Busted Halo
feature: sex & relationships
December 8th, 2008

Why NFP?

A young, modern, well-educated woman discusses her choice to use natural family planning

 
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When Mary Alice Teti read Dr. Christine Whelan’s recent article on natural family planning (NFP), she was excited to see such an important issue being discussed on BustedHalo. Mary Alice—who knew Christine from college—thought the original article only explained the “what” of NFP, however, and wanted to see a broader discussion of the “why” of this Church teaching. Why would a well-educated, intelligent, modern married woman choose not to use contraception?

I celebrated my thirtieth birthday this past August. My husband and I just bought our first house, and this weekend we are going shopping for a new car that will accommodate the car seat for our baby who is due in a few days. I left a job (that wasn’t very thrilling) to be a stay at home mother, and thankfully we are able to make ends meet on my husband’s salary although we can’t take the kinds of vacations that our “two-income” household friends take. So far, you’re with me, right? This is a fairly typical story for a college-educated woman of my generation. Here’s where it gets interesting: We do not believe in contraception, and the car we are looking at is a passenger van, because we cannot fit a sixth car seat into our mini-van.

My husband and I met in college and married right after graduation. We will celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary next week, and gathered around our table will be a seven year old, a five year old, four-year-old twins, a one year old and a newborn baby.

What does this mean?

Once, in the mall, a woman complimented my family and then asked me if I was an Orthodox Jew. When I responded that I am Roman Catholic she looked down at her son and said, “Oh, I am Catholic too, but not Catholic like you!” What does this mean, exactly?

The first possibility is that I naturally just adore kids, especially babies, and that I have always wanted to have a huge family. I always assumed that being married and having children would be a fulfilling part of my life, as most people do. But to be honest, I don’t really like kids all that much. I mean, I love my own children and I am happy to hold a friend’s baby if he is cute, clean and not crying, but I was never the babysitting, camp-counselor type.

If I didn’t start out wanting all these kids, the other possibility is that I am a victim of a patriarchal religion that forces me to use an outdated system of child spacing that does not work. I am the punch line to the joke: “What do you call a couple who uses natural family planning?” “Parents.” The truth is that my husband and I have successfully used natural family planning (NFP) for spacing, at times when we have needed it.

How did we get here?

We understood that since the Church teaching is so clear, it would be a direct act of disobedience to ignore it. I struggled with this at times, and so I did a lot of reading on the virtues of humility and obedience.

The story of how we got here is as long and complicated as anyone’s journey of faith might be, but there are a few highlights worth sharing. First, when we met and started dating I had not been attending Mass regularly but had been feeling sort of guilty about it. My husband suggested that we go to Mass together, and so the Mass has been at the heart of our relationship from the very beginning. We also read the papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae” for a class in college. Before I read this, I might have ignored the church teaching on contraception, as many Catholics do. But studying this document helped me to understand why the Church, in her wisdom, has confirmed the centuries-old Christian tradition discouraging artificial means of contraception.

We understood that since the Church teaching is so clear, it would be a direct act of disobedience to ignore it. I struggled with this at times, and so I did a lot of reading on the virtues of humility and obedience. This helped me to understand that even though my nature was to rebel against almost all authority, God was asking me to trust the wisdom of the Church teaching on this matter, even though I did not know where it would take me.

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The Author : Mary Alice Teti
Mary Alice Teti is a contributor to Building Cathedrals (buildingcathedrals.blogspot.com) where she and other young mothers reflect on Catholic family life.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Brian

    Great article!

    My wife and I would make church & dinner a date, when we were dating. We are still dating for over 10 years now and out of the 10 years we have been married for 8 years.

    It is a challenge to have 3 kids under 5 & pregnant, but it has so many blessings as well. We were talking the other day about the limited amount of time to have children together. Once that time is over you can not go back, and their is no second guessing your decisions.

    We feel that our legacy will be our children, and we are doing the best we can to raise them as good Catholics.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Teri

    Oh, AMEN SISTER! Thank you, Mary Alice. May God continue to bless you and your family.

    To respond to Nicole: have you heard of NaPro (Natural Procreative Technology)? The Catholic Church doesn’t just care about the uber-fertile, but also those who have trouble conceiving. NaPro is one of the ways the Church has developed to identify and help rectify the causes of infertility and other gynecological problems. Google it. Don’t know where you are, but Dr. George Delgado at Culture of Life Family Services in San Diego, CA helps couples with this, and if you’re not near him, he could probably suggest other places to find NaPro docs.

    You have my deepest sympathy, as do my many Catholic friends in the same boat. Spiritually, I’ve found that when I really really want something, that is exactly when God isn’t going to give it to me. But when I give up that desire and just abandon myself to His will, I either find peace and He gives it to me, or I just find peace (both are good). Easier said than done. I guess this is why a lot of couples I know who gave up trying to conceive and then adopted wound up getting pregnant right after the adoption went through! May God console you and keep you.

  • johanna

    So when do we get to hear from a young couple that chooses to use other methods of family planning, and their formation of conscience on this issue? For many, I don’t think it’s as simple as “ignoring” or being “disobedient.”

  • laurie

    Thanks for your insight!! As a mom of 5 and fertility awareness gal ( along with my husband !) we too have been blessed. I appreciate so much your honesty too about the “realness” of motherhood…and i was a camp counsleor type!! But this is hard work..Being active in ministry I have had to slow down a bit and not miss the present! the gift! ..though i am pursuing the Masters now that the baby is 3!!!!! little by slowly! thanks…and many blessings to you and yours!

  • Nicole Williams

    I struggle with NFP because I am infertile. If every woman had such a predictable cycle, as God intended, NFP would be a lot easier used to achieve or avoid pregnancy. As an infertile, Catholic woman I feel like a pariah. I want children but cannot use any reproductive technologies to get them unless I want to go against Church teaching which, of course, I don’t.

  • Mary

    You might be interested in the NFP forum: http://www.geocities.com/nfpboard

  • Heather – Doodle Acres

    Just wonderful!!! Isn’t it a blessing to see God working in our lives??? God is good!!!

  • Chris Volpe

    From another NFP mom to six…your article is right on the mark, Mary Alice! Great job!

  • Charles Paternina

    Mary Alice, everything you say is true. We have experienced exactly the same. Congratulations.

  • Julie C

    You brought tears to my eyes. Julie
    59 year old mother of 3 girls and grandmother to 6 children

  • AWOL Mommy

    Thank you for taking the time to explain what you don’t have to explain for our benefit. Oh, and your family is totally rad.

  • Red

    Thanks Mary Alice for engaging this very important topic. As an NFP instructor and fellow blogger at buildingcathedrals.blogspot.com, I linked to your piece and added a few of my own thoughts.

  • LINDA CESCHINI

    Excellent article, Mary Alice!!

  • Mary Ellen Barrett

    Standing ovation here M.A.!!! Well done.

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