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My Chart Knows Me Better

August 23, AD 2012 24 Comments

Before I begin there are few things you should know about me:

1. I’m in my 20’s and I’ve been charting using the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning (NFP) for nearly two years.

2. I’m not married.

3. I’m a perfectionist.

That being said, I love charting.  There is something amazing about the natural rhythm that God has placed within my body.  My practitioner has been known to marvel at my charts because my cycle is quite regular.  Well, at least it is usually regular.

I’ve been charting long enough to know that the number one killer of my regular cycles is stress.  Some cycles I’m amazed at how much I think I’m stressed, and yet my body does exactly what God intends it to do.  In a normal cycle a woman goes through a fertile time when her mucus changes as her body prepares for and actually goes through ovulation.  However, when a woman gets stressed, her body knows it, and changes accordingly.  Her mucus may change, but she won’t actually ovulate until her stress level has calmed, at which point she will experience another change in mucus.  When I first experienced this phenomenon I was awed at the wonder of my own body, awed by the fact that it knew, physically speaking, the best time to conceive a child would be when my stress levels were reduced.

I’m a perfectionist because I enjoy the fact that my cycles almost always follow the normal pattern.  It makes me a bit proud of my own body and the wonder that God created in my fertility.  This month, however, was different.  I experienced the normal change in mucus, and I experienced the normal dry days that follow the change in mucus.  Then my mucus changed again (normally dry days after the mucus change are followed by menstruation).  As I looked over my charts from the last few years, I realized that when my cycle does this it is due to stress.  The funny thing is, I didn’t realize I had been stressed.

As I lamented that my cycle for this month didn’t follow its usual pattern, I took to prayer.  I asked God to show me the cause of my stress.  Clearly, my body and my chart knew something that my head and my heart did not.  In prayer I discovered that I had actually been avoiding God.  Sure, I went through my usual prayers, but I had been avoiding really giving Him my heart.  As I have been known to do, I was trying to take control over my own life, including certain aspects of my job, and a few projects I’ve been working outside of the office.  When I finally relinquished control to His loving hands, my cycle returned to its normal pace.

God has created a wonder in women, of this I am certain.  There is a beauty in the physical aspect of charting, in getting to know my body – and the God who created it – better.  But there is also a beauty in the spiritual aspect of charting, and in realizing that God has written His love for us in every aspect of our lives.  Thank God that, at least this cycle, my chart knows me better than I do.  Had I not been charting I probably would have gone a lot longer before realizing that I was holding out on God.  But more than that, thank God that He knows me better than I do.  He has used my perfectionist ways to call me back to Himself.

About the Author:

Amanda Sloan is a woman after the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. Amanda is a Colorado native, who graduated from Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina with a B.A. in Theology, as well as minors in Psychology and Philosophy. Amanda, a director of faith formation, is the author of Worthy: See Yourself as God Does, available now on Amazon, Kindle, and CreateSpace. Signed copies can be ordered through her website. She lives in Colorado with her husband, and her blog can be found at worthy of Agape.
  • A P O’Beacha’in

    Beautiful first-hand witness to the depth of God’s creative plan. This surely must boost the respect for sexuality and its true place in couples’ lives. Wonderful antidote to the dominant cultural view of femininity, birth regulation and life in the womb.

  • You should read Taking Charge or Your Fertility. It outlines a much more accurate method than the Creighton Model that accounts for variations in a woman’s cycle. TCOYF also assumes her readers are intelligent women who are capable of understanding the science behind the method. Definitely read it.

    • What Joy said.

      My wife HATED Creighton, but LOVED TCOYF for these exact reasons. A simple temp check allowed her to understand her cycle, and not worry about those “dreaded double peaks”. Even the Creighton instructor was unable to figure out her cycle and went as far as to explicitly tell us not to temp.

      Creighton does not account for variations in the woman’s cycle, but considers this abnormality and tries to “fit” women into the model.

      She also liked the Billings Method (we use a combination of Billings and TCOYF) If you are looking for a simpler method, especially if you don’t need to prevent pregnancy, try the Billings Ovulation Method. She hated all the work of Creighton, but Billings is a lot easier and no less effective.

      You can learn the basics online at www(dot)thebillingsovulationmethod(dot)com. They also put all of their research online at woomb(dot)org, unlike PPVI.

      • Sarah

        I’m sorry your wife had such trouble. 🙁 However, one can find stories like this associated with any method… plenty of folks switch to the CrMS or Billings because, after learning a sympto-thermal method (like after reading TCOYF) they can’t make heads or tails out of their temps or discharge and need a different approach. This doesn’t invalidate TCOYF or S-T… it’s just that occasionally, one method won’t be a good fit for that particular woman, and they’ll need to find a different one that is a better fit.

        Also, the Creighton Model is the standardization of the Billings method… Dr. Billings and Hilgers have worked together for decades and have great respect for one another. So the two methods are similar, based on the same research, mutually supportive etc.

      • “Also, the Creighton Model is the standardization of the Billings method… Dr. Billings and Hilgers have worked together for decades and have great respect for one another.”

        Not according to the Drs. Billings. Apparently they had a falling out. Creighton is VERY different. The observation is different and the charting is different.

        This article explains the differences between the two. They are significant. It also explained a lot of the problems we were having and how we found out the CrMS instructor was misinterpreting her chart. Lots of “Ohhh, THAT’s what we are supposed to look for”.

        (Note: She has regular cycles, but yellow stamps. Lot’s of double peak problems under CrMS.)

        It was this “Creighton is a better Billings” attitude that kept us from researching Billings sooner.

        Also, as a CrMS practicioner, why doesn’t PPVI post their research online like WOOMB? All we got was a small booklet and we couldn’t get any more.

        I understand that different methods work for different women, but there is no excuse for the secrecy.

      • Auntjenjen Churro

        As a Nurse Practitioner, I attest that Billings and Creighton Model are not different. Billings was the very important springboard for Creighton, and where Billings leaves off, Creighton and further, NaPro Technology are the only truly medical, with a surgical approach if necessary, that will treat womens health problems, which correspond to other problems. It sounds like your experience was not good, the anger definitely speaks loud and clear, and I am sincerely apologetic to hear, but no one, nor system can please every one all of the time. I’m blessed and proud to say that over 100+ of mine, love the system and were able to get a lot out of it. Definitely more reliable than the thermometer which changes based on a lot of variables. There is no ‘secrecy.’ What it is, is actually credibility! With out proper instructions, the effectiveness, success and user satisfaction drop tremendously. Especially in this anti-human, antisocial, impatient, app-obsessed culture in which we live, the ‘easier’ way is not always the effective way. Many think they can self-teach, but the success and treatment for life, is in the details. Details you won’t get in any other system. Again, I validate and hear your experiences, but please have some mercy and don’t trash the entire system because of your one experience with a practitioner. I’m sure you’ve experienced a bad secular/conventional doctor, so come now….;) All the best to you.

      • Sarah

        Secrecy? Their research is published publicly peer-reviewed medical journals like the Journal of Reproductive Medicine. If there’s any issue with their websites, it’s that they need to hire someone to update them as they clearly not updated often (stylistically or information).

        Again, I am sorry the CrMS did not work out for you. It works for many and has research to back it up. Other methods are also great, and the blogger above certainly seems very intelligent and well-informed regarding her fertility and infertility with regular cycles.

        Regarding Billings… I’ve yet to meet any (official) CrMS animosity towards it. I am friends with Billings instructors, have clients who used to chart Billings, my own practitioner has nothing but positive things to say about it, and none of my textbooks or supervisors during training had a “CrMS is better than Billings” attitude conveyed in them. If there’s animosity, that is sad (although I’ve seen plenty of “NFP wars” online that are just sad in general… seems like people spend too much time trying to put down other methods which is unhelpful and unproductive).

      • We are WAY off topic. (My intent was to respond to Joy, not the blogger.) But, just to make a few things clear:

        Dr. Hilgers is quite complimentary of the Billings Method.

        But the Drs. Billings are NOT complimentary at all of CrMS or of Dr. Hilgers, as you can read in the linked article. They claim that Dr. Hilgers has a “deep non-understanding of the Billings Ovulation Method.” and that “The result has been destructive and confusing to many couples.”

        It certainly was to us.

        So, saying that Hilgers and the Billings are mutually supportive, simply isn’t true. Period. Saying that they are is either grossly misinformed or outright dishonest.

        As for putting down other methods, our instructor acted as if Creighton WAS Billings (it isn’t) and DID put down Sympto-thermal, when it would have been helpful. Perhaps she was a rogue instructor, but that’s what happened.

        The author may like Creighton, but she also said that she knows a lot of women who don’t. Ignoring Creighton’s shortcomings doesn’t help them.

  • Sarah

    I am confused as to why commenter are trying to convince this blogger to switch methods when she is clearly happy with the method she uses? As an FCP who teaches the Creighton Model, I an assure you it is *extremely* accurate (as accurate as you can get, charting-wise) with 30+ years of research demonstrating this. It has a 99.5% rate of success for avoiding pregnancy (96% in the “real world”) and a 90% rate of being able to achieve pregnancy in 3 cycles if healthy. *It is so precise it used for medical purposes to diagnose and treat reproductive health problems* and there is an entire medical field (NaPro Technology) that centers around it. In fact, as an FCP, I can personally speak to the fact that an overwhelming percentage of CrMS charters do not have text book cycles because they seek out the method for this very reason – to deal with irregularities and receive help/treatment. Furthermore, the CrMS also teaches the woman is an intelligent and active participant in her health.

    Perhaps commenters are confused by the simple explanation here on this particular post? Because there is a lot more to the CrMS than what is explained here (because the point of the post is obviously not to teach the in’s and out’s of the CrMS!).

    Anyway, thanks Amanda for such a wonderful post! It’s so true that our bodies can help reveal what’s going on with our minds and souls! 🙂

    • Creighton did NOT work for us to avoid pregnancy. (She’s sweet, though.) Our instructor couldn’t even figure out how that happened.

      I understand that different methods work for different women. My problem isn’t with CrMS as much as it is with FertiltyCare not acknowledging this. We had a LOT of problems with our instructor and CrMS is very instructor dependent. (BTW, how would a woman go about getting a copy of the instructor’s manual and not just the little booklet?)

      CrMS has it’s strengths. It’s great for TTC. But it’s not good for everyone and some of their marketing is very dishonest about that. The Drs. Billings were especially upset about Hilgers claim that CrMS is a standardization of their method. It’s the dishonesty that bothers me more than anything and something that has hurt us personally.

      • Clarification: We were hurt not because of the unplanned pregnancy, but because of the frustration with not being able to use the method and not being directed to something we could use.

        Also, NaproTechnology is good for treating irregularities–if you actually have them. She was diagnosed with cycle problems when what she really had was a normal variation.

      • Auntjenjen Churro

        please explain “normal variation.” One can have a normal cycle in terms of number of days from menses to menses, but have vey irregular patterns within the cycle

  • Sarah

    p.s. sorry for the typos!

  • Interesting comments from all! I’ve researched a number of methods over the years, I even wrote a paper on the sympto-thermal method in high school, but I really do enjoy the Creighton method. My practitioner is a wonderful woman who is very knowledgable. I, personally, have never felt that Creighton was too much work. As I said in my post, I love how much it reveals to me about my own body, though I know many women who don’t like Creighton. No matter which method of NFP you use, they all reveal the wonder that God created in a woman’s fertility. Truth and beauty are inseparable!

  • Sarah Babbs

    I have pcos and tried for over a year to get pregnant using sympto-thermal method. Switched to Creighton and got pregnant the second cycle. They are good for different things; it really just depends on the couple/woman. They all have strengths and weaknesses.

  • Richard E

    I read this blog earlier today but just read this from another post that I get and wanted to share it: “There’s a saying that “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” Prayer is indeed the key to overcoming or coping with anxiety, for it reassures us of God’s presence and reminds us of our need to rely on His strength, not on our own. As St. John Vianney said, “God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.” This is a afformation of what you mentioned.

  • Based on my own personal use, I haven’t seen any short-comings with the Creighton method. As I stated in the post, my cycles are fairly regular. The double peaks and/or split peaks aren’t dreaded, and because of charting I’ve been better able to understand my own cycles. That IS the point I was trying to make with this post: no matter which method you use, there is beauty and grace in it.

    I would never say that one method is better or worse than the other. I, too, have seen online wars about which method is or isn’t better than another. At the end of the day, those arguments don’t get anyone anywhere.

    Wayward Son, I sincerely apologize for your practitioner. Practitioners should never bash another method. When I first started practicing Creighton I was coming from the Couple-to-Couple League’s method, which I had learned through books. My practitioner did a wonderful job of explaining the difference, and the pros and cons to each method, and then let me decide for myself. I am sorry that your practitioner didn’t do the same. I will say that there is a lack of wide-spread information across the board about NFP. At first I thought I didn’t need to worry about charting or learning NFP until I was engaged. My intent in this post was to raise awareness about the beauty of NFP – regardless of method choice – and to show people that NFP is more than just charting. Thank you for your insight as to methods other than Creighton, and for adding to the discussion on the whole.

    • Yes, “NFP wars” don’t get anywhere. On the other hand, people do need to know the shortcomings of a method if they are struggling. The Billings’ criticisms were very helpful to us. It takes a lot of faith to use NFP when you are married and when couples are struggling, they need all the help they can get.

      If you like Creighton, by all means, keep doing it. (My problem is not with Creighton itself, but with FertilityCare and some of their practices.) I’m glad it’s working for you and it’s great that you are charting before you are married. Many women wait until just before the wedding or after marriage and don’t have time to gain confidence in the method before they need to use it.

  • Mary Beth Brissette

    I am older and I have never charted, but your essay has given me insight to that which I needed to understand about God and myself…THANK YOU!

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  • I find your experiences, Sarah, illuminating. I hear an artfulness in your words. Your story elicits a sense of wonder and authentic affirmation of the human body which I pray more married couples will discover through natural means of appreciating this God-given cycle.

    Because a woman’s natural cycle is dynamic, symphony-like or dance-like (much more than machine-like as the promoters of artificial contraception would demand we accept), it is easy to understand, then, that the various natural methods which allow one to cooperate with a woman’s cycle are as necessarily personal as the natural cycle which they affirm, even if from distinct perspectives. Thus, distinctions between NFP methods or models seem wholly… natural, and complementary.

  • AC

    I think it is marvelous this young lady learned systematic NFP well before marriage; if NFP was the cultural norm, most women would share her experiences. She is blessed indeed. I share with her that her abnormal pattern is really ‘normal’ and God’s designing this is indeed a thrill to watch.
    We were at a disadvantage to not learn NFP until after marriage, and childbirth, while nursing. There can be many stressors when busy with a new child. These can include sleep disturbances, poor nutrition, weight changes, + lack of prayer life. We found the temperature + cervix signs so useful; I would marvel to God why He lets us know our bodies so well. One additional help when prayer is difficult are the Church teachings behind NFP.
    John + Sheila Kippley put these in a nutshell so well in their new book, ‘NFP, The Complete Approach”. It saddens me that many methods don’t cover this theologic background in the NFP course, for I have seen and heard it too many times that when this understanding is absent and the “going-gets-rough” with NFP life, many resort to artificial birth control, contracepting behaviors and sterilization. Blessed JPII said NFP must be taught in a moral context and must not be biology only. My prayer is that soon all Catholic providers of NFP can include this in their courses.

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  • Parasolka Pawęża

    “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me!”
    Just another reason to observe fertility with passion and admire the beauty of creation. DonnaMobile fertility charting smartphone app