I remember very clearly sitting with my husband in my Pre-Marriage Seminar, listening to a beautiful couple give a testimony on the use of Natural Family Planning (NFP) in their marriage. They had five children and a sixth due any day. My then, soon to be husband, looked at me and said, very clearly, “I will NEVER consider using NFP until you show me a couple that has used NFP effectively and has three children or less.”
In our time of engagement our priest never encouraged us to take a NFP course, nor was it something we desired to do. I was placed on hormonal birth control at the age of 18 because of Poly-Cystic Ovaries and Endometriosis. I was told by my doctor that if I ever wanted to have children, I needed to take hormonal birth control. I did what I was told and blindly began taking the pill. This was 8 years later and since it was one of those more difficult conversations to have as an engaged couple, we really avoided it. I did not take the pill because we were sexually active and to avoid pregnancy, but I did want to have children someday, so I figured it was what I had to do.
My husband thought we had two choices: We used hormonal birth control, or we would have a school bus to take a family vacation. He had never met a family who used NFP that had less than five children. His mother used the “Rhythm Method” and had four living children and four miscarriages. My husband was not a desired child…he was a product of a rhythm method error. This is the exposure he, and I for that matter, had with the use of NFP.
About three months into our marriage I remember having a moral conundrum and telling my husband that we had promised to accept children as a gift from God. I told him that I felt we were not doing that. We stopped taking the pill at the end of that pack and low and behold, we ended up pregnant the very next month. This was NOT what we expected. One year and one day after our first anniversary (yes, she arrived a month early and we never did get our breakfast at the Bed and Breakfast we were celebrating at) we had our very first child. My husband believed we were certainly going to need that school bus.
However, we had some very dear friends who were using NFP in their marriage. They were married one week after us and they had effectively managed to not get pregnant in that first year of marriage. At this point my husband agreed to take a course with me. At that course my husband heard the science behind the method and truly believed this was going to be something we could do. I fell in love with emotions that went with NFP, lower divorce rate, better communication, and a healthier relationship. My husband fell in love with the logic…If we have intercourse when I’m fertile we may end up pregnant…it didn’t’ take a rocket scientist he always said.
Well, here we are 14 years later and NFP has been a tremendous gift to our marriage. There were times NFP was really, really hard!!! At the beginning of our journey those times of abstinence when we did not feel called to expand our family sucked…and those times of abstinence always sucked. They were difficult. It was the moments that I was fertile that my body desired to be close to my husband in this intimate way. This is how God creates us. I remember having conversations with God saying, “This isn’t fair! If you are not calling me to have a baby right now, then can you please make intercourse less desirable?”
My husband has a love language of physical touch. This was his primary way of feeling loved…those times of abstinence were a growing time for him too. He had to learn other ways of accepting love. Sometimes it was cuddling on the couch watching a movie and other times it was playing a board game. Regardless, it is not what his desires were, but he learned sacrificial love, which I his wife absolutely adored.
Then the praying about whether we were called to expand our family was difficult too. There were times that we just could not answer that questions. We didn’t’ feel called, but there wasn’t really a reason to not be open. This made for some confusing times in prayer. Times when we just did not know what to do…which is not always the easiest on a marriage.
Then once we do feel called to expand our families and it takes months to conceive. UGH! We are not doing anything wrong, we are following all the rules, and its heart break after heart break each month. We feel like we have done so well to avoid and now that we are finally open it should happen right away.
Then after we achieve pregnancy, let us not talk about the time during breast feeding. I always tell people if you can make it through breast feeding using NFP you can make it through anything. It is so hard, and you are trying so hard not to get pregnant again and we second guess every sensation or appearance of mucus. I always felt so badly for my husband during these times because I became extra meticulous and in turn our intimacy suffered.
Now 14 years later I am one of the biggest advocates for NFP, even being a certified teacher in the Billings Ovulation Method. I have taught the method for about 6 years now and I ALWAYS tell my clients that NFP is NOT the easy way out, but things worth it in the end, are rarely easy. My husband and I have shed tears, screamed in anger, and wanted to throw in the towel with NFP, but we always were given the strength to endure, knowing the hard times would not last forever. God has blessed our marriage with this gift of NFP, but I will be the first to say, “NFP…is…HARD!”