Sadie, 23, says she and her fiancé are charting together before they marry. “It has already been an incredible bonding experience,” she writes. “It’s been fun watching him get so excited about it all. And I know he knows why I can be so crazy sometimes. The hormone shifts are very obvious on the charts!”
However excited a man is about NFP, though, the vast majority of the burden falls on the woman. This is at the heart of the quandary that Mikayla, 32, is struggling with as she and her new husband consider NFP methods in their marriage. Her husband is going to graduate school and she plans to begin a graduate program later in 2009, so they don’t feel financially ready to welcome a child into the world. But she has been put off by charting (“this is touted as a wonderful way to get to know one’s own body, but to me it feels much more like a distant clinical approach—very medicalized”) and she isn’t convinced that NFP is all that collaborative.
“The responsibility continues to fall only upon the woman: She is the one that must maintain the chart accurately and interpret the signs. All the husband has to do is be willing to abstain from sex when she tells him,” she writes.
I’m right there with you, Mikayla: As with so many things having to do with reproduction, it just doesn’t seem fair that all of the burden falls on the woman. You’re the one who has to take your temperature — and make sure that you don’t do anything to throw off that first morning reading, like getting up quickly to go to the bathroom before you record your basal temp. And you’re most likely the one who will have to say, “No, honey, we can’t have sex tonight… I’m fertile.” But as the saying goes, with all great rewards come great responsibilities. Both the joy of bearing children, and the responsibility of planning for those children, fall on women’s shoulders.
Yet Carmel, 61, says that NFP increases men’s responsibility for their role in creating life: “We used NFP for all our fertile life and while we would never say it was easy, it was a choice for health as well as religious belief,” she writes. “It ensured that both of us had to take responsibility for our fertility. I get angry when I hear of some men blaming their wives or partners for getting pregnant, like as if men had nothing to do with it. Most people today seem to want all the pleasure without the responsibility… but we cannot have it both ways.”
If both spouses are willing, can NFP increase the passion in marriage? Alex, 30, reports that while it’s frustrating to abstain during his wife’s fertile periods, “not having what you want every time you want it can actually be really healthy, and make the experience more meaningful.”
Is it practical?
And is NFP practical for young adults who are sexually active before marriage? Several readers acknowledged the benefits of NFP, but thought it was naïve to encourage it for all couples.
Robert, 28, writes that while natural family planning may be effective, it doesn’t make sense for “today’s ‘hook up’ culture.” In a perfect world, he says, “education would lead us all to NFP however, education is already limited and we all know this world is not perfect.”
And is NFP practical in a time of economic crisis and overpopulation? asks Kristina, 24: “The earth can no longer sustain the growing population that is expanding exponentially. Birth control is the easiest way to effectively limit the amount of children in this world. Does God want us to bring children into a world that cannot support them? I take the pill and use condoms, and frankly, I think that is the only truly responsible thing for me to do.”
The comments keep coming in—so please, add your thoughts to the mix. Take our survey here or leave your comments below. I’ll pick up with this topic after the New Year and address the question: Are there certain medical conditions that make it necessary for a woman to take birth control pills? I’ll interview doctors and clergy to answer your questions, so send me emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.