NFP — It Ain’t Your Momma’s Rhythm

“Are they all yours?”

I get asked that question at least twice a week these days.  It doesn’t bother me very much since I realize that having seven children makes me a bit unique by societal norms. I can’t imagine why anyone would think I would willingly take other people’s children with me to Costco or the dentist (I wouldn’t) but it’s one of those questions that pop out of people’s mouths when they see me and my tribe out and about trying to accomplish those everyday errands that wear mothers out. The next few questions are the ones I usually find mildly annoying to downright offensive.

Do you know what causes that?

Why don’t you get that fixed?

Do you have a TV?

Are you Catholic? Irish? Uneducated?

Yes, I’ve been asked all of those questions usually in front of the children and many more questions and comments have been addressed to me that are not fit for publication here.   I try to be patient, I smile and suppress my natural sarcastic tendencies and answer as honestly and cheerfully as possible.

Yes, they are all mine.

Yes, I know what causes it and we prefer it to TV.

We can’t fix what isn’t broken.

I am both Catholic and Irish as well as being really well-educated, thank you very much. I have the paid-off loan documents to prove it.

Recently, on the soccer field of all places, some one came up with a different approach.

“So you’re one of those Catholics that don’t believe in birth control.” 

fluffybaby.jpgThis was one I could sink my teeth into.  Now I believe in birth control in so far as it exists. Unlike the Loch Ness monster or leprechauns which do not exist, so I do not believe in them. What I do believe about artificial birth control is that it is intrinsically evil, immoral and a mortal sin.  Why do I believe this?  Well, the easy answer is because the church tells me so. Now before you give me the whole story about the old men in the Vatican wanting to populate the earth in Catholics by keeping all of the women pregnant for twenty years at a time let me just say: lots of women work in the Vatican; no Catholic document says you should have as many children as humanly possible during your fertile years, and; not all the men in the Vatican are old. 

That’s the easy answer. If I were the type of person to accept easy answer I would not have had to pay back all those loans for school. I like to know the reason for things. Why is it a mortal sin? What makes it intrinsically wrong to use artificial means of birth control? 

The marital act has two purposes; it is both unitive and pro-creative. 

The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life (CCC 2363).

Unitive means that it brings husband and wife together in a close and special way. It is for their good and for the good of their marriage. A man and wife give themselves to each other completely and exclusively. It is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves to each other for as long as they both shall live.

The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches  the spouses in joy and gratitude (CCC 2362).

Procreative means that each act of marriage be open to life (CCC 2367).

The church does recognize that there are times when it is advisable to avoid pregnancy. The reasons for doing this can be highly personal and should be between the couple, their confessor and God. It is imperative to point out that the reasons should be ones that stem out of a generous and genuine desire to be a responsible parent and a desire to do God’s will.

Toward this end the church, and this diocese (Rockville Center) in particular, teach a method of spacing pregnancies called Natural Family Planning (NFP). NFP teaches a couple to recognize the signs of fertility in a woman so that each month they can prayerfully consider God’s will for their family. 

With this in mind it just makes sense that to put something between these two reasons for marital intimacy would thwart the sacramental aspect of the marriage and deny God’s will. Hence the mortal sin part of the problem. It is God’s great joy to have baptized people joined in the bonds of marriage and sanctified by the sacrament. It is His great joy to have us be blessed by the fruits of this sacrament: a close and loving relationship and children. Children are a gift, a blessing and means to our salvation.

Let’s get back to that soccer field conversation.

The woman with whom I was speaking asked if I did the Rhythm thing. I have no rhythm and I told her so. Rhythm is an outdated method of calculating ovulation by using a calendar and predicting fourteen days into a woman’s cycle she would conceive. Since not everyone has that kind of cycle it was not a very successful method. I explained that NFP was scientifically based and used by many people of all faiths since it was the healthiest method available.

The lady then pointed out that since I had seven children I was not such a great poster child for this method. 


It is exactly because I have seven children that I am a great poster child, even though I really don’t want to be on any posters. Had NFP not been part of our marriage I would likely have a much larger family by now. When there is no good reason not to conceive we simply don’t watch the fertility signs and let God plot the course. This is not always easy and we come in for a good bit of criticism for our beliefs but the fact is we have a good marriage. We have beautiful children and we have faith — faith that God will provide us what we need both materially and emotionally to care for these precious beings He has entrusted to our care.  It is because NFP works that I have great confidence that what God plans for our family will ultimately end with us united in heaven. It is because NFP works that I can joyfully tell you that our eighth baby will, with the help of God, join us here in January.

Deo Gratias.

For more information about learning Natural Family Planning please call the Rockville Center Diocesan Family Life office at 516-678-5800. Other information about life issues can be found at

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage