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November 25, 2011

I Don't Have A Large Family Because NFP Failed

When I first mentioned to a few select family members other than my husband that we were looking into Natural Family Planning (NFP), I got raised eyebrows.  Then, a sigh.  Finally, the joke, "You know what they call Catholics who use that, don't you?"  <slight pause> and then, "PARENTS!!!"

When I tried to get information about NFP from the nurses and doctors towards the end of my pregnancy with my first child, I was met with resistance.  I learned the majority of the medical community's opinion over the next few weeks and months:   "Well, that's really not reliable..."

When I mentioned it at my postpartum follow-up, I heard, "Well...here, just take this prescription, it's a low-dose birth control pill.  You'll be much happier with this method."

Over the years, I have heard grumblings -- both within and outside of my family -- whenever a new baby is announced.  No one in the immediate family ever has the guts (or maybe they are just smarter than this) to ask us if a child was planned or whether it was a surprise.  But plenty of folks outside of my immediate family (this includes a couple of uncles) have hit us with the typical, "Did you do that on purpose?" or something along those lines.

It's occurred to me that there are plenty of people who see my family with five children and figure, "ah heck...that NFP stuff doesn't work, see they ended up with FIVE kids!"

Here's the thing.  I can't speak for Craig completely on this, but I remember going through the NFP classes thinking..."I'm gonna learn this so well, that we're never going to have an unplanned or surprise pregnancy!  We'll have our two (maybe three) kids and show the world that this NFP stuff DOES work!" 

But something happened on the way to that place...

Viewing NFP strictly as behaving this way or that during a particular time of the woman's fertility cycle has XYZ% chance that  baby is or is not conceived is something most people can wrap their heads around.  Going into this, I clung to an idea that children were what we decided to have and then decided to stop having after which we would move on with life.  

Five children later, I have a different perspective.  

Children ARE life.  Children are not just for one certain time of life....determined solely at our whim.  Children are not something that we always choose how many and when.  

Children are gifts, to which life is naturally open. Some people may receive them in abundance.  Some people may receive a prized and precious few. 

Regardless of the number, each fits into the framework of life in the degree to which life is opened to them. 

Using NFP opens the marriage up where it might not already be open.  For me, using NFP changed my worldview.  I stopped seeing my children, and the number of them, as something over which I had complete control.  I began to see children and marriage in a combined and expanded light.  I began to see our marriage and family not as a finite and firm circle with only so much space and time, but as more of an extension of Parkinson's Law.  Parkinson's Law states that "work expands to fill the time available."  So a variation that might apply to the family is that LOVE fills the SOULS available to give it.

Or something like that.

I didn't head into marriage with the idea I would have children at all.  And I didn't head into the addition of NFP to our marriage with the idea that I would have five children.  I have a hard time feeling like we're completely done having children until I reach the close of my fertility.

But there is something I can say with absolute certainty:  I don't have five children because NFP failedNot once.  

I have five children because God gave me five children and, by God's Grace, I was open to receiving them.


  1. I feel like standing up and applauding. THANK YOU for this post; you said it perfectly!

  2. Absolutely beautiful and so true!!

    And even if NFP 'failed' who cares? Look what you get out of it- another beautiful soul to love!

    I'll be spreading this one around the interwebz. Thank you!

  3. Beautifully written! I just had a conversation with someone about NFP. They were using all the same cliches about it "not working". I tried to explain to her that all the people that I know that are using NFP may have large families, but they decided that they were open to life that month. That openness confirms that NFP is working beautifully!

  4. Your life's choices are perfect for you. That's what is so wondeful about options like NFP. I think it requires certain strengths that others simply do not have or cannot mentally make room for, in their lives. You work so much harder at understanding what can and WILL work for you and your family. Many others would do good to try harder, but alas...it's not in the cards for everyone, I don't think. But bringing knowledge to those willing to receive it is better than nothing. Keep speaking and people will listen. :)

  5. "Children are not just for one certain time of life....determined solely at our whim" " I stopped seeing my children, and the number of them, as something over which I had complete control."

    I love your thoughts here. I'm still discovering how children can be loved and enjoyed even as they grow out of the baby stage. And that is so awesome that you don't see your children as something to control, being controlled your whole life stinks, you are giving them an incredible gift.

  6. Awesome post! And so very true!!!

  7. It's interesting to me how much resistance I've gotten from the matriarchs of my family. Not a *lot*, but the fact that I've gotten any at all startled me. My mother wishes we would take things a little more "as they come" instead of planning so hard, trying so hard to conceive. Her children were spaced farther apart. But she started ten years earlier, partly b/c she got married younger, partly b/c she didn't have infertility. If we ever wanted to get close to the full quiver we had prayed for, we felt we had to push and plan.

    And yet, by the same token, as I near the end of the fourth pregnancy, I believe that, at least for the forseeable future, my quiver's full. Not my heart, but my practical capability for physically bearing and caring for children. It's getting more dangerous to have children now, after 3 C sections. My NFP-only doctor is being more cautious than I'd ever expected about these last few weeks of pregnancy. Risk of labor, risk of rupture, etc. It feels like a confirmation from God saying: Whoa, girl. Slow down.

  8. Beautiful story! Love it! Sorry doctors gave you a rough time at first. :(

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. So beautiful! I have five children too. We also use NFP. You would think that the fact that we have a six year gap between 3 and 4 would cue people into the fact that it DOES work but it doesn't seem too. I also agree with you that I will never say no more for sure until it is no longer possible.


Thank you for reading. I enjoy reading other perspectives, please feel free to share yours. :)