Saturday, July 27, 2013

Open to Life...

Alright y'all you knew this was coming, I am a little late but in honor of NFP awareness week I wanted to write some post about Natural Family Planning! First off I have to say I dislike the name NFP but I use it because no one has come up with anything better. I would rather use a phrase like fertility awareness or pro-life fertility care or something along those lines. Since there is not a better name for it I will just call it NFP, for now ;)  This lovely blogger Amy wrote a wonderfully wise post on this subject awhile back. Some of my sentiments for the name come from my thoughts about how uncomfortable I am with the way NFP is touted among some circles as the most important Church teaching or every Catholic couple must use NFP at some point in their marriage or you are required to chart some NFP method before you get married. Don't get me wrong I think a proper catechesis about marriage and family needs to be required for marriage prep. and I highly recommend charting an NFP method before you get married. This catechisis would include the Church's teaching on human sexuality and why the Church does not condone the use of contraceptives. So as you can see I am not against NFP I just think it is secondary to the real issue which is proper catechisis! 

I think the "planning" in NFP has not worked out for us. If it were up to us we would have at least two children by now, so our "planning" with NFP hasn't worked out. I think by using the word planning we have given a false sense to couples that they have complete control over their fertility at least that is the way some NFP promoters make it sound, which makes NFP sound like the "catholic contraception." This is not just in my head ya know, I once had a fellow parishioner call me because she wanted to help out with NFP ministry. She met with me so I could get a feel for where she was at. I came to learn that she thought NFP meant that you just don't use hormonal contraceptives but you could still use a condom and withdrawal. Her point of view was that her and her husband can do whatever they want because they were planning their family naturally by not using hormonal contraceptives. Needless to say she did not end up helping with the ministry after our meeting but I did dialogue with her and gave her a proper catechisis. I encouraged her to learn an NFP method but she said her husband wouldn't be open to it. I have come across many couples who have this misconception.  

I want to give some background on my journey with NFP. I first heard of the Catholic Church's teaching against contraception when I was a junior in HS. Before that I knew I was against abortion from a very young age. I had a teacher Ms. K in jr. high that really shaped my opinion about how wrong abortion was, she was one of those "crazy" pro-lifers that went to pray in front of an abortion clinic every week. To this day I am so thankful for her witness to me and letting me turn my simple 6th grade persuasion/advertisement speech into an anti-abortion speech. I could tell as the rest of my peers were trying to sell a new product with their speeches that they didn't get what I was saying.

 Alas I was ahead of my time but I remember feeling so convicted and strongly from a very young age that abortion was wrong even though in HS and college my education and teachers tried to persuade me otherwise. I didn't really have an opinion that contraception was wrong at the time because I didn't really think about it to be honest. My thought process was something like "sex with a condom or having to take a pill would be too annoying, doesn't seem very romantic and I am too lazy to do that so I should wait to have sex until I am married because I could get pregnant" Yup that was me a lazy teenager but there is some truth in my thinking. Sex = babies and you should not have to put on armory physically or emotionally to have sex! There should be no "safe sex" because sex in its original state does not need protection, we should not need protection from sex! We do not need to protect ourselves from babies, they need our protection! 

So you're probably wondering why I am bringing up abortion when this post is suppose to be about NFP, right? Well abortion and contraception go hand in hand. It is no coincidence that the folks at planned parenthood thought it would be great business to offer these services together. If contraception doesn't work in preventing pregnancy then abortion is your next option, just step into the room next door and they'll take care of that for you. Now this connection centers around the principal of avoiding a pregnancy at any cost. We as a society have lost respect for women, children, men and families all together. We think that having the freedom to be with whomever, wherever and whenever makes us a free society not tied down like our great grandparents were to marriage and family. Oh yes they were very tied down with a steady job, income and a stable home with a mom and dad! Nobody wants that anymore, right? 

We think all this sex education will make us wiser and happier adults because we know better than our great grandparents and they were such old fashioned thinkers. Well I know plenty of people with this mentality that are not wiser or happier adults, some of them are my clients! Yes, some of my clients have used contraception before and now I am trying to help them figure out and repair their fertility. I see the damage that contraception does to a person and marriages as I see some of my clients who are heart broken that they ever brought it into their marriage. They grieve for the time lost with their spouse and they are now trying to heal and repair their marriages as well as their bodies from the damage of all those artificial hormones that those contraceptives were pumping into their bodies for years! 

Now let's get down to the basics of sex education through the lens of the Catholic Church. There is a procreative and unitive aspect to the sexual act so says the Church (CCC 1604, 2363). Since there are two aspects to every sexual act you can not separate the two, it is unnatural. Also, why would you want to separate them? Really think about that, why would anyone want to separate the "fidelity and fecundity" from sex? Is it because we are selfish? Is it because we have too much pride in thinking that we can act and do whatever we want? Do we think we have a right to sex? When a husband and wife come together they are expressing a self gift to one another! Why on earth would I only want part of the gift and not the whole thing? Do you want half a Christmas present? Do you only want half of your birthday presents or wedding gifts? No of course not, you want the whole thing! So why would you not want all of your spouse including their fertility.

 Why is infertility so heartbreaking if fecundity(fertility) is no big deal and it secondary to physical pleasure?! It is becasue our fertility IS a big deal, it is part of who we are! Fertility is not an afterthought of sex, it is part of it! The most heartbreaking thing about infertility to me has been the fact that the fertility that I give to my husband in each marital imbrace is broken. The fact that my husband takes my broken self-gift and gives the gift of himself to me in return has been the most humbling, beautiful and healing experience about infertility! It brings me to tears that my husband would accept my whole self, PCOS and all!

I have only come to realize this through NFP and recognizing that yes even my broken fertility is a gift. Charting my cycles and learning about how screwed up my body is was not easy at first. It was tough to face the reality that something was wrong. I have to say that it was awesome to have my husband charting and learning with me so that he could also see what was going on, it also gave me a huge sense of support and comfort in knowing that I was not on this journey alone. At first it was awkward for him to ask me what signs I saw that day but after awhile we got more comfortable with it. We learned how to communicate about the most intimate part of ourselves, our fertility and with that came a deeper respect and love for one another. It was those very same NFP charts that I took to several Drs. to figure out what was wrong and they all said that I needed to take the pill and all would be fine after that. Knowing that the pill was bad news for me physically and not good for our marriage we declined that offer but they offered no help after that other than a standard blood test and one random ultrasound. When I found a Dr. who actually took my fertility seriously and looked at my charts and said there was something wrong, NFP became more than just a way to "plan" out my family. From that point on NFP became health care! It became a way to track my fertility and let my Dr. know what these biological markers were pointing to.

NFP has saved my life in so many ways as far as getting to the bottom of my health issues but also giving me a strong marriage. Ask anyone who know us and they will say JJ and I are truly one. I feel part of that is due to our expereince with NFP. It has given us a knowledge about one another that we would have not had without it and it has broken down communication barriers that we have had. If I can talk to my husband about my cervical mucus, I can talk to him about anything! I know that sounds so embarrassing, but it is true! 

When couples are using NFP whether to achieve or postpone a pregnancy there is a general saying that they are "open to life." This means that they are not using contracepives and that they are open to the possibility of new life even if they are trying to avoid/postpone a pregnancy. For me as a woman dealing with infertility my view on NFP and call to be open to life looks very different from those who do not have any fertility problems. Me being open to life means to accept whatever may happen with each cycle. There have been plenty of times where I have told God and JJ that I want my whole reporductive system taken out because getting my period each month hurts physically, spititually and emotionally but, that would make me not open to life. My call to be open to life means to accept this cross and hope that God will make me bear fruit in however He sees fit. Open to life means that there is a possibility of never conceiving again or being receptive to the slim chance that we might. For me being open to life means giving God my hopes, dreams and desires every cycle and asking Him to do with it what He will. Open to life means remembering that God is the ultimate giver of human life, not me! Open to life means giving God my Fiat every day but more specifically every cycle. 

If you would like more info. on NFP or Church teaching please contact me! I love to talk about this stuff and hear about other people's experience with NFP. 

*CCC means Catechism of the Catholic Church which is a collection of official Church teachings. Go look it up! 


  1. This is a wonderful post! I love it. Thanks for giving me more insight to NFP through the lens of infertility.

  2. This is a great post! I agree that I don't like the term NFP. Because the term focuses on family planning, I spent years wishing I had a reason to learn it, all the while wondering what I would find out about my seemingly normal cycles, given that I had a lot of friends that learned it before marriage and found that things were not quite as normal as expected. But I never took it, because I wasn't planning a family. It is so helpful, though, that I wish I would have taken it years ago! And when my charts look screwy (because they often do), I wish I had info from a few years ago so that I would know if this was new or if I was just unaware previously.

  3. Thumbs up Kat!!! Love this post (especially the open to life paragraph)

  4. Yes! Being 100% open to life no matter what is tough, but I wouldn't trade NFP for anything! I too wish I would have started charting, blood tests, etc, even sooner...
    I will never understand why people rave about organic food and the harm of pesticides and such and yet use birth control with all it's harmful chemicals! Great post :)