NFP, baby! 😉
So, who’s begun charting?! How is it going? What advice do you have/what method do you use? If you haven’t, is something holding you back? Are you considering starting up?
I have written about NFP before here, here, and here. And the obligatory disclaimer: as a single woman, I do not have personal experience with NFP in the context of a relationship. Where I’m coming from is support of how it provides information for single women’s health and support of singletons knowing about it (the good, bad, and ugly – mucus! mucus! mucus! :P) as an Church-acceptable practice for the future marriages they aspire to.
*Special note: NFP refers to Natural Family Planning, of which there are a few named methods based on what you track. There is also FAM: Fertility Awareness Methods, which essentially do the same thing, but when done in the context of a relationship, allow for barrier methods. Catholic no-nos.
At first, my support of NFP was no more than a shrug and an “I dunno, I think it’d work for me” when discussing birth control with secular friends in college. I didn’t even know it was called that—just thought of the rhythm method! Now that I’m working where I’m working, reading what I’m reading, and talking with whom I’m talking…NFP is ever-present on my mind. I fully intend to be open to it, even if I am unsure it will “work” or what that word even means to me (and my husband).
More importantly, as a single woman hoping for said husband, knowing that this practice may be in place in my future family, I NEED to know a man is open to it too, or would support it—before engagement even. Future Mr. Proverbial Husband has to be on board with this option when the ring goes on my finger. I mean, why put down non-refundable deposits if this could be the proverbial straw?
I am so adamant about this right now because I believe many young guys just don’t appreciate Church teaching on this issue. Because while they may go to Mass (if they even go! some advice-givers go so far as to recommend dating on the fringes), they are still a part of the world, and I fear disagreement over NFP, or misunderstanding, or worse—the “I didn’t sign up for this!” or “This is too hard!” exclamations that could lead to a very painful break-up or some unnecessarily hard first years of marriage if this issue is not aired at an appropriate time. Because it sounds hard (if the catholic.com forums are any indication…). So I believe it is something everyone should be aware they might be signing up for when discerning a practicing Catholic marriage. /rant
So. My personal experience!
I started tracking signs: temp, mucus, position and to use the charts on myfertilityfriend.com and then the awesome CyclePlus app, which gives you sweet quotes about ladyhood and ToB and authentic love. And then it was summer, and then fall, and winter, and spring, and I have no a/c or consistent external environment, so my graphs on the free plotting charts started looking really, really wacky. And then I’d forget to take my temp, or when I finally remembered to record it, I forgot it. And then some weeks I’d have a cold AND dairy and couldn’t tell what was fertile mucus or not. And I ultimately decided that since in three years I only found one thing irregular ( a weird blip that corrected itself), I had no real good reason to stress myself out.
But I still like to read up on it and stay current. The awesome site iusenfp.com has a quiz to help you figure out which method you might be interested in learning. With one of my answers being “I want the monitor to do all the work,” Marquette it is! (And my archdiocese’s office actually just so happens to teach a modified version of it—to engaged and married couples.) But since the monitor and strips cost money and I am no where even close to thinking engagement or discussions about a future family, I’ve decided to just do light tracking. Now that I know what some of the basics are, I feel like I have some awareness of my body and find it all rather cool. Come serious relationship leading to the engagement-discussion time (I want the way he asks to be a surprise, not that he’s asking!) I’ll pick it up again—especially to help schedule the honeymoon! 😉
To conclude, I would like to reiterate:
1) NFP is an option, a tool, a system of information that married couples can use, but do not have to. It’s not mandatory. But it is a great skill to have in your repertoire should you need it (pulling my catechesis certificate card with this one, I admit).
2) The fertility and cycle awareness part of NFP can be beneficial to single women and their health, precisely because it is a tool and system of information. ETA: Ignore Internet people who don’t want you talking about it or knowing about it because they are grossly presuming single ladies want the info to have contraceptive-free sex. Uh uh. It really is a HEALTH issue.
3) You should check out onemoresoul.org and www.fertilitycare.org or call your diocese’s family life/NFP office to get info on lady-business doctors who not only know about NFP/fertility awareness but also very likely support it. I believe having this doc on your team when you’re ready for marriage will help aid the transition from single life to married experiences.
4) You are the single most best advocate for your health. If you find yourself clamming up in the doctor’s office, practice discussing your issue or at least your “No, I don’t need that, thank you” with a trusted relative or friend.
If you need help figuring out Church teaching on this issue or witnessing to a friend about it, do check out: Contraception and Catholicism: What the Church Teaches and Why, available in November.
And I couldn’t go away without at least one snarky joke: NFP: when there’s more than one “that time of the month” (Phase 1? 2? 3? Please be 3… :P)