method of choice. There are some situations in which close instruction can make all the difference. Or you may be able to change tack completely. If a new baby is making it hard to temp, perhaps a switch to a wearable thermometer like the Tempdrop could help. If mucus is harder to follow, perhaps a switch to a hormone monitoring method like Boston Cross Check or Marquette will feel like a lifesaver. Look around to see what options are out there, and consider if a change may improve your long term experience. Our lifestyle, capabilities and preferences can change over time, and our charting methods might change with them. You might be surprised at how many options you have. Within the sympto-thermal approach alone, there's easily a half dozen (plus!) methods out there. As with any family planning method, if something is affecting it, you need to know how to react. Make sure you know the rules of your method on how to handle a situation when you're not able to meet the normal requirements! (Hint: very often the answer will be to assume fertility!) When it's not a difficulty in charting, but a disappointing outcome in the timing of your cycle, there's not so much we can change but our attitude. I try to remember that our bodies came first. The human bodies we have are the product of evolution over a long, long time. They came before calendars. Our bodies know nothing of dates and anniversaries and flight times. They follow deep complex internal rhythms. I cannot expect February 14 to mean anything all that much to my hypothalamus and pituitary gland and ovaries! My body has never heard of St. Valentine, and it sure doesn't observe my wedding anniversary. It's doing its own special body thing, and that's something I've learned to respect. Even though I managed to be either pregnant or on my period for (busy, sociable) Christmas Day for eight years running. I tell myself to be pleased if my calendar events happen to fit well with my body's doings one month, but to take it in stride if it doesn't. It's nothing personal.


Life is messy.

When we are charting the rhythms of our bodies, the ebb and flow of our hormones, we can come to appreciate just how marvelously complex we are. Each one of us unique, each one of us with a wondrously made body, and each one of us with our own complex life in all its messiness. We have a raw physicality that lives with an intricate civilization and the relationship can be complicated. With this awareness comes a greater reserve to roll with life's surprises, and an opportunity to grow in patience with yourself.