One summer morning I took a short trip which changed my life.
I had little time. Trying to plan a wedding in a handful of months, I figured a 45 minute train ride to London was squeezable, between doubts about heel heights and emails about chair sashes.
From Kings Cross I hopped over to Camden. The pavements shimmered in the heat of June. Everything slows down in London under the sun’s gaze. The fruit stands waft scent as though each item is waking from a slumber. Strangers find their smiles, become casually conversational.
I went to see Sarah in London because of a chat at a clinic in Cambridge.
The copper coil was next on my list. The GP made it easy, arming me with statistics and comforting information. The day of the procedure, two medics were present (one to hold my hand - great service!) But the pain was unrelenting so after a brief hospital visit, more iron supplements and rest, I was back at square one.
I finally visited a family planning clinic in my home town, a university city. But it seems the latest advances- and even the oldest most reliable methods- struggled to reach the population. The woman at the clinic listed all the contraceptive options and as an afterthought:
‘Oh yes and there’s Natural Family Planning,’
‘Here’s a leaflet, but I don’t know if we can offer you the service as the lady who teaches it is on maternity leave.’
(oh the irony)
‘Just a sec,’ she punched numbers into a phone on her desk, listened to the speaker at the other end while occasionally emitting dismal ‘I see’ s.
She finally looked across at me.
‘No we can’t help you with it, but you can read the leaflet.’
I held onto the leaflet like gold, took it home, googled Natural Family Planning until I found Sarah’s name and made an appointment. I wondered how easy it would be for someone to get this information without dogged persistence. Probably they wouldn’t bother.
That June morning I walked up the road to Sarah’s house. We sat together at her kitchen table. Sarah explained fertility awareness, I asked questions. She was candid, kind, open-minded. The whole discussion was like a pool of light in a void. I had not heard a whisper of such methods growing up. It seemed we had been encouraged to fill our bodies with hormones from the earliest time.
I went home, filled in the charts, started to learn. New knowledge is like a window that lets you see for miles. I had a key to my body, felt like an explorer who had discovered a mountain, in their back yard.
I began to look at other aspects of my well-being, realising in a blink, that for all these years I had been giving up my health to a world that did not know me. To the media who said ‘Do this,’ (because the media has its own interests), to the GP who said, ‘Do that,’ (because sometimes they only have a cluster of minutes to speak to you and understanding something like fertility awareness is not like a ready meal.) To a society which is not always invested in the health of women so will often bypass our needs if we don’t raise our hands.
As the sun winked strips of light onto my homeward journey towards the tube, I wondered: If that’s what a conversation at a kitchen table can do, maybe there should be more of them, up and down the country, in every nook and cranny of the land; women supporting other women towards self-knowledge, towards learning about ourselves; a cascade of keys to our own empowerment. As we share tools so valuable, who knows how far they may travel!
We must honour the work of Sarah and others who take an active role in our wellbeing as women - people who remind us that our enlightenment (about the faithful body which we inhabit) is our right."
Many thanks to J Rose for writing this blog. If you're interested in using the fertility awareness method (FAM), check out Is FAM right for you?