Quandary

This blog is barely over a month old, and already, I’m cannibalizing comments… Oh, the shame of it. But I think I’ve got good reason here, since there’s a question asked.

A reader writes:

“This actually brings up an interesting quandary I’m facing. My fiance and I have been taking NFP classes, and had initially planned to wait a little while– probably about a year– to start trying to have a family after the wedding. However, after seeing several friends struggle with fertility issues, we’ve become convinced just to leave it in God’s hands from the outset of the marriage, and wait until after the first is born (God willing) to use NFP for a while.

Now, the quandary: several non-Catholic and cafeteria Catholic friends and family members know that we’ve been taking NFP classes. So, if we were to get pregnant very soon after the wedding, they might be led to believe that NFP is ineffective. Do we tell them our plans now, so that they won’t attribute any pregnancy to an NFP “failure”? Do we stay mum? I don’t know whether I’d rather inadvertently reinforce the doctor’s stereotype, described by Anonymous, above, or have my parents and friends asking me every month whether I’m pregnant!!”

My first reaction: tell ’em. NFP is a lousy tool for evangelization, because it’s so bound up with the multitudinous details known only to the spouses that lead them to make their decisions about abstaining or not abstaining. But if people know you’re NFP fans and are looking to mock the practice, the hassle of letting them know you’re trying for a child might be classified a charitable act – helping to prevent their making a (false) judgement.

But I’m not an expert. Anybody else?

Comments

  1. Ernesto Pinamonti says

    As long as we’re cannibalizing…

    I wrote a response to Anonymous’ original posting:

    “I applaud your decision to leave it God’s hands at the outset of marriage. I don’t think NFP is supposed to be used for “getting to know you” periods at the beginning of marriage. If you don’t know the woman you’re marrying, you shouldn’t marry her. If grave reasons (Church’s language, not mine) to prevent conception exist in the relationship already, you really shouldn’t be getting married until they’re resolved.”

    As to the second part, explain to them that you’re learning about your fertility in case, God forbid, grave reasons not to conceive should arise. Also explain the NFP also helps a couple conceive if they want to have a baby.

    –EP

    –EP

  2. Ernesto Pinamonti says

    (I should proof before I publish)

  3. Gunslinger says

    No expert here either, but I’ll offer my humble opinion. I wouldn’t suggest that you tell anyone before hand. It seems to me this may set up a bad precedent where you feel it necessary to explain these decisions that are rightfully only between you and your spouse. You have no reason to justify what is the totally normal chain of events that you are foreseeing…getting married, having relations, getting pregnant. If they dont’ see that as normal, it’s likely that whether you tell them or not, it won’t change their views on the matter, or ‘soften’ there stance on contraception/NFP. They are likely to see you as odd for choosing this course whether you tell them before hand or not. Personally, I take my ‘oddhood’ as a badge of honor. 😀

    As Matthew indicated, NFP is not a good evangilization tool. What IS a good evangilization tool is the opennes to life, and the loving relationships you will be building in your family. Your joy at the blessing of a child should speak for you. Of course if anyone asks, or mocks ‘see, NFP doesn’t work.’ At that point it’s time to simply explain that you had prayerfully decided that didn’t want to wait, so you used the other highly effective aspect of NFP, to know when you are fertile so you COULD get pregnant!

  4. thomas tucker says

    From my standpoint, I would go ahead and tell them. Our Protestant friends were convinced that NFP didn’t work when we had 3 ids in 4 years because they “assumed” we were using it ti prevent pregnancy. Now that we are for awhile, they marvel at how it has worked so far! It’s a good education and witness for them, if they know about it. Unless they ask and are very interested, you don’t haveto get into specific details.

  5. Susan Peterson says

    I just want to point out that it might be easier to learn to use Natural Family planning while your wife is not nursing a baby. Learning it in a class before you are married is just the very beginning of learning it,you know.

    If you practice NFP for a while at the beginning of your marriage her fertility signs will most likely be quite clear and you will be learning to communicate about her fertility during a time when you are not also stressed by having a baby, and during a time when she will feel reasonably confident of what she is telling you about her fertily symptoms.

    Nursing a baby does tend to delay fertility…sometimes in some women, for quite a long time, depending both on the amount and consistency of the nursing (see Breast Feeding and Natural Child Spacing by Sheila Kippley) and the women’s individual pattern.

    But, there can also be long periods of time when fertility seems to be returning…then doesn’t, but quickly again seems to be returning. During this time you can only rely on the mucus and cervical symptoms as the temperature doesn’t rise until AFTER ovulation. At times this can lead to long periods of abstinence. Things can happen like; she is tired from taking care of the baby who just now is waking up a lot at night and isn’t feeling a whole lot like having sex anyway; you feel that she is more interested in the baby than you…and is maybe telling you AGAIN that she saw what she thinks maybe could be possibly fertile mucus, as a way of putting you off, or at least that she is interpreting this too scrupulously because she doesn’t care that much about having sex anyway; she may feel that your tendency to discount what she sees and your urging her to go ahead, shows that you don’t really care for her and whether she is burdened with another pregnancy when she is already so tired now….

    This has nothing to do with what your friends think, but it is a significant consideration.

    I think if you are going to let God decide and you both agree to this, make sure that you read the book about natural child spacing mentioned above and practice its recommendations (nursing whenever baby wants to nurse, no mother baby separations, no pacifiers, nursing at night, baby sleeps with mother etc) so babies don’t arrive too close together…and then don’t consider trying natural family planning again until at the earliest after your fourth child…by then you will have a lot more practice communicating…the intensity of the fires will have died down some…and you will be tired too.

    Susan Peterson

  6. If, like half of American mothers, your wife goes back to work after a brief maternity leave, her fertility may return just a few weeks later. That was the case for me with both of my babies. I went right back to charting temperatures six weeks after they were born. There was no long period of abstinence although I fed my children only breast milk for their first 4-5 months.

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