Today concludes “NFP awareness week”. It’s the feast day of St Joachim and St Anne, as well as the 47th anniversary of Humanae Vitae being promulgated. So, since i haven’t written anything about it yet, despite the droves of blog posts making me either crazy with anger or cheering in agreement, I thought I’d write a “Top 5 things you might not hear at an NFP class” post. So here we go! (Warning, this post is rated PG-13 for talk of marriage and “conjugal love”.)
1. NFP is really hard sometimes (just the charting!)
I think sometimes you’ll hear in a class that “NFP can be more difficult in certain circumstances”, but as a soon to be married couple, you’ll mostly just hear about how easy it is, how abstaining is only really a week or so in the middle of your cycle, and that your bodily signals will be mostly clear and easy to chart and understand. The example charts, even for “off” things, don’t all look that hard to understand when the teacher says something like “Here’s someone who had lots of sticky mucus, but that’s just a basic infertile pattern!” or “Susie had a slow temp rise, but looking at the whole cycle, we can clearly still identify ovulation”. Well sorry, newlywed couple, but it ain’t that clear when you are in the thick of it. Day after day of sticky? You won’t use any of those days, since that very next day COULD have fertile mucus! Slow temp rise? You will wait in AGONY asking “Is it a rise or isn’t it?!” until you tear out your hair, burn your charts and your thermometer and then drink a gallon of your alcoholic beverage of choice in regret over burning everything.
2. NFP is practically IMPOSSIBLE sometimes
Note that I didn’t even mention “postpartum” up there in number 1. That’s because postpartum NFP is not just hard. It’s going to make you crazy. Things are improving, and some methods are better than others for after you have a baby. The Marquette Method is one that I hear a lot of great things about and will likely try eventually, but it’s expensive and it’s also hard to learn a new method when you are nursing a baby every few hours. Some of us don’t have the luxury of no cycles while breastfeeding. And even if you DO have that luxury you might be second guessing every bit of mucus you see. With each of my three kids, my period has been delayed longer and longer thanks to breastfeeding, but that doesn’t mean that I enjoyed lots of fun times in bed. No, we were cosleeping, which is a total misnomer anyway, since you don’t really sleep when you have three kids. Postpartum doesn’t get brought up until you are ready to take that class (if you can afford it when you are buying diapers and baby things). Besides postpartum woes, there are many women with health issues that can make NFP impossible. For some of you, you’ll start out hopeful, ready to chart to your hearts content, analyzing and making prudent and blessed decisions with your spouse. And then you chart will look NOTHING like any chart you’ve ever seen, and you’ll never have sex, and when you do you will be praying novenas and crossing your fingers and toes that you analyzed that wacky data right. Right now, there’s not the support needed for women with these issues. If you can afford and find a NaPro doctor, you might be in luck, but that’s about it.
3. St John Paul II says that it is a husband’s responsibility to help his wife to have an orgasm
Now, I don’t think NFP classes (or marriage prep) should really be “sex ed” class, per say. But if we’re going to talk about the Theology of the Body, I think it is vitally important to discuss all of it. We hear the great stuff about loving, and how that means we are willing to suffer for the sake of the other and that we should not use our spouse. That we do what is best for the other. But JP2 brings up and talks a lot about the super important point that it’s not always easy for a woman to orgasm and that it’s her husband’s job to help her do that. And that is she regularly doesn’t experience that, that she will soon grow to dislike sex and to resent it. This makes so much sense to me. If a woman is constantly just pleasing her husband and never being thought of, she’s just being used. And that makes you feel dirty and unworthy. So while you won’t hear this in NFP class, keep in mind that you and your spouse are going to have to spend a lot of time making sure that everyone is loved. My tip as a married woman: focus on the other. When you don’t feel like it you don’t “have” to have sex, but if you can bring yourself to show love to your spouse and you don’t use them as a tool to get an orgasm, you will BOTH have a much better sex life.
4. The correct translation is “serious reasons” NOT “grave reasons”
There’s two popular translations of Humanae Vitae going around with a significant difference. Grave reasons insinuates that the couple’s reason to avoid pregnancy is because of a life or death situation, or that you’ll definitely be homeless or some other extremely grave reason. The official Vatican version says “serious”. Serious means “solemn or thoughtful in character or manner.” and the antonyms are words like “unimportant” or “trivial”. So basically this is saying “Don’t put off having a baby because you are saving for an iPad or a yacht” as well as “Don’t just decide you are going to avoid without putting thought into it”. What we are supposed to do is thoughtfully and prayerfully and seriously consider whether God is calling us to have more babies. Prudence is key! Often though, we hear that we can only abstain if we have “grave” reasons… if it’s life or death. And that means we’re putting more on ourselves than the Church asks of us, more than Jesus asks of us. We’re not all called to have a dozen kids. If you are, great! If not, great as well!
5. NFP isn’t all sunshine and roses, but if you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you can do it
It is hard to carry a cross. NFP isn’t easy for everyone. But there’s a key to success. I think sometimes this gets talked about, but in such an offhand way that it’s really not clear. You CAN do this, IF you have Jesus with you. Catholics get afraid to talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus, because we don’t want to sound too Protestant. But believe me, you CAN have a personal relationship with Him. You SHOULD have one! And when you do, it will make it so much easier to bear whatever crosses come your way. Jesus came to save us from our sins, to save us from lust and disordered desires. To save us from selfishness and from using other people for our own pleasure. To save us from thinking of children as little parasites who suck away our energy and bodies while we are pregnant and suck away our sleep and money and time for the next 18+ years. He came to shed light and grace and help onto our souls. To soothe us when we are frustrated. To give us that little extra push of grace when we get our clothes covered in snot and spit up and we just can’t even anymore. To show us the cross, that He experienced with all the pain and suffering of all mankind upon His shoulders and to tell us that while we might ask God to let this cup pass, that we can still persevere. That with Him on our side, we can do anything, even not have sex. This isn’t the message of the world. And it’s not the message we always hear at our NFP and pre-Cana classes, but it’s Truth.
There we have it. My top 5 things you might not hear at an NFP class. What would you add? And did you hear these things at your classes? If so, let us know where!