who are you (that you're willing to share)?!

my name is ashley.  i live in the midwest.  i am a us citizen.  i use she / her pronouns and identify as a white, cis-woman.  i am in a monogamous partnership.  i pass as hetero.  i have mostly german & western european ancestry.  i have a lot of privilege that i'm learning how to use responsibly.  i am learning how to navigate anxiety & depression.  i have been pregnant once and chose to end the pregnancy.  i've been charting my own menstrual cycles since 2011 and teaching others to do the same since 2013.  on the lighter side, i love dogs & candles & baths & laughing.  when i'm not talking about the uterus i like to ride my bike, knit, watch movies, make lists, journal, and read.  

 

how did you become a teacher?

i studied with Sarah Bly at Grace of the Moon from 2012-2014 and am certified by the Association of Fertility Awareness Professionals.  since 2013, i've worked directly with over 100 people wanting to use fertility awareness as their primary form of birth control and have taught many others about fertility awareness and menstrual cycle charting through online & in-person workshops.

 

what method of fertility awareness do you teach?

i teach a version of FAM most similar to the rules in Taking Charge of Your Fertility and the rules used in the 2007 Human Reproduction study (Frank-Hermann et al.), but i'm familiar with many of the other fertility-awareness based methods.  what's important to me is that my students A) understand how the menstrual cycle works, B) are able to observe & interpret their fertility signals, knowing why & how those signals show up, and C) understand why we follow certain rules about unprotected intercourse and make choices that are best for them based on all the available information.  i believe that fertility & bodies & sex, although able to be studied, are also very mysterious and the best way we can receive what we want from our bodies (ie: babies or no babies) is to understand the bigger picture of fertility, not just a specific method.

 

are your classes religious or secular?

i'm not affiliated with any particular religion, and welcome students from all backgrounds and beliefs.  while a spiritual / mindfulness practice has been an important in my own life & understanding of this material, i will never push those beliefs (or any other political / personal beliefs) on my students or people i work with.

 

can you tell me if i have PCOS, infertility, endometriosis, etc.?

the short answer is no.  i don't diagnose or treat diseases or abnormalities.  that means i can not tell you if you have PCOS, infertility, endometriosis etc. and i can't tell you which herbs or supplements you should take for your particular issue(s). 

however!  when you learn to chart your cycle, those charts can give you and your primary care provider or alternative health practitioner a bunch of info about your cycle.  that info can help you make better decisions about what's going on in your body and what might be helpful for you.

 

can you help me fix my PMS, cramps, irregular cycles, etc.?

(see above question as well) while i do not diagnose or treat, we might be able to get a better idea of what's happening in your body based on what you discover in your charts.  in some cases i might be able to recommend general lifestyle or diet changes, but you should always make those decisions based on your knowledge of your own body and with the help of your primary care provider(s).  your charts are a tool for understanding your body & your cycles, but working with me does not guarantee any cycle issue(s) will be fixed.

 

can you help me get pregnant?

i can teach you how to identify when your fertile window begins and ends each cycle (important for knowing when to time intercourse or insemination), and i can teach you to recognize if ovulation is happening each cycle.  fertility can be very complicated and based on many different factors, so i can't guarantee that charting your cycles will lead to a pregnancy.  i can guarantee that after working together you'll have a much greater understanding of your body / fertility and how it works.

 

why don't you use words like 'woman' or 'female' and instead say things like 'people who have a uterus'?

i've been asked if i am afraid of the words 'woman' and 'female' and the answer is no.  i understand that these words are important to some people and it's not my intention to erase or invalidate 'women' or 'feminine' power.

however!  it's super important to me that my classes feel inclusive & accessible to all people.  some people who have a uterus don't identify as a woman or with feminine qualities, so using those words can feel alienating or hurtful.  i believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and deserves education on these topics regardless how they identify.  there are plenty of places & teachers that use 'woman' or 'feminine' language in their classes / literature, and if hearing those words is necessary for you to learn the material then you may want to learn from another teacher.

 

what's your philosophy as a full-spectrum pregnancy companion?

i believe that all pregnant people should have the ability to make their own choices about all aspects of the pregnancy (and birth, if they choose to give birth).  i believe pregnancy & birth are transformational / difficult / magical / spiritual times, no matter what the outcome.  i believe birth, like many other things, has been co-opted by a capitalist system and that pregnant people who choose to carry to term have been sneakily denied the right to give birth in a way that honors the experience, and have been denied the right to give birth to their self as a new person & parent.

i have no problem with people choosing to use whatever technologies and medications they need to achieve the birth they want.  i also think it's important to be fully educated about all the options and have conversations around why people may want to choose a birth that is outside of the current healthcare system.

i believe the roll of a doula or birth / abortion / miscarriage companion is to be a witness to the experience and to hold space for whatever happens (for the pregnant person & whoever else is part of the experience).  a doula can help prepare the pregnant person with education & answering questions.  the doula may be able to provide some basic comfort measures.  during the labor / abortion / miscarriage / postpartum the doula can help create a container in which the pregnant person is able to tap into their own strength, go through the experience in their own way & in their own time, ask for what is needed, & control the space.  the energy of the doula should not be the loudest energy in the room.  the doula can't eliminate the pain or fix anything.

i believe being a doula or birth / abortion / miscarriage companion is a great honor.  i believe that ideally, we would receive this kind of support & care from our families / communities, and the only reason we have to create a business around this work is because of our warped social set-up.  i believe i am not necessarily the birth / abortion / miscarriage companion for everyone, but am happy to walk this journey with you if it feels like a beautiful match.

 

what's your perspective on 'health & wellness'?

i believe that health & wellness is a complicated subject and that good health or wellness can mean a lot of different things to different people.  i am wary of the ways that 'health' has become an object that is marketed and sold to individuals.  i also think it's important to recognize that A) we live in a culture that values 'able-bodies' and B) some people will never experience 'good health' in the way it is commonly understood.  this passage from Anne Finger's book Past Due resonates with me:

“...what troubled me most about the alternative health movement was its tendency to seek the quick fix.  health becomes an elusive commodity sought through visits to health spas, acupuncturists, psychotherapists... as in western medicine, disease and death are enemies to be battled, albeit with different weapons.  the notion of taking responsibility for one’s own health too often slides into a blaming the victim stance.  we end up seeking piecemeal, individualized solutions to complex social problems.”
— Anne Finger

 

if you're looking for an instructor or practitioner who will focus on creating an individualized health plan then i might not be your gal.  but if you're looking for education, conversation, empowerment, and autonomy, i can help you develop skills and practices that will be helpful tools to meet your own health & wellness goals.

 

is this your business?  are you an activist?  how do you make sense of this f*cked up capitalist world?

i'm happy to be transparent about how this work fits into the rest of my life:

i'm registered as an LLC with the state of wisconsin and currently a very small part of my income comes from this work.  i'd like to think that in the future i will be entirely self-employed, but i don't know when or how this will happen.  in the meantime, i work a day job at a local food cooperative and i have a partner who works and shares living expenses / bills with me. 

i do a lot of work for free (phone conversations, answering questions via email & social media), i give a lot of things away (scholarships for people to participate in classes that i don't get reimbursed for, sliding scales, etc.), and a lot of the work i do is because i love it & people need it.  at the same time, i do ask for some sort of exchange / compensation (mostly money, but sometimes trades) for my time & experience.  i feel like this work is some weird combination of business / activism, but i don't know exactly what that means.

this is a super complicated question for me.  i don't know if it's possible to have a feminist business or a fair business under capitalism.  i also realize the ways in which this information (teachings around birth, plants, bodies, spirituality, etc.) has been taken from marginalized communities and used to benefit those who have privilege under capitalism.  this is a topic / conversation / philosophy that i am constantly struggling with, and (right now) believe there isn't a universally right or wrong way of doing business (although there certainly are more or less hurtful / helpful ways).  i'm trying to better understand my place in all of this and am always open to critique, suggestion, conversation around these topics.