"NFP can feel very isolating in a culture like ours, and nobody should feel like they’re going it alone."
Ask any couple who practices natural family planning, or NFP, and they’ll tell you there’s a lot more involved than charting the woman’s monthly cycle. Some may go so far as to say it’s a lifestyle, since nearly every aspect of the individual and couple plays a role. While guidance from a trained instructor can help a couple navigate the physical and emotional ups and downs of trying to achieve or avoid a pregnancy, many couples find a void when they look for support beyond the basics.
JennyUebbing, speaker and blogger at Mama Loves Coffee, has introduced a new program called Off the Charts to fill in those gaps of how practicing NFP affects a family’s life — from prayer to budgeting and more. “If I can help other couples navigate the process of finding the right NFP for them, I want to do that. Nobody should feel like they’re going it alone, and using NFP can feel very isolating in a culture like ours,” says Uebbing.
Membership in Off the Charts will include digital and written content, including live streaming workshops and ongoing education in NFP in allits facets—all in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Topics will include communication between spouses, building trust + intimacy outside the bedroom, finding help, hiring the right provider, breaking up with a “bad” method, setting your NFP budget, helping your parish become NFP-friendly, studying the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage, seasons of fertility in marriage, discerning openness to life, and more.
I talked to Uebbing to understand more about how this program came to be, where she sees it going, and why living NFP well matters to the Church as a whole.
Can you summarize your personal experience with NFP?
Jenny Uebbing: My personal experience with NFP has been … surprising. We were well-formed, Theology-of-the-Body-conversant Catholics and eager to start a family right away. We were fully bought in ideologically to the concept of NFP, but found that engagement prep was not the ideal time to be learning a brand new biological science (to us, anyway) and striving to apply it to my cycle. I barely even knew how my cycle worked, to be honest. We told ourselves, “We’ll figure this out later, when we actually need it.” As it turns out, juggling three kids under four and navigating postpartum depression is not the ideal season to begin from scratch and learn a whole new NFP method.
Fast forward learning two more methods, and now I feel like I have an unofficial degree in NFP! Each postpartum period has presented unique challenges and circumstances that sent us back to the drawing board and to doctor’s offices trying to delve more deeply into what my body was trying to tell us. We’ve finally landed on a method that suits our fertility, and despite the struggle it was worth it to keep asking questions and to find the best method for us.
How did Off the Charts come to be?
Off the Charts is the fruit of nearly a decade of blogging, speaking, and writing for other outlets about NFP and all things sex and marriage. My most frequently asked question from readers and audiences is always, hands down, “Where are the resources for women and couples who are using NFP?” And my answer is usually a Kimberly Hahn book that’s nearly out of print, a handful of online talks and resources, and a perusal of my own blog archives. I wanted to be able offer something more, and to create a place for community and support for NFP users. I also want Off the Charts to be a resource for priests, catechists, and NFP instructors. None of this is a secret! We have to get the message out there—people are so hungry for it!
What are your hopes for Off the Charts?
My primary goal is to support and accompany couples who are using NFP to understand their fertility and to live out their married vocation in fruitfulness and fidelity. But my hope for Off the Charts is that the seasoned pastor, the freshly-ordained priest, the NFP instructor, the overwhelmed parents of many, the struggling parents of none or few, and the curious single woman with high expectations for managing her own wellness can all find something here.
Why does living NFP well matter to the Church as a whole?
A Church who does not support and empower Her couples to live their vocations well—the vocation that the vast majority of the baptized are called to, statistics wise—is a Church who does not grow. Couples need to be educated, accompanied, called on, and seen. Healthy marriages produce healthy individuals, and healthy individuals grow up in freedom to pursue healthy vocations, whether to the married or religious state. Empowering and equipping couples to embrace and enter into the reality of their fertility is good for the entire Body of Christ.
You talk about NFP as a lifestyle. What does that entail?
NFP is not a sort of after-market add-on to marriage, as many couples will discover the hard way, like we did. I don’t think we were well prepared for the immensity and the all-encompassing nature of fertility, especially coming from a culture that suppresses and minimizes fertility at every angle. From finding doctors wiling to treat my body from a place of health rather than disease management, to finding the resources to support us in living a Catholic marriage, to helping our pastors understand and become more conversant in the crosses that come with accepting our God-given fertility, there was never a moment where NFP just felt like something we did by jotting down a few notes in a chart each night.
When you choose to embrace and operate from the reality of your natural fertility, you are stepping into a sort of alternate universe, and it touches everything from your finances and career to your family dynamic and your relationship with God. It’s truly all-encompassing.
Off the Charts is in the beta phase, with an official launch planned for Fall 2019.