To the woman who feels like her body is broken, I see you. To the woman who feels like her body has betrayed her, you are not alone. To the woman wondering what NFP (Natural Family Planning) or fertility tracking is for at this point, this is for you.
For me, it started with one prescription. Then another. Medical terms I never heard of during health class became part of my daily lingo that have confused other doctors. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), mild insulin resistance, progesterone, myoinositol. The list just seems to grow.
As a single, post-grad, working woman, I knew there was something wrong with my body. While marriage and family were not in my immediate future, I knew there was no point in waiting. I did a little research and met with a fertility doctor, and even before the test results came back, I knew I had PCOS. There was part of me that was discouraged, but mostly I felt relieved. For years, my body had not done what it was supposed to, diverging greatly from the textbook patterns of a woman’s health. And while I knew all women are different, I also knew my body was far from being OK. Having answers was a blessing.
So I took steps toward a more holistic, healthy body. I started taking supplements to increase my natural creation of certain hormones. I got lab results month after month to see if things were progressing, and sometimes it looked like they were. I made changes in my lifestyle to incorporate more movement and eat a more balanced diet. And for a time, things looked great. I was hopeful.
Falling into discouragement
During that time, I started dating a wonderful man, and we got married last fall. I’d already done so much to help my fertility that, even with my PCOS, I was hopeful that we had given ourselves our best shot. In many ways, I had. And while I didn’t expect to get pregnant right away, there still was the disappointing realization that what we had done was not enough.
So more tests were done, more blood work was done. More results came back, and more things were needed to be worked on. Another supplement was ordered, and another prescription was requested by my doctor.
There are days that I can fall into discouragement. There are days where I feel that my body is failing me. And I know I’m not alone. I know this is the heartache of so many women, many of whom have way fewer resources than I do — who don’t have doctors who thoroughly understand women’s health and who won’t advocate for them to find medical answers that honor their body. I have those resources, and I did a lot of work before getting married, and yet here we are.
A hidden blessing
Still, I’ve come to realize that there is a hidden blessing within the chaos. It’s a blessing that I am forced to learn how to understand and honor my body. Some women don’t have to watch what they eat or take a mound of pills in order to get pregnant or stay healthy. Those same women might wish that it had been harder for their fertility to work as it should and instead struggle with spacing pregnancies. But statistically, there are so many women who know there’s something off with their bodies and want to fix that. And what a grace it is to learn what your unique body needs! Because our bodies are amazing. The way fertility works is amazing. And unfortunately, our culture doesn’t appreciate that in so many ways — not just through elevating abortion and contraception, but also in the way we treat our bodies as a whole by not cultivating holistic lifestyle habits.
I am one of the many women forced to honor their body. And that is a gift. But it’s a gift I would not have chosen for myself. In a heartbeat, I would choose the easy way, to not have to work for my health. But all the skills I have learned, all the lifestyle habits I have acquired, these are things that, God willing, I get to pass on to my future children; these are habits and skills that I get to share with them so that they don’t have to unlearn everything I’ve had to unlearn.
God made us body and soul. And so often we value one to the exclusion of the other. As Catholics, we can value the soul to the point of neglecting the body. I’ve been there. But our soul will not be healthy if our body is neglected. Yes, God can bring so much out of suffering, but he wants us to thrive. He wants us to seek healing and wholeness. That is what holiness is. Wholeness.
So to all women, who are struggling with health, who are struggling with fertility — whether it’s to conceive, to carry a child to term, to regain your health postpartum, or simply those who are frustrated with their fertility in any way — recognize the gift amid the cross. God is asking you to honor your body; he is giving you the chance to learn what your beautiful, unique body needs. And while it may not be easy, it is worth it. It is part of your path to sainthood.
Medical advice is best left between you and a professional. However, if you are struggling with fertility and don’t know where to go, we have a few resources to suggest. These sites offer coaching on how to start tracking your fertility or how to change your current method. They also can help you connect with an instructor near you.