Switching from using the pill to practicing natural family planning (NFP) was not an easy decision for my husband and me. To start, we were happy on the pill. We saw nothing wrong with it. After all, if God wanted us to have a baby, a little pill wouldn’t stop him! Life as newlyweds was blissful; taking the pill and knowing that we could avoid pregnancy was one reason for our bliss.
However, there was one issue that interrupted our honeymoon phase: which church we should attend. My husband was Catholic and I was Protestant, and after six months of marriage we still had not made a decision. It was an issue that we faced every Sunday, and neither of us wanted to compromise.
If I were to become Catholic, I wanted to follow it fully, and that meant we couldn’t continue using contraception. I didn’t know why the Church taught it was sinful; what I did know was that I was terrified of giving a false confession. I couldn’t confess that we were on the pill if I didn’t intend to stop. And I couldn’t just not mention it, because that would be lying by omission.
Making our decision even more difficult was that my husband and I had to live 1,500 miles apart — he in Philadelphia and I in Houston— for four months. This meant that we couldn’t even attend weekly worship together. Alone at Mass one Sunday, I heard an announcement about an NFP class. This was the last of several signs that pointed me to learn more about the Church.
The class covered the logistics of practicing NFP and also provided materials to answer my most pressing question: Why give up the pill and use NFP? After listening to Janet Smith’s “Contraception: Why Not?” and reading Christopher West’s “Good News about Sex and Marriage,” I realized how harmful contraception was to our society. I was shocked. Availability of reliable contraception was clearly correlated with the rise in divorce and abortion in our country. Why hadn’t I heard this before? I was impressed by the richness of Catholic theological understanding of marital love, with which I was also unfamiliar. Finally, I came to fully appreciate the Church’s consistency in her teachings on sex and marriage.
Through the class I became good friends with the NFP teacher, who was also a recently married graduate student. I discovered she was a convert, and contraception had been a sticking point for her as well. We both shared the same realization: If the Church is right about this, what else are they right about? Accepting Catholic teaching on contraception was my gateway into the Church.
After accepting it, two concerns remained. First, I worried that if we conceived while using NFP to postpone pregnancy, it would be my “fault” and our friends would say they knew it wouldn’t work. Second, we were still only able to visit each other every couple weeks: would we really be able to abstain if necessary? Though these concerns remained, my husband and I agreed that by practicing NFP properly and being patient with our desires, we could success-fully transition from using the pill. So, in March 2009 we started using NFP, and in April I joined the Catholic Church.
Embracing NFP has been a blessing. My husband and I have a greater respect for each other, our bodies and the Lord. We have a great love and appreciation for the Church. We have a passion to share what is indeed good news about human sexuality.
We have recently discovered another blessing of NFP: After practicing it for a year to avoid pregnancy, we have used NFP to achieve our first pregnancy. As we see our blessings multiply, we continue to be thankful to God for opening our eyes to the beauty of natural family planning.
Elizabeth Brunner lives inPennsylvania and blogs at www.thatmarriedcouple.com.