“You know what they call people who use NFP, don’t you? … Pregnant!” That’s just one of the many jokes made about this long-standing Catholic practice I’ve heard over the years. I came of age in the ’70s, when we referred to NFP as the “Rhythm Method.” Sadly, a number of my friends, both married and single, found it inconvenient and ineffective; many of them chose instead to use pharmaceutical aids like birth control pills, contraceptive barriers like diaphragms, or IUDs.
It was all about convenience, ease of use, and perceived sexual freedom as a part of the social movement of the time. How times are changing as a new generation comes of age. The new social movement promotes health and wellness over convenience. They are willing to go the extra mile, pay extra money, and take on a new role in relationships — if it is in the name of healthier living.
Such a shift from the fast-food culture of old that chose convenience over everything! Decades down the road, we’ve learned that the convenient use of pharmaceuticals has injected caustic chemicals into the bodies of many women: chemicals now identified as cancer-causing agents that the new generation has seen kill family and friends. They don’t want to expose their bodies to anything “un-natural.”
Another trend that is sparking more interest around more natural family planning is infertility. The USCCB shared a number of resources to help promote NFP Week that included articles and videos from couples who reported a common practice of doctors deeming couples infertile and referring them to infertility specialist. This practice, again, fuels a burgeoning medical industry of alternative and what some may term “un-natural” family planning methods. As the social media consultant for my parish, I reviewed the resources and was surprised how much the perception of this age-old Catholic practice has changed.
It’s not just about “not getting pregnant,” nor is it just about “procreation,” and it’s no longer just about the woman — it’s about the relationship between a couple. So many of the articles chronicled how becoming in tune with your body led to diagnosis to non-reproductive medical conditions. One woman whose menses were irregular was able to use her charting to help her doctor diagnose Hashimoto’s disease; her irregularity was a symptom that had been overlooked.
In a recent article from Aleteia, a couple practicing NFP shared their experience via social media. Jenny Uebbing is a speaker and blogger at “Mama Loves Coffee,” and her personal experience has inspired her to create a program she calls “Off the Charts” to support couples living with NFP. In fact, this new generation of NFPer’s describe it as a lifestyle.
Another revelation was how much the practice helps both the man and the woman understand their biological urges in such a way that they become in sync. It helps them learn sacrifice, respect, communication, compromise, and emotional intelligence. NFP provides couples with real tools to meet challenges — if they are willing to do the work!
In our Catholic culture, there are often misconceptions about a person’s position on their family planning. People assume that if you are married and a certain age you should have children. As a person who does not have children, I find that some make the assumption that it is by design: that I don’t have children because I don’t like them, or my career superseded my call to procreate. Yes, some people have made those assumptions out loud. In truth, it wasn’t ordained by God that I become a mom. There are medical reasons that precluded me from having children, but even if I didn’t because of the aforementioned reasons, others shouldn’t judge me.
As we focus on ways to pray for those who are challenged with family planning this week, amplify your understanding of the impact of fertility or infertility on couples and the stability of familiy structure in our society. Let us us also remember to pray for the cause of sainthood for the venerable Fr. Peyton.
“The family that prays together stays together” – Venerable Fr. Patrick Peyton
Copyright 2019 Sherry Hayes-Peirce