Today’s post was written by Dana Doyle, who blogs at Catholic Working Mom. Thanks so much, Dana, for sharing your journey to NFP!
My husband and I have not always practiced Natural Family Planning. When we were married in 1989, we attended marriage preparation classes sponsored by our archdiocese. NFP was never mentioned. At a couple’s retreat, prior to our August wedding, there was an NFP pamphlet on one of the tables in the group meeting room; however, attention was never drawn to this resource. I remember sneaking into the room while it was unoccupied to take a brochure, feeling embarrassed by the topic.
Being a young Catholic, I thought that birth control was one of those issues in the Church where one was free to make his/her own decision. As I have become educated about my faith, I learned that this view on contraception as being a “personal choice” could not be farther from the truth. When one of my students recently asked, “How many of the Church teachings do I have to believe to still be considered Catholic?” “All of them,” I answered. I believe this to be true.
Well-meaning people made sure that my fiancé and myself had “precautions” packed in our luggage for the wedding night. It was billed as the “responsible” thing to do.
Years later, laying on a table in the operating room, having just given birth to my second child, my obstetrician asked me if I wanted my tubes tied. When I didn’t answer, he said, “This is your last chance. Speak now.” He was asking me if I wanted to be “fixed!” I thought to myself, “Nothing is broken.” It kind of put a damper on an otherwise perfect moment. I had respected my doctor as a skilled physician with a wonderful, supportive bedside manner. He was also a well-known member of one of the communities’ Catholic churches. This confused me greatly.
It wasn’t until I entered my thirties that I began searching for truth myself. It was then that I stumbled upon a cassette tape called, “Contraception, Why Not?” by Janet Smith. This professor clearly explained the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of marriage, as well as God’s plan for marriage and sex. She explained the two-fold purpose of intercourse between a husband and wife – how the unitive and procreative aspects must both be present in order for intercourse to be that sacred renewal of the sacrament of marriage that it is intended to be. I was stunned. I had never thought of sex as being sacred! I asked my husband if he would mind trying NFP with me. He agreed, and we’ve never looked back.
The wonderful thing about becoming aware of your body’s signs of fertility, as a woman, is that it cannot only help you to avoid pregnancy, but it can help you to become pregnant, too. Many people think that if they use NFP that they will have lots and lots of children – that does not have to be true. Due to health issues and financial limitations my husband and I prayerfully decided to avoid pregnancy for several years after our second child was born. With NFP, though, we say to God that He has the final word about the matter. We do not lock Him out of the bedroom. God can be trusted in ALL things. He loves us completely, and knows what is best for us. Can He be trusted with our fertility? Absolutely! He created it!
If you haven’t exactly embraced the Church’s teaching on contraception in the past, please think about trusting God with your fertility this Lent. NFP has some terrific side effects. It builds a deep respect and trust between married partners. A couple practicing NFP will naturally develop the cardinal virtue of temperance. If, after prayerful discernment, they choose to avoid pregnancy for the time being, they must exercise self-control on the days when the woman is fertile. It may seem that it would be a long, frustrating stretch. In reality, however, it usually amounts to about eight to ten days each cycle for the average couple. This period of abstinence requires placing the other person’s well being above your own. This is what true love is all about! It is my prayer that you will give NFP prayerful consideration. This “Yes,” to God and to His gift of life will surely bring abundant graces and blessings to your marriage!
Photo and text copyright 2011 Dana Doyle