It's NFP Awareness Week, and in the spirit of the link-up fever I've obviously been experiencing of late, I'm linking up to collection for the week over at NFP and Me. :)
I won't belabor on definitions, because I know that anybody who isn't familiar with NFP can easily Google all of this, but the acronym stands for Natural Family Planning, and no it is NOT the Rhythm Method. It is centered on physical signs within a woman's body (temperature, cervical mucus) as to when she is fertile. There is no guess work involved, it is based on science.
What I really wanted to write about was my personal experience with NFP. So, here ya go :)
Back when I was in my 20's, long before I was married, I took the Pill. My doctor recommended it because she said it would ease my lengthy and painful menstrual cycles, and I figured what the heck. Did it? Not too much, maybe a hair. Eventually, when I started practicing my faith again, I knew that I ultimately wanted to get married, and if/when that happened, I wanted to follow the Church's teaching on not using artificial contraception (and it's not like I was using the Pill for it's intended purpose anyway). So I stopped taking it, figuring this would give my body time to readjust to life off the Pill and let me learn NFP when I wanted to.
Ugh. Let me tell you, it was *rough*. I didn't get a menstrual cycle for about 6 months, and needed to really nudge my doctor that this was in fact a problem. My skin, always relatively clear, turned into a nightmare. It was 6-12 months before my body fully normalized. It made me realize that I'm SO glad that I did that long before I really needed to. Everything was working correctly and I was freed up to learn NFP after Mike and I became engaged. It also made me realize that no matter what, I will never go back to hormonal contraception.
During our engagement, Mike and I attended a seminar on the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning. It wasn't required as part of marriage preparation in our diocese (unfortunately) but we sought it out anyway, and this is the only method with local teachers. Having a local instructor is so helpful with your confidence in learning the method.The support and encouragement is indispensable.
And so we've used NFP in our marriage both to avoid and achieve pregnancy. It does require some abstinence for a good portion of the month if a couple is trying to avoid. However, using NFP to avoid pregnancy should be reevaluated on a monthly basis, and the method builds this right in. Do we want to abstain? No? Then do we really *need* to abstain? I really love that about the method.
There are lots of Catholics couples who do not use NFP, and by this I mean that they just accept pregnancies as they come, and do not try to avoid at all. I think this is fantastic, but I will say that personally (keeping it real on this blog, like always :)) we do use NFP to avoid (when we deem it necessary, of course). We discern regularly whether or not we want to stop avoiding, but each couple needs to decide what is best for them. It cannot be for anybody else to say what are just reasons to avoid a pregnancy for each individual couple.
So, that's that. NFP has been nothing but a good experience in our marriage. I'm confident in the method, and I love that it just allows my body to do it's own thing, naturally.
We've had our fair share of raucous jokes about family planning directed at us, especially when we announced my pregnancy with Henry mere months after our marriage. We didn't toe the party line on societal expectations for a new marriage, apparently. And we also have received a good number of nosy questions about the opposite phenomena, why did we wait over five years between Henry's birth and Anne's?
I always politely evade those questions, because they're far too personal. I will simply say that NFP has totally satisfied our family planning needs in our marriage.
It isn't difficult to learn, and even women who lack regular cycles can use it. It makes you appreciate the natural stages that your body goes through, and if you do have need to avoid a pregnancy, it works. I get all nostril flarey when people make that horrible "joke" about people who use NFP being parents. Yes, they often are parents, but the reason is far different from what the wiseguy is alluding.
Food for thought Wednesday. :)