Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for various methods of charting a woman’s natural signs of fertility in order that the married couple may achieve or postpone pregnancy. NFP methods are inexpensive and can become a normal part of a couple’s daily routine and assist the woman in general health awareness. NFP works with a couple’s fertility, not against it.
It’s about love. It’s about life. It’s about freedom. It’s about gift.
Our Natural Family Planning testimony is also a story of reversion and conversion. In this story what is good, true and beautiful about the Catholic faith is crystal clear and the working of the Holy Spirit is undeniable. We cannot provide a series of tips about the mechanics and details of using sympto-thermal methods for achieving or avoiding pregnancy. We don’t take temps nor do we keep charts. Natural Family Planning (NFP) certainly includes such methods, and they are highly effective, but it is so much MORE than that to us. Even before we were practicing our faith or knew what to call it in Catholic-speak, we were always open to life in our marriage. Looking back, this is hard evidence to us of the reality of God and how, in the beauty and dignity of our humanity, God placed the call to be fruitful and multiply on our hearts. Our understanding of that still, small voice gently calling us deeper into our vocation of the married life has sharpened over the years. Our profound conversions would not have happened without the births and proximal graces experienced from the Baptisms of each and every one of our 7 children. God knows how to reach His children and He knew that he would ultimately win our hearts back through the messy workings of our nuclear family.
My 4th pregnancy and birth was unexpectedly difficult. I had trouble with my hips and had gained much more weight this time around and the baby was in the wrong position all the way through delivery. We had welcomed 4 children in 6 years. Steve became concerned about my physical health. He commented once (and it was out of concern for ME) that he thought it was time to consider getting a vasectomy. Hearing my husband – this quintessentially masculine leader of our family – utter these words split my soul in half. …
As our family size grew and our marriage matured, all of our children were Baptized in the Catholic Church, but Steve and I were still a bit on the peripheries of her Teachings. I was perfectly content in my “cafeteria Catholic” practices. I had started to try to develop a Mass routine, but Steve would not go with me. He was skeptical of “organized religion”. He felt like an outsider at Mass because he didn’t know what to do to participate. Lugging infants and toddlers to Mass alone was a drag. I was the one saying, “I’m not getting anything out of this” . . . so I stopped going to Mass. Once, a parishioner came up to me after Mass and assumed I was a military wife with a deployed husband. She sweetly offered help. I joked that he was “deployed” at home with the little children that I couldn’t handle alone at Mass! We were a hot mess and upside-down and backwards spiritually and didn’t even know it. We were routinely breaking God’s 1st Commandment, but we were steadfast in our complete rejection of birth control!! God knew us and knew how to reach us. He took the one thing we were doing right and used it to our ultimate Good.
We made a commitment while unloading the dishwasher together one morning that attending Mass each Sunday was required and had to be presented to the children as a non-negotiable routine. That marked the beginning of the active conversion of our hearts. I had been reminded from radio programs that I should not receive Communion after such a long time until I went through a “General Confession”. Out of a newfound respect for the Church’s ways and with a sense to try to start getting things “right with God”, I scheduled a meeting for a General Confession. The priest invited me into his office and lovingly asked me my story and why I was seeking this confession. I was ready! I had practiced my Act of Contrition. I rehearsed in the car all the way over that it had been “22 years since my last confession . . . “. But it didn’t go as I had planned…
NFP is not just charting and temperature taking. It’s a way of life that is consistent with Church teaching. It’s an acceptance of natural law. It is healthy. It is hard and we will all fail at it at times. Living this way has softened our hearts and made us more open to the other. It requires communication, honesty, trust, love, vulnerability, flexibility and acceptance. It comes with natural periods of both abstinence and fecundity that ebb and flow with your family and marital rhythms and circumstances. This does not mean to throw caution to the wind and behave like reckless rabbits, as Pope Francis once famously said! … [Read Full Story]
“Growing up in the secular world, the message is pretty much use birth control or have babies. Except that the message implies that babies are a ‘financial burden,’ so you’d better be married with a solid career and own a house before you have kids. This message limited me to being open to life because it was the mindset I’d been conditioned to believe until I found my way to the Church. My journey to the Church began when I met my husband. Together we decided to practice the sympto-thermal method of NFP, however, this decision did not come easily.
I grew up to the tune of ‘NFP doesn’t work, you just get pregnant.’ My family fell away from the Church shortly after my First Communion, so when I was prescribed birth control for acne as a teenager, I never thought twice about it. Given all this, I felt very hesitant when we began our marriage preparation and the topic of NFP came up. I did not initially know that taking birth control when you are married and sexually active was a sin. Everyone I knew was on it. I took the online NFP class for the sympto-thermal method through the Couple-to-Couple League, but I was not very open to it. How could I give up that kind of control over my body? After talking about NFP in one of our meetings with the priest, I thought, ‘Maybe we should try it…’ But I quickly rationalized that we were not ready for kids, so it must be a terrible idea. I went in circles like this for a few months. All the while, I prayed to God to show me the way. As I started to shyly have conversations with a few people, I began to research NFP and was surprised by what I found. [Read More]
“We are happily married, young parents, method-hopping newbies when it comes to NFP. Despite having method-hopped, we’ve experienced great graces in our marriage from embracing the Church’s teaching on love, marriage, and family life. Lorenzo and I both experienced the spark of faith which kindled into a fire in our hearts in high school when we helped lead retreats at our home parish (this is also where we met, got to know each other and started dating!). We are far from perfect, but hanging out at church and spending weekends putting on retreats together was a pretty great place to start our relationship.
Our relationship was long-distance pretty much until the day we got married. We began dating my senior year of high school, went to separate colleges, got engaged after I graduated, and then worked 2000 miles away from each other the year we were engaged. During that year, I served as a missionary in Kansas City, and Lorenzo started his dream job with Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Arlington.
After falling in love with Jesus in high school, we knew that we would not use birth control in our marriage and that we wanted to practice NFP. [Read More]