Editor’s note: In recognition of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, I am sharing the following witness talk from some friends of mine, Josh and Dorothy.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops defines Natural Family Planning (NFP) as “the general title for the scientific, natural and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples either achieve or postpone pregnancies.
NFP methods are based on the observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy.
Since the methods of NFP respect the love-giving (unitive) and life-giving (procreative) nature of the conjugal act, they support God’s design for married love!”
Josh and Dorothy hope that, by sharing their story, you will be inspired to learn more about NFP and live it faithfully within your marriage. Support for Natural Family Planning methods is one of the many beautiful fruits of Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
JOSH: We started out like many young couples without any real concrete idea on how to use Natural Family Planning. We wanted to have children, so we weren’t too concerned about learning an NFP method before we got married. I was in the medical field so we figured, “how hard can it be?” Two years after our first anniversary we welcomed our first son, Isidore. Our second child, Ambrose, followed a year and a half later, and by the time we were expecting Felicity, our third child, we were exhausted.
DOROTHY: I have been told that I may have been a little frightening to be around during those first three pregnancies. I was sick of being pregnant, and I made sure to tell anyone and everyone while I was still pregnant with our third child, that the child I was carrying would be our last. At the time we found out about our third pregnancy, we told our parents. In hindsight, their reaction had everything to do with the decisions we made from then on. Josh’s parents immediately asked what they could do to help with the kids. They wanted to make sure that we had all the support we could get from them.
I remember so clearly that my dad said, “The baby will probably be a girl. She will have blonde hair and blue eyes and she will be the apple of your eye.” There were no mean jokes. There was only love and support. I’ll never forget what my mom said. She knew the pregnancy was unexpected and responded with, “I know you must be frustrated and upset, but don’t do anything permanent.” For those of you who know our daughter, my dad was right. We ended up having a little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes who turns heads everywhere she goes.
While we were thrilled to have a little girl, we were also overwhelmed with having three children under three years old. Although I was ready to give up on NFP, Josh wanted to make sure that we stayed in communion with the Church’s teaching, so he continued to help me research NFP methods. We found the Marquette Method of NFP while we were doing our research. We started using it, and as the months passed by without another pregnancy, we began to become more confident in our ability to use NFP.
JOSH: Then something happened that we never thought would ever happen. Our kids started to grow up. We went from two in diapers to one in diapers. Then, all of a sudden, we didn’t have a child in diapers anymore.
DOROTHY: At the same time, I thought I had to be losing my mind because I started feeling like someone was missing. Me, the person who hated being pregnant, who was sure that I would NEVER have any more kids was starting to WANT another baby!
While we were contemplating the possibility of adding to our family, we began to realize more and more what a luxury it was to have the option of having more children. As time went by I met several women who had been in the same situation as Josh and I, with two or three children under two years of age, who had decided to go ahead with sterilization when their youngest child was still an infant. They would ask me whether or not we were planning to have more children. When I said that we weren’t sure, but that we might, I would ask them in turn if they planned to have more. More often than not, they would say no. But their answer wasn’t because they didn’t want more children; it was because they had made the decision to be sterilized, and they no longer had a choice. All of the women I talked with said they wanted more children, but that reversing the sterilization was too expensive or not even possible.
JOSH: Using NFP continues to leave the possibility of life on the table for our family. After lots of talking about another child and praying over it, we decided we were ready to have another baby. After three and a half years of successfully using NFP to avoid a pregnancy, we decided to use it to plan a baby.
DOROTHY: A couple of months after we had our fourth child, Sebastian, I had a friend come to visit. She and her husband had chosen sterilization to avoid having any more children. She had just gotten back from a cruise. I told her how jealous I was that she got to take her trip. She looked at me and said, “I’m jealous of your new baby. A cruise lasts a week, but you get to have your baby forever.” My friend’s husband was able to get a reversal of his vasectomy last month, but the doctor told them that his fertility is not the same, and even though they had the reversal, they still may never be able to have any more children.
JOSH: Natural family planning isn’t easy. There is sacrifice involved. However, if we had not used NFP, and we had made a permanent decision after our daughter was born, we would not have our youngest son today.