Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A blast from the past

I was at the local mega-bookstore earlier this week, browsing the women's health section, when a familiar title caught my eye.

It was a 20th anniversary edition of "Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health"  by Toni Weschler (first published in 1995; revised & expanded in 2015, and popularly known as "TCOYF").

I had first seen this book around the time it first came out -- which happened to be around the same time I'd stopped taking birth control pills.  I'd assumed I'd be pregnant within a few months -- but that wasn't what was happening. I'd taken surreptitious peeks at the book during bookstore visits, but I was too squeamish to show up at the cashier with such a title in my hand -- an admission that we might need some help.  ;)  I eventually did get pregnant in early 1998 without consulting it.  

Of course, you all know what happened next.  By the time our daughter was stillborn in August 1998, I was 37, fast approaching my 38th birthday, and hyper-aware that my biological clock was ticking louder and louder. My first question to Dr. Ob-gyn when he visited my hospital room, post-delivery, was "When can we try again?"  

I bought my copy not long afterward, while I was still on leave after Katie's stillbirth, along with the recommended basal thermometer. I ripped out the temperature charting template page at the back & took it a Kinkos across the street from the hospital, the day I had my six-week post-partum checkup with Dr. Ob-gyn, & had some copies made (since I wasn't yet back to work with easy access to a photocopier).  (These days, there's a TCOYF companion website, with downloadable charts and even an app, along with Weschler's blog and an online community.)

TCOYF was "the Bible" of the subsequent pregnancy after loss e-mail group I joined that fall, where everyone was either pregnant after a loss, or desperately trying to be. There were many conversations and questions among the list members about "ewcm" (egg-white-like cervical mucus -- an indicator of ovulation), cervical position (high? low? open? closed?), dips & peaks in basal thermometer temperature, and other such intricacies. 

I know several list members swore by TCOYF and credited their subsequent pregnancies to the knowledge they gained from it.  Needless to say, it didn't work for me. After a year of charting and trying to conceive on our own, I knew there was no further time to lose, and pressured dh into consulting Dr. Ob-gyn -- which sent us down the slippery slope of fertility testing, a referral to Dr. RE, several rounds of clomid and three IUI cycles with clomid plus injectable drugs (all unsuccessful). Even though I was told it was not necessary, I continued to chart through it all, and for some months (years??) after we abandoned fertility treatment, secretly still hoping for that elusive "miracle baby."

Eventually, I stopped doing that too. The book, which sat in the pile by my night table for so many years for easy consultation, went into a plastic bin full of (in)fertility books in my closet, along with the folder of pages and pages of carefully plotted monthly charts.  I think I still have the book (along with my keepsake copy of "What to Expect While You're Expecting"), although the charts went into the shredder some years ago.  

Even though it didn't result in a baby for me, I am still very glad I read the book, & I still recommend it. I learned so much from it about my body and how it works, and I still automatically recognize the signs of when I'm ovulating and when my period is coming. I think it should be required reading for all young women, fertility issues or not (& probably young men, too).  

Was TCOYF part of your (in)fertility journey too?  


  1. TCOYF was one of the first books I picked up when we decided to toss the birth control. I joined the online community there and participated in the discussion boards. Though initially this was a great resource, it ended up being a huge source of anxiety as we went month after month during that first year without a single positive. Seeing so many people easily expanding their families AND having zero clue what living with infertility was like was extremely hard.

    Given all the information that is now out there, I wish this book included a chapter about when to seek help and had links to RESOLVE and Mel’s blog. Though a good initial resource for learning about my body, it is really needs this updated information.

    1. Good point, Cristy. I didn't browse this updated edition too closely; perhaps that information is now there. If not, I definitely agree, it should be!

  2. YES! I just found my copy a few months ago when we were culling out books in the collection. If e-books had been around back then, I would have bought a paper copy AND a digital copy because I used to schlep that thing around wherever I went. As if I would need to quickly look up something while on the road :-)

  3. This is one of the few fertility books I didn't read - though I've heard it's excellent. The biggest reason was that right from the time I tossed the birth control, it was obvious something was wrong. I did attempt to chart/look at signs with various online resources, which mostly confirmed the situation. I think I was a little afraid to read it and have another source confirm something wasn't right!

    That being said, I love the idea of giving this to young women and men. There are so many myths out there about fertility/infertility and I hope it would clear up some of those. I also would hope that, like Cristy said, it would have a section about signs of infertility/when to seek help - even someone who wasn't trying to get pregnant might be able to recognize a problem early on and be able to speak to their healthcare provider to treat/make plans.

  4. I used the TCOYF charting software, which effectively provided the same information as the book. I remember talking with bamberlamb and my other ectopic messages board friends that it should be required reading for all women! I used its information to help a friend conceive her first son, and found this new knowledge about my body was empowering (if ultimately, ectopics meant I could not take charge of my own fertility).

    Later, I took printouts of my charts to my fertility guy, who was impressed, and took one look at them and agreed I was ovulating. (whereas my GP had tested on the standard day and declared I was not ovulating, but I knew I was, just a couple of days later.)

  5. Ah, I never read this one. We pretty much ended up in medical intervention from the get-go, so charting my cycle (which would have been laughable anyway) wasn't something I ever had to do on my own. I did also look at it in the bookstore and then sheepishly put it back, but all the charting frankly scared me and I was more than happy to have medical professionals figure that out for me.