1. Get a system
One of the most important steps for me was wading through the many, many choices of how and where to chart. I use the sympto-thermal method, which means I record my temperatures and my cervical fluid. I knew from the get-go that I wanted to use a paper chart, simply because I could record my BBT (basal body temperature) right away in the morning and not worry about forgetting to put it online, and also because I figured, I'm going lower-tech for birth control, why not go low-tech for charting?
I learned pretty quickly that, as nice as paper charting is, I had some issues with remembering what my cervical fluid was like by the end of the day, and that I wanted quick and easy confirmation of what I was experiencing. I solved the first issue through my handy Daily Do's planner, where I write down all the details. I also chose to chart online using the Taking Charge of Your Fertility's online charting option, simply because I can share my charts with other people and ask for help very easily. As an added bonus, Zeke got an Ipod Touch through work, and so I downloaded the Kindara App (the free one) to use when we're not at home.
So yeah, right now I'm charting three times over, which admittedly is a little bit of overkill, but it's what's working for me right now. Which leads me to my second point...
2. Figure out what works for you
Some of the adjustments you have to make to use FAM include taking your temperature at the same time every day, checking cervical fluid, and checking cervix position. Well... I learned pretty quickly that I don't like checking my cervix- I feel like I'm way too inexperienced with feeling around all up there to be an objective judge of how my cervix is doing. I just never really seemed to know what I was feeling for. Maybe I'll try using this fertility sign again after a few months.
I found that taking my temperature when I wake up in the morning was hard for me. I kept falling back to sleep after taking my temp, and that's no good when you've gotta get to work! Instead, I set an alarm to get me up at 5:30 every morning, wake up and pop a thermometer in my mouth, wait for the beep, and then fall back asleep. When I do finally get up, then I record my temperature. Making it 5:30 also means that if I have to get up super early for whatever reason (which does sometimes happen), I'm okay.
Then it came to checking my cervical fluid....
3. Take a deep breath and just stinking do it.
After being told throughout most of my young adolescence that cervical fluid was gross, unnatural, and subsequentially being embarrassed and grossed out by it, I was worried that checking this particular fertility sign wasn't gonna be pleasant. But you know what? It's my body. It's real and natural and me. So I just got over it. I started checking cervical fluid externally, but I found that I'm not a good judge of that, so I use internal checks instead.
My first cycle, the cervical fluid I had was confusing. Some days it would be sorta sticky, others sorta creamy, and never eggwhite. I was worried that this non-pattern of cervical fluid meant that I wasn't "doing it right" or that I'd never get the hang of it. Turns out, I was just being overdramatic. My second cycle made much more sense when it came to cervical fluid. Coming off the Pill might mess with a woman's CF, like it did mine- just hang in there!
And you know what? It's not even a little bit gross to me anymore.
4. Be ready to get pissed.
Excuse the impolite language.
This was one part I wasn't anticipating. I see commercials for IUD's and I think, "Why? Why would this woman harm her body, open herself up to infections, and potentially sacrifice her fertility? DON'T DO IT, COMMERCIAL LADY! Chart instead!"
Or when I hear someone saying that birth control has liberated women- What? WHAT?! How is chaining yourself to artificial chemicals freeing? How is sacrificing your health a liberation?
Or when I read about the Yaz lawsuit- Seriously. These drugs are killing women. Killing them. We frown on putting hormones in our chicken (and no studies have shown that chickens pumped with hormones are deadly as of the time being), but we put them in our bodies every day, knowing full well that they can cause strokes, heart attacks, and cancer? Grr!
Or even when I hear other women talking about fertility, and realizing that these smart, well-educated women have no idea what they're talking about. Like my friend who hasn't exercised in months because she's trying to conceive and "you never know." Well, if she knew how to check her fertility signs, she'd realize when there's no chance that she's pregnant, and when she needs to be more cautious regarding her pretty strenuous exercise routine.
Even more so, I find myself wondering, why didn't I learn any of this? Why wasn't this important, empowering information provided in sex-ed class in school?
Using FAM has taught me so much- I would really recommend that all women learn more about their own bodies and become more informed about the choices we make about our health and well-being!