One woman spills everything she knows about love and family planning.
I remember the notebook full of charts well. My mom drew them, sitting in bed, sometimes with me curled up beside her. I always asked a million questions (on a good day), so I’m sure I asked her about that notebook, too. But I’m not quite sure when I finally understood that those charts my mother drew were about fertility.
I simply have that one strong memory from my youth connected to family planning—my mom, sitting on the bed with a notebook on her lap, and those colorful charts. I always thought that that’s what I wanted, too. After all, I trust God and I like natural things. I didn’t want to use contraception.
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The years went by, and the “virus” of faith combined with the fact that I actually preferred the idea of natural family planning (NFP) accompanied me through the good times and bad. But at the same time, my teenage brain finally began to understand that NFP is no picnic. I realized I could potentially have a problem with chastity; I could meet someone who could convince me to use contraception. I had no experience. But I tried to hold firm in the idea that I had common sense, imagination, and a rational approach to life.
Finally, growling and howling, Adulthood started to creep into my life. Just like that, with a capital letter. And then I found out that NFP is not only a challenge sometimes, but also that it could lead to heated conversations about the “universe,” “idiocy,” “exaggeration” and, when it came to marriage, it could be a cause of tears, fights, and quarrels.
Wh0 you callin’ crazy?
Are you crazy for using NFP? No, but you might feel that way sometimes. Do you know how much time you spend being fertile? Do you know what that means? When I was younger I didn’t really know the answer to any of those questions, but I knew deep down that some of the happiest married couples I knew lived like that.
Even though I liked the idea of NFP, I wasn’t going to search the library for big books about fertility. I like to live spontaneously. I gave my freedom to God, and I knew that He would show me everything in return. And at that moment Marta Brzezińska-Waleszczyk sent me her book, Everything You Want to Know About Sex Without Contraception, But are Afraid to Ask, a Polish title full of conversations with married couples using NFP. Reading it, I felt a bit like I was back at home.
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There was one thing that surprised me in the book: the oneness, the unity of every married couple interviewed. They really wanted the same things. Even though conjugal chastity (in the fertile period) sounds like the most frustrating oxymoron in the universe, many of them were able to laugh about it. In their stories about anniversaries and romantic trips that unluckily have fallen on those fertile days, there were no fights, but only unity, mutual support, and understating.
I felt a rare sense of calm after reading that book. I realized I didn’t have to be afraid. Natural family planning is difficult, yes, but I don’t want to live differently. The voices in that book reassured me that NFP it’s not just a silly whim, and I have the right to live in agreement with myself.
A month ago I asked my mother to tell me about her (20-something-year long) experience with natural family planning. We have always talked openly about those kinds of things. She didn’t give me the light version of marital life. She talked candidly about painstaking learning, searching, getting to know each other in a marriage. She talked about the fact that wisdom does not end with academic education. About nature and freedom. About how some people fear the obligation to know themselves and their bodies, and that they lose a lot because of that.
She also emphasized that this is not a Catholic method. It is natural, not Catholic, family planning.
Looking to the future
Even so, I have to admit that I am a little afraid of natural family planning. I keep pushing it away for later. Because one day I will have to start observing myself, taking my temperature, drawing the charts, and writing down when my last period was. I will need to be a conscious and organized woman.
But you know what? In all of my search for information on NFP, the most important discovery was something totally unrelated to the charts. And that is that even the best (marital) sex without the unity of souls, common values, and total agreement about how we live, would be a lie, and it’s not worth to build anything on that.
It makes me even happier, though, that I can honestly say that I don’t want to build anything on a lie.
This article was originally published in the Polish edition of Aleteia.