Reflections from 10 years of charting my menstrual cycle
On June 10th I celebrated the 10 years anniversary of my always growing love story with Fertility Awareness and the menstrual cycle! In honor of this journey, I've written this blog post. It contains some of my charting story, and some of the treasures I've found through getting to know my cycle deeply.
The Love Story Begins
It was in 2009, in a sauna full of chattering women, that I first discovered Fertility Awareness. I had been fantasising about finding a natural method of birth control for quite some time (remember, this was before Google, Facebook or Instagram became the all-knowing oracles that they are today!), and suddenly: there sat this woman right next to me, telling me that she was using observations of her cervical mucus to avoid pregnancy!
I went home and ordered the Billings Method book, which the woman had recommended me. The Billings method is one of the first Fertility Awareness Methods, based only on mucus observations and quite rudimentary. I remember reading the book in a matter of days, and starting to chart my cycle immediately!
Acquiring the right knowledge
At the time my journey begun the Billings Method and it's more rudimentary way of charting worked great for me, since I had a regular cycle with easily recognizable mucus.
However, in 2011 I went through a couple of major life events, that changed my course quite drastically. Even if they were of a positive kind, the stress those changes caused in my body wrecked havoc on my cycles. I could no longer understand what was going on, the Billings Method didn't include any information about how to understand my fertile signs during such circumstances. I got confused and discourage, and became more sloppy in my charting routine.
In 2013 I started my studies at Justisse College - and finally got some proper training in how to truly understand my fertility. Unfortunately, this came after already having had an unwanted pregnancy (ending in abortion)... As a result of this, I know first hand how important it is to get proper training when using FAM for birth control - especially when our cycles are less than regular!
How come nobody has ever told me this before??
Starting charting made me amazed about how much there had been that I hadn't known about my body, and even more amazed that no-one else seemed to know about it either! Before reading hearing about Fertility Awareness, I had no clue about where in my cycle I ovulated (I thought it was right before menstruation) - and the lack of knowledge among people I spoke to was just as big. It was not long before I started holding some small unofficial workshops on Fertility Awareness, at a variety of knowledge-sharing events - which would 3 years later lead me to starting my studies to become a certified Fertility Awareness Educator and Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner through Justisse College International.
Getting to know my cycle
The biggest gift menstrual cycle charting brought me was actually not the natural birth control in itself (however much I am eternally grateful to have acquired that knowledge!), but a completely new relationship to my menstrual body. After some months of charting, I started to realise how much my menstrual cycle was affecting my moods and my general level of energy - which also later would inspire me to make changes in lifestyle and diet in order to take better care of my hormones, and get rid of my premenstrual emotional mayhem.
I also realised how I move in a cyclic movement through life - just like the rest on nature do with the seasons and with their own life cycles. At the time I started charting, I was living in a small cottage on the edge of the forest - so the cycles of nature were close to me and very tangible.
It also made me begin to think about how crazy it is that I am supposed to be as active and "productive" in winter as in summer - and during menstruation as during ovulation. Allowing for cyclic shifts in life has become something I believe deeply in, something I am constantly working on integrating deeper in my own life, and something that continuously is bringing me new levels of well-being. It is also at the core of my work with other women.
Healing thyroid issues
In my early twenties, I suffered a burnout. I was constantly fatigued and my mood was a roller coaster (especially before menstruation, as mentioned above). The doctors couldn't find anything wrong with me - and I was simply put on a long-lasting sick-leave. As so many others in that situation, I ended up in a bureaucratic downward-spiral, leading further and further away from health. Finally I had to break that spiral - by moving to a new country and choosing a whole new path for myself.
The new life I was building created more space for me to be happy and healthy. However, I still had to sleep 10-12 hours per night, suffered fatigue and severe premenstrual anxiety, and generally didn't feel like I had the "juice" to live a full life.
When I started charting with the Justisse method, me and my HRHP soon figured out I had a far too low body temperature (often as low as 35,5 before ovulation). With the help of my HRHP and mentor, I was able to identify that I had sub-clinical hypothyroidism (that is: a too low metabolism) that was causing my fatigue and premenstrual anxiety. And by identifying this, I could start walking a path towards healing. This was a long path, that deserve a blog post in itself (one that will come!) - but for now I can tell you, that I am today healthy and full of energy! And I thank my menstrual cycle deeply for being a whistle-blower on my whole body health, which enabled me to heal and retrieve the zest of life.
Living with my cycle
During these 10 years I have charted my way through burnout, chronic health issues and plenty of tumultuous events. And also through profound healing. Through all of this, l've been walking together with my menstrual cycle. She has developed into my ally, my guide and my teacher. The steadfast spokes person of my body.
Looking back at these 10 years of menstrual cycle charting, I realize that I cannot quite imagine where I would have been without Fertility Awareness. It has become such an integral part of who I am; of my daily rhythm - but also of my relationship to the world and myself. I follow my cycle, day by day, month by month - and let her inform my choices. About whether or not to have sex. About whether or not to have that coffee. About whether I simply should take a day off, and stay home with my cat - enjoying the gift of having a female body. My menstrual cycle is telling me about who I am and what is right for me - right now.
I am so grateful for having received that knowledge - and to continuously deepening it. As I have said so many times before: this knowledge is the birth right of anyone born with a menstrual cycle.