Using Natural Family Planning helps to bring home the fact that fertility is something my husband and I navigate together.
But as anxious as I would feel if I found out I’ve made some charting mistake, and like it or not, our next child is already here, just that fact that we’ve been practicing NFP is already helping. It’s making my fear of pregnancy smaller, less formidable. Because NFP is teaching me that my fertility — and my pregnancies, too — aren’t just my burdens to bear alone.
My husband’s fertility is more straight forward. As long as his sperm is healthy and mobile, he can fertilize an egg 100 percent of the time, as long as there’s an egg in the picture. His fertility is constant, mine is the X factor. It’s my fertility that’s harder to figure out. It’s my body’s chances of ovulation that guide our daily choice as to whether or not we’ll abstain. There’s a lot at stake, and it’s a lot of pressure. So normally I’d be inclined to feel like the task of not conceiving is my job.
Except when we’re using NFP, the pressure is on both of us, not just me. Even though I’m the one charting, the decision to avoid sexual intercourse has to be mutual. I’m not always in the position of having to say “No, not tonight.” He’s just as fertile as I am at the moment, as NFP reminds us, so the choice to avoid pregnancy is a choice we make together.
Just as I’m the one who ovulates, I’m also the one who carries the child. But it’s not my child, it’s our child. It’s not my fertility, it’s our fertility. (Neither of us can have a baby on our own, after all.) Everyone’s experience with NFP is different, and NFP isn’t a magical relationship problem-solver, but still — using it reminds me every day of the basic truth that my husband and I are in this together.
Getting pregnant would still be daunting. I still don’t believe that right now is a good time for me or my family. But if it did happen, I have a real comfort — just as I wasn’t alone in my fertility, I wouldn’t be alone in my pregnancy. No, my husband won’t be able to share the pain of my pelvic joint separating from the pressure, or feel the frustration of trying to keep the first trimester exhaustion at bay long enough to meet my family’s needs. But he doesn’t need to be able to share the symptoms, as long as he and I both understood that it’s not my pregnancy, it’s our pregnancy.
My husband looks the same as he did when we got married, but my whole body is different. My feet are bigger, my ribcage is wider, I’m covered with stretch marks. It doesn’t feel unfair to me, though. I’ve seen my husband, every step of the way, shouldering extra burdens to make up for my unique role in our family. He can’t take away the exhaustion, but he can do the laundry and the shopping for me, so I don’t have to be on my feet. He can’t take the nausea, but he sure can do the dishes and cook, so I don’t have to deal with smells that turn my stomach. With every act of love, he reminds me that even though he can’t physically carry our unborn child, he is still there to carry me.
Using NFP reminds us both every day that my own fertility — and my pregnancies too — are a part of marriage that we navigate together. No matter what happens, that knowledge is a real comfort to me.