Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Guest Post (continued): "My journey toward Fertility Awareness, or why I don't use hormonal birth control..."

To read the first part of Codi's story, please click here.

About 3 months into year two of marriage we went on a spiritual retreat with the faith based ministry were were newly on staff with. It was a difficult time for both of us, and sex would have been a good way to connect. But we forgot the condoms. And none of the other married couples had any. And we couldn’t drive anywhere to get any. It really sucked. A couple other wives told me about what they do, one with many many health problems, and one normal and healthy. They both used a method called Fertility Awareness. Not the rhythm method or the calendar method, fertility awareness tells you what your body is doing right now, today, no matter how long or short your cycle is.

Sadly I did not convince my husband that condom free sex that night would be fine, but it did start me on a journey for information. They pointed me to a book called Your Fertility Signals: Using Them to Achieve or Avoid Pregnancy Naturally, by Merryl Winstein. 


When we got home from the retreat I bought the book. It was old, and kind of hokey with the illustrations, but I could tell it had good information. I learned that when a woman ovulates, there are physical changes you can pay attention to in order to avoid having sex on what is called a fertile day.

When a woman ovulates, at whatever time in her cycle her body is ready, usually 2 weeks before her next period, there will be an increase in vaginal discharge, specifically cervical mucus. Cervical mucus is the bodies way of insuring egg and sperm meet. It provides channels to speed up the sperm on their journey towards the egg, and helps the egg make it safely to the uterus for implantation. It also keeps sperm alive longer, providing a hospitable atmosphere for them to wait for an egg to be released.

Most women will be able to see cervical mucus for about 4 days in a cycle. If you did not see mucus you probably did not ovulate.  

To avoid or achieve a pregnancy, you will check vaginally every time you use the toilet, looking for cervical mucus, or CM. CM is like egg whites, (abbreviated EWCM), clear or whitish, and stretchy, up to an inch of stretch between your fingers. Vaginal discharge is wet, or sticky, and will not stretch.

Here is the basic idea, read on knowing that I am not a medical professional. I suggest you do your own research and/or talk to your doctor before starting this or any other health related plan. Also the book I mentioned and others like it explain the how to do this in much greater detail. This is to give you an idea and encourage you to look for yourself more in depth.

To avoid pregnancy:

Beginning on the first day your period ends, until you have your next period, you will check for CM before and after every time to the toilet (with clean hands). If you have no egg white cervical mucus, you may have sex that night! But not the next day as sex will change the liquids in your lady parts, and sperm can look very similar to EWCM (egg white cervical mucus).  When you start seeing EWCM when you wipe, you stop having sex at night (and any other time), and for four days after you last see any CM. You wait 4 days because absence of EWCM does not mean the egg is gone. There is still a potential for pregnancy in this window of time. Once the four days have passed, have as much sex as you want whenever you want, but keep looking for signals until your next period starts.

To get knocked up:

Check your cervical mucus daily, as if above. When you start seeing EWCM, have lots of sex! Your body is telling you there is an egg available, provide some sperm. Have lots of sex in the days after you see EWCM also.

It took me a few months of tracking to feel comfortable enough...and my husband! This is not a one woman show, both partners need to be comfortable with the method, and communication is vital! We stopped using condoms as a back up, and only used the fertility awareness method. We successfully did not get pregnant for about a year the first time around, and for over 18 months after the birth of our daughter. When trying to get pregnant it took us about 9 months the first time and 6 months round 2. When we really want sex on fertile days, we use a condom if we are preventing pregnancy, knowing that if it fails there is a high likelihood of a baby.

This is not for everyone, but I greatly enjoy knowing I am not putting hormones into my body, and if a baby is conceived it has a chance to live and grow. It is also free, requires no supplies, and available whether you have insurance or not. If you have very long or short cycles, you will be able to find out when you are ovulating, and act accordingly. If you have no cycle, you can start tracking to see if you are ovulating (like while nursing a baby).

The book Your Fertility Signals: Using Them to Achieve or Avoid Pregnancy Naturally also teaches you how to temp daily to track exactly when you ovulated. I choose not to do this because I am lazy. Plus you will only know looking back which day you ovulated, and you would still be tracking your bodies signals on a daily basis to know when your fertile days are. The book includes charts to track mucus and temperature. It is available used from several sources.


Here are some resources for more information:

FAQ’s and more information:

Fertility Awareness Counselor(I have not personally used)

There are also many apps to track your cycle, I use “My Days X” for android, it was free.

For my family, this is what works, and what my husband and I are both very comfortable with. Do your research, decide if this is something you want to do for you, and know that you have to keep track all the time or you can get pregnant. If you forget a few days of tracking, use a barrier method or know you risk pregnancy.

Codi is a mom of almost 2 from Southern California. She spends her days getting ready for baby #2 and giving her daughter those last only child days. If you'd like to connect with Codi or ask her questions, please comment!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guest Post: "My journey toward Fertility Awareness, or why I don't use hormonal birth control..."

I married my husband when I was 22. Before getting married, I enjoyed a lovely pap smear and was told to get on the pill by my Doctor. So I got my prescription filled, and started faithfully taking the pill, months before our wedding.

My husband used to have a reputation as the plate cleaner when we were hanging out in college. He would eat a full meal then start mooching off of everyone else’s plate. So it was a complete surprise to me when he mentioned that I was out-eating him. On my end I was starving. STARVING. So I stepped on the scale, and discovered that in the two months I was on the pill I gained a little more than 20 lbs.

Not cool body. Not cool.

Since we were not having sex before marriage, and actually accomplishing this task, I stopped taking the pill. A few months later I had another conversation with my doctor, and this time I tried the NuvaRing. It seemed like a good idea, localized birth control hormones=less hormones in my body screwing things up.

The NuvaRing was good for a while, but never managed to line up with my cycles. You are supposed to insert it vaginally for 3 weeks, remove for 1 week (and have your period on this off week) then insert a new ring and repeat. This works great if you have 28 day cycles. My cycles were 35 days long, so I ended up inserting for 3 weeks, removing for 1, reinserting and getting my period. Or keeping it out for 2 weeks, trying to “catch up” or something. After our wedding we used condoms on the off week, because I wasn’t getting satisfactory answers from my doctor about why this was happening or how to “fix it.” We were not planning to get pregnant.

But then I had a positive home pregnancy test. Umm, what? Then I had a second positive home pregnancy test. Oh crap.

Called a friend. Called my doctor. Freaked out with my husband. Bought a baby book and tried to get excited about this unplanned but very much wanted new life.

We went to the doctor, like you are supposed to. She congratulated us, and thought we were crazy to ask for a blood test after two home positives, but sent me to the lab anyway.

A week later I got the news. A very bubbly office girl, who I assume had no idea what in the world the test was for, cheerfully told me the lab results were negative. Have a great day!

I couldn’t make it through the rest of my work day. I came home and cried with my husband. We set up another appointment with my doctor who told me about a chemical pregnancy. It was probably a chemical pregnancy, when egg and sperm meet and do their thing, but are unable to implant in the uterine lining, for multiple reasons. Its no big deal, she said. We weren’t trying to get pregnant right now anyways.

The ring is supposed to make you not ovulate, supposed to prohibit sperm from going where it wants to prohibit accidental ovulated egg meeting great swimmy sperm. It is not supposed to prevent implantation, but it might prevent implantation sometimes.

During the next few cycles we continued to use the ring while doing much soul searching, research on how various forms of birth control actually work, and looking for personal stories of NuvaRing users in the same boat. I found a lot of other women had also experience chemical pregnancies while on the ring, and it seemed like the ring did a better job preventing implantation of a fertilized egg than its promotional materials would tell you.

Many tearful nights lead us to the decision to only use a barrier method to prevent pregnancy. We chose to use condoms, knowing that if a condom fails, it was important to us to allow the possible baby a chance to find its way to a uterus that would be able to receive it.

All this before our first marriage anniversary.

Codi is a mom of almost 2 from Southern California. She spends her days getting ready for baby #2 and giving her daughter those last only child days. If you'd like to connect with Codi or ask her questions, please comment!
Conclusion to follow, please subscribe to the blog to make sure you don't miss the rest of Codi's story!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Our "Autism at Disney" Experience

We recently went to Disney World for the first time since Bu was officially diagnosed…and certainly for the first time since we've gotten to know about Bu's specific needs! Here is some information about the accommodations we were able to receive, and ways we helped Bu enjoy his trip.

Here's some stuff you should know to clarify what's said in the video:

1) Bu is 3 years old, he's on the GFCFSF diet, and he's on the autism spectrum. He doesn't speak (yet), is very sensory seeking (except for touch/tactile), and has hypotonia, which is low muscle tone. He is getting better with all of these things, but he cannot stand or walk for very long without getting fatigued, so he is carried or strolled more than a typical kid his age.

2) Bu gets his supplements several times a day in his "juice", which is typically a homemade, organic fruit-and-veggie puree mixed with water. This is why I personally bring organic baby food pouches or jars/tubs with us to the parks.

3) I took the supplements in "pill organizers" to the park, which was then put in my backpack. If we'd have stayed longer, I might have taken our refrigerated supplements with us and kept them at the hotel. When they would have NEEDED to come with us (such as, after checkout on the last day), I would have taken a separate lunchbox and filled it with ice at the hotel to keep it cool. I also would have added more ice at the parks (asking for free cups of water with lots of ice at any counter service restaurant!).

4) Bu is VERY picky about his chips, which is why I made a point to bring a big bag for each day into the park. At Animal Kingdom (I didn't notice at any other park), they had a booth that sold gluten free and vegan foods, which would have been great for Bu provided I also found a soy-free choice…but a SMALL bag of chips (which wasn't the kind Bu even likes) was SEVEN DOLLARS. Crazy.

Please comment or email me with any questions and I can either answer based on my experience, or I can find out for you. We have annual passes so if there's something in particular that can only be answered at the parks, let me know and I'll do my best to ask or find out next time we go!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Importance of Birth Plans...

Birth Plans are a great idea for any pregnant person to have ready! We all know birth is unpredictable and having a "plan" in place is no guarantee that anything will go in any particular way. However, the great thing about putting together a Birth Plan is that it makes you think about how you'd want things to go ideally…and it helps prepare you for the alternatives.

There are so many interventions that you may wish to avoid (or elect to have) during your birth experience, and preparing your Birth Plan is a great way to discover what all these interventions are and what they mean for you and your baby. I found that for my pregnancy, the easiest thing for me to do was find a template for a birth plan (BabyCenter has a good one HERE) and then researched the options in each section to determine what best fit my preferences.

You can start putting together your preferences as early as your first trimester, although the recommendation is to have some sort of idea ready by your 5th month of pregnancy. It's important to know as early as possible what is important to you (for example, perhaps you absolutely DO NOT wish to have continuous monitoring so you can move freely during labor, or maybe you absolutely NEED to eat and drink during labor) so that you can discuss these things with your care provider. The reason it's best to do this early is because it gives you the best chance of finding a doctor or midwife you LOVE, should you decide your current care provider is not the best match for the type of birth experience you have in mind. *By the way, remember you can ALWAYS change doctors…even at the very VERY last minute!

If you and your care provider agree that your plan is feasible and safe, and you are SURE your provider is giving you the best possible care and not just considering what is most convenient for THEM, then a good idea is to have the doctor sign your birth plan. It's not in any way a binding contract or anything, but the idea is that if you go into labor and arrive at the hospital or birth center before your care provider does, you can have something to show the nurses and support staff that shows that your care provider is on board with your preferences. It's also important to have several copies on the day of the birth for the nurses, your doula, etc. Every one that comes in contact with you during your labor should see your birth plan, to avoid miscommunications or misunderstandings.

You can include things in your birth plan regarding pain management, what you wish to happen to the baby immediately after birth (like immediate skin to skin and waiting to do newborn exams for an hour so you have a chance to bond, for example), and your plans for feeding your baby (bottle or exclusively breast feeding?).

It's definitely important to be flexible and be ready to forgive yourself if things don't go exactly as you'd hoped…The most important thing is to be educated about all of your options so that if things DO need to go in a different direction, you are equipped to make the best choices for you and your baby. Remember, even if your Birth Plan doesn't come to fruition, preparing one is always beneficial because it familiarizes you with your options (and their risks and benefits), and the policies of your care center and provider.

What advice would you give a first time mother about preparing a birth plan? What is something you think every plan should include?