One cross country move, one baby, and many many charts later led me to delve further into my passion for spreading fertility awareness. I had been discerning for years becoming a certified instructor but could never find the right organization and place and time. I had done introductory courses in just about every method I could find. (Creighton, Billings, Sympto Thermal through the Couple to Couple League, eventually Marquette) I even studied with the CCL to be an instructor, got 95% done and ended up finding it not a good fit. A year later, a friend in New York worked closely with a newer, up and coming Fertility Awareness organization called FEMM. She encouraged me to attend an informational session.
It was early March, I was newly pregnant (the irony was not lost on me), thoroughly nauseous, and sitting in a room full of eager students in a modern, swanky office in the Upper East Side. The students were from all backgrounds and from all over the world. I'd never met someone from Indonesia. Or Malaysia. Or Nairobi. And we all had an awe and appreciation of the anatomy of fertility in common! There were also some nuns attending the class, which was intriguing.
After the initial class, I was so impressed by the FEMM model, I decided to dive deeper and go through the training process to become an instructor. Before I go further, let me define FEMM in its essence. FEMM's model of fertility charting is primarily based on the foundation of cervical fluid observations, with the option to add LH strips, temperature, and other biomarkers to gain an understanding of not only when a woman is fertile, but also the state of her hormonal health. The three things that drew me the most to the organization was their division of Fertility Educators and Medical Management (hence, the acronym FEMM), their simplicity in the model and instruction, and their international outreach.
As a FEMM educator, I know my limits and know I can not replace a medical professional. FEMM has doctors all over the world that ascribe to their medical management protocol. They are some of the front runners for treating hormonal health, from PCOS to infertility, to painful periods. If one of my clients has a complicated case that is above my pay grade, so to speak, I can refer them. If there are no local physicians, some of the MDs do Skype consults. In a way, I love that FEMM is trying to bridge the gap from Fertility Charting to Medical Practice. Yes, they can live in harmony!
Learning to chart your cycles can be daunting - but FEMM does a really nice job, in my opinion, of knowing when to reveal what while teaching a student. I find the FEMM model to be a really solid foundation, women can choose any method after learning the FEMM model. They have enough information to decide what biomarkers make the most sense for where they lie on the continuum of reproductive life. Just starting puberty and don't need a super strict model for family planning? A simple cervical fluid observation a day is all you need. Postpartum and unable to commit to temperature taking? Try LH strips.
Furthermore, FEMM's model is clean, crisp, easy to read, not overly trendy, but not this-came-from-a-text-book-from-the-80's either.
I was attracted to that because, darn if I haven't seen charts that look like scrawlings from a foreign engineer lab. Once you learn the model of FEMM, I think you can learn to read any chart from any method - but it's a nice place to start. They have a way of compacting a lot of information, that can easily be overwhelming into a simple, easy to understand model.
Lastly, I loved that FEMM has such a wide span of outreach. People from all backgrounds use and teach the method. It didn't seem hippie, or Western, or conservative, or liberal - it was just information. It's appealing to learn and collaborate over something that traverses over a variety of cultures, languages, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Since I started my training newly pregnant, I did take some time off postpartum, and picked up and put down my studies over the first year of my daughter's life. Over 2 years later, I've completed the academic portion of training with weekly classes, reading, and assignments. I am in the practicum portion where I am gathering my training clients and working on my final report to take my final exam. I hope to be certified by the end of this year.
With all of this being said, there's many other excellent organizations out there that aim to teach fertility charting and serve women. FEMM isn't better or worse than any of them, it was just a good fit for me in my season of life. Katinka will share in a post soon about her training with Grace of the Moon which was quite different from my training. In many ways I think it was more vigorous and had a completely different vibe. The common denominator? We love sharing our passion of Fertility Awareness!