Michael and I are young, faithful Catholic Christians who strive to follow the Catholic Church’s teachings in all areas of our lives. For me, the discovery of the Church's teaching on contraception was made known in college and through learning the Theology of the Body I realized the incredible freedom and truth She proclaims on this issue. I hope that this post will clear up the misconceptions (there are many) about NFP and shed a light on the incredible marriage that can be had from this practice.
First let me tell you what NFP is not. It is not Catholic birth control. It is not something we "use." It is a way of life that we practice in regards to prayer and making decisions for the future of our family. There are two purposes for sex (unity and procreation), just as there are two purposes for eating (pleasure and nutrition) and if you separate out or remove one of the purposes, it becomes “disordered,” otherwise known as going against Natural Law. Because Contraception removes the procreative purpose from sex, it therefore makes sex “disordered.” NFP simply teaches a man and a woman to develop a mindset of ordering their lives according to God’s Providence – discerning whether or not they are able financially, emotionally, or physically able to get pregnant each month. God created the body in such a way that there are specific conditions that must be present for a woman to get pregnant. The other times during her cycle are infertile times, and even if an egg is present she cannot possibly conceive. NFP involves the training of a couple to record cervical mucus and signs to decipher a woman’s fertility. No regular cycle is necessary and the couple can decipher daily if the woman is fertile or not –and it is 99% effective. (On a side note, this is not the rhythm method...which hasn’t been used for 40 years, by the way.) NFP also upholds each of the marriage vows: to love the other FREELY, TOTALLY, FAITHFULLY, and FRUITFULLY.
I truly believe Natural Family Planning has been the greatest instrument of our success as a married couple. Every single month we have to talk about if we are “ready” to have a child. I don’t mean “Ready” as if we have to save up for a boat or don’t want a child because I don’t want to change my shopping habits, however I mean “Ready” as if we are emotionally at a place and really can afford to bring a child into this world. And this is where NFP is a means to the end of an open and communicative marriage - it forces us to evaluate our finances, our sanity, our events in life, and our faithfulness to God. We pray about our family specifically at these times and God gives us the incredible grace to remain open to whatever He has in store for us. If we discern that we are not ready to get pregnant one month, we simply abstain during the times I am fertile. If we discern that we are to be open to a pregnancy I still chart my cycle (which takes less than 30 seconds a day) and we do not abstain during our fertile time. The funny thing is, it takes a lot to line up to get pregnant and simply because one is fertile, does not mean a pregnancy will result. This is where God's Providence comes in - we are allowing Him to guide our pregnancies and the timing of our family. The timing of Avila, Gabriel, and baby-to-come were not determined solely by our own timing, however, we allowed God to give and even take away as He sought most fitting and holy for our family. And I wouldn't change things one bit.
When every other organization in the world has conformed to the “wisdom of the world,” the Church has stuck by what Christ and his Apostles said from the beginning. We have also read “Humane Vitae” (Latin for Of Human Life) written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 shortly after contraception was made acceptable in every Protestant Denomination. This pope predicted four consequences of contraception in society and is now deemed a piece of prophetic work, as each of these four predictions have come to fruition. The four prophesies were: infidelity and moral decline, lost respect for women , abuse of power by nations (ex: China and sterilizations in Third World countries and taxpayer funded abortions), and man’s belief that he has unlimited dominion over his own body (ex: abortion rates increasing and experimentation with other forms of fertility treatments). We believe that Natural Family Planning (NFP) also has many benefits to the woman’s body, to marriages, and to the family – which is the foundation of society. While the divorce rate in the general population is around 50%, couples who use NFP and go to church have less than a 2% divorce rate. If this isn’t telling enough for the case of NFP in making marriages strong, I don’t know what is!
In terms of the benefits to using NFP, above all, NFP orders a couple to value human life and to know that God is the author of human life. Because a mindset is developed that puts God at the center of a marriage, there is a less of a chance that someone would view an “unplanned” pregnancy as unwanted or disposable. If a couple is using contraception, it is easy to fall back on abortion as a back-up contraception if the first “line of defense” fails.
In using NFP, it is less likely that a couple will “use” one another as sexual objects. If a couple needs to abstain during a particular month it teaches them how to love one another in different ways, to put the family first above their own sexual desires, and to build anticipation (like waiting for a second honeymoon!) until the times comes when the woman’s fertile time has passed.
Other benefits of NFP are: it is environmentally sound as it doesn’t emit chemicals into the sewer system, it is virtually cost-free, easy to use, it is morally acceptable, immediately reversible, highly effective, promotes better marriages, and above all, it is safe and healthy – with no side effects.
Michael and I are extremely blessed to known many couples our age who practice NFP. And let me tell you, their families, their marriages are beautiful. Their family sizes are all different kinds and their stories are not all the same. A lot of us have found that being open to life is not just about having more kids, but rather to be open to the struggles it takes to become pregnant, to be open to the loss of children, and to be open to a plan completely different from our own. Every family is different and God wants us to conform our consciences to His plan in order that we might have what is “perfect and pleasing…” – God’s Holy Will.