Books about reproductive health, Fertility Awareness, and Natural Family Planning

More about Katie Singer

Garden of Fertility Book CoverHonoring Our CyclesIn her books, The Garden of Fertility (2004) and Honoring Our Cycles (2006), Katie Singerintroduces Fertility Awareness (also called Natural Family Planning).With these methods, a woman who charts her temperature and cervical mucus can know when she is fertile and infertile. A woman who charts her fertility signs can also know whether she is ovulating or miscarrying. You can learn remedies for problems like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and fertility.

F E R T I L I T Y   S T O R I E S:
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( a f t e r   w a n t i n g   t h e m )

Janie, 42: In one of our first conversations, Ed told me that he wanted seven children. I said, "One would be fine." And I said, "I'll have a child, but I'll be done by the time I'm thirty." I figured youthful parents would be better. We discussed what we'd do if we had a Down's Syndrome child, and agreed we'd raise it like any other. I felt like I'd known Ed forever. He said he knew I was the one he was supposed to be with for the rest of his life. I doubted that at first, because I hadn't known him that long. But after six months, I knew: he's my soulmate.

Ed was an outdoorsman. He loved to hike and garden and fish. Just before we married, he bought a specialized lumber business. We were the same, but opposite. He grew up in upper Michigan; I grew up in lower Michigan. He'd left his family when he was young; and his mother had left when he was really young. I grew up in a very optimistic, protected family. He despised the church. We married in the Lutheran Church, which I'd grown up with. He said he wanted to be together in faith, "in case something happened to him." I was 25 when we married; he was 23. We met on a Christmas vacation. I didn't see him again til the following July 4. He asked me to marry him the next New Year's eve. We married three months after that, in March of '83; and that's when we started living not only in the same house, but the same city as well.

In August of '83, a woodchip flew under his hardhat, split his head open, and took a piece of his brain. In ten days, I had to decide whether or not to take him off of life support. He'd been so dynamic and wonderful. His choice, I knew, would have been to go on. I decided to take him off the life support. He kept living. Seventeen y ears later, he's still living--we have a house near the school where I work. He has no speech, no movement. He's fed through a feeding tube to his stomach.

The first six years, I prayed to God to allow him to be in my life longer, because I hadn't had him enough. Then I realized I should allow Ed to live and decide what he wants out of this lifetime. However God left him to me, I'd take him.

Well, he's never let go of life. Two years ago in October, he quit breathing. I spent the night with him in the hospital. I had a gut feeling he'd decide to stay, and he did.

In my thirties, I started thinking, I am supposed to be a mother! Mothering is part of being female! My students would ask, "Are you married?" I always attended school functions (and everything else) on my own. They'd ask, "How many children do you have?" I wondered, what's wrong with me? I looked at the options. Adoption didn't feel fair, since one parent was handicapped; and I'd have to support not only the child, but my husband, too. He'll require a kind of childcare 'til the day he dies. Only he'll never grow up. Bringing a child into the scheme would take time from him that I need to give him proper care; and then I couldn't give enough to the child.

But I'd be a great mother! I thought of getting sperm from him, and inseminating myself. I thought about being with another man, but I know I can't do that until this portion of my life is complete. I finally resolved the whole motherhood thing by just being thankful for what I have. I feel like I'm 90. The gift behind Ed being like this is that it's encouraged me to think consciously, and confirm what I feel. In the first few years, I kept wondering WHY this happened. I prayed for his health to return so he could be a stay-at-home dad. I thought if I prayed just for that, which felt small, it could happen.

Then I thought, why not trust that where I'm headed is a good place? I've learned I get further by doing that. I can thrive on more positive energy. I listen to my guts now--moreso than if I'd had an easy marriage with verbal communication. I could've had a life of not knowing my own thinking. This way, I've learned so many things. Who knows what my marriage would've been like if Ed hadn't had his accident? I have no idea. Would we've had fertility complications? I actually have three ovaries! Now, it doesn't matter.

I used to think a lot about those questions. But I' ve transitioned. I've stopped asking them. For a while, I felt responsible for both of us. I used to double-think. Would he like this house? Would he like this room? Now, I just trust my heart and think for myself, not for him, too. I've also learned that caring for him isn't a punishment; it's a gift to challenge my life--my thinking, my perceptions.

My brother and sister-in-law invited me to attend the childbirth classes with their first child, and her birth, too. I named my niece, and Ed and I are her godparents. I've been invited to be a strong influence in her life. I'm also an assistant principal at a high school with 3000 students. Sometimes, when I'm disciplining a student and I think they need a jolt, I'll tell them about Ed. I don't do it often, but sometimes my gut tells me that if this kid hears he or she's got a whole brain--and can use it--I go ahead and tell them about him.

I've learned to let go of things I can't control, rather than try to manipulate things to how I think they should be. I tell my students, I don't know everything, but if you've got questions, I'll do the best I can with them. I've been led to a life of learning and teaching. It's taught me not to doubt what I think. Who's to say that I needed a child to have a satisfying life? As it is, I've got tons of exploring to do. I trust now that I'll be led to knowing what's good for me. "Good" means the challenge will be good; the outcome is irrelevant.

Eliza, now in her late fifties, didn't marry until she was a few months shy of thirty-nine. She took a course in Natural Family Planning before her wedding, went to an Ob/Gyn who put her on The Pill for several months when a year passed without her becoming pregnant. (He figured this would clear up what he thought was endometriosis.) When she stopped taking The Pill, she still didn't get pregnant. "I prayed and asked others to offer prayers on my behalf," Eliza wrote me about that phase of her life. "I thought if I just had strong faith, maybe I would conceive. I suggested to my husband that we adopt, but he wasn't interested in pursuing that. Mother's Day was one of the hardest times each year."

Eliza never had a child, though she taught young children for sixteen years. "Although I consider parenthood a great blessing, I have a deep sense of peace. My life is not barren. I just completed studies toward a master's degree in a mental health field that is innovative and flexible. This summer I was the art therapist at a camp for bereaved children.

"One Saturday evening a few years ago, I was at Mass. During the Liturgy it seemed (without any spoken words) God told me, 'Motherhood is an infinite mystery. Even if you had twenty children you would not grasp the fullness of this mystery.' It's hard to communicate this now in words--but I felt a sense of affirmation: I was not denied fertility. It was just not to be physically manifested in a child of my own. If twenty children did not exhaust this mystery, then zero children did not disqualify my participation in it, either."