Chris and Alison
"Having children made us more focused on natural living and we started eating healthier, avoiding unnecessary medications and preventing exposure to harmful chemicals. While Alison was breastfeeding, we began searching for alternative methods of birth control. " —Chris
Surprised by changes beyond charting
Alison: While in college, I started taking the pill at my doctor’s recommendation to regulate extremely irregular cycles. I enjoyed the predictability of my cycles while on the pill and being in control. When I went through RCIA to become Catholic and we attended our Pre-Cana marriage preparation, NFP was mentioned only in passing. Based on my (incorrect) assumptions about NFP, I figured the method would never work for someone with cycles as irregular as mine. Since the original reason I began taking the pill was not for contraception, we decided to continue taking it once we were married, a decision we now wish we had been more informed about before making lightly.
Chris: Thankfully, when we desired to start our family, God blessed us with two beautiful children. Having children made us more focused on natural living and we started eating healthier, avoiding unnecessary medications and preventing exposure to harmful chemicals. While Alison was breastfeeding, we began searching for alternative methods of birth control. Still plagued by very unpredictable and frustrating cycles, Alison vaguely remembered hearing about “charting” a woman’s cycles and she found a secular book that outlined the basic techniques but didn’t provide any religious basis. When she first explained the concept to me, I was glad to hear that she was less frustrated and could better predict when her cycles would come just by observing a few signs.
Alison: Charting revealed so many things about my body that I wish I had known before I started taking the pill. I thought, “Why don’t they teach girls this stuff as teenagers!?” Charting my cycles helped me to still feel “in control” and helped us to quickly become pregnant with our third child, exactly when we wanted to. Our family would be just as we had planned: three children, each exactly two years apart. Sadly, we lost the baby to miscarriage.
Within the next year, we lost two additional pregnancies to miscarriage and started to realize that maybe we weren’t “in control” of our lives like we thought. Although we didn’t understand the reason, maybe God had a bigger plan. We continued charting and began searching for answers the medical professionals couldn’t give us. I found The Art of Natural Family Planning, the NFP book used by CCL and backed by the Catholic Church. It was then that I started to understand how natural family planning could work with God’s plan for our marriage.
Chris: Since Alison had taught herself by reading the book, she wanted to take an official CCL course to better understand everything. And she wanted us to take it as a couple.
After some convincing, we signed up and at the first class, I was rather out of my comfort zone. It was a little awkward to see anatomy illustrations and hear the teachers discuss sexual intimacy at first, but a few points did resonate with me, especially the effectiveness of NFP, the certainty of applying the rules, and the priests’ talks on theology of the body.
Alison: As we worked together to apply the rules and interpret charts, it actually became fun to double check each other and get the same answer. I read the nutrition book published by CCL, Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition, and was amazed to learn so many additional things that my chart revealed. I made some healthier changes to my diet and began taking some additional vitamins and supplements that actually made my cycles more regular for the first time in my life. We found that charting works best for us when I make the observations and record the data and Chris interprets the chart and applies the rules objectively without being influenced by my feelings of when I think something is supposed to happen. Working together in this way makes us feel like a team with a joint mission.
Chris: Sometime between our second and third CCL classes, we finally fully embraced NFP in our marriage. By our third class we also had enough high temperatures on our chart to know we were expecting another child. We now have three children here on earth, and are open to the possibility of more and discerning God’s plan for our family, not just our own plan.
Alison: Through natural family planning we have achieved more regular cycles and conceived a healthy baby, and now are postponing pregnancy after the recent birth of our third child while we discern God’s will for our family as we move forward. But, in addition, we have also grown closer to each other and grown in our Catholic faith, which we didn’t expect to come from simply plotting temperatures and signs on a chart. In learning to talk about intimate matters like fertility, other conversations now come more natural.