One of the most humiliating experiences I’ve ever had ultimately changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. I take you back to 1982 (gasp). While waiting for an interview for a ‘women’s health educator’ position at a women’s clinic on Olympic Blvd. in Los Angeles, I fidgeted with dread. Anticipating the interview, my eyes wandered, glancing over the all-too-familiar paraphernalia of all women’s clinics: the requisite posters warning about sexually transmitted infections, the charts comparing methods of birth control, and the plastic models of the female reproductive system.

But what I most remember is being struck with the futility of it all. What was I thinking? I had absolutely no training in the field. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. While my heart pounded, I noticed a brochure about a clinic class on the Fertility Awareness Method. I just could not believe that this supposedly reputable clinic seemed to be teaching the discredited Rhythm Method! I was in a dilemma. The cover of the brochure mentioned natural birth control, but I knew of no natural contraceptive methods that weren’t synonymous with Rhythm. Should I risk losing this coveted position by expressing my dismay, or should I keep my mouth shut in hopes of getting the job?

In the end, I would have felt dishonest if I said nothing. My heart skipped a beat when the clinic director called my name. The pressure was on. The director was cordial, but I barely gave her a moment to introduce herself before I blurted out: “I don’t understand why you teach Rhythm here. Everybody knows it doesn’t work!”

“Oh really? We teach what?” she inquired with obvious surprise.

“Don’t you teach the Rhythm Method?” I muttered shyly. “I noticed your brochure here about the Fertility Awareness Method. Isn’t that the same thing?”

She looked a bit irritated and responded, “Actually, Ms. Weschler, no. It’s not the Rhythm Method, and frankly, your lack of knowledge about such an important facet of women’s health wouldn’t bode well at our clinic. But thank you for applying anyway.”

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. But that embarrassing experience decades ago helped transform my perspective about women’s health care. After swallowing my pride, and hoping to God that the director wouldn’t see me, I snuck back in one night and took the clinic’s class on Fertility Awareness—and was blown away.

What I learned is that not only was it possible for me to take control of my cycles, but I no longer needed to feel uncertain about various secretions, pains, and symptoms. I could finally understand the subtle changes I experienced every month. I could place my menstrual cycle in the context of my overall health— both physiological and psychological. And perhaps best of all, no more unnecessary trips to the gynecologist!

My only regret, and it’s a huge one, is that I never returned to thank the instructor whose class I took, and who ultimately changed my life. I am forever indebted to her.