In honor of NFP Awareness Week (which I didn't realize was a thing until this week), I'd like to share a bit of my experience with Natural Family Planning. I just got married in May 2014, but I've been charting one method or another since April 2012. For those who may not know, Natural Family Planning is a general term for various methods used to avoid or achieve pregnancy in cooperation with God's plan sans artificial assistance. This is my informal Catholic definition, but I've heard of many non-Catholics using it as just a natural way to avoid or achieve pregnancy without putting all that extra hormonal blarb into your body. It's beautiful for a number of reasons, the primary one for me being it works in harmony with truth. It is about being fully open to life, no matter your circumstance. It is about choosing life, even in those times you're trying to avoid.
Kevin and I certainly don't have to practice NFP - we could just leave it up to God, be intimate whenever we wanted, and see what happens. But given our personal circumstances right now and through prayer, we believe that it's not the best time for us to have a child. Now if I somehow got pregnant, we'd be excited (gosh, Kevin would be ecstatic), but we're doing our part to delay it at the moment. So in the spirit of this NFP Awareness Week, let me share a bit of both my personal joys and struggles with natural family planning.
:) It's a team effort. My husband knows and [sort of] understands what's going on with my body, and we actually develop a deeper level of intimacy through it. While we were engaged, I would text him my chart details at the end of each day, and he was responsible for the physical chart. Now that we're married, it's a bit more wonky since we've switched around so many times what NFP method we're charting with, but it's still a similar setup. He is aware of what is going on in my cycle, and how that affects me each day. A woman's body is constantly changing throughout the month, so naturally a woman's day-to-day can be so drastically different for no obvious reason. And it's beyond helpful to have a husband who is aware and sensitive to what might be going on underneath the surface.
:) It requires sacrifice. I don't know about you, but I for sure want my marriage to be made up of worthy sacrifices. It helps us demonstrate our love for one another, as well as our love for God. It unites us closer to each other and to Him. The sacrifices that NFP calls for help us to grow in prudence and temperance. And it builds up the respect that we have for one another.
:) It's natural and healthy. This is an exciting one. I've been learning so much recently about my body, and I've been trying to incorporate natural things into all parts of my life (essential oils, attempted homegrown herbs, cooking from scratch, etc.). So of course it's a joy that I'm able to have a healthy level of intimacy with my husband while not worrying about, or harming myself, with outside chemicals.
:( It can be confusing and frustrating when you aren't the poster child for NFP. Even though I've been charting for over 2 full years, I still don't have a "normal" chart. We've switched methods three times since getting engaged, trying to find what works best for us. It can be hard when an NFP teacher looks at your chart and tells you that if you're trying to avoid pregnancy, there only looks to be 2 "go" days in that entire month. With my chart being somewhat difficult to interpret, it's tough when we just don't know if it's an okay day. And it leads me to sometimes feel guilty; like there's something wrong with me (physically or psychologically), or I'm doing it wrong, or I'm making a cross for our marriage.
:) The frustrations are purifying. In a way, I'm grateful for not having one's "ideal" chart, or a regular cycle. It means that I just have to trust in God, which is ultimately what I'm trying to do in all parts of my life. Even with a perfect cycle, we all have to trust in the Lord and in His plans for us.
Kevin and I are still just in the newlywed phase - we have years of learning and growing to do. But I can say with confidence that I'm grateful NFP is a part of our marriage, and I hope we can grow in faith each day as we leave our fertility and our family in God's hands.
Now for some great NFP related links for the week!