I've stopped checking this forum, but I'm glad I popped in today to read and answer your post.
Exciting that TTC is in your future.
To answer your questions, first off I think charting in advance of wanting to TTC is a great idea for the reason you stated.
I was taking birth control pills straight from age 18 to age 30, (had really heavy periods until age 18 and was told "the pill" would fix that and it did)...stopped just before we TTC for #1. I think my period came as expected that first cycle off, and the next one, then I didn't have it for a month and a half and sometime in there I think is when we became pregnant. It happened quickly! No charting, no OPK's...but I did go out and buy some OPK's because I was wondering when the heck I would ovulate and by that time I was already pregnant so that was a waste.
Anyways. This second time I stopped taking birth control pills (after just being on them a few months; bad idea on and off) early February. Started charting mid-March. Started TTC in April. And after a 75 day (or longer?) cycle, noted a very faint line on a HPT at 10 DPO from the TTC in April, after not having had a period since February . During that time, we had rushed out across the country to get to my DH's father who was passing away, so things were very stressful and on 11 DPO I started spotting and losing the pregnancy symptoms...and the pregnancy.
The May cycle we didn't hold out long enough. Charting, OPK'ing, but I didn't know how long my cycles were and gave up before I finally got the confirmation around day 23 that ovulation finally happened, so that month was gone.
June, which was the month: I had a "pep talk" with DH in advance, and we were finally on the "same page" about our common goal and we promised we would not give up early this time!
Started drinking decaffinated green tea at night (no idea if this did anything but it did help me relax after DD went down to bed!), charted faithfully and discovered I ovulated on day 23 again (most people are closer to day 14) and OPK'd...for days 10 through I think day 19, almost every day, where I finally got the sign that ovulation was finally approaching. (Was given some leftover OPK's that expired in 2002 from a friend or that would have gotten expensive; but I was getting so frustrated it would have been worth paying for them if I had to. I figured they were free so I was going to burn through them).
We bd'ed every other day from I think day 12 or so until day 21. We were determined not to miss it, and to finally catch the egg. And we did. :) Today is 11 DPO and although my temps have dropped a little, I still have the same symptoms and HPT'ed again this morning and the line is darker than it was at 9DPO, so I'm assuming all is still well.
I don't know what my cycles were like off the pill because I had been on it so long, and I have just charted a few months...so I don't know if I had waited longer if I would eventually have gotten to where I was ovulating closer to day 14 or not. Don't know if coming off "the pill" makes you ovulate later for a while or not.
And you asked about CM...I feel silly. I was entirely clueless about it until TTC with #2. I'm assuming it's always been there, but I have never paid attention to it, much less scrutinized it like I did these last few months. Yes, my CM also followed a somewhat typical pattern and was yet another indicator of approaching ovulation.
"Fertility Friend" made the charting and interpretation of it all supportive and fun.
Good luck to you whenever you decide to go for it!!
~Sandy/DD born via emergency C at 35 wks/1 day June '03 due to Severe PE/class III HELLP
Risk factors: HBP/asthma/high cholesterol
CAUGHT THE EGG!! Estimated hatch date: 3/20/05