It’s a big week around the Catholic blogosphere! This week is Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, and the feast of St. Anne & St. Joachim — two of my favorite saints!
To commemorate all of the above, I’ve put together a few things for you…
First, this post. It has a huge round-up of posts related to NFP: Why I Don’t and Won’t Use Contraception, Ditch the Risk – the Pill Kills, “How Natural Family Planning Shaped My View of Sex,” “Natural Family Planning takes a lot of guts,” and more…
Second, one of my first guest posts from Charisse Tierney, a writer over at Paving the Path to Purity. You can also find her on facebook here. Here she shares about her experience using NFP throughout her 15+ years of marriage, and why she and her husband still use it.
Why We Still Practice NFP
We’ve outgrown our minivan and our house is overdue for some updating and repairs. Our six kids seem to fill every second with laundry, meal preparation, health issues, and of course the stray Barbie through the TV screen or door slammed in a flare of temper.
Our 15 years of marriage have been a blur of pregnancy pains, diapers, and spit up. We’ve navigated the intricacies of natural family planning pretty successfully throughout the early years of parenting. And now we’ve reached a new phase. A phase that includes children who are old enough to babysit! Children who are old enough to actually help with household chores! I even stepped out of the shower the other morning to find my 9-year-old daughter changing my toddler’s diaper!
So…enough, right? Aren’t we “done”? Do we still really have to interpret charts, work through times of abstinence, and continually discern whether or not God is calling us to have another child (even if we don’t appear to have any more room in our van)?
While it’s true that the size of our family isn’t only up to my husband and I, 15 years of practicing natural family planning has also taught us that these questions about family size aren’t at the root of NFP.
Because it’s really all about him. Well, him and me. It’s about the we.
Just a few short months ago, we experienced the surprise of an unexpected pregnancy. It was the first time it had happened in our 15 years together, and although we soon realized the pregnancy really wasn’t a total surprise, it caught us a bit off guard.
And this is where the we became crucial.
We were surprised together. We talked about how to move forward together. And, yes, we even panicked a little together. But through the shock of those first few weeks, we were together. We were on the same page. We welcomed the new little life that was clearly part of God’s plan for us with open arms, even if we felt a bit unsure as to how God’s plan was going to unfold.
And the most amazing thing happened. Our we grew in strength and love. Our worries were changed to delights when we heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Our fears were transformed into excited anticipation when I felt those first little baby kicks. The thing that so many see as a negative–an unplanned pregnancy–is quickly becoming yet another positive for our marriage and for our family.
This is proof that even after 15 years, we can still discover the joys of NFP. They’re in the union after a particularly long period of abstinence. They’re in the self control that binds us together with trust. They’re in the comfort of the embrace that lifts me up when the fear of another miscarriage is weighing me down. They’re in the words “It’s ok. We’ll get through this” when we’re faced with an unexpected pregnancy. And they’re in the words “I’ll wait for you” when we have both prayerfully discerned that we are not being called to conceive another child at the moment. My husband still thinks I’m worth the wait after 15 years of marriage!
Throughout our marriage, I’ve seen my husband grow into a man I love, respect, and admire, even more than the day we said our vows. He always serves his family first. Every time. At every meal, he makes sure every one else has their food, their drink, and their spilled milk cleaned up before he sits down to eat. I might cook the meal, but he always insists that I sit down so he can serve up the food.
It is this service, this laying down of one’s life for another, this loving as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25) that has become second nature to him. And that, in turn, encourages me to continually try to give up control, to offer my yes to my husband and to God, and be receptive to the bountiful gifts that follow.
That is why we still practice NFP. Because it is our fountain of grace. It is our blueprint for building virtue. It is what makes us a we. An imitation of the Trinity. Willing sacrifice, joyful submission, and a love that can’t help but grow…even if the minivan is full.