Today we have special piece for our Fertility Series written by two of our Bellator Contributors, Erin Boelkens and Franchelle Jaeger.
Gnōthi Seauton. Know thyself” is an aphorism inscribed on the Temple of Apollo and contemplated by some of the greatest minds in history.
This maxim came to mind when I first learned about Natural Family Planning (NFP).
At the suggestion of our pastor, my husband and I attended an NFP class as part of our marriage preparation. It is safe to say that we both learned a tremendous amount in the class. We were given the tools and confidence to use NPF in our own marriage. A couple of years later we became teachers.
NFP is now required by our diocese as a part of marriage preparation, resulting in a fairly diverse class in terms of actual interest in learning the method. Much to my delight, regardless of the interest in learning the method, there is often the “light bulb” moment for our students, particularly the female students. It is the moment when you can see it on their faces that they have connected the “dots” of what they observed with their own bodies.
Connecting these dots allows a woman, sometimes for the first time, to understand how those changes are directly related to her fertility cycle.
Whether or not each woman intends to use NFP as her method of birth regulation, most women taking the course get a clearer picture that these “symptoms” they have observed for so long are perfectly normal and indicative of a healthy, well-functioning system.
Our world tells us that for women to fulfill themselves and their potential, they need to become like men–even in their fertility. But, NFP gives women the truth of who they are and how to understand the full potential of womanhood. A woman does not need to be medicated, “protected,” or “fixed” to be fulfilled or successful in managing her fertility. There is so much power in knowing.
The more knowledge women have about their bodies and their health, the better equipped they are to make good decisions.
Aside from being a beautiful way of living out the Church’s teaching on responsible parenthood, Natural Family Planning provides an avenue for one to know herself better and to be more in tune with her body.
And, also. . . “know a method.” In the land of NFP, this maxim is as important as the first.
There are several Fertility Awareness Methods available today, each with its own set of rules, protocols, and efficacy rates (all of which are on par or BETTER than mainstream contraceptives—condoms, The Pill, and IUDs).
The important thing is that you pick a method, learn it, and practice it.
One day at a casual after-school playdate, a friend told me she was expecting Baby #5. I squealed and congratulated her on the happy news and she quickly followed with the added announcement that she had made her husband an appointment for a “snip.” I understood her worries. She felt out of control, exhausted, and desperate. I gently asked if she had ever thought about trying NFP.
She laughed and said #4 and #5 were her “NFP babies”!
Obviously her confidence was dashed that NFP could be an option for them—she felt she needed to take matters into her own hands. She seemed open to talking (having brought up her family planning thoughts to me in the first place), so I inquired further about what method she used. I asked whether she was doing Sympto-Thermal (the method I teach) or Billings. . .or Creighton. . .or Marquette? I asked some other intimate questions that only an NFP teacher would be interested to know while sitting with a friend on a public park bench—ha!
She nervously giggled, “Well, I guess we just sort of did a little of everything and made up our own rules.”
Yeah. This was not my only experience with someone who “gave up” on NFP precisely because she was never really practicing a method to begin with. When a woman confides to me that NFP doesn’t work for her, I often learn a lot by asking simple questions like: “what day did you Peak?” or “what was your earliest first day of temperature rise?” More often than not (in fact, I cannot think of a not), she is missing key data exposing not so much a problem with a method, but rather with a lack of a method.
Furthermore, the methods and technology for monitoring your fertility are constantly improving. The days of mercury thermometers and paper charts are long gone. Learning a method provides the tools a woman needs to get started and continue with confidence.
Modern Natural Family Planning Methods (Fertility Awareness Methods) are based on research, analytics, and real science. There are rules. There are specifics. There is quantifiable data. If you want NFP to be an option for you, learn a real method.
Pick one that works best for you and your fertility. Know thyself
. . .and know a method.
“The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her “fulfillment” as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the ‘image and likeness of God’ that is specifically hers.” Mulieris Dignitatem, Pope John Paul II
Erin and Fran are NFP teachers, Bellator Society Contributors, and Friends in Real Life. They have a combined almost 32 years of NFP experience and 16 years of NFP teaching under their belts.