Women Speak on NFP: Introducing a New Series

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As a Catholic woman seeking to follow Church teaching about marriage, fertility, and sexuality, I’m concerned about the lack of resources for couples to become equipped to practice Natural Family Planning (NFP). So many faithful and well-intentional Catholic couples have either been inadequately educated and encouraged in Church teaching regarding contraception and do not know how to implement those truths in their marriage, or their diocese (like mine) has no NFP classes or resources readily available to help them learn NFP. If we truly believe that Church teachings about marriage, fertility, and contraception are true, good, and beautiful, we need to help couples embrace those truths by giving them the education they need to practice it.

Since our conversion to the Catholic faith in 2010, we haven’t been avoiding pregnancy (we call it Awesome Family Planning, or AFP) and have been blessed with two little girls (one 18 months and one arriving this May) in addition to our 4-year-old son. Apart from very severe morning sickness, my pregnancies have had no complications and we’ve been able to provide for our children financially. In our current situation, there are no grave circumstances that would prompt us to avoid pregnancy and we embrace ecological breastfeeding as natural child spacing. However, what if there was a grave concern? What if a health crisis made a subsequent pregnancy highly dangerous? What if my husband lost his job?

A Catholic marriage is called to always be open to life, but the Church does provide families with the option to space children through natural family planning in cases of severe physical or financial strain. If we were in a situation prompting us to avoid pregnancy, I wouldn’t know how to begin learning a method of NFP! I wouldn’t know which method to be trained in! Since there’s no classes offered within a two hour drive, I would want to be sure that the method we chose was the right one for our family since it would be a big commitment to pursue training. I have spoken to so many women in a similar situation and this is why I wanted to run this series of women speaking about their experience with various methods of NFP to provide some resources in order to learn more.

In this series you will hear from women using various methods of NFP -some to avoid pregnancy, some trying to conceive- and their experiences. Some began using NFP for religious reasons, some for health reasons. Some are Catholic and some are not. I’m excited to hear from some of our Protestant sisters about why they find NFP valuable to their marriages and spiritual life and to share and celebrate this commonality with them!

IMPORTANT! Disclaimer: This series is not meant to be a substitute for any method of training in NFP! If you are interested in one of the methods introduced in this series, please contact a certified instructor for information about training in that method of NFP. For some women, learning NFP is a piece of cake, for others it’s very tricky. In other words, don’t simply read this series, assume you’ve got the idea and then send me angry emails because your attempt at NFP was unsuccessful. This series is merely meant to give you an idea of several women’s experiences and point you in the right direction for further resources!

I’ve got some great posts lined up from some inspiring women and I can’t wait to share them with you!
UPDATE: These are the posts in this series that have run so far (more to come!):
If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about with Catholics not contracepting, you might want to look into some posts from the archives:
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Comments

  1. says

    Awesome! Thanks for tackling this very important topic. I hope one of the methods you’ll introduce via your panel of women is the Creighton Model from the Pope Paul VI Institute. If not, I’d be happy to write about our experience with it if you’re needing another method. Sounds like you’ve got a great series coming our way! Can’t wait to read it and share it!

    • Haley says

      Yes, ma’am! The first two posts will be about Creighton and I have to admit that it’s probably the method I would want to be trained in if we decide to do more than just eco-breastfeeding in the future. Unfortunately the closest instructor is two hours away so we’d probably have to do long-distance classes :(

      • Stephanie says

        We did long distance classes for Creighton and it wasn’t an issue for us. We just talked by phone, email and maybe Skype or gchat once (I can’t remember exactly). My husband made a chart on google documents that our instructor had access to as well. (this saved us from having to fax it back and forth). She’d review it and leave us notes if there was anything she was questioning. So, long distance can be done very easily :) (as long as your instructor is on board!)

        • Maria says

          I agree that distance classes for Creighton works well. My husband and I started charting 7 years ago and have only met with our instructor in person once and otherwise managed things over the phone or skype or email.

          It’s a great method.

  2. Mackenzie says

    My husband and I use the sympto-thermal method! We didn’t have any classes near us when we married almost 3 years ago. However, our diocese put us in contact with the Couple to Couple League and I completed the home study course in the months before our wedding. They are a great organization who promote natural child spacing with breast feeding and also have materials on how to chart your fertility postpartum! They have been wonderful to us and our 15 month old daughter! I highly recommend their home study course if you don’t have any classes available!

    • Haley says

      We have a couple of Sympto-Thermal posts coming up in the series! I actually ordered the post-partum home study at one point but then realized I needed to start out with the regular one to fully understand.

  3. says

    Great idea! We used the methods from the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility (sympto-thermal) when we were trying to get pregnant, and then used NFP during our adoption process. It was so beneficial for my health and our marriage, and I still can’t believe I spent years on pills for no reason. Looking forward to this series!

    • says

      Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a great resource – we learned Fertility Awareness from this book and it helped us transition from other types of BC to more natural methods and slowly, but surely to NFP completely. It was a great resource when we had no local NFP teachers of any kind in our area.

  4. says

    Wonderful idea! I did STM for 2 years before we were blessed with our little man. We joke that we should be the poster children for NFP… successful 2 years, then on the first month of not charting, we got pregnant without trying. Success! Haha. Post-partum is not so easy though. It’s like your body is in one big tug-of-war with itself, but it is still so interesting to see how it all plays out. And eco-breastfeeding? Amazing. I love it (even though I’m no longer practicing it anymore).

    • Haley says

      I love eco-breastfeeding, too! I was working full-time with my firstborn so it would have been impossible and I wondered if I’d feel “trapped” practicing it with Lucy because of the no mama and baby separation, but it was awesome! It didn’t postpone the return of my fertility very long, but it helped us bond so well. I loved it and I hope it works as well with our new little one!

  5. says

    Yay! What a great resource for women! I would recommend the book “At the Heart of the Gospell” by Christopher West for those women interested in NFP as well. It’s very good. Also, after using NFP and doing the whole temp, chart, interpret-we have now switched to a fertility monitor. We use a Pearly Comp-it wakes me up each morning at the same time-I plop in in my mouth, when it beeps I throw it back on the nightstand and go back to sleep. :) I feel like it just makes my life just a little bit less chaotic. Something for women to think about anyway-although I do think it’s interesting for couples to learn “the method behind the madness. ” Our bodies are pretty amazing!

  6. Heather says

    Ahhh, I love that you are doing this! I was Protestant when my husband and I married and the NFP section of marriage prep was as follows: “Mr. and Mrs. So and So use NFP and have four children. They used breastfeeding to space their children and NFP has been a wonderful way to practice birth control in their marriage. As you can see, NFP is excellent at preventing or achieving pregnancy. Speak to your marriage prep leader if you have any questions.” Seriously?? Needless to say, we didn’t practice at first (we used the Pill) and when I went off it I had SO MANY problems. We took an NFP class that was instrumental in discovering my fertility issues and wish we could have sought out a class and practiced NFP from the very beginning of our marriage. But, you can’t look back, only forward and now we use NFP and it’s awesome! (Well, not really NFP. We just don’t prevent or try to achieve either way, but we could use NFP if we wanted to.)

    • Haley says

      We were Protestants when we were married and I so wish I had learned NFP when we were engaged instead of taking the Pill for our first year and a half of marriage. I didn’t have problems getting off it but I did feel awful physically and emotionally while I was on it even though it was a low dose. For the past couple of years we haven’t been avoiding or trying to conceive and are being blessed with our second little girl. It’s been pretty neat just seeing what happens and not paying any attention to fertility signs, but I would like to really learn an NFP method in case of a health crisis or something.

  7. says

    I’m super excited for your series. I am not Catholic (I’m Lutheran), but natural family planning is something I have always wanted to learn more about. I am not comfortable with how long I have been on birth control and what it seems to do to my body. When I asked my doctor about it, she told me to “go read a book.” Not the help I was hoping for. Can’t wait to see what your writers have to say!

    • Haley says

      That’s what my Dr. told me, too! We’re lucky enough to have an NFP only Dr. in our area and I keep meaning to switch over to him.

  8. Julie says

    I am very excited for this series. My husband and I began using NFP (STM) in our marriage about 8 years ago. When we were ready to learn, like you, we had trouble finding a local resource. But we are very glad we persisted. We have successful used the method to delay pregnancy, achieve it and navigate the post-partum timeframe. It has been such an absolute blessing in our marriage!

  9. Lori says

    I am looking forward to reading this series. I am not currently practicing NPF, but every month I think it’s the month I should start. I have the Taking Charge book, I took the online Couples to Couple League class (i like getting their magazines too!) and took one intro class on Creighton. There are alot of resources in my area, and Creighton teachers..but I can’t decide which one to actually use, and then I keep putting it off.

  10. says

    Thank you for posting this!! Our priest (who has been at our parish for 2 years) has required each engaged couple to attend NFP classes. I always knew that’s what I wanted to do, but knew nothing about the in’s and out’s. I was surprised that my skeptical husband went along with it and has really seen the benefits of it. We don’t have to pay for birth control (not that I ever wanted to use it), we have sex FREELY and OPENLY for children, and know that we accept whatever God has in store for us. I am currently 10 weeks pregnant and we are completely excited for this blessing.

    I was wanting to find a doctor that is strictly NFP and had the hardest time finding one that was less than an hour away. A month ago, one of my friends was saying that her OBGYN, in town, had just decided that he was going to be strictly NFP!! I was so elated that there was finally a doctor who understands the method and promotes it. I had my first appointment with him last week and it was so nice to be open about our method with him and how it has benefited us. After Holy Thursday Mass, we processed to the cafeteria for Adoration. I noticed my doctor there sitting and praying for quite a long time. I was so happy to see a prayerful doctor and grateful that he is working with us and our lil’ miracle. Praise God for the conversion of NFP to others!!

  11. says

    I’m excited to read this series! We chose NFP after I realized that hormonal birth control completely changed my personality and emotional well-being. That was over 5 years ago! In those 5 years, we had no “near misses”, and just welcomed our first little boy last October. Taking Charge of Your Fertility was a life and marriage saver.

    • Haley says

      I had the same experience. Now we’re committed to not using artificial contraception for religious reasons but I first went off the Pill for health reasons: I felt emotionally out of control and nauseous all the time!

  12. Sarah says

    This sounds like a fantastic series! My husband and I started learning Creighton method almost a year in advance of our wedding so that we would be prepared when we got married. My husband was not on board with it, but went along with it anyway. We hoped to delay pregnancy for about a year after our wedding, but ended up pregnant during our second month of marriage. Even our NFP instructor didn’t know how it happened. While we feel blessed beyond measure that we are going to be parents, we’re having a very difficult time deciding how to do family planning aftsr our child is born. We want to follow church teaching, but we also want to reliably be able to space our children.

    • Haley says

      I hope this series points you to some resources that help you find the right NFP method for your family!

  13. Peggy says

    Let an older one encourage you in finding a way for NFP. I’m one of the few. Actually I’m the only one in my age group that I know of, has never used ABC. I really believe because that I didn’t mess with my hormones my change of life was very easy. In the 80′s the only method was the rhythm method. For us that worked. The first two were planned 2 1/2 years apart. the next one came 7 years later. My wonderful catholic doctor said well it worked for 7 years. He them introduced to me the cervical mucus charting, or as it’s now called the Creighton method. Again worked for 5 years then 3 years later menopause baby. What failed was us, we had both times with the last ones knew it was possible so we threw caution to the wind. Also it seems from what I’ve heard through the internet that our diocese seems to be one of the few that makes NFP manditory for engaged couples. Both of our older children took this course. It was so complete with information that my Son in law who was not brought up in any religion looked at my daughter and said we will do this. You won’t be putting that poison into your body. Two planned grand children there. Also our oldest son and his wife use NFP, not only that they use a NFP Doctor. By doing this they found out after two miscarriages that she has a rare blood disorder that causes her body to produce blood clots and attack the baby. So with NFP they can know almost right away that she is pregnant and recieve the medical attention she needs. A brand new baby girl there. She also has other problems that were addressed by her NFP doctor. As she was going through all this she was very upset the medical care she was getting before she met and married our son. The solution all her other Doctors gave her was the pill will help regulate you not try to find the problem and fix it.

    • Haley says

      I have friends who felt the same frustration about having Drs prescribe the Pill to mask symptoms instead of finding the root of the problem!

  14. Aubrey says

    My husband and I have been married for 7 1/2 years. I was very ill for the first two, and we have been actively trying to have children for the other 5 1/2 years. We went through specialists who all suggested in vitro, which we refused to do, and when I asked if they would check my progesterone level, they said, “We don’t do that.” We finally went to a doctor who specialized in the Creighton Model, and we’re so glad we did! It took a couple of years, but he balanced all of my hormones (including the progesterone), and now we’re 11 1/2 weeks pregnant! Had I even gotten pregnant on in vitro, I likely would have lost the baby because my progesterone was too low! We are so thankful for the Creighton Model!

    • Haley says

      I haven’t had anyone contribute a post on Marquette yet but I’m interested in learning more about it!

      • cirelo says

        I’d love to see the word spread about Marquette! I’d be happy to write a post about it and send it to you, but I’m not a blogger if that matters.

        • says

          Yes! The Marquette Method is fabulous and was the only method I was comfortable using when my cycle was returning, I was still pumping for my son and needed to avoid for medical reasons. There is a fabulous support system with very easy access to resources.

  15. says

    Yay! I love learning about NFP. I hope you’ll be running a post on the Marquette Method! It’s the one that my fiance and I have chosen to use (I’ve already been charting for several months, just to get a jump start for when we’re FINALLY married :)), and I love it so far. It’s so incredibly simple and objective – no second-guessing myself with interpreting mucus. And you can learn the whole method online for free using the Marquette website, which has an online charting system and great forums.

  16. Lindsay T says

    I’m also a Marquette user. I am fairly new to it, but have been using it for about 7 months postpartum using the Breastfeeding protocol. This has allowed for a lot more “infertile” days when avoiding as opposed to interpreting mucous which can be constant when Breastfeeding. On the websites forums there is a Dr. And Nurse Practitioner who answer any questions, it’s great. I love that there are different options out there for different women.

  17. Jamie says

    Hi!
    I’m wondering if anyone has any feedback on what their favorite book about NFP? I’ve read The Taking Charge Book and Natural Family Planning Made Simple. I would like to purchase one and am having a hard time deciding which book to get. Also are there any good websites with straightforward explanations of the methods? Thanks!

  18. Cristina says

    Please do cover Marquette! I’m a nurse and a newlywed, and honestly, I couldn’t do any of the more subjective methods of NFP. Marquette is fairly new and does have a price tag for materials, but for anyone (like me) who has trouble interpreting mucus (not to say I don’t try!) it is absolutely worth it. And for anyone who has an awkward or varying sleep schedule (like me, I work rotating shifts), it doesn’t depend on a certain temperature at a certain time of day. AND there’s no “every other day” rule in phase 1 (because WHY if you don’t have to? :)

    • Haley says

      I’ve got a post lined up for Marquette, Cristina! And I can’t wait to learn more about it :)

  19. says

    I love this post! I am working on my certification in the Billings Ovulation Method, and I find it difficult to find people who want to learn. Thanks for building awareness through this!

    • Haley says

      I wish we had more certified teachers in my diocese! How great that you’re getting trained!

  20. Brandi says

    Hi! I wanted to let you know that a quote from your post above just really hit home with me:

    “If we truly believe that Church teachings about marriage, fertility, and contraception are true, good, and beautiful, we need to help couples embrace those truths by giving them the education they need to practice it.”

    Oh how I desire to tackle this issue in our own parish. While planning my marriage I ran into so many brick walls on this issue. I so desperately wanted to “do it the right way” and yet, even in my very large 3,000+ family parish the resources were limited. No one seemed to really know anything other than a phone number to call. And those people all seemed to be men who scoffed at how difficult it can be or older unmarried women. I was so frustrated because I knew our family wasn’t ready for babies right off the bat. My husband already had 3 kids (12, 11 and 9) and we knew we all needed some time to adjust and be a family before we expanded emotionally, spiritually and financially. I was so stressed about this issue I was convinced we would just never have sex ever.

    Finally, after months and months, we found a resource for the Creighton model. We also purchased a Lady Comp and have so far been able to avoid pregnancy for the first 4 months of our marriage. The Lady Comp is based on the Sympto-Thermal Method. I was wondering if you’ve had any experience with that or had someone to write a post about it. It’s been amazing, and when tracked with the creighton model it’s almost freaky how accurate it is only after a couple of months of tracking.

    Anyway, thank you again for running this series of posts! Such an important and sometimes intimidating topic!!

  21. says

    Hello! This blog is so exciting! My husband and I have been married for 5 months now and have been using the basic Billings Ovulation method to avoid pregnancy until the summer. It’s great for women who have very consistent cycles. There is an online course that can be taken for $50. The website is http://www.learnnfponline.com/. My husband and I watched it together. What’s really wonderful about NFP is seeing how amazing my body is and the gift it is to know the cycles that occur. My husband also finds the process fascinating and has found a deep appreciation for my body’s abilities. It has also increased our intimacy in a new way (emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually)! Abstaining is a challenge at times and yet it is so worth waiting during those fertile times.

  22. KW says

    I should start out by saying I have never really liked NFP. My husband and I were instructed in its use about 9 months before we were married so I could practice charting and monitor my moods in relation to when I would get my period (I would alternate between feeling manic, then depressed, then get my period…all the while it would drive my husband crazy and I felt out of control with my emotions, so NFP helped that at least). Then we got married. We were both still in school, no jobs, moving within a year, living in a 1 room apartment, and the list could go on and on. However, what I prayed for more than anything at our Nuptial Mass was for children. Lots and lots of them. My husband thought waiting until his first year of residency was a good time to have our first child would be a good idea. Then I could graduate, have a couple years to work and pay off student loans, put him through the rest of his school, move into a house, have a baby, I could stay at home, and other “responsible” things. This was not God’s plan for us. By my husband’s first year of residency, we have 3 boys (and I’m a little late this month!), not just the 1 child we thought we might. I shudder to think how at least a couple of my children would not exist had we left the decision of life up to us.

    My cycle was one where I wouldn’t get much warning before ovulating. We would have sex a couple days before I would have any fertile signs, but that first day of having fertile signs would be the day I would ovulate, if not the following day. I pretty much would end up feeling like I failed the method because I couldn’t “control” when we got pregnant. It ended up being much easier to just abstain completely for a time if we weren’t ready to have more children (sexual continence), than to have our cake and eat it, too. We decided that if we are having sex, then we should be ready to get pregnant. Most people have forgotten this point, whether they are married or not. Sex is for procreation. It’s secondary purpose is the fostering of unity among married couples.

    So, yes, we were on welfare for a few months after our first son was born until I became employed. Yes, our first two children went to a daycare before I was able to be at home with them. We lived in small apartments for a while before getting to move into our 3-bedroom house, which is crowded at times, but completely adequate for our needs. We have food, clothing, and shelter. God provides. Catholics have a dispensation to use NFP, but the norm should just be to have sex and babies, as many as God blesses you with, as frequently or infrequently. Loss of a job is a sad thing and sadly results in the spacing of children. However, God didn’t say to be responsible and prudent when it came to co-creating new souls for the worship of Him, but to be charitable. He said things like be fruitful and multiply, let the little children come to me, and I came so that you may have life abundantly, full quivers and whatnot. When is God’s grace not sufficient for us? What situation warrants this? They are few and far between in this country and in this time. The reasons for using NFP must be grave reasons, taken very seriously. Meanwhile our houses get bigger and our families get smaller. The world is in need of parents who are martyrs, or witnesses, to the charity of God. Catholics are so necessary to fill the earth or any sense of culture is lost. And even more than using NFP is freeing, we have found that being open to children as they come and allowing God to use our bodies as an offering to Him has been rewarded many times over. So as much as I love telling my husband that my cervical mucus measured over an inch when stretched and is lubricative and clear, I am much more as ease keeping this area of our lives a mystery.

    I recently ready about how St. Catherine of Siena was the second to last of about 23 children. How many saints could we be depriving the world of their gifts and intercession when we make the decision, “Maybe not this month, Honey.” Not to mention, the decline in priests, religious, and married couples could be attributed to the fact that there are not as many Catholics being born to practicing Catholic couples. Churches and schools consolidated, anyone?? (Ranting) Anyways, I loved the reference to AFP (awesome family planning). Be open to life whenever it comes. Many of our saints did not become so for being responsible members of society, but for giving up everything and being martyred for Christ, instead of hanging around and taking care of their families. Love God above all and trust in the Providence that never fails!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Carrots For Michaelmas: a treasure trove. Haley’s started a “Women Speak on NFP” series which is so rich in information and women’s personal stories that it’s overwhelming. Which is EXCELLENT, considering the uneducated individual might think that NFP is baseless and not mainstream enough to take seriously. Which is also cool, cause that means NFPers must be kind of hipster. [...]

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