Natural Family Planning: a decision made without regrets

A couple looks back on its choice to learn NFP more than two years ago and finds that ‘it’s clear that we have been blessed’

by Tim Walker

I recently came across the Natural Family Planning (NFP) pamphlet we received from the Couple to Couple League during our marriage preparation weekend back in 2011. It was stuffed in a folder, which was stuffed in an envelope, which was finally crammed inside a drawer in our spare bedroom closet. I dusted it off and thought to myself, “So I guess we DID hear about NFP before we got married.” I’ve found this to be the case with so many things in my life. I hear something important but don’t listen. Then I forget about it only to come face to face with it (and the reality of its truth) sometime later.

Our NFP story began a few years after our wedding. In 2013, a few months before my wife Beth became pregnant with our first child, we both decided birth control wasn’t for us. Beth was in Sacred Heart Cathedral’s wonderful RCIA program at the time, and I, a cradle Catholic, was learning (or relearning) my faith along with her.

Beth and I saw the shortcomings and empty promises of hormonal contraception. We were both open to life and were ready to start our family. A few months later, Beth was pregnant with our first child, James, who was born in August 2014 via cesarean section. It was a difficult labor and delivery for Beth. I like to say that she went through enough labor for three moms. This included eight hours of natural labor followed by five more hours with an epidural and two hours of pushing. To cap it off, our son James was born via emergency C-section.

Once we got used to late nights, early mornings, and diaper changes, we decided it was time to learn NFP. We knew we wanted to stay true to the Church’s teaching, but we were scared and unsure about how it would work out. Beth’s doctor had counseled her to avoid pregnancy for at least a year. Because of her difficult delivery, we took that advice seriously. That’s when we found the Couple to Couple League. We signed up to learn the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP taught by Monica and Jared Kimutis and never looked back.

NFP and the Sympto-Thermal Method taught by the Couple to Couple League is something best practiced as a couple. No free pass for us guys! Beth and I have found that this works best when she takes her temperature each morning and monitors fertility signs throughout the day. My job is to chart the progress and interpret the signs. We found this to be a good way to keep both of us involved.

We took Monica and Jared’s class during Beth’s postpartum period of infertility. This proved to be a difficult time to begin charting because there was no ovulation or a regular cycle to track.

Charting can be hard. And the signs can be hard to interpret, especially during the postpartum period. It’s hard for me to write that because I know what a blessing NFP has been for our family. But it’s the truth. Beth’s postpartum infertility lasted about a year. A lot of that can be attributed to her amazing dedication to breastfeeding James. During that period, her signs were hard to interpret at times. The stress of being new parents and the difficulty of Beth’s labor and delivery took its toll on both of us. This led to a period of abstinence in our marriage. And guys, let me be honest with you, sometimes that is OK. And you’ve got to be okay with it, too. I’d be lying if I said practicing NFP has been all good times and no struggles. It hasn’t. Neither is marriage. Christ never guaranteed a cushy life, and we aren’t called as men and husbands to lead a life without sacrifice.

We eventually did make it through that first year and came out on the other side with a stronger marriage because we were forced to talk about our challenges. Once Beth’s regular cycle returned, everything began to make sense. We could see clear patterns and were able to track her cycle with accuracy. It was a great feeling to see the things we learned in class work in the real world. The accuracy and science behind NFP and the Sympto-Thermal Method is real.

The return of a regular cycle also meant that we had to talk each month about whether we were ready to grow our family. We had to understand each other and how we were feeling about our family. There were times when we didn’t agree. We talked about those differences. And yeah, sometimes we argued about those differences. Were our reasons to delay pregnancy serious enough? Were we ready for another baby? These are real issues that I know so many men and woman deal with. NFP is a great way to create an environment for the conversation.

By the way, any men out there looking for a great treatment on what it means to be a husband and a father should check out Father Larry Richard’s book Be A Man! You won’t regret it. Ephesians 5:25 has hit me like a 2-by-4 to the side of my head on more than one occasion: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”

This is what it means to be a man and why it’s important for us guys to understand the truth about sex and our marriages. Christ died for His Church. His sacrifice saves us. We’re called to show that same sacrifice to our spouses. Father Larry hammers home the point that true freedom is obedience to Christ. Remember, we have a God who doesn’t just sit in a cloud and tell us what to do. He became flesh, dwelt among us, and died for us. To me, NFP is a perfect encapsulation of Christ’s message. It’s all there: self-giving love, sacrifice, suffering, and true happiness.

Oh, and if you think NFP is just about avoiding pregnancy, remember that pamphlet I found while cleaning out a closet recently? I came across it that weekend as we were preparing to sell our house and find somewhere with more space. Our family recently grew by two. Our twins were born in April 2016.

Looking back on the decision we made more than two years ago to learn NFP, it’s clear that we have been blessed. As we work each day in our domestic Church, we know we are not alone. We have the support from an entire community of families committed to NFP and God’s vision for our sexuality. If we can do it, so can you. If you’re ready to learn more, please check out the Diocese of Knoxville’s NFP Page . Online classes and classes at your own pace are available, although I’d highly recommend taking an in-person class from a couple like Monica and Jared Kimutis. Their next class begins Aug. 12 at All Saints.

National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week was July 23-29.

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