Prayerfully Discerning With NFP

Written for Family Foundations magazine by Celine Gaeta.

Ted and Kimberly Goll live near Denver, CO, and have been a Couple to Couple League NFP teaching couple for years. Responsible parenthood has not only been an important principle for their life choices, but it is an integral part of their mission and message when teaching NFP to couples.

Céline: Ted and Kimberly, how did you meet? Tell me a little about your family. 

Kimberly: Ted and I met in high school through the Bible study at our parish, where we got to know each other as friends and then eventually started dating. I was a junior and he was a senior in high school at the time.  We were long-distance for a few years because Ted went to the University of Arkansas, and I went to the Franciscan University of Steubenville. We ended up finishing out our last two years of college together at the University of Arkansas, got married the summer after we graduated, and finally settled in Colorado, where we live now. We have been married for almost eight years, and we have three boys, two of whom are out of the womb. Peter is four, Luke is two, and we are expecting little Dominic in a couple of weeks! 

Céline: When did you each learn about NFP and were you on the same page when you first discussed it together? 

Ted: When Kimberly and I got engaged, we both had a positive but vague understanding of NFP.  We lacked real knowledge of it because both our parents had contracepted, and we didn’t know anyone in our families that had done anything different. We were truly introduced to NFP during marriage preparation. We were amazed and excited to discover how viable NFP is, and we embraced it! 

Kimberly: In high school, I had some problems with ovarian cysts. I remember sitting in my car holding a brown paper bag of birth control pills they had prescribed to mask the symptoms I was experiencing, and I completely broke down. Something inside me was craving a wholesome approach to fertility awareness and women’s healthcare.  Long story short, I decided against using birth control, and my cyst problems ceased a few months later. When Ted and I went through the required marriage classes, I was thrilled to discover that NFP provides an answer to the band-aid approach I was offered in high school. 

Céline: How and why did you decide to teach NFP? 

Kimberly: Ted and I have always been a couple that wanted to lead something together. After our first boy, we landed on teaching NFP.  I have always been very passionate about fertility awareness, especially after going through the postpartum journey. I realized there are so many women out there who are isolated in this area, and I wanted to walk with them! We both wanted to share this information with other couples, because everyone deserves to know about their bodies, and we really wanted to connect with young people while we were still young.  

Céline: Have you found that using NFP has been beneficial to your relationship as a couple? In what ways has it most impacted your life? 

Ted: The degree of understanding NFP gave us about our bodies has been one of our biggest blessings and brought us so much peace, which has also led to better communication in our marriage.  Through NFP, we have also formed deeper relationships with other couples. Just within the last year, sharing about fertility awareness has brought us so much community. We have been able to connect with couples that often feel isolated when it comes to information on marriage and sexuality. It’s been so refreshing to sit down with couples and have real conversations about fertility. 

Céline: Responsible parenthood is at the very core of the Church’s teachings on NFP. How do you understand and practice that teaching in your lives together? 

Ted: The Church teaches that to postpone pregnancy, there essentially must be a serious or significant reason to do so. It is so important to remember that it is not parenthood simply that we are called to, but both ‘parent’ and ‘responsible’. Keeping those two concepts together while prayerfully discerning family size is key.  God cares about our physical health as well as our emotional health. Since parents are called to provide physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being to their children, they must first have those things themselves in order to share them. Something we have found beautiful in our own marriage, which is a departure from the cultural norm, is a monthly discernment of the size of our family which NFP makes possible. The beauty of this monthly discernment versus some common methods of family planning which preclude life, such as contraception or vasectomy after a certain number of kids, is that we are always in communication with God and with each other. Our plan is not always God’s plan, and with NFP, we are given the knowledge that allows us to work alongside God in His infinite wisdom.  

Céline: What is your advice to couples who are trying to responsibly discern the size of their family in harmony with God’s plan for them? 

Kimberly: I like this question because it was really inspiring when we did our CCL training to hear Bishop Pohlmeier talk about prayerful discernment as a married couple regarding family size.  NFP brings an openness to life and God’s will while acknowledging that one size does not fit all families. I think the key is constant trust in God.  Some months, you might be discerning another child as a couple and you might really be struggling. And then all of a sudden, you really feel that push from God that maybe it is time for another one. Having that door to life always there, ready to be opened, is a true blessing! 

Ted: I have asked some of my friends who have four or more kids, “Why do you have more children than is the cultural norm?” They responded, “You don’t realize you’re missing something in your family until you have another kid!” When a new addition to your family arrives, you not only give the wonderful gift of a sibling to your children, but you experience a beautiful feeling of new completeness, and Kimberly and I have experienced this in our own family! 

Celine Gaeta, a graduate of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, has a passion for writing and teaching. She currently teaches elementary school classes remotely and lives in New Hampshire, where you can find her biking, cooking, reading, and playing violin in her free time.