“I started to realize that I deserved to be respected and nurtured as a child of God. NFP was absolutely central to this discovery because, as a woman, I never feel used. Realize what I am saying: My husband doesn’t just want to have sex with me; he wants to have babies with me, and build a life together.” —Trish
NFP orients couple to each other
Bennett: When we got married we could have been the poster couple for needing contraception. We were both one year into grad school, with me in law school and Trish in medical school. We were $100,000 in debt and wouldn’t be making money for years. With our demanding school schedules, and Trish’s impending Ob/Gyn residency, we were waiting to have children. Society and many friends told us to use contraception, but we wanted a better option.
Trish: Bennett had grown up knowing about NFP, but when I heard about it, I thought the idea was crazy. To me, the options were either take birth control or have children. Then I heard a talk by an Ob/Gyn about NFP and was introduced to the intricacy of a woman’s cycle. That helped me to really respect my own fertility as well as the science behind NFP.
By the time we were approaching marriage, we had fully accepted the theory behind NFP, but it was with a little trepidation that we began putting it into practice. I think what made it especially hard was being in such secular environments, especially for me being in the medical field; people think it’s perfectly natural to talk about the type of birth control you take. So my girlfriends at school would ask, “What type of birth control are you starting?” And when I told them I was going all natural, they would just stare blank-faced and say, “You know that doesn’t work right?”
I definitely wasn’t feeling super confident, but ultimately we thought: No matter what happens, if we get pregnant right away, God will bless us for not only following the teachings of his Church, but also for allowing Him to be fully present in our marriage.
Bennett: Plus, I didn’t want Trish to have to take contraception just so we could have sex more days of the month. I didn’t want my wife to put chemicals in her body. I didn’t want her to shoulder the whole burden for our mutual decision to not have kids right now. I believed our marriage would be closer and more intimate and thus more loving if we respected God’s plan and didn’t put up barriers between each other when we had sex. I think we’re closer now than we would have been if we had used contraception.
Trish: Now, I wasn’t raised Catholic; I converted after graduating from high school. I grew up in a very secular world and lived a very secular life up to that point. I didn’t have any great role model for unconditional love or healthy relationships. I had a few relationships before Bennett that were completely lacking in respect, and I really didn’t know what it was to have someone love me for me and not for superficial attributes.
Unfortunately, I think that this is all too common for young girls when everything in our culture tells us that we need to work hard in order to be an object of desire for men. And unfortunately, contraception just reinforces this idea that women need to be available for sex but not for motherhood.
As my relationship with Bennett grew, I started to realize that I deserved to be respected and nurtured as a child of God. NFP was absolutely central to this discovery because, as a woman, I never feel used. Realize what I am saying: My husband doesn’t just want to have sex with me; he wants to have babies with me, and build a life together. I, sadly, did not know what my own dignity was until I discovered Theology of the Body. Isn’t that the beauty of following God’s law, that “Christ reveals man to himself”? I gained something I didn’t even know I was missing!
Bennett: The main benefit I get from NFP is training to control my physical desires, to avoid selfishness, and to learn to love Trish better and thus make my marriage always new and better. The priest who married us told me that to love Trish I should always be thinking, “What can I do for her right now? What would she want right now?” Seeing marriage from this perspective — an always new and ever-changing thought process of how I can help Trish — keeps me from thinking selfishly and treating our marriage as just what I can get out of it.
NFP fits perfectly into this view of marriage, because sex isn’t available at all times whenever I have the urge. I am learning to order my “sex drive” under the broader umbrella of loving Trish. This has two benefits. First, sex means more because it’s true love plus the physical pleasure. Second, love is my goal when I look at Trish, not sex. Sex is an awesome component of that marital love, but love is higher than sex. Thus it’s no problem when sex doesn’t happen for a week, or longer (e.g., like when Trish is on her surgery month and spending 16 hours a day at the hospital); it doesn’t change anything in our relationship.
Trish: One thing that has been particularly good for us is that every month we find ourselves reassessing our calling as a couple and communicating about this. I’m on a very long road to becoming a doctor and I have really been conflicted about this and how it balances with my desire to have a minivan full of babies. We have had a whole bunch of talks about how we see our schedules working if we were to have a child right now and, obviously, decided that is not what our family planning intention should currently be. I am really glad that our practice of NFP will force us to continue to reassess this by asking, why are we abstaining right now? Do we still feel like this is God’s will for us?
We talk about my signs daily, and Bennett records them. He is my teammate in remembering to take my temperature and interpreting our charts. Sometimes, when I was on call at the hospital I would just text him my signs before falling asleep. It’s a weird, fun way we stay in intimate communication.
Bennett: God speaks to us in so many different ways, but he has been loud and clear to us about NFP. We feel like we are still in our honeymoon phase and we have been married two years and together for seven years. This is an effective, loving alternative to contraception.