My Path to NFP
A year ago I had barely even heard of Natural Family Planning. Growing up I had virtually no knowledge of reproductive health. The only reference I had was from our Pre-Cana retreat before my husband and I were married. A couple who had six children spread over eighteen years spoke to us briefly about NFP. I am pretty sure my husband and I promptly pitched the handout as soon as we got home. We were not Catholics then but were marrying in the Church. I had bought into the contraceptive mentality. And that mentality stayed with me long after the wedding. Even though I had given birth to two beautiful daughters I still did not understand how my body worked. When our youngest was about six months old I began to consider the future. I wondered if there was a better way to space children and I also figured there would come a time when my husband and I would feel our family was complete. So this time last year I began looking into different options.
Through some personal research I learned that there are many options available to avoid pregnancy. Condoms, the withdrawal method, hormonal birth control, intrauterine devices, vasectomies, and tubal ligations are all choices many couples make to prevent pregnancy. While I was thinking about which option would be the best fit for me and my husband, a friend shared with me that her and her husband use Natural Family Planning. I wanted to learn more, and she offered me her copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition by Marilyn M. Shannon, and the Couple to Couple League’s The Art of Natural Family Planning. As I read these books I learned that NFP can be used to either achieve or avoid pregnancy. There a quite a few methods based on simply observing the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. No pills to take, devices to insert, or surgical procedures to undergo; just daily charting of my fertility. Backed by scientific research, NFP was looking like a pretty effective option. But was I ready to let go my contraceptive mindset?
It was on Ash Wednesday that I prayed a decade of the rosary for the first time by myself. I was taking part in a “living rosary” through my Church and my particular mystery to pray each day during Lent was the wedding at Cana. I was also given an additional prayer for the intention of the unborn. The prayer read “Let us pray for strong marriages, rooted in the Lord, and open to the gift of new life.” This prayer hit me hard, like an arrow through the heart. How could I be praying for marriages to be open to the gift of new life when my own marriage was definitely NOT open to new life? Sure, I believed children to be blessings. Psalm 127:3 tells us “Certainly sons are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.” But in my heart and in my actions I was not treating my fertility with the honor God created it with.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and in addition to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on my heart. I answered the call and opened my heart wide open to the Lord, taking a leap of faith. After an online class with a certified Marquette instructor, some conversation, and much prayer, my husband and I left contraception behind and moved forward to life-giving love. Once I recognized the truth of the Catholic Church’s teachings and accepted them as my own, my heart was opened to the beauty of God’s design for sex and marriage. The Holy Spirit showed me how distorted my views were, and it is by God’s grace that my heart is changed.
Giving God the place of right praise involves every aspect of our life, including our sexuality and marriage. And since our decision to follow God’s plan, He is blessing our marriage in so many ways. Authentic love is possible, and it flows from the Father. Discovering the joy of Natural Family Planning has truly transformed my life. The Holy Spirit has opened my heart to His gifts. He is stretching me to accept His great love for me, showing me that I am made for so much more than I had believed. God can indeed write straight with crooked lines.
I have prayed this prayer every morning since then. And it is the prayer I pray for you. That you would have a strong marriage, rooted in the Lord, and open to the gift of new life.