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21 April 2012


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This is probably the wrong response but I think that having a large family is a vocation within a vocation. My mother wanted a dozen children. She got eight and made it look easy - she was physically strong, childbirth and pregnancy were easy for her, she was an organizational genius with home management and a true leader. So by and large, my parents accepted the children as they came and only started getting serious about NFP when maternal age and the disconnect with teenagers in house and baby became an issue.

I think my parents always got the Church's teaching. One of the happiest days of my mother's life was when Humanae Vitae came out. Seriously, she was a major Church nerd.

Margaret in Minnesota

Well, given that my husband is out of work, we have minimal insurance, and I am older-than-average...yes, we have definitely put our fertility in the hands of God.

Ask me how I know this.

anon this time

Without getting too personal, I will say that for some of us, there is definitely an, ahem, huge experiential difference between fertile times and non-fertile ones (e.g. a long break in cycles during lactation), and this is *very much* perceptible even without charting.


Margaret, that thunk you just heard was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.

Did I hear you right?


@anon this time,

Yeah, I hear you...

I am sure there is a joke in here somewhere along the lines of "Not tonight -- I'm in the mood."


I am a new Catholic - actually, my sons are new Catholics, I am standing with my nose pressed to the window, praying for my husband's annulment to come through. We have just recently started using the Creighton method, and like I told my teacher, I thought I was getting a booklet and a chart. Instead, I seem to have signed up for a PhD. I am 41 years old and have been using artificial contraceptives all my adult life. This feels like we have just stepped right of the edge of the known world.

And you're telling me there are people out there who think I'm taking the easy, sinful way out? Good lord. I will simply never get all this right.


It seems to me that people with a calling to let the babies come in spite of various inconveniences would usually be at least as aware of the connection between sex and procreation as NFP users.

My husband and I did not use NFP until later on in our marriage when I developed an allo-immune pregnancy condition that almost killed our sixth child (he ended up having a liver transplant).

Before that we did not see any reason to postpone or avoid pregnancies. Ecological breastfeeding for me tended to extend amenorrhea and infertility for 2+ years after a birth, and we were both healthy and our financial situation, though relatively modest by modern American standards, was more comfortable than that of probably 95% of people through history.

My experience as a Catholic convert with a formerly contraceptive point of view was that "letting the babies come" was a fearful leap of faith that was well repaid with a much deeper understanding of Humanae Vitae doctrine -- totally a matter of, as Darwin said, "right action leading to right belief".


I am on the not super fertile end of the curve, so I don't find charting all that necessary. We've "only" managed to have 4 kids in 11 years and the only time I charted was when I was trying to figure out why it was taking so long to have #2. We're healthy, in decent financial shape, and we don't feel like we have much cause for trying to avoid a pregnancy... but I think the decision is a lot easier since a pregnancy isn't all that likely for the next couple of years - if ever, perhaps. I have wondered how I would feel if I were capable of having a baby every 18-24 months... and I really don't know.


We have only used NFP at a few points in our almost 20 years of marriage. First right after we got married. Two other times next time to avoid pregnancy due to temporary health issue. We've always taken the "serious reason" very seriously. Early on I wished there were hard and fast rules on that. Over time I realized there couldn't be. What is serious for one couple may not be serious for another. The times we used NFP we felt very comfortable with our reason. We have 8 kids that are mostly 2 years apart each (breastfeeding seems to space them that way for me automatically). Our last 2 were 4 years apart. I admit it's been easier in many ways but I don't consider that a serious reason for us to use it again. So, in answer to your question. I think we thought we "got it" 20 years ago. But we definately have a deeper understanding of the beauty of the church's teaching now. I have to admit it just feels more special (when I'm fertile) knowing that a child could be conceived.


I should probably also re-state a bit: I don't think that using NFP gives one a better appreciation of the connection between sex and procreation than using no method of spacing and simply trusting God. However, I do think that it's off base to worry that couples using NFP will not sufficiently appreciate the procreative nature of sex. Thus, if a couple's initial big concern is, "How do we obey the Church without having a billion babies?" it seems to me that getting them to commit to using NFP to space their children is probably a far better way to get them to really absorb and make their own a Catholic understanding of sex than haranguing them about the necessity of trusting God and the danger of NFP being infused with the "contraceptive mentality".

Barbara C.

Kira, I hear what you're saying on the PhD thing. I always laugh when those who eschew artificial contraception are treated as ignorant and backwards, because ,especially for those who have used some form of NFP, we usually have a much more detailed understanding of reproductive biology than the average person just taking a birth control pill everyday.


Darwin, I agree with you that there is needless concern about "contraceptive mentality".

Practicing NFP is counter-cultural and not easy. It involves a fair amount of personal sacrifice. Not to mention stepping out in trust and faith.

And certainly the details of charting month by month would underline the connection of procreation to sex. Applied learning for sure!

I think sometimes Catholics who are not using NFP (or contraception) feel somewhat vulnerable because they are having babies in situations where the "world" would not recommend it. And while it's true that the Church has blessed the prudent use of NFP it also has a history of particularly recommending couples who step out in faith to have numerous children. Most recently Pope Benedict.

For some reason, the option to use NFP responsibly is sometimes confused with an implicit requirement to use NFP when there are financial or medical concerns.

I am not quite sure why that would be except in our society we always seem to want to fix a standard that applies to everyone across the board. The Church seems to prefer subsidiarity though : ).


The crux of the matter is that not every parent is called to have a large family. I'm grateful that the church has left that decision up to the parents. I don't really care about "contraceptive mentality" either. I have an old maternal age mentality and a college tuition freak out mentality that aides my husband and I in our discipline in practicing NFP. Yes, it's not easy, but then again, I don't think it would be easy at my age to start all over again with a newborn.

Erin in KY

I am so glad you posted this question. I came to your website in search of a soaked grain recipe and saw that you are a Catholic and came upon this line of gut level doctrine. My husband and I have been practicing NFP for only the last 5 years of our 11 year marriage. The first 6 were contraceptive. We feel so strongly about this now that we give a talk at the Pre cana session for engaged couples. Since we give the talks about 2-3 times a year we have to sit down and discuss our talk. We have had many discussions on this very topic. We don't have the experience of putting it all in God's hands and not charting, but we have definitely known the sacrifice of using NFP and have aligned ourselves with Christ in that sacrifice. Like you said it is something that has taken years to fully appreciate. Along those years we have also learned to more fully put our fertility in God's hands and we are hoping to conceive our fourth child soon!
Since this is something that takes time and experience to appreciate, if anyone has input that might make this message more clear for engaged couples please let me know. I am also collaborating with the author of the training manual for marriage sponsor couple training in our diocese. Just to let you know the audience, this is a couple who most likely doesn't practice NFP having to teach an engaged couple what the church teaches. They will likely have to admit that they don't practice it. As it stands the current training manual just has a catholic update in the back on NFP... I told them these couples are coming to the church for marriage, they should get the truth from the experience. Also, the sponsor couples cannot be forced to practice NFP, but if they are in the ministry of sponsoring couples in the church, I don't think it is unreasonable that they be forced to learn what the church teaches on marriage. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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