"I can truthfully say that applying NFP in this fashion provides me with the grace to be a more patient, disciplined and understanding spouse and father. I still have a long way to go, but I'm learning firsthand why women cannot be selfishly used merely for men to achieve sexual satisfaction. I'm slowly learning the multiple other way in which Heather desires me to care for her." —Ben
NFP is liberating for the soul
Heather: When we first learned about NFP during our engagement, I was nervous. I had been on and off the pill during my teenage and college years to treat painful menstrual cramps. While the pill reduced these symptoms, I knew that there were a host of dangerous complications that could result from taking it long term, and I also worried about the potential for an early abortion while on it once I was married. For this reason, I was excited by the idea of treating my fertility issues in a more natural way. I started researching nutritional strategies for reducing painful cramps and treating scant cervical mucus from a low thyroid while also learning more about NFP. Changing my diet made a big difference, even before marriage, and this gave me more confidence to use NFP.
Ben: While we were both eager to get married and practice NFP together firsthand, I was startled to realize that, according to Heather’s chart, she was going to be in the midst of the fertile phase of her cycle on our wedding night! At first, I was not keen on conceiving right as we began our marriage. We were already making the commitment to rely on the natural order of Heather’s cycles, rather than using any artificial form of contraception. Did we really have to take on the heavy responsibility of entering parenthood right as our marriage was starting? All of a sudden, my fantasies of a carefree, sex-centric marriage without any real consequences were quickly fading. I had much to learn.
Heather: I had envisioned having a large family, and sooner rather than later. That said, conceiving on our honeymoon had definitely not been an idea I was terribly excited about at first. But I was already in my early thirties, and if we hoped to have at least several children we knew we didn’t have too much time to waste. After some prayerful discussions following our NFP classes, we decided to go for it! Though Ben was still anxious about the possibility of raising a child so early in our marriage, he had already accepted a promising new job offer before the wedding. We realized that God was providing for us and it was time that we both trusted in his plans more deeply. We began to apply NFP so that we could conceive a child.
Ben: Together, we are very consistent with recording Heather’s fertility signs. When she wakes up in the morning I hand off the thermometer to her. She takes her temperature, and at the end of the day I record this and the mucus signs that she reports to me. Applying the NFP principles on our chart is a very clear, quick and data-driven process. It did not take long for us to practice and master it. Interpreting Heather’s fertility signs helped me to better understand and appreciate the beauty and mystery of her natural cycles.
Heather: Well, after spending so much time praying and worrying and finding peace in the idea of parenthood so early in our marriage, we did not conceive on our honeymoon…or the month after. I had gone into our marriage thinking that we would certainly get pregnant in our first month of married life. When this didn’t happen, instead of relaxing and putting everything in God’s hands, I started to panic. What had been an attitude of, “We will survive if we get pregnant at the beginning,” turned into, “Why aren’t we pregnant yet?!” Although it only took three months into our marriage to conceive our son Dillon, those two months after our honeymoon brought a radical shift in attitude from nervous acceptance of a pregnancy to a heightened fear of infertility. It seems very silly now, but I had assumed a baby would come from the start. It really taught us that you can do all of the charting “right,” but in the end the gift of life comes from God alone.
Ben: Dillon is now a huge joy in our life! We see how he helps make our marriage more complete. His fascination with all of creation reminds us of the simple blessings we encounter each day. His smiles and laughter continually restore our love for one another as a couple and as a family. His helplessness and vulnerabilities inspire us to think less of ourselves, and more about each other.
Heather: Of course it’s not all roses. Raising a baby takes a lot of energy, both physical and emotional. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed easily; living with a baby who needs your time, attention and care all day and often at night takes a toll on me. Through prayer and honesty, we realized we needed to avoid conception for some period of time so we can responsibly raise Dillon without us becoming too overwhelmed.
Ben: Using NFP to avoid conception was a whole new ball game. It’s not easy to abstain, especially when Heather and I share a romantic moment and she’s in a fertile phase. Much of society teaches that men can have “sex on demand,” and part of me thought I was entitled to that as a husband. Yet I can truthfully say that applying NFP in this fashion provides me with the grace to be a more patient, disciplined and understanding spouse and father. I still have a long way to go, but I’m learning firsthand why women cannot be selfishly used merely for men to achieve sexual satisfaction. I’m slowly learning the multiple other way in which Heather desires me to care for her. Gradually, I’m realizing the sacredness behind the conjugal act. When we use NFP in this way to avoid conception, it makes our moments of sexual intercourse all the richer, since those moments can occur somewhat less frequently. Heather and I could definitely have been more chaste before we were married, and we can still be more chaste with one another even now. NFP is teaching us that practicing chastity is about practicing that greatest form of sacrificial love.
Heather: NFP has truly enriched our marriage in more ways than we could have imagined. It elevates and improves our communication with each other in virtually every aspect of our lives together. We were already best friends before the wedding, but putting NFP into practice has brought us even closer together on a spiritual, physical and emotional level.
Ben: The beauty of NFP is that it allows me to give myself totally to Heather, no matter which day of her cycle it is, no matter whether or not we’re trying to conceive. NFP respects and honors the dignity of both the man and the woman in a married relationship. It is invigorating and liberating for the human soul and spirit. At a time in history when Church teachings are often mocked and humiliated, we have discovered NFP to be one of the best-kept secrets of our faith, one that we are grateful to have discovered!