In case you missed it, here is the first post from a few days ago that sparked this continuation.
At the close of that post I gave a basic definition of NFP (Natural Family Planning) and zeroed in on 3 key points.
- NFP can be used for both conception and avoiding conception.
- NFP is practiced by the couple, not the woman by herself
- NFP is based on the natural cycle of the woman as created by God
These three things are actually the top three reasons why Ben and I have chosen to practice NFP. Thus far in our marriage, we have lived with a few different fertility mindsets. We started out in the “whenever God wants to give us a child/we are newlyweds and don’t know anything about anything” phase and conceived our son within a month of being married. We thought that the natural infertility of breastfeeding would be enough for us, then we conceived our daughter when our son was only 6 months old. Once she was born we wisened up to our fertility and began to seriously practice NFP. We prayerfully discerned when we wanted to have our next child and conceived her on the first try.
Our youngest is 18 months old now and we are back in discernment mode. With each child we’ve grown in maturity as individuals and as a couple. We have created a marriage where we can be open and honest with one another and feel safe sharing our thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns. As NFP kept coming up in the various blogs and social media that I follow, I started talking more about it with Ben.
Through those conversations we stumbled upon something neither of us had really heard before.
NFP is a tool, it is not a lifestyle.
The way that we understand it, NFP should be used in support of our lifestyle. It should not become so all-consuming that it is the determining factor of our lifestyle.
For many people, NFP is perceived to be very difficult, something that takes a lot of time, dedication, and above all, sacrifice. In a way, they are right, but not quite in the right way.
Yes, NFP can be very challenging. We’ve encountered situations where Ben has been deployed/away on a long trip and he comes home right in the middle of a fertile cycle. We have a choice to make in that moment.
Yes, NFP takes time. Tracking, waking up to take temperatures and talking about family decisions takes time.
NFP takes dedication. Certainly. If you aren’t consistent in practicing NFP you won’t have a clear picture of your fertility as a couple, thus rendering the system ineffective.
NFP takes sacrifice. Definitely. As I alluded to above, there are times when you have to exercise self control and make the choice to engage with one another in another way – go for a walk, play a game of Risk, make a special dessert or dinner, etc.
Is NFP still worth it? YES!
Because we don’t practice NFP for NFP’s sake. We practice NFP because we believe that it makes us a better couple. We are more aware of our choices, we communicate better, and we are responsible with our fertility, recognizing that it is a gift to be treasured, not an option to be turned on and off at will. Most importantly for us, NFP keeps us grounded in prayer. The main way that NFP doesn’t become an all-encompassing task-master is to understand it in the light of prayer and discernment as a couple.
Different couples will use NFP in different ways and at different times of life (tool, not lifestyle). Some couples struggle with conception and will necessarily use NFP in a different way than a couple that seems to be abundantly fertile. What is inherently beautiful about NFP is that it keeps in the forefront our understanding that life begins at conception and that each time a couple is intimate they are making a willing choice to participate in a creative act. By educating themselves and remaining dedicated to the practice, they are using the natural cycle of the female body to its fullest potential. When God created Adam and Eve in the garden, He told them to be stewards of the Garden and all things in it. Shouldn’t fertility be one of those things?
A note from my husband who has been so patient as I’ve bounced ideas off him for this and so many other posts: People today are willing to keep track of every bite of food that goes into their mouth. They are willing to keep detailed records of how many minutes they ran, how many pounds they lifted. They are willing to keep track of how many steps they take each day. They are willing to sacrifice carbs, or protein, or drink cleanses, or make smoothies. They are willing to push themselves harder than last time, run further than yesterday. We do these things to ourselves because we believe that the end result is worth it. These are all tools through which we achieve some desired goal.
NFP is no different. For some, the goal is conception. For others, the goal is to avoid conception at this time because of prayerful discernment as a couple. Some couples might choose to stop practicing NFP all together because they are ready to have another child but do not need the additional support NFP can offer for conception.
NFP is work, there’s no getting around that. But, we believe it is well worth the results.
If you are interested in learning more about NFP you are more than welcome to leave a comment or send me an email. Or, below are a couple excellent websites with resources, support and encouragement.
God bless you and your NFP journeys!
United States Council of Catholic Bishops
Creighton Model Fertility Care System (This is what Ben and I practice)