Cami works as Evangelization Manager for the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis. She also runs her own custom cookie business – Cookies by CJ! When she’s not baking cookies, you can usually find her hanging out and exploring breweries with her sweet husband, helping out at her parish’s youth ministry events, leisurely wandering the aisles of Target, or curled up with a hot cup o’ joe (anytime, anywhere). You can connect with Cami here: Cookies by CJ | Cookies by CJ Instagram | Personal Instagram
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?
Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) is actually the first method my husband and I had heard about prior to getting engaged. My sister-in-law and her husband were kind enough to give us a peek (no pun intended) at what STM was like, and right off the bat it sounded so thorough and accurate in regards to correctly identifying ovulation and fertile/infertile phases.
I was unaware of all the different methods of NFP, but even now I think that I would still start out with STM as it seems to be the most comprehensive of all the methods. It tracks 3 biomarkers to identify the fertile window and confirm ovulation – observation of cervical mucus (CM) throughout the day, basal body temperature (BBT) shift, and the optional cervix check. I think I’m blessed in the fact that I have fairly regular cycles, but even for women who have irregular cycles, this method is still great for identifying delayed ovulation, etc.
2 Had you used other methods previously, either of fertility awareness or birth control?
I had not used any other forms of fertility awareness or birth control. Prior to being engaged, I had loosely used period-tracking apps, not for the sake of being informed about my fertility, but to estimate when my next period would be. I was first introduced to STM by my sister-in-law, and quite honestly didn’t know about the other forms of NFP prior to that conversation. My husband and I were immediately intrigued and comforted by the idea of the multiple biomarkers that STM utilizes to identify fertility, as well as the equal involvement of both spouses.
3 Fertility awareness, while not impossible, does have a steep learning curve. What were the costs associated with this method? Financially, emotionally, intellectually?
Financially, the class with Couple to Couple League was about $200, and they offer scholarships for couples who’d like to learn the method and may not be able to afford it. There are very minimal costs outside of that. There is an app called Cycle Pro Go created by CCL to track your daily signs that costs $30 a year. There is also new technology to track BBT. One such is TempDrop, a wearable thermometer that tracks BBT throughout the night, and is ideal for wonky schedules or postpartum. These can be about $200, thus an additional expense to consider.
Emotionally, it can be difficult to abstain during fertile times., but we know it’s for the greater glory of God. There can be frustration during times of irregularity in my cycle, but my instructors have been awesome with giving helpful responses if Ryan or I have questions. BBT must be recorded at the same time every morning, but that’s easier to adjust to than I initially thought it would be.
Intellectually, it’s a bit overwhelming at first to try to remember all of the rules, but the materials you receive through the class are so helpful as references to look back on. The “textbook” (if you want to call it that) is so thorough by providing pictures, scenarios, and examples of irregularities within a cycle and how to identify them. It helps a lot having a teammate in my spouse to help remember the rules! It’s also incredibly assuring (and dare I say… fun?) being able to track my temperature changes and correlate them with different phases of my fertility.
4 What do you like about this method most? Least?
I love that my husband is so involved in the process! CCL really works to educate both the husband and wife in regards to fertility awareness by particularly emphasizing that it is a team effort. Being on the same page at all times through the use of CCL software, communication about CM symptoms at the end of each day, and taking the classes together all work to foster the husband’s appreciation and care for his wife’s fertility. STM emphasizes that the men are just as involved with family planning as the women. That feeling of being the only one “responsible”, as in the case of birth control, can be isolating.
I also love how each component enhances the understanding of our bodies. The classes through Couple to Couple League blew my mind. We received incredibly thorough explanations of what my hormones are doing at each stage in the cycle, and it gave us a deeper appreciation for God’s perfect creation. It also helped me understand the negative effects of artificial birth control and how pumping synthetic hormones into our bodies can harm our fertility and health.
The thing I like the least about STM is remembering to check CM throughout the day, and the optional cervix check. But overall I am grateful for the thoroughness of this method. Logging CM keeps me mindful of my fertility by identifying a tangible symptom (TMI?), although I can forget to do it sometimes. I don’t use the optional cervix check, but love that there’s another physical sign to determine fertility.
5 How has using fertility awareness affected your faith life and marriage?
Knowing the “why” behind NFP is such a game-changer.It’s so important for couples (and even single people who want to learn) to know why the Church endorses NFP as an appropriate and holy way to plan a family. Being aware of my fertility has been so empowering, and knowing what my body is doing at each stage of my cycle has been beneficial in understanding both my emotions as well as physiological responses (hi, hormonal breakouts and bloating!) to the different phases.
In regards to my Catholic faith, NFP has been a vehicle for unity, both between us, and between us and the Lord. It’s so beautiful that we have the Church backing our discernment as to whether or not we are ready for a family (check out the “Responsible Parenting” section of Humanae Vitae), and that NFP is a way to responsibly plan for a family while remaining open to life the whole time.
STM has been such a blessing in our marriage as well, helping us truly share our fertility in charting and conversations. We are a team which is so rewarding, and the marital act is something we grow to anticipate joyfully, and cherish when the time comes.
6 If you met someone interested in learning fertility awareness, what would you tell them?
The huge difference between NFP and birth control is that we are open to life regardless of the fertility phase we are in – there is no physical or chemical barrier blocking us from becoming pregnant; rather the knowledge of being able to correctly and accurately identify fertile and infertile phases allows us to make that decision of trying to conceive, or trying to avoid (pregnancy). NFP is accurate in both achieving and avoiding pregnancy, with rates of effectiveness that rival birth control but without the nasty side-effects.
The combination of natural identification of our fertility, avoidance of synthetic chemicals and hormones, as well as the effectiveness rates make NFP a no-brainer for ANYBODY! Not just Catholics. I highly, highly encourage anybody to take the first step with fertility awareness, I can testify that so much good will come from it!