I wear many hats. Most people know me as a wife and professional mother. To my kids, I’m the designated constructor of forts. (Okay, I will admit, the forts are really for me!) Others know me as a Zumba-loving baker, who’s happiest while dancing…regardless of whether there is music. But what few people know about me is that in my “spare” time, I am an accredited Natural Family Planning instructor—in other words, a person with the unintended ability to cause awkward silence to completely descend upon a room by the mere mention of those three little words.
At the age of about 16 or 17 years, I resolved to never put a contraceptive drug or device into my body. This was in large part influenced by my Catholic faith, which teaches that the procreative and unitive aspects of sexual union are inseparable. But I also placed a priceless value on my body and my health and simply had no desire to do anything that would harm the precious gift of my fertility.
This resolve led me to seek out one of the many methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP)—the Billings Ovulation Method of Natural Fertility Regulation—during my preparation for marriage. Once I began practicing NFP, I was blown away by how much I was learning about my body and its natural signs of fertility and infertility which occur over the course of each reproductive cycle. NFP lit a fire within me, and my heart burned with a desire to share this knowledge with other women and couples. The next step for me was to become accredited in teaching the method. As an NFP instructor, I have helped couples struggling to conceive to welcome a child into their lives. I have helped couples to postpone pregnancy when they had a serious reason to avoid becoming pregnant. And I have helped women to understand their reproductive cycles—regular or irregular—and navigate through the changes caused by life events such as breastfeeding, stress, or pre-menopause.
Lately though, I’ve been feeling a bit like I’ve kept the “light” of NFP under a bushel, choosing to keep this aspect of my life mostly private, sharing with few and only when asked. I know that many people do not share my view, due to the contraceptive mentality of our culture which frames fertility as a problem to be nullified, rather than something to be embraced, valued, and understood. But this contraceptive mentality is only nurtured by the radio silence on the other end of the conversation—by those of us who are living something radically different, but are too afraid to step forward due to fear of ridicule. Believe me when I tell you I have had my fair share of fear and it can be daunting!
It is not my intention to spark a heated debate or wag fingers, but to step forward and simply muster the courage to share my story with my whole heart, because in Natural Family Planning I have discovered something truly profound and worth sharing!
As it turns out, NFP is not simply about planning family sizes, nor is it just a “Catholic thing.” NFP is a way of life. It has forced me to pay attention, to look inward, to learn and understand what makes me uniquely female, and to be aware of my fertility as something at the very core of who I am as a person. It has helped me to be fully present to my husband and it has, in turn, revealed to him who I am as a whole. Living NFP has been a profoundly spiritual experience— it points me to something higher than myself. The countless ways in which it has taught my husband and I about our faith, brought us closer to God, and strengthened our marriage would require a second blogpost.
So often the body is rejected as the “lesser” aspect of one’s personhood; we think: “Spirit, good. Body, bad.” Yet, man is a unity of body and soul which are both good. Without the body, there would be no person. The creation of man and woman is the pinnacle—the highlight—of creation; God creates the human body and breathes life into it. When God created us female, he created us with the capacity to conceive and bear life. This capacity is both a tremendous gift and a great responsibility; the language of the body urges us to faithfully embrace our role as the stewards and protectors of our fertility, regardless of whether it is actualized through physical motherhood.
Is living NFP always easy? Any honest person who lives this life will admit that it is not always easy, because it places demands on a couple to grow, to be whole, to sacrifice, and to live a full existence. But nothing worth fighting for comes easy: building a career, living a healthy lifestyle, strengthening a marriage, raising a family, parenting, running a business, living one’s faith, remaining committed to anything or anyone. Life teaches us that there are no shortcuts if you want to truly reap the rewards. Shortcuts like crash diets, stealing, and cheating may bring temporary pleasure, but in the long run, they are disastrous. When it comes to our fertility, it’s tempting to listen to the voice of society which tells us to take the shortcut…the voice that says take harmful pills or injections, implant destructive IUDs, mutilate yourself through sterilization procedures and forget about one of the gifts that makes you— YOU! And this goes for the men too…Without them, fertility is fruitless. So, is it easy? Not always. Worth it? Absolutely!
I tell my story in the hopes that it might give courage to other women and couples who are afraid of grappling with this issue or sharing the light of NFP with others. Maybe you have made choices regarding your fertility that you regret and you want to make a different choice now. If you are seeking something more, the good news is that you do have a choice and you are worth the very best in life, because you are priceless.
NFP is so much more than we give it credit for. Fertility awareness will reveal things to you about yourself that you never even expected, both physically and spiritually. It is good for women, it is good for couples, and it is good for families. I encourage all women and couples to embrace who you are and the God-given gift of your fertility. In the words of St. Catherine of Sienna, “Become who you are and you will set the world on fire.”
LISA PRICE has been fertility aware for almost 9 years. She considers it a great grace and has seen tremendous benefits for her health, marriage, family life, and faith. After learning the Billings Ovulation Method of Natural Fertility Regulation as a way of tracking her fertility, Lisa discovered that this is an amazing gift of knowledge to be shared with other women and couples. This set her on a journey to become an accredited NFP Teacher. Lisa has been actively teaching for six years and together with her husband, mentoring couples preparing for marriage. She believes that fertility awareness, understood through the lens of the Theology of the Body, has the power to transform the world. Lisa resides in British Columbia, Canada with her husband Dominic and their three children.