fertilityIn a community where 3 kids make a family large, I have received my share of the classic dumb 'big family questions': "Are you done?" "Do you know what causes that?"

We've been greeted with congratulations upon news of pregnancy...and other less positive responses. We have announced a new baby to more than a few disapproving or at least "better you than me" shocked faces...sometimes even from relatives.

It doesn't matter that my husband was one of 6 or that his Mom was one of 10...5 kids can be shocking and excessive, even to relatives, to people at Church and school and to strangers in the check-out line.

The truth is, sometimes I have been overwhelmed too! We have had times of eagerness on the other side of the pregnancy test...and we have had a couple surprises too. What we can't seem to express to most people is that we're just trying to do what we think the Lord is calling us to do. We want to do our best to follow Church teaching and welcome and guide the children he has entrusted to us.

No one said it was easy! From our first year of marriage, I have had irregular cycles (sometimes 50 days long) and fertile symptoms that even the most seasoned NFP teacher can't seem to explain. In our journey, we have tried the Creighton method, the Billings method (not sure what the difference is) and the Sympto-thermal method (if that's the one that includes temperature).

basal thermometer

We've tried the Lady Comp


and the Ovacue

ovacue classic which I think looks like this now:



and the Fertility Tester

fertility tracker

which is a cute little microscope I think we'll be using for science projects.

I gave each monitor (Lady Comp, Ovacue) a chance, but I'm always suspicious when it asks for information about previous cycles. Is that all we've got? Is this a return to the rhythm method? Did I mention that my cycles range from 27-50 days? My body defies the normal pattern of ovulation...and I sent both monitors back when they assumed differently.

The Fertility Tester works solely on observation of patterns in saliva. It's a neat concept and appeals to my scientist-of-a-husband, only until we realized that salty foods or a varying diet have an impact! Given that I am NOT the scientist type, interpretation of observations don't boost my confidence.

In the end, I have to say that Naprotechnology has impressed me the most. I still don't have all the answers I'd like, but this seemed to be the most specific (and scientific?) method.

I have to say that their method of teaching NFP, observing fertility symptoms and recording them, including the structured schedule of meetings, specificity of questions asked, explanation and descriptions of symptoms have increased my confidence in NFP. The sessions are not free, but the teachers are formally trained.

I will admit that we are cautious...and abstinence plays a substantial role in our practice of NFP, particularly amid ANY ambiguous symptoms or along any margin of the fertile time.

Sometimes I question how conducive substantial abstinence is to a healthy marriage.

I too, remember the talk at my marriage prep course from eager NFP advocates: abstinence makes the heart grow fonder and all that...but I'm not sure. Sometimes, for me... out of sight, out of mind.

Do you know what I mean?

With kids and stress and the busyness of life, another layer of logistics (this time a biological calendar) sometimes seems to impose impossible constraints.

I know that there are many out there who would happily welcome the 3rd, the 6th or the 10th child. I know the Lord would stretch my heart to welcome another, but I don't think He's working on me that way right now. It's true that sometimes I feel pretty stretched with the five I have now.

I trust the wisdom of Blessed Pope John Paul II and I know that I have yet to understand all that the Theology of the Body can teach me. Fear of fertility doesn't exactly fan the flame of intimacy and I'm not convinced that frequent and extended abstinence does either. I know that I have intimacy issues to pray and work through and they are just as important as getting a grip on my fertility and hopefully they will coincide.

And just so you know that there are other good Catholics with concerns like this...check out this website I found: Real Catholic Love and Sex

Originally appeared at Catholic Sistas in October, 2012.

Copyright 2013 Monica McConkey