Skip to content

Troubles with NFP: Part 2

January 9, 2010

In Part 1 I reflected on the disillusionment and frustration suffered by those who, through misinformation, thought that NFP would require little sacrifice. Here I shall more closely consider a second, probably smaller group of people who, we shall assume, have an adequate perception of all that NFP entails, but have encountered extra-ordinary issues with discerning or charting fertility, problems which are often biological in nature. These issues can place great strain on their marriage and may require different types of ministry. How can we offer support to those who must exert incredible effort in order to properly practice NFP while remaining faithful to what they have discerned to be responsible and prudent family planning?

Before attempting to answer our question we ought to more clearly describe these extra-ordinary issues. Some couples, through no fault of their own, have great difficulty discerning fertility. The difficulties which we are referencing are not those caused by couples who are not yet competent at reading symptoms and charting properly, but those caused by apparent biological anomalies which cause the woman’s cycle to function differently that one would normally expect. This makes it very difficult, sometimes nearly impossible, to determine the fertile period of the cycle ahead of time. Therefore, these couples, if they have discerned they have good reasons for postponing conception, must abstain for significantly longer periods than would be necessary for most couples practicing NFP. (Or, conversely if they are trying to conceive they may have great difficulty determining the time of optimal fertility.) While the shorter periods of abstinence which are part of the sacrifices which ought to be lovingly made by all NFP couples can help the couple learn to communicate their love through a variety of expressions and can teach them to appreciate the spousal act more fully than do many couples who use contraceptives, longer periods of abstinence can cause tension between spouses who lovingly and selflessly want to renew their wedding vows with their bodies but are unable to do so without forsaking prudence. Certainly compassionate Christians can recognize that such couples may often be in need of ministry and support. How might we be Christ for them?

Putting our intent to help into practice will not be easy. One major hurdle which must be overcome is the apparent shame which surrounds discussion of problems of a sexual nature. We must first work to overcome the stigma of discussing sexuality as it relates to real marriage relationships. Although JPII’s Theology of the Body, among other things, has helped Catholics to make important and impressive steps in thinking and talking about sexuality without feeling ashamed of having done so, there still seems to be some unspoken standard within some parishes and among certain types of Christians which discourages open discussion of certain (sexual) problems with others. While some issues are more private than others and therefore ought to be discussed with more modesty, Catholic couples whose marriages are suffering due to NFP difficulties ought to feel free to turn to other couples, fellow members of the Church, for help.

As the Church, the Body of Christ, we have a responsibility to help alleviate in any (moral) way we can any unnecessary stress being placed on the marriage. Couples who are unable to share in the spousal self-gift due to difficulties with NFP ought to have some support structure within the Church to turn to for help, advice, and guidance. Through relationships with other couples who have lived through the difficulties and sacrifices which are part and parcel of every marriage, couples who are presently suffering through difficulties can gain confidence in the knowledge that they are not alone and are not at fault. In this regard, the Couple-to-Couple League seems to have an exemplary model for training couples in NFP. Although I am not personally very familiar with CCL or their presentation of content, it seems that their system of couples being trained by couples has the inherent potential to set up effective and needed support systems for couples who may face extended periods of abstinence due to ambiguities in the signs of fertility. Alternatively, parishes could set up support groups for NFP couples. However, care must taken to make sure these groups are truly interested in ministering and refrain from making judgments, attempting to convert couples to their method of NFP, etc. Regardless of how the ministry is offered, prayer and solidarity are powerful gifts which can help alleviate the angst which often accompanies the suffering and sacrifice experienced by many of these couples.

I neither presume to know what causes the difficulty discerning fertility which places such stress on some NFP couples, nor whether all of these difficulties can be fixed. But resources do exist which can help couples determine the causes of and potential solutions to their problems with practicing NFP. If you are having trouble discerning when you are fertile, either for the purposes of consummation and conception or abstention to postpone conception, you may consider contacting a trained NFP instructor about your options and considering the potentially problem-causing factors described below. Sometimes switching to a different method of NFP will help clarify your symptoms. Additionally, nutrition can play an important role in the strength of signs of fertility. A more balanced diet which includes the essential vitamins and nutrients could help decrease the difficulties. Finally, some women have hormonal imbalances which can disrupt the cycle and may make determining the fertile period nearly impossible. In such situations natural hormone supplements can be used (and are often needed on a temporary basis) to help the body to start functioning more properly. Experts in the Creighton model, which utilizes morally acceptable technologies to assist in the practice of NFP, may be especially helpful for those having difficulty conceiving.

If you or someone you know has experienced some of the difficulties discussed here and are aware of effective and helpful ministries or have ideas for them. Please share your story.

28 Comments
  1. January 9, 2010 11:52 pm

    I should probably add that the prime difficulty faced by couples who must endure these long periods of abstinence is not self control, but the pressure of only rarely being able to join in spousal union, which may have an adverse effect on the development of the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual dimensions of their relationship

  2. January 10, 2010 6:47 am

    The main difficulty in the family had to withstand the pressure, so that each can join in conjugal union

  3. Tom permalink
    January 10, 2010 11:36 am

    I might also add, although Josh eloquently summed some medical points up well in the last paragraph, that having a care provider who understands Catholic doctrine on reproduction can be a very important support system for Catholics, and especially for those practicing NFP. My wife has seen Catholic gynecologists in both San Diego (Culture of Life Family Services [COLFS]) and Washington, DC (Tepeyac) and they have been supportive of reproductive issues that have come up in our relationship even though my wife had regular cycles and we never had a problem discerning fertility. Before having services from COLFS, my wife would discuss issues with doctors and they were either ignorant of NFP or would not listen and basically prescribe the pill (exactly the opposite of what my wife wanted!). So, lists of Catholic (or at least NFP-friendly) care providers might be a good idea for instructors of NFP to have to give to students of NFP. Josh also correctly points out that many NFP-friendly medical professionals seem to use the Creighton model and NaPro technology (natural reproductive technology). We never liked using the Creighton model, but it did aid in determining our reproductive issue with the Catholic medical provider. My point is that having a good doctor who knows about NFP and issues that may arise, and who knows of a moral way to correct any problem that is correctable may be most of the battle for those with problem #2.

    NFP, however is still very difficult sometimes. It is still a sacrifice. And, in response to part 1, NFP is certainly a virtue and always a challenge. I can vouch for this challenge and virtue after 4 years of marriage and having one baby and several months of being in a longer fertile period after birth, where abstinence is required for a longer period of time if we are to delay conception of a 2nd child. NFP is difficult, but I would not have it any other way. We have felt God’s amazing grace in our marriage and through using NFP. Although maybe we are never always perfect in our sexual desires and expressions, we feel like we are being perfected in the practice and discernment of the proper use of NFP. It is always a challenge to be the best and most moral that we can be in life and in sexuality, and NFP is a tool for rising to that challenge in moral sexuality.

  4. Veronica permalink
    January 10, 2010 5:10 pm

    After talking to my gyn and telling her I was doing NFP, she gave me a perscription for the morning after-pill. Can you believe that?

    After that situation occured, I knew I needed to find only a doctor who knew what NFP was AND was in full-support of it. I spent hours and hours on the phone asking gyns in my health plan if they even knew what NFP was. The response usually was, “NFP? What is that?” I would say, “Natural Family Planning,” and they would say, “Ok, I’ll ask the doctor and see…” trailing off in their speech indicating it was a made-up word that didn’t exist. Then I searched high and low for anyone who would even know what this was, let alone support me in it. I have only found this type of provider in pro-life, Catholic doctors whose practices promote their Pro-life and Catholic-ness. I have to drive over an hour a way to get a papsmear, and its worth it!

    We were doing Sympto-Thermal Method, but the doc I ended up with taught me to do the Creighton Model so they could try some NaPro technology on me. NaPro means Natural and Procreative. I was perscribed a hormone treatment to assist me in regulating my cycles due to some abnormal bleeding (which I thought was cancer, and was not! Thank God!). We weren’t crazy about Creighton and still use STM. We are greatful for learning the other method so we could use those skills some time, which we did after we had our baby.

    The return to fertility post-childbirth has also been a small challenge, but nothing compared to the extremity that other couples have experienced. We have decided to use these times to pray for our baby boy and his chasitity. The world was hard when we were teenagers (nowadays kids are giving BJs in 7th grade or before!!!). We use the times when we are most challenged to offer our struggles to God on behalf of our child, our children, and also for people who are trying to conceive but are unable to for some reason or another. While we love times when do not abstain, abstinance has shown to be a blessing for us (although we have not had the extreeme struggles as others as described here).

  5. Veronica permalink
    January 10, 2010 5:23 pm

    Another way to spiritually offer ones marriage up during the times of extreme struggle is to consider people who are deployed in the Military who remain faithful through that long separation. To think of those who have been wounded in the War in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers who are coming home paralized, never to make love to their wives again. Or people with medical conditions which make them to sick to make love or physically unable to have the energy to make love.

    It’s easy to look at NFP in one hand and contraceptive in the other and say, “which one is better” for making love, but there are many people out there who cannot make love because of the issues listed above and they do not have the spiritual mindset to see these as situations of growth, extreme sacrifice and more.

    I’m not as eloquent as my husband, but I love what he wrote here,
    “Although maybe we are never always perfect in our sexual desires and expressions, we feel like we are being perfected in the practice and discernment of the proper use of NFP. It is always a challenge to be the best and most moral that we can be in life and in sexuality, and NFP is a tool for rising to that challenge in moral sexuality.”

    One last thing is that we are to live as Christ did, offering ourselves up for the life of others, either in our children that result from our love making, and/or with our whole lives.
    Ephesians 5:24-26 “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word”

    Perhaps for the couples experiencing extreeme abstinance in order to avoid another child, it may be God’s special gift to them to help them achieve their salvation.

    To make light of any of these situations: deployment, paralysis, cancer, illness, or extreme abstinance is inappropriate, and couples who are given the gift of these challanges deserve the loving support of their communities, especially of the Church community.

  6. brettsalkeld permalink
    January 11, 2010 12:00 pm

    Check out this post. Note the first comment as well.

    http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester/archives/2010/01/truly-answering.php

  7. Melissa permalink
    January 11, 2010 12:14 pm

    Joshua,
    Your first comment strikes close to the reason that I can see for so many that struggle with NFP (like myself). Personally, I have done a great deal of study on HV, the Catechism, and Theology of the Body, and still come up disappointed. Not because the Church is wrong, but because of an implied understanding, which I think many pick up, but can’t necessarily define. The understanding is this: the two-fold purpose of marriage is not really equal, and therefore the sacrifice of one (unity) is acceptable in the face of procreation, but not vice-versa.
    I understand that most people will automatically say that the importance is in the sacrifice and the virtue, which is true-to a point. But a couple of things come to mind: first, in a healthy marriage, there will be natural periods of abstinence due to common illness, the kids were crazy that day, whatever. So the sacrifice, the mutual love and respect is already supposed to be in place. For those with normal cycles, the little extra bit will fit seamlessly into this pattern. For those of us closer to this second post, the sacrifice borders on abandonment of one of the purposes of marriage. And to place it in the same category of sacrifice as those who bear severe illness, paralysis, or deployment is misleading. I will not be so arrogant as to say that my depression and cycle issues are as life altering as my brother’s paralysis.
    I guess the emotional response that it boils down to for me is that the Church’s language and tone relegate the purpose of this sacrament to a half-step above Jansenism. And it hurts, because the unity that my spouse and I bring to each other gives us the strength and grace to be better spouses, parents, and Catholics. And I think that’s all any of us want to be.

    • brettsalkeld permalink
      January 12, 2010 11:51 pm

      Melissa,
      I was very interested to see you comment that TOB can be frustrating “Not because the Church is wrong, but because of an implied understanding, which I think many pick up, but can’t necessarily define.”

      This actually captures one of the things that stood out for me in reading TOB. I agree with the Church, but I got the sense reading TOB that there was something provisional about it. It was like John Paul was pointing in the right direction, but hadn’t arrived there yet. It felt like the Church had not yet articulated the relationship between the two ends of marriage in a satisfactory way. It was like John Paul was trying to do it, but he couldn’t quite close the deal because he was stuck with inadequate language and concepts. This sense is indeed very difficult to describe or quantify.

      If I had to guess, I would say the problem is that the Church has actually altered its way of talking about this stuff quite a bit in the last 100 years or so and has not yet found equilibrium. I don’t really know where we will end up, though I do not expect any remarkable changes in the actual nuts and bolts of Catholic sexual ethics. One way that would be more satisfying for me would be if the Church were able to start articulating not two ends of marriage, but one. I think the idea that unity is the end of marriage and that openness to life is essential to that end has potential. (This kind of move may have even made Humanae Vitae’s argumentation more accessible.) It requires a lot less acrobatics when one is trying to justify things like naturally childless marriages, for instance. Or sex after menopause. Also, I think it makes it clearer how procreation flows from union rather than running parallel to it. This kind of move would imply a pretty significant repudiation of the long standing tradition that procreation is the overriding purpose for marriage, but we may already be far enough from that position that subordinating it to unity may be possible in the near future.

  8. Becky permalink
    January 11, 2010 2:32 pm

    “The understanding is this: the two-fold purpose of marriage is not really equal, and therefore the sacrifice of one (unity) is acceptable in the face of procreation, but not vice-versa.”

    This shouldn’t be surprising when for most of the history of the Church, procreation was seen as the sole acceptable purpose for intercourse; the concept of intercourse building up love and affection didn’t emerge until the rise of humanism. In the patristic era and the medieval period, marital intercourse was “allowed” for the purposes of avoiding fornication and rendering the marital debt, but most theologians felt it was still venially sinful if not intended for procreation. It is easy to not realize how different current Church teaching on sexuality is compared to what it had been for most of the Church’s existence.

  9. looking forward to the tenth permalink
    January 11, 2010 3:22 pm

    My response my sound flippant, but I do offer it in seriousness.

    Why not just tell couples like the ones you are describing to stop worrying so much, thow the charts out, and take the risk of having a large family?

    • Melody K permalink
      January 11, 2010 8:52 pm

      Looking Forward to the Tenth, I’m glad things are working out well for you. I am assuming that you and your husband have a sufficient income to support a large family, that both of you have reasonably decent health, that there are no unusual problems such as severe post-partum depression with your pregnancies; and that both of you in fact want a large family. For many people one or more of these things are missing, making “just let it happen” an unrealistic or perhaps even irresponsible option.

      • Curlyq permalink
        August 13, 2011 1:43 pm

        Melody,
        Sufficient income!! I mean as a follower of Christ you don’t worry about that!! Only the devil wants you to worry about that. I mean in this day in age one child can be costly. And that is exactly why people are afraid. Afraid of what, to trust in God. Remember our needs will be met maybe not our wants although, in the end times even our needs (lack of water, earthquakes, etc, may not be met even) but this has nothing to do with having your family. God is in control and will make a soul for you or not but he is in control of our lives. Even if you have a chart that nfp tells you you can tell me that when a couple plans to have sex and they are sick so it doesn’t happen. That was God. My husband and I just believe that God will get us together at the right time and it is his will if have a baby or not. I even got pregnant with one ovary, one had to be removed. So if I could get pregnant and someone that has both sides working and can’t get pregnant I know the our great God above is in control!!!! And we I thank him because honestly I don’t know what is best for my life only he does!!!

  10. January 11, 2010 6:34 pm

    Melissa, if I understand you correctly, the clarity of the language regarding this issue needs to be refined. “Not because the Church is wrong, but because of an implied understanding, which I think many pick up, but can’t necessarily define.” This might be the case. She is constantly having to refine language to provide greater clarity on the truth.

    If I may ask a question though: is the unitive part relegated to just the sexual act or to the marriage as a whole?
    If it is not then it is never totally sacrificed in periods of abstinence, no matter the length. Marriage is not only a physical bond but also a spiritual bond of husband and wife.

    The good of the spouses spoken of in the Catechism, which is quoting the Code of Canon law, ( http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt2sect2chpt3art7.shtml ) is not just physical.

    Now I don’t believe that denying a spiritual bond in marriage was your intention or meaning. Nor would I ever thinking of charging you with the such.

    I just believe that it is sometimes forgotten amidst conversation regarding such directly physical things as NFP.

  11. Melody K permalink
    January 11, 2010 8:57 pm

    Joshua B, thanks for a thought provoking series on this issue.

  12. brettsalkeld permalink
    January 11, 2010 9:17 pm

    looking forward to the tenth,
    I am glad you highlighted your seriousness. It helps me to better respond. I hope you will not be offended when I say that I think that such a response would be incredibly pastorally damaging, at least in most cases.
    One of the (good) things about NFP is that it invites you to “take the risk of having a large family” every month. Now, for those for whom NFP is a breeze, this can become a less urgent question, but for those of us who struggle mightily, it is a constant presence. I am quite convinced that those using NFP with a “contraceptive mentality” are not those who are forced to abstain for months or years at a time.
    It seems to me that your suggestion can only be posited in theory, but never in the concrete. Those of us who live in the concrete will each have our own answer to it. Some of us have no secure income. Some are in an already overcrowded apartment and cannot move. Some of us are in marriages that are really struggling. Some of us have kids with serious health issues. Some of us have serious health issues ourselves, including health issues related to childbearing and delivery. Some of us have kids who are being abused by the other parent. Some of us are being abused by the other parent. Some of us live in countries where the government will forcibly abort our subsequent children if we break the quota.
    Now you may think some or all of these are not good enough reasons to avoid adding to our families, but to tell us to throw caution to the wind will probably do incredible damage to our relationship with the Church. If we don’t feel hung out to dry already, this could be the last straw. The Church has said that couples and only couples can discern if they are called to add to their family. To tell them to throw out the charts because NFP is difficult for them will very likely sound to them like saying that their discernment in this area is meaningless.
    Furthermore, some of us who have discerned that we are not called to add to our families right now actually do plan on having large families at some point in the future. Some are students. Some are starting new jobs and can’t be taking leave within the first few months. I’ll give you a very concrete example about a couple that wants a large family but had to use NFP for a given time. I am one half of that couple. Our first child was a face-presentation and my wife needed to undergo an emergency C-section. We wanted to add to our family soon, but knew that the chances of vaginal delivery after a C-section were much higher if the uterus was given a longer chance to heal. Generally speaking, a couple should wait at least two years to give the woman a good chance at a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). We knew that if we had our second baby too soon, Flannery could get caught in a cycle of C-sections that would mean, in the long term, that we would have a lower chance of a large family than if we used NFP to try put some space between our first and second children. The world is a messier place than your suggestion imagines.
    I simply can’t see how telling people in these kinds of situations to throw away the charts is the pastorally responsible move. In short, it strikes me as hopelessly abstract and radically uncaring. I would not be surprised if the kind of nonchalance towards real people’s real situations that it represents is responsible for many whose relationship with the Church is strained or broken.
    I would like to add that, though I do feel strongly and wrote accordingly, I intend to offer these responses in charity and do not mean to imply anything negative about your character. Indeed, anyone expecting number 10 has had their character more purified than I have. Some day I hope to catch up.

    • Curlyq permalink
      August 13, 2011 1:53 pm

      Live int he concrete!! We should be living heavenly on earth. NFP is a little chart in your hands. What happen to God’s great big chart in his hands? Doesn’t anyone believe that he is in control anymore? Also, read my comment above. And to add to that I have a friend whom her baby died in the womb at 7 months. Was not God in control of that? And like I said above my right fallipan tube and ovary had to be out after my 3rd and I still got pregnant and other women have such a hard time getting pregnant with both working sides. Isn’t that God in control. Or can women really control her eggs? Trust in God that he knows best. I mean even if someone is a sexacholic in their marriage, I mean if someone is pregnant and has a baby the couple becomes busy as it is. I mean are they just constantly focused having sex in this world. Aren’t there things to do. And if God will put the husband and wife together because it happens to be the right time he can decide to allow another soul or not. I just don’t buy the whole charting thing. I want to believe in God’s chart not my chart!! Oh, also I heard of women getting pregnant on the pill. And I heard of a man that was clipped and the woman still got pregnant. I think NFPers lack trust in God. Also, NFP leaves the door open to Satan’s lack of trust, why not use a condom then that is not permnent. I think if someone is going to go to all the trouble to use NFP and log it all down then why not just trust in God who is in control of life!!! He can give it our take it away!!!

  13. January 11, 2010 11:17 pm

    I must say, that all of you who have posted responses on both parts of this series have been incredibly candid about your own struggles and fruits and uses of NFP.

    I just want to say thank you all for your openness and willingness to share yourselves.

    God bless you in the families and I will be adding to my prayer list all of those people that struggle with NFP.

  14. January 11, 2010 11:28 pm

    Melissa,

    Thanks for reading and sharing your concerns. I don’t want to detract from or downplay your predicament, but I would like to offer a few corrections which may prove helpful (or irrelevant) to your perceptions.

    Throughout your comment you seem to conflate the totality of marriage with the sexual act. The two-fold purpose of the conjugal act is unity and procreation, but the same cannot be said of marriage. Matrimony “is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (CCC 1601). Accordingly prolonged periods of abstinence do not and cannot result in a “sacrifice [that] borders on abandonment of one of the purposes of marriage.” In other words, to be more specific, unity, in the sense you are using it, is not one of the ends of marriage. Depending on the couple and status of their marriage relationship at the time, abstinence may be precisely what is necessary for the good of the spouses. Thus the Church’s language and tone regarding the sacrament of marriage comes nowhere near Jansenism.

    Now all of that does not mean that in your case prolonged periods of abstinence may, at the very least, appear to be contrary to the good of the spouses. I think it is natural and good to state that “the unity that my spouse and I bring to each other gives us the strength and grace to be better spouses, parents, and Catholics,” and to suffer at the realization that your abstinence may weaken that strength. However, I think that Colonel4God’s response is accurate and helpful.

    For the moment, all I can think to add is a reminder of St. Paul who begged God to remove the thorn from his flesh and was thrice denied. We cannot presume to know why some of us struggle with this ( or other issues) and others don’t, but we can be assured that whatever grace we receive is an unmerited gratuitous gift from God and is more than sufficient to enable us to grow in holiness in the midst of our struggles.

    Be assured of my prayers.

  15. January 12, 2010 10:12 am

    I can’t really add to the conversation here, other than to say that after the birth of my first child (12 years ago), when I was dealing with crushing postpartum depression (and a therapist kept telling me it was normal to have thoughts of putting my baby in the oven) , a very high-need baby and ambiguous fertility signs for weeks on end, I did contact the Couple To Couple League for help. And I was informed that this was all due to my lack of gratitude, and other very unhelpful things that basically put the whole weight of our NFP difficulties on my shoulders. They did tell me, “Maybe you should consider having another child right away” while I was still having flashbacks to a traumatic birth.

    I hope CCL has changed since the Kipleys left it, since at least one of the above quotes came directly from them. If they had been *trying* to drive me away from the church, I can’t imagine anything they could have done differently.

    What kept us firmly in the NFP camp even then was sheer stubbornness. Nothing else. Thank you for talking about the difficulties we can face while using NFP and encouraging charity toward those who are struggling.

  16. looking forward to ten permalink
    January 12, 2010 2:07 pm

    Brettsalkeld,

    Certianly emergency c-sections are very traumatic. My wife had an emergency c-section with our 8th after she abrupted at mass and lost nearly 3 liters of blood in the pew. Belive me, I understand where you are coming from. I’m not at all saying that NFP isn’t sometimes a blessing durring periods when it is necessary to space children. What I am saying is that often the Church herself, in her membership and leadership, is not very welcoming of children and large families, and this needs improvement. I think that for a lot of couples, there could and should be periods of years when they might just toss out the charts and quit worrying. But this can be especially difficult when parents are not too sure the new child will be particulary welcomed by his new community, or his larger family. Not once in nine pregnancies have my own parents been pleased to hear there was a new baby on the way. But in our parish community, everybody is always thrilled. The women of our parish even organize meals for the family for a few weeks after a baby is born, but wht is more important is that pregnancy is awlays greeted as good news.

    Sometimes economic hardship can be a reason to delay pregnancy, but sometimes God is calling us to holy poverty. Sometimes continuing an education can be a good reason to delay pregnancy, but sometimes God is calling us to sacrifice our own career ambitions and desires and pick up our cross and follow him. Sometimes having a small home can be a reason to delay pregnancy, and sometimes God wants us to swallow our pride and ask others for help finding and affording a new home. Nothing creates humility like asking a disapproving parent for money because you were being irresponsible for God. I know–I’ve done that.

  17. brettsalkeld permalink
    January 12, 2010 2:30 pm

    looking forward to ten,
    I am in substantial agreement with your second post. I can’t imagine having parents not pleased to hear about a grandchild. That is a cross.

    “I think that for a lot of couples, there could and should be periods of years when they might just toss out the charts and quit worrying.”

    I am really looking forward to that! Maybe we’ll even get twins. Flan’s paternal grandmother was a double-ovulator😉

  18. Melissa permalink
    January 13, 2010 11:20 am

    Brett, Colonel4God, and Joshua,
    Thank you for your replies, and your additional comments. I agree that the language is one that we could call “living”, and therefore fluid and open to tweaking. Considering the size of the Church’s pastoral flock, it is certainly understandable why general and open language is used, at least in some matters.
    You all bring up a good point about my focus on the marital act, and not the sacrament as a whole. I tried to keep my comments on the specific topic of NFP, and not on the broader spectrum. In the larger sense, I agree that the unitive aspect is a constant in good marriages, and I am beyond blessed that my husband and I are incredibly strong together. Our struggles only bring us closer (we rarely fight, and I’m convinced that it’s because we’ve really entered into the Sacrament as a whole with full faith and trust in God). I think though, that in looking at the larger picture, the symptoms of struggle with NFP may not be due to NFP at all, but shows are deeper struggle. I don’t know that this is the norm, but I only see this from examples within my own family.
    I am happy that even though all of us are struggling, or succeeding, with NFP, we’re trying our best. I thank God for that, and for the open, honest, and charitable discussions.

  19. Linda Pinda permalink
    January 20, 2010 1:57 am

    A lot of interesting comments.

    But I must say that I am baffled by much of it.

    I do not think the writings on this issue of marriage is unclear.

    The church needs no new approach to excuse sex between infertile or post-menopause couples. Those couples are still open to God’s will! Sarah was barren, Hannah was barren, Rebekah was barren,Elizabeth was barren. They all bore children. Sarah and Elizabeth were surely “post-menopause”, and they both bore children.

    It is all about being open to God’s will.

    I think my husband and I fit into this category of difficulties. Not only are my non-fertile days sparce, but there are many months when they are unrecognizable if there at all. And I am on a weekly injection for arthritis which causes me “some” concern about intentionally becoming pregnant.

    I am 43 years old, and I am the mother of 6 children.

    I have been on both sides of this issue. After having twins, my husband had a vascectomy. When they were 11, after embracing the truths of the faith, he had it reversed.

    NFP helped us to concieve our next three children.

    Last January, while dealing with foreclosure notices, and family crisis, we were faced one evening with that “communication” of whether or not to be intimate when I had the faintest signs of fertility. Unlike some months, we chose to be intimate.

    In all honesty, my first reactions to realizing I was pregnant were NOT happy. I may have even been just a little “mad” with God. But out of obedience, I placed my trust in Him.

    I was torn about what was the “better” choice. Should we have not partaken of the marital bond, which I believe to be a precious and important gift? Were we selfish to indulge in our desire? Was it selfish to become pregnant with my physical condition looming over us? Or was it the will of God that we should comfort and love each other in such a way?

    One night, I was lying on the sofa, crying. I “heard” a little voice saying “I don’t care why you did”. “I don’t care if it was selfish or holy”. “But I am on my way, and I wouldn’t want it any other way”.

    Everything changed from that moment on. I had no doubt that it was God’s will, this child BE.

    Ironically…? Miraculously…? But, certainly, as soon as my husband and I returned to the peace of trusting the Lord… everything else was repaired. My husband was given lots of extra work, and we were able to negotiate keeping our home.

    When we told our other children, they were immediately overjoyed which was another sign to me that this was God’s will as “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”.

    Now, I hold my 3 month old son, and wonder what on earth I was ever afraid of. Age? Finances? Health? “Be not afraid”. Jacob is the greatest gift of my life. He is the one we did not pray for, or hope to have. Yet, God, in His infinate wisdom knew our hearts before even we did.

    ******
    All that said, I am NOT begrudging severe cases such as the earlier, heartbreaking story of severe post-partum depression. I mean to belittle no one.

    But I think on the whole, NFP is being used as “birth control” for the wrong reasons. I do believe it is God’s will that married couples have all the children He wills to gift them with. There may be times when there are serious reasons to temporarily avoid. But I think if we all stop fearing and start trusting, we will be flooded with blessings, and not just children.

    Is this the thread where someone criticized Janet Smith because she is single? She has worked first hand with so many couples. She is expressing not her own “feelings”, but the conclusions of multitudes of married people.

    I’m not in opposition to the column. It is hard to practice NFP at times. BUT I think that if a couple includes God as the central partner in their marriage, and strives to learn and understand church teaching, it is easier to embrace that any sacrifice is worth living in holiness.

    Most of the sacrifice in NFP is, afterall, voluntary. God wants us to be one, and enjoy the gift of sacred sex and love. We are the ones choosing to abstain. So… who are we doing it for?

    • Linda Pinda permalink
      January 20, 2010 2:29 am

      When I say NFP helped us to conceive our next three children, I am not being sarcastic or humorous. After months of difficultly, we went for NFP training, and following the instructions we were given, we were able to conceive.

  20. August 15, 2010 5:30 pm

    You are correct in your suspicion that CCL has a good model for couple support. Belonging to the CCL family is wonderful! They are using technology to improve this as well. For example, they are working on a message board on their website for couples to talk with each other or with teachers for support.

Trackbacks

  1. When Natural Family Planning Gets Tough « Vox Nova
  2. KHdN – Kenneth Hynek (dot Net) » Blog Archive » Rule 5 Thursday
  3. Natural Family Planning » Tell People How Much NFP Sucks

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: