By S. J. Duca. Originally published in Family Foundations.
Discerning responsible parenting starts with prayer, but practical steps are handy too. Gabi and Marshall Boyland, an NFP teaching couple in Boise, Idaho, have a plethora of tips.
The couple fell in love during college at Montana State University. While Gabi was initially skeptical about NFP, she gave it a try when they discerned starting their own family.
“We were both graduate students, and not quite settled,” explained Marshall. “We knew we wanted to have some stability in our marriage — financial, geographical, and psychological — prior to having children.”
As she learned and practiced NFP, Gabi’s view transformed. Experiencing it as beautiful for her own marriage, she felt a desire to share NFP with other women, especially those doubting its efficacy.
Today, the couple are parents of two, and have taught and practiced NFP both to achieve and postpone pregnancy. Marshall describes responsible parenthood as discerning in love and generosity the size and timing of one’s family, considering physical, economical, and psychological conditions.
How to balance these? Gabi and Marshall suggest couples sit down for an annual review. This review might include your family mission, old and new goals, emotional states and health, income and expenses, and opportunities and challenges of your living environment.
Additionally, the couple recommends turning to life-affirming learning resources; their favorites include John Paul II’s The Theology of the Body; Is NFP Good, by Rev. Richard Hogan and John LeVoir; and podcasts like The Counsel of Trent and Natural Womanhood and PeakDay Podcast.
As with any marriage, Gabi and Marshall can point to both highs – like hiking with their daughter in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, one of the most spectacular spots on earth – and lows, like the postpartum stage after their second child.
“The hormonal changes, and managing both the challenges of a newborn and a two-year-old finding their independence, has been quite hard,” shared the couple. “This is when we’ve become witnesses that God really meant for a family to have both mom and dad — because without Marshall, Gabi would not be able to get through each day!”
The Boylands emphasize the irreplaceable value of communicating well during stressful times:
- “Breathe deeply as much as possible. Do activities that help you relax before talking.”
- “Don’t assume your spouse knows what you think.”
- “When discussing, repeat what you think your spouse meant before responding.”
- “Don’t talk about personal decisions with others, even your kids (unless they should weigh in).”
- “When practicing responsible parenthood, don’t compare yourselves with others.”
But ultimately, what’s helped the Boylands most has been trust that God’s plan for their family is good. They’re taking it one day at a time, they said, “and reminding ourselves of the many blessings we have, and the love that surrounds us always.”
Their takeaway tip is a reminder that each couple’s experience discerning responsible parenthood is unique: “Only God knows what’s in your heart and what you need,” said Gabi. “Together, with Him, you’ll be able to make the difficult decisions.”
S. J. Duca – Savanna is a writer and creative strategist with a special interest in art, film, and entrepreneurship. Her favorite authors currently include Evelyn Waugh, P. G. Woodhouse, and Marilynne Robinson.