If you’ve been a follower of mine for 5 minutes, you’re aware that I talk about NFP and fertility awareness A LOT. You might also be aware that I co-founded a nonprofit with Mary Bruno, the founder of Taking Back the Terms. Mary and I have practiced fertility awareness for years for different reasons (more on that later), and spoken with thousands of women and men about their needs when it comes to understanding and managing their fertility in real life.
Now if you know all that, then you know why an organization like FAbM Base desperately needs to exist! But in the off-chance you’re new or want to learn more about why something like a fertility awareness database is even needed, and why we would undertake such a thing, well, Mary and I totally understand. So allow us to explain…
Why a fertility awareness database?
Isn’t fertility awareness really just the “rhythm method,” and therefore ineffective? It’s certainly a valid question – one we’re happy and eager to answer.
Both women and men are hungry for the information and freedom that comes with fertility awareness, and are increasingly jaded by the limits and side effects of the most commonly prescribed treatments offered by their doctors – hormonal birth control or artificial reproductive technologies.
Learning to decipher their fertility is a skill all women have the ability to learn, but we know full well that access to information on fertility awareness isn’t easy. In fact, it can feel almost impossible.
Here are just a few of the largest issues we encounter on a near daily basis:
- Belief that FA is nothing more than the “rhythm method,” perpetuating misinformation about the actual effectiveness of modern FA methods
- Lack of informed consent when prescribed hormonal birth control about how it works in a woman’s body (ie by shutting down the system), what the side effects are, or that it does not always prevent ovulation and therefore pregnancy
- Disempowering women of the right and capability to understand their body, embrace the benefits of ovulation and a healthy cycle, and share the information with their partners
- Feelings of isolation, confusion, or disenchantment when the practice can become difficult during uncertain fertile periods, when struggling with health issues, when looking for the right method, or while navigating stressors in relationships (sometimes amplified by the practice of fertility awareness)
- Lack of awareness of the vast health benefits of understanding one’s menstrual cycle, and the practical applications which improve quality of life
- Denying women who suffer from infertility holistic care geared towards restoring health in mind and body to increase chances of conception rather than focusing solely on achieving pregnancy
- Near absence of education that teaches teens the wonder and power of their fertility, its connection to health, helping them view their bodies holistically, and even lowers rates of early sexual experience
To say we’re passionate about these topics and eager to address these issues in hopes of providing practical solutions is an understatement. The reason is simple. We’ve both been largely impacted by these issues.
Emily: I was so young and naive when I walked into that first Couple to Couple League class in marriage prep. I worked in an evangelical office in DC that was supportive of birth control use, and good Catholic that I was, I planned to show them that NFP could work. Aka my husband and I would successfully avoid a pregnancy for the first year of our marriage.
You can therefore imagine my shame when only 3 months after my wedding, I was unexpectedly pregnant. One C section quickly turned into two after I found myself unexpectedly pregnant again a mere 7 months after the birth of our first child, this time after having learned a whole new method of fertility awareness.
The trauma and shame compounded. I felt like a failure for so many reasons. I found myself navigating spiritual darkness for the duration of my second pregnancy. I grappled with unexpected emotional traumas related to my C sections. And I had nowhere to turn.
Mary: “What kind of birth control do you want?” is the line most doctors give women wanting solutions for severe cycle pain and heavy bleeding. You can imagine my disappointment when I became one of those women seeking answers after 6 years of debilitating pain and had that line peddled to me. I had hoped my doctor would ask me some questions and run some tests to try and figure out what was causing these symptoms. I politely declined the prescription that was offered and walked out of her office with my head hung low and a serious disease known for attacking fertility left undiagnosed.
Everything got worse over the next five years. At 24 years old, I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis and had my first of 12 surgeries. I learned in my mid-twenties that my body had been providing information about this underlying condition all along, but I had no idea how to gather the information or that there are specialized physicians ready to provide me with cooperative medical treatment, rather than the bandaid of birth control. Had I discovered this authentic women’s healthcare option that’s only available through fertility awareness much earlier, would I have experienced so much pain over the years? Would I be able to have children? I’ll never know the answers to those questions, but I can help other women to avoid ever having to ask them.
Emily: Looking back, what I craved most was someone who would listen, who would walk with me through all that pain, anger and confusion. I wanted someone who would have been honest with me, who would have told me that NFP wasn’t a panacea for all marriage problems, and might even become its own problem for a time. I needed someone to tell me that I had options when it came to choosing a method instead of thinking the method they taught or used was “the best”.
I was so angry and so frustrated by what had been concealed from me that I decided I would do what I could to change things. And so, I started Total W(h)ine, a blog where I wouldn’t sugar coat the difficulties of living a faithful life. I was going to be honest with people, share my story as vulnerably as possible, and take the time to listen to others as well. And what I discovered was that that vulnerability heals, not just the countless women who began responding, but also myself. I was emboldened to become the person I wish I had from the beginning, someone honest, straightforward, and eager to listen before offering solutions.
Mary: I started Taking Back the Terms, a speaking, blogging, and social media outreach designed to educate and motivate women of all ages about the health benefits of fertility awareness, and to advocate for women who, like me, have too often felt overlooked or less than.
Lack of education has only been one of a few large problems I have encountered through my experience. As years began to pass without any pregnancies, my husband and I began to feel more and more isolated. I questioned my worth as a woman and wife, as well as my place in the church, where our family appeared to exist in stark contrast to so many other easily growing families. We were eventually profoundly blessed by adopting a baby girl, but the ache in my heart for community did not fade. Like so many other infertile women, I simply desire to be seen and for others to recognize that although my gifts look differently, they are of no lesser value. Infertility cannot rob any woman of motherhood because we express those same qualities into the world – even if not to our own biological children. This is another powerful message I try to communicate through my social media presence.
Purpose Through Pain.
When we connected, we quickly realized we could not have been outwardly more different. Mary is a Creighton practitioner and is infertile. Emily is a devoted Marquette user and has two surprise children.
But as you may have picked up, we have some crucial things in common.
We have both navigated spiritual darkness, feelings of disillusionment, frustrated hopes and expectations for how our families would look, and worst of all, lack of practical support and resources to navigate our turbulent experiences. It definitely took us some time to work through those hurts.
But we both decided to translate our unmet needs into something constructive. Changing the conversation around fertility awareness and NFP is personal for us, and our vastly different backgrounds give us a great advantage in serving others and meeting their growing needs, something we both do on a regular basis on our individual platforms.
Emily is regularly asked about choosing a method of fertility awareness or how to respond when people say NFP is really just Catholic contraception. She more often than not simply listens to women who are fed up with some aspect of the lifestyle, and is able to assure them they aren’t alone.
Mary has opened her platform to discuss infertility as a women’s health issue and as a great source of pain & isolation, suffering and hope, endometriosis and adenomyosis, adoption, and fertility awareness.
We both realized that the issues we tackle on our platforms are not isolated. We have met and helped countless women and men, establishing ourselves as trusted, straight-shooting resources, not afraid of responding to tough issues and questions with a deeply rooted compassion and honesty that drives everything we do.
Here’s what a few of our followers shared about how we have helped their fertility awareness journeys:
I find not many people I know on a personal level can relate to my story; however, I was surprised at how much community I was able to find online through social media. In particular, Mary @takingbacktheterms and Emily @totalwhine_ have been a huge source of healing, solidarity, and hope for me. Both of these women together are powerhouses — as a team, they educate and empower women about their bodies and fertility. This is such a beautiful gift in a world where many women do not understand the gift of fertility – or even just the gift of body literacy. Learning about your body and what it’s designed to do can be overwhelming, but Mary and Emily are able to take on this challenge and make it understandable.
– Laura, wife and hopeful mother after 5 miscarriages
Mary is one of my heroes!! Since we met, I have been inspired by her enthusiasm as a promoter of authentic healthcare for women through her work at “Taking Back the Terms” where she uses social media to share the good news of fertility awareness in new and beautiful ways. She is a wonderful partner in the field of women’s health care and I am honored to call her my friend and collaborator in this work!!
– Susan Caldwell, MD, CFCMC
As a single woman, I was putting off learning anything about NFP, FABM, charting etc. because I was thinking- “I don’t need all this yet!” I sent Emily so many questions which she graciously answered by message or voice note, keeping everything real. I’ve now been charting for a handful of months and it’s such a relief to have more confidence about my cycle. And I’m thinking my future husband will be grateful too!!
– Nicole, Catholic dating advocate
We now want to take everything we have done and learned to the next level in order to reach more people with transformative information – which is why we co-founded FAbM Base, the nonprofit fertility awareness database designed specifically to address the growing concerns, needs and issues surrounding the practice that we encounter everyday.
But we need your help!!
We believe so strongly in our mission and the need for the service we hope to provide, but as you can imagine, this is not something we can – nor plan to do – on our own.
As we build our website – which will be our primary resource and outreach – and set the stage to be a truly comprehensive, engaging and relevant resource (more on what we plan to provide here), we have some immediate and ongoing costs:
- $400 a year to maintain our website
- $1000 to cover additional start up costs and equipment
- Ongoing $$$ to meet expanding needs, manage day-to-day operations, develop much needed ministries and programs, engage volunteers, and even make our materials accessible in Spanish
If this is something that you, too, have become passionate about, and are able to, would you consider joining us in our mission?
There are 2 ways you can show your support and help us get this much needed resource off the ground…
1 Donate now!
If you’d like to send a check by mail, contact us below
2 Wear, sip or tote your support with some fertility awareness merch!
Thank you so much for your support! Together, we can make the rhythm method a thing of the past (once and for all) and make fertility awareness mainstream!