Adventures in Charting for NFP

By Leah Darrow

Leah DarrowLife can’t always be planned, and natural family planning hasn’t always been a perfect process for my husband, Ricky, and me.

Don’t get me wrong: I actually love the idea of planning, organizing, making lists, Post-It notes, Ikea and The Container Store. But the reality is that I am president of the Procrastinator’s Club. (We meet tomorrow…maybe.) All my good intentions get slapped in the face with deadlines zooming past me or showing up (only) 15 minutes late to appointments with a shirt on inside out and tiny banana chunks stuck in my hair courtesy of my 18-month-old daughter, Agnes.

The daunting thought of daily charting and trying to figure out mucus stages just about threw me into a tailspin. Plus, a new vocabulary entered into my marriage. Ricky and I now said the word “mucus,” and we were not referring to my nose. Mucus is not exactly a word that rolls off the tongue.

It all felt a little too vulnerable in the beginning, but we knew that NFP was the logical choice for us if we wanted to understand what was really going on with my body and cycle. We signed up for classes, but did not attend…twice. Procrastination got the best of me and so I dubbed NFP as natural family procrastinator.

I’m so happy God blessed me, a procrastinator, with a husband that could not be any further from that title. Ricky is a U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and his Green Beret skills kicked into high gear when it came to helping me get on track with NFP. Ricky has taught me so much. For instance, he is afraid of heights but has jumped out of countless planes in the Army. He prefers peace, sipping on whiskey and his pipe, but has successfully navigated fire-fights in Iraq. If there was anyone who could pull me out of my procrastinating ways and embrace a new way of life, Ricky is the man for the job. He told me we were a team and would conquer it together. So we took all the classes – twice – and began charting.

I charted beautifully for the first two weeks and felt like a champ. Then life got busy – my speaking and traveling schedule started up again and I was jumping from city to city. I took my NFP chart with me, of course, and was determined to ace the NFP process. As my purse and luggage went through the conveyor belt at the TSA security checkpoint, I waited to pick up my personal belongings. As I went to collect my purse I noticed my chart had been separated from the pack and was being torn into pieces by the conveyor belt. Then TSA agents attempted to put it back together (high levels of humiliation pulsing through my body now), turning it upside down then right side up then back again. I empathized with them and frankly was holding out a little hope that maybe they could explain my chart to me!

“What is that?” an agent asked me.

This is the moment when I am supposed to thank Jesus for moments of humility, right?

Allow me to preface my response with the fact that I was exhausted from travel and couldn’t come up with a witty response, so I blurted: “I’m trying to have a baby and that chart you’re holding is the key to its success and that stupid conveyor belt just ripped it to shreds!”

TSA agents


Silence. Absolute silence.

Clearly, there is no crazed-women-on-two-hours-of-sleep-who-are-trying-to-conceive protocol outlined in the TSA handbook. They handed me back the chart without making eye contact and backed away slowly. That was probably a good move on their part. I did sound a tad off.

I taped the pieces of my chart back together and started up the process again. Ricky and I were trying so hard for a baby and my cycle was frustrating to say the least. Every time I would chart, we were like crime-scene investigators trying to figure me out. One afternoon I was charting my mucus in the bathroom when Ricky walked in and could not stop laughing. He said I looked like I was studying for college final exams – but with my pants down and in the bathroom! I couldn’t help but join him in laughter. I did look ridiculous. But for the record, months later, we did achieve pregnancy using NFP. (See! Miracles do happen.)

NFP has been a process for Ricky and me, and I’ve learned that God loves processes. God rarely moves quickly in our lives but allows the beautiful unfolding to take place in all its slow glory.

I’m not as bad of a procrastinator as I used to be but still have moments when I wished charting came with an answer key. However, it’s been a relief to realize that this is not a standardized test and I won’t be graded. Granted, I may still have the maturity of a 15-year-old, but talking about mucus without cracking a little smile seems unnatural to me. So I’ve surrendered to the obvious humor in NFP and embraced the awkwardness of my future adventures with the TSA or anyone else who might stumble upon my chart. C’mon people, there’s good material here!

Leah Darrow is an inspirational Catholic speaker whose mission is “reclaiming truth, beauty and love.” Learn more about her ministry at She and her husband, Ricky, live outside St. Louis and have two children.