A Life Skill to Strengthen Marriage

Nathan and Elizabeth Hoxie have learned that natural family planning can be a lifestyle. It’s not just a way to work with God in planning their family. The skills learned in the day-to-day practice of NFP allows them to live their vocation as a married couple. They are a family striving to achieve their ultimate goal of helping each other get to heaven.

Nathan and Elizabeth are a military family presently living in Williamsburg, Virginia. They have moved eight times in thirteen years and have had children in four different states. Nathan enlisted in the Air Force a year after they were married. He was commissioned into the Coast Guard after six years of service. Elizabeth works as a science teacher and school administrator for Kolbe Academy. She enjoys bringing fertility awareness into her health classes. Together they were certified as a CCL teaching couple while stationed in California. Along the way, they have accompanied many military families on their fertility journeys. 

Céline: Nathan and Elizabeth, how did you meet? Tell me about your background and your family!

Nathan: I went to St. Vincent College, which is run by the Benedictine order. At the time, Elizabeth was in high school at Greensburg Central Catholic, and she would frequent morning prayers at the college. Father Fred, a monk there, ran retreat programs for families and couples. He asked me to organize childcare for one of the retreats, and I asked Elizabeth to help.

The retreat was a Valentine’s Day couple’s retreat. Father Fred invited us to join the couples for the dinner portion afterward. It was the two of us in a room full of married couples with romantic lighting. It was ironic because at the time we were both discerning religious life. Elizabeth ended up going to college at St. Vincent, and we grew in friendship with each other. I pursued my M.A. at Marshall University, and we became engaged at the end of Elizabeth’s senior year. We are blessed with six children on earth and four in heaven!

Céline: What attracted you to learning the skill of NFP as a couple, and how did you become teachers?

Elizabeth: Nathan and I both did our undergraduate degrees in biology. I was in medical school when we got married. The science behind Natural Family Planning was immediately attractive to us. I remember sitting in a pharmacology class about all the different types of hormonal birth control available to women and the awful side effects that come with those contraceptives. A classmate turned to me and said he couldn’t believe we were doing this to women. Nathan and I were taking the NFP course at the time. I was able to share a bit about NFP with him. Sharing the science behind NFP and its effectiveness with other couples became the reason we wanted to be a teaching couple.

Céline: How has learning, navigating, and teaching NFP together served as a life skill and strengthened your marriage and family life?

Elizabeth: Nathan and I have been charting and practicing the NFP lifestyle for thirteen years. We had two healthy, uneventful pregnancies with our first and second child. Then, we had two miscarriages very close together. After a third healthy pregnancy, I had another miscarriage much later in my first trimester.  It was a very physically traumatic experience for me and emotionally and spiritually difficult for both of us. I went into quite a faith crisis after that loss. It felt like we had said “yes” to the Lord and received these children He had given us only for Him to take them away.

I spent two solid years in a place of real darkness, but since then, I have experienced a lot of healing. Through these losses, Nathan has helped me remember that our job as Christian parents is to get our children to heaven, and we’ve succeeded with our four little saints in heaven. The children that we lost are no less a gift than the children we can tuck into bed at night. NFP has been a process of surrendering life to God and saying “yes” to whatever the Lord has in store for our family. It has been a beautiful and fruitful pilgrimage of discernment that has strengthened our family and brought us closer to God in the process.

Céline: Nathan, as a military man who is around a lot of men, does NFP ever come up in casual conversation?

It certainly does.  Sometimes, the topic comes up tangentially when a group of guys are having a discussion, and someone mentions family planning methods. They often bounce the side effects their wives are experiencing back and forth in conversation. When I mention that we use NFP, I’ve had guys ask, “So, what are the side effects?” They are always surprised when they find out there are no negative, physical side effects, unlike other medical interventions that are available as birth control options.

Céline: Elizabeth, would learning about the intricacies of your fertility and gaining an understanding of how to track your cycles have been a valuable life skill as a single person waiting for marriage?

Elizabeth: One hundred percent! Learning about how your body works is a tremendous skill to have whether you are married or not. You can advocate for yourself if cycle issues arise. It’s something I feel very strongly about, which is why I bring NFP into my high school classes. When we were living in Alaska, I volunteered at a pregnancy center and offered one-on-one classes there for single students who just wanted to learn more about how their bodies worked. I also taught a mother-daughter class to promote awareness for a wider audience of women, and it was received very well!

Céline: What is one practical piece of advice for couples who want to use NFP in their marriage but don’t know what to expect in its practical day-to-day use?

Nathan: It really boils down to communicating with each other and giving each other a lot of grace in the learning process. I think the strongest aspect of the couples-teaching-couples model is the incredible support network. It is essential when you are learning the skills needed to use the method and if you need advice. Early on we learned to discern before a cycle begins if we’re going to abstain or try to achieve pregnancy. It is a lot easier to have that conversation before Phase 2, so we can be on the same page.

Elizabeth: I want to encourage couples to advocate for themselves based on the information they gain from NFP.  After my third miscarriage, I went to the obstetrician who had delivered our third child. He was a very secular doctor whom I respected a lot. When I explained my situation to him, he took me very seriously. He was willing to look through the literature that CCL has on progesterone therapy. He came around to the idea of supporting me in that way for future pregnancies. There are some amazing NFP doctors out there, but they are few and far between. If you don’t have access to one, don’t be afraid to bring that literature to a doctor you trust.

Originally published in Family Foundations magazine, a publication sent to patrons of Couple to Couple League.