I hear this sort of a comment from many people, particularly Christians, when they hear that my husband and I don’t use contraception.
Usually it’s accompanied by an incredulous and pitiful look, strongly implying that we must be imbeciles/weirdos/out of date catholics/uneducated (pick your favourite), followed by the comment that we obviously won’t be able to afford to give them any kind of good life experiences, unless we intend on being rich.
But the truth is that we are rich.
By the very fact that we are loved and known by the author of eternity, and able to be in relationship with Him, we are already blessed above and beyond what we deserve or could gain for ourselves.
Therefore we are already winning.
He always provides, and trusting and revering Him above all other considerations is the mark of true wisdom.
‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’
There are actually a variety of reasons to seriously recommend NFP (natural family planning).
1: It is truly contraceptive.
It means that life doesn’t begin, rather than killing off life that has just begun by stopping implantation, as in one of the methods of the pill, and many other forms of artificial contraception.
2: It is far healthier.
It doesn’t mess around with the amazing and delicate balance of the female reproductive system by using an influx of chemical hormones to regulate ovulation.
3: There are no side effects
Which in many cases, particularly in prolonged use, can lead to infertility. Heart-breakingly, something many people find when they stop using artificial contraceptives.
4: It allows for deeper respect and intimacy
Because the focus of reading and recording the signs seen throughout the day fall to both husband and wife, it encourages a partnership and dialogue. Both halves of the couple have a language with which to discuss their fertility freely, something that many people find awkward, difficult or just plain weird.
Because both have an understanding of how normal fertility works, there is no confusion or suspicion that the woman is using her fertility as a way of avoiding sex. If on any given day, the signs suggest fertility, then the couple are free to decide together whether they wish to abstain from sex to avoid conceiving, or to continue anyway and be open to the possibility of a resulting life.
Simply by having a clearer understanding of how conception really works, much of the fear about ‘the minute we have unprotected sex, we will get pregnant – I/we want to enjoy being a couple before kids’ is removed, because the myth that conceiving a baby is likely at any given moment is dispelled. A woman is only fertile for 24 hours during ovulation, and although sperm can happily live in good cervical mucus for up to seven days, it helps you to understand that any time conception is successful, it is nothing short of amazing and miraculous.
When refusing to put something in the way of our fertility, we are also able to freely, totally, fruitfully and faithfully give the WHOLE of ourselves to one another, holding nothing back, and rejecting nothing (fertility) of the other. Something that our marriage vows already promised.
God has designed the female body so precisely in this area, it is really quite remarkable that as many babies are conceived.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them” (Psalm 127:3-5a)
5: It helps when trying to conceive
If you are listening to your body when it tells you it is building up to ovulation, you are better placed to ‘try’ more effectively for a baby.
Although it doesn’t mean that the minute you make love when you are fertile, that you will automatically conceive, God is still the only author of life.
If you are taught properly, then you are able to navigate around irregular and very long cycles, and can spot problems with fertility much more quickly.
You also have a better chance of conceiving in a much shorter time frame.
6: It requires and develops deep commitment between a couple
You cannot successfully use NFP if you are not committed to your partner/spouse, because you need to agree a about whether you are prepared to make love if the fertile signs are being read. Or to jointly choose to abstain from sex if you do not wish to conceive.
This brings any conflict between you into the light. Rather than discovering some time into your marriage that your spouse doesn’t want children, or has a totally different idea of quantity and timescale to you, it enables you to deal with it openly from the first cycle that you begin having sex together.
It takes a bit of practice, but contrary to many people’s suspicion that it puts you on a rigid schedule, it doesn’t. NFP is not difficult to master, and you are both able to make an informed choice on any day of the month.
7: It is 99% effective
This is the figure of the method’s effectiveness, if it is followed correctly. The same percentage as the pill.
However, just as you would have to take the pill at the same time every day for it to be able to reach it’s maximum effectiveness, in the same way, if mistakes are made in the use of the method, that figure is understandably reduced.
The only 100% successful form of contraception is abstinence.
HOWEVER, something that we and many of our friends have discovered in the course of continuing NFP in our marriages, is that it changes your heart towards children, and towards accepting and trusting God’s timing for their arrival.
When we started our marriage, we used this method like a slightly more open, definitely more ethical form of contraception. We were open to children, but were also very keen NOT to have less than a year of marriage before we even thought about trying for a baby.
I DO think that there is an important difference between choosing not to have sex when fertile, in order to avoid conceiving, and in choosing to have sex when fertile, but putting something in the way that will stop the natural course of conception taking place.
However, there’s a deeper question of the position of our hearts before God, of how far we are prepared to let Him be sovereign over all areas of our lives.
In choosing to put a stop to the possibility of life when we make love, through use of artificial contraception – are we not, in effect, telling God to mind His own business, that he is not Lord of this area of our life, and that we don’t and wont choose to trust Him?
We reject His timing, His blessing, and doubt His wisdom, and His Love for us – that would never bring us harm.
And give in to fear.
We found, after realising a few months in that NFP really did work well, that we started to relax about how particular we were about abstaining during my more fertile times. We still didn’t rush to make love on those occasions, but began to feel freer to seize the moment regardless of the signs, trusting that a baby could only be a blessing.
We also got better at trusting God to take our feelings and preferences into account.
So when we said that we would ideally like at least a year of marriage before our first child was conceived, we trusted that God would give us that, or if He didn’t, that He was giving us something better.
It was liberating.
After ‘trying’ for a couple of months, we conceived our first child almost exactly a whole year after we got married. Proving to us that NFP worked.
We then conceived our son just six months after our daughter was born.
This was a bit of a surprise, but we had been charting the signs again, and decided to relax and be open. And I am so glad we did.
Despite the craziness of the first three months or so with such a small gap between them, it has been utterly wonderful. Having these children has blessed our socks off, changed our lives and drawn us deeper into the heart of God. We truly cannot wait for more.
“Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.” (Psalm 128:1&3)
Having been pregnant for two Christmasses in a row, I was missing the cheeses, Pâté and the variety of drinks which come with the season, so I asked God that we not conceive again until after this Christmas, unless He thought better.
It took some wrestling to keep my peace, but He honoured my request and I was able to enjoy blue cheese to my heart’s content, again showing me that children are a gift and that God loves me enough to respect my feelings.
We have found that despite our initial ideas of at least four, we have become more and more open to the possibility of a really big family – with six children or however many God has for us.
And that is the crux of it all – we have undergone a journey from telling God when and how many children we want, to allowing Him to show us HIS VISION for our family, asking him to expand our vision to match this, and our capacity to lean into His grace to handle it well.
So whilst fifteen children isn’t our plan, should God have that for us, we are open and have no doubt he will increase our capacity to flourish with them.
We have a very modest income, but have wanted for nothing for either of our two babies. We have hardly had to buy anything – so there is no reason to assume that God’s provision would stop when we need it even more!
Where He expands us, in whatever area, He will always supply EVERYTHING we need to succeed. We just need to choose to lean on His strength and not our own.
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.” (Isaiah 54:2-3)
I pray that you will be gently challenged and encouraged to surrender this area to God, whether you are single or married, discovering that He is always good and His blessing of children, is just that – a HUGE blessing to enjoy, not a burden to despise.