Natural Family Planning: Nature's Way - God's Way

2. A Gift that Lasts: George and Sylvia

Sylvia: George and I have been married 21 years, and we have seven children. Many people ask why we teach NFP when we have seven children. It happens that we changed to NFP about four and a half years ago when our youngest child was born. (Notice that I didn't say "last child was born"!)

George: When we teach NFP, we don't let anyone know that we have seven children until we've locked the doors!

We have a program of four meetings. The first is designed to teach couples when they are in phase three, that is the infertile time after presumed ovulation. We teach couple-oriented fertility-awareness, since this is a couple's responsibility, not that of one part of the couple. Still, the first meeting is taught almost exclusively by the husband. It's the easy part of the program.

The second meeting is about defining the pre-ovulatory infertile phase of the cycle. Then we follow up on how the couple has been doing during the first five weeks; the meetings are five weeks apart.

The third and fourth meetings are a sharing of experiences with the couples about our own lives, and about their experiences during the previous two months. Some accuse us of now talking people into the idea of having another child, saying it isn't the worst thing to happen in the world. And I think that is so: to have another child isn't the worst thing in the world. Isn't that right, Sylvia! (Laughter from the audience.)

Sylvia: We were married 17 years and had seven children when we started looking around for something to help us limit our family size. At different times when the children were being born I guess I thought about some special kind of contraceptive; but I know that George believed in living by the Church's teachings, so I decided that in order to keep our marriage as happy as it was, I should go along with his beliefs. Then, just about the time our seventh was expected, I noticed an ad about an NFP program in the Trenton Diocese, and I made a telephone call arranging for us to attend.

George: Our seven children were a result of practicing rhythm. We're the people who gave rhythm its bad name! But while we practiced rhythm as ineffectually as we did, the decision about whether to abstain or not to abstain was always Sylvia's. She made the decisions. Now we went to the Trenton meeting to see whether we could learn something which would give us a little better track record than this rhythm had done. And true to form, She made the decision to go there.

The most enlightening thing I witnessed there was that the husband gave most of the instruction. So here we had a husband involved in what for us had been a one-party responsibility.

And it was a surprise to us that we gained confidence in the method so fast, after only two or three cycles. I think that the key to this was that we had something we could see, and that we could both share.

Also, we now discussed sex much more than we had done before. I guess that after the first meeting, on the drive back home, we discussed sex more than we had done in the previous 17 years of our married life.

Sylvia: When I think about NFP, I think about abstinence, because that is what NFP really is. You cannot use NFP unless you abstain. Many people think, "Why bother? That's not necessary any more." But we think fertility is a gift from God. And we don't think that any mistake was made. With NFP there is no need to alter our fertility; we can arrange to live in harmony with it.

Being aware that now is the fertile time, and choosing to abstain during it, can be beautiful in marriage. Love can still be expressed, verbally, physically, and emotionally. This can be a very secure time, knowing that you are loved as a person, and that this love will not now result in intercourse. Living with this awareness of our fertility and knowing the wonderful powers we have to create a new life has enhanced our belief in God as the Creator of life.

George: On the way over tonight, Sylvia said to me, "You have to say something nice about abstinence tonight." It isn't the first time she told me that. "The whole method is dependent upon abstinence," she said, "so we have to talk about it."

Now, as I say, I'm a little bit uncomfortable with discussion about abstinence. To say something nice about abstinence is like saying something nice about your mother-in-law. It's just not done. But I've been thinking about why I'm uncomfortable in discussing it, and I began to realize that you cannot talk about abstinence alone, out of context. Abstinence cannot be separated from sexuality. It doesn't stand on its own. It's part of God's plan for sexuality.

Abstinence gives us a challenge. It prolongs, excites, and fulfills our sexuality. It makes it worthwhile. It makes this gift that God has given us last.

Given at a workshop on NFP at St. Mary's Abbey, Morristown, New Jersey, Jan. 23, 1979.

Next Page: 3. Priest to Priest
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