Welcome to the 2nd post in my new monthly feature The Octoradiance Series. Octoradiance means “8 rays of light.” My vision is to share candid 8-question interviews with my favorite mystics, healers & creatives – the type of questions I’d ask during a heart-to-heart over a glass of something delicious.
This month I interviewed Nicole, a Fertility Awareness Method educator and founder of @FAMTaughtMe — and given the subject matter I thought it’d be perfect to publish on Valentine’s Day 🙂
What is the Fertility Awareness Method?
The Fertility Awareness Method is the practice of tracking your body’s hormonal symptoms. People use it to track their menstrual cycles, as a form of contraception, and to help them get pregnant. It’s NOT the same thing as the Rhythm Method, but that is outside the scope of this post – you can learn more about FAM basics in the first episode of Nicole’s podcast.
I first started following Nicole on Twitter because of an epic, delightfully nerdy thread she posted about mycology – the study of mushrooms. And then I became super interested in what she calls Autonomous Menstrual Resources, which include the Fertility Awareness Method, nutrition, and herbalism for hormone balance and contraception.
Then I found out she offers private consults on hormonal health and sells a FAM tracking journal, which I promptly purchased 3 months ago and have used daily to track my own cycle. It’s very fun and empowering – I highly recommend buying yourself one for Valentine’s Day. You can read more about my experience tracking on my IG post:
Let me return to her podcast real quick. It’s fantastic and I am constantly sending episodes to my friends, such as the ones on the benefits of ovulation, the history of vaginal steaming, PCOS, the benefits of bone broth, how to use FAM for contraception, and how to get off hormonal birth control.
As you can tell, I admire Nicole deeply. She is candid and generous with her research and education – sometimes at risk to herself, as she is something of a renegade in the reproductive health world. And as a farmer and permaculture expert, she truly walks her talk in terms of living a holistic lifestyle that is cohesive with Earth.
I feel this interview will especially resonate with anyone who struggles with the pill, who has hormonal health problems, or who is simply interested in learning how to develop an educated, intimate, holistic relationship to their body. I hope you enjoy this post as my Valentine’s Day gift to you.
1. What are you obsessed with right now?
Right now my obsession is all things fertility, and being able to create autonomous resources for people to use that help them make their own best choices. Ever since I was a young girl (in a rather powerless position) I’ve felt close to my ability to make my own choices, and to be able to do things without being dependent.
Farming brought me closer to my body – I had to put my trust in alternative forms of medicine when western medicine just wasn’t there for me, and made it clear that it wouldn’t be changing any time soon. That step into understanding earth medicine allowed for me to have the chance to learn more of this fertility awareness information. Now I see them as completely tied up in one another, and its so exciting to me that I can rarely take a day off from thinking about it in some capacity.
I always tell people that this work found me, because I wasn’t expecting it. Though now when I think about my childhood self, she would be really proud of adult me, because I came back around on a lot of themes that no one else was nurturing in me. Once I started to nurture those things for myself, I ended up loving working with plants, fungi, and animals, and I ended up loving working with women and all people who menstruate.
I feel closer than ever to myself and my abilities, and I’m looking forward to the future where I can tie together my knowledge of earth’s fertility with the fertility that is in our bodies, and how this makes us part of the whole.
2. How did you get into your line of work?
Like I said, this work found me. I did not seek it out or even ask for it. I was following the programming from others that I should be a responsible feminist and take birth control, and it knocked me down hard. I was not prepared for the way it would physically manipulate my body into someone unrecognizable to myself, nor was I prepared for the way I would doubt and hate myself. Those things are not on the black box warning.
I was following the programming from others that I should be a responsible feminist and take birth control, and it knocked me down hard. I was not prepared for the way it would physically manipulate my body into someone unrecognizable to myself, nor was I prepared for the way I would doubt and hate myself.
I wanted to believe the narrative that this was good for us, so I went against my own bodies wishes as I tumbled and fell down into a deep dark place. There’s a reason many people describe their birth control experience as being like a dark cloud.
It wasn’t until my doctor told me that what I was experiencing wasn’t real, that it couldn’t possibly be from the pill, that an anger rose up inside of me that I couldn’t betray. It was in that moment that I knew I would need to find another way. It was then that I knew that I needed to become a leader for something else.
My deep dive into the research about our fertile bodies taught me that there was nothing wrong with us, and that we didn’t need to be suppressed to live a fully, happy, erotic life. I learned how to practice fertility awareness through books like Taking Charge of Your Fertility and other groundbreaking resources. But I quickly realized that this simply wasn’t on the radar of most people, and that it would quickly be dismissed as unreliable pseudoscience.
That scared me at first, but after spending so much time researching, and the confidence of performing the method myself and realizing it was working, I decided to speak about it publicly for the first time. I thought I would be shamed, and at first I was by certain people — they too trusted the systems we have been taught to use. Any deviation from respecting them is considered an affront to the cause.
But I recognized that over time it wasn’t about the people who didn’t believe me, it was those who were just like me. I was doing this work for the people who were confused, struggling, being shamed or ignored by their doctors. They were the ones I was trying to reach because I understood what they were going through. And slowly I’ve grown to be able to share my knowledge and insight with others. Their fertility awareness experiences teach me a lot about how to be a better educator and grow in this work.
3. You have some epic educational Twitter threads. What are your top 3 threads you think everyone should read?
Whew. Let’s see.
- My first thread ever on fertility awareness. I wrote it when I was just getting started and I think it’s an important overview for someone who knows absolutely nothing about FAM.
- This long thread on PCOS, one of the most misunderstood conditions affecting people who menstruate.
- And this herbal abortion thread. Everyone should know that Mother Nature did not leave us out here with nothing to utilize.
Honorable mention to the many herb threads I’ve done such as those on Mistletoe, Silphium, and Mullein.
4. What would you tell your teenage self?
I would tell her that you’re going to get free. You’re going to own your shit. You’re going to be proud of yourself, and you don’t need anyone else’s validation. I feel far from her because she was going through so much abuse, but at the heart of it I know I’m the same woman I always was, and that feels really affirming at this point in my life.
5. What herbs do you always keep in your medicine cabinet?
- Queen Anne’s Lace: A natural implantation inhibitor
- Raspberry leaf: A uterine tonic
- Chinese Skullcap: A powerful antiviral, nervine
6. What is your most controversial professional opinion?
Fertility awareness is for everyone. Many people disagree with this statement – they feel there are too many downsides to a method that must be performed by the user. I feel that this shows an inherent distrust we have of menstruating people, another way to have us doubt ourselves.
Until young people are taught how their bodies actually work, instead of being fed myths and lies, I will continue to speak on this. Everyone deserves to know about this, and make their choices accordingly. Even people who do not menstruate can benefit from this knowledge. I believe it can be a part of a shift out of the patriarchal age, which we are headed for anyway with its destruction to the earth at large.
7. What is the theme of your 2020?
My theme for this year is abundance. I model myself after the earth’s systems in so many ways, and abundance is certainly one of her main themes. I am shedding a lot of past feelings that were informed by trauma. These include negative thinking, anxiety, and worrying. By centering abundance in my life I can only move forward, there is no lack.
Every time I receive an affirmation for the work that I do, I keep it on my breast, and whenever I feel hardship I can always pull it to the forefront. I’ve always been a researcher, but this year is about training my mind to actually think differently.
8. What brings you peace?
My garden and my chickens. That’s my happy place. Being able to turn food waste into nourishment for my animals, making them happy, and growing food in the compost I’ve made is the most satisfying feeling.
There is nothing sweeter than being around abundance in physical form, and that’s what my garden is for me. To see my medicine grow is truly a special thing. To share some sunlight and recognize that we are all sentient, all alive, it’s powerful, and it’s shaped my life to build that around me.
Even when I was a renter, even when I was living in the city, it was so important that I had to manifest that life for myself. Now I’m working on the forever farm – the space that will truly be ours to cultivate and see through. All exciting things to come.