Embracing natural fertility

April 27, 2007 | Birth Control, Books I Love, Motherhood | 10 comments

Mum2twelve links to a nice piece by a young (non-Catholic) woman who talks about what led her to embrace NFP in her marriage. I wanted to excerpt some of it since it highlights many of the factors that led me to the same decision. One thing she doesn’t go into much that was a big factor for me is the observation that crazy stuff starts to happen when societies believe that the primary purpose of sex is personal pleasure. But it’s a nice post and worth reading.

The other night as my husband of five months and I were cleaning up after dinner, we started talking about our experience as Natural Family Planners…During our discussion it struck us what a blessing NFP has been for us, in so many ways.

One of the most appealing things about NFP is that it is exactly what it claims to be; natural. NFP is free from devices and chemicals and side effects. It empowers women by teaching them the nature of their fertility cycle, helping them to understand why things happen and at what time…

Another benefit is that NFP is a two person decision. Not controlled by one or the other, NFP encourages two as a couple to communicate continually with honesty and love about whether now is a good time to avoid or achieve pregnancy…

The path to accepting NFP has been a long road for me. The idea of managing my fertility naturally was, in theory, appealing. However, I was scared about what this would mean for my life. Would it be too restricting? What if I have 14 kids?!? Will I have to abandon study?…

After a long time of praying and reading and talking about this all-too-big-and-scary venture into NFP, God replaced every fear with a blessing. This should not surprise us as we know the character of our God. When we put our trust in Him, God helps us to order our lives. He puts meaning into things that seem meaningless and he gives peace where there is unrest. For some this means the challenge of six children, 5am breast feeding and 40 loads of washing. For others, this means coming to terms with the fact that they could only have one child, even when they prayed fervently for a second. Then there are those for whom God grants peace, and purpose, when he has not granted conception at all…

What is it in our culture that leads us to prevent pregnancies from occurring? What does this mean about how we view our bodies, most especially our fertility? A doctor only prescribes medicine to ill people. Is fertility something we need to be protected from? Is it a disease?…What a major contradiction this presents; that one of the greatest gifts from God might be a burden for us. What a major contradiction that one of God’s greatest gifts is ‘unwanted’ or a ‘mistake.’

She also mentions that Christopher West’s book The Good News About Sex and Marriage helped her make her decision. I also found that book to be instrumental in my own understanding of Church teaching on openess to life and contraception. I can’t recommend it highly enough for those people (especially Christians) who are just baffled by why the Church insists on its stance on this issue.

For more on this subject I highly recommend the article Contraception the Love Killer in which John Mallon explains it all better than I ever could (via Dom).

[I believe my regular commentor Lyrl is also a non-Catholic who uses NFP, so I’ll be interested to hear her take on all this.]

10 Comments

  1. Stevie

    Thanks so much for sharing this. It is beautiful! I wish more Catholics “got” it the way this Non-Catholic gets it.

  2. Amber

    I embraced NFP a couple years before I even considered entering the Catholic Church. Coming to terms with my fertility and understanding why the church teaches what it does regarding fertility made it so much easier for me to take another look at all of those other mainstream issues people have with Catholic teaching once I realized I was being called to the Catholic faith.

    I’ve told several life-long Catholics about this and they’ve all looked at me like I’m nuts – it is so unfortunate that there is so little understanding about fertility and life issues among Catholics!

  3. lyrl

    I disagree with the claim that recognizing the burdens that children come with somehow contradicts the blessings that they also are. Just because something is good doesn’t mean either that it has no negative aspects, or that more of it is better. Food is good, for example, but eating too much makes a person unhealthy. Not that “eating too much” is a deprecation of any particular item of food. The last piece of cake may be just as much of an endorsement to the cook who made it (and to God who created caused the grain to grow) as the first cup of delectable soup. However, irresponsible consumption of food is a cause of disease. Eating is not a disorder, and food is a blessing. But doctors prescribe pills and even perform surgery to prevent people from consuming food.

    A person who has children for whom they cannot provide basic needs (food, housing, affection, etc.) has used the blessing of fertility irresponsibly. While each and every individual child is a blessing, the parents’ pattern of conceptions has a negative result.

    I call what I do fertility awareness, and not natural family planning, because I do not follow the religious restrictions associated with NFP: my husband and I may use a diaphragm, have non-procreative types of lovemaking, and are four years into our marriage with no plans for children. However, I find the Church’s views on family to be very powerful, and agree that society would be better if it was closer to the Catholic model.

    I find fertility awareness to be an incredible positive aspect of my life, for so many reasons other writers have discussed. I’ve done some research on its history while working on Wikipedia articles (most – though not all – of the history sections in the current fertility awareness and Rhythm Method articles are my work). And I’m amazed at the literally decades (at least forty years) of scientific research that went into the development of these systems – entirely done by dedicated Catholic scientists and entirely funded by Catholic institutions. Fertility awareness simply would not exist if the Catholic Church had allowed artificial methods of birth control. If the Church’s stance on birth control was not guidance from God, I don’t know what is.

    And, wow, Jen mentioned me in her post! Jen, you have created a wonderful forum for such interesting discussions to occur with so little rancor. Contraception and society is a topic I feel strongly about; I sincerely hope I my writing adds to the discussion without bringing hostility to your blog.

  4. Lady of the Lakes

    First I have to say I love your blog, I just started reading it not too long ago. My husband and I started using NFP almost a year ago. He is Catholic (not practicing) and I am not (hopefully that will change within the next year or so 🙂 ) and we went to classes before we got married (Catholic wedding, sans Eucharist). That was the first time I heard of NFP. At first I dismissed the idea of using NFP out of hand, I had been using birth control for awhile and didn’t think anything of it. Then about a year after we were married (and a couple of different prescriptions for birth control, because of problems with side effects) I became very frustrated after switching prescriptions yet again and said to my husband I wanted us to try NFP. It was no coincidence that I had also recently listened to “Contraception: Why Not?”. It was a huge leap for both of us to take (my husband was especially skeptical) but it has been very good for our marriage. It also brings me great peace of mind that when we are ready for children all we have to do is alter our behavior. No worries about leftover hormones in my body that could affect a growing baby! Not only that but our physical relationship has had a great healing and is verging on the best it has ever been.

  5. beez

    All I can say to LYRL is that you can couch your opinion in positive terms all that you want, but to compare the gift children with food is a little absurd.

    Consumption is a decision we make. When we act in accordance with what nature and God tell us, that is that we avoid eating too much, and eating the wrong things, we remain healthy.

    The question put to people about procreativity is a very simple one. In whom do you place your trust, yourself, of God? People who use contraceptives of any form say that they know better than God about the nature and number of children they will have. People who use NFP, those “religious restrictions associated with NFP” as you call them, are people who recognize simply that it is God, not man, who makes the important decision.

    The BIG difference between a couple practicing NFP and a couple contracepting, is that even when an NFP couple is attempting to avoid children through timing, they are nevertheless putting the final decision in the hand of God.

  6. Darwin

    beez,

    I don’t know if you caught the introduction, but Lyrl was introduced as not being Catholic — so it is probably more worthwhile to note the degree to which an appreciation of what the human body is and how it works has brought her to a similar understanding of the nature of sex to the Catholic one, than to blame her for the remaining differences.

    Also, while analogies are always imperfect, I think that Lyrl’s basic point that fertility is a gift that should be used responsibly is one that Catholics can take to heart. While clearly a Catholic couple must remain obedient to Catholic teaching, there is a place for thoughtful discernment as to whether it is appropriate in a given fertile cycle to conceive. While children are unquestionably a gift from God, God has also given us the ability to be aware of the cycle of fertility and the reason and self control to resist our urges.

    It seems to me that while on the one hand we are called upon to trust God to provide for us, we must avoid casting ourselves carelessly from the heights to prove that angels will bear us up.

  7. Skyminder

    Saw an excerpt from your post on Confession on my friend’s blog: she said you had a great blog. Looks like she was right. God Bless!r

  8. beez

    Darwin,

    Yes, I caught the fact that she isn’t Catholic, and I appreciate much of her appreciation of the knowledge that the Church brings to fertility questions.

    However, I wanted to make a point about the concept that “religion” establishes rules. As far as Catholics are concerned, God establishes the rules, the Church simply articulates them.

  9. JimmyV

    Jen,

    I have been visiting your blog off and on from the Curt Jester since Lent. Welcome to the Church! My wife (also a Jen) just celebrated her ninth year in the Church. This cradle Catholic is a big fan of converts and is always invigorated by their stories. Yours is no exception.

    Thanks for posting on NFP. As an instructor with the Couple to Couple League, I enjoy reading how people arrive at the beauty of the Church’s teaching.

    LYRL, thank you for posting and taking the time to articulate the difference between FAM and NFP. This is often a distinction which is lost in various conversations. Of course, I am saddened that you don’t embrace all of the Church’s teaching (c’mon even Jen did it!) but I commend you for finding your way to a deeper appreciation of the body.

  10. alicia

    I don’t know if any of your commenters or readers would be interested, but I just the other day posted on NFP and some attitudes among Christians. I am considering doing a follow up on this as I have had many interesting comments, and am looking for some additional input. The post is here

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