*Please note that many of these examples used in this entry came from Dr. Janet Smith in her CD "Contraception: Why Not?"
Of my many passions, natural family planning has got to be near the top of the list. I love telling people about it and am always advocating that people give it a try. Before I tell you why, I should state that I believe NFP should only be used to avoid pregnancy for grave reasons such as not being able to afford a child, rather than because you want to drive an Escalade and live in a 5,000 square foot home. That being said, here are the reasons why NFP rocks:
Communication Between Partners: How often do you think people who are using artificial contraception have to talk about expanding their family? I figure maybe once every few months at the most. In fact, I would say that for most couples it is more like a few times a year. Couples who use NFP, however, HAVE to talk about it at least once a month, if not more often. They are in constant discernment about whether God wants more children for them in this part of their lives and must make a decision to either be apart during a women's fertile time or come together and have more children.
Communications with God:A faithful Christian couple who uses NFP must also always be in communication with our Lord as to what he wants of their family. Because our fertility comes in cycles, the couple must consistently reevaluate God's wants for their family. If the couple is using NFP to avoid pregnancy for a grave reason, they must also pray and discern if these reasons still exist and if God wants them to be open to more children.
Same as Birth Control?: Some people say that NFP is the same as birth control because both are used to avoid pregnancy. I will say that NFP, when used to avoid pregnancy for reasons that are not grave, can be used with a birth control mentality. However, to say two things are the same because they share a common end would be like saying shooting your grandma in the head is the same as letting her die naturally. In both cases you end up with a dead woman, but the way she got there matters. In one case we are cooperating and working with the way God made us, and in the other we are using unnatural and sinful methods to achieve the same end.
Respect of the Women's Body and Growth in Virtue: Unlike artificial contraception, NFP involves both people in the relationship. It isn't a woman taking a pill every day filling her body with unnatural hormones. I find it funny that in a society full of nature crazy feminists, not a one has a problem filling their bodies with artificial hormones to stop an otherwise completely natural process. They have no problem with a woman taking contraception so that she can essentially be used for her body. When a couple chooses to use NFP the man is forced to respect the woman's body and fertility, because it is not always available to him 24/7 as it is if she were using artificial contraception. Furthermore, NFP trains both the man and women in the virtue of self-control when the couple must abstain. Contraception, on the other hand, sets marriage up for infidelity by telling the man that he can have any woman any time without the consequence of pregnancy. How many men do you think would cheat on their wives if there was no form of contraception and pregnancy was a common consequence of the action? I would guess not many.
. The Honeymoon Effect: Why is it that when we are away from our spouse we tend to miss the marital act the most? Often times a couple who has been apart for some time experiences a sort of "second honeymoon", as if they were newlyweds. Couples using NFP often find they have more exciting and romantic marriages because they can't be with each other all the time. They must abstain and then come back together, thus experiencing this honeymoon effect quite often in their marriage.
Openess to Life: In every sexual act between a husband and wife using NFP, God is welcomed in to use His creative power. Bonding and babies are always kept together and God is never shut out of the marital act. If a couple is avoiding pregnancy, then they are abstaining from sexual relations during the fertile period and therefore abstaining from both babies and bonding.
We as Christians need to prayerfully and willingly discern if we are using our bodies the way God created them to be used. Are we using them for His glory and the growth of our marriage? Or are we using them for our own selfish sexual desires? I hope your marriage can benefit as much as mine has from an openness to life and the gift of Natural Family Planning.
My husband and I took NFP classes before we were married, and although we have never had to use NFP to avoid pregnancy, we have used it to achieve pregnancy and are both very knowledgeable about the subject. I get questions all the time about NFP so I decided to write about it. This is part one of a two part post. In this first part, I would like to share my feelings about the use of artificial contraceptives in marriage and then in the second post, I want to share why NFP is so great and why it's not the same as birth control. I probably won't do this justice but here is goes...
God and Sex: God made sex, plain and simple. He made it for one man and one woman and he made it for two purposes: bonding and babies. The man and the woman come together to form the strongest bond in this world and God comes in with His creative power as a sign of the two people's love for one another (just like in the Trinity). You can't separate bonding and babies because God put them together. When a man and a woman bring contraception into their marriage they are essentially saying, "we want to bond and come together as man and wife, but we don't want to allow you (God) to work in this act". Furthermore, the marital union is supposed to be a full and selfless giving of oneself to their spouse. How can one give them self fully and withhold their fertility at the same time? It's not possible. A couple using contraception is essentially saying, "I love all of you, except your fertility" or "I want to give myself completely to you, but not my fertility."
The Pill and Our Fertility: Think about this: the use of the pill (or any chemical contraceptive for that matter) is the only time a woman will take a pill when she isn't sick. In fact, she is taking a pill to stop something that is working correctly! I once heard an analogy relating the use of contraception to bulimia. Bulimics throw up their food after eating to keep themselves from gaining weight; a natural occurrence from eating food. No one would ever say this is a good action to take after eating. So too, couples who use birth control stop a natural consequence of an action from occurring. Pregnancy doesn't mean something went wrong, it means something went right. It means that our bodies are working just as they ought to. Our fertility is an awesome gift from God, not something that we should suppress and damage through the use of contraceptives.
What if God isn't done: I know many couples who are "done" having children. My thought on this is always, sure you may be done, but what if God wasn't/isn't? Many of these same couples have been sterilized, thus closing themselves off forever to another child. I realize that at certain points in life it is prudent to avoid pregnancy, but to say no to more children forever seems extreme. How can one possibly know that in future months or years, Christ wouldn't have wanted a couple to have more children? Of course all the couples I know who have been sterilized would say that their family is "complete". To them I would say this: picture your family without one of your children. Would it be complete to you? How can we be sure our family is complete in God's eyes if we have shut Him out of that part of our lives. Completion of one's family is for God to decide, not for us. As long as we are fertile, we must be in constant discernment as to what Christ wants for us as parents and for the expansion of our family.
I will end with these questions: Who is planning your family? Is it God or you? Can we really claim to be Christian and close ourselves off to God's greatest and most miraculous gift? God the Almighty allows us as Christians to share in His creation; to bring forth souls into the world for His glory. This is a responsibility and a gift we cannot take lightly.
Tonight was a rough night. My husband goes to school twice a week which means I am alone putting the kids to bed. The rest of the day is fine; it's bedtime that always gets me. Peanut was exceptionally whiny this evening and I attempted to put him to bed at the normal time. If I haven't mentioned it before, I should mention now that Peanut doesn't say much yet; he uses some baby sign, but doesn't say many words. This, often times, leads to him being frustrated that I don't know what he is saying, and me being frustrated that I don't know what he is saying. He can communicate quite a bit with sign, but not everything. Tonight was no exception. As I placed him in his crib (while holding Miss Belle in my arms. Did I mention she doesn't like to be put down?) he was still whining/crying and kept signing "ball" and "daddy". I had no idea what he was trying to say and he was very upset about it. Long story short, after about thirty minutes of him crying, Miss Belle crying and trying to figure out what he needed, I lost it for a moment. I hate when my emotions control my actions. To be honest it is a rare occasion for me, but when it happens it is usually a quick blow up and then a quick cool down. I was so frustrated that I decided to give up on bedtime. I grabbed Peanut out of his crib, pushed his little back and told him to get out of his room in a not so nice tone of voice. He was nothing less than hysterical.
As I held my screaming daughter and watched Peanut ball his eyes out, I was reminded once again: he is little. He doesn't understand why mommy is frustrated or why she isn't being nice to him. He just continues to try and communicate in the only and best way he knows how. I know a lot of people would say this isn't a big deal, that we all loose our tempers sometimes. But the guilt one can feel after intentionally treating their child in an unkind and irrational way is only something another parent could understand. How I treat my children now is important whether they remember it or not. In these formative years, they will learn how to function in society and how to treat other people. More importantly, the way my husband and I treat our children will affect the way they see their heavenly Father and mother.
My children are young and there are many years to come in their formation. When my part is finished, I want my children to hear the word mother and think of a kind, compassionate and loving person, not a tired, stressed out woman who is always on edge. I know this is only one occasion and there will most likely be many more where I lose my temper, but that is no excuse for the behavior. Every occasion effects not only my soul, but the soul of my child which God has entrusted to me. May God grant me patience and peace so that I may raise saints for His heavenly kingdom.
I wouldn't consider my husband a romantic, but he does do romantic things...or at least I think they are romantic. When we were dating he would stop studying at 2am and make a 20 minute drive to my house to let me know he was thinking of me. I would wake up in the morning to find my car covered in post-it notes, all with a little something written on them. We went on frequent dates, fancy and not so fancy. My vase on the kitchen table was always filled with flowers and my text message inbox was always full of I love yous.
Now, with a toddler and a newborn, romance is a little hard to come around. But my sweet husband still seems to find it. I used to get notes on my car, now he takes this...
And does this...
Yes, that's Peanuts "bath crayon" and a note left on the shower wall for me to see. Sure the only time my husband can find for romance these days is in the five minutes he spends in the shower, but at least he does it. And I'm so thankful for that. I think for a lot of women it's about the big anniversary date, or the diamond earrings they want for their birthday. But for me, it's about the little things. It's about the notes on the bathroom wall or the fact that no matter how late he is running for work, he always comes to kiss me goodbye. Or when he cleans the living room without me even asking, or makes sure my car is filled with gas. It's the small gestures my husband does that let me know, no matter how busy he was that day, he thought of me and appreciates me. Thank you, sweetheart, for the little things.
This weekend we are meeting my family in a resort town in New Mexico. It will be a seven and a half hour drive (turned into 13 I'm sure) one way with two kids under two. This is supposed to be a vacation, but I have a feeling that word may have a new definition for me. Vacation used to mean getting away to a quiet spot and being able to relax for a few days. Now it means packing an insane amount of luggage for two days, listening to a newborn cry in the car for hours and hours, and trying to figure out how to entertain a one and a half year old for seven hours while he dances around trying to figure a way out of his car seat. Also, on the last three vacations we have taken Peanut (which is my new blog name for my son) has puked in his car seat, making the car smell like vomit the whole way. Yes, I know I am painting a lovely picture here. My husband and I used to get away with one piece of luggage for the both of us. Now I have a pack n' play, a bassinet, two suitcases, a highchair, a stroller, carriers for the baby, diapers and a bag of food for the toddler. I feel like I'm moving, not leaving for a few days! Luckily, at least on this "vacation", there will be the relief of seeing my great family on the other end of it. And I would drive any (ok, almost any) distance for that...
My darling daughter was baptized this past Sunday on the feast of Corpus Christi. It was an awesome day shared with family and friends. Miss Belle's godparents are my sister and one of my husband's childhood friends, Nathanael. I haven't spent a whole lot of time with Nathanael, just enough to know he would make an awesome godfather (the fact that he has spent the last six years in seminary told me that!). What I didn't know was just how awesome of a godfather we picked.
For the past three days I have been able to spend some personal time with my daughter's godfather discussing everything from our favorite youtube videos to the deepest issues of our faith. I feel I have found a new friend in him; a kind of friend that doesn't come along very often. Nathanael is the type of man who makes you want to be the best you can be. The type of person who, somehow, just by their very presence draws you closer to Christ. The kind of person you watch what you say around, not because you are being fake, but because they call you to something higher. Have you ever met someone like this? If you haven't, I hope you do someday.
He is the type of man who doesn't just talk about his faith, he lives it. Despite fatigue and company he makes time for prayer (and lots of it) and ignites a strong desire in me to become more fervent in my own prayer life. He is always willing to answer my thousands of questions about moral issues and the way he was raised, and he does it with so much compassion and charity. He is the type of person I want my son to grow up to be like.
His visit got me thinking a lot about friendship. Out of my many many friends there are very few who bring me up. How awesome the world would be if we held each other accountable? How awesome would my friendships be if I could push my pride and fear away and ask a friend to pray with me? How much better of a friend could I be if I spent more time in prayer and expanded my knowledge of the faith? I'm going to try and be a better friend; one who brings my friends closer to Christ. Thank you, Nathanael, for reminding me of what Christ created friendship for and for being a true friend and an amazing Godfather.
My Godfather is an amazing man. I have spent many hours sitting in conversation with him trying to soak up his wisdom and advice. When I was about to move away from home and embark on the military life a few years ago, he said something that I think of often. As I was sharing with him my anxiety about leaving my family he told me, "Andrea there is a lot of truth to the term 'home is where the heart is' and I think your anxiety stems from your young age. You will learn, over time, that home is not where your parents are, or the town you grew up in, but it is the place where your husband and children are."
Flash forward two years later after living away from home for a year. My in-laws, also very wise people, give my husband advice that I also think of often. There advice was, "you are not an island. Just because you move away from home, you can't separate yourself from the one's you left behind. They are still your family."
To be honest, I don't think I have really learned or embraced my godfather's advice yet. I still cry every time my children have to say goodbye to their grandparents and my heart still really desires to live closer to them. I struggle with this a lot because my head wants to tell God, "Your will be done Lord, send us where you please next tour", while my heart cries, "Please Lord just send us somewhere close to home. Close to our family." I know most people in society today would say it's good to get away from your parents and the place where you grew up; to become independent and separate yourselves. But to be honest I don't feel that way.
I want my kids to know their grandparents and aunts and uncles, not just visit them twice a year. Am I saying I want to move in next door to my parents or in-laws? No, but driving distance would be nice. Yes, it would be cool to tell people we spent two years in Europe and yes it is a once and a lifetime opportunity. But how does that compare to having a personal relationship with extended family? How does travel around the country compare to memories of your grandfather teaching you to fish, or laughing up a storm in the living room with that grandma who dances every time a song comes on? Everyday memories, not just holiday memories.
Maybe I just need to spend more time embracing my family here and not thinking so much about what comes next or where we will be stationed. Maybe I just need more time to "grow up" and I won't feel this way anymore. But I wish it would happen soon so my heart would stop hurting and learn where home really is.
I am a Catholic wife and mother of four, striving to grow holier by the day. I have a son and three daughters and am currently homeschooling the oldest two. I am a doula and have a special passion for all things birth related. This blog is my life and thoughts escaping from my head to the computer screen. So pull up a chair and come along for the ride!