Frolicking Through Fields of NFP

One evening, as we were wrapping up dishes after dinner, Kyle and I were musing about all the things we would do if we weren’t Catholic. (Sleeping in Sunday morning was high on the priority list, pre-baby, anyhow.) I joked that NFP would be stuffed away in some sock drawer. But then I retracted and said, “Well actually, I wouldn’t go near the pill again.” He then asked, “You think you’d get an IUD?”

I dried the pots and pans pondering his question. “I mean, never say never,” (Parenthood has quickly taught me this.) “But no, I don’t think I’d want an IUD. Just the principle of it. Personally, I don’t want anything there but a growing fetus. And the risk of implanting somewhere outside the uterus.” I shudder at the thought of it. “The other implant doesn’t really appeal to me, either.”

Kyle laughed, “Ok so what’s left?”

I added, “I mean, maybe I would consider a diaphragm. Condoms are so ew, after you get used to not using them. So I guess….yea. I guess it would be FAM. I might use phase 2, I might not. I dunno. I guess that’s what I would do if I wasn’t Catholic.”

Simcha Fischer already pointed out this valid reality. NFP is the worst option.

Except for all the other ones.

I mean pregnancy is a nice form of “contraception”. Until you get too big and you just want to cry when your husband so much as even looks at you longingly.

And I enjoy EBF over plain old NFP. (Ecological Breastfeeding, or rather for me, just the lack of fertility than can accompany breastfeeding.) But then there’s the whole not sleeping more than 3 hours at a time, general dealing with baby(ies), being relegated to lovemaking within spurts of “I think she’s down.” Ah, well, you can’t win ‘em all.

Approaching our two year wedding anniversary (1 pregnancy and 1 baby later), I’m thinking about the role NFP has played in our marriage. We definitely communicate differently about intimacy. We certainly approach family planning with a more open mind than most of our peers. But I don’t know that we are brimming ear to ear over here simply because my cervical fluid is a topic of discussion at the dinner table. At this point in our journey, it just kind of feels like normal. I can’t really imagine our marriage without it.

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while. Then I stumbled across this piece (I Hate NFP (But I Need It Anyway) and laughed thinking, “Yes, good sir. Thank you for this.”

Yes, NFP is counter cultural. No, I haven’t frolicked through any fields lately. (Does Central Park count?) Yes, I have planned a getaway weekend or romantic date night to find “Helllloooo phase 2!” (How do you think my wonderful, adorable little girl got here?) But you know what? In my eyes, it’s the best option for us.

I’ve been charting for 5 years. In those 5 years, I have gone through some….life events. Before getting married, I always wondered why NFP couples had babies so soon after getting married. I vowed not to be that. I wanted NFP to basically replace birth control for me. I came to find that for us, NFP wasn’t a replacement, it was so so much more. It’s a way of living out our faith, it’s a lifestyle, it gives us extra juice day in and day out that allows (re: challenges) us to grow together both spiritually and mentally. I stupidly didn’t expect that.

Since making my film, Miscontraceptions, I’d say I’ve evolved a bit. I still shout about fertility charting from the roof tops. Every woman should know what their fertility looks like. Cervical fluid should be a common sex ed topic that both men and women know about. But if you’re like “Yea that’s cool and all….but…no,” about NFP, I get it. It’s a radical choice.

Abstinence is weird. And so is having babies. So with NFP, you’re kinda screwed no matter what. I’m learning to just embrace it. After a while, you think other methods of birth control are really weird and creepy anyways.

So, to-mate-oh, to-mah-to. We’re all weird and it’s all ok.

NFP Meme - That'd be great

Anyone else feel me here??

 

*I’m always a little sensitive to those who struggle with infertility. Infertility can be a very difficult journey, in its own category. This post was written from the point of view of a couple who blessedly hasn’t struggled with conceiving, but recognizes the fact that couples dealing with infertility might not identify.

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Your Friends are Probably Lying and Other Things About Sex

Picture this.

It’s a Friday night. You’re out with your girlfriends, having some drinks, sharing conversation, and letting loose from the week. Maybe you’re complaining about a coworker. Maybe a girlfriend laughs and tells a story about getting hit on by the teenage boy behind the counter at the movie theatre. And then the conversation subtly turns towards sex. It always does. One of your girlfriends expresses, “Ohh Sarah, I’m so sorry for not answering your text last night. Mike and I were, uh, well, busy.” Wink wink, nudge nudge. Another girlfriend chortles, “Oh really? Well, I must say, Pete and I have gotten a little busy lately. It’s nothing serious. I know I don’t want a relationship, but the sex is just too good.” Yet another pipes up, “Well after 2 years, Evan and I have finally decided to spice things up in the bedroom.”

In this scenario, all of sudden – you are envisioning that all of your friends are having sex at least 3 times a day, every day, all the time. And thanks to the media and an adverse side effect of the sexual revolution, we see studies non stop on Huffington Post and Jezebel that tout sexual activity as “lowering risks for cancer” and “preventing heart disease” and that people who enjoy orgasms at least 5 times a week live longer and are overall less anxious and happier with their lives. According to these studies, you’d think sex is more a prescription than an intimate activity between two lovers. Of course the media is telling you that, it’s selling something.

I admit that sexual activity may decrease stress and marginally prevent certain diseases in some small way I’m unaware of – but articles like these make us feel like if we aren’t “up to par” with the rest of society (which is really a big fabrication anyways, which I’ll get to) that we are bound to 1) get heart disease and 2) not be enjoying the stress free lives of our other sexually empowered fellow citizens. I’m going to let you in on a secret here – even if these girls are having as much amazing sex as they are proclaiming to, they still stress. They still feel down sometimes. Sex is not a cure all. And not having enough or any sex isn’t going to make you drop dead – or get heart disease. We place far too much weight on not even quality but quantity of sex!

We have a tendency to heighten everyone else’s lives around us while diminishing our own. Just a reminder, ladies – people lie. There’s a stealthy way to boast about sex in the female comaraderie – we’re subtle. But it’s there. And I guarantee you in the scenario described above, every single woman in that group is insecure to some degree about her sex life.

Contrary to what the media wants you to believe, whether you’re single, married, sleeping around, a virgin, or anything in between, your sex life does not define you. Let me repeat that – how often you have sex is not a barometer of how empowered you are. I think that’s a really important message for young women to hear. Let’s say your friend isn’t lying and that she really did hook up with that guy from the bar 3 times in one night, it shouldn’t have any effect on your value as a woman. (But she probably is exaggerating a little bit.)

I have a different view on things from the other side of my wedding. I had a friend tell me that someone she knew had sex at least twice a day for the first year of her marriage. I actually thought that if I wasn’t achieving something close to that, that I was a failed newlywed. (Although, I’m an NFP’r currently TTA. So every day isn’t even an option for me.) This might seem like I’m disclosing far too private details, but it’s for a message I strongly believe in.

Twice a day, every day, for week after week, for 12 months? That’s not even humanly, physically possible! No healthy relationship can keep that up. Life gets in the way. I don’t care how newlywed you are, there are some nights that it’s just off the plate. I admit NFP changes this, but we have got to stop this pressuring women into thinking the only way to be empowered is to have sex. And often.

You are not your sex life. And your friends? They’re most likely exaggerating. So tone down your perceptions of them. And instead, focus on the good things you have going for you, even outside of your sex life. Because I bet it’s a lot.

The 8 Stages of FAM Evangelism

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How many times have I said this? Way too many to count.

1. Refusal – you just heard about this whole fertility charting thing, but you know someone who knows someone who got pregnant using it and the ‘rhythm method’ is way too risky. Nice try, FAM, I’ll stick to my pills/patch/ring/IUD etc.

2. Curiosity – Ok, so maybe you were a little interested in the FAM thing. The idea of charting your fertility seems a little cool, they have apps for it. It can’t be that hard. It’d be nice to see what I feel like off of these hormones…

3. Realization – THERE’S SCIENCE ABOUT THIS. If you know what you’re doing and follow the rules, it can be just as effective as hormonal birth control! Why doesn’t everyone know about this? How come I never knew about this? Sex ed you failed me – I’ve been in this body for x (insert your age) years and I had no idea all of this was happening inside my ovaries.

4. Research – I want to know everything about this as humanly possible. Read all the books, follow all the blogs, listen to all the podcasts. You feel like some female body wisewoman. You had no idea you could even know this much!

5. Evangelization – You talk about charting the majority of the time. You tell your girlfriends about your cervical fluid and how cool it is to know your body. Most of your girlfriends do not care. Maybe one considers ditching her pills, but nah. Too much work. Temping? Every morning? You start a blog, you start a support group, you start a Twitter account. You do find the NFP/FAM community, but they are small. Maybe a few people reach out to you wanting to “make the switch” into charting. You guide them, give them Taking Charge of Your Fertility and proudly review their charts every month. You’re making a difference in the world! You even go so far as to make a documentary for your senior thesis movie in film school. (That is, if you’re in film school.)

6. Rejection – Except you face a lot of opposition. Some people have no interest whatsoever in charting their fertility. Either because their periods are too painful, or the thought of not using any form of protection is terrifying, or they just like their hormonal birth control. They won’t budge and think that your FAM obsession is super weird. Catholics criticize you for trying to relay information that should be exclusively “for married people only” and secular people criticize you for having an agenda to convert everyone to Catholicism.

7. Dejected – Does anyone care about this? Am I crazy? Hormonal birth control really isn’t that bad, after all. The amount of hormones are minor compared to the xenoestrogens from our environment. And some people need it. Ok, fine, I’ll stick with my charts but I suppose I’ll just be here in the corner – all by myself.

8. Acceptance – Ok so there’s still a criminal lack of education on fertility awareness. We’ve sent men to the moon, we have devices that fit in our pocket that connect us with virtually anyone in the world, yet the majority of people have no idea what a woman’s fertile window looks like. The fact that women see cervical fluid and think that it’s an infection is a huge problem espoused by education and society. So maybe FAM will never be the popular choice – but women and men should still know what a fertility chart is. When we get educated on how to brush our teeth, to wear deodorant and wash our face, we should learn that ovulation and periods happen – regardless of the family planning component. So I’m not crazy. I’m just the minority. And there are women who are eternally thankful for FAM. I’ll keep my blog, keep my books, keep making my movie. If women discover FAM and want to start the journey, I’ll be there in a heartbeat cheering them on. I’ll still fight to help the women who want it. Because FAM isn’t always easy and those women need all the support they can get.

So maybe your story is a little different. But that’s mine.

Here’s a shameless plug for my doc…..https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1893202271/miscontraception we have 48 hours left on the kickstarter! Check it out and share it!