Making Babies: A Very Different Look at Natural Family Planning

Natural family planning (NFP) needs a slogan, because as a “product”—if I might adopt business-speak—it’s not selling too well. According to some surveys, about 90 percent of professed Catholics reject the Church’s teaching on birth control. Even among priests, fewer than one in three considers artificial contraception to be “always” sinful.

So let me propose a new rallying cry: “Use NFP: It Doesn’t Work!”

You think I jest.

The case for NFP should, by rights, be the case for more babies. To have them is good. Not to have them is to be deprived. Every wife deserves to be a mother, and every mother’s son deserves a brother and a sister. And since a cat-o’-nine-tails has nine tails, surely having nine children is the proper way to scourge selfishness right out of one’s family.

As a slogan, “Use NFP: It Doesn’t Work!” has many strong arguments in its favor. First, it is true. NFP proponents tout its 99 percent effectiveness rate, but they neglect to mention that this is true only if the husband is in the Navy and assigned to extended, uninterrupted sea duty of three-year tours or longer. Otherwise, for most Catholics I know, NFP means a baby every two years or so, though the rate can slow with age, as the couples learn a proper respect—that is, fear—for each other and are too tired in any event for what Catholics call “the conjugal act.”

Now I know there will be inevitable protests and testimonials by those who swear by NFP. And who am I to say that my own experience is not colored by the fact that I am excessively virile? Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that this is the case.

But another reason for NFP’s allegedly high success rate is that couples who use it are prepared to welcome children and so don’t blame NFP for unexpected pregnancies. Four of my own children came the NFP way—that is, totally unexpectedly—and that’s a good thing, because without them bouncing in as surprises, excuses to delay (the sort of excuses one might hear from a recruit in parachute training) might have gone on for a very long time. As it is, in a mere matter of ten years, my wife and I assembled a complete basketball team. And if menopause doesn’t strike my wife soon,, who knows what sort of team we might assemble.

Rather than bite one’s nails to the quick at the prospect of baby number ten—which, if one marries in one’s early 20s and practices NFP, is a definite possibility—we should encourage the attitude of “the more the merrier,” which is a far more attractive case to make than all the goo-goo language about how NFP helps couples “communicate” and about the joy of charting temperatures and discharges and plotting one’s conjugal acts as a captain might chart a course for his ship.

Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, the charts can be thrown away (what’s so “natural” about them?). And to hell with improving “communication” as a dogmatic defense of NFP. For men, the whole point of marriage is to avoid communicating; all that dating conversation stuff can finally be foregone. Married communication, as successful husbands know, is best limited to grunts and hand signals—one upraised finger meaning, “I need a beer”; two upraised fingers meaning, “You need to change the brat’s diapers”; three upraised fingers meaning, “Honey, why don’t you mow the lawn while I watch football?,” and so on. No words are more doom-laden than a wife’s sitting down and saying, “Let’s talk.” Communication is, of course, the first step toward divorce.

[It has been pointed out] that there are no apparent data to support the widely touted statistic that only 2 percent of NFP couples divorce. If there is any validity to this number, I suspect it lies in the fact that NFP couples have no time to communicate. The husband has to hold down several jobs to pay the family’s bills, and a wife with little ones barely has time to shower, let alone talk to her husband, save to pass a pregnancy test result across the breakfast table through splodges of spilt porridge as she sighs, “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”

I grant you, there is one form of communication that NFP certainly does advance—it makes a public statement. Not so very long ago, I was invited to speak at a Confederate Memorial Service. There I was with my Robert E. Lee tie, my wife (a blond California beach babe) wearing a Confederate battle flag scarf, and the five little members of our own Critter Company lined up in a row. A friendly chap meandered over and told us, apropos of nothing, “My daughter’s a Catholic, too. Three kids.”

No need for a secret handshake. Kids tell the story.

As a slogan, “Use NFP: It Doesn’t Work!” puts the focus where it belongs—on babies—and away from a technique, a technique that wrongly strikes most lay Catholics as medieval. If only it were medieval, then it would be effective: a sturdy, padlocked, handsomely designed, pewter chastity belt.

Instead, NFP is shiny, modern, and scientific, as its advocates are always quick to emphasize. In his book The Truth of Catholicism, George Weigel approvingly quotes several paragraphs from a woman in love with NFP. She reminds us that:

Natural Family Planning is not the justly ridiculed rhythm method, which involves vaguely guessing when the woman expects to ovulate and abstaining for a few days around day fourteen of her cycle. The full method involves charting a woman’s waking temperatures, changes in cervical fluid, and the position of the cervix.

Nothing unnatural or artificial about that, is there? Her raptures climax with NFP apparently transformed into “Narcissism For Pleasure”:

But the turning point came for me as I watched, month after month, as my temperature rose and fell and my hormones marched in perfect harmony. I had no idea I was beautiful. I found myself near tears one day looking at my chart and thinking, “Truly, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” My fertility is not a disease to be treated. It is a wonderful gift. I am a wonderful gift.

Er, if you say so, missy. If my wife talked like this, I’d have her committed. Happily, my wife, bless her heart, takes a more robust line: “Barefoot and pregnant is better than high-heeled and professional!” That’s the spirit!

There is no shortage of people wandering around these days thinking they are wonderful gifts. In fact, there are rather too many of them—and they shouldn’t be encouraged. What’s lacking are married couples who think that having a family big enough to fill up a minivan (or for the younger, stronger, and more ambitious, a small bus or modified hearse) is a wonderful gift.

A neighboring priest has noted how many young married women these days are without children but doting over dogs. One suspects that such women are less in need of NFP training than they are of a push into motherhood (and thereby full-fledged adulthood) with a reminder that children are what marriage and life are all about.

So, rather than focusing on NFP, premarital preparation should go like this:

Father O’Counselor: “Now I want you two to understand that the primary and fundamental purpose of marriage is not companionship, not romantic love, not moonlit strolls on the beach, or any other balderdash but the begetting and raising of children—lots of ‘em, and starting soon. The optimum number is enough so that you can lose a few at the grocery store and not notice. That’s giving without counting the cost, and at that point, you won’t care anyway. As a priest, my sacrifice for the good of the Church is celibacy. As a married couple, yours is to propagate children—who will incidentally annually propagate fierce storms of influenza in your house. If you haven’t already studied up on communicable diseases and basic first aid for children jumping off sofas, I’d do it now. But you will find children and their challenges to be the great tutor of not only the medical but the moral virtues.”

Potential Husband: “You mean, I’m screwed?”

Father O’Counselor: “In a manner of speaking, yes.”

Potential Husband: “Is it too late to enroll in the seminary?”

We can thus improve Catholic marriages and alleviate the priest shortage at the same time.

In fact, we forget how inspiring parents’ confessions are to priests:

Penitent: “Forgive me, Father, but I lost patience when my children used my wedding china as Frisbees, took my necklace and used it as a line and fishhook in the toilet, and took my toothpaste to give the cat a bath.”

Priest (sotto voce): “Thank God I’m celibate.”

Penitent: “What did you say, Father?”

Priest: “I mean to say, why not just laugh about it? These years will pass all too quickly. And when they’re over, you’ll know why you have gray hair and high blood pressure. Now, a Hail Mary and an Act of Contrition, if you please.”

So, let us step boldly and fly the banner high. Say it proudly—“Use NFP: It Doesn’t Work!” But babies sure as heck do.



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  • John Bergsma

    This is funny, but also a bit crude and crass.  I’m not sure if it really helps the cause or just caricatures it.  

  • Claire

    Maybe you could tell God that every mother’s son deserves a brother and sister, because apparently he doesn’t think my son needs one.  And I guess if I were really selfish, I would just do IVF, but thankfully some of us don’t need 9 kids in order to be unselfish.

  • Paul

    John, get over it. We all need something to laugh about. As a father of 9, I appreciated the humor.

  • Anne

    I don’t find H.W. Crocker III’s articles about NFP
    amusing or helpful.  NFP is NOT a product
    – so it does NOT need a slogan.   I do
    agree that the name is not perfect.  No
    one really ‘plans’ their family.  I also
    agree that Catholic couples (including those who are fully informed about the
    use of NFP) welcome children however and whenever they join the family.

    NFP – indeed Catholic marriage – is more of a
    lifestyle.  Most young couples preparing
    for marriage have not grown up in a ‘Catholic’ home.  Many are living together and are using
    contraception (as did their parents).  Those
    of us who meet with them on the parish level have some work to do.  (I doubt Fr. O’Counselor’s approach would be
    very effective.) 

    Allowing the babies to come as they may is fine for some
    couples.  Many couples think it is
    necessary to take periodic breaks for health or financial reasons.  Learning about one’s body is not
    unnatural.  (Mr. Crocker even recommends
    learning first aid and influenza containment.) 

  • Claire

     Of course you appreciated the humor.  You unselfishly had 9 kids and each of your wife’s sons now has a brother and sister.

  • Apenny

    This is the funniest article I’ve read in a long time.  Although perhaps the author is a little hard on NFP (which really should be called periodic continence, since we shouldn’t be planning our families, even if for grave reasons we decide to abstain), I do think NFP is overemphasized, which means the joy of large families is downplayed and support for those who do have large families is forgotten.  The author is right in that the best way to oppose birth control isn’t to offer a morally okay alternate, but to preach the rewards of being open to new life and to support those who are blessed with the joys and challenges that come with many children.  The author does provide some moral support in this article by providing much-needed humor for parents of large families and I thank him for it!

  • Mariajohnson

    I think you are being too sensitive.  I think the author is just saying to take kids as they come, and not to be too militant about trying to have only 2 children, even while using NFP.  If God only gives you one, or however many, God is good.  If He gives you ten, God is good.  I think it is all in our attitude toward wanting and rejoicing over the children He gives us. 

    I do think things probably go better if when couples got married, that they desired large families.  Then, they wouldn’t be so scared of getting pregnant, tempting them to use artificial birth control or to try to use NFP in such a stringent way that they would be angry if they got pregnant.  I don’t think that was God’s design for marriage. 

  • JessicaH

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this article!!!  Thank you so much.

    I like the attitude the Duggar family has, “There is always room for one more.”  If more parents had this attitude, the world would be a different place.

  • Kate

    I think it is so interesting how many people today are doting over small animals rather than children or more children.  Numerous young married couples get a dog for about five years as a “test child” before they get pregnant.  I know several families who have two children and then get cats and dogs after that to make up for the “lost” children and siblings.  Two of these families I know even admitted this to me, that they had thought about and “sort-of wanted more children, but we decided to get a dog instead.”

    Don’t get me wrong.  I love pets!  We always had a pet growing up, and I have one now.  I just think it is interesting, the whole “pets replacing children” thing.

  • Claire

     It would be nice if his humor was not at the expense of small families, especially those of us who can’t help the fact that our families are small. 

  • AnnaMarie53

    Thanks for  a hoot of an editorial!  While I was only able to have two sons, due to VERY serious health reasons, I have never ceased to grieve over not being able to have more.  Sad to say, but for reasons I will never understand, even if they deigned to explain it to me, my oldest son (married for 8 years) and his adorable wife have let it slip that they have decided to have no children at all!  I am aware that I was not the perfect model of a Catholic mother, despite my most sincere efforts, but surely I wasn’t that bad.  Someone, everyone, PLEASE pray for my sons to have a change of heart and soul.  It is killing me with guilt.

  • Ashley

    I will pray for you!  You sound like a very loving mother.  There is still time for you to have a grandchild.  I pray that it will happen.

    My mother used birth control through her whole marriage until menopause.  I was always a little sad that she never “tried” to have any of us.  Even though she still defends birth control, I love children and have a little girl.  I am 38, so I’m not sure how many more I can have.  Please pray for me that God will bless us with many more children!  Also, please pray that God will change the heart of my mother towards birth control.

  • Sarah

    I would want to grow up in a family where the parents welcome and rejoice over children, instead of in a family where the parents are scared to get pregnant and lament over pregnancies that are “an accident”, even though they say they are glad they have those “accident” babies later.

    I always got the feeling from my parents that babies were an unwelcomed burdern for the most part, even though they loved us dearly.  Certainly, no one would want more than two!  I think that way of thinking led me to delay getting married.  I want to teach my children that babies are always a blessing.  I want them to know how much they were wanted.  Yes, children are a lot of work, but I think they have the deepest meaning in life.  My baby is the greatest joy of my life!  I thank God for her! 

  • Rakeys

    Funny article. But it does a disservice.
    I agree that more couples should be open to having children. I know one couple who taught NFP for years. When i talked to him last month he said he doesn’t believe in it anymore. I was surprised, but then he said that now he and his wife just have sex when they want and if they get pregnant, fine.

    That philosophy would not work for us. My wife and I are very fertile. Whenvever we decided to be open to having another child, we conceived that month. We could easily have had 20 children.

    But NFP does work. My wife and I used it very succesfully to space our children with no “surprises”. After we turned 40, we used it very succesfully for the last 10 years.

    By disparaging NFP,  the author just encourages couples to use the pill, or to get sterilized. This is not a very lifegiving attitude or lifestyle. Knowing you are going against church teaching is emotionally and spiritually difficult. The couples I know who use NFP have very active sex lives and the divorce rate is very low.

    My wife and I used the simplilist method without charting, temperature, etc. Just check for cervical mucus. Very simple. It does promote communication since you do actually have to talk about your fertility, and why you do not want to get pregnant at this time. This is much better than putting up a couple of fingers to get you wife to do something for you. It does take a husband who cares about his wife, family, and relationship with God

  • Claire

     That’s awesome, Rakeys.  Your approach sounds very balanced and faithful.   Providentialism is a beautiful thing, but so is NFP when used the way you describe. 

  • evangeline

    Thanks H.W. for your humor filled and valid take on NFP. We too know no better way than God’s plan for Life and Love, and continue struggling through it with it’s accompanying joys and sorrows, and everything in between.  We have been blessed with six children, two in Heaven. 
    One fond memory of mine is of our youngest son, at 13, his voice having dropped a couple octaves, wholeheartedly chanting at the Right to Life March  “We love babies, yes we do!  We love babies, how  ’bout you?”… precious! 
    Thanks.  It’s catching on.    

  • Tico1267

    How did this article get approved for posting on this website?  This is the same type of thing I’d expect to hear and have heard from non-Catholics.  Our gynecologist said to us during our 2nd pregnancy “I’ll be seeing you soon.” Well, he hasn’t seen us in five years.  (Note: The gynecologist for our first baby was not the same one).

    There are many humorous things one can say about the Catholic faith or Christianity.  I’ve seen many Christian comedians find humor in bible stories or the like but while maintaining a tone of respect for the faith.  In my opinion, this article is written from a secular point of view and being “disguised” as the writer just having a sense of humor.  Definitely, this “humorous” take does nothing to advance the cause of getting NFP out there as a viable alternative to modern day birth control.  In between grunts, I’d give my wife a different set of hand signals than Mr. Crocker’s.  I’d rather tell my wife “I don’t want you taking any of these crazy pills, using patches, or chips in your underarm to avoid having babies because..”:
    (raising 1 finger): I don’t want you to die of a stroke
    (raising 2 fingers): Don’t want you having kidney problems
    (raising 3 fingers): I guess I don’t want you having any problems with blood clots either.
    (raising 4 fingers): etc.

    Every ridiculous piece of advertising for birth control that shows some woman having a great time with her friends at some trendy place, ends the same way..with the medical warning of all the potentially fatal side effects.  I don’t recall being at the altar exchanging vows and including somewhere in there “and I’m willing to take a small percentage chance that any of these potentially fatal things can happen to you so we can have sex whenever we want.”

    I really hope this is not a sign of things to come from Catholic Exchange.  I have always appreciated having a place to come for articles that even while being irreverent remained faithful and respectful towards the Catholic Faith.

  • Paul VI

    NFP is already hard enough to understand to most people due to the brain conditioning from media and society that says sex is recreation only, thus reducing the language of love to lust.  To stir a confusion like this is not a wise way to introduce NFP.  If a man can’t master his desire, the mistake is not on the church teaching, rather it is on himself. Humor is sometimes half-meant

  • mombryan

    I agree with you (Tico1267) to some extent. This is a rather crass article. It could be funny, but it’s not trying to demonstrate any real argument or show any underlying support for NFP. The points of being open to children and therefore, seemingly appearing that NFP “doesn’t work” may be valid, but offered in this way is a bit offensive. I’m not a feminist by any means, but you (author) make yourself sound stupid when you talk about the marital grunts and it degrades you so much in integrity that I dismiss any actual intelligent information you have to share. I also don’t think it was appropriate to poke fun at the woman quoted in the novel. Some people are just more sensitive. Who are you (author) to decide what she experienced wasn’t a great thing, perhaps even inspired by God? IF you had an actual point to share, it’s buried in childish phrases, and kind of a waste of my time to read.

  • As a father of 10, I loved the article.  NFP works wonders.  My life will never be the same.  Thank God!

  • Kellymusicstudio

    As a former NFP teacher and happily married woman of 22 years, I can say that of course it works.  I had some health issues requiring that I space my births.  I had four healthy children and only one miscarriage.  All were lovingly planned, about 2.5 to 4 years apart.

  • Rbsmokingriver

    I couldn’t agree more.  Such a false impression this gives of love life and marriage.  ….maybe true in some aspects concerning our fallen human nature, but so dissordered concerning the dignity God has restored to man through His Son.
    Children are a blessing and there is a good point made in that we need to stress this more in society, but ultimately it is the following of God’s will that needs to be stressed in society.
    NFP does work, and the positive aspects of NFP far out-weigh those of artificial means to prevent children.  However, the real issue at hand is not so much being open to children, as it is being open to God. 
    When this mantality comes about,  all good thing are sure to follow.
    One does not have to have a lot of children because they are Catholic, in some cases, the Church would even consider it wrong for some couples ti irresponsibly have  many children….
    There is just so much I would like to say, but I will just finish with this:  The respect given to authors spouse in this letter, makes my heart so sad.  

  • MonicaR

    What a great article!  I think the author’s point is that we should always be open to life.  Many, actually, probably most people today are scared to get pregnant and have children, especially right away in marriage and definitely no more than two children. 

    I think NFP works well in my experience.  However, did you know that NFP is only to be used for “serious” or “grave” reasons?  It is true; look it up.

    I admit that I have been guilty of using it for a “non-grave” reason in the past.  When we were first married, we used NFP to delay getting pregnant for about six months just to “get used to married life”.  Looking back, I can see that was a trivial and silly reason.  Now that I am a parent, I can see that NFP charting would be tough while raising children.  Perhaps the cervical only method is easier.  However, the main point is that NFP should not be used with a “birth control mentality”.  Generally, parents should want and welcome children as they come, barring grave reasons. 

    During pre-marriage counseling and seminars, we were told how well NFP works, which it does.  We were told how well it fosters communication, which it can.  However, I wish the couples had told us how it is wise and beautiful to desire a large family, and to just take children as they come, when God decides to give them to you.  I wish they had told us to reserve NFP for grave reasons and to just be open to life, starting on the wedding night.  As I heard one priest say, don’t marry the man (or woman) unless you know him/her well enough to be ready to have children with them right away.  Because try not to as you might, it can happen and does happen.  Many people get pregnant right away (when not using birth control or NFP) and shouldn’t be disappointed.  In fact, we should desire it.  Besides, who wants to use NFP on their wedding night and honeymoon?  The pre-marriage counseling never discussed this real possibility of being fertile at this time.

    Children should be the center and purpose of marriage if couples are able to have children.  The center and focus should not be salaries, boats, cars, big houses, fancy vacations, romantic dinners, non-stop sex, etc. 

    When a couple gets married, they should be ready to be unselfish and not live like single people, doing and going where they wish.  I think too many couples get married today but still live like single people.  They don’t realize the point of marriage is to give, not get.  I was guilty of this to some degree.  I thought of all the things I would “get” from marriage–companionship, romance, a house, stability, closeness, sex, etc.  I knew you had to give a lot in marriage, too, but I didn’t realize that was where the “joy” comes from–from giving, especially to having and caring for children.

  • Elizabeth

    My best friend was one of the 2% of married couples who use NFP and get divorced.  Before they got married, hhe and her husband had agreed to use NFP for a few years while they “got on their feet” financially before they would start having children.  They either didn’t do the method correctly or it didn’t work (she wondered if she had done something wrong, even though she thought she had understood it), and she got pregnant on their honeymoon.  She threw up every day for the next nine months, having especially long and difficult morning sickness.  The baby, once born, had colic and cried constantly.  They struggled financially.  Her husand checked out of the marriage emotionally.  Marriage wasn’t like they envisioned it.  The marriage ended in divorce after a few years.

    I wish a priest had told them that before they got married the advice that the author suggests a priest telling them!  It would have been better that they see the point of marriage as children and sacrifice from the beginning.  Maybe they would have waited or never gotten married to one another.  They saw the white-picket fence and saw NFP as a reliable way of “delaying” responsibility and sacrifice, a way of getting boats, cars, vacations and houses.  I think a better way is to desire “the more, the merrier” like the article suggests. 

    Don’t use NFP with a birth control mentality!  It is better to use no method to try to delay having children.  This is what the article says.     

  • AC

    From someone who tried NFP to HAVE children but still without, I still find this article funny. Humor is great.  Not Preachy.  Entertaining and nonjudgmental…God is the biggest practical joker.  It helps all of us, especially when we are suffering (like from infertility), not to take ourselves too seriously.  After all, He is in charge, not us, right? Thanks for the article and for reminding us who is really in charge…

  • Claire

    Yes, God is in charge.  That’s why I took offense at the author’s assertion that every mother’s child deserves a brother and a sister.  If God felt that way, he would intervene in every case of infertility or secondary infertility (mine is primary, by the way;  my son is adopted, and a sibling does not seem possible for us).  And then he states that having a large family is the proper way to scourge selfishness.  i’m sorry, but I don’t find that funny.  Humor and support of large families (which I myself often defend on forums) can be done without being hurtful to small families or people who can’t have children.

  • momofmany

    I love your humor.  But if I have one more baby (which would make 9 and I’m 36) I may commit myself to a mental ward.  I love them all, but I can’t do it anymore.  Can’t do pregnancy, can’t do teens and newborns, can’t afford Catholic school so I homeschool,..thereby leading to further insanity.  So I read this and wonder if I’m sinning for such selfish thoughts.  And NFP definitely doesn’t work, unless husband as you said, is far, far away for a long time. 

  • Hannah

    This is so so offensive to me as a practicing Catholic and NFP user. Really kindof breaks my heart to see this on CE. So disappointing!! I agree with all the comments I read below and am comforted to see that I’m not alone in my thoughts on the article.

  • FutureNFPuser

    I like jokes and laughing, but I didn’t find this article funny at all. As a young, single Catholic, I have every intention of using NFP when I’m married. I agree that being open to children is fantastic, after all one must use NFP with this mentality. One thing this article ignores is the hard REALITY of having so many children. It is just NOT possible and realistic for every couple to not space out their pregnancies and have a large number of children (As momofmany stated below). 

    Yes, couples should learn NFP and NOT use it like birth control, but to jokingly dismiss its utility altogether is just plain wrong. Couples should look at their situations and discern together what constitutes a “grave reason” to delay having children and act accordingly. No one can make this determination for anyone else. I feel as if some Catholics judge others in regard to their reasons not to have children, and I believe this judgment is wrong and must stop. It is not beneficial for anyone. The reasons a couple have to delay having children are between that couple and God.

  • Ben

    While the author brings up an interesting view of NFP that I had not previously considered, I find the sarcasm to be a distraction from what were otherwise thought provoking points regarding the purpose of NFP.  In my opinion, the tone of the article is condescending to those, such as my wife and myself, who feel they are genuinely trying to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church by using NFP.  Unfortunately, this initially evoked an emotional reaction of defensiveness and frustration, instead of thoughtful consideration of the points made in the article.  I would encourage anyone else who feels the same to read it again and focus on the message.  I think there is some merit to his argument.  However, I’m not convinced yet that NFP should be scrapped.  God gave us brains.  Sometimes we need to use them.
    I would also encourage the author to consider the audience. I imagine most people that visit this site have a desire to learn and follow the Church’s teachings.  That’s a group that should be easy to convince with the proper approach. 

  • Claire

     Totally agree, Future NFPuser.  I have friends who have been mocked by their OBGYNs for using NFP, and articles like this that dismiss its effectiveness aren’t going to help much with those types of attitudes.  As far as grave vs serious reasons for using NFP to postpone, I have read in several places that serious or even just is a more accurate translation than grave.  And the Church leaves it to the couple to prayerfully determine what reasons are to be considered just or serious (perhaps with the help of a spiritual director), so it really isn’t for anyone to judge from the outside.

  • gacathmomof6

    While this article IS a little crass, and may be not a good read for those not already using NFP – it’s still funny.  And the redemption is in the last line, “Use NFP:  It Doesn’t Work! But babies sure do.”  I know our six children have lead me to the battlefield of selflessness every day (and most nights).    Lighten up out there!

  • Anne

    I guess we were doing something right years ago when we were teaching NFP and a new box of material came to the house.  My then 5 year old daughter said, “Great, Mommy, now you can teach more people how to have babies!”  That daughter is now 35, married 10 1/2 years with 6 children!

  • MaryL

    I see what the author is trying to say.  If you didn’t, please read it again.  Basically, the NFP idea isn’t working well in the Catholic Church as evidenced by so many Catholics still using birth control.  NFP is touted by many in the Church, including at pre-marriage seminars, as an effective alternative to birth control.  Yet, still the idea isn’t selling.

    Perhaps a paradigm shift away from NFP as an alternative to birth control to achieve the same purpose toward desiring children is needed.  Perhaps people’s thinking of the benefits and merits of having children in the first place is needed. 

    One TV that clearly shows their belief in the blessing of children in my view is the Duggars in “19 Kids and Counting”.  Maybe our hearts need to be awakened and softened to the beauty of having babies and getting pregnant, no matter how many God gives us.  Maybe we should not fear a large family (face it; many of us do or have feared it at one time), but rather see it as a belssing.  Society definitely fears and discourages large families; it is sometimes hard to shake that mentalitiy off.

    Maybe, just maybe, if our attitudes and perceptions toward babies and pregnancies change, so will the number of Catholics who follow Church teaching about birth control change.

  • Claire

    NFP is not to blame for the rate of artificial contraceptives among Catholics.  NFP is not widely promoted, and most Catholics, like the general population, think that providentialism (which is not a Church teaching) and having huge families is the only alternative to artificial contraception.  NFP encourages couples to be open to having large families and celebrates the blessings of large families, but also gives people the option of slowing it down when needed, and also helps people who are having trouble achieving pregnancy.  Joking about NFP being ineffective is not going to reduce the rate of artificial contraception.

  • MomofNineTails

    I’m guessing that the man who has nine kids has a better idea of “the hard reality” of having a large family than you do. I have never used NFP, and welcome nine kids into our family, and am one of 17, so I know something about the “hard reality” as well. His point is the reality is not so hard as you think it is, and talking about babies as something to avoid is what drives people to artificial conception.

  • momoninetails

    And to you, momofmany, I offer my prayers, and wish I were nearby to offer something more. Spend a few days mothering from the couch, is my advice. Let the house go to pieces, put on nice music, read to younger ones, and lock older ones outside ; )

  • MaryL

    Well said, MomofNine Tails!!!  Absolutely true.

  • Humana vitae

    NFP is like dieting, no short cuts just self discipline and self mastery.  Granted that if you fail there is a chance you will become a parent.  But, God sees this and knows everything about it and He will have better life-plan than us.  In our weakness, we are strong because His grace is sufficient for us.  Surrendering is one of the hardest thing to do because we are not in control.  Trusting God in our lips is easy, let him prove it to us that is another thing.  So don’t use NFP with contraceptives mentality because you will greatly dissappointed, perhaps that is how the author feels.  Don’t use contraceptives with NFP mentality, in fact don’t use them at all since they violate the nature of marital love.   Before 1930, most people did not contracept and NFP did not exist.  That generation was or is happy.  Take a look after the sexual revolution  in 1960, take a look at the statistic of divorce rate, pornography, unwed pregnancy, rape crime, you will be surprised!

    In contrary, still in dieting analogy, contraceptives is like lap-band, you don’t need self discipline, it is a short cut to lose weight.  It comes with side effect as well.
    I always believe the principal, no pain- no gain.  in the long run, this traditional value bring more benefit than short-cuts.  The fact that NFP is harder that doesn’t show that NFP doesn’t work.  What doesn’t work is our effort and self discipline.  The slogan that says NFP doesn’t work is misleading although I understand the author perspective. 
    If you fail to be staying displine in your exercise, don’t blame the treadmill or other equipments.  Sex comes with responsibility  

  • BlueSoldier

    As an NFP advocate, mother of 11 and marriage preparation counselor, I find this article quite amusing.  However, one must walk before learning to run.  In other words, for those not already open to life, this approach will not be well received.  It is hard to undo decades and decades of pro-contraception brainwashing.  I have witnessed this first hand while trying to teach a bunch of young (and not so young) engaged couples that they should not delay having children, or use artificial birth control as it is a grave sin. They flat out tell me that NFP is unrealistic and unreasonable.  Only a small percentage of the couples want to know more about NFP. 

  • Claire

    The fear of having a baby every year when they don’t see how they could afford it financially or emotionally can also drive people to artificial contraception.  Showing them an ethical way of spacing babies, one that is open to life and to NFP “failures”,  could be a baby step toward openness to having a large family.  I applaud future NFP user for planning to use licit methods to discern God’s will for her future family.  Who knows, maybe she’ll eventually become a providentialist.  But if she doesn’t, that’s okay too, because the Church doesn’t ask that of us.

  • 7mcaul

    The comment about pets replacing children is one I have heard in our Catholic school parking lot, “My husband doesn’t want another baby, so I got a puppy instead.” It has always sounded scarily like The Children of Men by P. D. James, in a world where no one can have any children, and the sorrow that causes for humanity.

  • Christina

    That is the whole point of the article–that we shouldn’t fear having babies.  Then, we wouldn’t have to worry about avoiding babies.  Babies are central to marriage in most cases and leads us to fulfillment, selflessness and giving that hopefully makes us into better people.

    Yes, NFP is morally fine.  However, maybe a change in attitude toward not trying to avoid babies is better.

    By the way, breastfeeding usually spaces children naturally every 2 to 2.5 years.

  • Claire

    Yes, sometimes breastfeeding works to space babies.  Sometimes it doesn’t, and some people can’t breastfeed, and some people are overwhelmed by having a large family with babies born close together (like momofmany below), and some people are scared by that prospect and you can tell them till you’re blue in the face that babies are a blessing and that God never gives you more than you can handle, but if they don’t feel that there is a viable way to slow down the process while they’re discerning, they could very well be tempted to use artificial contraception.  NFP encourages people to welcome more babies while letting people pace themselves as they become more open to the idea of a big family.  It doesn’t have to be an either/or thing.

  • Drjen

     Dear AC,
    I went to a healing mass and was led to a bio-nutritionist. I told him that my progesterone was low, as evident by my shortened and unsustained temperatures in my luteal phase.  He told me that it wasn’t my progesterone that was low, but my estrogen too high in proportion to my progesterone, and that this was caused by all the estrogen-mimicking plastics and soy we have in our diets.  He told me to take calcium D-glucarate, one pill per day for only one month, and that this will pull out all the external estrogens, putting my estrogen-progesterone ratio back into balance.  I did it, and my NFP cycles have been like a 20 year old’s, even though I’m now 42.  When we wanted to conceive, we did so without any problem, and I gave birth 4 weeks ago to my fourth child, even though I had a miscarriage after my third.  I’ve told several other women who had trouble maintaining pregnancies about this, and they’ve all conceived but one.  One woman had “unexplained infertility” for six years, including miscarriages, but once she took the calcium D-glucarate, conceived immediately and delivered her child one month ago.  I sure hope this helps you, in addition to many others.
    God bless,
    Dr. Jen

  • rakeys

    The problem that the Church and Catholics face today is not that Catholics are having too many children, or that couples are using NFP too avoid having children. According to the current debate over the HHS mandate, over 98% of Catholics are using contraception. In Europe the birthrate is only 1.3 babies per woman, well below the replacement rate of 2.1
       We need to tell Catholics to be open to having children, but telling them that NFP doesn’t work or leads to large families is a disservice. We need to tell the 98% that NFP DOES WORK to space children in a loving situation. NFP is 98% successful in avoiding or achieving a pregnancy., the same or better than the Pill, without the side effects of blood clots, heart attacks ans strokes, and breast cancer. ( The World health organization has classified the Pill as a Category 1 carcinogen, the same as cigarettes and asbestos.)
    In addition, NFP can help couples who are having infertility problems, which is increasing, by using NaProTechnology. Naprotechnology is 60% successful with minimum costs, while Invitro is only 25% succesful and costs $25,000. with moral implications .
    As a side benefit couples who use NFP have a divorce rate <5%, not 50% like couples on the Pill.
    When you follow God's plan for marriage and sexuality, good things happen. 

  • rakeys

    The problem that the Church and Catholics face today is not that Catholics are having too many children, or that couples are using NFP too avoid having children. According to the current debate over the HHS mandate, over 98% of Catholics are using contraception. In Europe the birthrate is only 1.3 babies per woman, well below the replacement rate of 2.1   We need to tell Catholics to be open to having children, but telling them that NFP doesn’t work or leads to large families is a disservice. We need to tell the 98% that NFP DOES WORK to space children in a loving situation. NFP is 98% successful in avoiding or achieving a pregnancy., the same or better than the Pill, without the side effects of blood clots, heart attacks ans strokes, and breast cancer. ( The World health organization has classified the Pill as a Category 1 carcinogen, the same as cigarettes and asbestos.)
    In addition, NFP can help couples who are having infertility problems, which is increasing, by using NaProTechnology. Naprotechnology is 60% successful with minimum costs, while Invitro is only 25% succesful and costs $25,000. with moral implications .
    As a side benefit couples who use NFP have a divorce rate <5%, not 50% like couples on the Pill.
    When you follow God's plan for marriage and sexuality, good things happen. 

  • Claire

     Very true, Rakeys.  Well said.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m so glad you wrote this. First of all, it was hilarious. Secondly, it made me feel much less creepy about NFP. I’ve been repulsed by NFP with every article I’ve read (My husband and I are extremely open to life, so don’t start finger wagging). This is the only article that didn’t make my skin crawl. I lol-ed about the woman reading her charts – what a nut case. God made us all and His plan is beautiful and perfect, but people need to lighten up. 

    Finally, I’ve talked to several women who stopped using NFP. There is a mystery to sex that should be retained, not obsessively marked on charts. That makes me feel like the NFP-ers are NOT willing to relinquish control to God; they try to control their fertility.

    Be open to life, be done with it – God’s in control!

  • Theresa

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I will be passing this one along to some friends, with glee. My only regret is that it was written by a man. I wish I could find a Catholic female blogger who hasn’t drunk the communication improvement/my body is beautiful/don’t judge me when I stop after kid # 2 or complain about the failure of my NFP Kool-Aid. This article brought a refreshing laugh. I know my husband will appreciate it as well.

  • Claire

    Does that mean that you feel it’s okay to automatically judge someone who has two kids, without knowing the details of their situation?