What is Natural Family Planning or NFP? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains on their website that “NFP is the general title for the scientific, natural and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples either achieve or postpone pregnancies.” They go on to explain that methods used in NFP “are based on the observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy.”
The theme for National NFP Awareness Week 2017 is “It's Time! Say "Yes" to God's Plan for Married Love.” This theme is especially fitting for me and my husband as we had said “No” to God’s plan and struggled with trusting Him. Full disclosure: my husband and I have only recently started learning about and practicing NFP.
Prior to NFP, we had relied on birth control pills, condoms and then abstinence. When I was on birth control, I experienced many symptoms that I did not correlate to being on the pill. I would have severe and debilitating migraines several times a week. At times, the migraines were so strong that I would have to lay in a dark room and sleep for the rest of the day. Nothing alleviated the migraines and I sought every remedy that my doctor and I could think of. It was only after I came off the birth control pills several months before my husband and I were ready to try to conceive that the migraines “magically” went away. I also lost about ten pounds after coming off the birth control pills. After having our baby, our birth control method consisted of long periods of abstinence and condoms.
Why Did We Choose NFP?
I knew that I would never want to go back on birth control, not only because of the effects that it had on my body, but because we also felt that it was not right. We also did not feel right using condoms. We eventually realized that, for us, using birth control meant we were not trusting in God. This mistrust stemmed from our fears after receiving troubling news while I was pregnant, coupled with postpartum anxiety that I endured. Both had a powerful effect on our marriage and family.
As we began to heal from these struggles and anxieties (and after going to confession!) we began to consider natural birth control and it was then that we really learned about NFP. It was then that we realized if we trusted God to grant us the miracle of our baby (which He did!), we needed to continue to trust Him when it comes to having or not having more blessings (children). For us, the true meaning of living the faith and carrying out our vocation as husband and wife means that we need to be open to creating new life.
It was the following paragraph that resonated with us and called us to say “Yes!” to God, just as our Blessed Virgin Mary did:
NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of the child. Standards for Diocesan Natural Family Planning Ministry
With NFP, we understand that each time we engage in the marital act, God could bless us with a child. While we are currently using NFP to delay pregnancy, we are still open to life. We have found comfort knowing that if God wants us to have a child, there is nothing that he did not make which is stopping it from happening.
NFP finally has made us feel right. We are actually growing closer as a married couple by doing the following things together: learning more about NFP, working to figure our fertile and infertile phases and abstaining when we need to.
For us, NFP doesn’t mean that we throw caution to the wind and have a multitude of children that we may not be able to care for spiritually, emotionally or financially. Instead, we have found we are being more responsible than if we were to use artificial birth control methods. We believe that God trusts us now more than ever. “Making decisions therefore, about when and how many children to have in marriage is a sacred responsibility that God has entrusted to husband and wife. This is the foundation of what the Church calls, "Responsible Parenthood"--the call to discern God's will for your marriage while respecting His design for life and love,” The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains.
NFP has allowed us to take what was once a selfish act and turn it into what it was intended to be by God. “By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife. Standards for Diocesan Natural Family Planning Ministry
To us, NFP means that we will cultivate an openness to life in our marriage; work together to either achieve or avoid pregnancy, instead of relying on artificial birth control which we feel has and will only draw us apart; foster a more selfless relationship with each other with regards to the actual marital act, which is intended to serve rather than take; and most important than all, have complete trust in God.
For more information about Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, please click here.