If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of Natural Family Planning. For this reason, and because this is National NFP Awareness Week , I’ve blogged about what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage and sex and contraception here and here. Last year I rambled about why I hate the ever-popular horribly-annoying question “Are you done?” (Update 7/31: oops, I forgot the one about how NFP works even with it doesn’t and how to share the gift of NFP with L.O.V.E)
Since I already shared what the Church says about it all, tonight I intend to share a list of reasons why I like NFP and why my husband and I choose this tool to achieve pregnancy or postpone pregnancy. Before I do though I want to be upfront about why I share information about NFP. First, I’ll say that I share it not because I want to put myself or my husband or my marriage above others in a self-righteous way. Admittedly, I can look back at my past and see that this was a subconscious reason in the past but has never been my first intention, more like an unintentional side affect of wanting to share the truth while also trying to live it. That said, I realize that there will always be someone who perceives what I say or share (on this subject as well as others) as “offensive” or “judgemental” or “self-righteous” or “uncompassionate”. I apoligize if what I say causes you pain but I will not apologize for sharing the truth. My hope and goal is not to hurt; on the contrary- it is to bring comfort by offering a solution and an answer that in the end will bring life; not death, hope; not despair and love; not hate.
So without further ado, my list of why I like NFP:
1. It is natural–it goes along with the way my body was made and naturally designed to work.
2. It is REAL–no drugs, no new-fangled contraptions, just the good old fashioned way.
3. It’s amazing–when I first learned about my body’s fertile and infertile cycles I was completely amazed and thought to myself–”Wow, I am “beautifully and wonderfully made”!
4. I love nature (like #1). I appreciate it and I respect it. To me, nature–science and math precisely–is God’s language–it’s how He explains Himself, the world, and me and you. While I appreciate the Church’s teachings on marriage and contraception and sex and all that, I only need to look to nature–to biology–to see the truth about sex and contraception. STDs, male and female reproductive issues, sexual reproductive organ cancers (and even some not-really-sexual reproductive body part cancers)—these are God’s way of speaking to us and warning us through nature about the consequences of non-monogamous, promiscuous, and illicit sexual relationships and using contraceptive devices in and out of marriage. (Nature also has some big lessons to teach us when it comes to the unethical infertility methods out there.) On the flip side, there’s something to say about the simple beauty of a random field of wildflowers or a lone cucumber plant growing unexpectedly in a compost box instead of the time and location it was ‘supposed to’ grow in.
5. It is self-giving and therefore self-less. (That said, those who practice NFP must keep a good checks and balances system in place to avoid using NFP in a selfish way.)
6. It provokes ”interesting” and “unique” conversations. Hey if I can talk to my husband about how stretchy or non stretchy my mucus is I should be able to talk to him about anything, right?
7. It fosters laughter–probably another one of those “most important things to have lots of” in a marriage. Aside from prayer and stuff.
8. Speaking of prayer–relying on NFP in our marriage cultivates a good prayer life. On a fairly regular basis we have to pause and think and pray before making any “heat of the moment” decisions. Or, when we (ahem)…don’t pause and think first, we have to pray that God will give us strength to humbly accept whatever those
consequences blessings from that may be.
9. It is respectful. Using NFP makes me take a step back and re-look at my husband. It makes me see him as God made him and see him as the man who I chose to love, honor and cherish. It also makes me take a closer look at myself. Unlike what the ‘world’ tells me, I’m not just some ‘body’, I am a woman, I am a wife, I am a mother and I am greatly loved by my husband. And together, NFP helps us step back and look at God and what He wants for us and for our marriage and family. We don’t tell him to ”stay out of the bedroom”, we invite Him to participate–too converse with us in all parts of our life, especially the most intimate ones.
10. NFP is Love-giving and Life-giving. NFP is awesome, it’s beautiful, it can and does work—but it is also hard. It is a sacrifice. As interesting to me as mucus is, I’d rather sometimes not have to remember to check every time, every day. I’d also rather not have to take time to write down what I observe or mess with deciding whether to put on the slightly sticky-looking mucus sticker or the drool-string-like mucus sticker. And I always feel a bit funny about the baby stickers–though it does serve as a good visual reminder for my husband and me about what this is all about—Life.
Using NFP correctly gives my husband and I a way to work with God, through my natural cycles, in the amazing miracle of creating a new life. Three times now, we have been honored and humbled to conceive life. When I look into my daughter’s and sons’s eyes, I remember the love my husband and I share together with God and see it there in front me in human form.
That said, I know that there could come a time when we cannot conceive any more lives within us. We might follow all the “rules” and do everything “right” and yet still bare no more fruit. Who knows, we could be “done” with our precious three now. This would be a very difficult cross to bear. Especially since I “know” so much about NFP and about infertility. It would be frustrating if we tried everything–ate all right food and said no to the wrong ones, excercised enough but not too much and cut down on stress, bought a fertility monitor to use in conjuction with NFP or even worked with the specialists trained in NaPro technology–and still could not conceive another child. It would be painful. I would know that I should be happy to have the three that we do–especially since some have been trying longer than I though have yet to be blessed with even one or, if they were, sadly lost their baby or babies in pregnancy or birth or after birth. My heart cries deeply for these women and men, it is a pain I know I could never fully understand, yet it does not stop me from caring for them; for hoping for them; for praying for them.
Fertility is a gift. Not everyone is blessed with it and some seem to have more than enough to spare. One thing that all married couples can have is their love–that is always there and available for those who choose it. Even those who are ‘infertile’ can have a ‘fertile’ marriage. This may not translate into biological children or even any children. Marriage, and the marital act, are made to be love-giving and life-giving, yes. But even when it cannot be ‘life-giving’ for indeliberate reasons, it can still be love-giving.
Natural Family Planning is a wonderful tool for communicating and understanding sex and life in marriage. But its benefit–its “product”– goes beyond the charts–beyond the mucus stickers and baby stickers and sun and moon symbols–beyond even sex—to a deeper place where it implants itself deep into our souls where it grows and develops and impregnates us with love, and life and God.