Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I NFP {1}

As I have mentioned in another post, in edition to my " Why I Veil" series, I will be adding a " Why I NFP" series as well. For my first post I will be sharing Kristen's Natural Family Planning story. Thank you so much Kristen for be a witness to the faith and being open to life!

"Years ago when I was first introduced to the reproductive system I was fascinated by the concept of it all, but didn't really understand the complexity of the woman’s cycle. I was first introduced to the concept of natural family planning in college, however, being raised in a very conservative, Christian home and school I believed (although wasn't necessarily taught) God should control family size ultimately. I came to this conclusion after being introduced to the reproductive system by a family member who had never been married ironically; my parents did NOT discuss sex with me. I was only taught about the female reproductive system because it was deemed inappropriate to discuss the male system with a female teen I suppose. I was very curious and wanted to know biologically how things functioned and even asked but only got a reiteration of how the woman’s body worked.

After my two discussions about reproduction that were exactly the same (we weren't taught anything about it in school) I was told about birth control. My discussion also was based on the now scientifically dis-proven ‘rhythm method’. I was told day 14 you ovulated and that day was when you could conceive or use a condom or birth control if you didn't want a baby. I had been instilled with a deep sense of right and wrong and questioned “But doesn't God and shouldn't God control how many kids you should have?” At this point I had no idea what Natural Family Planning was, as this was long before college. I was told, yes, but you’ll probably change your mind. God wants you to be responsible was even a phrase I heard from some. I understand I wasn't married at this point and thus had no clue how hard this practice would be. However, I've been married almost 4 years now and still haven’t been led to believe any differently.

Fast forward to my courtship and actual marriage…Jacob and I talked about birth control and natural family planning even while engaged. He agreed with me. I was afraid my reckless trust in God may scare him, but that man still adores me and would go to the ends of the earth for me even if we had 20 kids. We had friends tell us we were nuts, family tell us that God doesn't expect that from us, and so many opinions. It was difficult. I told them that NFP works because by now I’d met a variety of Catholic friends who showed me actual research on the topic.

On our wedding night, we TRULY came together as one. I’ll forever be grateful for that despite the fact, of course, it wasn't the best sexual experience because it was our first time actually consummating.We were VERY poor when we first wed and a baby was a scary thing. However, I stood by my trust in God. My husband responded with JOY although some were shocked we were pregnant so soon. I was happy although it was scary to think about providing for a baby.

Ezra was born in September. I still didn't know how to do NFP. I assumed breastfeeding would keep my cycle at bay. It didn't but I assumed I was infertile. More truly coming together resulted in Olivia being born the next September. I was tired. Two pregnancies back-to-back with postpartum depression right in the middle and throughout was a tough cross to bear.

We decided a barrier method would work and for the next year we alternated between barrier methods and fully giving ourselves to one another. That was also the year our marriage began to fall apart. We had a million other issues besides not fully surrendering our fertility to each other, but I think that one affected us more than we knew. I assumed if we could have more sex that our marriage would be better. I assumed not having to worry about a baby would make us enjoy it more. I halfway tracked my periods and did more of a fertility awareness method during that time. We grew further apart.

Another problem that arose during this time had to do with the false idea of sexuality that is permeating even churches. I was taught sex was only for marriage (obviously I agree with that) but once you were married you could do whatever you wanted whenever and if you did not have sex with your husband at least several times a week he’d find it elsewhere and he couldn't really help it. This false idea that no self-control or selflessness was required in marriage really wreaked havoc on our young marriage. Even if I wasn't taught that, that’s what I HEARD, which was something like this in my head “Buy sexy lingerie, he’ll be happy. If you don’t give him sex he’ll cheat on you and it’s wrong, but who could blame him.” I understand we should be mindful of each other and not withhold, however, to blame one spouse for the other cheating is similar to Adam blaming Eve. They both got cursed. They BOTH were wrong. Sexuality should be respected and mutually shared by both spouses, but when you are not on the same page, problems DO arise.

After a couple very rough years of marriage, I switched doctors from my pro-NFP doctor to one who would prescribe birth control. (I still love both doctors, by the way, they just have different opinions of morality.) I got on it and thought we could relax. I felt good…at first. Then the guilt came. I read the insert where it clearly says that a fertilized egg can have a hard time implanting. Does life begin at implantation or conception? I knew the answer deep in my heart. Also, this device did not cause us to have more or more enjoyable sex. It simply drove a bigger wedge between us because I was literally a crazy woman on it. (Probably partially due to the guilt.) My husband later told me that he never wanted me to go on it in the first place, which I’m sure drove a bigger wedge between us.

After a few months on this, my husband and I separated for a time. . Thankfully, God restored our marriage, and during a church service not long after our reconciliation, I felt God nudging me to GET OFF the pill. I foolishly shared this with a family member who thought I was crazy and it caused a big problem. I now do not discuss fertility with most people, ironically, since I’m blogging about it. However, I feel like the message needs to be heard.

During my time on the pill, I was assured by many that God didn’t mind, after all, the doctors and many nurses said it is NOT an abortifacient. Then WHY does the insert in the pill box say it can do this? Even if there’s a .05% chance I’m killing a baby, I’m not willing to take it anymore. This is a very touchy subject amongst Protestants. I recently learned until 50 years ago Protestants also were opposed to any form of birth control. I highly doubt the Bible changed over thousands of years and that makes me very skeptical of the modern understanding of such a topic. I’ve found the Protestants of today vary from “NFP is just CATHOLIC birth control” to “If you really trust God you’ll have as many kids as He wants you to even if it’s 20,” to “Use whatever birth control device you want as long as you aren't aborting, you’re good.” to “Well, a barrier method doesn’t actually fertilize anything so you’re okay, because you didn't KILL anything,”.

There are some areas God shows us that will look different than others, the passage about eating meat, drinking wine, observing holidays, etc. (Romans 14 ) However, I do not think you can do that with the whole Bible. Jesus was loving but also very honest. He said his yoke was easy and burden light ( Matthew 11:30) but He also said He came to divide families. We would have to choose, Him or the world and sometimes the world is even in our own family even if it’s just in the form of a worldly opinion. (Matthew 10:35)

There’s freedom in Christ, I’m told. YES, but to quote something I learned in high school in Bible class, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.” I never dreamed that little quote that was hammered into our heads would make such an impact on my life. Thanks, dear parents, and I’m sorry I fussed about being sent to a Christian school. I appreciate it, now. You ironically set me up for this radical belief that God will provide and that sexuality belongs in the Biblical context and not the worldly.

I still didn’t know how to do NFP. We were soon expecting blessing #3 and he was born recently. We took one class, but decided we could learn on our own and a dear friend gave me a book on NFP. We decided we are going to do it right this time. God’s way. My husband is such a trooper. He seriously wouldn’t mind if we had 10 kids, I don’t think. However, it IS possible to know when you are fertile and to abstain. I’ve heard many people say this is unhealthy for a marriage. Why then is the divorce rate so low in practicing NFP couples?

I’d like to venture to answer in my own limited understanding of God’s ways. I think because God honors self-control in marriage and He honors us following His commandments. NFP makes one always open to life, to blessing. Children are always referred to as a blessing in the Bible. Debt is referred to as a curse. Our society has it very backwards. Another aspect of this is the beauty of NFP is the ‘honeymoon affect’. This is what happens when the couples come back together monthly after a short period of abstinence. The sexual tension builds and the reunion is sweet and the fact that your spouse respects you is amazing.

 Also, because you are open to life even if you are trying to avoid a pregnancy, there is no need for a barrier or interruption of the beautiful act of God’s creation. There is no fear in joining with your husband or wife. I know many couples who struggle to keep the spark alive, however, I don’t think we’re going to be that couple anymore, because with a few days of waiting every month, we get to have a honeymoon EVERY month. It is beautiful. So beautiful that recently my husband told me he really didn’t care if we conceived because we enjoyed each other that much after a waiting period. However, NFP can work to avoid if it’s very necessary, just as it can easily be used to achieve without fear of complications from chemicals and hormones injected into one’s body.

I’d like to explore some scripture verses that can be applied. Paul urges couples to abstain for a time and then come back together. (I Corinthians 7 ) He urges the couples to use their time of abstinence to pray and fast. He gives no command about how long you should or shouldn’t abstain. I think the 3-6 days per month works well, although of course, it is hard to do so in our human strength if we are truly trying to avoid a pregnancy. However, I love to keep in mind God IS the one who opens and closes the womb. (Isaiah 66:9 )
Also, lastly, my favorite scripture verse about children is found in Psalms.

“3Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

4As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

5Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Are we perfect? No. Do we sometimes fail at NFP the ‘right way’? Sure. But, God is gracious. He knows our hearts. I have to say I feel very sorry for couples who routinely do not come together completely. I think fertility is a terrible thing to withhold from one’s spouse. I’ve also read several studies citing birth control causing a myriad of health problems. The most recent study I read was just funny. They found women on the pill made poorer choices in their mates and often divorced after going off the pill. In the same study, they cited giving birth control to female monkeys and it utterly confused the male monkeys. So, even monkeys can teach us a lesson. I for one choose not to use this form of hindrance. Our relationship has not yet suffered from it. In fact, I feel much more respected and I think our communication has opened up considerably.

Besides, if we do become pregnant that’s nine months of freedom in intimacy. God’s special little gift to those dedicated to His way, I like to think, because studies show that it can soften the cervix and help prepare it for birth. Apparently we did a lot of softening on my second child because she was born an hour after I went into active labor for her. We are so blessed to have 3 beautiful children, Ezra, Olivia, and Elijah. I am so glad we obeyed. God DOES know what He is doing and we’ve been blessed abundantly with financial resources, a bigger house we actually OWN, and many other opportunities.

Thus, our journey continues. I pray we continue to TRUST God with our fertility and our family size and are able to discern when is a good time to attempt to add a family member. We will always welcome a new member, planned or not. My advice and encouragement to young Catholics, Protestants, and Christians in general is listen to God’s voice. Do not let culture dictate what you believe. God’s way is not always easy, but it’s always sweeter and better. Give Him a chance and let Him guide you in every area, even in the scary areas that could produce mess-making, stick, lovable little miniature versions of yourself. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go vacuum up cereal my 2 and 3 year old decorated their playroom with this morning."


  1. What a wonderful post on NFP ...a truly honest and heart-wrenching testimony. Thank you for being so honest and open. I am inspired!

    1. I agree Agnes! Such a deep, personal and touching story!