Maybe this has already happened to you. Maybe it is happening to you.
If it hasn't happened yet, it will happen at some point.
Charting and the rest of your life just don't seem to get along all that well.
Maybe right now your routine is set, your good habits well established, and your charting impeccable. You're loving all the fantastic benefits basal body temperature (BBT) charting can provide. All that self-knowledge, and the handiness of knowing within a day or so when your period will arrive. All that good stuff.
Expecting the Unexpected When You're Keeping Track of BBT
And then. Oh, then. You undergo unexpectedly grueling intercontinental travel. Your dog chews your thermometer right when you were expecting a thermal shift to begin. Your child drops your fertility monitor in the bath. You are visited by large extended family and kept busy on sightseeing trips. You visit family and your cervical fluid observations get messed up because they have ultra-soft, super-thick, colored, fragranced toilet paper. You're on military exercises and they have you going in and out of water bodies all day, and up most of the night. You grow your family and are up every two hours with baby, and can't seem to get back to a reliable observational routine. You come down with an awful flu and spend days in bed incapable of heating up a can of soup, let alone monitoring your fertility signs. A cycle that should have been clear becomes a mystery cycle where you probably ovulated somewhere in there, but you couldn't chart it.
Or maybe none of these things mess your charting up at all! Maybe you can chart through any and all of these things without a hitch. Even then, that cycle you're charting doesn't always match up so well with your plans. You know, you hit the heaviest day of your period on the day you're wearing a big fluffy white meringue wedding dress. Maybe you are seriously avoiding pregnancy and hit peak fertility day on your wedding anniversary, birthday, Valentine's Day, or the day your spouse returns home briefly from a long deployment.
This is life. At some point in every charting woman's life, something will throw a wrench in the works. This is a normal part of the charting experience.
And. It. Is. Ok.
It certainly may not be your favorite thing, but it really is OK.
Basal Body Temperature Charting - Guidance from an Instructor
If it's a temporary setback, you can just start fresh the next day, or with a new BBT chart next cycle! If it's an ongoing difficulty, you might need some extra coaching or guidance from a Fertility Awareness Based Method (FABM) instructor certified in your method of choice. There are some situations in which close instruction can make all the difference.
Or you may be able to change your track completely. If a new baby is making it hard to temp, perhaps a switch to a wearable tracker like Tempdrop could help. If mucus is harder to follow, perhaps a switch to a hormone monitoring method like Boston Cross Check or Marquette will feel like a lifesaver.
Look around to see what options are out there, and consider if a change may improve your long term experience. Our lifestyle, capabilities, and preferences can change over time, and our charting methods might change with them. You might be surprised at how many options you have. Within a symptothermal fertility awareness method approach alone, there's easily a half dozen (plus!) methods out there.
As with any family planning method, if something is affecting it, you need to know how to react. Make sure you know the rules of your method on how to handle a situation when you're not able to meet the normal requirements! (Hint: very often the answer will be to assume fertility!)
When it's not a difficulty in charting, but a disappointing outcome in the timing of your cycle, there's not so much we can change but our attitude (or try different period products if that's the case). I try to remember that our bodies came first. The human bodies we have are the product of evolution over a long, long time. They came before calendars. Our bodies know nothing of dates and anniversaries and flight times. They follow deep complex internal rhythms.
I cannot expect February 14 to mean anything all that much to my hypothalamus and pituitary gland and ovaries! My body has never heard of St. Valentine, and it sure doesn't observe my wedding anniversary. It's doing its own special body thing, and that's something I've learned to respect. Even though I managed to be either pregnant or on my period for (busy, sociable) Christmas Day for eight years running, I tell myself to be pleased if my calendar events happen to fit well with my body's doings one month, but to take it in stride if it doesn't. It's nothing personal.
Going with the Flow
When we are charting the rhythms of our bodies, the ebb and flow of our hormones, we can come to appreciate just how marvelously complex we are. Each one of us unique, each one of us with a wondrously made body, and each one of us with our own complex life in all its messiness. With this awareness comes a greater reserve to roll with life's surprises, and an opportunity to grow in patience with yourself.
If you'd like to learn more about FABM, including how to chart your cycle and identify your fertility window, download Tempdrop's free Introduction to Fertility Awareness, a beautifully-designed guide written by seven certified fertility educators.
Mikayla Dalton is a childbirth educator and certified FABM instructor in the Boston Cross Check method, which includes urine hormone tests, cervical mucus and basal body temperature tracking in its observational toolbox. She's been working as a FABM educator since 2011, and specializes in the postpartum & breastfeeding phases of use as that's a time many women find more difficult to navigate. She's also a femtech geek whose husband once commented that she looked like the Borg Queen with all her fertility charting wearables on, and her bathroom sometimes resembles a lab. She blogs at Fig Leaf Fertility. If you love this post and would like to thank Mikayla, shop Tempdrop with Mikayla's unique referral link.