I got a call last week from a couple we taught NFP to a few months back. I knew that they were recently married, so when I saw the woman’s phone number come up in our phone I thought “Oh, maybe they have a question about the rules relating to NFP”.
Oh, boy did they.
The question was “I’m on cycle day XX, which makes me a week late. I’m never late. Am I pregnant?”
Hmm. Over the phone. It might surprise you that by listening to her observations over the past month, I was actually able to tell her that yes, she was pregnant but that it might help her to confirm with a home pregnancy test.
Newly married. Open to life (thus, NFP) yet still with a vague plan to postpone for “maybe a year” (her words). Now pregnant.
“We plan, God laughs.”
While part of my was slightly flattered she called instead of immediately peeing on a stick, I’m not gonna lie, this is probably an NFP teachers worst nightmare! You teach a method. Method fails. Couple gets pregnant when they didn’t want to and blame you and your method. Eeekk gads. I was already freaking out a little on the inside, but I remained calm. I know NFP works. I’ve used it. I’ve seen the data….
Yet this is the uphill battle we users of NFP face, everyone has a friend that “tried to use that method has like a bazillion surprise kids” and therefore knows that it doesn’t work. With contraception as the default mentality, everyone still thinks you’re crazy for not using it. And everyone knows that eventually, you’ll end up pregnant when it wasn’t perfectly planned according to your will. And isn’t that horrible? Not being in complete control?
The reality is that to some people, no, many people, yes it is that horrible. And while I do believe God equips those He calls, there are life-threatening situations when pregnancy needs to be avoided. So here I was, a little NFP teacher stuck where most NFP users are. Between trying to appease the world’s desire to “space and control” according to our will yet still using morally licit means and being open to THY will (Matthew 6:10).
Back to the situation. Facing a woman trying to postpone, now pregnant, and couldn’t quite figure out what happened. So as their personal NFP teacher (important – read: not book or internet site from which you learned an NFP method) my husband and I met up with her and her husband to go over their chart from the last month.
After 5 seconds of looking at the chart, I could immediately tell what happened. There was a confusion about a rule and then there was breaking of this rule. There are rules to NFP and although that doesn’t sound like fun, there are rules to most forms of birth control, licit or not. Like “must take pill everyday at the same time”. Science has helped us determine the fertile periods of a woman’s cycle and in order to use that knowledge we must follow certain rules. Not following certain rules is akin to not really using NFP. And yes, NFP may have a few more rules, but its also morally licit.
So there is “knowledge of rules” and there is “adherence to rules”. For NFP, the ultimate check-and-balance is that the later is correlated to “motivation to postpone having a child”, since the intended and likely result of marital intercourse during fertile periods is having a child.
After talking with this couple, it was clear that in their ideal world they would maybe have postponed for a longer time, but in reality they both felt this was God at work since they were in no grave danger of having this child now.
So the question is, did NFP work?
It depends on who’s answering.
Rules were bent and yes, flat out broken. To say that the couple had no control over what happened and that God completely interfered to make this baby happen would be a mistake, since there were clear rules that could have been followed to statistically improve the unlikeliness of conception. Yet who’s to say God’s will wasn’t done by this pregnancy? At the same time, this couple’s hearts were at ease with taking this risk. Being unsure of the rules/signs and choosing to act in spite of that uncertainty. Choosing to take the risk. There have been times in our short marriage where we have been in the same position of uncertainty and have felt uneasy about willfully taking a greater risk of having a child and have chosen the more conservative route (although there have also been times that we have not!). Although we can try to say “no” all we want, God still must be present to make that child a reality. It can’t happen without him.
Who can know for sure? Who knows. But I can say that by believing the theology of God’s plan for us as male and female and respecting the natural, two-fold purpose to sexual intercourse (babies and bonding), using NFP can help bring a couple understanding how to bring their will to one with God’s will.
In the meantime, its beautiful to know a couple that so lovingly accepts their gift from God (they gave Him a window of opportunity – and broken rules aside, it was still a veerry small window – and He gave them a baby!) and still seeks to use NFP in the future :)
The tricky question is now, how do they answer if NFP works in 30 seconds or less to the average Joe/Jane (complete with the common misconceptions)? Any ideas?