Marriage

Why NFP Awareness Week Gets Under My Skin

July 24, 2014

You may be thinking, “How can anyone get annoyed by NFP Awareness Week? It’s like the most harmless topic ever, right?” (NFP= Natural Family Planning)

Well I am here to tell you why.

You might be tempted to think I am just a crazy infertile lady getting on a soap box…which may partially be true. And I am taking progesterone currently, which could be making me ranty.

BUT I honestly think that even if I was a little fertile-myrtle, I would still be annoyed by some attitudes surround NFP today. No, not ALL NFP Awareness posts are annoying. There are definitely good ones. Just some attitudes that come through a few posts out there are what grate my nerves.

Sit back, relax, and let’s take a stroll into my thoughts…in numerical order.

{one}

Sts. Joachim and Anne’s Feast Day

It’s been said that this particular week was chosen for NFP Awareness Week since it ends on the Feast Day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary. I guess they could be chosen as patrons for the week since there definitely wasn’t any other method of family planning besides natural methods, if any, back in their day.

An attitude I’ve noticed around NFP, even in faithful Catholc circles (gasp!), is that it allows women to get pregnant when they want to and to avoid a pregnancy when they want to…which is more or less opposite of Sts. Joachim and Anne’s story.

Sts. Joachim and Anne battled bareness. “Tradition holds that these saints struggled with infertility and were childless for decades. Like other barren couples in Scripture (eg. Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah), sterility was a great burden to Joachim and Anne and even a hindrance to their participation in community life. A story told of St. Joachim relates that he wanted to offer sacrifice in the temple but was turned away because of his childlessness. He retreated into the mountains to air his grievance with God, and during this time both he and his wife received an angelic prophecy of Anne’s pregnancy.”

They are now patrons for couples longing to have the blessing of children in their marriage which means a great deal to me. Not only since we have infertility, but because I was born on their Feast Day – July 26th. They are my personal patron saints and have been all my lifelong since birth…so in many ways I feel like they have my back in this whole infertility thing and they are powerful intercessors for Jonathan and I.

I just can’t help but feel like they would sort of cringe at the general NFP attitudes of today…that using NFP to conceive always works out and that using NFP to avoid pregnancy always works out. They know to their core that it simply doesn’t always work out and would want more couples to simply surrender their fertility to the Lord no matter the outcome which is at the heart of NFP anyway.

They are happy to intercede for anything so I am sure they aren’t mad about being NFP Awareness Week patrons. I just want to steal them for Infertility Awareness instead. 🙂

{two}

“Because my body is a gift and that gift includes Motherhood” emphasis added

Oh really?

I don’t want to be too hard on the girl who said this, since MOST women’s vocation to marriage will include motherhood. But this phrase oozes with entitlement and the attitude that children are a right and not a gift. They are assumed to be had…and I guess most women can assume motherhood but even if those desires come to fruition this attitude is still dangerous since it lacks abandonment to God or an openness to a different plan.

{three}

“Because the ability to create life is a superpower that I’m proud to have.”

Spiderman represents all women who want to act like no one has any reproductive issues and that we are all just fertile superheros. I am The Hulk.

 

This phrase makes me, an infertile woman, feel like a nobody. I am a loser. I didn’t get the superpower. God forgot to give that one to me…or at least he allowed the brokeness in our world to shut my superpowers off and NFP doesn’t work for me like it does for you. Ouch.

The ability to create life lies in GOD’S hands alone, lady. We can be co-creators, yes, but its still 100% dependent on His will for our fertility. It’s not 50/50. If anyone is the superhero in reproduction, it’s God, the author of life.

Sure, it’s OK to be proud to have conceived. I think the better response would be humility…to be so humbled that God would bestow this gift within you that you simply overflow with gratitude like Our Lady.

Lastly, yes, the ability to co-create life is AMAZING and its part of our “feminine genius.” But not all women will bear children either by nature or vocation…so I think our REAL superpowers should be drawn from the fact that we are daughters of the Almighty King of Heaven and Earth. That Jesus Christ came and died for our sins and we are redeemed by His sacrifice…and we can GIVE LIFE to others by sharing that truth with them. That’s the only “superpower” that will last our whole lifelong and for eternity…and it’s not even our doing, it’s God’s!

{four}

 “I use NFP because I’m proud to be a fertile healthy woman!”

This statement, although I get where she’s coming from, make those women who are NOT fertile and healthy feel like they don’t deserve to use NFP. It’s as if it was only  created for these fertile healthy gals and not the broken ones, which just isn’t true.

Insert Hulk punch one more time.

{five}

Because we can’t PLAN our life and I dislike false claims that NFP (Natural Family Planning) provides this type of control.

I’m not the only one who’s thought about this.

This is what my life looks like when I try to control it.

 

There probably are women out there who end up planning every pregnancy and perfectly space their kiddos just right. I honestly don’t know many of them though. Verrrry little women have the luxury of planning all their kiddos precisely, fertile or infertile. I read this article recently and found it refreshing. Here’s a couple of her points:

“But here’s the thing. It’s actually pretty unlikely that you were ever going to have as many kids as I do. What I observe is that it’s MUCH more likely that you won’t have as many children as you’d like to have.”

“When I was a newlywed, it never would have occurred to me that I wouldn’t have just as many kids as I could possibly want. And I have. But I know enough now to not take it for granted. I’ve brought hundreds of prayer requests from readers along with us on our pilgrimages, and almost HALF of them have been prayers for a child, or another child.”

“But just know, from me, that if you turn up pregnant despite your best efforts, it’s likely to be the best thing that ever happens to you. Every single time. And if you don’t turn up pregnant, despite your best efforts, it’s likely to be the biggest cross of your life. “They” won’t tell you that. But you should know. So you won’t be worried about the wrong things.”

I know a LOT of women who have children. A few here and there are those “lucky ones” who have picturesque fertility and get to plan out every child and experience healthy pregnancy. A majority of the others either have experienced infertility (primary or secondary), miscarriage, high risk pregnancies, pre-term labor, unplanned pregnancies, extended delay of fertility returning while breastfeeding, and even continual pregnancy one after another despite adhering to NFP rules. Every one of those is a challenge that nobody plans.

My Senior year of High School yearbook quote has come back to haunt me time and again. “We plan, God laughs.” I have NO CLUE why I chose it then. What plans had I really seen altered at age seventeen? That superficial relationship with some boy that didn’t pan out and was unhealthy anyway? The point of that quote though is that being “in control” is typically an illusion and we can’t plan our lives…or our fertility a vast majority of the time. We can make informed choices about our sexuality and the rest is up to the guy upstairs.

I’m gonna stop there even thought I could keep on going. Five points are enough and I have likely scandalized a majority of you anyhow…because how could I not *LOOOVE* NFP like a good Catholic wife?

Moral of The Story

NFP in and of itself does not make me angry. Neither does the fact that it has an Awareness Week.

Jonathan and I use the Creighton Model of NFP to try to achieve pregnancy (for nearly three years) and will continue to do so. It also happens to be a form of NFP that allows doctors to see what is wrong with my cycle so we can get closer to possibly achieving a pregnancy. Very cool indeed.

What I dislike are potential attitudes I’ve absolutely seen in some articles during NFP Awareness Week and even in conversations about NFP in gerenal. Attitudes of entitlement, power, control, and manipulation.

At the end of the day, NFP is healthier for women than artificial contraception. Duh. It’s a really cool way to understand a woman’s biological makeup and cycle. It’s a method that allows women to get a peak into their reproductive health and identify problems that may exist. It’s in line with Church teaching at it’s core since it doesn’t disrupt the sexual act or manipulate fertility in any way. It’s truly unique and hands down the safest, healthiest, and best method of making informed reproductive decisions out there.

BUT…

Motives matter. Using NFP like contraception can be dangerous. What I would like to see during NFP Awareness Week is not secular reasons why women should replace contraception with NFP. Or articles that attempt to defy similar pro contraception posts. That misses the point entirely.

I want to see the heart of the matter explored – That God is ultimately in control…of our lives and that includes our fertility. That human life is not something to fear but to embrace. That the sexual act is sacred and is filled with potential to co-create with God when He chooses.

I want more articles about THAT. Less articles that try to sell the Church’s teachings as a replacement for contraception and more about WHY the Church elevates sexuality to such heights so as to protect it with something as simple and natural like NFP.

You Might Also Like

20 Comments

  • Reply connieann July 24, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    AMEN!!! YES!!!! Thank you so much for posting!!! My thoughts, EXACTLY. This post means so much to me, as a permanently infertile woman and faithful Catholic who has too often felt hurt by some of the crowds that talk about NFP and control, NFP and entitlement, NFP and “marriage isn’t marriage without it”. Thank you!! I might be sharing this, a lot.

    • Reply Amanda July 24, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      Share all you want 🙂

  • Reply beingmrsmurray July 24, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Love this 🙂

  • Reply Ecce Fiat July 24, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Such important points! I thought you’d like this article: http://www.catholicreview.org/blogs/open-window/2014/07/23/nfp-is-not-just-birth-control-how-infertility-deepened-my-appreciation-for-natural-family-planning A friend sent it to me after we had a good discussion about how the “plan” part of “natural family planning” seems to be over-emphasized.

    • Reply Amanda July 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Great article, thank you for sharing!! Can we totally redo the name NFP? It sounds like Planned Parenthood’s cousin to me just because it both centers around planning and I dislike that. I wonder if back in the day they felt like they had to name it that to get anyone’s attention…hmmm.

      • Reply Mr. M July 25, 2014 at 9:37 am

        I think the Creighton model prefers to say that they are teaching “fertility awareness in order to avoid or to achieve pregnancy” instead of calling their method “natural family planning.” There are always going to be problems with defining terms though, but I wonder if each has a unique advantage? I mean “natural family planning” certainly gets at the crowd who want to plan and to control above all their pregnancies but seems to leave out infertile couples. “Fertility awareness . . .” gets at the crowd who just wants a medical term that is neutral and seems to cover more couples/scenarios but it is long and clunky. And in my experience it doesn’t attract in the same way the term NFP does. Perhaps this is due to using NFP for decades. But in any case, what do we do? Further, the bottom line is that all these methods involve the virtue of chastity in addition to techniques of measuring fertility and charting etc. This virtue aspect isn’t really captured by either leading label. So what are we to do? My opinion is keep the universal principles that cut across all labels and explain those. As for labels, just use different terms for different audiences and explain the principles behind it. Let’s be creative and allow all sorts of labels and see what sticks! But I do agree with you that I think NFP is overdue for a re-labeling campaign, but I don’t know of anything better at the moment.

        • Reply Amanda July 25, 2014 at 11:33 pm

          I am with you. It’s time to get creative on something new and refreshing that doesn’t make FAM/NFP sounds so fuddy duddy or give mixed messages on what it is, does, and how it’s used.

  • Reply Stephanie July 24, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    PREACH!!!! This is perfect! It’s so true that sometimes folks get so excited to sass back at the other side of the argument (i.e. NFPers sassing contracepters), that they miss the forest for the trees. Sure, some of the little perks of NFP are great, like not having extra chemicals in my system and being able to recognize my own bio markers, even feeling like you’ve one-upped the contracepting world by thinking you’re naturally “controlling” your own fertility. I can see why that’s all fun stuff. BUT, at the end of the day, NFP is all about trusting God’s plan and embracing the Church’s beautiful teachings on sexuality. If you can’t see that, then you’re probably not helping with awareness. You’re just sassin’. And no one likes to be sassed at.

    Also, I giggled at you thinking of your 17-year-old self and what that quote probably meant to you back then. Oh, and all the GIFs. You’re funny!

    • Reply Amanda July 24, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      Love your point about the sassing. I totally feel that. Like it’s a one-up kinda week to “get” those contraceptors real good. I am glad you giggled at my 17-year-old self. I did too when I thought about it. Seriously – WHAT had not gone my way in life up to that point?!?!?! I think it was the Holy Spirit’s doing…like a prophecy of sorts that I would always come back to. I had JUST had my conversion about that time during senior year of H.S. after hearing Jason Everett speak…perhaps my itty bitty converted heart heard the quote from someone way older and wiser in their faith so I stole it, not knowing fully what it meant. WHO KNOWS! 🙂

    • Reply Amanda July 24, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      PS – I am glad you like the gifs. My fave, obvi, is The Hulk one. Just watching it helps me release tension.

  • Reply Rita July 24, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Amanda, I wrote the post that Ecce Fiat shared above. I found a lot here that resonated with me–and I love that we were having some similar thoughts. Also I see that we have the same birthday! Happy birthday.

  • Reply All in His Perfect Timing July 24, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    I LOVE all your points … I can’t pick any favorites … but #3 might be at the top of the list. I’d love to do that at times. Very, VERY spot on post! I am with you on your sentiments!!

    • Reply Amanda July 24, 2014 at 11:12 pm

      I am partial to that one as well….mostly since I get to be The Hulk.

  • Reply Olivia July 25, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Amanda,

    I just found your blog a few days ago and I think you’re just wonderful! My husband and I have a 3 month old baby boy and have one baby (miscarried at 8 weeks) up in Heaven. I suppose this comment isn’t one of solidarity (because I have never really experienced infertility), more just…I wish I could snap my fingers and make you pregnant with triplets, and then twins, and then another set of twins for good measure. You are one strong woman and God knows it! Maybe this comment isn’t particularly helpful, but it’s just how I feel after reading all your wonderful blog posts! God bless and you will be in my prayers!

    • Reply Amanda July 25, 2014 at 11:35 pm

      Olivia, thanks for joining the conversation! 🙂 And no you can’t snap your fingers and bring me triplets, twins, and another twins…but you can pray for it 🙂 Maybe God wants to bring us kiddos through the prayers of others…crazier things have happened!! Thank you for your encouragement and kind words, I really appreciate it.

  • Reply GraceofAdoption July 25, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Great post. Sometimes all the NFP awareness can miss the mark. Refreshing way to highlight the good and bad.

    • Reply Amanda July 25, 2014 at 11:36 pm

      Thanks for affirming the post. I was worried no one would relate but am so glad people are!

  • Reply Catholic Mutt July 26, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    You have a lot of great points here. I think that one of the things that we need to be more clear about is that NFP can be awesome and it can be great for any woman to be more aware of her health and what’s going on in her body, even when it has nothing to do with pregnancy or avoiding pregnancy. BUT, it’s not the perfect cure for everything. Sometimes it’s annoying, sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it doesn’t work, and sometimes it causes problems. It’s way better than the pill, but it’s not perfect.

    Also, I hope you’re having a wonderful birthday today!

  • Reply Your Favorite Posts Of 2014 – truegoodandbeautiful.net December 29, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    […] Why NFP Awareness Week Gets Under My Skin […]

  • Reply Quaerens March 11, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    I found this while doing some semi-related internet image searches on why people use NFP. Great article and a lesson on being more sensitive. But I wanted to point out, even two years late, that NFP awareness week isn’t that week in July because of Sts. Joachim and Anne. It’s because it is the anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical out of which most of the researchers who gave us our modern methods found their calling. Just in case that helps a little. Because you’re right about their story!

  • Join the Discussion

    %d bloggers like this: