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Greetings, good people. It's been a long time! Graduate school was a fantastic experience, but as you know, I had to stop teaching FA, for the most part. I just didn't have the mental energy to spare. I'm happy to say that I am once again working with women (and sometimes their partners) to help them manage their fertility naturally. If you are interested in obtaining instruction, either for the first time or to extend your education, my brain is once again available, and I hope you will get in touch!
Graduate school was also not good for this blog. I was happy if I could shave my legs once a month, forget about whipping up a decent blog post. When I finally got my MSW (master of social work) in August of 2013, I wasn't sure if I'd come back to the blog. Compared to other social media, blogs are pretty old school. All those words! I post on Facebook about 2x a month, and last month, even though I said I never would, I began tweeting (@fertaware) But people do still visit the blog, every day, and every once in a while my writing wants to stretch out a bit, which isn't really possible on Facebook or Twitter. So here we are, blogging again.
And what brings me back to you today? Zeitgeist. A change in the national conversation around contraception. Everyone, it seems, is talking about Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABM)! Fertility tracking app sales are through the roof. And we are finally getting some decent media exposure.
Let's start with the most recent: Lisa DeBode wrote an unusually well-researched piece about FABM for Al Jazeera America. (And I got to say "labia" in international media.)
Birth Control Bitter Pill - Al Jazeera
About 6 months prior, a similar article regarding barriers to widespread use of FABM was published in the Atlantic. It contains a couple of inaccuracies, and fewer people are interviewed, but it does present a more sophisticated view than one usually finds. Note how both articles talk about unmet need, i.e. the desire on the part of women to learn these methods and the limitations to their being able to do so.
New Old School Birth Control Atlantic
And finally, a book. Have you read Sweetening the Pill? It came out in 2013, and it definitely set tongues-a-wagging. Now a movie is in the works (I'm in conversation with the producer) and even before the movie has been made, there is backlash & controversy. It's still considered anti-feminist to question the primacy, safety, and desirability of hormonal contraception. If you've ever been unhappy with hormonal contraception, but couldn't articulate why, or if you knew why, but couldn't get anyone to take you seriously, this is for you. Needless to say, it makes a strong case for FA.
It's great to be back, and I look forward to connecting with new readers and old ones, in this context and in others. FA is moving forward, and I'm thrilled to be part of the journey.
Alexandra Jacoby's book of vulva portraits is FINALLY available for purchase! And now, till 2/27, you can get $10 off. How sweet is that? Use code SAVE10 at checkout. I'm very excited that this book is making its long-awaited and much-anticipated debut. This is an artist's print of the book; self-published. Positive buzz will help land a traditional (well not so traditional) publisher. We need more books like this! We need more conversations like this!
If you can't afford the book, or just want to share the text with someone, you can read it here. (Clicking the link will open a text file - no pics. Trust me, it's safe. Unless you don't like stimulating, heartfelt writing about stuff that normally doesn't get written about.)
Viva la vulva! And congratulations to Alexandra.
Oh, and Happy V-Day everyone.
Yes, as anticipated, graduate school is kicking my butt. I don't know how often I'll be able to post. But when I can, I will draw your attention to stuff I think is worthwhile. Like this new book by Joyce McFadden. It's called Our Daughter's Bedrooms. The book emerged from McFadden's mental health care practice. Following up on trends she was seeing among her patients, she launched the Women's Realities Study, in which she interviewed hundreds of women from 18 to 105. Three major themes (which will not surprise you) emerged from this study: masturbation, menstruation, and relationships with mothers. McFadden found that women's relationships with their mothers profoundly influenced the development of their sexuality: their self-confidence, their feelings about their bodies, and how they deal with challenges around sexuality and fertility throughout their lives. Her book discusses the development of sexuality within the context of the mother/daughter relationship and sets out a model for how we can nurture girls and raise healthy, confident women who are comfortable with themselves as sexual beings.
As some of you know, I will be starting a full-time, two year master's degree program in September, in social work. And, just to make things more exciting, I'm also moving (both home and office, because I work at home). Therefore I am going on hiatus. Actually I am already on hiatus, at least as far as teaching is concerned. I have already begun to refer new clients to other teachers. I'm not sure how long the hiatus will last. I'm going to see how things unfold.
I will continue to be involved in Fertility Awareness, but mostly in ways that won't be obvious to the general public. In addition to teaching, I do a lot of behind the scenes stuff having to do with Fertility Awareness as a profession. Although there are a few paths to professional certification, there are no national or international standards in place regarding qualifications to teach. Anyone can call herself a teacher (or sell fertility-management software). And of course practitioners in the field find little or no support from the medical community, and are often isolated in their own communities because qualified, secular (non-religious) instructors are so few and far between. Thus it can be difficult for them to find peer support and to grow as professionals.
I have been involved in the issue of professionalism in this field since I began teaching 10 years ago. I will be focusing on this work in the coming year, by expanding and strengthening our professional network, and by creating what I hope will be a widely recognized set of standards. I will also continue to coordinate professional forums through which people involved in the field communicate with and learn from each other. So, in the coming months I will be primarily involved in those activities. I will leave the teaching, at least temporarily, to others.
One of the things I've been focusing my energies on this past year, as I prepared to make this transition, has been the training of new teachers. I've had the privilege of working with several young women who are well on their way to becoming qualified instructors, with a wide range of interests and areas of concentration. They will continue their training with Oregon instructor Sarah Bly, and I look forward to introducing you to them in the future as they embark on their teaching careers.
I have also been working with Sarah on another project which I think at this point is still a secret :) I will tell you all about it once it's ready to go public.
And actually I've been working on another project having to do with Fertility Awareness that is also not quite ready for launch; that's something else I hope to share with you in the near future.
Ok, so maybe "hiatus" isn't the right word. I guess it's more like "scaling back."
So, if you are reading this, and you are in need of instruction, what should you do? Here are my suggestions:
--If you want to obtain instruction in a secular context, the Justisse website lists many qualified FA teachers, including graduates and current students of their own teacher training program. Make sure to pay attention to the various designations. I would suggest sticking to FAE's and full (graduated) HRHP's. A lot of teachers can work by phone or by Skype these days, so don't worry if there is no teacher in your area (and there probably isn't).
Justisse directory of instructors
--Not on the list, but worth considering, are:
Katie Singer (author of Garden of Fertility)
You will need to have read one of her books if you want to make an appointment with her.
--Please mention my name if you contact any of these instructors so they know where the referral came from.
--Of course if you're open to studying Natural Family Planning (NFP), as opposed to FAM, you'll have many more instructors available to you, including some from whom you might be able to learn in person (as opposed to long distance). NFP is in many ways the same as FAM, but is taught in a religious/moral context. Sexual activity outside of marriage (and certainly same sex activity) is considered unacceptable, as are all forms of "artificial" contraception and abortion. The main NFP organizations in the US are the Couple to Couple League and the Billings Ovulation Method Association. Their websites can direct you to local teachers. Be aware that NFP teachers often have fairly rudimentary training and may not be able to advise you with respect to complex or health-related issues.
I will miss teaching like crazy, but I am also very excited about all the new developments in my life. I plan to keep updating the blog and the Facebook page, though probably not as often as I do now. As always, I invite you to keep in touch with me. Having a baby? I would love to hear about it! Moving? Send me your new coordinates! My coordinates, by the way, will probably remain the same. The email address will definitely stay the same, and I think the phone number will, too. If not, I'll let you know.
Enjoy the rest of the summer.