This is a story I submitted to You, Me and NFP.
How it all began…
My husband and I have been married for 8 1/2 years. I met my husband working at a coffee shop. We fell in love and got married in the Catholic Church in February 2011. We married on our one year anniversary of becoming a couple. We couldn’t be happier. My husband converted to Catholicism in high school and I am cradle Catholic. We knew we wanted to be obedient to the Church’s teachings on contraception, since we both rediscovered our Catholic faith through our relationship, but we didn’t know how because we felt alone and afraid and we wanted to be responsible. So we used contraception and planned to find out about Natural Family Planning (NFP) later.
We didn’t know anyone who practiced NFP. And we both worked retail so attending an NFP class was nearly impossible with our work schedules. We felt very much alone in this.
Luckily, I actually had a teacher at my public high school who advocated NFP as a scientifically sound method of family planning, but aside from that my husband and I had no knowledge of NFP beside what we learned from our marriage class. Family members had scoffed at NFP as being a faulty form of “Catholic birth control”, and that we should use the pill. (They were thinking of the Rhythm Method). So, we kept using contraception and we continued to feel uneasy about being able to reconcile that with our faith.
After about 2 years of using contraception, we moved to a new town and we were only a block away from our Church. We started going every single Sunday (we had been inconsistent) and this put more pressure on our conscience. We decided it was time to learn NFP. We bought the textbook from the Couples to Couples League and we taught ourselves the Sympto-Thermal Method.
Life without contraception and unexpected benefits
Our marriage blossomed when we started using NFP. We prayed more together and we were overjoyed to be living in accordance with Church teaching. We had peace . I loved that God had became the focus of our marriage, not sex, and I felt cherished. And we decided due to our financial situation, it was best to postpone a pregnancy. We were successful postponing a pregnancy for 2 years, even with having taught ourselves NFP. How’s that for effectiveness?
When prudence becomes excessive
The years were going by and we weren’t getting closer to our financial goals. But we knew we couldn’t have a baby yet until we finished our degrees, bought a house, and paid off all of our student loans yet, right? At least that’s the voice we heard in our heads and what we perceived in Couples to Couples magazine. We had this idea that everyone else did things the “right way” and had everything figured out.
One day my husband told me he wanted to have a baby. I thought about it for a long time. And I felt afraid. I was afraid not because we wouldn’t be able to feed and clothe our baby. I was afraid because we hadn’t “made it” yet. I was afraid because I didn’t trust my husband . I was afraid because I didn’t trust in God. Pregnancy puts a woman in a more vulnerable position. As trustworthy and wonderful my husband is, I just held on to my false sense of security. I still had a contraceptive mentality. I still thought that I could control everything.
A leap of faith
After praying about it, I decided I needed to take a leap of faith. In my heart, I also desired a baby and I knew there would never be a perfect time. And I knew I needed to put that trust in my husband and to put my trust in God. So , we got pregnant during my next cycle. NFP proved to make sense again. We had our first baby in 2015.
I knew how much God loves me when I held my son for the first time. I was deeply humbled and deeply honored to become a mother. And even though we had student loan debt, hadn’t finished our degrees, and still worked at coffee shops, God provided. And He provided well. We had everything we needed for our son and then some.
And then, I got pregnant two months after giving birth. I tried to breastfeed but I had terrible post-partum anxiety and I had to stop. Which made my cycles return quickly. And they were nearly impossible to interpret. I remember calling my parents and crying on the phone because I felt like I was so irresponsible to be pregnant again already and to have two babies so close together. I was supposed to have them 3 years apart like all the other “good NFP moms”. (What does that even mean?) Needless to say I felt ashamed.
But them I remembered Our Blessed Mother. The Fiat. I prayed the Fiat and I felt peace wash over me. ” I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38).
Every baby comes with a loaf of bread
Then our beautiful little girl came along. I was so afraid of how I could have two babies. Of being able to lift a one-year-old after having a baby Of having postpartum anxiety again. Of judgement. Of getting into more debt. But I never thought of all the good that could happen. And it did. I learned to breastfeed and I did it for two years. My husband finished his degree and became a teacher. I started a blog. Our son has the sibling he longed to have.
Deepening our understanding
After our second baby, we discerned that it was best to postpone another pregnancy so we found an NFP instructor in our area and sought help. She helped me understand the postpartum period so much better but it looked like we would have to abstain for a very long time.
The cross of abstinence and the unexpected blessing
We abstained for 4 months. It was so hard, especially on my husband. The signs of my body were too inconclusive to be sure about anything. (Mucous patches anyone?) The beauty of it was though, knowing how much he loved me even when sex wasn’t a part of the picture. It gave me faith that we could get through anything. In sickness and in health.
A silver lining
But then I discovered the Marquette method and we decided to purchase a ClearBlue fertility monitor and finally the abstinence was less and we finally felt more confident about what my body was telling us. It was such a relief!
I want you to know if you feel afraid to practice NFP that you are not alone. If you are afraid it doesn’t work, I was too. And that even if your finances aren’t perfect, you aren’t irresponsible to have a baby. There are serious reasons for avoiding pregnancy, but I don’t think they happen as often as we think. And sometimes even if we did everything in our power to be prudent and responsible, God may have a different plan. A better plan. Better than you could have ever imagined.