January 21, 2013

Why We Don't Use Contraception: Natural Family Planning (NFP)

Yes, you read that title right! My husband and I do not use contraception. I have been debating writing about such a personal topic on my blog for months, but God has finally opened my heart to writing about this.

Many people know that the Catholic Church teaches against the use of contraception in marriage.   Sadly, few Catholics follow this teaching.  The church advocates Natural Family Planning (NFP) as the only acceptable method of family planning, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what it actually is.  It is not the rhythm method, as many people think, but a scientific, evidence-based method of observing signs from a woman's body and recording them on a chart to determine when she is fertile or infertile, and using those times to either achieve or postpone pregnancy.

I want to share our experience of switching from contraception to NFP both because it has brought abundant joy to our marriage and because it was through hearing and reading about other couples’ stories that we prayerfully decided to make the switch.  I'll be honest and say that I feel really vulnerable writing about this on the internet for anyone to read, but if this encourages even one woman to decide to use NFP, it will be so worth it.

Surprisingly, Thomas and I never learned about NFP at our Catholic high school.  The first time we learned about it was at our marriage preparation retreat.  They didn't teach us how to use the method, but we heard a couple speak about their experience and how beneficial it was for their marriage.  Their love for each other was so evident we could just feel it in the room, and their excitement about NFP was contagious.  I have to say, we were both interested and intrigued.

But. They were young.  And they already had five children.  They said all their children were planned through using NFP and that they wanted a large family, but I felt like they were just saying that to convince everyone to use it.  I brushed it off as ineffective and outdated.  

I didn't know anyone using NFP who could offer me guidance, and I made so many excuses to not use NFP in our marriage.  I figured everyone I knew was using contraception, so it wasn't that big of a deal if I used it too.  I was scared, and I was especially worried about having a baby in grad school.  I talked to my family physician, who brushed off my inquiry about NFP, gave me a trial pack of birth control three months before our wedding, told me to come back when I needed more, and sent me off on my merry way.  I finally settled on the fact that I would have to use the pill until I got done with graduate school, and then I would use NFP after graduating.  I felt guilty about it, but I also (selfishly) felt like I had to do what I needed to do for myself to get me through school.  I was so focused on my own plans that I didn't stop to consider God's plan. 
God did not give up on us, and he kept tugging on my heart. I can't say there was one big moment that made us decide to use NFP, but rather an increasing awareness of its effectiveness and the benefits for women and marriage.  I also felt increasingly uncomfortable taking medication with so many side effects and health risks when I was perfectly healthy.  I started reading Catholic blogs and found out about many women who use NFP.  Women like Katie, who is married and in medical school, and who I greatly admire for the way she promotes NFP.  Women like our NFP instructor, who we met through our Bible Study at church, another young, married woman who also had no children.  I started to think that maybe NFP is a healthy and effective method if you need to wait to have children. 

We met with the instructor at our church just to learn about it and get some introductory information.  Thomas and I were both absolutely blown away.  We learned more information about our bodies, reproduction, and a woman's cycle than we ever did from sexual health lessons in school. Just from that one class.  After that, I started reading every single bit of information I could find on NFP and on the church's teaching about birth control and sexuality. 

Thanks be to God we stopped using contraception almost a year ago, and have been using NFP since then.  Making that decision has been the single best thing that has happened in our relationship.  Because we have found this to be so positive, I want to share with you some information and benefits.  I am going to do my best to give health, secular, and environmental reasons, as well as religious and moral reasons for why we stopped using contraception. 

1. Natural Family Planning IS effective if you are trying to postpone pregnancy.  It is not the rhythm method.  Like I said above, it is a scientific method that uses the signs of a woman's body to determine when she is fertile.  We use the Creighton Model, which has a use effectiveness (not method effectiveness) of 96.8% in your first year of use, and it only continues to become more effective as you become more confident and aware of the signs from your body.  Compare that to other types which have a use effectiveness between 91-99%.  Condoms?  Only 82% effective. 

2. There are NO side effects to NFP! Wahoo!  Have you looked at the list of side effects and possible health complications on the information sheet from the pill box?  Many women have experienced a lot of those side effects from taking the pill.  Thankfully, NFP is completely natural, so I don't have to worry about any of those awful side effects.

3. There are no health risks involved with NFP!  Did you know that birth control pills are rated by the CDC as a type 1 carcinogen 
(along with tobacco, asbestos, and arsenic)? Women have an increased risk of breast cancer until up to ten years after discontinuing the use of birth control pills.   Also, after using the pill for ten years, a woman's risk of cervical cancer is doubled.   And we were just learning in one of my classes about how oral contraceptives increase a woman's risk of stroke. You've also all heard the commercials that list death as a possible side effect.  That is all scary. Very scary.  

Furthermore, unlike men, who are fertile 24/7, women are only able to get pregnant about five days out of their cycle. Why should we women be subjected to medicine that comes with a slew of side effects and health risks, to the point of potentially dying, when our fertility is limited?

Being free from all that?  An extremely good feeling!

4.  NFP is completely natural, and it takes advantage of a woman's normal body functions, whereas birth control pills, IUDs, the patch, etc. act to stop the normal functioning of the body.  With NFP there are no hormones, no devices inserted into your body, and no tricking your body into thinking it's pregnant.  Again, why should we use something that messes with our bodies when they are healthy and functioning normally?

5. I feel empowered through using NFP because it is a comprehensive way of monitoring my reproductive health every day. I know SO much more about my body from using NFP.  Just from charting my cycles, I know that I potentially have issues with my levels of progesterone which could increase my risk of having a miscarriage when I become pregnant.  Having that knowledge is so powerful, and will impact my ability to seek help before or when that happens.

6. NFP gives solutions to women’s reproductive health issues.  Unfortunately, many women are prescribed birth control pills to regulate their cycles or deal with other reproductive health issues.  While it might eliminate their symptoms, all it is doing is masking the problem, not fixing the underlying cause of the problem.  There is a health science called NaPro Technology that looks at a woman's cycles from her NFP charts, and doctors can give solutions to the problems she is facing, rather than just give her medicine that covers up the symptoms.  Along with that, if a women develops an issue, say for example ovarian cysts, while she is on birth control, her issues will be covered up and she may not find out about the cysts until there is a significant amount of damage.

7. NFP is environmentally friendly, unlike the pill, which has been causing a lot of issues with the water supply and fish.

8. NFP is either FREE or inexpensive depending on what method you choose to use.  With our method, we had an upfront cost, and it was $30 per session with our NFP instructor.  We've had about five meetings with her so far, but now that we know the method there is really no need to meet with her, but we area always able to email her with questions.  However, if you can’t afford to pay for it, your instructor will work it out with you. 

9. NFP can be used to achieve pregnancy, as well as postpone pregnancy.  If you decide one month you want to try to get pregnant, you can tell from your chart when you are ovulating and aim for that time to try to conceive.  If you decide one month you want to postpone pregnancy and your circumstances change the next month and you want to try to have a baby, you can easily start trying without having to wait for hormonal effects to wear off!  Not only that, but
interventions to help couples become pregnant are much more effective (81%) than IVF (21-27%). 


10.  Contraception has the ability to abort an unborn child.  The pill typically works by tricking your body into thinking it is pregnant.  However, if you happen to conceive while on the pill, the pill can act as an abortifacient through thinning the lining of the uterus so that the fertilized egg can't implant.  IUD devices also act as abortifacients because they make the lining of the uterus inhospitable to implantation, so that when the egg and sperm join, they cannot implant.  Don't believe me?  Read the information sheet from Paraguard ("Possible mechanisms...include interference with sperm transport or fertilization, and prevention of implantation.") or the information from Mirena ("There is no single explanation for how Mirena works.  Mi
rena may...make the lining of your uterus thin").  Essentially every single type of birth control has the ability to abort your conceived child.  If you believe that life begins at conception, you may have a huge issue with this because the life of the conceived child is ended when the fertilized egg cannot implant in the uterus.  For me personally, it is so deeply upsetting to think that we could have killed an innocent child through using the pill.  

11. I absolutely believe in the church's teaching that unification and procreation should not be separated in the marital act.  The church does not say that every act of intercourse should be aimed at trying to get pregnant, but every act should be ordered to procreation (as in barrier free) and open to life.  

Furthermore, the church really wants all married couples to have the most fulfilling relationship possible, one that mirrors God's immense love for us.  Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). We can see the qualities of Christ's love in this excerpt from Christopher West's Book "Theology of the Body for Beginners:"

"But if "bodily love" is meant to express "the language of 'agape'" (TOB 92:7), we must properly understand this language.  Christ's love seems distinguishable by four particular qualities.  First, Christ gives his body freely ("No one takes my life from me, I lay it down of my own accord," John 10:18).  Second, he gives his body totally - without reservation, condition, or selfish calculation ("He loved them to the last," John 13:1).  Third, he gives his body faithfully ("I am with you always," Matthew 28:20).  And fourth, he gives his body fruitfully ("I came that they may have life," John 10:10).  If men and women are to avoid the pitfalls of counterfeit love, and live their vocation to its full, their union must express the same free, total, faithful, fruitful love that Christ's body expresses" (page 89).


The two of us have become so much more open to life because we talk about our intentions for a family, pray about God's will for us, and try to discern if our reasons are severe enough to wait to have a child (the Catholic Church teaches you should only postpone pregnancy if you have severe reasons, whether financial, physical, psychological, etc.).   Using NFP has opened the door to constant communication about God’s will for us and our family because we are both involved in using NFP – I observe during the day, Thomas writes the information in our chart at night, and we both interpret the results together, so we literally talk about it every single day.  Our instructor asks us to rate how we would respond if we were pregnant every time we meet with her, and it’s been funny to see how our answers have gradually changed from not very accepting to very accepting.  We have come to see children as a precious gift from God that will only change our life circumstances, rather than a burden that will ruin our life circumstances. 

The Humane Vitae says, "to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator." Using birth control causes us to think that the start of life is completely up to us, but in reality, God is the one who is to determine when a life should begin.  He designed our bodies the way they are for a reason, and only He is the author of life. 

12. I thought we had a wonderful marriage before we started using NFP, but Thomas and I both agree that our relationship has been a million times better after making the switch.  I completely agree with this statement from the Humane Vitae: "Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection." Yes, yes, and YES.  I really believe that contraception leads to the objectification of your partner (both ways).  The more I study the church's teaching on sexuality, and the longer we use NFP, the more I find truth in that statement.   I now understand why Pope John Paul II said that the opposite of love is not hate, but use.  

We both feel like we are in a more authentic, true, self-giving, loving relationship than we ever have been in the past.  I feel so loved, respected, and cherished wholly as a woman by my husband.  We have learned how to respect each other more deeply, and the sacrifice of abstinence involved in NFP has have caused us to improve many other aspects of our relationship.  We make a constant effort to show our love in more ways than physical.  We strive to put the other person first in all that we do because we understand more fully that love is sacrifice.   


In Summary:
Through living out the lifestyle of Natural Family Planning, I am able to fully see the beauty in the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality (although I'm sure it will solidify even more once we have children).  I have heard many women say that the church oppresses women, or that they love the church, but they disagree with the church's beliefs about women's issues.  Through using NFP and studying the church's stance on contraception, I have found the complete opposite.  I have found that the church deeply, deeply cares about, and wants the best for, women, their health, and their families.   The church respects and appreciates the body of a woman the way it was made by God, upholding her dignity and the essence of femininity.   

Also, I just want to say that I have become so much closer to God through using NFP. There was a complete surrender to God and His will for my life and our marriage that came with switching to NFP, which has caused me to place my full trust in Him.  I truly feel how much He is ALWAYS there for us, surrounding us, and looking out for our best interest as a married couple.  We have seen His grace pour down on us in every aspect of our marriage after switching to NFP, and I feel His love more and more every day.  NFP has been such a blessing, and we are so grateful that our eyes have been opened to the truth.  

Friends, I hope this information was helpful!  Please, please, please let me know if you want to talk more about NFP.  I'd be more than happy to meet up with you for coffee or dinner, talk on the phone, let you borrow books, etc.  Consider this post an invitation!  I’d love to share some of the more personal details with you, answer any questions, and share the challenges.  I am in no way trying to condemn anyone who does use contraception. I have been there, so I promise there is no judgment from me! I just want you to know that if you're not happy with birth control, or even feel the slightest bit uneasy about taking it, there is a healthier, natural option that is effective in postponing or achieving pregnancy.

I can only tell you so much in one post, so here are a TON of resources with way better information! 


Edited to add: My husband's take on NFP

Love,
Caitlin


138 comments:

  1. Love it :) Great job! Thanks for sharing your journey!

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    1. Thanks Liesl, and thank you so much for your support and for reading over it for me!! :)

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  2. I love how similar our stories are :). Thank you so much for sharing this!!!

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    1. I know!! Thank goodness we both came to see the light! :)

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  3. This is so interesting for me. I am not on birth control, however, we are doing everything we know of to prevent pregnancy. But sometimes that can put a strain on our marriage, because my husband is terrified of me getting pregnant right now, and every month we play the waiting game. I'm just not sure how to chart my cycle or how to go about it. I would love some information or some tips :)

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    1. iusenfp.com Jennifer! It is SO empowering to know my body (I've been charting for about a year and a half and I'm single/engaged!). Even if you just start charting for that reason, it's worth it!

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    2. Hi Jennifer! So, my husband and I use the Creighton Model, which is where the woman observes her cervical fluid throughout the day - basically you just check the toilet paper to see what it looks like every time before and after you go to the bathroom.

      There is also the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) of the Couple to Couple League which combines this with the back-up of taking your temperature every morning when you wake up because your temperature increases right after you ovulate each month.

      The book Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a really, really good place to start with learning how to chart! It gives a lot of comprehensive information about a woman's cycle and reproduction and tells you what you should be looking for.

      http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Charge-Your-Fertility-Anniversary/dp/0060881909

      However, if your intention is to postpone pregnancy, I would definitely recommend getting in touch with an instructor. The method will be much more effective if you have someone to help you interpret your own chart, give you individualized feedback, and show you when you are ovulating. They can also point out any potential health issues.

      If you go to this website, you will be able click on find a teacher on the left sidebar to find a Creighton teacher in your area.

      http://www.fertilitycare.org/

      Here is a website where you can find an instructor for the STM method:

      http://register.ccli.org/

      If there is not one in your area, they also have a home program:

      http://ccli.org/productsservices/nfp-instruction/home-study-course.php

      Again, if cost is an issue, the instructors are definitely able to work with you on that!! Plus it saves in the long run because once you learn the method, you don't need to pay for anything else.

      I posted a list of other various resources if you want to look at any of those:

      http://catholiccookiejar.blogspot.com/p/natural-family-planning.html

      Please let me know if you have any other questions! I'd love to help in any way possible! :)

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    3. It took us about three months to fully get used to the method and for me to feel confident interpreting the signs from my body, but once you get past that learning phase, it becomes second nature!

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    4. Thanks so much for that information girl! It is so helpful. I'm glad someone posted about this. It's good to know that there are others out there like me :)

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    5. No problem, Jennifer! And if you have any questions, feel free to privately email me - catholiccookiejar(at)gmail(dot)com.

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    6. K uses the Billings Method, which is somewhat forgotten in the US. She has tried them ALL except Marquette and says Billings is easiest.

      www.thebillingsovulationmethod.com (Main site, Australia)
      www.boma-usa.org (US site)


      If you are looking for online classes, we had a great experience with nfpaware.com

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    7. Caitlin, thank you for your beautiful witness. God is good and He gently moves us in mercy towards the truth. May every couple, young and not so young, be open to His guidance and the full truth of His love for them

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    8. If I may interject as an "older" woman who has had a blessed marriage for almost 33 yrs--my wonderful husband and I took NFP classes many years ago from a couple in our church. The NFP method was a great, natural method of using to conceive our two boys!! It takes discipline, knowledge, and patience to learn, but was so worth it for us! We have taught others how to--Thank you, Caitlin, for all the information you have provided for others! God knew he had picked someone with great fortitude to share NFP--God bless you and your husband!

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  4. Awesome post Caitlin! Personal testimony is so important when people switch from contraceptives to nfp! Thanks for being so bold! Also, you cheesecake was amazing last night. I made it for a small party (one of our priest-friends is joining a monastery in Italy) and it was a hit!

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    1. Thank you so much Brooke! It is scary posting it, but hopefully other women will find it helpful!

      So glad you liked the cheesecake!! :)

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  5. Thanks so much for your willingness to be vulnerable on such a sensitive subject! My husband and I prayed a ton about our decision and it was neat to see how God aligned our hearts through the process!

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    1. Thank you Megan! God thankfully always leads us right where we need to be!

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  6. Thanks for being honest and vulnerable enough to share your story! It was a good read.

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  7. This is a GREAT post, Caitlin! Thank you so much for sharing your story. Hearing stories like yours only makes this single girl that much more excited and reassured about starting the NFP thing now. :)

    Also, I have no idea where you live... but, I would totally have coffee with you. And, we don't even have to talk about NFP. ;)

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    1. I live far from Florida or else I would soooo love to get together for coffee!! I'm so glad you are getting excited about starting NFP! I really wish that I had used it before we got married!

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  8. That was a beautiful post, Caitlin! I have been using the Creighton Method going on 3 years now (postponed a little now due to our girl that is coming in April) and it's just like you said, " I know SO much more about my body from using NFP." And because of these charts, women who are pregnant are able to show exactly when their last cycle started and pin point exactly when they conceived and this helps the midwives/doctors immensely. So glad you wrote about this :D God Bless!

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    1. So true, the increased knowledge is really one of the best parts!

      I am so thankful we will be able to use it to plan a pregnancy and figure out a more accurate due date estimate!

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  9. awesome post, Caitlin! informative and encouraging, with all your personal anecdotes.

    unrelatedly: I'm jealous of how many GREAT pictures you have of you and your husband! i think i have *one* decent picture of my boyfriend and I and we've been dating over a year. teach me your ways, o photographer! :)

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    1. Thank you so much! Haha I am such a picture person - you should see my apartment! We either get brave enough to ask someone, or we whip out the tripod if no one is around or if we are at home! :-P

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  10. It's always scary to share something personal like this... but you never know what seeds yo may plant! Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you so much for the feedback, Maggie! I really hope it does plant some seeds!

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  11. Caitlin, your honesty is such a beautiful thing, and your JOY shines through crystal-clear in this post! I loved learning your heart more as I read it, and I'll pray that it bears fruit for anyone who reads it! xoxo

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    1. You are so sweet, Stephanie. Thank you so much, and thank you for the prayers for my readers!

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  12. Oh Caitlin! I commend your courage to post this! Thank you so much for your witness! I hope anyone who really needs it will reap all of the benefits from it!

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    1. I really appreciate your support! Thank you! I really hope they will too!!

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  13. Yay for such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing so honestly. It is an encouragement of which you will never be fully aware. Yes, I'd love to have you over for tea any time you ae in Houston :)

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    1. I would love so that too! Thank you, Ann-Marie! :)

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  14. What you said about NFP making you more open to God's will is so true! I think many times this means slowly opening our hearts up to a pregnancy and to life. But NFP teaches us that ultimately God is intimately involved in the path our family will take. Couples who use NFP, I think, handle miscarriage and infertility with greater trust than those who use contraception. Contraception gives you a false sense that you are completely in charge of your life and your family size etc. When things don't got exactly as planned, it can be really tough. Not to say that couples who use NFP don't suffer after a miscarriage or if they experience infertility, but they tend to have the grace to accept God's will, because they know that HE has always been at the center of their plans. And as you mentioned NFP can help provide information for infertility. I am sure your story will help someone somewhere!

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    1. I can definitely see how it would impact someone's response to a miscarriage or infertility. Also, I can see how it changes a couple's responses to an unplanned pregnancy because they realize that God is in control.

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  15. Kudos to you for talking about having made the switch. We need more Catholics to speak out, especially those who had the "ah-ha!" moment and decided to trust the Church and her teaching on contraception.

    Prayers for you and husband.

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    1. I completely agree, and that's why I decided to just go ahead and write about it! You never know who it might benefit. Thank you for your prayers, Martha! :)

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  16. good post. I agree. the more people speak out about it the more people will be willing to give it a try.

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    1. Very true - it's not something that's widely talked about at all.

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  17. Fantastic post. Thanks for the shout out! :) I'm so happy for you guys!

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    1. Thank you Katie, and thank you so much again for proofreading and giving me advice!! You are awesome! :) So glad that God put your blog in the right place at the right time for me!

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  18. Great post... thank you for taking the time (and having the courage) to write it out. I think this will be a helpful resource to pass on to young couples we know.

    I want to add that women tend to blow off the health risk part of contraception because the medical community does not often draw an association between the two when issues come up. The fear of having a child consequently ranks higher than fear of stroke, weight gain, chronic health issues, or cancer. I do know a woman who, as a healthy 23-year old, had a stroke as a result of contraceptive usage. She had only been using for 2-years. Her doctors were very up front about the link and although she is not a Catholic, she is vocal about the dangers.

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    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement, Melody!

      That is SO true! My professor was talking about someone she worked with who had a stroke at 19 years old from taking oral contraception. It's scary! When I was looking up information about the risk of stroke, a lot of articles concluded that the benefits of taking birth control to stop pregnancy outweigh the risk of stroke. Crazy, right? I would so much rather have a baby than a stroke.

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  19. When I read such clear and truthful writing like this, it makes it so hard for me to understand why anyone would ever be ok with contraceptives :) This is awesome!

    I do have a question though: you said, "Just from charting my cycles, I know that I potentially have issues with my levels of progesterone which could increase my risk of having a miscarriage when I become pregnant." How can you tell this? Maybe I don't know as much about charting as I thought I did.

    And another question: I can never remember if we do Billings or Creighton. How can I tell which I'm doing ;) My instructor keeps telling me it is just "the mucus method", but I don't know that as being an actual method.

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    1. Thank you Jenna! So thankful for your support!

      Good question! It's my understanding that it's because I have brown bleeding for more than two days at the end of my period combined with a long cycle that borders on having PCOS. And potentially cycles without ovulation. This is what I learned from my instructor and from my Creighton booklet!

      Okay, to answer your other question, reading these might show you which one you are doing:

      Billings:
      http://iusenfp.com/home/nfp-methods/mucus-only-methods/billings-method/

      Creighton:
      http://iusenfp.com/home/268-2/

      I don't know much about Billings, but it seems like that is based on your sensation during the day whereas Creighton looks at the sensation as well as consistency and color.

      I hope that helps!

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    2. All of that info helped! Thank you :)

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  20. Great post and you explained NFP very well. I think it is really important for Catholics to speak out about our beliefs and that the Church establishes these beliefs because she wants us to have a joyful and fulfilling marriage in Christ.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kari! I definitely agree with you.

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  22. You did a wonderful job writing this post, Caitlin. God bless you as you bring information on this important topic to others!

    My husband and I have been using NFP since we were married almost 18 years ago. (Still hard to believe it's been that long!) We had no maternity coverage for the first year of married life so it was vital to use NFP. We did take a course prior to using it. Very, very important to understand and know what you are doing before you jump in. I think people have a tendency to blame NFP when they haven't used it correctly and they end up conceiving.

    NFP has enabled us to grow in love, faith, and charity. Toward each other and others around us. It can be very difficult, ask my hubs ;) but it is sacrificing for your beloved that makes it easy to get through. And so worth it! It is really such a selfless act of love. Not easy, but you just do it when you think of your spouse and God.

    It allows you to know so much more about your body than those who contracept. That is a fact. Have you ever listened to or read on Christopher WEst? He is such an inspiring, in your face, matter of fact, amazing writer. He is able to make it crystal clear by putting the Church's teaching into laymen's terms.

    I have to laugh when others who don't practice NFP refer to it as contraception. They seem to forget that you ABSTAIN, so there is no contraception needed. You just wait to open your "love" gift from God until you are ready to receive it properly: emotionally, physically, financially. And when you do open that "love" gift, wow! You accept it all, not just part of it.

    With contraception, you accept only part of the gift of physical love by refusing a possibility of life. With NFP, you wait until you are ready to open and accept the gift of physical love. But you know all of this.

    I can also attest that I have numerous health issues that put my body at risk for high risk pregnancies or miscarriage, and yet, by placing our trust in Him, by faithfully practicing NFP, God blesses us and continues to guide us. Jesus, I trust in you has left my lips many times, and He always guides us to where we need to be when it comes to natural family planning...even if it means His plan was different from our own.

    Always find comfort knowing that He really knows what is best for us, not ourselves. So when we find ourselves expecting when we weren't planning it (and I must state here it is always by some mistake or threw caution to the wind LOL) if you give all your worries and concerns to Him, He will help you through it. He always does.

    May God continue to bless you in your marriage!

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    1. Wow, Patty. Thank you so much for sharing about your experience. It's incredible to hear from someone who has been using NFP for so long.

      YES - I have read a lot from Christopher West, and love his writings! His book Theology for the Body for Beginners was the first one I read that gave me an understanding of the teachings of the church!

      Also, such an amazing point about NFP not being a form of contraception.

      I am so glad to hear that God has guided you all so faithfully throughout the ups and downs! That is so encouraging! I hope God continues to bless you and your family as well!

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  23. If you're willing to be a guest blogger, I'd love to republish this as a pre-Cana post on my Can We Cana? blog. Proper attribution and backlink included. Email me at santoskaree@gmail.com if you're interested!

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    1. Thank you, Karee! That sounds great! I will send you an email! :)

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  24. Caitlin,

    Thank you so much for writing this - for having the conviction to write this and to live this! :) It means a lot to Catholic women like me who are on the fence about NFP. We took the class before our wedding, learned how to chart, and then never really stuck with it (my signs are so subtle & hard to read). We ended up getting pregnant on our honeymoon and being intimate without contraceptive as husband and wife really did bond us in such a special way - I can't imagine changing that.

    Now that Presley is getting older and EBF is out the window (for preventing pregnancy), I was really thinking about taking another course in NFP and you sharing this has really, REALLY pointed me in the right direction. Thank you SO much - I would love to stay in contact with you for questions and/or support with NFP if you are up for that. alichic5{at}yahoo{dot}com

    Ali

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    1. Ali, wow!!! That is so, so awesome to hear! I would love for you to stay in touch with me for questions and support! I only have internet friends for the NFP support since none of my friends use it. Please email me anytime! - catholiccookiejar(at)gmail(dot)com.

      Also, just an fyi - one of my readers sent me an email and said that the Marquette Method with the ClearBlue Fertility monitor is a really good method to use for women who have weird cycles.

      http://nfp.marquette.edu/

      I hope that's helpful! Hope to talk to you soon! :)

      And by the way...Presley is just the cutest!

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    2. This comment is a little late (I just found this post!), but just thought I'd add to your reply.

      My husband and I use a combination of methods: Billings, Sympto-thermal, and Marquette. Haha, I know it's overkill a little, but we like it :)

      Anyhow, I just thought I'd let you know that the Marquette Method is wonderful in confirming whether you're low, high, or peak fertility. When I started using the MM, it was because I wasn't confident in my ability to interpret cervical fluid. I would test my hormones first thing in the mornings using the MM and not look at the results until that night after I'd observed my cervical fluid all day. That way, I'd confirm my own findings with that of the monitor.

      It was a fantastic way to build my confidence and accuracy in interpreting cervical fluid!

      Now, I mostly use Billings but also use my waking temp and the Clear Blue Fertility Monitor as a cross-check :)

      Good luck!

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  25. Great post Caitlin! I'd also like to add that the divorce rate for couples who practice NFP and avoid artificial contraception is around 5% ... and that may be high! :)

    My husband and I also used the Creighton model - we had a wonderful doctor we worked with trying to figure out the cause of our infertility. While I did not achieve a pregnancy (we adopted a little boy last April and are so blessed to have him!), I know many who have been successful at achieving one. I know that any "regular" doctor would have pointed us in the direction of IVF, which was never an option for us as Catholics.

    God bless you for being an encouragement to others! :)

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    1. Yes, I have heard as low as 2%! Such an awesome benefit!

      As for IVF, I should have also mentioned that NaproTechnology has double the success rates and is much less expensive! Yet, most people do not know about it.

      Congratulations on your adoption!!! :) So wonderful!

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  26. Wow, I have been in Catholic based education and attending mass my entire life and have never been taught about this! The only thing I have been instructed is to not have sex until you want a baby. This is very enlightening.

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    1. I know, it's really crazy how much I never learned as a cradle Catholic! I think part of it is that people feel uncomfortable teaching about it, or they worry about losing members from the church since so many people use contraception. I think another part of it is that in the process of teaching the faith, no one thinks it's the appropriate time to talk about it until couples are starting to get engaged, and by that point no one has a solid foundation about Catholic teachings on sexuality and NFP, so it's lost on most people. But that is only just my speculation haha! :)

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  27. What a wonderful post! In a world where the majority uses artificial contraception it's nice to be reminded that there are other women on the same page as me out there. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you!! It has been such a positive thing for me to start this blog and find other like-minded women!

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  28. I love love love this post :) Thanks so much for sharing this!

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  29. Wow, so many comments that I don't have time to read them all! But as hard as it is sometimes, NFP is the ONLY way I'd ever want to live my life. No guilt! We use the Marquette Model and think it's super duper easy, especially because my cycles are very long and very irregular!! I also have had cysts and non-ovulatory cycles, but still managed to get pregnant very easily, so don't worry about it yet Caitlin!!

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    1. I definitely agree that it's the only thing I want to use, especially when comparing our relationship with contraception versus without. That is so encouraging to hear that you have been able to get pregnant easily with similar issues!

      I've heard the same thing about Marquette from someone else, and I am definitely passing that on that information to any women with irregular cycles!

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  30. This is great! I know that so many women have felt this way about using NFP initially and it is always good to hear the success stories! The more people that share their stories the more we can change the imagine of NFP as a positive and very do-able thing! I know it has been a blessing in my marriage as well! Thank you for this :)

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    1. Thanks Hilary! I definitely think that the more woman who are willing to share the stories, the more we can show that it is a positive thing! Or even just show that it exists, as many women have never heard of it!

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  31. Wow. Thanks for writing this. Perfect timing! I have to schedule my fiance's and mine's NFP class and while at our Pre-Cana, I was intrigued, but lately I've been questioning it. Especially whenever I discuss it with a non-Catholic. It's interesting to see how a young couple handles it!

    I might be emailing you some questions here soon!

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    1. First of all, congratulations on your engagement! It's so hard when you don't have Catholic friends to talk to about it. Please feel free to email me anytime with questions!! :)

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  32. My fiance are in the midst of our 3 month course with CCL. On top of the numerous benefits of understanding my body and cycle better, it's amazing to see how God has given us an opportunity to grow as a couple through it. We're communicating a lot better about important issues as things get more "real", which we can see is crucial to our engagement and marriage preparation! I love it and, although it's difficult right now getting used to all the charting, I'm looking forward to things getting easier as time goes on!

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    1. That is so, so awesome, and I am thrilled that you all are in the midst of learning NFP when you are engaged! I wish we had gone that route! It will definitely get a whole lot easier once you get used to it!

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  33. Hi Caitlin!

    I'm new to your blog, but I have to say thank you for this awesome post!! While I am not married (and have never had sex), I have a serious boyfriend and we are definitely discerning marriage. This post was so informative and I appreciate all of the resources you have included. I am also a 20-something Catholic and I feel like it can be very hard to find sufficient information on the topic. We have discussed this and are definitely planning on using NFP or nothing at all(!), but I may have to hit you up with questions if we do end up going down the aisle!

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    1. Hi Lisa! That's so wonderful that you plan on using it!! Definitely let me know if you have any questions! :)

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  34. Hi Caitlin,

    What an AWESOME, heartfelt post! I'm 27, newly married in June, and also in grad school...thanks for your witness as a Catholic woman :)
    rock on sista!
    Patty
    www.thehappyhubbardfamily.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Patty! I just love finding other Catholic women who are in the same position as me! Heading over to your blog!!! :)

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  35. This is perfect! We use Creighton after 6 years of artificial conception, and I can not tell you how much I regret not making the decision sooner. I wish that our Catholic high school and Pre-Cana instructors had driven home the importance of NFP more fervently. Then again, not sure I was ready to really listen until recently.

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    1. I wish so too! I feel like if the education on it starts young, that seed will at least be planted so that people will have an understanding of the church's teachings before they get to Pre-Cana!

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  36. We are not Catholic, but we are Christian, and my husband and I made the switch to NFP last year. We were successful in preventing pregnancy as well as getting pregnant the moment we wanted to! God is so good! We use the symptothermal method and LOVE it! I feel so empowered the more I learn about how my body was created to work. I love NFP!

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    1. That is SO awesome, Jackie! I love hearing from other women who use NFP! :)

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  37. Thank you for sharing your journey, Caitlin! This is a beautiful story and an informative post. I'm so thrilled that you wrote it.

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  38. Great post! My wife and I can attest that using NFP has been great for our marriage, both in spacing between children, and in using it to help us conceive our 3rd child, due August 1st! God bless you for sharing your story!

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    1. Wow, God is so good! Congratulations on the new pregnancy!!! I am really glad to hear NFP has been so beneficial for you and your wife. :)

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  39. Thank you so much for sharing your story! My husband and I use NFP and we would not have it any other way! God bless you!

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    1. That is wonderful! We wouldn't have it any other way either, especially after seeing the other side. God bless you too! :)

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  40. I have been using the STM (couple to couple league) for over 6 years - preventing, unfortunately, due to health problems - but I'm finally getting answers on the health stuff so hopefully that will change soon!!! Anyway... I was wondering why you chose the Creighton method over STM or other methods?

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    1. I really hope you do get some answers soon, Margaret! To be honest, it was really just because we became friends with the instructor at our church and it was convenient being so close in the area. I am thinking about taking temps as well though just to get a better idea of when ovulation is happening.

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  41. I learned both Creighton model and Couple to Couple League (sympto-thermal) method where I mostly relied on basal body temp before I got pregnant, INTENTIALLY with our identical twin girls! My family was not very supportive of our decision to use nfp, but I hope through our successes we show them how effective and wonderful it can be. It is so hard though to try and approach it through the right non-contraceptive mindset. Especially since we ended up with two babies when we planned for one while my husband finished his residency! I am really wanting to postpone future pregnancies as a result, but it is hard to know how to go about discerning this so that I don't fall into the "contraceptive mindset" that can take away the beauty of nfp.

    We use the Marquette model for post-pregnancy charting since it is difficult to do while the body re-regulates after pregnancy. This has been a wonderful gift for us since it would have been many many months of abstaining otherwise since my cycles were hard to track (like they are for any woman) after pregnancy. Dr. Fehring even has a message board where he answers questions from anonymous posters who are trying to learn and use the method! I highly recommend it. www.nfp.marquette.edu is the address I believe.

    Thank you for your testimony! God bless!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Christine! That is so exciting that you have twin girls! :) How special!!

      I am definitely passing information on about Marquette to friends with less regular cycles, and I'll keep it in mind for myself after pregnancy!

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    2. " I am really wanting to postpone future pregnancies as a result, but it is hard to know how to go about discerning this so that I don't fall into the "contraceptive mindset" that can take away the beauty of nfp. "

      The thing to remember is that you don't have to discern whether to have a child---you only have to discern whether you have some kind of serious or just reason not to have a child. If you don't have anything out of the ordinary health wise or financially wise----don't discern anything, have a child. That's why you got married, to raise a family, not to become an nfp expert.

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  42. Thank you for this. Thank you deeply, from someone who was born and raised Catholic, soon to be engaged and completely in a state of mental chaos when it came to this subject. THANK YOU

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    1. You are so welcome! NFP is such a huge blessing! :) Please feel free to email me anytime if you have questions! catholiccookiejar(at)gmail(dot)com

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  43. I just found your blog today, happy I did! What a great post, I am going to share this with all of my catholic friends!

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    1. Thanks so much, Caitlin! Nice name by the way :)

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  44. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. My husband and I have been using NFP for nearly 8 years now and we love it and would not have it any other way. You wrote this very well. Thank you for being such a great advocate for NFP.

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    1. 8 years! That's awesome, and so encouraging! :) We would not have it any other way either!

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  45. Thank you for sharing your story, Caitlin. I believe that many will read your post and think a little differently. There are a lot of people who want to do what's right in God's eyes, but they aren't sure what that is. Hopefully, through your post and story, eyes and hearts will be opened to the possibility of NFP. I'm thankful I found your blog and pray God uses you to reach so many!

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    1. Thanks Melissa! I really, really hope it will open up people's hearts to NFP! Thank you for your prayers.

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  46. Just found your blog via twitter.

    We've had a good experience with NFP and a very, very BAD experience with NFP. So, we know the pitfalls.

    1. Not every method works for every woman. No matter what your NFP teacher says. If it doesn't work, you will get a lot of "false positives" and a lot of abstinence. If this happens, and there is no medical problem, you may want to seek a new method.

    For K, Creighton was useless and STM was a lot of abstinence, but Billings was perfect.

    She highly recommends the Billings Method. For her it is the least work and easiest to understand. We took online classes with nfpaware.com and were VERY satisfied.

    If you run into problems, don't give up, keep trying.

    2. It's OK to e-a-s-e yourselves into it. Don't rely on the method if you aren't comfortable.

    If you feel like you have to use barrier methods for a couple cycles, don't feel like you are failing in your faith. Secular books recommend three cycles, while, IMHO, Catholic sources rush couples into relying on the method in an attempt to help them with the abstinence. NFP "the Protestant Way" is still a BIG improvement over the Pill/IUD. Change can take time.

    We started that way. Once we could rely on the method, we found that the "protected" encounters were unsatisfying in comparison and threw the protection out.

    3. If you are Catholic, learn ACTUAL Catholic teaching on sexuality. Go to the source: The Vatican's website is great, as is the USCCB.

    Stay away from the "Internet Popes" and the "NFP Popes". They may not be teaching true Catholic doctrine. The actual teachings are quite beautiful and reasonable.

    The Catholic Church teaches that spouses are supposed to plan their family. This matter is one of discernment between the two of you and God. Don't let strangers pressure you into making decisions about having or not having children.

    4. Making the switch DOES make a difference in your marriage, but this doesn't mean things will always be sunshine and rainbows. There are no shortage of "I hate NFP" posts out there. Sometimes NFP forces you to work through difficult issues.

    For us, we found we were using sex as a way of avoiding certain issues. It was something we knew would bring us back together and make us feel good. We were using it as a drug. When we had to abstain, we found we had to deal with these issues.

    We were forced to learn better ways of relating and other ways of showing intimacy and affection. It is well worth it in the long run, but it can be difficult in the short term.

    5. Get GOOD non-judgmental support. It is helpful to know other people who are doing this and may have the same problems and struggles you are having.

    But your NFP group is NOT your confessor. If they try to "get in your bedroom", this is not helpful.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. That's a good point for Catholics to go to the Vatican website to learn the actual teaching. Thank you! :)

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  47. Excellent post! My girlfriend sent this to me to have a read. More men should be reading this...

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  48. This is awesome to read. My husband and I just started NFP 4 months ago for many of the same reasons you did. It's had its challenges, but I LOVE that my body is in its natural state and that we are not messing with the natural possibility of procreation. We are not trying to achieve a pregnancy at the moment, but it's great to know that when we do decide it's time for a baby I won't have to worry about getting off the pill, etc. I am so glad you wrote this post and am glad to know more people are on the same journey as we are.

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    1. That's awesome that you both decided to use NFP recently, and I hope it has brought you many blessings so far! :) I also love hearing about others on the same journey!

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  49. Beautiful and courageous post, Caitlin! Thank you so much for writing about such a sensitive issue. I very much related to your expression of doubts and change of heart.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Jeannine!

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  50. For all of you who are already into NFP and would like to understand more of the theology and spirituality inherent in it, the Daughters of St. Paul will be hosting an online study of the Theology of the Body--the "big" book by John Paul II.
    We're still organizing things, but I would be happy to inform you as the details get worked out--just join our Theology of the Body Community on Google+ or send me a message through the comments on our TOB blog (where our plans are spelled out): http://tobgroup.blogspot.com/2013/01/spring-program-update.html The dates will be May 4, 11 and 18, but the online archives should be available at any date after that...
    I'm convinced that Theology of the Body offers people a vision of love and a real sense of hope that they just won't find elsewhere. If you are, too, and are ready to delve into it on a deeper level, please join us! If you know someone who might benefit from this program, please share the info with them--as it is we have no marketing budget or plan, but are relying on word of mouth. NFP instructors, marriage prep leaders and young adult ministers all deserve to know about this opportunity!
    Thanks, y'all.

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    1. Sr Anne, I passed this along, and I am hoping to watch some of the videos!

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  51. Hi - a really big congratulations for doing this it is a wonderful step. it's such a shame that so many couples do not follow the Church on this especially in the early stages of marriage.

    I think the important thing is to realise that in doing so you are open to life first and always and using your natural cycle to delay, space or even avoid second - ultimately it is all in God's hands.

    It can be a challenge - especially as in following Church teaching you do have to exrcise a lot of retraint during abstinance but it can definately both enrich your relationship and as a woman enhance your self awareness and I think femininity (there's a great item on Conversion Diary about Contraception and a womans self image - well worth a read it really convinced me I sould NOT use contraception.) God Bless.

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    1. Absolutely! Always, always open to life! :)

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  52. Caitlin, this was beautiful! So honest and encouraging! It really does take courage to be open about such a personal topic, but there are so many misconceptions about NFP (and hesitations to even talk about it) that posts like this speak in such a powerful way...and yet you managed to address it with grace and gentleness. Thanks for sharing your heart!

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    1. Thank you so, so much for your sweet words, Deme! It really means a lot!

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  53. Thank you for posting your testimony! My husband and I have been using NFP for almost 3 years now. We also had to postpone while we both finished grad school. This post takes the words right out of my mouth! It is not always easy, but so worth it. - Theresa

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    1. Thanks so much Theresa! That's awesome that you have been using it for almost 3 years!

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  54. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Since we got married 4 months ago, I have felt God tugging at my heart to try Natural Family Planning. I got on the pill before but I have never felt like it was the right decision. Thank you for your sharing your experiences. I guess I just assumed that many young Catholic women didn't use this method and I, like you, didn't take it very seriously during our pre-martial retreat and I was afraid that my husband wouldn't be open to it.

    Thank you again! I'm now ready to take the next steps... Would you recommend taking a class or seeing an instructor or do you think you could have figured it out with your own research?

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    1. That is so, so wonderful to hear, Bre! I personally would recommend meeting with an instructor. The book can tell you a lot, but it was SO helpful to get that individualized feedback. Please email me if you have any questions! I am sooo excited that you are going to start NFP!!

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  55. Thank you so much for sharing! My mom has been pressuring me to go on birth control because of the physical side effects of my cycle (severe cramping, nausea, anemia, etc.) but I have had a really weird feeling about it and have always refused to take the pill. I am so encouraged by your story and am very thankful I'm not the only one who feels so strongly against birth control. Through dietary and excercise changes (and prayer) most of my symptoms are completely gone. Although I am not married yet, I hope to use NFP in my marriage as our form of birth controlVery thankful for you and your story.

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    1. I am so glad you found this helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions!:)

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  56. My husband and I learned NFP, specifically Creighton, when we got engaged. We went to classes and were married on All Saints Day November 1, 2008. We immediately tried to achieve pregnancy.

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  57. After 6 months of no success and constant pain I was sent to a napro doctor. My father in law is a prolife obgyn and recommended a dr for us. I was diagnosed with endometriosis and had surgery in July 2009. Then 9 months later was diagnosed with Luteal phase deficancy. 3 months later, exactly 1 year post-op we found out we were pregnant, but just from my charts they knew how to treat me.

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  58. Love this post!!! Just came across it. So encouraging to read from a girl who is engaged and plans to start charting now and use NFP from the beginning of our marriage!! Thank you so much for having the courage to post. I also was on birth control for only 3 months and realized it was so bad for my body, and thank God that is the time I started dating my now fiance who also encouraged me to stop! Isn't it great how God works :) Thank you once again!

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    1. So why is it encouraging to see a girl getting ready to use nfp before even getting married? Wouldn't it be more impressive if she was willing to get married and be totally open to have children from the very start?

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  59. Not against this NFP concept at all, however do you have any specific scripture to back up yours and the Catholic Churches view on contraceptives. I keep reading that this is what the "church" believes, but I would like to see specific Scriptures to back up that belief. Do you have any?

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  60. I've never came across NFP before.. But I'm so glad I found your post at this moment in my life! My husband and I have been discussing life choices and whether or not children are meant to be in our life soon. Currently have an IUD but I would like to have a baby when God wants me to, not when my husband and I decide it's the best timing. Thank you for your post!

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  61. I want to start off my comment by saying that as a pretty non-religious person, I was not expecting to get anything out of this article. I want to commend your bravery in doing NFP and I think that this is definitely an interesting form of birth control that could be very useful and could be a very good thing! This article definitely opened up my eyes to that. :)
    However, I do want to clear up some of your counter-arguments that were incorrect. First, condoms are actually 98% effective, not the 82% you described. "When used consistently and correctly condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy." (http://www.factsaboutcondoms.com/pdf/Condom%20Effectiveness%20FAQ%202.4.13.pdf) Three different sources told me this number. Condoms are also very good for preventing STDs, which can be contracted through needles, as well.
    Secondly, most of your arguments against the pill are also a bit wrong. There is no evidence that the pill does or does not increase your risk of breast cancer. Recent studies do not show an increased risk, and this is because the pill has gotten a lot more safe in recent years. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/birth-control/in-depth/birth-control-pill/art-20045136?pg=2) The pill does not actually cause excessive weight gain, it does not affect cholesterol levels that affect your health, and it can actually reduce your risk of different types of cancer (endometrial and ovarian) by nearly 70% after 12 years or by 40% after 1-5 years (http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/features/other-reasons-to-take-the-pill)
    Thank you, though, for the wonderful information about NFP. I'm glad it is working out for you and it really does seem like a great option!

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    1. Hello! Catholics are supposed to be against all forms of birth control (even nfp), unless there is some serious reason to avoid babies. Catholics are not against the Pill because of it's health problems (real or imagined). Even if the Pill were healthy, Catholics could not use it. Catholics strive to be totally open to life. They believe babies are the vocation of a married couple, and the primary reason they get married---to form a family and receive children into their lives.

      The above article might lead you to believe that Catholics encourage birth control, the nfp type. That's not true. Catholics should not want to use nfp even. It's only an allowance for those couples who might have a severe medical problem or some other situation where having a child is not possible.

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    2. Thank you for your reply and for clearing that up. I definitely did not understand that NFP is only for severe situations, and though I do not plan on never using birth control, I can see where your views are coming from!

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  62. Sadly, the church and my Catholic school did ZERO teaching about NFP and gave no directions, reference material or even information about methods when I went to school. This was in the 70s and 80s so perhaps NFP, like many things, was not quite understood then but I never knew about it and chances are my parents didn't know much about it either. I don't know. That said, in reading about NFP (too late for my wife and I to use this now as we are in our 50s) I have been a bit insulted by the constant implication that in using contraception I, somehow, was only treating my wife as some sort of object to use for my own pleasure which couldn't be farther from the truth. We've been married 25+ years now and still going strong and our sex life is as good as it's ever been but we respect, support and love each other too. If I had to go into battle SHE would be right there for me as I would be for her. We have a beautiful young man just becoming a teenager and we don't feel like we "missed out on a large family" because neither of us had that "urge" or "calling" to have more than one-- I consider it God's will. I guess you could argue that by using artificial means we prevented potential children God had planned but it's no different than someone using NFP and, in effect, playing God yourself and deciding on when and when not to conceive. Realistically, the only TRUE way to trust in God is to just let the natural act happen and if God blesses you great. On some level NFP could be seen as gilding the proverbial lily as it were since you are still practicing contraception via a natural method. I do think if more couples paid more attention to removing "eros" and incorporating the concept of "agape" into their relationships marriages would be stronger with or without children or NFP for that matter. If the Catholic church wants to require this then they need to do a better job providing the needed resources to educate Catholics on NFP...that's why when people finally learn about and understand it they wished they had done it sooner and that the church had helped more along the way. Doctors are no help either by the way as they push the usual methods. You don't know what you don't know. Just another point of view for folks to think about. God Bless.

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