I’m not even married yet, but learning Natural Family Planning (NFP) has been awesome. I am for NFP whether a couple wants 100 kids or whether they are avoiding pregnancy for a grave reason (i.e. physical or mental health concerns). How we, as women, are not required to learn this at a young age boggles me. Rather than learning how our female body really functions (when it is fertile and infertile, or when and why you’re PMSing), most sex-ed classes and almost all OB-GYN’s “strongly suggest” taking a pill to completely neuter our womanhood.
Besides the biological fact that practicing NFP is completely chemical-free and organic (no popping birth control pills that, as a Group 1 carcinogen, can cause deathly strokes, blood clots, and an increased risk of breast cancer), knowing Natural Family Planning has helped me understand my body as a woman, AND has helped my fiancé love and appreciate ALL of me—especially in the crazy times of the month. ESPECIALLY in the crazy times of the month.
Bobby and I took our first Natural Family Planning (the Creighton model) class six months before our wedding. There were a few other couples in this introductory class taught by a wonderful friend of mine, and Bobby and I thought it was so fascinating. There were things that I learned about a woman’s body that I have never known in 29 years of being a woman! It’s important to note that NFP is NOT the rhythm method. I didn’t know that just by charting her monthly cycle by the signs of her body (specifically the mucus produced), a woman could tell if she was ovulating, infertile, or had poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, low or high levels of estrogen or progesterone, or endometriosis. A large percentage of women who thought they were infertile—just by charting their cycle alone—realized they weren’t. They just learned how to recognize what was actually going on in their body at a particular time. I didn’t know that on peak fertile days a woman’s mucus (under a microscope) looks like little channels, allowing the sperm to swim easily (as Bobby says, “torpedo”…because everything apparently has to be referenced by either warfare analogies or Batman) to fertilize the egg. On “dry” days, where there is little-to-no mucus, under a microscope it looks like a brick wall, giving the sperm a “no trespassing” sign.
Bobby and I left that first class amazed at how God created our bodies. Rather than being grossed out at all this “mucus talk,” we were praising God for His infinite wisdom in creating the male and female body with such intricate detail and complete common sense. (By the way, I’m a little disturbed by men who are willing to have sex with a woman and exchange bodily fluids with her, yet say, “I don’t even wanna hear this mucus talk—that’s gross.” To me, that’s a clear sign he’s just using her for mere pleasure rather than loving this woman in her beautifully created heart, soul, mind AND body. How can you genuinely love a woman if you don’t love all of her?)
(Psssst, you can’t.)
So, Bobby charts with me. Of course, his favorite part is putting on the different colored stickers (men…), but he also really loves the fact that he knows the exact days to be extra nice and loving to me (and bring me flowers and chocolate.) This is completely counter cultural to a “birth control pill”-mentality where the fertility stuff is just a woman’s “problem,” and the man will enjoy her for sex as long as she “takes care of it” by popping a pill everyday. A pro-life OB-GYN I know (who is a NaPro technology surgeon and doesn’t prescribe contraception) told me that she often has women in her office who want to use NFP, but her boyfriend or husband won’t let her. If they’re trying to avoid pregnancy, rather than sacrificing and abstaining on her fertile days (which may be 11-15 days a month or more), he just wants to use her whenever he wants, thus making her take the pill.
Now, I personally know couples who contracept who are beautiful people…they just don’t know the truth. They don’t know the harmful side effects of the pill, or that NFP is actually 98% effective (more effective than the condom or the pill) at avoiding pregnancy, or that couples who use NFP have a divorce rate of less than 2% (compared 50% of the contracepting population). They may also not know the spiritual ramifications of contracepting their union (that contraception trains our hearts to fail to love the other freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully, and is a grave sin). I feel like if they knew the beauty, truth, and goodness of how God designed sex, they would never use contraception.
Whether a couple is using NFP to have 12 kids or to avoid pregnancy in grave circumstances, it is wonderful to have the knowledge of what’s going on in a woman’s body. For me, personally, it’s also awesome to know that I have a soon-to-be husband who loves ALL of me and is willing to sacrifice with me on those 11 or so days that we will be abstaining from sex. In fact, 90% of the married men I interviewed about using NFP said that it was so awesome to come together after having abstained for those days—it was like a honeymoon all over again (not to mention that NFP users have more sex and more satisfying sex than those who contracept). One woman I know compared abstaining from sex to fasting from chocolate during lent. She and her husband used contraception for the first six months of their marriage and then felt like they should do things “right” and started practicing NFP. She said there was a huge difference in their love life. She said, “you know how when you fast from chocolate and then you reeeeeally want chocolate? That’s what it’s like when you use NFP. You get reeeeeally excited to renew your wedding vows again.”
Yes, abstaining in marriage will be difficult, but I’ve been abstaining for 29 years and having sex zero days a month…and I haven’t spontaneously combusted yet. Yes, NFP requires communication and learning and self-control. Yes, NFP requires selfless love. But this is why NFP is totally awesome.
***Since this was more of a testimonial rather than a theological dissertation or scientific article, here are a few websites to learn more about the studies done regarding the beauty of NFP and/or the harmful effects of contraception:
Green Sex by Jason & Crystallina Evert (http://www.catholicword.com/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=1110&idcategory=0 )