Originally Published in Family Foundations
Colleen: I attended Catholic schools which is where I heard about the Church’s teaching against contraception and that there was something called NFP. I didn’t really understand either, but knowing the teaching laid the foundation for my moral conscience.
TJ: I went to public schools but was raised in a pretty strong Catholic family. We went to Mass every Sunday, my mom was the cantor, we prayed and read Scripture together, but the teaching on sexual morality was not something that ever came up.
Colleen: TJ and I had our first date at our high school senior prom and continued to date long distance throughout college. As we started to talk more about marriage, I wondered what we would do for family planning. My Catholic friends and cousins who were getting married were very open with me that they would be using contraception. These influences led me to think that using the pill was not so bad.
TJ: In college I found myself surrounded by drinking, sex in the dorm rooms, substance abuse, etc. I was like a deer in headlights as I watched students freely indulging in these activities. To be honest, all I knew about sex and sexual morality was what I had learned in health class and TV. But God stepped in when I “happened to” see an ad in a church bulletin for a presentation on the Church’s teaching on sexuality. I don’t even remember which church it was, but I somewhat secretly drove out to the suburbs from campus and heard this guy named “Christopher West” speak about what the Church really teaches about sexuality. He highlighted Pope John Paul II’s teachings called the Theology of the Body. Well, the seed was planted and my view of sex and the Church was forever changed. I had no idea the church had so much love and appreciation for our sexuality and even the very act of sex itself. To be clear: my understanding of sex had shifted, but my desires prevented me from signing up for what I thought could be years of abstinence.
Colleen: TJ and I got engaged after college and began to prepare for our wedding. I had always had somewhat irregular cycles, and around this time I had bleeding that lasted for three months. The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong and said I needed to go on the pill to regulate my cycle. I remember thinking, “Yes! Now I don’t have to make this decision about NFP; I have a medical reason to be on the pill!”
TJ: I also felt a rush of relief that we had an excuse and I could ignore my guilt; we wouldn’t need to investigate any of these methods that would require self-control.
Colleen: We got married in 2008 and used the pill for the first year. But the Holy Spirit was at work and guiding us back to the Church’s teaching. First, I had a lot of side effects from the pill (and went through five different versions!). Second, I heard a presentation on Theology of the Body. I was struck with how beautiful it was and really started questioning why we were using the pill. Third, a coworker shared her use of NFP and how it had been such a positive thing. Finally, about a year in I became convinced somehow that I was pregnant and got upset thinking about how this chemical that I was putting in my body could be affecting our baby. I took a pregnancy test, it was negative, but I told TJ we were done with the pill. I stopped taking it the very next morning, went online and found an NFP class that started the very next week just ten minutes away from our house — what divine timing!
TJ: To be honest, at this point I still had my doubts. Colleen’s cycle was very irregular and I did not think NFP could work for us. Well, after the first class my head was kind of spinning! There was far more science behind the method than I knew, and I learned more about my wife than I ever thought possible. I now describe her as a symphony of hormones (in a good way!) that enables her to receive the gift of a new life. When I started recording her temperatures on our paper chart, I was amazed to see the thermal shift and the signs all point to the different phases of her cycle. It felt like a miracle. But I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Abstinence can be challenging. However, I now have a greater appreciation for our times of physical intimacy. When we abstain, we grow closer in other ways and eagerly look forward to the next time we can be together.
Colleen: We used NFP for a year to postpone a pregnancy. Then we prayerfully discerned we were ready to welcome a child into our family, and month after month it did not happen. My doctor discovered an ovarian cyst and recommended going on the pill for a while. But a friend told us about a doctor who is trained in NaproTechnology, an approach that treats cycle issues with measures that stay in line with Church teaching. So we made an appointment and this doctor identified several possible problems. We did formal testing and blood work which confirmed that she was correct about everything. Within two months of treatment for low progesterone and a thyroid issue, we were expecting our first child. We have now been involved with NaproTechnology for all four of our pregnancies.
TJ: We have our children and a better marriage because of Church teaching and NFP. I wish I would have had the courage to look deeper into the teaching and discuss it with Colleen from the beginning. Perhaps we would have started on this journey earlier. As a result, Colleen and I are passionate to share our story because we want as many others as possible to know about this gift.
Originally published in Family Foundations in 2020.