Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NFP Update

This past week has been eventful for us regarding Natural Family Planning. In brief: I stopped charting and I went to see the closest NFP-only doctor. If you're interested, read on.

On February 4th, I wrote this in an email to a friend:

After David and I got married (six months ago today), I started looking for an ob/gyn to care for me - for annual exams and for pregnancy and delivery. I had only moved to Charlotte a year prior and was in overall good health - I know I should have started looking sooner, but I didn't. :P Anyway, I started with One More Soul to find the NFP-only doctors in the area. There are three in adjacent counties, but the closest one is a 40+ minute drive each way. So I started asking around (mostly the moms of huge Catholic families) for pro-life doctor recommendations. Then I checked with my insurance provider to see which ones would take my insurance.

In the end, my first visit to my office of choice (15 minute drive) was prompted by our miscarriage at 4.5 weeks (in November 07). The reputable pro-life doctor had a full schedule, so I saw the new lady doctor. She was very nice. I know nothing of her feelings on abortion or natural delivery.

Last Thursday morning David was helping the priest clean up after Mass and took that opportunity to ask Father an ethical question. David was uncertain of his culpability in witnessing a tubal ligation after a cesarean delivery during his nursing clinical (that's a whole other story). I joined them in the sacristy and listened while the conversation turned to end-of-life care. In the midst of other advice, Father insisted I go to see the NFP-only doctor 40 minutes away for prenatal care.

Now, I absolutely trust this priest and his advice. But my heart is still torn - that is such a long way to drive for appointments, especially when the appointments come every month or more often during pregnancy. I can take that time off from work, yes, but it's really a matter of the gas I'd use driving back and forth. As an environmentally-conscious Catholic striving to be a good steward of God's gifts, I try to drive as little as possible. So what am I to do?

When I got home from work that evening I discussed the email with David and his response was definitive: "there's no question - you WILL go to the NFP doctor." I subsequently made an appointment (yay for obedience!).

Then I received some encouragement and advice from the NFP coordinator in the Diocese of Camden (my old haunt) and wrote the following on Feb. 11:

I put "Fertility Cycles and Nutrition" on hold here at the library and I've been on a mission to "fatten up" since October, but I've been wrestling with exactly how to go about that. I LOVE all manner of sweets, but I realize that those empty calories are not ideal for my health or the health of a future baby. So I need to eat more nutritious food in addition to my brownies and Dove. I had a mini panic attack a couple weeks ago when I read up on the caffeine-miscarriage connections. I am okay with not drinking coffee or soda (I drank very little of them anyway), but I am concerned about how much I should limit my chocolate intake. The articles (and my husband, when I shared my fears with him) encouraged chocolate-lovers not to go cold turkey lest they stress out about that change (stress being similarly harmful to developing fetuses). In the end, I'm continuing to eat and drink chocolate in moderation.

I think stress is the biggest problem for me right now. I get so anxious over whether or not I'm pregnant each month ("or will ever be ever again" in my more melodramatic moments) that I'm sure I cause all kinds of unhelpful hormones/chemicals to course through my veins. Stopping my pursuit of my master's degree was definitely the right choice. I am striving to make good choices with my daily activities to minimize stress.

But the biggest breakthrough came this weekend. An engaged friend shared with me her fiance's discernment that they not learn/use NFP at the beginning of their marriage. Recognizing that she tends to "overthink" everything (and considering that they are fully open to life from the get-go), they want to limit their fertility knowledge as they begin their marriage. In response, I told her the only argument I could think of against that is that having an NFP charting baseline helps in the unfortunate circumstance that one would NEED to use it (post-miscarriage or during other medical crises). Later, I shared with David our friends' deliberations and conclusion and he began to pray about our charting, too. In the end, he highly encouraged me to stop charting altogether.

And so I did. And I already feel more free. Although I will continue to have a general idea of my fertility based on unavoidable mucus signs and casual calendar references, I will not have to worry constantly about which days are ideal for conception and how close I am to being late.

Some might argue that we should continue charting for the sake of "trying" for pregnancy, but that would most likely cause detrimental stress for me. I reflected on our current state of affairs in another email:

I wouldn't classify David and I as having a fertility problem - I actually think God is working everything out for the best. If we conceive this month and carry full term, the baby would be born in November, just as David completes his last nursing school course. It would have been a huge challenge for David to accomplish all that studying and test-taking while caring for me and a newborn. If God wants to wait a couple more months, until David has passed the NCLEX, that's okay. God is awesome.

Also, my charts reveal my cycles to be incredibly regular. I wonder about progesterone deficiency sometimes, since it is a common cause of miscarriage, but my regular 14-day luteal phase and the very early occurrence of our miscarriage indicate normal levels (the doctor said that miscarriages at 8-10 weeks sometimes indicate inadequate progesterone levels).

My visit to the NFP doctor yesterday left me with mixed feelings. I loved signing the consent form that included a whole paragraph explaining why they will not prescribe contraceptives or recommend anything against their pro-life beliefs (such as abortion or in-vitro fertilization). The Ten Commandments plaque and Mary & Jesus statue (a pro-life award) in their waiting room cabinet made me smile. The nurse and other staff members were caring and helpful. The doctor, however, was much like other doctors in his desire to treat problems. I came to him wanting to discuss possibilities for the future and steps I can take to optimize my fertility naturally; he strove to define my concerns as problems for which he could prescribe medications (including progesterone supplements). No hard feelings, but I wish primary care doctors could spend more of their time and energy helping people maintain and promote wellness through natural means.

Responses to everything I've shared above are welcome. And if you wonder why in the world I've been so open about this very personal topic, well, I just pray that God will use what I've shared to help or encourage someone someday.

1 comment:

Mason said...

Thank the lord, I found someone on blogspot that believes in Christ. God is awesome and without him, we would be in hell.