NAS: NFP: Not Just a Married Lady Issue

41849-notalone5

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?

Great topic, Jen!  Reading her blog helps me know I’m not alone with my awareness of NFP as a singleton. Also check out Morgan’s blog and the other ladies’ sites for their perspectives.

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!

Basic Health Care

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)

Advertisements

7QTF: Reasons Why We Should All Be Aware of NFP

7_quick_takes_sm1Join Jen and the others for more!

Yes, even us singles! It’s NFP Awareness Week.

-1-

The foundational principles of NFP—chastity, communication, dignity of the human person, and much more!—are foundational principles of every aspect of our faith. They are what we are called to evangelize. Yesterday’s post is my bit of evangelization, and I need you help to not be preaching to the choir so much.

-2-

You will be called upon to be an apologist for the faith, no matter your state of life. Men and women, single or not, need to know a little about NFP and why Catholics have it, because you just KNOW someone who has not been privileged with good catechesis will hear something stupid on the news and demand, accusingly, of you, an explanation or justification (or sometimes even an apology!), as if you were recently appointed a Cardinal’s spokesperson, and that these sex issues are somehow entirely why you are Catholic. We really need to do a better job connecting the Eucharist, Trinity, and Church better to individual human dignity, and how NFP is an expression of that. Too often, secular people just only want to see the trees, not the forest, and preferably in 140 characters or less.

-3-

Levels of Catholic belief and practice between boyfriend and girlfriend are increasingly more and more likely to be different, especially the more likely one is to be virtually anywhere that is not Ave Maria, FL or Franciscan at Steubenville, and want to be married. If you are a woman, you may have to explain NFP to a future fiancée, or failing that bit of good advance notice, actual fiancée when he gets alarmed during the Pre-Cana presentation. If you are a man, you will be less surprised and maybe more on board come your beloved’s “Honey, by the way, there will be no artificial birth control in a marriage to me.” Men will also get to know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. So if they’re 26 and horrified, they’ll know if they need to take time to pray about it and make some choices based on what they truly believe. To a lesser extent, the latter also applies to the more liberal women who find themselves with a die-hard Catholic boy.

-4-

The principles of NFP communicate (if done well by the mouthpiece) how the Church is not actually horrible and desirous of women to be barefoot and pregnant or dead from having too many babies or completely barren because IVF isn’t okay. It is a loving option for couples who both want to achieve or postpone pregnancy.

-5-

The science of NFP communicates how the Church fosters the growth of intelligence, discovery, and medicine. I once heard on a podcast about birth control “You can get pregnant at any point in your cycle” full-stop, terrorizing women into believing ovulation either happens willy-nilly month-to-month, or every.single.day. like we’re a guy or something… What the Church knows from actual doctors with MDs is that what that really means is it is possible to ovulate once at any point in your cycle…so why not get informed about yourself? Can you imagine what women’s reproductive health care could be like if doctors didn’t resort to the Pill because it was “easier” and more importantly, cheaper? Though Ireland had outlawed abortions, that country has the best maternity care around precisely because they knew that if they couldn’t kill the child, they had to solve the actual problem related or not to the pregnancy. I worry about what their recent vote means for women who want to have their children, but doctors will begin to push for an abortion as a solution because it’s “easier” or cheaper.

-6-

NFP is a message of hope to give to the world. It can give hope to your own family by promoting virtue in your husband and yourself. It can give hope to your children, who one day may choose this practice over a worse option for their own families. It gives a message of hope to friends who confide in you their troubles in this area and need a better solution than what they’re working with now. And yes, it gives a message to hope to the world, because if everyone came to see what NFP teaches couples—that we are human beings with souls worth protecting, that there is a respect for sex and its procreative potential, that we should be sacrificial for the good of another, and not selfish—then I think we’d be a lot happier world that treats each other with dignity.

-7-

And simply, because Jesus calls us to be witnesses, even if people hate us because of it. We want to make Jesus and God happy, right?

NFP isn’t popular. It’s not pretty (mucus!). It’s certainly not easy. But it is an aspect of our faith that has flowed from teachings that came from Our Father and His Son, and we owe it to ourselves, our families and friends, and even the world to not just know it, but eventually own it.

Thoughtful Thursday: Why I Believe What I Believe: NFP and Humanae Vitae

Today marks the 45th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, an encyclical from which all our beautiful teaching on fertility and life issues flows. We’re also in the midst of NFP Awareness Week. There are many posts about this issue, so here is mine, which I think takes a very different approach.

Ladies, I am not brave enough to post this on my own Facebook, but please, please, post on yours, especially those of you whom have lots of young, secular friends. Maybe one day I will be brave enough to start sharing this aloud, person by person.

All too often the voices of women who support the creation and sustenance of new life and wish others would see the same beauty in it get drowned out or go unheard. We are told to go out and spread the Good News, but I am sorry to say we do not do so very well. We get snarky, defensive, screechy, preachy, or entirely religious or philosophical and impractical. Our intentions are good: we want others to discover hope. But sometimes our tone means we treat them as if they are hopeless: jumping to conclusions, proclaiming judgment, or outright doling condemnation.

I believe people need to hear “I believe” statements. Not the Church says, this document says, this study from 5 years ago says, this 67-year-old white man says…. I believe people need to hear positive-only messages. Not what’s negative about a product, behavior, or motivation. So here is me, speaking up, positively:

I believe that fertility is a gift. And what’s more–I like it.

After a childhood marked by pituitary issues and an early adulthood punctuated by digestive issues, I like that at least this particular system of my body is functioning correctly. I like that instead of deliberately overhauling it with a substance that has side effects, I can work with it to achieve a desired outcome (pregnancy or not).

I like that by working with it, my husband and I must engage in dialogue about our future  and force the question: which is more important: a few-second rush of endorphins this particular week, or avoiding a baby. I like that it forces my husband and I to see each other as potential co-creators and not just as bodies of hormones and sources of orgasm.

I like that I have been born with a whole set of organs whose sole purpose is to support the creation and nurturing of a new human being. It’s kind of funny to think about, isn’t it, that as individuals, we do not need our reproductive systems to continue living, but yet we still have them. Why? I believe it’s because there is some grander design at work that intends to compel people to continue making more people, not fewer. I like that I belong to the one gender that supports the development of an entirely new human person who will mature and be in this world, hopefully after I am not.

I believe in the concept of a soul, that there is some part of me and you and children that distinguishes us from animals. I believe the soul is so integral to the person, that the soul is there from the moment the person starts, which I believe is when sperm meets egg, and that suddenly these two tiny facets of two individuals become one tiny being entirely distinct from the two. I like that in good health, the new little being is automatically human and could never be anything else—not canine, feline, lupine. I like that within weeks, entirely new biological systems are developing or finally developed. I like the fact that there’s a heartbeat in a uterus that is not the mother’s.

I believe that all of the above is so special it deserves respect. I believe society should change to accommodate the growth of itself, not change biological processes to accommodate society. I believe there are no hierarchy of rights when it comes to two individual human beings. I believe every life is worth living, however short or long or easy or complicated. I like what it says when we don’t end life in-utero because of a disease or condition—that “No mater what, we value your presence in this world and are worth being born, worth figuring out how to ease your pain or heal your body. We see you as worth being a part our family, just as we saw your healthy siblings as belonging to our family when they were growing.”

I like belonging to a community that believes and likes all of the above. I like that it affirms a society that promotes and cultivates new human life. I believe it’s not so much a matter of political or legislative solutions, but one of hearts and minds. I believe that seeing fertility and fecundity as a gift is one that supercedes creed, party affiliation, or philosophy. It is simply a very human vision of the human person. I believe if we all stop shouting at you and each other, we can work together to make a world where such beliefs are liked by everyone.

Seven Quick Takes Friday – Mandates Women Can Actually Use

Image

If we operate on the presumption that the government should provide assistance to its citizens (becauseit has a vested interest in their health and well being) and that the executive office can mandate anything it wants, then here are seven things that actually would help women (that we’re actually asking for):

-1-

 Free heart disease medication. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women, not pregnancy. I bet they’d also have better peace of mind when going to work.

 -2-

Paid maternity leave and post-natal job security for all workers (even part-timers). FMLA is not enough. If the government itself can’t mandate this (but apparently, IUDs…), then create tax breaks for companies to actually see the benefit in providing this option for all parents. If you really want your daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons – children and a job at the same time – then this just makes more sense then telling them to either delay or just give up on having children.

-3-

Firmer policies to encourage positive economic/market activity. You know what’s really a “pocketbook issue” – not entirely the health screenings covered by the insurance we’re all going to have – but the cost of gas/transportation, groceries, and housing.

-4-

Fatherhood Initiative support. Every child brought into this world has a father. But when those men leave or are not in condition to best raise a child, the mothers also suffer. While studies show (stable) married parents provide the best outcomes for children, just telling couples to say I do won’t help. A marriage certificate will not magically make a man with issues suddenly support his family. And marriage incentives will not help a woman find a quality husband/father when she’s too busy working three jobs and lives in a drugs-on-the-corner neighborhood. So how about supporting programs that instill in men the habits and virtues needed to raise the children they sired?

-5-

Better protections against criminal activity. One of the primary arguments in favor of reproductive inhibitors is to allow for care for victims of incest, rape, abuse, etc. However, if all a doctor does is help the woman prevent or end the pregnancy, but does not call for the cops to go out and arrest the perpetrator IMMEDIATELY, what good does it do for a woman to not end the incest, rape, abuse, etc? A strong leader would say: “You hurt a woman in this way? You don’t get to hide. You’re going to jail.”

-6-

Insurance coverage for NFP and NaProTechnology. If you’re going to cover artificial hormones and plastic, why not monitors and treatments that actually, treat gynecological problems instead of masking them.

-7-

Actually solving the pay equity issue. Did everyone listening to Tuesday’s debate fail to question how offering free contraception directly leads to companies paying women better than 72 cents to the dollar? Plus, if companies would still pay a man a higher salary even after he took time off to be a stay-at-home dad, then the issue isn’t really about parenting; it’s about gender discrimination. Further, contraception does nothing for childless or menopausal women who are still making less than their male peers in the same job. Perhaps the money the government would have paid for contraception could go directly to the woman to use at her discretion.

Regardless of where you stand on the government’s role in mandating things for society, the bottom line is that a true pro-woman government mandate would be for society to improve itself so that contraception and abortion are the rare exception, not the rule, for women.

7 Quick Takes Friday: Commercials We Should See

Goodness Reigns film school  is running a contest for people to produce commercials that give better PR for NFP, based off this great post on Ignitum Today.

Proverbial Girlfriend doesn’t have video-producing capabilities, but thinks often about the way faith and/or femininity is presented in the media. Several existing media presentations have helped her form her wish list for commercials for our faith.

  • This is a birth control pill commercial, which depicts women shopping in a store for the next big thing: car, house, Paris vacation, job…but no one wants the stork. The impression is that it is impossible for women to do both, but it is an appealing sort of condescension, as all the women have cute brightly colored clothes and the store with its goodies looks like any desirable boutique. While such a commercial is a fantasy…it works because the message recipients perceive that they are being validated in their choice and can aspire to one day “afford” the things.
  • This and this are commercials that portray real individuals living out a grace filled life. PG gets the impression that these faiths are going to attract more spiritual-seekers because they play up the “positives.” Sure, they have rules and codes, but those will be palatable if congregants received their consolation first.
  •  Now consider the PR the Catholic stance on contraception gets. A New York Times report says Catholics are unhappy with Cardinal Dolan’s vociferous defense of the Church in its fight against the HHS mandate. While the Church leadership does have a right to be upset, its communication styles do little to actually preach and teach to the faithful. As necessary as they are, the declarations, proclamations, and ire don’t work in convicting people of the real truth because the message recipients perceive they are being scolded for their choice.

Imagine how many more people the Catholic Church could win over if its PR was positive. If it used real, beautiful women in cute clothes in brightly light scenes that sent the message to recipients that making the choice to not contracept, they can still have everything they desire? Of course, to “meet them where they’re at,” Proverbial Girlfriend has attempted to use the same visual devices as other commercials and address the most common fear of women nervous to go off the Pill – that they’ll end up with more kids than they can handle or that their choices/lives will be limited.

1.

A professional woman, wearing a business suit, gathers papers from a boardroom and introduces herself as CFO, wife, and mother to 5 kids…all without birth control. Voice-over directs viewers to special Web site about the way to consider fertility within the context of the feminine genius.

2.

A young college student, wearing modest, but still trendy clothes, is on a date night, and she introduces herself as graduating magna cum laude, in best relationship of her life with man who respects her (Scene of him dropping s her off at door with chaste kiss on the cheek)…all without birth control. Voice-over and text at bottom directs viewers to special Web site about the way to consider fertility within the context of the feminine genius.

3.

Two married couples enter a happy church scene. One upper-30s wife is visibly pregnant, no other kids. She says something like: “After IVF failed, we sought out alternate teachings…and the NaPro doctor recommended me by my priest helped us conceive within a year!” The other wife then says, “and we have reasons to delay starting a family. I was nervous about going off hormonal birth control, but here we are, two years in and no kids yet…all without birth control!” Voice-over offers requisite warning, but says NFP methods can help couples both achieve and delay pregnancy.

4.

A single woman is out with girlfriends, having drinks. A couple of them complain about problems with their birth control pills – they’re gaining weight, scared of the cancer risk, they feel out of whack, etc. One bemoans having to go off the Pill because she is at risk for blood clots, but she has PCOS and doesn’t want symptoms to resurface. Her Catholic friend comforts her… “I have the same problem. But I go to a doctor trained in NaPro procedures, and together we’re combating PCOS at the root of the problem. I feel better already, all without birth control!” Voice-over discusses how NaPro technology can diagnose and treat problems that BCPs mask.

5.

A woman in her forties is in the grocery store. She has cart full of produce and packages that say “organic.” Her water bottle is labeled BPA-free. She says, “I don’t like putting hormones in my body that aren’t really needed. That’s why I go green with my family planning.” She picks up a box of fertility monitor strips. Her three kids run up to the cart. She is affectionate with them and closes the commercial with “And we’re just the right size…all without birth control!” Voice-over describes how different forms of fertility education can inform couples of benefits of NFP. Text at bottom includes Web site.

6.

A couple is going to bed. The husband announces “We have a healthy sex life… without birth control.”  A voice-over proclaims statistics of couples using NFP/FAM have same rate of relations as couples on artificial contraception.

7.

A couple is doing fun, outdoorsy, slightly manly things (hiking, sports game, etc.). The attractive husband says “I love my wife more than anything. I’d be lost without her. That’s why awhile back when she had medical problems, we got really scared. It wasn’t until she got off the Pill that her new, NaPro doctor was able to figure out what was going on. She got treated, and now I’ve got my partner back.” Couple joins together in activity (wife climbing on rock with hand to husband, or cheering a play). Voice-over describes NaPro.

Topical Tuesday – We Are Not “Julia”

The Life of Julia, according to President Barack Obama’s campaign

Last month, the campaign to re-elect President Obama released a slide-show documenting how the administration has, or purports to support women better than presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Users can view this every-woman “Julia” at every stage of her life and read little blurbs about the two main candidates’ positions on issues deemed critical to women. Clicking on the image will bring you to it, should you like to view it before the following analysis. Also of interest may be FactCheck.org’s breakdown of the veracity of the claims and assertions presented: http://factcheck.org/2012/05/the-life-of-julia-corrected/

Unfortunately, in trying to champion efforts to support women through health care, education, pregnancy, and retirement, this ad makes some grave presumptions about what women want and insult their intelligence and especially deny them dignity, as defined by the Catholic Church.

Presumption #1: Women do not want to get married. At no point is Julia shown with a husband or father of her son.

What That Seems to Mean: While the administration appears ready to back same-sex unions, it does not have any policies or programs to champion that further affirm or support marriage between a man and a woman and families headed by such (no additional tax breaks for joint-filers? No recommendations to eliminate loan penalties? No male version of WIC to encourage meaningful fatherhood?) And lest you think this is partisan, the other campaign’s ideas (if true), do not provide the helping hand that some women need and sadly, private charity cannot address in entirety*.

Presumption #2: Fertility is a distracting health problem. At age 27, Julia is happy to have contraception provided for free because otherwise, she’d be worried about it and not focusing on her job.

What that Seems to Mean: Apparently, remembering to put tampons on your grocery list is problematic to the point that you could not be adult enough to focus on her job. Okay, less sarcastically: The government is willing to pay for you to avoid getting pregnant, but it won’t think to give employers incentives to extend paid or even unpaid maternity leave and it won’t encourage creative solutions so that women who work can also mother. Additionally, it promotes birth control pills as the contraception of choice. What if women using fertility awareness methods wanted their classes, testing strips, and monitors subsidized? Does this slide (age 27) indicate that government-directed health care would? Would any effort to get the FDA to approve the Persona monitor (UK) for sale in the US be supported?

Presumption #3: You will want to work from graduation (also presumption) until retirement. At no point does Julia “opt-out” of a career life.

What that Seems to Mean: The government will incentivize and support only women who remain in the workforce. What if women become unemployed? What if they want to “stay at home” raising children, those young people who will inherit Earth and need to know how to live charitably and responsibly? Any incentives for that?

Presumption #4: You will thrive under a pro-choice administration. Julia presumably would vote for Barack Obama for these policies, also championed by Democrats, known for their pro-choice stance.

What that Seems to Mean: The government wants you to be pro THEIR choice. From which schools (public, and in the questionable Race to the Top program) to how to spend one’s career (only at a job) to health events (delay pregnancy, use an ill-defined, un-tested government facilitated insurance), the clear advantage is to women who follow this proscribed program.

Presumption #5: Your mothers and grandmothers, you yourself, and your daughters will always be supported by the government. Julia’s life spans from 3 to 67. 44 years of benefits backed by Barack Obama.

What that Seems to Mean: If you want this “dream” life with all these benefits, you’d better vote Democrat for the next 11 presidential terms and hope that the Senate, House of Representatives, and Supreme Court are also aligned with these policies. In this current political climate, it can be hard enough to make it through the week, let alone envision a future five decades later. If we stick with the program now, what room does that leave for better solutions? For holistic approaches to larger social problems that make use of both personal and publicly provided support?

Proverbial Girlfriend will not take a political position, because as outlined above, neither side is entirely right nor entirely wrong. She acknowledges that there are fundamental and structural social problems that a single policy, law, tax cut, or philosophy cannot solve. She feels deeply for the men, women, and children who are trapped by circumstance and definitely need support from all who will grant it. Improving the lives of the least of our people will have trickle down AND up effects, which over time will improve society as a whole. Rather than sniping about opposing approaches that alone do not or will not work, every citizen should get creative and collaborate with their shared values (protection of the vulnerable, promotion of motherhood when desired – and the appropriate ways to achieve/delay it, and inclusion of men as equal partners in the public and private sphere.

*A Jesuit’s perspective on subsidiarity:  http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13455