Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

NFP: Magic 8 Ball edition

Baby's less than six months old, and I've already taken a pregnancy test.

I won't string you all along: it was negative. I sat staring at the lone line in the test window, almost shaking with relief. Oh, thank God, I murmured. Thank God.

But MrsDarwin! you say. If you don't want to get pregnant, why don't you just abstain? Aren't you using NFP -- shouldn't you know when you're fertile? Anyway, aren't you breastfeeding?

Let me say it here, once and for all: NFP may be a science, but practicing it in daily life is an art. And figuring out returning fertility is enough of a crapshoot that I sometimes think I'd get more clarity if I stopped taking my temperature and just shook the Magic 8 ball every morning.

Can we all be honest here? There are better and there are worse times to be pregnant; this would have been a worse time. Financially, we could have afforded another child. Physically, it would have been difficult, but I could have managed. Mentally -- I'm pretty resilient; I would have adjusted quickly to the idea of another baby. We don't have a "life or death" reason not to conceive, whatever that means. But I have a newborn and I'm still adjusting to life with four, and I simply don't want to be pregnant now.

I didn't worry about this stuff back in the days when I innocently assumed that if you were doing ecological breastfeeding your fertility would just take a happy vacation (maybe because people who encourage ecological breastfeeding push this line). My shimmering bubble of ignorance was popped real quick by two pink lines. Now I find that the first six months postpartum are a rather anxious time. It would be almost easier to just abstain for six months than to worry for several days about whether I made the right call -- except that it wouldn't really be easier. I never thought I was all that good at math, but the extensive calculus I go through to assess the daily status is worthy of a doctoral dissertation.

But yes for what?

Keyboard alert: Betty is much funnier about early fertility than I could ever be.


Amber said...

You wanna trade places? You could live with your in-laws in a house with very little sound privacy and a mother-in-law who is not only a light sleeper, but a poor sleeper who is apt to be up at odd hours. Oh yes, and co-sleep because there isn't anywhere else to put the baby!!

We're, um, looking forward to moving into our house for a number of reasons. LOL

Anonymous said...

That's what makes NFP so exciting. Why go to Vegas when you can play with a loaded pistol?

PB said...

Have you considered checking out the Creighton Model for NFP? My wife and I never did well with the taking of the temps and recording the data. Creighton doesn't rely on that as much and is easier to read the signs of returning fertility after a baby.

If you're considering it I'd highly recommend a few visits with a teacher, ours was a nurse who was extremely helpful, with out her we would not have stuck with it but are really glad we did.

mrsdarwin said...


I check all the signs, but they'll have to pry my thermometer out of my cold dead fingers. Aside from the data it provides (one of the ways I continue to assure myself that I'm really not pregnant is that the temperatures are too low -- I find that very comforting), recording my temperature very morning keeps me in a good routine.

Anonymous said...


I smile, only because Mrs. Tex and I understand your return to fertility stress.

Anne McD said...

NFP only works if you REALLY can't have another one. Otherwise, its proof that God has a sense of humor and really loves babies.

I've also found that NFP doesn't work when you tell people that you'd like a break between this one and the next... yep, the next is coming in Sept.

bearing said...

"It would be almost easier to just abstain for six months than to worry for several days about whether I made the right call -- except that it wouldn't really be easier."

We've been there.

It *is* easier to abstain for six months.

I mean, if you ask *me.*

Rick Lugari said...

I never thought I was all that good at math, but the extensive calculus I go through to assess the daily status is worthy of a doctoral dissertation.

And you don't know someone who might be rather adept at that sort of thing and able to assist? Hmmm. Well, what you may want to try is asking your husband to have a look at your chart - I know he isn't really qualified because he works as a whatever-the-mysterious-thing-is-that-he-does-to-bring-home-the-bacon - but with the occasional mucus report he might be able to give you a pretty good idea when it is safe. He can then calculate the risks on a cost/benefit ratio. If he's a gambling man and it doesn't pay off, you can always put the blame on him.

Secret note to Darwin: Don't worry about the blame thing - the whole concept is a ruse - in nine months you'd be a hero!

Anonymous said...

Isn't the temperature thing only really accurate if you take it around the same time every morning, and you've been sleeping for several hours just prior? Therefore, the baby must be reliably sleeping for the last several contiguous hours of the night?

It's been a long time since I looked into the temp method, that's what I'm remembering ...

Anyway, if baby is reliably sleeping for hours at a time each night, you're moving toward fertility. The frequency of nursing seems to be key as far as suppressing fertility. Don't know why.

So it boils down to, most of us can have either lactational amonhorrea (sp), or a decent night's sleep, but not both. Great choice huh?

And even nursing on demand all night, all bets are off by the time the baby is 9 months old. The normal range for return of menses in that situation is anywhere from 9 to 22 months. I'm glad to get 18 months LA average, but there's no real deep refreshing sleep happening here.

Heather Raven said...

For me (us) taking care of the baby is fine. If I could not be pregnant and just have a baby I would be like "woohoo", but that is not the way it is. I have been so ill for the last 2 that it has taken about half the pregnancy for me to recover - which takes a lot away from our current family. I personally think that is a valid reason for not conceiving right away. As I am currently pregnant and just past the sickness part (I'm 17 weeks along) I am sure that there will be a time of abstaining, and my hubby is fine with that. We use the billings method of NFP, and for me it works wonderful. I don't even chart so much anymore (except for right after birth) because I "think" I know what my body is up to, and it has worked for us. Even though I look forward to this baby, and I even think about when the next one will come along, I know that hubby and I will try to wait a while, because of the sickness. God's grace is there, but it takes so much out of me, and I need a bit of recovery to get over it. Perhaps I am over explaining. Sorry, I tend to do that. If God sends a baby our way I will be happy and greatful, but I won't be so happy about the sickness. Sacrifice right? That's what it's all about. If only we could get that message out to all those 2 kid families who think that's enough for them - God Bless them. I say the more the merrier, and my kids love helping mom take care of the babies. They're quite good at it too.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, teach us to love as you love.

Anonymous said...

I hear you, MrsDarwin!!!! We're at 7 months post partum, and my ovaries are being evil. We had 6 straight weeks of highly fertile signs. NOT FUN.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Darwin,

I understand your predicament. My wife and I have fairly serious (if not grave) reasons not to conceive. We utilize the Creighton method, and also make use of the NFP progesterone test that the Pope Paul VI institute uses. This blood test gives you a positive verification that ovulation has occured.

Below is a link to the insitute's form site.

I will send you an email later if you have any questions.

Steve S

Anonymous said...

I am currently 15 months postpartum and have no idea what is going on. For months things seems to start progressing and then nothing, it all quits. And there seems to be no cycle to the fits and starts. So I understand completely.

mrsdarwin said...


Aw, shut up!


I find the temps to be fairly regular if I've been in bed laying down most of the night. I was up with a sick one the other night, and that threw me off, but otherwise I can tell when a temp is in the right range. Baby had been eating like a pig all night (every two hours, almost on the hour) but last night and the night before he slept almost straight through....

Heather, I have to admit that I just don't really like being pregnant. I love having a little baby, but nine months of being uncomfortable all the time...? One of the first things I say to myself after giving birth is "Thank God I'm not pregnant anymore!"

Fun, I hear you. Seven months postpartum is just when you DON'T want to conceive. Though I've done it before...

Thanks, Steve. I can usually trust the temperatures on ovulation -- they're pretty reliable in my case. God bless you and your wife for your fortitude!

Jenny, the odd thing for me is that perhaps if my cycles had held off until after a year, I might have been willing to just take whatever came. However, having my first two 16 mo. apart slammed me enough that now I'd prefer to space 'em 2 1/2 years apart -- at least. But as Annemcd pointed out above, to announce a spacing desire is the surest way to have Irish twins. :)

Rick Lugari said...

Aw, shut up!

Wow. Do you treat all your guests and benefactors so graciously or just the short bald ones?


Amber said...

With my somewhat low fertility (or perhaps I should just call it a system that responds perfectly to ecological nursing and look at it as a positive) - not to mention lousy living circumstances for that sort of activity - I'm in no place to comment any further on this... but I just have to say that the term Irish twins always makes me laugh.

And in saying what I've just said, I feel like I'm dooming myself for a set of them... Although I suppose it is way too late for that this time around!

BettyDuffy said...

Hello Darwins! I just wanted to say thanks for sending some of your readers my way.

I enjoy your blog so much.

Anonymous said...

From the vantage point of having "been there, done that" & now post-menopausal, your nfp postings are delightfully refreshing to see and bring back such agonizingly sweet memories...

I recall earnestly praying one time that we were not pregnant because we were getting so much family flack for having so many children. We only had four at that time. Then I felt guilty for saying a prayer like that for such wimpy reasons. Then I felt guilty for feeling guilty... oh good grief.

Now life is much calmer. I will pray for you tonight and for all young couples. God bless you. He blessed us with seven. :)

mrsdarwin said...

Thank you, Cliff. It's encouraging to hear stories from people who've spent time in the trenches. :) I had to smile at your guilt because I know exactly what you mean.

sdecorla said...

Great post - it makes me feel better to hear that other Catholic couples struggle with NFP and just don't want to be pregnant sometimes.

I hate NFP. My cycles are very irregular and very long due to PCOS, so NFP for me is like NFP for other people while breastfeeding almost all the time. Both of our kids were surprises. (Although they were 4 and a half years apart).

I actually found that NFP was pretty easy while breastfeeding my first daughter. My fertility didn't return until she was over a year old, and I went back to work when she was 3 months. (I pumped 3 times a day). For the vast majority of that time I had almost no mucus and was pretty obviously not fertile.

Our second is now 2 months old. So obviously I don't want to get pregnant right now, even if I could. I had severe preclampsia with this one and had to have an emergency c-section at 35 weeks. It was the scariest thing that's ever happened to me, and I'm pretty sure we don't want any more kids because of that. I just don't know how well I can trust NFP, though. I go to a great NFP only doctor, so I hope they can help.

People have also recommended Creighton to me, but like you I like to have the temperature sign also. I like having the confirmation that i've ovulated by having me temp go up. It's much more clear than the mucus.