Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NFP, my new favorite topic?

Wow. I wrote a whole post and with one misplaced keystroke, I erased the whole thing. grr. Well, here are the highlights, since I don't have the time or energy to rewrite the whole thing:

- Instead of constantly posting addendums, I am hereby warn you that NFP will probably be a regular topic and that I retain the right to correct  or expound on my thoughts.

- Thank you to all who have given me feedback on my previous posts. I am happy to hear from you and if you prefer the privacy of a Facebook message, I will certainly respect your privacy.

- One of the helpful criticisms that I received re my addendum was that perhaps its tone was too apologetic (er, not in the doctrinal sense). Ah, the pendulum. I suggest "blurring" my two posts together to reach a happy medium. 'Nuff said.

- For the sake of clarity, I want to revisit my statement that NFP is not intrinsically good for marriage. What I meant was that it is not meant to be used as an end in itself but as a tool for the rightly-discerned spacing of children. I have heard delighted exclamations from good-hearted-but-misinformed single women about the beauty of NFP and how they can't wait to get married so they too can use it! To which I say, uh, you're missing the point, sister.

Note: A la St Paul, a couple may feel called to abstain as a form of fasting. I would differentiate this abstinence from NFP in the same way that dieting is different from fasting. (Clearly they can be combined, but are not necessarily).

-- Does NFP demand and aid in the development of marital selflessness, communication and prayerful discernement? YES!

-- Do you know what else does that (dare I say, better)? Children.

Note: The knowledge that NFP provides can help in achieving pregnancy. However, these women were clearly taken with the idea of NFPs selflessness, communication and prayerful discernment, and at least momentarily overlooked the Church's beautiful understanding of the sacramentality of the marital union.

For further reading, here's a great blog post:

Truth in Advertising: How We Talk About NFP

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Addendum to NFP and Average Me

I'm not entirely clear on what my purpose in writing that post was - I think perhaps it was to get myself out there; to put myself in the conversation. I know this area (sexuality, ethics and human dignity) is my mission field, but for whatever reason I've been relatively quiet about it. I felt it was time to get on with it.

I chose the approach I did because I've been struck by the quantity of two opposing voices among NFP users. There are those who struggle (and I in no way wish to diminish the reality of their cross), and then there's the chorus of couples who probably also poop rainbows and write poetry about the wonders of NFP.

I find myself to be neither. I'm distinctly average: the person the textbook was written about, but I don't love NFP. I'd rather not have to use it ever at all. I'd rather God just give us the exact number of children that we can handle, as we can handle them, but that's not reality. I moderately dislike NFP. I despise [the idea of] contraception. I don't think I'm called to have 16 kids. That leaves NFP as the least worst option and, for me, a manageable if undesirable one. 

I wanted my voice to be somewhere in the mix between the rainbow-poopers and the people with very real burdens. I was hopeful that someone looking into NFP might read my post and see that for some of us it does "work." People need to hear this because our culture doesn't believe it. 

But me saying it works isn't me singing its high praises, or announcing that couples should use NFP [periodic abstinence] believing it's intrinsically good for marriages (eye-roll, head-shake).  For most of us, I think it's just a heck of a big step up from contraception.* ...and some struggle to believe that but they do it anyway. God bless them.

Friday, April 13, 2012

NFP and Average Me

NFP Buttons

NFP from my totally average perspective, by which I mean:

- non-ecological breastfeeding (sleeping-thru-the-night, pacifier-using) delays fertility by an average of 10 months
- cyclic mucus changes are obvious
- easy-to-read biphasic temperature shift

I have mixed feelings towards NFP. Why? One the one hand, it's opened a window making me an active observer as my body works to offer, bring forth and nurture new life.  On the other hand, gosh darn it, I can't unlearn it. I know, in a culture of control-freaks, this sounds weird, doesn't it? In fact, most women I know with large families or closely-spaced children make a point of letting you know that these children were "planned," as though to prove that NFP works, but they're open to life. But isn't there something beautiful about the idea that God's plan is better than ours? As I write this, I can feel my heart rate go up: What am I signing myself up for?!

Does this mean I'm a providentialist? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, I think the 50% unplanned pregnancy rate found in our contraceptive culture seems unlikely for the average NFP-user. I guess it depends on what "unplanned" means. Particularly at this point in my ife, I'm not at all opposed to having an "unplanned" pregnancy, but considering my textbook averageness, I doubt I'll ever get pregnant by surprise. The closest I'll probably get is leaving it up to a God who has a better plan that I, knowing all the while when we're offering Him the right of first refusal. For the completely average woman, deciphering fertility is about as challenging as being toilet-trained. 

What you do with that information, well, that's up to you...but don't call the result an accident.

Here are some links for more information, but I gotta warn you, once you know your fertility signs, they're hard to ignore.

 - has awesome detailed explanations of the hormone cycle and the mucus they produce, just click on the various links for an education unlike any found elsewhere.

- teaches the basic "sympto-thermal" aka, mucus and temperature NFP method
- free charting website stores and interprets fertility data. 

- teaches a detailed mucus-only NFP method. 

- uses the Creighton method to decipher and solve women's health issues such as abnormal cycles, recurrent miscarriage, infertility, etc. in a way that works *with* a woman's body rather than circumventing the problem via birth control pills, ivf, etc.