NFP awareness week
I have been toying around with the idea of writing a post about a relatively new development in this journey of marriage my husband and I have entered, but being that it is new, I didn't quite feel like I have to authority with which to write about it. However, upon realizing that we are about to head into NFP awareness week, I figured it was time.
We have just started learning the marequette method of natural family planning (NFP) and already the learning and growing has been incredible. Both for me personally and for us as a couple.
Prior to marriage, while we did do some marriage prep, and even had a sponsor couple (a couple that's been married for a while and active in the church) who we met with several times, we did not learn NFP. I was certainly interested, but my husband and I were both of the stance that we'll just leave it totally up to God. Plus, our sponsor couple only had an out dated hand out from the 90's to share, since they personally had never used NFP.
In fact, we didn't actually know anyone who was using nfp, and even among "catholics" birth control seems to be accepted as the norm. I don't know the exact statistics but I know it's alarming and sad. I don't say this to pass judgment, but rather to point out a reality that needs addressing. I honestly believe that a big problem is misinformation and ignorance. People are not taught the theology of the body or why birth control is morally wrong (although, the fact that many act as abortifacients by making the uterus inhospitable if an egg should be fertilized..is one big reason, there are other less obvious reasons). We are often given old statistics based on the rhythm method and false information in regards to effectiveness, to discourage use of nfp when child spacing or pregnancy avoidance is necessary. The reality is,with perfect use, most forms of nfp are as effective as or more so than birth control with perfect use, in avoiding pregnancy. And what's more, it builds relationships and comes without a host of awful side effects and risks.
While we are definitely still willing to accept as many beautiful babies as he blesses, we have been given a reason to space them a bit farther apart than the 18 months my body gives. For us this includes physical and mental health reasons. We have come to the realization that I need more time to heal in order for me to be the best mommy and wife I can be.
So we signed up for this online class that uses the clear blue fertility monitor, cervical mucus to track fertility and abstinence during the main fertile window to avoid pregnancy. And although I hadn't had a period and wasn't ovulating yet, due to breastfeeding, we started using the monitor and charting. I even started learning about my own mucus and while I figured it wouldn't be a clear sign, I was startled to discover how well it predicted my return to ovulation- I was actually able to notice a peak( the window of time when ovulation occurs) before the monitor confirmed it!
For me this was huge and confidence boosting. It was a moment of saying I actually know my body! I think I have always been in tune with my body, but the learning and information provided has really helped pinpoint and increase this. Not only this, but for me, it means less guessing and more certainty. I also have the advantage of pretty consistent and predictable cycles, I believe. (But even for those with more complicated cycles and issues the marequette method, though pricey, can be pretty effective.)
I'm not going to lie- the waiting wasn't super easy. Especially since the desire seems to be stronger when in peak fertility (obviously that's by design..). And I was ready to say hey, why are we waiting for anyways? But to that end we were able to genuinely question our motives and have some serious conversations. Ultimately we came to realize that waiting would be for the greater good of our whole family. And that is one of the biggest factors that separates natural family planning from birth control. Besides the fact that it works with nature and the natural cycle and never prevents the complete coming together of husband and wife, it requires serious thought and prayer of both partners.
We found ourselves with time for some really great conversation and unified prayer. And we kept the need for physical intimacy through cuddles and non sexual touch. Just holding hands and lying close. Hugging more and just being near each other. It is interesting to note that all these things made the coming together after the end of the fertile window that much more valuable and valued.
So, this is where we are. We've only had one cycle with ovulation and abstinence required. I'm sure that this journey will have some challenges, and it won't all be this easy ( I can hope). But as with most things in life and marriage, it will be worth it.
On a final note I just want to link up to a few really great resources that discuss the various different forms of NFP in more detail. And just some other enlightening information on this subject!
FACTS( great overview of all of the different types and all the science and research to back it all)
NFP (the church's long list of various NFP resources and information)