Thursday, July 23, 2015

Let me Make you Aware of Something

Warning- sensitive topic ahead.  It could be at trigger for those dealing with infertility-

It’s Natural Family Planning Awareness week!  Who knew we’d need an awareness week for such a thing, but turns out we do.  And I am glad.  There are lots of reasons I am thankful for Natural Family Planning (and lots of reasons I hate it).  I thought I’d tell you about them.  Remember, this is one person’s experience with a system that allows a couple to naturally use the signs of fertility to be open to life, and at the same time avoiding conception when it makes sense (because, sometimes, not having all them babies just makes sense). 

There is one reason I am SO thankful for Natural Family Planning- because this reason is what taught me all about it.  This reason is how I really discovered the reasons for Natural Family Planning, the goods of natural family planning, the challenges of natural family planning and the importance of following the rules if you are trying to postpone a birth.  I've writtenabout this before… but, He, He is the reason I will forever be thankful for Natural Family Planning.

After my second c-section in less than 2 years, it made sense for us to ‘put off’ having a third child.  Having a third child was unsafe medically and because of having such tough pregnancies- it was time, after conceiving our first two relatively easily, to use Natural Family Planning.  

I loved Natural Family Planning as a person who never had to practice it (I am finding I ‘loved’ a lot of things prior to having experienced them, the older I get).  

I remember in college learning about it, being excited to share in such an intimate act of knowing my body, while at the same time, rejecting the culture’s understanding of fertility.  One of my friends (a dude)talked about how 'loving' it would be to ‘read signs together’ as a couple, how it would draw the couple closer- I ate that shtuff up like it was no body’s business.

But it turns out NFP for us was difficult.  The waiting period between having a baby and my cycle returning (because ain't nobody as fertile as me gonna use breastfeeding to space deez babies) was difficult.  Learning how to love each other without being able to express that love physically during certain periods of time was difficult.  Natural Family Planning, for me, was NOT proving to be the breeze I was promised by all the fancy fliers and talks I had attended.  NFP wasn't as intimate as was promised in the big thick binder of instruction given to me by my sister and a friend.  NFP kind of sucked. 

And so one night, as I wrote about in the past, we decided not to practice NFP for just a second.  We decided to ignore the ‘very low’ signs of fertility.  We decided it wouldn't happen this time, for a bunch of reasons that seem a little silly right now, but were highlighted by romance and the holidays…
And then… we got John Paul. 

I cried. A lot.

I felt like a failure, after telling all those skeptics about Catholics being forced to have babies that we would be waiting and it wouldn’t be a problem.  Did I mention, I cried?  A lot??????

You could call it a lack of faith in God’s plan, and you know what, I’ll even accept a little o’ that.  But I also get really sick in pregnancy.  My youngest was 5 months and my oldest not yet two- the thought of going through another pregnancy was so amazingly overwhelming, I couldn't even wrap my head around it.  I was so tired, and so sick through that pregnancy.  My husband never loved the name John Paul (he does now) but I always wanted it.  Seven months into pregnancy, I text him from yet another test at my doctor’s office and wrote something to the effect of, “Guess what? You don’t get a say, I need his name to be John Paul”- I think I needed that name to help me in those last two months, five appointments a week, more tired than I have been in my life.
But then this happen-
Look at all that booze I needed to celebrate!!!
And it all connected.

There’s a reason, we, as Catholics, are open to working with God regarding our fertility, and it comes in the form of a smile like this. 

I don’t say this lightly, having a third child in just over three years was impossibly difficult at times.  However, I enjoyed his ‘newborn’ phase more than any of the others. I loved the quiet nursing time and, true to God knowing what you can handle, his spirit was one of gentle calm.  John Paul, in my opinion, made Aaron the dad he is.  I have written about their special bond before, but often times, I was so tired, Aaron had to take over with him.  There were many a night the two of them would be up quietly in the wee hours of the morning.  Cheesy as it is to say, John Paul Francis changed my husband and made him more tender than I could have ever imagined.

My very favorite picture of Aaron and a child
 After having John Paul, our doctor told us she was comfortable with us having a fourth child, but she would prefer (um, that was putting it mildly) we wait at least a year.  So this time, we were strict about NFP.  

Sometimes putting our physical desires aside for the sake of the good of our family is tough, real tough.
I loved nursing John Paul (oh man- Breast feeding advocates are gonna freak out at this next part), but I only nursed him for 6 weeks- for me, and my level of comfort, having my ‘signs’ back and my cycle back are necessary to safely reading my cycle. 

There were plenty of times when Aaron and I had to remind ourselves of why we were spacing and how important it was to not ‘break the rules’ when signs were showing us to be fertile.  Sometimes it would be challenging, sometimes I felt frustrated, sometimes I felt jealous of my friends who take a pill once a day and can feel free to go about their, ahem, businaaaasssssssss. 

We were both relieved when the window of one year closed and we were able to start being open to trying again.  I’m getting older, so my fertility is getting less.  It took us four months to conceive Malia.  I found out I was expecting her two days after returning from the hospital to visit Paul for, what I didn't know, would be the last time.  Paul got to ‘meet’ her, that’s important to me.
Paul got to 'meet' Malia- who's middle name will be Paul
The thing about NFP is that it is a cross, it is a challenge, it’s so hard to do something so different than what the rest of the world is doing, but Natural Family Planning is an amazing way to open your tribe up to a whole different level of working with and through God to create something really, REALLY cool.

I’d imagine in about four months I’ll be cursing the system again, our expectation (which could be wrong) is that my doctor’s suggestion (which we will trust) will be avoiding future pregnancies… but I am glad we have the confidence of knowing we can space our children in a completely natural, organic way.  And, maybe I am just a little glad that if we did decide to 'cheat' again (no plans)- we'd end up with something as cool as John Paul Francis Wilkerson. 

For more information on NFP- check out this site….

For an awesome talk on why Artificial Contraception might not be all it’s cracked up to be… check out this one.


  1. Very cool Mary. Our little surprise was Paul, the first boy. What the heck would we do without him? But I think I've come around on the romantic part of NFP. I think, like any discipline, it's really really difficult, but you do find its benefits here and there and you make it your own. Anyway, to borrow a phrase "It gets better." Haha

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