Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Not For Populating (NFP)

As Anthony and I move closer and closer to that blissful day when we say "I will," Natural Family Planning (NFP) has been a topic that seems to irritatingly poke its nose into the picture now and again, especially when we delve into mainstream Catholic culture.

You're an engaged Catholic couple? Here, take this information on NFP!
I am so grateful to have found a man that is completely on the same page as I am, and who actually has a strong opinion in regards to the topic.

And here it is: We both basically hold that NFP is not an essential part of a happy, normal Catholic marriage. And therefore, both of us have decided we have no reason to even learn it at this time.

They sound irresponsible! 
I feel like I should expect audible gasps from that last statement after what I have been reading online about the common marriage prep for modern day Catholic couples and from the fact that our diocese inserted NFP as a mandatory topic to take for our "Engaged Enrichment" conference.

If you are a married Catholic couple practicing NFP, or an engaged couple learning about it, please do not take any of what I am saying as a judgmental statement upon you personally. I do not claim to know, or even have a desire to know, the reasons you feel you need to learn it or practice it. It is a very private matter between two people, but I feel the catechesis on NFP within the Catholic Church has been skewed, generalized and lacking in its fullness.

NFP? Hey! Wait! I'm supposed to be number eight! 
There is a lot of information out there about NFP, so I won't re-summarize it all here. However, below are some links I would recommend, if you are interested learning about our beef with the matter.

  • Fr. Hugh Calkins wrote about his growing concerns about what eventually evolved into NFP, then known as the "rhythm method" back in 1948. You can read it here
  • Also, a blogger, Dr. Jay Boyd, has a series of articles on NFP that pretty much sum up many of our concerns about NFP. 
  • Article titled: Why You Don't Have to Use NFP
  • Pope Pius XII on NFP (section on Birth Control): Address to Midwives


Our reasoning can basically be explained in many of the articles mentioned above. But here is a rough outline of our thought process on the matter. 
  • The primary purpose of marriage is the procreation and education of children. Thus, it would be expected that if a couple were to wed, babies would follow (God willing, many chunky babies :) ). There should normally be no typical societal question of, "When are you going to start your family?" For every Catholic couple, it should be assumed, "Right away!" Let's bring back our claim to the title! Let's bring back the presence and sounds of gobs of children at mass! 
What have happened to all the large Catholic families
  • NFP should only be an option for grave and serious reasons. Why is NFP being promoted to every engaged Catholic couple? I would think most people could easily learn the NFP charting system if a serious and grave reason occurred in their married lives. In my opinion, being taught NFP without a grave matter at hand would make it all too easy to undermine the seriousness of preventing or delaying pregnancy. 
Not to be taken lightly.
  • Why would Catholics "plan" out a family? The family is God's plan for marriage and He created a pretty great system. How many will children will we have? As many souls as God blesses us with. I will often respond with, "a baker's dozen," when asked how many children we will have. It's basically to imply we would love as many as God will give us. We plan to take our role of giving him souls and educating those souls about Him very seriously. 
It is unfortunate that the perception and understanding of NFP is poorly instructed upon and these errors are coming from our Catholic dioceses, priests, and fellow Catholics. I would like to think that the majority of Catholic couples are not experiencing constant truly grave issues within their marriages. 

Let's work together as Catholic couples to once again bring a strong face to marriage and family: the beauty, the fruitfulness, the joy, the triumph in hardships, and the size of our ranks. 

This can be a very touchy topic for people, I know. If you are learning or using NFP and you were unaware of this controversy, I would say do your research. These are very confusing times as there are still those distorting Catholic teachings to more closely match societal norms. And being Catholic is quite far from the societal norm these days. 

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On a lighter topic, Anth and I were able to visit the Milwaukee domes recently. I highly recommend frequent visits to the tropical dome during long and cold Wisconsin winters. 

Greenery, warmth, humidity and light. Good for the soul.

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And on an even lighter (and random) topic, I am already praying we have super chunky babies someday. Those chunky cheeks are just so adorable and are just asking to be poked!

*Poke*

Most sincerely,

              Andrea Rose


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Just a couple quick thoughts from Anthony: I understand the big push for NFP. Our culture is so broken that contraception is as commonplace as, say, owning a car. It's just assumed that you'll do it. And it is incredibly controversial even within the Church: the National Schismatic Reporter regularly posts editorials about how many Catholics use contraception, as part of their push to get this unchanging and unchangeable Catholic teaching repealed (which always makes me wonder what would happen if they devoted even half that energy to getting Roe vs. Wade repealed . . .). So most priests and counsellors are eager to give Catholic couples an alternative that does not break with official Church teaching, and out comes NFP at every opportunity.

The problem with this approach is that it doesn't fix the underlying issue, which is the belief that responsible couples have few kids, properly spaced. This is supposedly better for the kids (more money! More time for activities! Less divided parental attention!) and, of course, for the parents (more money! More time for activities! Less divided parental attention!). But, speaking as number four of a family of nine, I have to call foul. I had an absolutely awesome childhood. My parents couldn't give their children the shiny toys, the big enough house, the vacations, or the college funds. But they gave us something better: lots of love, and lots of brothers and sisters. I never felt like my parents weren't giving me enough attention. And as much as my siblings could drive me crazy (and I, of course, them), I would never have traded them for nicer toys or more goodies or "opportunities." They're family, with all that that implies. And just today I was rereading an interview I did with my parents for a class in college, and both of my parents listed children as the main benefit of marriage. They certainly don't think they made a bad trade.

Natural Family Planning, unfortunately, often seems little more than a Catholic birth control. It is supposed to be just fine because the method used is not artificial, but "natural." But it's not the "natural" I have a problem with, but the "family planning." 

Family planning.

That's heresy today. I mean, of course you should plan your family! It's the responsible thing to do! Of course you should have only the kids you can afford! Right? I mean, right?

But where is our trusting acceptance of God's will and God's providence? Yes, you should not be irresponsible. Meaning: if you can't start a family, you should probably not be getting married. And yes, if you run into a grave difficulty, NFP is there for you. But there seems to be a big change in what we consider grave today, and a big change in what we consider affordable today. My parents struggled financially all their lives, and they are still struggling. Less kids would have alleviated that struggle exponentially. Lots of people thought that they had more kids than they could afford. But guess what? We were all fed, clothed, and happy. 

I don't ever judge a couple on the number of kids they have. I don't know the circumstances. I know couples who have really good, grave reasons to use NFP. But I do ask that other people don't judge Andrea and myself on the number of kids we have. 'Cause we are going to have a lot. And we are going to love each and every one. And we are going to struggle financially; that's a given. But we will be rich — rich in family. Rich in love.

An addendum from Andrea: 

I also found this great explanation on AveMariaSingles.com. 

Church Teaching
Question: Isn't Natural Family Planning (NFP) a form of contraception?
Answer:Technically, no. But in motive, it can be. The Church officially teaches that NFP is permitted for use by a married couple who, for grave reasons, needs to space having children for a reasonable amount of time. The NFP method does NOT intentionally seek to “block” life, as artificial means of contraception do. Therefore, since NFP methods are done with an openness to life should conception still take place, this is permitted by the Church. But notice the conditions: (1) married couple, (2) grave reasons, (3) reasonable amount of time. It is obvious that we are talking about intercourse within marriage, which is the only time intercourse is permitted by the Church. But what many do not realize is that the Church is allowing NFP only for “grave reasons,” and it is only for a short time. “Grave reasons” means that you have to have a really good reason that makes the conception of a child something that would be harmful to the family at that specific time. This is something that MUST be discussed with the couple’s pastor or a trusted priest friend. It is not a decision to make lightly or on their own. Having money problems is rarely a “grave reason,” but it is used often. There might be a serious health issue to tend to first. Whatever the reason, NFP is never to be seen as a normal way to put off having children just because the couple does not want children at the time.

NFP is also NOT to be used for the motive of putting off having children at the time of the marriage. Too many feel they need to “get to know each other first.” For goodness’ sake, don’t get married yet if you don’t know each other well enough. The main reason to actually take the plunge to get married is to have intercourse and be open to children. Otherwise, everything else can be done with each other without getting married.

Marriage is about having children and being open to life. “Be fruitful and multiply,” the Lord commanded the human race. NFP can be very much abused and even be used as a contraceptive if the motive of the couple is less than noble as seen in the purpose of marriage. So in the case of bad motives for postponing or prohibiting having children, NFP can still be in the area of contraception.

NFP is primarily about knowing when you CAN get pregnant and using that important information to help with conception. It is a positive method because it is meant to do something positive, which is to help a couple be fruitful in their marriage. May all Catholics who marry see NFP as a vehicle to helping them in the great honor God has given them to become “co-creators” along with God in bringing children into their lives. And what an honor and privilege it is to help God populate the earth and Heaven itself, as well as give Him so much glory, which every child does.

34 comments:

  1. LOVE this post. I completely agree that NFP is getting to be wayyyy too popular and trendy these days, and people forget that it's not supposed to be used by every couple! There really is no need to learn it if you don't have to, and I know plenty of people who never learned it and are happily married. Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas calls her system of not using NFP "awesome family planning," which I love—such a great attitude!

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    1. Thank Tess! I'm so excited to see you and your future husband's family grow in size and love through the blogging world ;)

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  2. I agree with so much of what you've said here. I will say, however, that I think learning NFP before marriage is a good thing (though I certainly would not call it necessary). If a couple who finds themselves with a serious reason to avoid pregnancy does not yet know the basics of NFP, their choices are these: 1) abstain for a long period of time while learning it, or 2) use birth control. In our society, where everyone from your doctor, to your PRIEST, to the cashier at the grocery store may be pushing you to use BC (even under *not serious* circumstances), it can be very tempting to just go the BC route when you really do need to avoid pregnancy rather than make the sacrifice of long periods of complete abstinence. It is also the case that these required NFP courses are introducing NFP to people who were set on using BC, and may not have even understood the Church's teachings on it, or known that NFP truly can be relied on in those serious situations. The way I see it, the WAY that NFP is taught to engaged couples needs to be changed to include the teaching that it is not Catholic birth control, rather than it not getting mentioned at all.

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    1. Hi Mary! Thank you for your comment.

      If a Catholic couple has a serious reason to avoid pregnancy, using birth control isn't ever an option, even if it is purported as an option in mainstream society or even by ignorant Catholics. Catholic teaching is strictly no birth control, so that could never cross our minds as an option.

      I looked up how long it takes to learn NFP, and it looks like after charting for 3 cycles, most people get the gist of it (if anyone has a different experience of how long it takes to learn, let me know!). So if that means abstaining for 3 months to learn it, well, if the reason really is serious enough, I think the couple would go out of their way to abstain. There are much more difficult sacrifices in marriage than abstaining. And actually abstaining for three months might make the couple think harder about the seriousness of their situation. And if they don't end up abstaining and have a child, well, God will provide. It's not like it would be a sin if they had a child :)

      I think the depth it is taught to engaged couples is unnecessary and yes, I agree with you that it needs to be taught differently than being an alternative birth control method.

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    2. I don't think Mary is suggesting - at all - that people use birth control, just that *IF* you have not taken a course on NFP, the temptation TO use contraception *can* skyrocket.

      I think it's easy to look at it from the outside and say 'oh, you only need three months to learn it' but that also doesn't take into account the various life variables that will be thrown at you. Just ask any couple who has a newborn whether it's possible to find the time to take the classes.

      I have yet to encounter a class where it was taught as "birth control" - if anything, it is RARE that you find it taught thoroughly in pre-cana classes. I am VERY blessed to be a part of a beautiful church that goes above diocesan standards of teaching the NFP intro class and teaches the FULL course, PRIOR to marriage.

      That said, better to know it and not need it - and I think that's the point Mary was trying to make. :)

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    3. Hi Martina,

      I guess I just wasn't sure why the birth control was brought up in the first place. NFP shouldn't be considered any sort of alternative to contraception or even associated with birth control and I think that is where things can get confusing.

      If NFP and its true purpose being taught correctly in a parish, I have no qualms with that.

      I'm all about being prepared, but I don't have any reason to believe we need NFP at this time (if we do in the future, so be it). And there will probably be issues in our life that come up that others may think we are irresponsible for bringing a child into the world as they will not know our private situation. I think some may already think we are irresponsible for not learning it. But many good Catholic families have been raised without using the method in the past without any detrimental effects. And I wholeheartedly believe ours can too.

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    4. I congratulate you on your viewpoint, but I must insert a concern... You say, "I don't have any reason to believe we need NFP". While I'm sure that's true, the point Mary and Martina are trying to make is that you don't know when you may need to use NFP.

      Although I learned NFP as a young single woman (for severe gynecological issues), when I married my husband I didn't think we'd really need NFP to avoid pregnancy -- just to keep track of my gynecological health. However, when I had repeated miscarriages early in our marriage, the fact that I knew my cycles and how to chart quite possibly allowed my son to survive the womb where my first two children did not. Had I not been charting before, during my early pregnancies, and after my miscarriages I wouldn't have been able to show my doctors the charts that lead them to accurately diagnose the reasons behind my miscarriages and save my son from the same fate as his previous siblings. Had I not charted I could very well have lost more children to miscarriage before having chartable data for the doctors to evaluate.

      Had I not known how to do NFP prior to my last pregnancy, I likely would have succumbed to pressure from all my oncology doctors to use birth control (even though I probably would have still abstained) after receiving chemotherapy while 20 weeks pregnant, delivering a healthy baby girl, and receiving more chemotherapy to treat my breast cancer. There was no time to simply abstain with a newborn, chemotherapy, and multiple surgeries. Since I was already somewhat of a veteran charter (2 years before marriage & 3 years while married), I knew the rules inside & outside, recognized my personal symptoms, and had confidence in my ability to decline any type of birth control following chemotherapy.

      Long story short, while you may not think you'll ever have a serious enough reason to use NFP to avoid pregnancy, you really *never* know.

      In addition, you're *only* thinking about the avoidance part of NFP. I recommend that any woman learn NFP as a pubescent girl in order to have a way to detect and treat any unknown gynecological problems before they become severe problems. NFP is very valuable for fertile women to both achieve pregnancy and date pregnancy. Since I knew my cycles, I was able to detect my pregnancies very early -- another factor that saved both of my surviving children's lives.

      Even if you don't think charting is necessary - I hope and pray that it isn't necessary for you - learning it under pressure is not as easy as it seems. It also isn't only about "planning" a family. As a matter of fact, the method I used, is preferentially called Fertility Awareness or FertilityCare. So dismissing NFP out of hand based on societal depiction of it, isn't giving the health aspects of NFP a fair chance. Good luck & God bless!

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    5. Just to reiterate my point - better to know it and not need it. :)

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    6. Mary, I understand your point. I just think that, for me, the temptation would be to use NFP. I certainly do not think I am above committing sin, but I'd be far more likely to reach for NFP in a situation that does not warrant it than I ever would to reach for birth control. Like I said, Andrea and I come from Catholic bubbles. :) For me, the path of prudence is to avoid the temptation of using NFP when it is not justified.

      Erika, that's wonderful that you were able to educate the doctors, and that NFP was available to you when you needed it! And, yes, I know that Andrea and I have not yet experienced any of marriage's hardships or worries, much less a grave dilemma. For us, NFP and any situations that might warrant its use are still in the abstract. But neither are we operating in a vacuum of naive idealism. We both have the example of our parents. It can be done. :)

      I don't think we are too idealistic. I once had someone tell me that my future wife and I should sign pre-nuptial agreements, "just in case" our marriage ended. But that's self-defeating. Isn't it better to enter marriage determined, come hell or high water, to hold to an ideal that the marriage will be for life? So many divorces happen because couples hit a hard point and think it is easier to cash in their chips than to work things out. But a study I read about recently (I'm trying to find it again!) said that couples that were thinking of divorce at one point but didn't actually get divorced reported five years later that their marriages were happier than those who had divorced and remarried. If you have a strong ideal beforehand that divorce is quite simply impossible, then the ideal can carry you through the rough spots — with God's help, of course! — until the path smooths again.

      Similarly, we want to keep hold of the strong ideal that NFP should only be used for really, really serious reasons, and not dilute that ideal by putting in our toolbox "just in case." Basically, our only concern is that NFP is not a normal part of marriage and it's dangerous to treat it as such, because it can be misused. :)

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  3. Anthony, speaking as number 4 in a family of 7, I have to call your foul. Practicing NFP does not automatically equal fewer children, perfectly spaced. It certainly wasn't the case in my family growing up and it's not the case in my marriage and family. I urge you to prayerfully examine whether you are being a tad prideful about this whole issue, especially considering that you and Andrea are not yet married and do not yet have children. Things might look different a few years down the road. God Bless.

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    1. Hi Ellen!

      I know NFP can be a touchy subject, but honest, it isn't pride that motivates us to write about NFP with the stance that we have. We're just saying the use of NFP is overemphasized within the Catholic church and its purpose has not been taught with clarity. Can it be used to have big families? Yes, of course. And if I had issues with fertility, I know I can use NFP to discern where the problem might lie. However, we don't think it is an initial necessary component of having a big, happy Catholic family.

      I love the concept of AFP :) ( AKA Awesome Family Planning as penned by Haley from Carrots for Michaelmas; link: http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/2012/05/10/afp-awesome-family-planning/)

      If for any reason, we need NFP in the future, we know where to find it and how to learn it. And if people decide to use NFP based upon how it's directed to be used by the Church, more power to them. However, there is no mandate by the Church to use NFP, so if we decide not to learn it right away, that should be ok too. We have made sure that we are pretty well educated on the subject in order to make this decision. It wasn't a decision made out of emotion or haste.

      Anyways, thanks for the comment and please don't take our discussion offensively! :) Discussions, when filled with charity and a thirst for truth, can teach us a lot! :) And I love a good discussion!

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    2. Oh, and thanks to Tess for introducing me to Carrots for Michaelmas :)

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    3. I've heard the same approach called "Supernatural Family Planning" :-)

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  4. Andrea,
    Though I personally don't come from large family (my mother died at a very young age) I can speak to the beauty of NFP. Though you are right, no Catholic couple should be required to learn or use the method I do believe it is important to introduce engaged couples to it. As Ellen stated above NFP can be used to have large families and isn't only made for couples who want few children. Beyond family planning NFP provides invaluable insight into how our bodies are made by God to function and bring new life into the world. Even if a couple doesn't use NFP to space children it is still beautiful and bonding for a married couple to fully understand the wife and her body.

    You stated "I looked up how long it takes to learn NFP, and it looks like after charting for 3 cycles, most people get the gist of it (if anyone has a different experience of how long it takes to learn, let me know!). So if that means abstaining for 3 months to learn it, well, if the reason really is serious enough, I think the couple would go out of their way to abstain. There are much more difficult sacrifices in marriage than abstaining. And actually abstaining for three months might make the couple think harder about the seriousness of their situation. And if they don't end up abstaining and have a child, well, God will provide. It's not like it would be a sin if they had a child :) " Though you are correct about needing to abstain for up to three cycles, I can tell you as a woman who has dealt with infertility my whole marriage having known and charted with NFP during the time we were engaged and our entire marriage helped me to uncover my fertility issues. If it hadn't been for NFP I know it would've taken us much longer to have our beautiful son. As it was it took us three years to have him.



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    1. Can we please distinguish between "charting your fertility" and "using NFP"?? It makes for such confusing discussions! I really think they are different. Keeping a chart is merely knowledge. "Using NFP" is what you *do* with that knowledge - consciously choosing which days you want or don't want to engage in the marital act.

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  5. Another thing I wanted to point out about what you stated was "there are much more difficult sacrifices in marriage than abstaining". This is an extremely flippant thing for you to say as an unmarried woman. The Church teaches that sex is the renewal of our marriage vows, the renewal of a sacrament. Some Catholic scholars have even likened it to receiving our Lord in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Could you imagine being cut off in that intimate way from our Lord for three months?! I can't! The act of sex within marriage is supposed to bring us not only closer to our spouse but to our Lord. In some cases it can be other worldly making spouses feel as though they are in heaven with God. Speaking as someone who just recently found out I might have to abstain for three months due to the risk of cancer I can tell you first hand that after five years of marriage I have never been asked to make a larger sacrifice. It is easy to say that three months isn't that big of a deal if the circumstances are grave enough when you haven't experienced the graces and beauty to be found in the marriage bed.

    Another thing you wrote that I wanted to discuss was "And if they don't end up abstaining and have a child, well, God will provide. It's not like it would be a sin if they had a child :) ". Again I think all of these things are very easy for an unmarried woman to say. I just recently had a serious health issue that has put me at risk for cancer and since my husband and I accept and love all the teaching of the Church, birth control is not an option. We are instead going to have to abstain for awhile. Though I wish it were as easy as "God providing" if we happened to not be strong enough to abstain and I get pregnant chances are pretty high I will get cancer. Though I whole heartily believe that God will provide throwing that statement around doesn't take into account that God gave us intellect and free will. If nature, which He created says I will get cancer if I get pregnant in the next few months and we choose to have sex anyways we will be fully responsible for the repercussions of that act.
    Though I understand your desire for a large family and I support that, a lot of the statements you made in your post and in response to those who've left comments are horribly offensive. You have every right to not use NFP but it's not okay for you to discredit it entirely or act as though abstinence is an easy road.
    I hope God blesses you with as many children as you desire.
    God Bless!

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  6. I'm sorry if you interpreted the post and my responses to comments offensively. Not my intention at all. I'm not discrediting it nor do I believe abstinence would be easy. Tone is quite hard to read in text and I'm sorry if I wasn't clearer in that regard.

    So please accept my apologies and if you wanted me to expand on any of our reasoning specifically, let me know. But I do feel the issues you had with the post and comments were taken out of context and generalized. I would much rather a commenter ask me, "Is this what you meant?" instead of assuming my intentions or attitude. Our post is on the overall idea of NFP and is not targeted at individual people or situations.

    I am horribly sorry about your cancer risk, your struggles with infertility and will say prayers on your behalf that this trial may pass soon. God knows life can be difficult and never seems to go according to how we think it will, but His graces can pull us through any situation.

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  7. Andrea,
    I am well aware that birth control is never an option. Knowing that something is against Catholic teaching is far different from never being tempted to use it. When people are in difficult situations, people sometimes do things that they know are wrong. It seems naive of you to say it could never cross our minds to use birth control. Has it never crossed your mind to commit any other grave sin?? Have you ever followed through with it even though you knew better? Like someone else said, it's very easy for you as an unmarried woman to act as if abstaining for three months is a small matter, but to many people, this would be a major sacrifice, and birth control would most certainly be a temptation. You seemed to have suggested in your post that just learning NFP without currently having a serious reason to use it would cause a temptation to use it unjustly... and yet you seem dismissive of the temptation to contracept. I think that your heart is in the right place and most of your thoughts are on target, but there are just some things that you are not going to understand since you are not married yet.

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    1. Mary,

      I didn't mean to imply that you didn't know that birth control is never an option. It's just that NFP shouldn't be even associated as an alternative or a solution where one might use birth control. The contraceptive mentality can't be fixed by teaching NFP. It requires a complete re-teaching of the purpose and place of the marital act as well as an abandonment to and trust in God's will.

      I have no doubt abstaining would be difficult and you are right that I won't understand the magnitude of sacrifice until I'm married. Agreed. But, just because it's difficult doesn't mean it can't be done, especially when both parties are on board.

      I look forward to an amazing marriage and life, full of love and joy as well as heartaches and sorrow, and I know I can't even conceive of along what paths God will take us!

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    2. Again, I agree with so much of what you've said. But the point is, though NFP should not really be in the same conversation as contraception, that's the world we live in. I'm not talking about because of the failure of the church to catechise properly about NFP. I'm talking about going to the doctor and hearing "it would be very dangerous for you to get pregnant right now, so you MUST use birth control." You know there are doctors that won't even keep you as a patient if you don't follow their "advice" and use birth control when you are in a situation where avoiding pregnancy is important (such as when you are taking a drug that could harm a baby)? I'm talking about hearing from "your" well-intentioned but misled priest "If there's a danger to your health, then it's okay to use contraception." I have never been in this situation but I have talked to a lot of **faithful** Catholic women, and this kind of pressure from others exists, and cause crushing temptation to do the wrong thing. This is reality. Contraception is going to be part of the conversation because our society is so saturated with it. No, teaching NFP doesn't fix that contraceptive mentality, but not teaching it doesn't either.

      I think we live in a world where more people might face very serious reasons to avoid pregnancy than you might think. There are a lot of medications out there that are very dangerous to babies. There are A LOT of women having csections, and A LOT of doctors who won't allow them to have anything but csections in subsequent pregnancies. Csection after csection can be very dangerous for a mother (I'm not saying that women shouldn't have multiple csections, but just that it could be necessary to space pregnancies or avoid all together so you don't risk your life or the baby's). Those are just two medical examples of very common situations in today's world, and situations where women WILL be pressured to use contraception, unless they have faithful Catholic doctors (which are hard to come by).

      Not everyone is like you and your dear husband. Not everyone will be strong enough to choose abstinence while learning NFP, while everyone around them is pressuring them to contracept.

      My ONLY point in all this is that it can be good to learn NFP (properly taught) ahead of time so that some of the possible temptation to contracept is lessened. I didn't say everyone should, or that YOU should. Just that it's not a bad thing for someone to do. I also certainly did not say or imply that abstinence can't be done. We are talking about temptation to sin here. I'm sure you've experienced it sometimes in your life.

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  8. Andrea & Anthony,

    Neither one of you really seem to understand the dilemmas faced during marriage in which NFP is indeed a licit alternative to contraceptives. In almost all hospitals, clinics, and doctor's offices around the world, the first option given to a woman in a fertile relationship facing a gynecological issues or other diagnoses is contraceptives. We live in the world and therefore must interact with the world. When faced with a diagnosis with the recommendation of contraceptives as a band aid, it is good to have an alternative.

    I was told to avoid children both for my own health (after chemo while pregnant, delivering a baby, more chemo, and more surgeries) and to prevent possible further losses (due to miscarriage or fatal birth defects). Several of my doctors already had their prescription pads out and were discussing with colleagues, physician's assistants, interns, and nurses the available contraceptive options for me. Due to my familiarity with NFP, my knowledge of its workings, and a good bit of the Holy Spirit's guidance I was able to decline any type of contraceptive (they even tried to push condoms into my hands) as well as educate several high-powered doctors and others in a top-notch cancer hospital about the use of NFP. Again, due to an influx of the Holy Spirit I didn't simply educate them about the avoidance abilities of NFP, but also about the life-saving abilities of NFP.

    Doctors don't really care about sacrifice, trust, and love -- they care about the results and the science. Relating NFP to contraceptives is making it more understandable to doctors who are in a position to influence and educate other doctors, medical personnel, and patients. Hopefully, some of these doctors are more willing to listen to a not-so-pushy/educated/Holy Spirit guided patient who doesn't want contraceptives, but is willing to sacrifice and trust God through NFP.

    I really admire your tenacity and your idealism with regards to NFP. However, this is not only a contentious subject that is sensitive to many, but it is also much easier to discuss and dismiss as an abstract thought than it is in reality. I hope and pray that your ideal life continues and you are never faced with a reason to use NFP. Good luck & God bless!

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  9. Anthony, you sound like you will make a great husband. I am glad you and your bride will be entering into a holy Catholic marriage. What a great gift! I think your analysis of the way NFP is presented is true. I have had many an internet argument about this very issue.

    I just want to make one point - to use your tourniquet analogy... learning NFP before marriage is not like putting the tourniquet on before you need it. It's like having the tourniquet in your first aid kit. I was talking to my husband about this topic last night. Part of his position at work is planning for emergency situations, including the ones that they don't expect to ever arrive. He commented that learning NFP before you need it is sort of akin to what he does at his job - planning for emergencies that you hope will never arise. I don't want that analogy to go too far such that it appears I'm insinuating that it's irresponsible not to learn NFP -- because I don't think that AT ALL. I just think that it's not a bad idea to do it. Even the most morally upright people can face temptations that they never thought possible. Each one of us has the capacity for committing greatly evil acts; no one is above committing ANY sin.

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  10. There are very good reasons to learn NFP besides family planning. The fertility charts can provide critical health information that can be used to diagnose and treat various women's health problems.

    http://www.thebillingsovulationmethod.org/safeguarding-reproductive-health.html

    Charting is just information. You can use the information to avoid pregnancy, achieve pregnancy, or just keep charts as a health record.

    Second, your concern about misusing the method seems misguided. If there is a temptation to misuse the information the charts provide, the solution isn't ignorance, it's dealing with whatever is tempting you.

    As others have pointed out, you may need the information. It is far easier to learn the symptoms before marriage than when you are in a crisis and DO have serious reasons.

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    1. Hi James! Thanks for the comment. I think we've addressed what you've brought up in previous comments. We'll use NFP if we ever find the need and we do feel capable of learning it when we need it as opposed to before hand. It's a fairly simple to pick up and takes a relatively short time. We're not against having more information: I have a BS in Bioscience and a doctorate in PT and my fiance is a librarian. It's not an uneducated decision. :)

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    2. I would argue that it is not simple to use and pick up postpartum, and it does not take a short amount of time to learn in this instance either. I agree with much of what you said-so much so that my husband and I opted out of learning NFP while we were engaged as well. We were in a good place finacially and we were healthy, so we doubted that we would ever need it. Even so, serious medical circumstances did arise for us after the birth of my firstborn. Breastfeeding delays ovulation-you don't have cycles with which to learn NFP. It is very common for women to ovulate prior to their first postpartum period (I always do), so you need to be ready to recognize the signs of ovulation outside the context of cycles, which is very difficult if you've never observed them before. Cycles resume anywhere from 4-24 months after the birth of a baby (sometimes even longer, though in this culture most women wean sooner and it's not an issue), so a couple with a serious reason for avoiding pregnancy would need to be abstaining for this entire time, just waiting for an opportunity to begin learning the method. I know that many people claim that it is easy to learn, and I believe that for an engaged couple or a couple coming of birth control it probably is. Even some postpartum couples don't have a problem, mostly because they get lucky and have cycles resume quickly, or they 'cheat' and just don't happen to get pregnant when they do (perhaps their reason wasn't as serious so they felt ok doing this). But I think it's deceptive to claim that it can easily be learned postpartum because in my experience it is much more difficult. And believe me we were highly motivated (all this abstaining happened just prior to my husband's deployment to Iraq; it was very difficult).

      I think it's fine that you're not learning it now. As I said, we didn't either. It's the expectation that you can easily learn it later that I disagree with.

      Best wishes to you as you prepare for your wedding. I'm sure you will be blessed with many many babies, which is always a blessing. I wouldn't wish it any other way, truly.

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    3. Thanks for your comment and well wishes Anna! I guess I was trying to say the concept is simple, although putting it in practice definitely could be more difficult with life circumstances. I'm sorry if I came across as overly nonchalant regarding learning NFP. I figure life will throw us curveballs no matter what and we'll have to do our best, pray a lot, use what we know, learn what we can and then trust that God we bring us through it! Thank you for sharing your experience!

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    4. I guess my point is that, unless a couple is willing to right NFP off as something they will never use, I think it best to learn before you have babies. Obviously if circumstances had been different for us I would have no regrets. But as things happened, I wish we had taken an NFP class while we were engaged. I was engaged for 7 months. I probably ovulated 7 times and could have gained a tremendous amount of experience during that time. Contrast that to the 6 years in which I have been married and for the most part have only ovulated once every 18-23 months. The only experience I have of charting actual cycles was gained during the few cycles I had while my husband was in Iraq. It is only outside of that time it's has been difficult to learn.
      I just think that couples who have need of NFP later in marriage will benefit a great deal from the experience they gained while they were engaged, and they make to decision on whether or not to learn it during engagement with the expectation that learning it as soon as possible will make it much easier for them in the long run, if they ever have to use it.

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  11. Hi Andrea, You are right a healthy discussion is good for us.
    http://yearsofmilkandhoney.blogspot.ca/2014/01/natural-family-planning-do-you-have.html?showComment=1389564064453#c1034739519199496860

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  12. Thanks for commenting on my post - I enjoyed reading your post as well! I would really caution you on reading articles by Dr. Jay Boyd - not that your concerns are not valid, but this particular person is very harmful in the discussion of NFP.

    As said before, NFP is not just about "planning" your babies - it can also help in women's health knowledge and know *when* to try to have babies, which is how we are using NFP. We are not planning on avoiding pregnancy, and so we are using the knowledge of my body to have babies!

    Moreover, I think it is a very dangerous idea to say that NFP can have a contraceptive mentality. As long as contraception is not used (as it is with FAM), it can never be contraceptive. It goes against the whole intention and actions of NFP, which is self-giving and self-denial.

    It's fine if you two choose not to use it, but I think it is very beneficial for married couples to know how and why NFP is important in marriage, especially in a time when so many couples (Catholic and not) are contracepting.

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  13. Hi Julie! Thanks for the comment!

    We know Dr. Boyd and like her, though we had our opinions on NFP before we met her. I guess if you disagree with her you’d think she was harmful to the discussion. :)

    As for the contraceptive mentality . . . you say NFP is flat-out never contraceptive, but also that we should teach it to people because so many are using contraception. Isn’t that having a contraceptive mentality? :)

    Our little Pio is a honeymoon baby, so my wife and I are fortunate in that we didn’t really have to learn about having babies. For anyone who doesn’t have it as easy as we did, though, I agree that NFP can be very useful.

    But I don’t agree that NFP is always about self-giving and self-denial. That seems to me to have a bit of a puritan view of the marital act. There is the danger that if the husband and wife perform the marital act at the wrong time, they will think that it is a “failure.” It’s never a failure between spouses. It’s a positive good, as are the resulting children.

    What we’re trying to combat is this view of NFP as “Part of this Complete Marriage!” Neither of our parents used it, and no one in either family is the worse for wear. If we need it, we know where to look. That’s about all the knowledge we need at the moment.

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  14. Thank you again it is so nice to read something contrary to the endless promotion of NFP, which I'm sure is more to do with discouraging couples from using contraception than it is with following Church teaching.

    NFP is of course not contraception and used for good serious reasons, by mutual consent of the couple and with prayer it is in no ay a sin. But procreation is God's purpose for marriage and the intimacy that goes with it is made sacred by openness to life, so to in any way try to go against that, even by natural means should never be taken lightly and should never be seen as a natural or routine part of marriage.

    I can see that learning NFP before marriage is easier as (repeated) cycles of pregnancy & nursing make it far more difficult to establish patterns etc, but I / we especially feel that to enter marriage, is to enter God's plan for marriage which is parenthood and to start by going against that is wrong. As the parents of a honeymoon baby we know what this means but to us any form of birth control is a sin and NFP without very serious reason is also.

    God bless



    God bless

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    1. Thank you again for your comment :) NFP is definitely going to be a rare case for us and not a common practice within our marriage. Hopeful to know others out there who put NFP in this light as well :) God bless!

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  15. Hello, folks!

    I know that NFP is a VERY sensitive topic, and a very personal one, and like all sensitive, personal topics it is easy to take a strong statement about it as a personal attack. Please believe that any such intention is the furthest thing from our minds! I've never been very good at tact, since I am firstly a man, and secondly an introvert, which means that I tend to have a laser-like focus on whatever issue I am thinking about and don't pay enough attention to how my statements sound to others. Andrea is helping to cure me of this, though! :)

    Anyway, our intention was not to take into account each and every possible situation for the use or non-use of NFP, but to comment on some general attitudes towards it that are worrying, and our own decision to run away these attitudes in favor of an older and, we think, wiser way of looking at NFP.

    Basically, NFP is often present today as a normal "part of this complete marriage," and as an alternative to contraception, but it really is not intended by the Church to be either. It's intended to be a tourniquet: used in specific, grave situations, for as long as it is needed, and then dispensed with.

    Maybe Andrea and I should learn to put a tourniquet on before it is required. Certainly that's one point of view. But my analogy of the tourniquet breaks down here, because nobody could be tempted to misuse a tourniquet.

    I'm not trying to be proud or sanctimonious when I say that using contraception would never cross our minds. I genuinely think it never would. Maybe that's naive, but contraception is so completely far from of our worldview and our family backgrounds as to be not just something forbidden but something strange and alien. We both come from happy "Catholic bubbles" and much of what is considered normal for the world frankly weirds us out. :)

    I am actually MUCH more worried about a temptation to misuse NFP. Money is going to be very tight for Andrea and myself for the foreseeable future, since we both have student loans and my job, frankly, stinks. A man's hardwired provider instinct also means that he has a hardwired provider insecurity. The temptation to make my provider job easier will be there. And with all the fuzzy grayness around what constitutes a "grave reason," well, I'd rather just not go there. I'd prefer to err on the side of trust.

    Really, all I want to do is follow the example of my parents, who put their heads down, prayed, and carried on throughout financial difficulty. That kind of trust is HARD. Many today call it foolhardy, but my parents were rewarded with a large, close Catholic family that I, as a child in it, would not have traded for any measure of financial bliss. Don't get me wrong: they were not goofing off and expecting God to pick up the slack. They weren't putting it God's hands and expecting not to have to work hard themselves. Rather, they were making a conscience decision to make near-term sacrifices for a greater ideal. I think it paid off. :)

    Now, this is how Andrea and I have analyzed our own situation. For others, however, the situation may be different. I know of good Catholics whose backgrounds involve non-practicing parents, divorced parents, parents who proudly declare that the Church needs to change its rules about birth control. For these Catholics, contraception is a more real and present concept, not some bizarre outsider thing. It might be wise, then, to have NFP in the toolbox, so to speak, ready to be used without a long learning process, lest they be tempted to whip out a method that they KNOW they can use immediately.

    (continues)

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  16. It still worries me, though. NFP is so often touted as something to use instead of contraception, but it shouldn't be that. I think the point Andrea was trying to make in the comments above is that the two should not be related to each other at all. They really shouldn't even be in the same conversation, and yet that is how NFP is presented, again and again, to young Catholic couples. And so it is read in the same context as the rest of the world's ideas about contraception, and words like "responsibility" and "planning" creep in where the operative words should probably be "trust" and "sacrifice" and (closely related to trust and sacrifice) "love." The idea of NFP as an emergency measure like a tourniquet gets lost.

    And that's what we're trying to avoid.

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