NFP:Natural Family Planning. No, it's not the rhythm method, and yes, it does work. The more I openly talk about it, the more questions and- most alarmingly- sneers and negativity I get about it. But there is so much about natural family planning that people don't understand, and there is a depth to it that some might not ever understand only because they don't want to try. The truth about NFP has yet to be studied or even accepted by a lot of Christians and that is something I don't understand.
My initial interest in NFP came when I was pregnant with my second child just 8 short months after having my first one. Fairly-newly married to a man I had a hard time loving, resolving myself to live the life I had chosen, and trying to grow up enough to accept my adult decisions, I was searching for a plan to attach myself to the small measure of sanity I had so that I could find my footing secure. Having a few babies so quickly was not really in my plans but sometimes God works with whatever He can and often even outside of the perimeters we like to set for Him; and this makes me feel somewhat alarmed and also somewhat comforted.
Needless to say, my search was not serious enough because I didn't think about NFP again until I was already pregnant with my fourth child. THIS would be the time, I told myself. After having 4 babies in 5 years, I definitely needed a break. I would never resign myself to thinking "I'm done," as I just don't desire that much (or any) control of my life to be taken away from God. But a break was certainly in order. I needed to figure out how to be a good- no great- mother to the children I already had, concentrate on really growing and working on the still-wavering relationship I had with my husband, and allow my body to rest and heal before jumping back into the art of procreation. Yes, I said art.
In studying and practicing NFP, I have come across so many wonderful and beautiful things about it; things I hadn't really thought of before. I mean, to be honest, I wanted to stall having babies for awhile without using any artificial means and without cutting God out of the equation. That was pretty much it. But to study this natural way of family planning and truly understand its depth and the foundation for its practice was like being told of a not-so-secret way to bring myself into further obedience to God's natural design for life, all the while building a bond with my husband I never knew could exist.
The first point I want to talk about, which is probably the one with the most skepticism attached to it, is that yes, NFP does actually work. It consists of carefully charting your cycles which requires taking your temperature every morning at the same time and recording signs of fertility which you learn about by reading a book on it. It really isn't that difficult and it only takes a little bit of extra effort each day. I figure if I can do it even though I have 4 young children to care for, a husband to love, a business to run, a house to clean, food to prepare and a part-time job to work, pretty much anyone can find the time to do it. Your body was designed to have certain parts of the month in which it's fertile and certain parts in which it's not. There are tell-tale signs to help you decipher these specific times of the month, as was God's design, and if you do that, you can practice NFP.
The second point, which is the one with most curiosity attached to it, is that no, my husband is not "poor." People always say "poor Joe," or they ask "how is your husband handling that?" Well, in reality, and sorry if this is TMI, but we are more intimate now that we're doing NFP than we were when we weren't doing it. I didn't stutter; I did say more. One of the best things that has come out of practicing NFP is that I am more willing to be ready for -and desirous of- sexual intimacy with him when I know there is only a specific time-frame in which we can. And before you start rolling your eyes about this, let's be real here.... you know that I know that you sometimes think it's a chore and that "not tonight honey, I have a headache" (or something equivalent) has come out of your mouth at least once (if not more) in your marriage. There are studies about this, I'm sure. Most women are just tired. Especially if they are stay-at-home-moms with four small children underfoot.
Piggy-backing off this thought comes my destruction of the idea that you are supposedly harming your husband by "rejecting" him and not letting him have "it" when he wants it. I can't even begin to count the number of times I have heard this. And to be honest, I think it is totally ridiculous. First of all, NO ONE should have ANYTHING whenever they want it just because they want it. I feel like this falls under the category of Bad Ideas, right under giving your children whatever they want when they want it. Men need to learn self-control, self-respect, respect for their wives, and patience just as much as the next whiny person. NFP helps us to remember that sexuality is about much more than personal satisfaction. Husbands should be completely involved in the NFP process, not just ready and waiting when it's time to get busy (and acting like a baby until then). They should be getting busy the entire month - that is, busy SUPPORTING their wives in the effort to reach their common goal. Some husbands get completely involved and help the wife remember to take her temperature and record her observances of fertility, etc. Some are involved by being respectful of their shared effort, loving their wives despite the agonizing waiting period they endure. Agonizing I'm sure.
This third point is probably the most important one. My experience with the gift of NFP is that it brings about a respect for not only my own body, but that of my spouse's, and of the relationship we share; and most importantly God's design for human life. Going about using artificial means to control whether or not I have a baby totally negates this respect. I would basically be taking something God Himself designed and saying "it's not good enough for me." NFP allows for each of us to give ourselves - as we are at that particular moment - fully and completely to each other. The relationship between a husband and wife who are in mutual agreement about the use of NFP is so unique and amazing. We are basically striving for the closest and most unifying way to love each other faithfully, selflessly and completely. Using artificial birth control takes out the factor of being fully and completely giving of oneself. The act of sex was created by God to bring about new life. But He did not plan for every single act to create new life, which is obvious in His design of a woman's fertility cycle. NFP truly is a collaborative effort between the married couple AND God. If you delete Him from the equation, you are losing a very vital part of achieving a God-centered marriage.
There is such a bond that has formed in the small amount of time that we have been practicing NFP. I can't even describe it. There is a higher level of mutual respect that has resulted; as well as an intimacy that transcends the boundaries of the actual act of sex. Is it sometimes difficult? Of course it is; and not just for my husband. What's really great about it is that it causes us to communicate more. I could only imagine how little communication goes on each month or even daily between a couple who is using some form of artificial birth control, especially when it comes to procreation. After all, it's already taken care of so there is no need. With NFP, we communicate practically on a daily basis about our life, our future, our children, and when there will be more. We communicate on our feelings about waiting, our anxieties, our difficulties with the wait period before my time of infertility, etc. We re-examine our decision to practice NFP as a form of family planning every single month, and look forward to a time when we can use it as a means to achieve pregnancy (although I'm sure with my being Fertile Myrtle, it won't be too difficult.)
It's so much more than being given the secret to obedience to God's natural law of life. It's like winning the lottery but with a payout that will not only last the rest of our child-bearing years together, but will continue to grow in interest exponentially day after day, year after year. And to be living that truth on a daily basis is something I definitely desire.
As an after-thought, though I told myself this post would not be a total artificial birth control bashing....I just wanted to mention a few reasons I am against it totally apart from NFP:
As for chemical birth control including IUD's, etc, I feel it is a total lack of stewardship of the body God created for our souls to live in to poison ourselves with these sorts of devices. Not only that, but the environmental impact of the usage of birth control pills, and even just the manufacturing of all of that junk is so tremendously negative. You never really hear much about this from the talking heads of the "green movement" and I just don't get that.
Also, most birth control pills are abortifacient in nature. Why risk the possibility of the death of your unborn child by using these methods? There is a reason it's called birth control, not pregnancy achievement control.
And, another plug for NFP - it has NO negative effect on either your body or the earth...and definitely not your relationship with the One who created both.