::photo from Pixabay::
A friend of mine told me once that it’s true that you really “practice” Natural Family Planning. You don’t do it, you don’t take it, you don’t even learn it beyond the initial (and ongoing- call your instructors if you have a question ladies and gentlemen!) instruction. You really, truly, practice it. Over and over and over again during your marriage.
You practice getting good at implementing it. Even deceptively simple methods (other Marquette users say hey!) make way less sense when you’re dealing with human bodies and stressful times and anxiety disorders. I know. I’ve been married for five years and using NFP to avoid pregnancy since my four-year-old was born and I’m in the middle of the most confusing cycle ever and I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY BODY AND IT’S MAKING ME ANXIOUS AND PLEASE SOMEONE JUST TELL ME WHEN I CAN BE WITH MY HUSBAND AGAIN!
You constantly practice learning your body and algorithms and patience and a peaceful mind. Because I’ve discovered that nothing works when you’re a tightly wound ball of stress glaring at the negative ovulation predictor kit. Unfortunately.
You practice communication. I know some people are amazing about involving their husbands in charting and some even do it for them, but frankly, I feel like that would just end up being more work for me. So I have to actually communicate to my husband what is happening with my body and what that means for us and why I either want to kill someone for being stupid or cry at the sight of a lost baby animal. Dude might be a chemist but he’s learning all sorts of things about my LH surges.
(Just in case anyone is engaged or dating and reading this- give up hope of having any mystery left when you get married. Once you start talking about ripening follicles it’s all out there.)
(Don’t get me started on childbirth.)
Most of all, you practice being obedient. Obedient to God, obedient to the Church, obedient to your sacred vow to have a fruitful and loving marriage.
For me, this is what makes NFP such a difficult cross for me to bear. For a long time, I did not understand why the Church would put so much upon us. I waited to be intimate with my husband until we were married. And now because of medical issues, I can’t even have sex when I want to now that I am married? That hardly seems sporting. I was whining about this in confession once, and a priest friend told me that obedience always precedes understanding.
That made sense.
I did not like it, but it made sense.
It took me awhile of practicing obedience to a teaching that was not pleasant to understand. I finally understood that it was not supposed to be pleasant. Our lives are not supposed to easy and simple. That is not what the Church’s teachings on anything are here for. They are to illuminate inherent truth and order our lives according to what is good and holy- even our sex lives. My cross of not being able to be with my husband whenever I want is, of course, mild compared to other crosses people bear. But it is a cross and I needed to realize that my life was so much richer for submitting in obedience, even when I didn’t want to.
The Church’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality and thus the practice of NFP within marriage is beautiful. Even when it’s hard. Our bodies are beautifully created to receive new life every month and that’s amazing. Even when it’s annoying. Our marriages are made to unite two people, but only if it is done with complete openness and complete self-giving. Anything less is unacceptable and frankly, not worth it.
I still have probably a quarter century left of practicing NFP within my marriage. It will take me at least that long to get good at it. Thank God I have the Church and the Sacraments and the grace is given to me in marriage to help me along the way.
About Kathleen Kirchner
Kathleen is a cradle Catholic, but on a journey to greater understanding and reverence. Formerly a historian specializing in Vatican foreign policy and Jewish-Catholic relations, now she homeschools her two young children and tries to get them interested in...anything other than Netflix. Married to Matt, her engineer and personal Geek Squad for five years and counting. If it's not the school day, you can usually find her playing with makeup, reading a book, or napping. You can read her personal blog at www.pencilsandeyelashes.com