Okay, I am just going to be honest here, sometimes having to use NFP sucks. I don’t mean because I want to use contraception. Quite the opposite. I know how contraception has hurt marriages, our culture, women, pretty much everybody. Our culture just cannot see it, but the Church has predicted the disastrous results we see before us, for decades. My husband and I do not want any part in the contraceptive culture. So don’t misunderstanding my venting.
This year we have had to use Creighton Method of Natural Family Planning (NFP) because I have had 3 miscarriages, and some pretty serious periods of post-partum depression and anxiety. Using Creighton helped my NaPro doctor (Natural Procreative Technologies see Pope Paul VI Institute for more info) figure out that I have serious estrogen and progesterone deficiencies, which has led to me giving myself 4 shots of HCG each month. NFP was essential, and has been a God send for us, as has my doctor, a fellow (soon-to-be for me) Lay Dominican.
We have had to use NFP for 7 months. I know, there are some couples who have to do it for years, but this is my experience. There are times when NFP is just plain hard. My husband and I went through the NFP classes with the videos of the smiling couples telling us how great their marriages were thanks to NFP. I know intellectually how NFP works within God’s plan for human sexuality. It keeps us from using our partner as an object (which is what contraception does), and it forces couples to communicate about the possibility of children, struggles they are having, especially medical or financial, and to be open to God’s plan in their marriage. It keeps the marital act free from barriers, but also follows the natural cycle of a woman’s body to decide if a married couple has discerned trying to have a child on a month-to-month basis. Non-Catholics you must keep in mind that marriage vows in a Catholic wedding (the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony) promise to be open to children.
My husband and I always planned to just be open to however many children God gave us. Well, that was before I lost 3 babies and discovered some serious hormone issues. NFP came into our marriage because of those medical issues and it has been a blessing to be sure. To be honest, though, it gets tiresome to be denied the unitive act with one’s spouse, except for a week out of the month. Some women’s cycles allow for more time, but mine don’t. The gift of human sexuality is both unitive and procreative. They cannot be separated, hence the Church’s position on contraception. NFP does not deny either, but it is sacrifice.
Having to abstain while married is a sacrifice and that is a part of the spiritual dimension of NFP. We sacrifice for the greater good of our family or spouse’s health. It’s kind of like fasting. Given what we have been through in the last 3 years, I just wanted to say that NFP is a gift, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that it is always great. I know that the Church is fighting a battle against a culture that has swallowed, quite literally, the contraception lie, but can we at least be honest with people. NFP strengthens marriage because of the selfless sacrifices that are required, but it is a struggle and sometimes you will say the heck with it and decide to be open to whatever happens. No one is required to ever use NFP anyway. So there really are no mistakes. And if people say that NFP does not work, or that you are bad at NFP, tell them that you are good at it, but you decided to trust in God’s will this month and be with your spouse. Perhaps you need that unitive act to bring you closer together during difficult times, or you just want to be with your spouse. Come on! Sex is holy. It is a gift. It is meant to be enjoyed with our spouse. So, we are not bad at NFP, we just got tired of using NFP this month…lol.
I saw a great article by a man describing his experiences with NFP. For half the month the wife is telling her husband to keep away, and then all of a sudden she is open, and then she isn’t. Now to our culture this sounds absurd, but the Christian life is full of sacrifice. It is in that sacrifice that we are made selfless, as Christ was selfless. We are to love our spouse as Christ loves us. A very tall order that we will all fail at daily.
How about the woman’s perspective? Well, I can only give you mine. I have to battle my own hormones and love of my husband for half of the month, repeatedly tell him “no”, and then finally after I am completely sure based on my Creighton chart, I can say “yes”, after my body has gotten done saying “yes” for two weeks and is now in its default apathy because ovulation has occurred. So I get to be open when my body couldn’t care less because there is no risk of pregnancy.
Non-Catholics may be reading this wondering what I am talking about, but Catholics who have been through this will get it. I think it is time that we are honest. NFP is great because it allows us to naturally space children, it also helps couples conceive, and it helps women learn about their bodies. And I would tell every single woman to throw out her pills, IUD (especially since these can cause abortions), shot, or whatever else you are doing to yourself and embrace Natural Family Planning. Really learn about the gift that is your body and femininity. Let’s just keep in mind that couples who love one another in marriage do not want to have to schedule out the times they come together every month. It is okay to admit that it is hard. That is a part of the Christian journey. We are not breaking some rule by admitting to people that NFP is great, but hard.
I know Simcha Fisher wrote a new book on NFP that I want to read. You can find it here. Jennifer Fulwiler has also written about NFP. And here is the article from a man’s perspective on NFP.
*Say a prayer for me. I have had to add estrogen to my hormone treatments because while the HCG has fixed my progesterone deficiency, it has not fixed the estrogen deficiency.