Shannon Whitmore considers the versatility of Natural Family Planning in postponing pregnancy, achieving conception, and diagnosing medical issues.
When my husband and I took the NFP Introductory class that was required before we could get married, I never thought that so much of our day-to-day conversation would revolve around hormones, menstrual cycles, and fertility. And yet here we are. With six years of marriage already in the books, we’ve used NFP for more than half of that time. We’ve used it to get pregnant and to avoid pregnancy, and now we’re using it to combat infertility. NFP is not Catholic birth control, or even all-natural birth control. It’s a method of fertility tracking that has many faces.
When my husband and I started using NFP, we used it to avoid pregnancy. Our firstborn had been a honeymoon baby. There had been no trying, and certainly no prior avoiding. After our son was born, we knew we weren’t ready for another kid yet. So for eighteen months, we used NFP to avoid pregnancy. Month after month, I tracked the signs and charted daily. We knew when I was fertile, so we were able to avoid that window every month. I felt confident with the charting, and I didn’t experience any real fears about unexpectedly becoming pregnant. It was challenging at times, but my husband and I both felt that it was necessary. And then it wasn’t anymore.
From one month to the next, our desires changed. Our intentions changed. But our charting did not. We never stopped using NFP, but we did start using it differently. We began to focus on those days of fertility, not avoiding them as we had done before. Since we knew exactly when I was fertile, we knew when to try conceiving. Unsurprisingly, after four months of trying, we found out that we were expecting our second child, and following her birth, we went back to using NFP to avoid pregnancy.
When our daughter was eighteen months, we switched back to using NFP to achieve pregnancy. We used it for an entire year before we decided that our attempts might not be successful without some medical intervention. I contacted a local conception counselor, and we began to use my charting to diagnose a possible hormonal imbalance. That was about six months ago, and to be candid, we’re still not pregnant. But we’re a lot closer to an answer than we would have been if we hadn’t already been familiar with charting because of NFP.
When many infertile couples might have been struggling to identify false peaks and hormone shifts, my knowledge of NFP and the female cycle gave me a definite head start. We were able to start working towards a diagnosis almost immediately. We still don’t have an answer, but as we continue to make progress, I am grateful for my knowledge of NFP. I am grateful that my diocese required that engaged couples take an introductory course on NFP before they get married. I am grateful that I belong to a church that wants us to understand how the human body works, that sees the female cycle as something beautiful and informative. As my husband and I work to identify the source of our infertility, I am grateful that I know about NFP.
Six years ago, when my husband and I took the required NFP course so that we could get married, we had no idea how important NFP would be to us. We figured we’d use it to prevent pregnancy between kids; we even assumed we’d use it to speed along the trying-to-conceive phase (when you work for the Church and can’t just drop everything to have a baby, you know exactly when your windows of opportunity will be). We just never thought that we’d be using NFP to diagnose an infertility issue. Yet here we are, and I’m just grateful that I know NFP. I’ve seen its many faces (including faces I’d have rather not seen), and I’m just grateful that NFP has the versatility to help us to plan and prepare for our future.
How can using NFP positively affect your marriage?
Copyright 2021 Shannon Whitmore
Images: Canva Pro; copyright 2021 Shannon Whitmore, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Shannon Whitmore currently lives in northwestern Virginia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, John and Felicity. When she is not caring for her children, Shannon enjoys writing for her blog, Love in the Little Things, reading fiction, and working in youth ministry. She has experience serving in the areas of youth ministry, religious education, sacramental preparation, and marriage enrichment.