Happy NFP Awareness Week!

I don’t have a lot planned for this week. 

Last week, I got a post up most days of the week about NFP. See here:

My NFP Posts page has a few more posts with reflections how NFP has impacted my life.

This week…I got nuthin’. 

But our priest delivered the most amazing homily yesterday at Mass and gave permission to share on social media so, I will share it here for today’s entry (Please share — tweet –etc). We need more priests to step up and preach on this issue in our times. 

In support of the Church on the 45th Anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae 

Homily by Father Vince Rogers 
St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church 
Gladstone, Mo. 64118 
July 21, 2013 

The Church has a lot to say about the human person and the choices we make. And the Church has been teaching about these matters since the Lord first breathed life into Her on Pentecost. 

Frankly, we should listen to the Church more. She’s wiser than any of us individually, because She comprises the collective wisdom of the ages. 

She’s fought battles that most of us have never even heard of. I only know about them because I had to study them. Montanism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Pelagianism, Nestorianism, Iconoclasm, Jansenism…just to name a very few. These are footnotes in history which I don’t expect you to know. What I do want you to know, however, is that your Church was fighting against false teachings way before you were around. 

These teachings were widespread. Some of them taught that there was no sin–others, that everything was a sin! Some claimed that Jesus was not divine. Others, that the human body was evil and you could do no good, or, the opposite, that you could do anything you want with your body. Still others claimed that the Eucharist is just bread. Some said that making statues and images was sinful. I could literally wear you out with all the heresies your Church has had to correct over the last 20 centuries! 

So, why do I tell you this? Well, because, here we find ourselves in these modern times thinking that our issues are so unique and completely different from anything the Church has had to deal with. But they’re not! Homosexuality, polygamy, infanticide, abortion, euthanasia, contraception… were around through all of human history before Christ. The Church has been teaching about these things in every age since. 

This week marks the 45th anniversary of a letter from the pope that is hardly ever spoken about, but which affects almost everyone in society. In this letter, entitled Humanae Vitae, the Holy Father reiterated what the Church had always taught about the sacredness of marriage, about responsible parenthood, and about contraception and sterilization. 

Many people misrepresent and oversimplify this teaching by saying that the Church is anti-science. Does that make sense to you in light of the fact that our own Church runs some of the finest medical schools in the world and in our country? Boston, Creighton, Fordham, Notre Dame, Georgetown…We heard the same argument when we were in the middle of the embryonic stem cell debate. Our Church is pro-science. Science is part of the reason why we have concluded that human embryos are human beings, and they shouldn’t be destroyed in order to harvest their cells–anymore than someone shouldn’t kill you for your kidneys. 

So contraception is wrong because it violates the meaning of marriage, which is for love and procreation. Furthermore, contraception and sterilization involves an anti-life mentality. God cares about what is in our minds and in our hearts. He wants to be Lord of our life, not just in church, or work, or in the kitchen, but also in the bedroom. Some say, “Keep the Church out of our bedroom!” I suppose you could do that, but you shouldn’t keep God out, and the Church is the voice of God in the world today. 

Interestingly, when the pope wrote this letter in 1968, he outlined a number of things that would happen if contraception became widespread (many laughed at him then). He said that it would lead to marital infidelity, divorce, and a general lowering of morality. He also said that men would lose respect for women, considering them as mere instruments of sexual pleasure, and not as respected and beloved companions. Moreover, he warned that widespread contraception would lead to manipulating our fertility, treating it, not as a blessing from God, but as a disease or an infection to be attacked. It’s a very short leap to having the same view about unborn life. 

They laughed at the pope in the late 60’s during the sexual revolution. Who’s laughing now? Other than Satan, I can’t think of anyone. 

This is not an easy subject for me to discuss, but I do it because a feel compelled to speak about the truth of the fullness and beauty of our faith. Having said that, I feel less sorry for me and more sorry for the women who have to live in this society which glorifies ultra-skinny over normal, living together over marriage, careerism over family, and contraception over motherhood. 

The priest with whom I’m closest in my life shared something with me. He said that, “I learned something about my mother that maybe was a little too late because she has already died.” “My mother,” he continued, “was always right. The reason she was always right was because she was continuously looking out for me. She was never seeking her own good, but was always seeking what was good for me.” The same could be said for the Church. The Church, in Her motherhood and in her wisdom, is looking out for the needs of her children. And while it may be difficult for us as children to listen to the advice of our Mother, we should remember that She is our Mother and She is right. 

We come to church, among other things, to pray for the grace and the strength to do what is right. May God give us the strength to do what is right, even when it is difficult. 

Father Vince Rogers
http://www.sataps.com

I am linking to Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary and posting every day this week! Click HERE to see who else took the challenge!

 

NFP Awareness – For The Kids

12 years of using NFP in our marriage have not yet presented an instance where I have had to explain it to my children. In the context of a new pregnancy, it’s been easy to explain that God sent us the baby and we’re excited to meet him/her when the time comes. The kids are always excited for a new sibling.


Our daughters are getting older and so far, I have had discussions with both of the oldest two about changes they will see coming in their bodies in the near future.  I have had THE talk with my oldest (just turned eleven).  But that really centered around what sex was and how it worked and all that stuff.  So the other day, I mentioned I had an NFP Awareness poster to put up at church and Sarah says, “What is NFP?”


Well, honey, I’m so glad you asked!  Or am I?


I have an opportunity to help my daughters understand their bodies.  I have this glorious chance three times in a row to help my daughters be knowledgable and powerful about the decisions they make in their lives.  I can present all the information I did NOT have at my disposal as I was navigating the crazy waters of teen-to-young-adult life.


I plan to discuss this soon with my oldest (she asked “What is NFP” in the van while we were about to leave and go somewhere, so it really wasn’t the time or place to give her the low-down).  Through what I envision to be multiple/separate discussions, here are some points I hope to cover…

  • Changes in her body that can help alert her to the fact she may begin menstrual cycles
  • High-level discussion re: changes in boys’ bodies (i.e., boys’ bodies mature into mens’ bodies, etc)
  • How she can protect her body and keep it healthy both in generally and reproductively
  • Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 – and how she can pay attention to how she is feeling in each phase, and how it works together with the information she already knows (how a baby is made)
  • Charting — I emailed the lady mentioned in this blog post by Simcha Fisher, but never got anything…I will probably need to call her.  But I really want to get those charts for girls (I mean, who wouldn’t love to have a spot to chart that they were craving pizza!?!?)
  • Discussion on chastity, making good choices
  • High level — what forms of contraception are, how they work, various reasons people think they should use it
  • What sexually transmitted diseases are
  • That I will probably start taking her to see my doctor instead of the pediatrician whenever she needs a doctor visit
My own confidence will see me through these discussions.  I’m glad I know what’s going on with my body.  I feel good about telling her how to handle the coming changes.  I’m grateful for my faith-based view on these things.  But more than that, I am thankful for the science of the matter.  The information at my disposal to pass on to her is so rich in objective measures and ways to help it all make sense.  I don’t have to simply attempt to scare her into abstinence – giving her all kinds of horrible scenarios of what might happen to her if she has sex outside of marriage.  I can explain why it makes sense to reserve sex for marriage (avoid STD’s, have maturity to discern the right time for children, etc) but give her the tools to see the natural purpose for sex played out in charts where she can see her body preparing to conceive each cycle, make it through the fertile phase, and being able to predict the day her cycle will end and a new one will begin.  I can reinforce that she doesn’t need a pill full of hormones to make her body into something it wasn’t designed to be.

I am grateful for NFP because I can show my daughters a better way.

As we close out this NFP Awareness week, I really do hope that if you are part of a couple that hasn’t tried NFP, that maybe you’ll try to overcome your fear.  I hope that you will think about it and perhaps agree to give it that honest-to-goodness try.  I bet if you do, you have a good chance to find that your body will thank you.  One big benefit just might be that you will have a fresh perspective to educate your children and give them the power through the knowledge to make positive choices for themselves.

NFP Awareness – For Your Body

The last thing I worried about when my husband and I gave Natural Family Planning (NFP) a try, was whether it was good for my body.  I was mother to a 6-month-old baby girl.  I had zero complications during pregnancy, labor and delivery outside of obesity (I was overweight/obese when I became pregnant with her).  I enjoyed a fairly healthy existence for most of my life, unaware of any problems in the reproductive area as well.  I used hormonal contraceptives off and on for 10 years prior to learning NFP.  I began taking them when I was 18 and I was just over my 28th birthday when I said goodbye to “the pill” for good.  


I never paid much attention to how I felt on a day in day out basis before I started using NFP.  Growing up I was a fairly healthy child.  I had suffered one 8 week episode with cellulitis that ended with me understanding that bacteria had “colonized” within my right leg/foot and I would always be at risk for another bout with the nasty stuff.  But, I didn’t get ear infections or the flu or strep or anything like that growing up. That pattern continued in my adult years.  I was never sick enough to stay in bed, succombing only to a common cold once in awhile.


When it came to fertility, I had always considered myself “regular” with my cycles because I was faithful taking “the pill”, and the withdrawal bleeding came right on schedule with the week of placebos.  As I started to watch and learn my cycles with NFP, I was fascinated and frustrated all at the same time!


I was fascinated because I made internal and external observations and took my temperature and I could see that my body had an established biological rhythm that indicated the opening and closing of the fertile window.  I was frustrated because instead of 28-day (pseudo-) cycles, I entered the realm of 35-40 days cycles and I didn’t understand why.  Even though I learned through the Method classes that ovulation could happen later than days 14-18, I still didn’t expect that it would be ME that would be one of the women ovulating late.


I didn’t begin seeing my NFP-only doctor until I was pregnant with my 2nd child, but in the months following her birth as I tried to make sense of my cycles post-partum and beyond, my doctor was instrumental in helping me understand my charts.  He was open to the idea that my ovulation might not be happening as early as I kept almost willing myself to see it happen.  With the extended phase II (that’s the fertile phase, in case you’re not sure) and the seemingly extremely short phase III/luteal phase, he began to suspect that I had a hormonal imbalance and he ordered bloodwork.  I had my blood taken/tested for increased progesterone on Peak + 3, 5, 7, 9, 11.  Through these measurements, he was able to see that progesterone was not increased as much as it should be post-ovulation.  The increased estrogen in my system was causing issues with timely ovulation and the decreased progesterone post-ovulation was causing short luteal phases (mine were 6 days max and he wanted to see me get to 10-12 days). Beginning then and ever since, I now take regimen of 10 days of progesterone (in pill form) beginning Peak + 3 days. 


While my doctor and I were able to identify the luteal phase defect/progesterone deficiency, NFP can help women identify a plethora of issues that are often masked by using hormonal contraceptives or IUD’s.  I find that my expanded understanding of my body has led to an ever-increasing respect and amazement at the way I am made.  And this also provides me with a very good reason not to change the way I am made and the temptation toward sterilization has never reared its head.  The support of my husband and even his own amazement and awe at the way our bodies are made has also stunted any sort of inclination he may have had toward his own sterilization.  


With an increased awareness of our biological rhythms and that they are geared toward a cycle in which fertility comes and goes in cycles over a fixed period of time in our married lives comes a spirit of amazement and awe at the miracle of how we are made. This awe and amazement at God’s creation elicits a feeling akin to horror at the idea of destroying it.  It is unfathomable to reject this amazing gift we were given.

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;”
–Psalm 139 (13-15)



I did not consider that NFP was good for my body when I started this journey. 


But I should have.  


And now, I would like to encourage anyone who has come upon my blog this week during NFP Awareness Week, to try NFP…


...because it’s good for your body.

  

NFP Awareness – For Marriage

This week is Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness week.  And TODAY is my 13th wedding anniversary.  The beautiful irony that my anniversary always falls during (or very close to) NFP Awareness week is not lost on me.  NFP was a “game-changer” in my marriage, in my opinion.


Today, I wanted to write a post to encourage couples who might read it to just give NFP a try.  An honest-to-goodness try.  That is all Craig and I agreed to do at the beginning of our journey 12 years ago.  There are many things I could point to that have happened in our marriage as a result of NFP, but here are a few.


Because we tried NFP…


we grew in our understanding and acceptance of the Catholic faith
we learned to be more open with each other about sex
we grew in respect and understanding for each other
sex, fertility, having babies became a safe, sacred space in our marriage
the physical observations led to treatments of hormone imbalances and luteal phase defects
and because of the above, I believe we have avoided some heartbreak due to monitoring my progesterone early and often in pregnancy

These days, there’s not a lot of encouragement to forego hormonal contraception, devices or barrier methods.  There is a huge amount of encouragement to have one or two (sometimes three) kids and then get sterilized.  But it’s possible to have one or two (sometimes three) kids and continue on in life without altering your body or ingesting harmful chemicals or putting a barrier between you and your spouse.  


While openness to five (so far) children has been a part of using NFP for my husband and me, it is not necessarily the plan for everyone.  If there are reasons to limit the number of children, NFP is very good at accomplishing that.


So, I want to say to couples out there that might happen up on my blog today…


If you find yourselves in a place where you need to space babies or postpone pregnancy for a time, there is another way different from “the pill” or sponges, or diaphragms or condoms or IUD’s or any other form of hormones.  There is a way you can use that doesn’t require sterilization.  There is a way that is good for the environment, good for your body and I would challenge you to consider that it’s good for your marriage.


NFP is another way.  NFP is reliable.  There are many methods of NFP, perhaps you will find one that works for you – different bodies have different challenges.  We have used Sympto-Thermal, a variation of Creighton and now, Marquette.  We’ve successfully avoided and achieved pregnancy for 12 years.


It might be hard, but in the end…it’s all at least a little bit hard.  Sometimes I think that because something is unknown, it seems like it would be too hard.  Many times, I think we humans sell ourselves short in the self-control department because it takes work and discipline…and as humans, we’re naturally averse to work and discipline.


It might be easy…you never know.  Maybe you’ll be happy to understand what is going on with a woman’s body.  Maybe it will excite you to learn something new, follow the rules and see how it works!  My husband and I have been blessed with a temperament in our marriage that has made conforming our reproductive lives to this way using NFP peaceful and positive.  It’s true that our Catholic understanding of marriage had a big hand in that, but I think that a mature view of marriage – Catholic or not – lends itself to opening the marriage up to include a holistic approach to family planning.


My husband and I could have been married all these 13 years and never tried NFP.  I honestly can’t even think clearly about what our marriage and family would look like.  My faith tells me that God planned and intended each of my children for the times and places in the world they have arrived.  It scares me to think I was ignorant and would have had the power to change that if we hadn’t given NFP a try.  


I’m so glad we agreed to try NFP.  It’s made a world of difference for our marriage.

  

NFP Awareness – The Fear

One obstacle that my husband and I had to overcome as we embraced Natural Family Planning (NFP) early in our marriage was fear. Not mine, but the fear I perceived was his.
I can’t say I was ever scared of learning NFP.  I wasn’t even scared of using NFP.  I try to limit the amount of fear I allow myself to have.  I’m the kind of person who will just plow forward and understand that I don’t know what’s ahead, but cling to my faith that there’s nothing out there that I can’t handle.  
And so it was with NFP.
I was aware enough to understand, that I needed to have some empathy for my husband.  I think the leap was a little farther for him when it came to NFP.  Perhaps he was afraid we’d never have sex.  Or maybe he was afraid we’d have more babies than we could handle.  
Over the years, he’s been a bit more afraid than I when it came time to “plow forward” into the unknown abyss of another child.  I’ve learned to accept that his fears are well-grounded and I’ve maintained my patience and trust that God would get the two of us on the same page eventually.  I haven’t always believed it was my husband who needed to get on my page, nor do I feel that way today.  I try to remember that God may, and does, move my heart to be in line with my husband’s whatever place that might be.
It’s a good reminder that NFP can and often is difficult for many people, for different reasons.  We live in an instant-gratification culture, which has applied “I want it now” so thoroughly to sex that many kids “hook up” before they make it official and go exclusive with someone.  There’s the mentality out there:  “Yeah, I guess I *could* use NFP…but why WOULD I?  Or why SHOULD I?”
I have found my discussions with non-Catholics about this topic don’t change too many hearts and minds.  I’ve had some minor success encouraging Catholics to open their hearts to acceptance on the Church’s teachings.  But a non-Catholic doesn’t have the same draw on the issue, and therefore the stakes don’t seem that high (to them).  Personally, I think that the NFP way of life would be beneficial for everyone, but without a common ground rooted in faith, it seems I don’t have a way to connect. Often, the fact that five children accompany me most places I go is enough to shut down the conversation (even though I could explain that we were quite open to receiving all five of them).

The fear I perceived that my husband experienced with regard to NFP is the norm among a large percentage of people in our society.  It’s encouraging that this issue has taken hold and many young people are spreading the good news about life without sterilization and artificial birth control and the benefits it brings.
Honesty about fears and potential struggles will help us soar to new heights of awareness.