When we were engaged, my husband and I took an introductory Natural Family Planning (NFP) class at a hospital in our hometown. We did not enter into this willingly. This “NFP stuff” seemed anything but modern. But, this class was one of the many requirements we had to fulfill in order to get married in our diocese. No class meant no wedding in a big pretty church.
On a Saturday morning, we dragged ourselves to the hospital. The classroom was full of other newly engaged couples that, like us, did not look very excited to be in attendance.
A friendly married couple led the class. The woman of the couple was a nurse. (I remember thinking: Hmmm, she could actually be somewhat credible because of her occupation.) The couple used a projector and Power Point presentation to explain the female reproductive cycle and gave an introductory explanation of how to track your fertility using a basal body thermometer and observations of cervical mucus. (My husband, and probably many of the other spouses-to-be, never wanted to hear the words “cervical mucus” again after that class.)
To my utter shock, I found the presentation to be totally fascinating. I had never learned this much about reproduction. I loved having all of this information and realized that before this class I was extremely ignorant about how my own body worked. Too ignorant, in fact! As I sat there learning about the different types of cervical mucus, I felt a little cheated that I had never learned about this before. Why had my high school health teacher not discussed this in class? Why hadn’t my mom ever explain this to me? Did she even know about this? Tons of questions ran through my excited and intrigued mind. Does this really work?
Even though I was totally entranced by the mere science of it all, I was still skeptical. It seemed a bit cumbersome to have to track everything. Not to mention, in order to practice this method faithfully, the teaching couple pointed out that those wishing to avoid pregnancy were required to abstain from sex during the woman’s fertile period. That seemed a bit oppressive. I was a little annoyed to find out that there continued to be “rules” about sex even AFTER marriage.
However, because I was attracted to a more natural medical approach to general health, I really liked the idea of NOT using birth control. I didn’t want the added hormones in my body. Did anyone really know the medical consequences of using these drugs?
So, I asked a lot of questions during the class. (Yes, I’m that girl; eager learner who was usually the first to raise her hand back in school.) I’m not sure if my husband was embarrassed or proud of me. But, I didn’t care. I needed answers and I raised my hand… again… and again.
“How many kids do you have?”
As I asked the question, I thought to myself, please say two, please say two. If they only had two kids, I could believe that this all “worked”.
“Four”, was the nurse’s response. (SHOOT!)
Well, maybe they WANTED four kids. I needed to know more. (This poor couple was so patient with me.) So, I had to ask the questions that I now despise. “Were any of your children a surprise? Were they planned?” The couple shifted a little. The woman blushed. They were visibly uncomfortable. I blushed too once I realized the extremely personal nature of my question.
After exchanging glances with her husband, the woman started to go “off script”, explaining that none of their children were real surprises. They knew that they could get pregnant and they relied on faith to know that if they did get pregnant, it was God’s plan. Okay, that was nice and all, but I wasn’t completely there with the whole “God’s Plan” thing. The woman could see my face drop a little at the mention of “God’s Plan”. She looked at her husband, nodded at him and he began to speak.
What he said next turned my already softening heart to mush.
“Look, we trust this method of avoiding pregnancy so completely that we are basically trusting it with my wife’s life. She has cancer and if she were to get pregnant, she would no longer be able to receive the treatment she needs.”
Whoa… The nurse up there in front of the class had tears in her eyes and soon tears filled up my eyes as well. That was it. They had me. The science was, of course, fascinating. The low rate of divorce in couples that practiced NFP was also very encouraging. But, this testimony of true faith, the moment they got “real” with all of us, was what really opened my heart to consider practicing Natural Family Planning.
I’m not going to sugar coat it. I have struggled with what the Church teaches on marital love and chastity within marriage. And it took several years after that class for me to be COMPLETELY on board. But, I can absolutely say that trusting God in this area of our lives, although difficult, has brought blessings to our family that my husband and I could have never planned by ourselves. I’m sure I’ll explain more in a future post. For now I will just say, I’m especially thankful for that Couple-to-Couple husband and wife team who allowed themselves to be vulnerable enough to share such a personal witness to a group of skeptical engaged couples.