Thursday, July 23, 2015

Maybe We CAN'T Talk About NFP Without Giving Offense

It's NFP awareness week. A quick glance at my header will tell you where the husband and I fall on the ol' sliding scale of fertility/NFP competency (but just in case it's: high/low). This is a mommy blog. This is a Catholic blog. This is the PERFECT place to be able to talk about all of this stuff . . . the blessing part and the cross part of ALL of it: NFP and babies and kids and hyperfertility and infertility and miscarriage and everything that goes along with Catholic womanhood.

But it's not easy.



Because some folks (like me) have plenty of babies and can't NFP themselves out of a paper bag, but mostly feel equipped to handle a big family.

Some folks struggle to be successful with NFP but have grave reasons for postponing pregnancy.

Some folks can easily use NFP to space pregnancies.

Some folks celebrate practicing NFP as almost a religion unto itself.

Some folk appreciate NFP because they've used it to successfully become pregnant.

Some folks have an open heart and open arms but fewer children than they'd like or no living babies at all.

And most of these situations are hard. Some are REALLY hard. Some are really really hard and feel exactly opposite of each other. So how can I talk about MY specific struggles while at the same time acknowledging and validating all other possible experiences?

I don't think I can. I don't think it's possible. And I think it would make for really uninspiring and watered-down blog posts.

I actually said this to a fertile friend after Mass last week: "Ya know, I'm not actually feeling all that protective of my uterus anymore. If something happened to it, I don't think it would be the end of the world." If I say that on this blog, it will be seen by folks who could totally relate. But it will also be seen someone who has had procedures and surgeries and medications in the hopes of somehow getting her uterus to hold onto a pregnancy.

Maybe she will be hurt and offended.

So where does my responsibility lie?

Well, in addition to pregnancy and babies and fertility, I've also had the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy on the brain lately. And I THINK therein lies the answer.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are as follows . . .
  • Admonish the sinner
  • Instruct the ignorant
  • Counsel the doubtful
  • Comfort the sorrowful
  • Bear wrongs patiently
  • Forgive all injuries
  • Pray for the living and the dead
for the corporal works of mercy printable, see this post


As a blog writer and a Facebook-sharer and a person who also sometimes interacts in conversation with real live people, I have a responsibility to "comfort the sorrowful." That means I need to be aware as I share my experiences from my side of the fertility spectrum, that there are folks on the other side. (And, frankly, I'm convinced it's WAY more sorrowful over there.) I can share my perspective (and really that's the ONLY one *I* can share) but I should avoid generalizations and probably try not to be flip.

But. As a blog reader and a social media participator and a conversation-haver, I also have responsibilities. I am required to "bear wrongs patiently" and "forgive all injuries." The way *I* read that, it means it's not the responsibility of people coming from another perspective to not offend me. It's MY responsibility to not BE offended.

There's nothing in there that says "Discuss only what is agreed upon by all," or "Tip toe around the easily offended."

So if I read something from someone else, who has found NFP to be a breeze, or who thinks no one should do NFP ever, or who thinks everyone should do NFP always, I need to understand that HER perspective isn't the same as mine, because her experiences aren't the same as mine.

The fact that I read it . . . and it stings a bit, doesn't mean it shouldn't be allowed to exist in the world. It doesn't mean it's not a valid perspective. It doesn't mean that she shouldn't get to create community around her experience.

It just means that God made us different. And that *I* just got an opportunity to grow in virtue.

Happy NFP Awareness Week, ya'll.


Here are some of my other posts about NFP:


WHY I DON'T DO NFP

DEAR NEWLYWED, YOU'RE PROBABLY WORRIED ABOUT THE WRONG THING

Mailbag: Do I Still Have to do NFP if My Life is at Risk?  

why I DON'T use birth control: an NFP Awareness Week Wrap Up

And another one on a related topic:

Opting Out of Mommy Angst in Three Easy Steps


SHARE THIS POST - {PINTEREST}

30 comments:

  1. I feel like we, as a society, are living in a sort of Cult of Offense. The world tells us that everything is offensive and it's become a virtue to be offended (and then to seek the offender's destruction), so I find this to be a very refreshing perspective.

    I went back and re-read my own post on NFP awareness, and I don't see how it could be construed as offensive... But I'm too close to it. I hope it's read with good grace, and I hope I wrote it with good grace.

    {Okay, so maybe the gynecologist I "fired" would be offended if she read it.}

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    1. I think you're right.

      And I think your post is great. That's exactly what I wish NFP Awareness Week could be: we each just share our own experiences and blessings and struggles and no one says, "Hey, your experiences and blessings and struggles offend me!"

      Maybe, hopefully, that's mostly what's happening.

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  2. Kendra, you are so sensitively sensible sometimes. :) Thanks for this post. As someone who actually does have a pretty easy time doing NFP, sometimes I feel like I shouldn't talk about it--because I might give someone else false hope that it will be just as easy for them, when I know many, many people have it much more difficult. I don't want to be guilty of false advertising.

    On the other hand--it IS possible to have a good, fairly simple experience! The NFP instructors aren't all lying. So I guess that's worth sharing, too, as long as I'm very, VERY careful not to brag or belittle other people's experiences. Tricky, tricky.

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    1. It IS nice to know that it works as advertised for some folks. To me, it's like you have some sort of fertility awareness superpower. Clearly, God did NOT think I could be trusted with such responsibility. :)

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    2. Ha! I think maybe God made it easy for us because he doesn't think we could handle 8 kids! Only #2 on the way right now... and really, I feel like "easy NFP" is the opposite of a superpower. I am just plain lucky in so many ways: regular cycles, predictable temperatures, and a lonnng period of breastfeeding-related infertility in the normally-tricky postpartum phase (at least, that's what happened the first time around). My body is like the training wheels of learning NFP. It's not that I'm especially good at it--it's just that I'm lucky enough that I don't really need to be. It's a blessing, but not a virtue.

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  3. Thank you for this post. It can be so difficult to raise awareness about something that is so counter to our culture and many people who practice it find it exceedingly difficult. I thought CCL did a great job with their recent magazine cover story about The Cross of NFP and I saw you were a part of the article.

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  4. I've been reading a lot about NFP lately and I think I would like to try it, if for no other reason than to hopefully find SOME pattern to my wildly unpredictable body. But frankly I'm scared. I don't think I can trust it. Plus my husband has said that he'll get a vasectomy before we rely on NFP, so I'm sitting here thinking, uh ... okay then. What I REALLY don't want to do is completely close off our future fertility; right now, at the very least, we could easily just stop birth control at any time. So no NFP for me for the time being.

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    1. It sounds like you're in a very difficult situation, Athena. And here's the trouble with all the "Let's get real about NFP," posts (like mine). They validate the experience of people (like me) who had trouble getting the hang of NFP. But, they're scaring off people like you who might (like Jessica above) have a really easy time of it. Or who might (like Colleen above that) find that using NFP means you get to find out what's really going on in your body, rather than just masking the symptoms with potentially dangerous medications.

      NFP was hard for me, but probably mostly because it's my vocation to be the mother of a big family. And God has a way of helping us find our vocations.

      If your body is wildly unpredictable, you might want to at least consult with a NaPro or Creighton specialist, just to try to figure out the underlying cause. And protect your future fertility. :)

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    2. Athena, I so relate to your post because 3 months into our marriage we were kinda uncomfortable with the birth control pill thing, myself especially, and so I decided I'd try to learn NFP. But I did not trust it at all and neither did my husband. So we compromised and used barrier methods while I learned my cycles and then when I felt confident we'd hopefully make the switch. Except guess what? I got pregnant USING the contraception, haha! Seriously, God laughed soooo hard at us I am sure. And even more ironically, that child, our first, has been our only unexpected pregnancy! We've used NFP since he was a few months old and never looked back and it's worked perfectly. All our other children were very much not a surprise, we were intentionally either trying or just sort of passively open to conceiving. Now, it is hard. Abstaining is not my fav thing, but the NFP part totally works. We just use the Sympto-Thermal method, never taken a class just read a secular book and sorted it out no problem.

      So you might consider learning a method or two and just sort of see how it goes. Your husband might have a change of heart eventually or allow you to try it out at a time when he's okay with the possibility of another baby. And know that sometimes God has a funny sense of humor about the whole thing ;)

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    3. Thanks for the encouragement - I did just reopen this conversation last week and that's when I got the "Why don't I just get a vasectomy?" question.

      I think what scares us the most is the fact that so. many. couples just have to be abstinent for so long if they want to / need to avoid pregnancy. We already abstain periodically for a matrix of reasons, so it's not as if we have no opportunities to practice temperance and self-denying love! I don't know. I guess I'll just keep trying every so often just to see what he's open to.

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    4. I just wanted to second that if you have some medical concerns learning Sympto/Thermal or Creighton can just be something you track for a while just for the medical information. I'd love to be all "NFP 100% from the get go", but I also believe in meeting people where their at and often times when you're coming from years on BC or surrounded by folks who think NFP is crazy you've got to enter through the shallow end rather than dive straight into the deep end. It's okay if it's a process.

      There's a book called "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" that can be a great introduction to the basics that you can learn at home, chart on line and have contact with people to help you learn what you're seeing in your charts.

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  5. I re-read your post last night, "Dear Newlyweds, You are Probably Worried About the Wrong Thing" and read the Svellerella post you shared on FB (sidebar: why am I not reading her regularly??) and my immediate reaction was something like, "It's just not fair. All these people who can't make NFP work and have a van-full of children don't have the difficulties I have to worry about."

    I wasn't mad at you, per se, just at the circumstances. I was upset with my cross. Well, with what I assume my cross to be- My husband and I were contracepting when our first was conceived and immediately after his birth. We became Catholic and I went off birth control. We thought about trying NFP, but then decided that it wouldn't be devastating to have another baby and we became pregnant my very first cycle off birth control, with twins. So, I am assuming that I am highly fertile. And my pregnancies both resulted in Gestational Diabetes and C-Sections, so that combined with financial concerns are valid reasons to postpone with NFP. So, I am attempting to learn Marquette, but also Sympto-Thermal, so I have all the bases covered. And being 5 months PP it is so hard.

    Anyways, so I was angry, because some people don't seem to have it "as tough" as we do. And then it hit me. I caught a glimpse of it, a rare moment of clarity. Like a beacon of light peeking out behind deep-set shadows of self-doubt. Though it is painfully obvious, I can't seem to find words clear enough. I am reaching out trying to make the intangible tangible. Of course others don't have it "as tough as me". My cross is my cross for a reason. Your cross is your cross for a reason. If it was easy for me to handle, it wouldn't be a cross, would it?

    I really need to stop comparing my life and circumstances to others, but it can be hard. Regardless of what each of our personal crosses are, they are hard for each of us in our own ways, and yet none are as hard as The Cross. I have to remember that.

    And, if you want to know a little secret: Though I know it would be hard on my post C-Section body, and possibly even harder on us financially, if God gave us more children, despite my best efforts to practice NFP, I wouldn't be upset. Scared, yes. And, scared for my husband who isn't as at peace with it as I am. But, mostly, we would figure something out. Somehow. Because children are always a gift, even when they seem like the hardest things to welcome in certain seasons of life. Even if that means our lives wont look like yours, or my neighbors, or my best friends. Our lives are ours for a reason, different for a reason. And, we will only grow in graces when we are open to following that different life path .

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  6. I really appreciate this post!
    I wish NFP and fertility were a black and white issue, but I don't think that's the way it is supposed to be. The only peace I've found is bringing my fertility directly to God and asking Him what His vision was when created me. I'm finding that I must be convinced of His love for me in order to fully trust what he wants to give or not give in regard to my fertility. Yes, we have "control" over our fertility but ultimately our happiness will come from giving that "control" over to Him. NFP may be the tool he uses to teach us to let go and trust Him. Throwing NFP out the window might be the way He is teaching another woman to let go and trust Him.
    For me, the anxiety comes when I take control (out of fear) and want to paint my own picture of what our family's future should be. He created variety in nature and He creates variety in families. For some this may be one child, for another it may be no children, for another it may be a foster family, for others it may be an adopted family, for others it may be a couple of children and for others it may be a very large family.
    We don't know what God is doing in other peoples lives. If I am bringing my fear, hurt, insecurity, jealousy before God and asking Him to create the life He envisioned... then I don't need to worry about or compare myself to other woman. He is painting my picture and other people aren't always going to understand that.
    The danger is when NFP (or conversations regarding fertility) become about "me" and the picture I am painting.

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  7. Sometimes, I don't know what I would do without you, Kendra. We had #1...10.5 months after the wedding. And then when she was about a year old, and still nursing away, my husband got a cancer the treatment of which involved surgical removal of some of his fertility-essential apparatus. And we said, at least we have our daughter if God gives us no more. Then, six months later or so, we conceived and lost a child, and feared maybe one (or both) of us was "broken." The next two pregnancies have done little to relax this fear, as they've both been accompanied by abnormal bleeding, but we've had no more losses, thank God. Very few people we know in person "get" why we might not only refuse to contracept, but also actively try for more! (Even fewer people know about any of our fertility concerns, they just notice that we have a 4-year-old, an 18-month-old, and one due in November.) Keep the posts coming, it's like Mental Health Day when we get to read some of your stories.

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  8. I really appreciate this post!
    I wish NFP and fertility were a black and white issue, but I don't think that's the way it is supposed to be. The only peace I've found is bringing my fertility directly to God and asking Him what His vision was when created me. I'm finding that I must be convinced of His love for me in order to fully trust what he wants to give or not give in regard to my fertility. Yes, we have "control" over our fertility but ultimately our happiness will come from giving that "control" over to Him. NFP may be the tool he uses to teach us to let go and trust Him. Throwing NFP out the window might be the way He is teaching another woman to let go and trust Him.
    For me, the anxiety comes when I take control (out of fear) and want to paint my own picture of what our family's future should be. He created variety in nature and He creates variety in families. For some this may be one child, for another it may be no children, for another it may be a foster family, for others it may be an adopted family, for others it may be a couple of children and for others it may be a very large family.
    We don't know what God is doing in other peoples lives. If I am bringing my fear, hurt, insecurity, jealousy before God and asking Him to create the life He envisioned... then I don't need to worry about or compare myself to other woman. He is painting my picture and other people aren't always going to understand that.
    The danger is when NFP (or conversations regarding fertility) become about "me" and the picture I am painting.

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  9. Thank you for this Kendra! I love your take on incorporating the spiritual works of mercy into the discussion/reading on NFP...or really any touchy subject...or any subject at all! We (including me!) should never be looking to take offense, which is completely counter to the current culture where 'everyone is offended by something'. And it seems as though someone is ready to tell one what ought to offend one.

    And I really appreciate your perspective, even though I'm on the other end of the fertility spectrum. :) I actually like reading/hearing various experiences, it helps me broaden my human experience.

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  10. You can't say anything to anyone now without the possibility of their being offended by your opinion and expecting you to be punished for being offensive to them. Nfp could definitely find itself in that category.

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  11. I have thought the same thing, about other issues. Sometimes, it has to be ok to share your own experiences on your own corner of the Internet/with your people. And it's ok for others to say why it's hard for them, too. How bland our world will be if we all stop talking about our own experiences in case they're hard for others to hear! It can be painful, but as you say - we grow in virtue. And empathy. And maybe we get to remember that our problems are ours for a reason, what God has given us. Probably the best thing is to be quiet after we've told our story and hear someone else's, in charity, and try not to make theirs about us.

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  12. Your post actually reminded me I am one of those (probably) rare people who has had multiple, different experiences with NFP. I’ve kinda run the spectrum from “NFP failure” to “NFP success story” and a few in between. I guess that's why I see a little bit of myself in nearly every NFP story I read on the internet during this week!

    I have a honeymoon baby due to not being very good or diligent at the sympto-thermal method (and I know now, my body is not a good fit for it anyway). So I guess you could call me an “NFP failure” and trust me, lots of people did. But I thank God everyday that I wasn’t very good at it because if I had been, I wouldn’t have my sweet 8 year old son. But for as many blessing as that “failure” brought me, it brought a ton of challenges. I hadn’t completed college yet, we were broke and I had been so incredibly sick my entire pregnancy that I was terrified of conceiving again. So we used a barrier method for a couple of years and then conceived my 2nd son, that time with the help of charting and NFP.

    After a much easier pregnancy and a super easy newborn, I was ready less than a year later to add to our family again. But even using the sympto-thermal method, it wasn’t happening. And there were crazy things going on with my body.

    I won’t rehash my infertility here but, yeah, it took me, the NFP Honeymoon baby failure, 19 months and a surgery for endometriosis (and a tube of progesterone off the internet) to conceive our 3rd child.

    Around the time she was conceived, a NaPro ob/gyn practice opened in my city. When my daughter was about 4 months old, many of my old issues started to come back and I was NOT going to let my body go on the fritz again. I started to learn the Creighton Method and shortly after she weaned, a (properly timed) hormone panel revealed I basically have no estrogen or progesterone in my body post ovulation.

    I’m now 23 weeks pregnant with our 4th baby. We conceived without any surgery or drugs the 3rd month of trying. And I truly believe that would not have been possible without NFP (specifically the Creighton Method). I was able, with the help of my fabulous ob/gyn, to fix the underlying issues in my body instead of just putting a bandaid on them or ignoring them.

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  13. As always, fantastic post, Kendra!

    Just like Bailey above (love your story!) I've been on both extremes of the NFP spectrum. 8 years of infertility and many health problems had me using NFP to try to get pregnant (unsuccessfully) and try to get healthy. NaPro and the fabulous Pope Paul VI Clinic were such a beacon of light in a very dark time for us. We eventually adopted 2 babies (4 years between adoptions) and then were *very* surprised by a pregnancy when our younger was just 4 weeks old. Hallelujah! But yikes! So then we had 2 babies exactly 9 months apart, and I was struggling with some PPD. NFP got put to use again, but completely reversed. It was so strange, but such a blessing, to use the same information to avoid pregnancy. God is so good. And so funny.

    All this to say - I know the pain of infertility when all my friends were getting pregnant (over and over and over!). And I know the struggle of abstaining when we really would rather not (but know it's best for our family right now). And both are so hard. NFP has helped us tremendously in both situations, and for that I am grateful. God has given us this beautiful knowledge - such a gift - but rarely is a gift from God going to be "easy".

    I think God blessed me with very thick skin, which is a lovely thing to have. Because people are always going to say some pretty asinine things. But I've never been one to get too offended - I'm much more likely to laugh than cry. And this has come in plenty handy over the last decade of my life, because at this point I've heard everything from "you aren't getting any younger - you should stop being so selfish and start having kids" to "good lord girl - what were you thinking?!?!?" (From the sample lady at Costco when she found out my littles are 9 months apart).

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  14. Whoah, I really needed to read this today. NFP is an extremely painful subject to me; I scrupulously learned a method, took a class, spent a fortune on clearblue sticks for two years, practiced the abstinence that came with this method (my husband and I, after looking at our charts, found that this method, when practiced conservatively, required abstinence 95 percent of the days of the month). No phase 1 sex ever, constant frustration and I still got pregnant in a time when I really, really needed to avoid. I didn't give a lot of details but in one comment string, I mentioned how Marquette wasn't effective for us and someone replied that I "probably wasn't doing it right". I could have reached through the computer and strangled that woman.

    I really needed to read this today.

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    1. "Probably not doing it right."
      The worst thing ever to hear. I'm sorry you had to deal with that!

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  15. Good stuff, Kendra. I wish there were some more NFP-from-husbands'-perspective posts out there. I know Daniel Bearman Stewart is on it but there need to be more...I told my husband (half-jokingly) that he should do a guest post. But I don't know where he would. My blog *may* not be the best location...

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    1. Yes! I think the husband's perspective is missing from the discussion a lot of the times and their perspective is so valuable!

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  16. I just clicked on your face-book link and even though I don't have an account, it allowed me to see your important announcement! Congratulations!!!!!

    I put my guesses in just last night and got the birthday and the first name and gender correct! So happy for you guys.

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  17. I recently found your blog and think it's wonderful stuff! I have a somewhat side related question that I was hoping some of the more experienced NFP'ers might be able to help give feedback on. Has anyone on here used a fertility monitor in addition to observing signs? ( Like the daysy or lady comp) I know it's basically a glorified over priced thermometer, but frankly I would feel so much better having a "second verification" step in place . Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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    1. People definitely do use fertility monitors. There's a whole method, the Marquette Method, that uses a Clear Blue Easy Fertility Monitor.

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  18. As I Creighton practitioner I see a lot of different situations and reasons why people are using the method and I see the struggle on both ends through their experiences. I am not offended that they have difficulty with the method, don't want to use it anymore or are frustrated they are not getting their desired outcome. In reality it makes me have compassion for each person's situation. As an infertile woman who has wrestled with her own NFP use I can relate to the people I teach. I think people who may be offended by talking about NFP on either side of the fertile/infertile spectrum are dealing with their own issues which they should reflect on and ask God to heal those areas that need healing and then move on. No I am not always perfect at this especially when I want to bang my head against a wall when I hear a friend saying "ugh I am pregnant again and we were trying to avoid" but that is their situation not mine. I also don't really do NFP either to avoid or achieve anymore, I still chart my cycles with Creighton so my NaPro Dr. can keep my hormones in check but we do not base our marital relations on it anymore. I will say that was the most difficult thing about NFP for me whether we were trying to avoid or achieve so I can see how that may be difficult for people to talk about without getting offended.

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    1. Oh and Congratulations on your newest baby girl!

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