When I was a kid, there was basically only one hard and fast rule in my house: don’t get pregnant. My mom was eighteen when she had me, and while it was made very clear that she never regretted that choice, I was always fully aware that her hopes for my future included a much more… straight path to career and financial stability than the one she took. Just go like this, she’d say while motioning a straight line. Not like this, followed by an exaggerated, snaking line. As a result of these pep talks, I spent the majority of adolescence and early adulthood as a self-proclaimed expert in safe sex. Need a ride to Planned Parenthood so your mom wouldn’t recognize your car in the parking lot? I was your gal. I never had fewer than a dozen condoms on me at any given time (you never know who might need one!). And I gleefully quoted from It’s Perfectly Normal like it was the Bible.
But then Michael and I began having the talk. The do we want kids sooner than later talk. And suddenly I realized, I’ve spent so much of my life actively trying to not great pregnant, that I know next to nothing about human reproduction. I mean, I know where babies come from. But fertility cycles? Ovulation? Might as well be speaking Greek. And while Michael and I are still probably a few years off from actively trying to get pregnant, I’ve noticed that since having the talk, we’ve both starting making conscious efforts at getting our act together. For Michael, this has meant exercising a lot more. And for me, it’s meant getting serious about self-care, and expanding on my adolescent knowledge of how the human body works.
So when we had the opportunity to work with the Glow App this month (which you can download for free right here), I was excited for the chance to get a guided tour of how my body works. And boy, has it been an eye opener. If you haven’t heard of Glow yet, the app lets you track your monthly cycles (tailoring its information according to if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, trying to conceive, undergoing fertility treatments, or currently pregnant). Essentially it’s the #lazygirl’s approach to the FAM method. But Glow takes FAM even further by considering your health holistically, asking for input about your moods, whether you’re experiencing any physical stuff like migraines or pain, how much you’re sleeping, whether you’ve exercised, etc. I’ve been using Glow over the course of the past month (my first go at FAM and tracking… anything having to do with my body at all), and I’ve come to some surprising realizations:
I have had it wrong this whole time
One of the downsides of having teenage parents (mixed with siblings who were mostly happy accidents), is that the threat of unintended pregnancy looms around almost every corner. So it wasn’t until very recently (and thanks to a few friends with kids) that I learned you aren’t just a hundred percent baby-primed all the time. And I don’t think I’m alone here (information about women’s reproductive health isn’t exactly something that gets passed around with ferver). With Glow, I now get a daily health update, which includes my likelihood of getting pregnant, plus insights on how my cycle might be affecting my moods and stress level. And since I’m finally tracking my cycle with more accuracy than “I think I had my last period on the same day as the Grey’s Anatomy season finale, but I can’t remember exactly,” I’ve actually found my stress levels going down, because I’m not worrying about whether I might have missed my period or if I just had my dates wrong.
Paying Attention is EMPOWERING
Nothing makes me rage harder than when my partner suggests my anger or frustration might be stemming from mood swings or hormone fluctuations. (I mean, that’s a whole cultural thing for another day.) Except, sometimes stress and anxiety do stem from hormone fluctuations. And sometimes I cry just because that’s what my body wants me to do. All of which can make me doubt the validity of my own feelings. So I was surprised to find that logging my emotions each day this month (stressed, emotional, anxious, etc.) was a really empowering experience. It’s not that I owe anyone an explanation for how I feel, but rather that I have more context for where certain emotions are coming from. (Spontaneous crying the week before my period? Probably hormones. Angry at Michael for one reason or another? Nope, just angry.) Plus, I can share my Glow account with Michael, so now he doesn’t have to make the mistake of saying rage-inducing things out loud.
But I think the most important takeaway I have from my month of using Glow is how it’s all connected. If you’ll recall, I haven’t always been so great at work/life balance. I’ve been trying to improve these past few months (part of the self-care mentioned above), but the truth is, it’s way easier to ignore my health by simply refusing to face the reality of my day-to-day life. (Going to bed at 3AM again? Let’s just sweep that under the rug! La la la.) It’s not until I started logging in every day and making myself accountable for getting a good night’s sleep and managing stress that I realized how much I was taxing my body, and as a result my brain and probably my soul a little too.
Michael and I may not be ready for kids yet. But as we continue to have the talk, I realize that this isn’t really about our hypothetical children. It’s about the fact that (sadly) we’re not teenagers anymore (at least in body, maybe in spirit). We’re starting to realize that we owe it to ourselves and each other to take care of our bodies and minds, to think about the long haul. And for me, that starts by paying attention. Well, that and maybe brushing up on my sex ed literature. Because I think I might still have some un-learning to do there.
Real Talk: did everyone else already know about their fertility cycle but me? What kinds of conversations do you find helpful in the kids/no kids/kids someday but maybe let’s start planning now talks? who’s got the good links so I can go do more research? Spill it.
This post was sponsored by Glow. Glow is a free app that lets you track your cycles in a convenient app that you can share with your partner, whether you’re trying to conceive, actively avoiding pregnancy, or currently pregnant (plus they have a super active community if you are looking for extra support in either of those endeavors). Click here to download the Glow app today. Thanks Glow for helping make the APW mission possible!