Tabitha Walter works for a pro-family non-profit in the Washington, DC area. She is a wife and mother to two children, one in Heaven and one on Earth. She co-hosts a new conservative women’s podcast called Engage with Eagle Forum, available on Apple, Spotify and Podbean. Tabitha has also written for Total W(h)ine, her own pro-life testimony called Labor of Love. You can connect with her here on Twitter.
1 What led you to choose this method of fertility awareness? What’s something you have learned that you wish you knew at the start?
After seeing multiple doctors about my diagnosis of poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, I was frustrated that the only treatment was birth control. Although birth control was giving me a predictable bleed, it was not helping with my hormonal symptoms, especially the week of my period. I knew Emily was practicing NFP, so I asked her how these methods tackled someone with PCOS. She connected me with an instructor who has PCOS. She sent me this quiz to see what method was best for me
because I had a 5 month old at the time and an unpredictable schedule, the Billings method seemed simple enough to fit my needs. It just requires charting my vaginal sensation and cervical mucus.
I wish I had known how long it would take to get my cycles “right”. After being on birth control for so long, I overlooked symptoms that I thought were normal (like spotting), but were actually telling me that my hormones were struggling. After about 4-5 months of charting I thought that my cycles were regulated, but my symptoms indicated things still weren’t where they needed to be. It takes a lot of work and perseverance.
2 Had you used other methods previously, either of fertility awareness or birth control? If so, what were they, why did you switch, and what was the transition like?
I began taking birth control at the age of 14 for irregular periods. Periodically, I would go off of birth control, but was never able to maintain a consistent cycle.
After having my child, I tried to go back onto birth control and it actually stopped regulating my cycle. My OBGYN put me on a higher dose which worked, but my hormonal symptoms were all over the place. I needed something that treated my body as a whole instead of just one symptom while putting a bandaid over the others.
Before transitioning to NFP, I began taking Metformin and supplements recommended for PCOS symptoms which made the transition much easier. I was able to adjust my medications a little at a time to see what worked and what didn’t. I then (begrudgingly) added in a low-carb diet which was the final step towards a healthy cycle.
Just by coming off of birth control alone, my sex-drive has greatly increased and I no longer have vaginal dryness. After adding the supplements, I have experienced less acne, infrequent digestion problems, more energy, and more control of my mood swings.
3 Fertility awareness, while not impossible, does have a steep learning curve. What were the costs associated with this method? Financially, emotionally, intellectually?
I currently see an online instructor on a regular basis who takes donations, and I gave $250 for an entire year. I also paid $20 for a year subscription to the NFP Charting app because I prefer to chart on my phone.
Emotionally, it’s been disappointing and draining at times. It’s been a lot of highs and lows learning to chart. I have walked away from sessions feeling defeated, and other days things have clicked when something new I tried worked. It’s been the best feeling when I have found that missing puzzle piece.
4 What do you like about this method most? Least?
I love how simple it is. I don’t have to stay on a strict schedule, and I only have to remember to check out two things – my vaginal sensation and my cervical mucus.
The thing I like least is figuring out what exactly my vaginal sensation is. It’s hard to distinguish the sensation categories, and I still struggle to trust my judgement of sensation to notice a change. If my husband and I were very serious about avoiding a pregnancy, I would probably y weigh other options.
5 How has using fertility awareness affected your faith life and marriage?
My husband and I use alternative methods to prevent pregnancy such as condoms or the pull-out method (we’re not Catholic), which we know have low levels of effectiveness, but we are not 100% avoiding pregnancy. While the timing of our sex lives hasn’t changed, other aspects of our marriage have. Because of my hormone levels balancing out, I am able to enjoy sex more, which means my husband enjoys sex more. It also means that my mood swings have greatly decreased and communication has gotten better.
As far as my faith life, I have prayed more for my health. When I was initially diagnosed with PCOS, I didn’t pray about it, as it didn’t seem big enough at the time. After it affected my fertility and frustrations began piling up, NFP was my last effort to find a solution. It was risky and vulnerable, and I had to trust that God was leading me in the right direction.
6 If you met someone interested in learning fertility awareness, what would you tell them?
Learning fertility awareness is the best thing you can do for your body. Not only does it deal with fertility or menstrual cycles, but you learn a wealth of biological knowledge such as how to deal with stress or strengthen your immune system. It is a whole body experience and anyone can do it.