NFP is a Team Sport
It's hard to create new habits, especially when it comes to charting for your fertility with your spouse. Here is how it could work for you!
Hello and welcome to the Siena Fertility + Wellness Blog! This is my first post ever. Today, I'm talking about how to allow your spouse to help you succeed at charting. If you are practicing Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness of any method, it is hard! It's not easy, but you knew that. You knew you were going against the grain when you signed up for this, right? Not using birth control! You must live in the dark ages! I hope you like kids! I've heard it all and more.
If you are using NFP it is because you believe your body works well on its own and doesn't need the "help" of chemicals, barriers or devices to know how to function. You also probably want to share family planning with your spouse rather than acting as a gatekeeper or feeling like an unintended pregnancy was entirely your "fault". Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness can be beautiful if both spouses are motivated and keep each other accountable, but in real life, most times, that's just not the case.
You will not be successful in any form of Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness if you do not share the system with your spouse.
Don't get me wrong, Natural Family Planning is beautiful, it bears many fruits beyond just babies, but it must be a shared system. It has to be a shared system, or it's not a working system at all.
Photo credit: Katie Kolbrick Photography
It's not "her job"
A husband can not rely on his wife to make every observation and chart her cycle perfectly on her own and expect that it will be 100% effective, that's just not realistic. Do you know any person that does a job perfectly without any help or accountability?
Spouses have to work together
Our culture typically sees fertility as, "Women's Health" not "Men and Women's Combined Health." Most women would agree that fertility is their territory. Fertility, though, is based on the bodies of both parties, men and women. Men, don't expect your wives to be 100% responsible for your combined fertility as a couple, it just doesn't make sense. 50% is you #Math.
It's not all men's fault either
I'm not only throwing husbands under the bus here, I promise. Since nearly every form of NFP or FAM relies on tracking the woman's health, women are generally responsible for monitoring what is happening in their own body. Women are typically pretty motivated to not become pregnant if using the system to avoid pregnancy, since their bodies will be growing all the babies conceived. So, naturally, women take the lead in getting started with charting and monitoring their fertility. It makes sense. I see it all the time where women will keep their chart to themselves and not tell their husband what is going on. That is not sharing the system either. Ladies, let's not leave our men in the dust here!
Teamwork: My Story
I knew going into marriage that it would a team effort in all areas. We both welcomed NFP with open arms and supported one another in learning the first form we used. It was easy at first. We were not married yet, so I took my temperature, told him what it was and he charted it. I made my daily observations and told him what they were and he charted it. It was a nice system! It wasn't real life application yet, but it was a system. Once we got married and I saw the chart, I saw that his writing wasn't quite as good as mine and he didn't draw straight lines. I was so tempted to write on the chart. I wanted it to look more accurate, more like me. I resisted and let it go, and it felt liberating to let him chart our fertility and we checked in about it every week or night that we were looking for something to do. This went on for a year, and we avoided pregnancy until we decided to achieve pregnancy.
1. Let Him Chart
I didn't realize how little faith I had in the system we were using until I desperately wanted to avoid pregnancy. My husband reassured me that he understood the application of the system during the postpartum time but I was so fearful I sought out another type of NFP. My fear made my husband doubt his own abilities at charting, which, had kept us kid-free for 12 months prior to pregnancy. He supported me, though and went through learning a new form of Natural Family Planning that made me more comfortable and confident. He learned the charting and actually paid attention even though we were both sleep deprived with our first born, and helped get me going again. Again, I wanted to write on the chart so bad. I wanted to place the stamp just right (am I OCD?), but I let him do it. It might not sound dramatic, but just writing down my own observations and placing the stamp myself would have been so much easier and would have looked better to me. I really liked control! The fertility is half his though, and any baby conceived is also half his, so he gets to chart. I observe. He charts. We share. This may not work for everyone, but it works well for us. Allowing your husband to know and physically apply the system himself is very liberating. It's hard for us women to give up control of something so personal, but it can be helpful for the success of the NFP method you are trying to apply to your life.
2. Learn together
The second best thing to husbands being intimately involved in the chart is knowing what the heck is going on. Like I said before my husband and I took classes together and he knew more about charting than I did for the first few years! I love it when couples attend follow up sessions together. Just understanding the system or method you are using will help husbands have confidence in the family planning you are sharing. Being on the same page in understanding the system will do wonders for your ability to share the system together. So, women, invite men to the introductory session or class, provide a book and share reading together. If there is a learning activity, complete it together. Men, take an interest in learning, because this will affect you. Women, if you haven't given him a chance to learn the material, don't be irritated if he doesn't want to go along with it.
3. Weekly Sync Up
My husband and I meet up every week to discuss our schedules. This is usually on a Sunday night after the kids are in bed. We talk about our weeks coming up and how we can best support each other throughout the week. This is a great place to throw in a fertility discussion. What does the chart say, where are we in this cycle and are we thinking it's still time to avoid or do we want to think about a baby? It might sound odd to discuss having a baby weekly, but sometimes our desires change from week to week, and it's never a bad idea to talk about it. Talking every week about the upcoming week is not only good for building communication skills but it's working together on common goals.
4. Call it a date
If the three options listed above don't work for you, go out. Make it a treat to discuss the chart with your partner. Go out to starbucks with the chart, get your favorite drink and talk about cervical mucus. Go out to dinner, ice cream, for a walk in your favorite park and bring your chart. Make the chart discussion exciting and rewarding. Sometimes distracting ourselves with things like food or sightseeing can make it easier to talk about subjects that make us uncomfortable. If it's not easy to involve your partner in NFP or FAM, start here and work your way towards ideas number 3, 2 and then 1.
Be a success story
You can do this. So many couples have done this. If you want to be a success story of Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness, you have to work together. It should be stated that success doesn't only mean avoiding pregnancy; Success is using the system together to strengthen your marriage whether that be to avoid or achieve pregnancy. Go get em!