Thursday, March 5, 2015

How NFP Saved Me

When Hubby and I married, nearly 11 years ago, we took the NFP class offered through our parish.  It was the Sympto-Thermal Method.  It ended up not being the best fit for us, but it was the beginning of exploring how my fertility worked (or didn't). 

I was listening to Jennifer Fulwiler speak a couple weeks ago and she said something I've said myself, the Catholic Church is the owner's manual to being human.  Nowhere has this been more true in my personal life than Natural Family Planning.  Especially since finding Creighton.  While I won't claim to being the best of pupils and an emotional residual of infertility is that I'm a little crabby and resist doing all the observations because my frustration says what's the point, I do see the help and value of it in my life. 

Since puberty, I've really struggled with my weight.  Really struggled.  While I eat my feelings on occasion, diet and exercise has never been able to produce proportionate results on my frame.  During certain times in my cycle, I struggled with keeping a handle on my emotions....which is a really nice way of saying I was a rage-a-holic at the end of each cycle.  Sequestering myself was really all I could do to keep the peace while I felt like that.

In the last few years, I've felt tired all the time.  All of it.  I thought perhaps it was having two toddlers at once, then maybe depression over losing one of them. 

So there I was, January 2014, out of control weight, enraged and exhausted.  Then, a friend introduced me to Creighton Model Natural Family Planning.  The benefit of Creighton was advertised as being able to diagnose and treat reproductive health problems.  A big selling point when doctors hadn't been able to give me any answers over the years of infertility.

Five months into the process, after charting, many, many blood draws and driving my own blood serum two hours away for analysis, the numbers came back.  My progesterone was dangerously low.  Very bad.  Like possibly contributing to the ectopic rupture that nearly killed me and the growth delay Sweet Pea had in utero bad. 

The solution was less than palatable, but effective.  Four subcutaneous injections each month timed to provide my body with what it should have been doing on its own.  All to create a normal, balanced cycle. 

All those years of cycling, and I finally experienced a release from the rage, less pain and a generally improved quality of life.  That was more than 20 years of suffering, soothed by scientists faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church and unwilling to take a band-aid approach to a real problem. 

Because it's not about forcing teachings onto women; it's about honoring our own unique chemistry and fighting for answers when that chemistry is unbalanced.  It's about loving us enough to know our reproductive system is not a disease, but a part of what makes us uniquely woman.  It's about treasuring us enough to work with our bodies, not against them.  It's about giving us answers, solutions, and support.  It's an owner's manual for how we work, and help when things don't. 

Now, we still haven't conceived, even after many months of injections.  But here's the thing, that may or may not ever happen again.  Part of my Lent is making peace with that.  Still, those injections are slowly healing me.  Now, exercise does show results where even the most disciplined routines showed no progress before.  I still have to work harder than the average person, but working hard now does something, which is new for me.  My emotional health is slowly being restored as well.  With the hormone support I receive via injection, I am no longer a slave to the rage that used to overtake me.  Sure, sometimes I'm crabby, but it's a shadow of what once was. 

The pain of menstruation was no small thing for me.  There are still months where I might have some discomfort, but for the most part, that's unusual now.  From debilitating all the time to uncomfortable occasionally is a huge leap, friends.  Huge. 

There's also a piece we may never fully know how it's affected me.  My previous hormone balance put me at great risk of breast cancer.  Every month, my body was bathed in hormones that would support the growth of cancerous cells, with no balance of those that were hostile to them.  I was a petri dish just waiting for the opportunity to grow cancer.  Now, a proper balance of hormones makes me a less promising host.  Maybe someday I'll get cancer.  I know I'll be more vigilant about it than I might have been otherwise.  But, maybe I'll have years longer before the cancer than I would have otherwise.  Maybe it will be less aggressive, maybe it won't happen at all.  It's not something we can measure and know exactly what this new balanced level of hormones is doing for me.  But, it's giving me better odds, and I'm in favor of that.

All of this, all of these health benefits because I wanted our family to be blessed with more children, so we sought answers to why it wasn't happening.  That right there is a blessing in our openness to life; my improving health. 

This improved health is based in bio-identical hormones that add nothing toxic or synthetic to my body.  It creates order in what was the chaos of my infertility.  Creighton sometimes feels like I'm part of a science experiment with the research they collect, but really, at the heart of it, nothing speaks more truly of love for woman, respect for woman than the honoring of her body and its natural processes. 

Nothing has shown me quite so personally the love the Church has for me, the beauty of creation and the wonder of how I am made than the researchers, faithful to the teachings of the Church, who have worked to heal me.  They have worked in cooperation with God, using science to restore, build up and heal women.  I am so grateful to be one of the women benefiting from this work.

If you're suffering from severe mood swings, infertility, or fertility that you would like a better insight into (and options that also support the health and well-being of our environment), I urge you to prayerfully consider Natural Family Planning, especially the Creighton Model.  I didn't know there was a solution to the pain of my cycles and the rage of my pre-menstrual phase for so, so long, until a friend had the courage to hand me a book about Creighton.  There is help, there is healing, there is a way to work with the beauty and magnificence of your body while you seek to limit or increase your family to the place where God is calling you. 

16 comments:

  1. Love this and so glad you found some answers! will be reposting on the fb page for www.ConversationwithWomen.org

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  2. Wow. I am in a very similar situation with regard to practicing NFP. My husband and I learned the Marquette method as an engaged couple and have used it for a number of years both to achieve and postpone pregnancy. I have always loved how empowering NFP is for me. While I haven't dealt with infertility, I have had a lot of experience with severe depression and my husband and therapist have both posited that it seems as though my depression worsens significantly during certain parts of my cycle (ovulation and menstruation in particular) and have wondered if there's a link between that and my hormones. I have had my T-4, TSH, and FSH checked and those all came back normal, but I've never had my progesterone, estrogen, or testosterone levels checked -- largely because I don't have a NaPro doctor anywhere nearer to me than a good 5+ hour drive away. After reading your post though, I'm starting to wonder if I need to consider making that long drive anyway for the benefit of my health. Thank you so much for posting this! Stopping by from Catholic Women! :) God bless you!

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    1. I did an initial consult, followed by a blood profile/hormone panel and a phone follow up and another in person follow up over the course of several months, so all told, it was 3-4 trips for me. The blood panel was every other day blood draws for about two weeks, but I was able to have the blood drawn and serum spun down by a local lab and then I froze them. You could ship them to save you the trip after that. If it's feasible, it might provide some quality of life improvement.

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    2. Thank you for the insights and information! I have been talking to my husband about this and am going to start looking into it. My regular doctor (GP) talked to me about going on birth control to help regulate my hormones and mood, but I don't want to do that for a myriad of reasons, so this seems like something that might be an avenue to try. I've struggled with major depressive disorder for over 25 years in episodes and have been able to manage it well until the last couple of years. I think the postpartum shift in hormones after our youngest was born 2 years ago might have triggered something different because I haven't been able to manage it well at all and it's been, frankly, a nightmare. At this point, I am willing to try even more difficult things for a chance at some significant relief. Thank you again for your post!

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    3. Prayers for your struggles! There is a specific NaPro protocol dealing with ppd that uses progesterone as well.

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  3. This is fantastic. As always, your sharing and honesty is wonderful. This kind of thing is exactly why I love NFP.

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    1. Thanks Jenn Anne! I feel like we're using the "off-brand" application of NFP since it's most noteable for spacing babies and we use it diagnostically :)

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  4. We have a similar story. We did achieve a pregnancy, but our doctor said our chances would have been so low that we MIGHT have achieved one pregnancy in my whole fertile time if we were lucky. We had no idea that our children were at risk - and wouldn't have! - had it not been for NFP!

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    1. Such a blessing to have this insight into our fertility health! Prayers for your health and fertility!

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  5. Can you recommend the book? I tried to get an appointment with a doctor about this, but she wouldn't see me until I had done four months of charting. So then I tried to contact some people about taking a class around here, and there just isn't anyone anywhere close who teaches it, and two of the nurses I contacted never bothered to respond, so I just gave up. Maybe I can figure it out with a book?

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    1. Ditto what Amy said! I've been thinking about learning Creighton so that I can start charting and find a physician once I have a few months of observation. Also how did you find someone to help you figure out what all that charting tells you about your hormones?

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    2. The book is: http://www.naprotechnology.com/womenhealed.htm Check out the FertilityCare Creighton & NaProTechnology User Support Group on Facebook for support in using it, finding practitioners that will work long distance or in your area and doctor recommendations.

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    3. I worked with my NaPro doctor to figure out what the charting might be saying. They look at a few months of charting and find bio-indicators that might suggest a certain problem. For example, my charts showed signs of low progesterone or possible low grade infection, which were borne out with further testing.

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  6. I could have written a lot of this post. Finding my Creighton instructor was the best thing that I have done for my body - my mood has improved, my pain has decreased. I am currently taking progesterone.
    I have also dealt with infection and needed surgery and antibiotics to help manage. I just read recently (I think at Jenna's blog) that you used essential oils to help with your infection. I would love to find out more about what oils you used and how you used them. My best friend sells doTerra, and I use several for my mood and anxiety. If it would be easier to email me, my address is esaint31@gmail.com. Thanks!

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    1. I sent an email - it was a combination of several oils. As always, do due diligence on anything you're going to use and make sure you're using it for it's intended purpose. Hope it helps!

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I welcome positive, supportive sharing in this community. God bless!