NFP Awareness Week
Last week was Natural Family Planning Awareness Week. Unfortunately, because we were packing and moving and unpacking, I failed to post and bring attention to that fact. Nevertheless, I do feel that it is very important and something that ought to receive more attention.
For anyone not aware, NFP is an umbrella term which describes various methods using natural means of determining fertility in order for a couple to responsibly and non-contraceptively plan (and space if necessary) children. NFP is NOT the old calendar or rhythm method sometimes referred to as Catholic roulette. NFP relies upon scientifically observable symptoms of the body in order to determine whether the woman is likely to be fertile or infertile at a given time.
I do not wish here to discuss the statistical success of NFP (both for responsibly and chastely avoiding pregnancy and for conceiving a child); instead I’d like to offer a brief personal reflection. My wife and I have been married for a little over three years now. When we got married she had just finished her undergraduate degree, and we were both about to start working on an MA in Theology while teaching at a Catholic high school in order to pay the bills. We prayerfully discerned that it would be prudent to attempt to postpone the conception of a child until we completed our MA coursework. This required regular periods of abstention, which I can honestly say helped us to live in our hearts and bodies what we had intellectually assented to via our studies of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. We better learned how to express our love for each other in various ways. We learned to give and receive love by going on walks, engaging in deep theological conversations and silly laughter-filled moments, by watching movies or going to dinner, by playing games or just sitting in silence, and also by sharing in the nuptial gift.
Because we chose to use NFP, it was necessary that I be aware of her fertility. This forced us to frequently discuss fertility, our intentions in the marital act and in our marriage itself, and our bodies. These discussions, in turn, enabled us to overcome the shame which society imposes on the sexual act. While on the one hand we are saturated with sexual media, on the other hand we are implicitly told that sex is not something to be discussed. It is a dirty act. We may make perverse jokes and laugh about it, but we are made to feel uncomfortable and ashamed having serious discussions about our bodies and sexual experiences, especially with our spouse. NFP forced us to overcome those tendencies and to develop in reality the positive perception of the nuptial meaning of the bodies which we had already embraced in thought.
In our experience, practicing NFP has not always been easy or convenient, but it has helped us to enrich our marriage. If anyone have any questions or concerns about NFP, please feel free to ask. I will answer to the best of my ability. IF you have positive comments and experiences, please share them, not only with us, but with someone for whom an increased awareness of NFP could be a great gift.