"By tracking [my cycles] it became clear that I had a luteal phase defect. Through nutritional changes and progesterone supplementation, we observed real improvement in my cycle. For the first time, we were addressing the problems of PCOS, not just masking its symptoms." - Angela
NFP lessons go far beyond the method itself
Angela: Growing up, I never had normal cycles and initially doctors were not concerned. However, when they didn’t regulate after six years, the doctors did a full battery of tests and I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).”“I was also told that it was unclear whether I would be able to have children unassisted, but to not worry since there were many reproductive technologies that could help. I took the pill and continued to use hormonal forms of birth control for the next 8 years.
When Jason and I met in 2002, I was a graduate student and practicing no faith in particular. Everyone I knew used birth control. It was the responsible thing to do. I had education and career goals and besides, I was also taking birth control for medical reasons. I was confident in my choices and I didn’t have any real desire to do anything different. However, despite everything I knew, I couldn’t move past the feeling that something was missing.
God is extremely faithful and through a series of life events my heart began to change. I began re-exploring the Catholic Church, and after three years I was back in full communion with the Church. Initially, it was my desire to conform to Church teaching that led me to stop using birth control. It wasn’t until later that I came to appreciate all NFP has to offer.
Jason: Okay, I have to admit that before Angela and I really started thinking about having a family, I was completely clueless to what women go through when it comes to their fertility. I mean, I was raised on a farm and I knew where babies come from. And I went to public school! I knew how babies were made before I knew how to tie my shoes. I just didn’t know how the woman’s body did all of the things it does. When we first started dating, I was oblivious to what Angela was doing with regards to her fertility, and at the time, I don’t believe I could care any less. I figured that she knew what was best for her health and I was sold on what society was telling us about the magic pill that would allow a woman to turn her fertility on and off.
Angela: Jason and I learned NFP as part of our marriage preparation. Although I understood the rules, I had difficulty trusting its effectiveness. I had continued my graduate training and was a fulltime PhD student. We were using a mucus only form of NFP, and the PCOS made tracking my cycles difficult. As a result, in the early years of using NFP I was very rigid and we abstained for much longer than was necessary.
Jason: The first couple of years of our marriage were tough from a fertility standpoint. Though I was raised a Catholic, and I was pro-life and wanted to believe I was following Church teaching, I was not really one with the Catechism on everything else. There were many times when I couldn’t understand why Angela was doing this “kooky or hippy” natural method of preventing pregnancy when everyone else we knew would just pop the pill or use a device and just flip the switch when they were ready to have kids.
Angela: Despite this, it wasn’t long before NFP gave us our first gift. By tracking and working with a NaproTechnology physician, it became clear that I had a luteal phase defect and that many of my cycles were anovulatory. Had I gotten pregnant, I likely would have suffered repeat early miscarriages due to insufficient progesterone. Through nutritional changes and progesterone supplementation, we were able to observe real improvement in my cycle. For the first time, we were addressing the problems of PCOS, not just masking its symptoms. We conceived and gave birth to our daughter Gianna in 2008 without the help of any artificial technologies.
Jason: My memory of Gianna’s conception is a little bit different than Angela’s. She tends to focus on the medical stuff more than I do. What I remember was us struggling for a few months to conceive. I remember believing we were pregnant at Christmas in 2007 and I remember the disappointment in Angela’s face when her next cycle started in early January. I also remember talking with her about us both seeing a reproductive endocrinologist to see if there was anything wrong with me in addition to maybe helping out her health problems.
But, I also remember the feeling of excitement we had when he did an ultrasound on Angela. I looked at her face and remember the smile on it when he said that it appeared as if she had just ovulated. He wouldn’t bother a blood pregnancy test since her urine test had been negative, but then I remember the Napro doc doing the test anyway and calling us up with the news that we were going to have a baby about a week before the drug store test showed anything. This was when I really started understanding how wrong the rest of society is on reproduction, and I finally caught up to Angela on the importance of using NFP methods.
Angela: In 2009, I developed a complication from a previous abdominal surgery that required surgical repair. Due to the effects of the procedure, my ability to maintain my nutritional status was significantly impaired and my physicians advised me that it would be dangerous for me and any baby if I was to conceive in the next 18 months to two years. They recommended a “standard protocol” of two forms of birth control, a hormonal method and a barrier method used simultaneously at all times. We declined and instead relied on NFP. It was then that Jason and I learned the Sympto-Thermal Method so we could cross check multiple fertility signs.
We used the most conservative rules for interpretation and, much to my doctor’s surprise, we did not conceive even after the surgery resulted in significant weight loss which reversed my PCOS and greatly improved my fertility. Once we were medically cleared, we conceived our son Joshua on our second cycle of trying and he was born in 2011.
The lessons we learned throughout this time were so much bigger than the method itself. God used NFP to show me his design and his plans for our family. We not only could trust the method, but we could trust each other, and ultimately, we could trust God. In 2012, our children and I moved 3.5 hours away from so that I could complete my residency. We were fortunate to see each other on weekends, but there were many challenges. I believe that NFP helped us to grow in such a way that our relationship and our communication were strong enough to see us through. Now that we are reunited and expecting our third child, we can’t imagine living any other way.