Catholics Do What?,  Contraception,  Evangelization,  Marriage,  NFP

What do you want/need from the church in order to “live” NFP? (A reader survey)

Last week’s guest post struck quite a nerve for many of my readers (something to the tune of 30,000 views on Facebook, which is a substantial nerve!) As I read through the dozens and dozens of thoughtful, sometimes heartbreaking comments, I wanted to reach through the screen and ask every single one of you:

What do you need?

What do you need to help you continue in this radical, counter cultural, often thankless and frequently ridiculed but oh-so-worth it lifestyle?

What do you need to get started, if you’re fresh off the birth control patch and hoping to get your body healthy again?

What are you hoping to learn during your marriage prep classes that you hope will prepare you to live NFP as a couple?

What do you need from the Church right now, while you’re drowning (maybe in debt, maybe in post partum hormones, maybe in tears over a positive pregnancy test) and really, really close to throwing in the towel?

I’m wondering what it would look like, on a practical level, if there were more support for actually living NFP.

Not just ticking the box for marriage prep and daydreaming through half a dozen classes while you mentally arrange table seatings for your wedding, but real, ongoing and substantial formation in this critically important and, let’s be honest, make-it-or-break-it area of intimacy?

I think it would look like real pastoral support. Resources for continuing education. A parish position or at least diocesan position dedicated solely to walking alongside struggling couples – which any of us at any moment in our marriages are likely to be – and saying, hey, the Church is here. You’re not alone. You’re living this lofty call out in a secular culture that holds you in actual contempt in the grocery store, some days, but you won’t get that here. What do you need? To learn a new method? A scholarship to cover the cost of instruction? Help connecting with a licensed instructor? A referral to an NFP trained physician? A voucher for medical care at their clinic? A babysitter so you can attend the freaking classes and pay attention? A recommendation to a good Catholic therapist?

And how about a homily once in a while about the call to Christian marriage? A call on/smack down from the pulpit reminding us – and encouraging us – that this thing we all signed up for? It’s a cross.

And it is meant to sanctify and break down and consume and resurrect us into something more beautiful and more real than we could have imagined when we made our vows.

I’ve said before that I think it odd that priests and religious have ongoing formation and married couples have…what, emergency intervention? When I think of what most parishes do to minister to marriages, I think of the kind of last ditch effort big guns meant to help a couple on the brink of divorce. But what about the ongoing formation? The day to day, year after year encouragement and instruction as a couple grows and matures and encounters different stages of parenting and different seasons of married life?

My parish is an unusually dynamic and family-focused place. I know it is the shining exception to the rule. And yet, I’m not sure even we have concrete resources for couples struggling to live out NFP, or that I’ve heard many homilies going into detail about why the Church calls us continually to take up this cross of rejecting contraception and living out a different path in a world that says “you’re crazy.”

And I think that would be awfully good to hear. (Especially if you’re hearing lots of other places, like from your parents, your in laws, your friends, and your siblings that “you’re crazy.”)

So I’m asking you, lovely and heroic and generous and hurting and hopeful readers, what would it look like? What do you wish we had that doesn’t exist yet, and how do we go about building it?

Let it rip in the comments, or email me directly at [email protected] Or chime in on Facebook with your ideas/suggestions/frustrations/dreams.

I’m really glad we’re having the conversation.


  • Marguerite Duane

    We need physicians and other medical professionals that are knowledgeable and supportive of couples that use NFP – not dismissive and condescending towards couples that use these methods.

    We need the Centers for Disease Control to publish accurate information about effectiveness rates of individual methods.

    This is why we started and launched a petition requesting the CDC to update their data

    We also need women to women and couple to couple NFP support groups a la the La leche League model.

    I am passionate about educating the next generation of medical professionals about these methods so we can ensure every woman can be empowered with knowledge about her body through charting and every couple can share responsibility for family planning. Please help us spread the word by joking FACTS about Fertility and/or following us on Facebook and Twitter.

    • Mother of 4

      I’ve said for years that parishes (or dioceses) could to offer to train nurses or MDs in our parishes to be NFP consultants (by that, I mean send them to training). If we can train pro-life nurses to be ultrasound techs for pregnancy centers, then there must be people in the medical community who have a heart to serve in this capacity.
      Imagine if every parish (or even every other parish) had an NFP trained professional who could help couples IN PERSON. I have questions that can really only be asked by sitting down and laying out a medical history.
      The online courses only help so much. We need local help.

    • Beth

      I agree! As a supporter of “evidence based medicine” it makes me mad as I continue to learn about lack of evidence and lack of interest in producing such evidence. I am frustrated that the good folks at Crighton are doing research and yet it doesn’t inform practice anywhere but there. I resent that natural methods are treated as backward and pointless attempts at family planning. There is bad NFP information out there, for sure, but I also think this perspective has so much to offer women. Much work to do to educate medical professionals who are open to this view.

    • Amber

      I love that there is a petition to the CDC and agree that we need more doctors and nurses involved. We were trained at the local Catholic hospital in Spokane, WA in three fertility awareness methods (mucus, temp., and cervix) in order for us to feel comfortable choosing a combination that would work for us. This was such a blessing! After delivery of our first child in Olympia, WA I was trained in the Creighton method, again by a certified nurse, but this time she was just doing it out of her own home (no formal hospital or church connection). Apparently there is only one doctor in the whole state certified in NaPro (part of Creighton) and he is way across the state and may even be retired by now. Having it more prominent in the medical field would be a huge help. I don’t know if I would have ever started NFP if it was not initially introduced in a medical setting. I may have just written it off! Also, examples of NFP working to space pregnancy. My husband and I have been married 10 years with three living children (we lost our first) and we have planned the spacing of each of our children. I do feel that I don’t care so much about spacing for future children, but I think for our first children I felt like I had to prove something to the contraceptive-minded world. I had to prove that NFP is a valid option. It has been hard, but so are the whole host of contraceptive methods out there. Each one comes with negative effects not only for your relationship with God, but also to your own body, the environment, your relationship with your spouse, and even your current or future children (there are still unplanned children when using various forms of contraception and I have to believe it’s a bit easier to accept another one when you go into it acknowledging that a child is always possible with sex). Our parish lacks in discussions about NFP vs. contraception and in resources for families interested in NFP. Our parish is good though in providing date nights and events with free child care. This is actually really amazing! We also have small groups and a Bible study specifically for young mothers in which we are able to open up about joys and difficulties of everything, including NFP and growing families. Getting young families that are going through it together I think is key! Otherwise you feel like you are just alone. I have needed this support to encourage me in living out God’s call to me through family life. I know I will continue to need it too..and same with my kids. They will need to see other families joyfully living out the sacrament of marriage the way God designed it to be, not the our culture has skewed it. Another thing our parish does is have the teens go through Theology of the Body in confirmation prep. It needs to be more openly communicated to adults though because the kids are likely going to follow what their parents and peers are doing.

  • Katie McIntyre


    All of the above struck a chord with me, as did your article. Thank you for posting. I think for me, more encouragement from the Church. Specifically what you mentioned about priests acknowledging that it is a cross and maybe a few homilies a year that encourage, support, and inform on the Church’s teachings on birth control. Thank you again, I look forward to all of your posts!

  • Shawna

    Yes, the homily! Please tell us what we need to hear. Speak the truth in love. Frequently.
    I’m a mom with seven kids and being open to life sometimes means you have babies for a LOT of years. There are 20 years between my oldest and youngest. I need wisdom from mothers who are parenting young adults, teenagers, school aged children, toddlers and babies…..all at the same time. It’s exhausting!

    • MariBeth

      I’m right there with you!! It’s exhausting and wonderful. We have nine kids ages 21 to 9 months. I never dreamed I would have kids in every level of school…I think having support from like minded families would be nice. I’m always willing to offer advice and relate to younger mother’s the beauty of being open to God’s will. But we need support too.

  • Anonymous

    Our family needs priests to speak from the pulpit about the loss of children to miscarriage. It is so surreal to flip through seven years of charts and see them punctuated by a positive pregnancy test…and then a loss. It is all documented, but the pain and the grief feel so invisible. We are blessed to be at a small, tightly knit parish and after our most recent miscarriage, the pastor sought us out to pray with us and offer support. This time, we had the guts to call a Catholic cemetery and see if we could somehow bury our little one’s remains. The initial phone call was so awkward and difficult. I’m eternally grateful for the sweet woman who anticipated my questions and helped my husband and I make arrangements. I don’t think most families would even think to ask for burial after miscarriage, because it is something we don’t talk about as a Church and that needs to change.
    My husband and I are NFP teachers and we know our losses aren’t unique. There are many aching hearts in the pew. I’m working on putting together some practical information to have on hand at our parish (rights to your baby’s body if you miscarry at the hospital, seeking burial, etc). Grieving parents shouldn’t have to do the work of phoning around their parish or diocese to get answers.

    • Ari

      Thank you. We dealt with such resistance recently. We did manage to bury our baby’s remains, thanks to the diocesan pro-life office who put us in touch with a Catholic funeral home and reassured us that this was our legal right. No thanks at all to our doctor, who acted SO put out to even discuss it. The hospital have never (in over 3 decades) had such a request, apparently. Meanwhile, I was trying to fight for this while in a hospital gown and on drugs. After multiple requests, she begrudgingly wrote a letter (required) to the funeral home (since there is no death certificate in this case). She acted like we were holding a ceremony for a lost tooth or an appendix. The diocesan office was helpful, but even among Catholics, we have told very few people. No one knows what to say or do. We are a pro-life Church, but there is DEAFENING silence on this issue. If miscarriage and infant loss happen for up to 25% of couples, why isn’t there more support available? I understand that my worldly friends don’t view this as losing a child, but to also have to be silent about it in Church and among the faithful is so sad and isolating. The culture of death (or at least the culture of ignorance) has infiltrated. I got some resources from the online Catholic Miscarriage support group. In real life, only from family and a few very close friends.

      • V.

        Oh, my. As a never married, 60+ single Catholic woman, I so feel for you, Ari, and for all of you speaking with such pain. My parish (in Arlington VA) regularly publishes information about outreach opportunities for couples who practice or seek to practice NFP. Do such organizations exist in your area?

    • Kathryn

      this would be nice because it would put the idea in people’s heads that maybe, just maybe, that couple with only one child isn’t using contraception. It’s really horrible to receive a pamphlet on NFP ten days after a miscarriage with a request to “prayerfully consider” being open to life.

    • Antonia

      Yes! We must begin to bury/cremate (when possible) our miscarried children. It’s what we should do for anyone who has died…these little ones are human beings just as much as people who live to age 90. Secondarily, it would give a full pro-life witness, that we love & care for all God’s children from conception until natural death.

      • Jen

        I completely agree. I miscarried at the hospital, having an emergency d&c due to hemorrhaging. I wasnt in the state of mind to ask for our baby’s remains. I think i was in shock. As was my husband. I still ache over the lack of a burial and knowing our child was tossed out with the trash, 14 years later.

    • Rachel

      Yes! After our first miscarriage, we turned to the Church thinking that in being so adamant about the value of life from conception that we would receive the support we so desperately needed. Sadly this was not the case (while our priest was kind, there were no resources available to us). From talking with other moms when I’ve decided to open up (and as is obvious from the comments on the thread) this is an issue close to the hearts of many. I think the silence complicates things because in many cases, our grief is unacknowledged. I’ve teamed up with another mom in my area, and we are slowly (at a snail’s pace) working to change this. I would love to work with women in other dioceses and hear about what might be available in other places or share what we’ve been working on.

    • Cindy Leonard

      I recently worked with my Catholic Cemeteries staff to come up with a brochure for parents who have experienced the loss of their unborn baby for Diocese of Phoenix. I’d be happy to share with you. Call Office of NFP, Diocese of Phoenix.

    • Amber

      Our parish does a Mass once a year for all unborn children, with a specific focus to those lost to miscarriage. It is a beautiful thing for the church to do.

  • Annelise

    Married for 10 years…four kids, ages 9, 7, 5 and 3. Hubby and I were older when we met and married, and since he is now 50 and I am 41, we just cannot trust NFP to be 100 percent effective for us. Of course we would welcome a child and our hearts are open to life, but we have been COMPLETELY ABSTAINING FROM SEX for THREE YEARS! I wish there was a way for us, but there is no way. I mean, you can ovulate twice in a month, so I have read? And with my crazy 40-something raging hormones, possibly pre-menopausal, I just do not know if there is any hope for sexual intimacy until my periods stop for good. I wish I did not feel so alone.

    • Julie

      I totally relate to you, Annelise! I had baby number 8 at 46 and was so afraid that God would bless us with another child. I am now almost 52 and STILL believe that there is that possibility; however, my FEAR has been given over to God. Two years ago I just got tired of being afraid to be with my husband so I gave God dominion over my uterus. Seriously. We never took NFP (it wasn’t required when we got married), but my sister (who was an instructor) gave me the basics of what to look for (though I never charted) and I listened to my body. So I had a pretty good idea of when I ovulated. I admit, we still abstain about 15 days a month, (and much of that is simply out of exhaustion!), but I do not fear becoming pregnant. I know without a doubt that if God desires for me to have another child, He will give me the graces. And my six-year-old surprise? The biggest BLESSING ever! 🙂

    • Rachel

      Hi Annelise,

      I am so sorry to hear about your hardship! Perhaps you have looked into this already, but you should look at the Marquette method. The technology used gives a lot of women extra peace of mind because it’s so straightforward in telling you if you’re fertile or not. I hope that is of help to you! God bless you!

      • Jen

        I have to agree, marquette model was very helpful to me. The creighton model was as well. Both really helped me to feel better about nfp. The older form I originally learned made me feel like a complete failure. These two methods are straight forward and much more manageable.

    • B

      Annelise, I am so sorry you are carrying this cross and I just want you to know that I totally get it. I haven’t started the long, hot-flash filled journey of menopause yet but we had 6 babies in 8 years + one miscarriage at the beginning. The only time we have anything *close* to “normal” spacing is because we went 12 months without having sex – which was very hard on our marriage, my self-esteem, just hard to do.I am terrified of menopause because of how tricky charting can be – and in a whole new way than it has been difficult so far. For health reasons we are going back to full abstinence again for the foreseeable future. It sucks.

      • MommaD

        I feel some sense of relief in reading these posts and that is EXACTLY what I need right now – to be part of a conversation. I am rolling into menopause and it is a different kind of difficult, as B says!!! NFP is.not.easy. It is a cross, it is counter-cultural, it is a roller coaster ride, it is so many things all together…….. But even within our own Catholic community , I find harsh and judgmental women that I would not whisper my fears of a late-in life baby to! And others who condemn me for having so many children or continuing to have more after bed rest pregnancies. My Catholic nurse lectured me for 30 minutes after my fifth was born with shoulder dystocia! She said it was my responsibility to have my tubes tied. I had my 6th child at 40, miscarried twins at 42, and we are using Creighton to avoid being pregnant at 50! I would love to connect with other women who understand the beauty as well as the difficulty of NFP. More than anything , we need open conversation in which no one attacks fellow strugglers. My lovely daughter turns 24 today and she has decided to use NFP to delay babies until she and her husband are more financially stable ( and give themselves time to grow up 🙂 But she gets comments from her large extended family about the ethics of delaying child-bearing. We are running this race together. What we need is more compassion for one another !

      • Malia

        We recently started using the Marquette method. The Creighton method was very difficult and frustrating for me, as my BBT readings were all over the map and I never felt confident in my charting. The Marquette method takes out a lot of the guesswork, and while it still requires paying close attention to fertility signs, the fertility monitor helps everything make sense.
        I do highly recommend it.

        • Kathleen

          Hi Malia,
          Just to clarify, the Creighton model does not use BBT readings at all, only cervical mucus observations. Just didn’t want anyone to be confused!

    • a mom and wife

      The other possibility when we are premenopausal is multiple miscarriages. I married at 32, gave birth to four babies, but was simply not able to have a viable pregnancy after our last live birth at 40. A number of years later, tests determined that my progesterone levels had fallen significantly. Perhaps my levels fell off earlier than usual, but they do eventually and obviously decline for all women. I would suggest finding the best NFP method for you, begging God for guidance, and having a very honest discussion with your husband. Three years of abstinence cannot be good for you and your husband. You both need that unity by which to nurture your marriage. Sending love and prayers your way.

      • Cami

        If you can find a practitioner near you, progesterone therapy is offered by Creighton doctors. I’ve used it to get pregnant and stay pregnant as well as during months when my progesterone levels are low during a period (causing prolonged bleeding).

    • Tom

      Check out “Natural Cycles”, an app you can install on your phone. All you have to do is take your temperature right when you wake up every morning, and then type it into your phone. Then record when your period happens. We have been doing that, and the more data the app accumulates, the more accurate the readings become. It was started by some Swedish PhD’s. I read about it in First Things. It’s not easy, but goodness… it’s better than completely abstaining!!!

  • Karyn

    I think even some recognition that we actually are called to use NFP! When I first entered the Church and was struggling with that teaching, the RCIA director told me not to worry about it, that even the Jesuits hand out birth control on college campuses (?). My priest told me not to worry about it because “popping a pill or slapping on some latex” wasn’t going to get me to hell. There are only two of us large families in the entire parish (yes, I totally realize that some people may have fewer children but are practicing NFP). I guess I feel like we’re struggling alone with a teaching that no one else even feels like we should be practicing.

    • TerriB

      Yes. I identify with this struggle of feeling alone in a “teaching we shouldn’t be practicing”.

      I’m afraid to voice how done I feel with my 6 kids at the age of 42, for fear that my fertility causes yet another baby to my already large family.

      So many of my fellow catholics have mentioned their sterilization as a necessary right of passage when they feel done. 😕

      • Kathryn

        Dear Karyn and TerriB—please find a solidly Catholic parish where the pastor and religious ed are CLEAR in teaching the faith, and other families abound. We were in a parish like yours as a family of 10. We were active there, as active as we could be given our family responsibilities. We knew we should try to be a light to others…but there was no understanding or even comprehension about what our life must be like. The expectation was that we would raise our children and do everything that other families of 1 or 2 children would do. We live in that kind of world and that is what makes it hard. Eventually we left when we found a faithful parish with a wonderfully supportive pastor and many larger than the “norm” families and have never been happier. We wondered why we didn’t move there sooner. While there we had a 10th baby and several miscarriages and were so grateful for the support of the community. The faith culture you live in makes an incredible difference. If it’s faithful to Christ, it will help you to be faithful to Him too.

        • Karyn

          We currently have a wonderful priest but yes, the parish is not ideal. However, the next closest parish is over an hour away and with our 15 passenger van, not an option for driving to regularly. I have been praying that God and keeping my eyes open to moving if we’re meant to be elsewhere.

          • TerriB

            We have recently upgraded to a 15 passenger as well and are pursuing a property outside our parish boundaries. We love our current clergy but recognize that we are only one of a few larger families there. We struggle with mass attendance as most oof the regular parishioners are school families or older empty nesters. While I appreciate the support when my pew is full of children and my husband is on shift rotation that weekend, I find it sad that attending mass by myself is deemed a heroic act.

  • Ashley S.

    Honestly, more convenient confession hours and maybe a directory of potential babysitters. Also a mother’s group. My mother’s group at my old parish was my lifeline and since we’ve moved I feel a little lost without it.

    We are in a Teams of Our Lady group, which isn’t necessarily a parish ministry but the priest from our former parish (before we moved and where several couple still are) is our chaplain, and it’s really great.

    • Ellen

      Yes, love our Team. And yes to confession hours. I know our priests are so busy, but it is impossible to get out Saturday during nap time. And calling for an appointment just doesn’t happen.

    • Lisa

      A mother’s group would be wonderful — composed of more than just new moms or moms with babies/toddlers! Having support from older women and young unmarried ladies in the parish who are able to help those of us with little ones would be a huge blessing and encouragement.

      • Natural Family Planning Program

        In many dioceses there are marriage and family life directors who provide marriage enrichment and other helpful programs. One such program called “Elizabeth Ministries” is a mother to mother program. If you have a specific need, contact your diocesan marriage and family life office to discess the need. If you do call however, be prepared to be part of the solution as many diocesan offices rely on the help of parish volunteers!

    • Marissa

      Yes this! I went to confession last week and it had been a year. I had to go out of my way to make it happen and my husband wasn’t able to go so he could watch the kids. We have a 5, 3, and 18 month old and my husband is in residency so it is EXTREMELY difficult to go. The priest told me he has been going once a month for 21 years and encouraged me to commit to going once a month for a year. I wanted to scream.

      • Natural Family Planning Program

        Remember that you can always call the rectory and ask for Confession “outside” the normal hours.

        • Elizabeth

          But that means you cannot be anonymous, which is your right, and without which, lots of people just will not go.

      • JM

        It is NOT easy. My older kids are big enough to sit quietly in the pews, but my 3yo is too rascally, so, he just goes with me in the confessional 🙂 You can always take the chance of just showing up for confession is seeing if there’s an older lady or a young person who wouldn’t mind sitting with them while you go in. I had a lady offer this to me once, but I never would have come up with this on my own. I have been where you are before. I will certainly pray for God to send you help to get the sacramental grace you need, even at this difficult time. <3

  • Jen

    I think NFP is kind of this “secret society”…probably many more are doing it (and perhaps silently struggling!) than anyone realizes – making it feel like this hidden fringe group of the church. I remember when our moms group formed and we reached the topic, we all were on the same page, but didn’t realize it! We were all just tiptoeing around it! I wish it were publicized more (especially from priests!) so that it doesn’t seem so scary and foreign to those not aware of it!

    My husband and I are starting out with Domestic Church (a lay apostolate from Poland, similar to Teams of Our Lady), and THIS is the support marriages and families need. Every couple has a circle with an assigned priest, make commitments to prayer, etc., and have monthly meetings and formation with the group. It builds in the community, priestly support, and marriage formation that so many of us are missing or yearning for. (I’m sure there are many other groups with similar functions, I use this just as an example!) It seems like so many of us just kind of try to survive our marriage and family – especially in the young kid years – instead of maintaining and thriving! But we don’t necessarily have the tools or encouragement to do so!

  • Jennifer

    Not specifically NFP related, but relevant. I’ve been thinking and praying a lot lately about writing resources and leading support groups for new parents in the church. There has been a lot of talk lately about the Church’s lack of focus on young couples and young families. I’m thinking something like pre-Cana or Engagement Encounter that truly helps at a very vulnerable time in a couples life: pregnancy and early parenthood. Our baptismal prep class was a video from the 1970’s and a few words about the sacrament. I would like to see the Church really show value to young parents and give them sessions on things like intimacy after baby, including what NFP looks like!, postpartum depression, family finances, family prayer, etc. I think increasing the spectrum of homilies is a great start, but connecting couples to one another and giving them the resources to succeed is where we should be heading.

  • Kathryn

    My gut reaction to the question of what we (my husband and I) need to keep living NFP is literally anything. We have no more NFP contact in the Archdiocese, no priestly support, very few families at Mass, and complete silence from the parish about anything related to Christian marriage & sexuality.

    People often suggest that I compile the support resources or start a mom group or NFP support group but I can’t in this stage of life with needy littles and a husband who works overtime to support us. It’s never crossed my mind that we’re doing the wrong thing with NFP, but gosh it’s so lonely and exhausting and isolating sometimes.

    • TerriB

      I’ve felt a nudge to do something in my parish as well. In that time, I’ve had 2 miscarriages and had another 2 healthy babies. My mom’s group is my lifeline. I know we have many resources in our parish. I’m praying to be able to impact at the Diocesan level. I’ll pray for you as well that the Holy Spirit direct our efforts.

    • Natural Family Planning Program

      Consider taking a look at the websites of the various NFP providers (e.g., Couple to Couple League, BOMA-USA, Family of the Americas, Marquette NFP Institute, Northwest Family Services, The Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, etc.). They may have networks on line that you can plug into.

    • Karyn

      Those are awesome ideas….it’s almost like you need a mother who is done raising her kids but is not that far removed from her “time in the trenches” to have forgotten the struggles. There’s a mom in my parish who has raised seven kids; the youngest is in his twenties. I keep wanting to catch up with her and ask her to mentor me, lol. But someone like that would be perfect for leading a mom’s group.

  • Claire

    A related issue is that , in general, the Church provides very little support to infertile couples. There is a lack of education regarding licit and illicit methods to achieve fertility, and barely any support for couples who never go on to achieve a live birth. Having experienced this firsthand, it’s disheartening. I was rebuffed by my diocese when I tried to promote a ministry to infertile couples. This type of support is essential to promoting a culture of life.

    • Natural Family Planning Program

      Well taken comments! When a diocese does have a thriving NFP Ministry, it also attends to the heartache of infertility. That said, there are precious few Catholic resources on this subject. The good news however, is that many NFP leaders are trying to develop such resources, including programs.

  • Stefanie

    We definitely need more clergy talking about NFP – in their homilies, in marriage prep, at baptismal prep, everywhere! I had never even heard of it until I was pregnant with my first child – and we were married in the Church and had prep classes. The deacon doing prep’s only comment on anything of that nature was “If you aren’t having sex, good. If you’re doing it, stop.” Not helpful. I think support groups are key and just getting people talking about it as an option. I was fortunate because even though my OB/GYN isn’t an NFP doctor, she worked with it for me and learned more about it. Doctors and medical staff should be taught about it as well, so they can give it as a family planning method. I live in a very rural area where the nearest NFP consultant is over an hour away, so there isn’t really any good ties to it. There needs to be a shift in culture overall to get people realizing that being open to life and using your body’s natural cycle a completely normal, natural thing.

    • Anamaria

      What would talking about it in baptism prep look like? We are in charge of baptism prep for our parish and I am certainly open to that but I have no idea how it would fit in.

      • Stefanie

        Well, I hadn’t thought it out in detail, but as many have mentioned, sometimes the biggest struggle of NFP is trying to chart and figure your cycle out post-partum, especially when breastfeeding and weaning. It might be something to revisit while the parents are available, or it sounds like it is very possible that it would be the first time they had ever heard about it or talked about it. I suppose it would be up to each parish/ministry on how to best bring it into the discussions.

      • Marie

        Our baptism prep (if I recall correctly, it was almost 6 years ago now!) included a discussion and a little handout on taking care of your marriage after the baby. Little things about sharing duties and helping out with ___ even though it might not be your strong suit, knowing how/when to ask for help… and acknowledging that due to being tired and all the other things going on, intimacy might be a challenge for awhile (or a long while). They were lighthearted about it, but it was something good to bring up. Thinking about it now, that would have been the perfect time to bring up NFP. It could be as simple as providing contact info for area teachers or websites for the methods taught in the area, including a handout with class times (our local Couple-to-Couple League has a pdf schedule out a couple times a year, the Pope Paul VI Institute has an intro class twice a month, I think?)… and it could be as detailed as giving out contact information for an NFP liaison type person (or having them stop by during class). Just a thought. We are NFP liaisons at our parish (though kind of inactive, since the gal at the Archdiocese who coordinated the liaisons at different parishes “retired” to be with her kids), so I’m liking this idea. Maybe I should approach our baptism class coordinators and offer to provide them some info!

      • Natural Family Planning Program

        ……… could look like a talk on embracing God’s vision for the person, the marriage, and the family. This would be a “Christian anthropology” talk that gets into the details about how God made the person, human sexuality, and marriage. The Church’s teachings in support of NFP come from this sacred anthropology. A solid presentation would look at why God is always a part of every loving encounter between husband and wife and how using contraception is a rejection of God’s design. There are lots of folks who have set up this type of talk–even some that are in videos (you may want to check YouTube). For the professionals, check out “Theology of the Body Institute”, Theology of the Body Evangelization Team (TOBET), the writings of Christopher West (he has some nice videos in the “Joyful Marriage” series), Damon Ownes, Mary Shivanandan, just to name a few.

  • Lindsey

    Coming from a place of infertility rather than hyper-fertility, my husband and I could use more reassurance from the Church that just because we don’t have any kids, we’re no less Catholic and no less a family than those who are so blessed. There’s an underlying message that in order to be a good Catholic family, you need to pop out babies every year or two, which is a mentality that helps nobody. Or to be considered a family at all you need to have children.
    Additionally, more ministry for infertile couples would be incredible. It’s such a lonely journey and hard to find community around a topic that nobody wants to broach.

  • Betsy

    I read once about a sort of Theology on Tap for marriage-a short speaker-dinner at tables set for two-babysitting provided. A way for parents to have a “date night” that also includes some teaching, a space to provide deeper conversation together. That’s my dream.

  • Jody

    More teaching on what chastity looks like in marriage. This is especially important while doing a lot of abstaining because breastfeeding means unclear signs for us. (And yes, I’ve tried your method. I’ve tried all the methods.) although this is difficult to address in homilies because children are present. Im of sure were the appropriate place would be, the confessional? It would be nice to be receiving teaching with my husband by my side though…

  • Colleen

    I’m totally prepared to be hated for this but at the root of NFP is the concept of having regular sex without conceiving a baby.

    We want the exact same thing as contracepting women. In NFP is the external sexual act “technically” open to life? Yes. Is the mentality behind NFP the same as a a woman using birth control? Yes.
    Regular sex without conceiving a baby.

    NFP was an extreme mercy granted by the Church. It isn’t supposed to be used as often as Catholics are using it. It was for the most extreme circumstance and now we all go into our marriages expecting to use it and freak out on God when we get pregnant and didn’t want to.

    Our mentality needs to change.

    • Helena


      The worst advice I received from many faithful Catholics while engaged was to put off having kids a few years using NFP. Fortunately I was informed enough to ignore this advice, but I know many couples who weren’t and carry lasting scars. There is WAY. WAY. too much emphasis that everyone has to learn and practice NFP by default in marriage. While I appreciate having knowledge about my fertility, there is almost no foreseeable reason I would use that knowledge to prevent a pregnancy.
      The church should focus on ways to support families of all sizes and ages and those struggling to conceive, not on shoving NFP down everyone’s throat.

      • Jenny Uebbing

        Ladies, it is beautiful and exemplary to be completely open to God’s will for your family and to be willing and able to have as many children as your natural fertility permits. However, the Church does permit NFP as a gift – albeit a challenging gift – to couples who for serious reasons need to space or avoid pregnancies. As is most evident from the discussion here in the past week, the problem is hardly the Church “shoving NFP down everyone’s throat,” but, rather, a rather abject failure to adequately communicate the beauty of human sexuality and Catholic teaching to couples in the pews. Yes, our priests need to encourage the faithful to be open and generous and faithful…but when the same number of Catholics are defying the Jesus and the Church’s law and and using contraception as the general population, then Houston, we have a problem. And it’s not that too many people are availing themselves of Creighton instruction.

        • Colleen

          Thank you Jenny, I think it would be helpful if you could you cite the magisterial documents that refer to NFP as a gift?

          I have worked for two large dioceses in the marriage and family life departments, both of which require NFP instruction as a prerequisite for getting married in the Church. I would say the Church couldn’t be more forceful about it than that.

          I have also been told numerous times by clergy and Catholic laity that I must need to retake NFP classes because my children are coming just too fast and it must not be good for me and I must need a break.

          If we as women are healthy enough to engage in regular sex 10-15 days a month but are simply not healthy enough to have a baby we have flawed understanding of grave reason. It is the duty of the Church to better outline what exactly constitutes grave reason regarding periodic sexual continence.

          • Anamaria

            Colleen, I’m sorry that you have been told that you must need to re-take an NFP class. That is very damaging.

            A mandatory NFP class is a great idea, I think, even though most of us might need a gentle nudge that our reasons for avoiding may not be as serious as we think they are. The two reasons I think mandatory NFP classes are good is: 1. the majority of people assume they are going to use contraception. If they have to learn NFP, they may decide to do that, instead, which is not sinful in and of itself, so that is great. It is also points out what the marriage act is for in a way that contraception does not, perhaps slowly challenging someone who assumes they should postpone children that they are missing something.
            The second reason that mandatory NFP class is good is because you just don’t know what will happen in your life. Maybe you desperately want a baby but it doesn’t come – charting is the first step for figuring out why not. Maybe you don’t have serious reasons when you marry and assume you never will, but then develop a serious health condition after baby #3 or breastfeeding doesn’t space your babies more than a year apart. These both real examples of people I know who struggled to learn NFP postpartum, while breastfeeding, when everything is more difficult (and yes, I do think having a three month old is a serious reason for almost anyone).

            The reason the church doesn’t give us a list is that it is up to individual discernment, that a serious reason for one person might not be for someone else. I would like to see more tactful discussion of this but I think it is good that there is no list.

          • Quidproquo

            Please show me where the term grave reason is used. I can only find ‘serious cause,’ ‘just cause,’ or ‘defensible reason.’
            The first reference to periodic abstinence in Church history that I can find is this: In 1853, the Bishop of Amiens, France, submitted the following question to the Sacred Penitentiary:
            “Certain married couples, relying on the opinion of learned physicians, are convinced that there are several days each month in which conception cannot occur. Are those who do not use the marriage right except on such days to be disturbed, especially if they have legitimate reasons for abstaining from the conjugal act?”
            On March 2, 1853, the Sacred Penitentiary (during the reign of Pope Pius IX) answered as follows:
            “Those spoken of in the request are not to be disturbed, providing that they do nothing to impede conception.”

            If the Church had wanted to say “grave matter” it would have said “Res gravis.”
            Here are the lists of the various Popes of “justae causae” though I doubt the Popes adhere to your requested degree of specificity.

            Here is an article with links to all the original sources, with the respective lists of just causes for which a couple might abstain.
            PS. I speak as one who was also warned by midwives and well-meaning Catholics that I should use nfp to space my children more, and I did not listen and am now paying the price with ruined fertility and major health problems.

          • Chris


            HV cannot be read without recourse to the footnotes as explanatory.

            This is true when Casti Connubii and the Address to Midwives are repeatedly footnoted.

            They outline the four reasons that recourse to the infertile period can be used among couples. They are medical, eugenic, economic and social. Ther are decribed as “serious” reasons, and not “grave”. But those are the four reasons alone that one can turn to it.

        • Chris

          Really? the problem is hardly the Church “shoving NFP down everyone’s throat,”???

          I have literally had NFP brochures shoved into my hands multiple times and told I need it, and that I shouldn’t burden my wife with anymore children. We have 7.

          We chose to simply not use NFP for several reasons. First, is we didn’t think we had a serious reason. Second, my wife wasn’t at all interested in charting anything.

          I know more than I should about it, because I worked for the NCCB in the Pro-Life Secretariat years ago. But I am absolutely sick of the NFP evangelists who somehow think that every Catholic should be using it.

          • Chris

            Why? Because it looked interesting, and we are not opposed to NFP per se, and are at a point in our marriage where there is a legitimate medical reason to space another child if we were to have one.

            And, please note, I was replying to your comment and not the whole post.

          • Colleen

            Hey Chris, here’s “grave reason” in Puis XII Allocution to Midwives (under “The Primary Duty” heading.

            “This being so, the general principle can now be stated that the fulfilment of a positive duty may be withheld should grave reasons, independent of the good will of those obliged to it, show that such fulfilment is untimely, or make it evident that it cannot equitably be demanded by that which requires the fulfillment-in this case, the human race.”

          • Colleen

            If all the people who pushed NFP pamphlets at parents of large families knew the Pope said this, they might think twice about doing so. 😉

            “Far more frequently, in thought and in words, the attitude of considering children a heavy ‘burden’ predominates. How opposed is this frame of mind to the mind of God and to the words of Holy Scripture, and, for that matter, to sound reason and the sentiment of nature! Should there be conditions and circumstances in which parents, without violating the law of God, can avoid the ‘blessing’ of children, such cases of force majeure, however, by no means authorise the perversion of ideas, the disparaging of values, the belittling of the mother who has had the courage and the honour to give life.”
            -Pius XII, On Marriage and the Moral Law, Allocution to Midwives

          • Quidproquo

            Pope Paul vi adds “psychological” to that list of four. My point is that the list is broad, and couples of good will will use the teaching of the Church to form their consciences. Where the Church is not terribly specific, we cannot expect a direct yes or no answer from a priest or a document to “ought we use nfp this month or not.” That means that couples must avail themselves of the grace that comes directly to them through the Sacrament of Matrimony, and not look to the church to tell them what to do in the particular circumstances known only to themselves and God. Would that Catholics could do the same for each other, not presume to know the particulars, stick to the presentation of the documents, the theology behind it, and the facts of nfp. Let God alone then enter where others ought not dare.

      • Jenny Uebbing

        I do agree that it’s damaging and unhealthy advice to tell engaged couples to put off babies “just because.” The entire point of marriage is unity and openness to life, so to teach that all couples need “a little breathing room” before having kids is crazy.

          • Colleen

            I don’t see “NFP is a gift” here though. They keep reiterating the serious nature behind it’s use.

          • Colleen

            PS, the bulk of link is Fr. Richard Hogan’s analysis of NFP with a few quotes from Magisterial documents.

        • Ava

          Ditto. In the vatican website english translation of Humanae Vitae, it’s clear from the word choice that, if nfp is being used to avoid pregnancy, it be used after the first child. I’ll have to look tonight and follow this up with the exact wording and citation. Anyhoo, the Pauline Press english translation (which is also published by Ignatius Press) leaves out those key words that make it clear. I studied HV with several friends which is how the translation discrepancies came to light. The Vatican version is official and authoritative as it’s translated from the “editio typica” (Latin version from which all official translations are drawn from). The Pauline Press version was translated from HV in Italian (the language Bl. Pope Paul VI penned it in) before the Church was able to give it an editio typica for official translations and publishing.

          • Ava

            So this is from section 10 of HV from the Vatican translation which differs from the Ignatius Press/Pauline Press translation:

            “With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

            The words “more” plus “additional” are missing in the translations taken from the Italian translation as opposed to the editio typica version officially (albeit later?) promulgated by Bl. Pope Paul VI, but are important as they appear to point out that a couple shouldn’t enter marriage with the plan to avoid pregnancy immediately. I can’t read Italian so I’m not sure if the words “more” or “additional” appear in the Italian version, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t. If you think about procreation being what marriage is primarily ordered towards, it makes sense to say a couple’s not ready to marry if they’re not ready to be parents at least to one child a year or so after their wedding (God willing). I have some friends who asked our opinion about this, because they wanted to marry but also were concerned about whether this teaching meant they should wait until they felt ready to welcome a child (God willing). At the time, I didn’t know about the wording emphasis on using nfp to avoid after having had at least one child, so I told them not to worry about it. I mean, that’s why there’s nfp; right? In fact, so my whole group of Catholic college friends told them at the table. I don’t feel guilty about it, though, because we didn’t know then. Anyhow, hope this helps. Jenny, I loved your ideas – especially having a diocesan go-to that would help with those resources.

          • Ava

            Forgive me, but what does AAS stand for? Thank you for correcting me if I’m wrong, but even so that doesn’t explain the translation discrepancies/omissions which are important.

        • Sheila

          I disagree. Many people gave me this advice, I ignored it, but I wish I’d listened. Marriage takes some learning, for one thing, and for another, NFP is best learned before it’s a matter of life and death. A few months of waiting and practice will do no harm.

    • Quidproquo

      Contraception is an intrinsic evil. There is no justification to use physical or chemical contraception for any reason. NFP is abstention from relations. Show me the church docs that mandate couples to have relations every day.

      This is the difference between eating a snack with the intent of vomiting it up, and simply not eating . One is a sin. The other is not. Any good thing can be used for evil. But the misuse of something does not mean that thing is evil in itself.

    • Natural Family Planning Program

      Yes NFP is a gift. Yes NFP is supposed to be used with prayerful discernment. And, Yes, each couple’s circumstances will be different that will shape their discernment. It is not Catholic teaching however, to say that NFP should only be used in extreme circumstances (the reasons should be “just” or “serious”).
      A better way to say what I think you are trying to get at is: God created marriage to be both the “communion of persons” for the husband and wife, therefore, spousal sexual union is important; AND, God willed that procreation is a supreme good of marriage. So, it is not “either or” it is “both AND.” What NFP educators have found out in working with married couples is that there may be a kind of “immature” mentality that many couples have in the beginning. It often begins with “we want to avoid” children for whatever reasons. As couples live together, struggle, and grow in God’s love together in marriage, they are more able to “hear” God’s promptings to have another child, or not. Again, this takes time due to the need to grow together in the Lord. So, living with a heart open to God’s will is an ongoing journey, especially in marriage where two heart are supposed to be one!

      • Colleen

        The majority of my very conservative Catholic friends used the periodic abstinence of NFP from the time of their wedding night to around their 2nd or 3rd anniversaries. This was the norm. They learned the method during marriage prep and it was never mentioned to them that NFP was not intended to avoid their first pregnancy nor were they given any context for how the Church understood the purpose of its use.

        NFP as it was presented to me put me in a headspace that was fundamentally at odds with God’s plan for marriage.

        I did not see myself as a co-creator in God’s divine plan and that my children were expressly willed into by Him at the exact moment of conception.

        Had the Church presented NFP in the context of Her documents (that’s all I was pointing out here-the Church’s position-not my personal judgement), I and many other women would not have felt like failures and we wouldn’t be enduring comments from our own brethren about how we really need to get NFP figured out.

        I beg you, please read these two documents and see if you can see where the Church was coming from.

    • Cami

      Generally speaking I don’t think the church shoves NFP down throats. I think they are trying very hard to inform people that there’s an alternative to birth control that teaches us about the signs God gave us to know about our fertility and to strengthen our trust in God and our relationships with our spouses. Good NFP teaching is clear when it encourages us NOT to adopt a contraceptive mentality. Use NFP to conceive, use NFP to space if truly necessary. Not to avoid conception so you can travel the world as newlyweds or get to know each other more. Those are selfish excuses not to allow fruitfulness in a marriage. Getting married and becoming sexually involved means babies may come. Marriage isn’t for adopting dogs and traveling and saving up a bunch of money before welcoming children. So I think the message from the church is a little misunderstood. Most of the advice from anyone older than us and still alive is not pro-life. The culture they married and raised kids in wasn’t pro-life. I’ve found very few people to believe marriage is about starting a family. Many elders tell us to be “wise” in how many children we have so we don’t undergo a financial burden. Because college. But most devout Catholics that are pro-life and growing their families care more about their children going to Heaven than to college. Because God has a unique plan for each one and it doesn’t necessarily mean college… or that we made a mistake having 4 kids so far because we don’t have a thriving college fund. I’m ranting a bit but I think it’s important to have an understanding of Theology of the Body to truly embrace NFP and the message of the church on the matter. Birth control was created to contracept. Period. NFP is for conceiving and spacing if needed. Not contracepting.

      • Kayla

        “NFP is for conceiving and spacing if needed. Not contracepting”
        I recently wrote a paper on NFP for my Christian Bioethics class. The object of the act of a sexual union with NFP is fundamentally different than contraception. The object of the act with contraception is to avoid pregnancy, while the object of the act with NFP is unitive/procreative while still leaving open the possibility of conception. So philosophically there is no such thing as using NFP for contraceception, in the way you are meaning it. The two terms do not equate.

        But on the “contraceptive mentality” or only using NFP to avoid: That is the beauty of NFP- that it is up to the individual couple to discern within their marriage and with God what is a serious reason to abstain. That is a process between them and God that is not up to the input of others. So we are not in a place to say if a couple should be using NFP to avoid or achieve, if they have too many kids or not enough.
        I agree a more clear understanding of NFP is needed, both in the practical implementation and the theology/philosophy behind it- how NFP, sex, marriage, gender, Gods plan for salvation are all beautifully interconnected. But even more, I think a greater charity and love for one’s neighbor needs to be at the forefront of all side of debate!

  • Ari

    Basically, anything would be an improvement, and we are lucky enough to live in a diocese with actual NFP teachers, however, it was not required for our marriage prep (what?!). The entirety of NFP teaching at our parish consists of a cheesy, dated poster that says “Love…Naturally.” I’m sure it means nothing to people who don’t know what NFP is, and it’s tucked away in a classroom that’s mostly used for teenagers and (unmarried) young adults. I have not once in my 11 years as a Catholic heard a sermon that mentioned NFP. There are references in homilies to being pro-life (as in being against abortion) and *extremely veiled* references to marriage being between one man and one woman, but nothing about God’s plan for sexuality in greater context, whether inside marriage or outside marriage, whether same-sex attracted or opposite-sex attracted, nothing about chastity as a VIRTUE. We have to put this in context. We have to understand that NFP is just a tool to help us follow God’s plan for sexuality when married. Theology of the Body 101 needs to be in the water and preached from the pulpit so that we understand the why behind the what and behind the rules. If it weren’t for me hearing Christopher West speak live before I got engaged, I probably would have contracepted throughout our marriage. He saved me from that. (Thank you, Christopher West, God, and JPII.) But, why isn’t this standard, basic knowledge for *every* Catholic in all stations of life? This would help us all in our different vocations. Then, of course, we need support and community. What I see in our parish is mainly Hispanic young families. The anglos are not marrying, and then they are not having children, or they are not attending church. Even at that, the older generation that has so much wisdom and still attends church needs to reach out to us younger ones and give us some insight. I’m among the numbers of young marrieds without children, due to miscarriage. The women’s group at our parish is held during the workday, not for working women, babysitting not provided for moms, and there is nothing just for families or just for mothers. There is ministry to shut-ins, but no cross- community outreach for people who just had surgery or a baby. We know two other newlywed couples in our parish, and I haven’t dared ask them such a personal question about whether or not they use NFP, but I am curious. Sadly, though they are practicing Catholics, if they went through our parish’s marriage prep, I don’t know if they even know what NFP is or know that contraception is against church teaching.

    We need homilies about God’s plan for sexuality, we need better marriage prep, we need NFP courses to be required for all marriage prep, we need community for infertile couples, families, moms, married couples, etc., we need Theology of the Body taught alongside the 10 commandments, we need outreach, to any and all in need, especially new families or families grieving the loss of a child, we need our elders to give us their wisdom, and basically, we need a revival. This is part of the new evangelization. We have to evangelize *our own* on this issue, which I see as God’s plan for human sexuality.

  • Jessica

    As a young woman preparing for marriage this summer and trying to navigate the waters about NFP, these recent posts have been so empowering! I am a grad student and a recent convert (glad to be home!), but the Catholic community in our area is so small so it has been challenging to feel comfortable talking about these topics. My fiance and I completed the NFP course online through our diocese as a part of our marriage prep, and even though we are both completely on board and in agreement with the Church teachings, most days we feel at a loss about how to actually put this into practice. We are trying the sympto-thermal method and I’ve been tracking for the past couple of months, but we still have so many questions about how this actually works and making sense of the inconsistencies in charting. Our parish primarily serves college students like ourselves, though we know hardly anyone at our stage of life who both understand and follows the Church’s teachings on family and life. Everywhere we turn, we are faced with the temptation to use contraceptives as we prepare for marriage and we are the outliers for choosing NFP. It can be challenging some days for my fiance and I to feel strong in this calling, especially in feeling like we have no one to share this with. I have found more community in reading these posts and seeing everyone’s stories than from my parish. It is so encouraging and refreshing to know we are not alone on this journey, and I am hopeful that someday we will be a part of a parish with a vibrant family and marriage ministries. For now, I just want to say how much I appreciate all of you for your love and support! Your stories are empowering and I will continue to tune in and open my heart!

    • Kathryn

      Congratulations on your upcoming wedding, and welcome home!! I just wanted to provide some solidarity – I was married at 22 and we use the sypto-thermal method. We were able to postpone for 1.5 years to get out of debt and now we’re using it postpartum with the help of an instructor (who I email weekly for advice!) Unfortunately there is a lot of abstinence for us, especially in the beginning when we were still figuring out sex in general, let alone when to have it while we were postponing pregnancy! But, while challenging, the periods of abstinence (sometimes long long periods) have strengthened our communication with each other and our intimacy. I know how lonely it can be to be young, married, and practicing your faith – but you are not alone and the grace of the sacrament of marriage will sustain you! God bless

    • Ari

      I had a hard time with Sympto-Thermal method and ended up doing Marquette and teaching myself. Marquette has lots of online resources, and it was much more straightforward for me than STM. You are not alone, but I feel your pain!

  • Colleen

    “Therefore to embrace the marital state, to use continually the faculty proper to such a state and at the same time to avoid its primary duty without a grave reason, would be a sin against the very nature of married life.”

    “The sole fact that the spouses do not offend against the nature of the act and that they are willing to accept and bring up the child that is born notwithstanding the precautions they have taken would not of itself alone be a sufficient guarantee of a right intention and the unquestionable morality of the motives themselves.” Pope Pius XII, Allocution to the Midwives

    • Malia

      Colleen, while I completely respect and agree with the points you are trying to make, I think you need to be careful in trying to define what might be considered grave reasons to avoid pregnancy for other people. Case in point, read the post below yours from Tanya. Are most of us devout Catholics open to life and fully on board with raising the children God blesses us with? Absolutely! Do we sometimes need to practice abstinence to avoid pregnancy for serious reasons? Also, absolutely. But having a mother who is drowning emotionally, psychologically, or physically while trying to meet the demands of her young and expanding family is serious stuff. Maybe not to you, but to the person experiencing those things, it IS very serious. We are called to be open to life, but we are also called to responsible parenthood. And while I agree that most of us can get by financially on less than we really have, some people’s financial situations ARE very grave and serious and may call for a period of abstinence while they sort that out. I could go on and on for what constitutes “grave” but my point is that those reasons vary greatly from couple to couple and it’s not my place to tell other people to stop using NFP to help determine their family size. NFP is an opportunity to respect the procreative potential of the marital act that takes tons of discipline, awareness, education, communication, PRAYER, and trust in God, and those of us who are using it faithfully do not look at it as just another form of birth control so we can have sex without making babies. My husband and I have welcomed joyfully 5 living babies and 1 miscarriage in 10 years using NFP. We know that our ultimate family size will be discerned carefully and with God’s guidance. And if that is sinful, then I guess I’m at a loss.

      • Colleen

        I didn’t mean to come across as judgemental or unsympathetic. I am pregnant with my 9th baby in 10 years of marriage. This was never what I had envisioned when I said “yes” to the “will you accept children lovingly from God?” question at my wedding. In my mind it looked like “why yes I will lovingly accept the 5 kids God will give me during my _______ years of marriage.” and NFP was exactly how I was going to make that happen. Well, it didn’t. If I had gone into marriage with a different mentality I wouldn’t have felt like a sinner/failure for not succeeding at NFP.
        My husband is not abusive, we do not have self control problems. God has totally blessed his job. I got pregnant 3 times while following 2 different NFP methods. Every time the test was positive I had to struggle again with convincing myself that yes God wanted this and maybe the reasons I thought were so grave actually weren’t.
        I have had depression, (I did even before I was married) and am taking medicine for that and with every pregnancy my husband makes sure I have extra help.
        Cross each bridge as it comes, God WILL help all of us through this!

        • Malia

          I’m sorry if I misinterpreted your comments, Colleen. I think that, NFP, or the decision not to use it, is definitely a journey for each couple. I can say for myself, that when we started using it early in our marriage (also early in our faith journey) it definitely was a contraceptive mentality. We were ignorant, uninformed, and immature, but we did want to do right by Church teaching. Learning NFP actually WAS a gift to us, because it opened our eyes to the actual teachings of our Church regarding fertility and childbearing, and we began to see that it’s okay to welcome children even when you’re not “planning” to. It also was a HUGE step for my husband, who was not Catholic at the time. Had we not given it a try, I fear we would have given in to other methods and pushed ourselves further away from God’s truth. But, God changed our hearts without us even realizing it, thanks to NFP. Everyone on this thread has a unique and wonderful story to tell, but I think it’s important that we recognize we are not required to give our explanations for doing, or not doing, NFP. The best part about it is its uniqueness to each couple’s life and situation. God knows our hearts and our reasons and the most important part of it is having God at the center. It’s definitely important to give counsel and guidance to others in good faith, and I appreciate you giving us citations and resources to and aid us in our discernment. I know that your intent is very good, and again I apologize for misinterpreting your comments! Im very grateful for posts like these where many people finally feel like they have a voice regarding such an important topic and can reach out to and encourage others!

          • Colleen

            Thank you Malia, I feel the same! It is so helpful to hash this out with people in the same boat.

            I cited the documents because they jived exactly with God was doing in my life. I felt set free for the first time.

            The section on responsible parenthood in Humane Vitae (which reads much differently than Pius XII stuff) for me was like a ton of guilt bricks on top of me each time I got a positive pregnancy test. “Dear God I’m so irresponsible! This pregnancy was an oversight on my part somehow and there’s no way you had anything to do with it because you want responsible parents. I’m so embarrassed!”

            I just wanted to offer other Church documents that aren’t included in NFP/marriage prep materials in case anyone out there felt like I did.

      • Julia

        After reading Colleen’s comments I do not find her judging anyone. Only saying that there is more to NFP than every catholic should use it. It should be used not as the norm, but as an exception. The mentality that we approach NFP is the fault. We approach NFP as Catholic Conception, when we do we will be left with heartache and frustration. Honestly, I feel bashed and bruised by NFP practitioners because we “failed” and conceived. We have giving our fertility over completely to God and it is so freeing. I do know we are blest to be able to, low risk pregnancy and nature cycles that allow for 20 months spacing. I understand that so many of you cannot do this…your fear and anxiety must be so great. NFP is not a sin, how we approach it can be, just as in all things. There are always so many layers to every part of the church teaching, Thank you Colleen for bringing to light what I have always felt: the way we view and approach NFP needs to change.

        • Colleen

          Thank you Julia! I too was broken by the language that my NFP pregnancies were “user error”. I had to reprogram myself to see them as blessings from God.
          Why should Catholics have to do that?

      • Chris


        Your point and Colleen’s point are not mutually exclusive.

        You mention 2 of the 4 specific reasons for utilizing recourse to the infertile period that Pius XII mentions in the same allocation that Colleen references.

        • Malia

          Hi Chris, I’m assuming since you took time to comment that you also read the rest of our exchange where I apologized for any misunderstanding and we agreed we are on the same page.

    • Morgan


      Until recently I would have been saying exactly what you are saying. When we first got married, my husband and I thought NFP was terrible.
      Fast forward and we have 6 boys in 7 years (plus a miscarriage), 2 children with serious medical needs (one child requires 24/7 skilled nursing care),3 kids being homeschooled, and a husband who works two jobs to pay our medical bills- last year was over 40,000. I’m exhausted and I need a break. I cannot keep up with tube feedings, breathing treatments, medications, emergency protocols when a kid stops breathing, homeschooling, and general house keeping.
      Enter NFP, because we need a break and my body needs more than 6 months from one pregnancy to the next. Could total abstinence be an option? Definitely! But I have learned something from having children continually at death’s door- I need my husband and he needs me to get through each day. Our relationship has serious strains through no fault of our own and abstinence for a few years would add to that.

      So, I get your point- I really, really do. However, I ask you to withhold judgement from those of us fighting big battles while trying to live within the bounds the Church has set.

      • Colleen

        Again, I was not trying to be judgemental and I am SO sorry for the hardships you face! 3 of my sons have a genetic condition with a shortened life expectancy and frequent hospitals stays with them have been my lot too. I am totally
        I am not against NFP and I have tried to use it, I completely understand why many women avail themselves of it.
        I was just trying to highlight that the way it is presented changes our expectations about marriage and babies and for me it actually took God out of the equation, I know that is not everyone’s experience.

        • Beth

          Colleen, Maybe what you’re saying is that the approach we use to educate young folks about NFP is backwards. Instead of starting with the “how to avoid” program, maybe we should focus on learning, more deeply, about the meaning of the marital act and God’s plans for couples. THEN, if a couple discerns the need for tools to avoid, NFP could be used.

      • Rob

        Morgan, God bless you in your struggles. We have five children, the eldest of whom has severe cerebral palsy and is tube-fed, etc. Our first was an emergency C-section and the subsequent four were all scheduled C-sections. My wife’s uterus is in tatters and conceiving another child would very likely result in her death as well as the death of the child. One of the least helpful things Christians can do is invent sins and further burden their fellow human beings trying to walk with Christ as best as they know how. Charity and mercy…the heart of God’s love for His creation.

  • Tanya

    Honestly I think its more than just the church can offer. Its more like what we need from society. I am also blessed to belong to a huge family friendly parish thats brimming with families big and small. We have our own in residence NFP teacher and several others. We have 2 Napro trained Dr’s in the area as well. I know lots of NFP practicing couples. My husband and I have been doing NFP since we were engaged. We have had 5 kids in 10 years and tons and tons of abstinence to boot. We are very fertile and get no break from cycles despite fully breastfeeding all my kids roughly 2 years each. What do I need? If I am expected to have baby after baby… I need more support. I need grandmothers who are around and available to help not working full time themselves. I need other moms home during the day for my kids to play with, moms I can talk to and get support from and friendship so this whole staying whole with little kids that stretches on and on and on because we keep having kids isn’t so freaking lonely. I need people I can lean on while I barf for 25 weeks straight and can’t even open the fridge without gagging. I need Catholics schools not to cost so darn much so that I am not forced to drive my kids 30 min away to attend a good charter school thats free. I totally believe that a Catholic education that costs 4/5/6,000 per kid is worth it but lets be honest most of us can’t afford that 5,000 x 5 kids while living on one income… even if that income is middle class and the one holding the income has advanced degrees. And really we need more honest to goodness homilies and talk about how hard it is to abstain, to be constantly saying no to each other all the time because well maybe mama has PPA, is nursing a 3 month old and drowning in laundry and dishes. More talk about the cross that is Catholic sexuality for sure.

    • Malia

      Great points Tanya! This completely resonated with me! You sound much like me, 5 babes in 10 years. While I love and cherish my call to have a large family, the support network just isn’t what it used to be, and that can make Catholic motherhood a very lonely and difficult road.

      • Quidproquo

        Exactly! The Church gives us the Sacraments, not a complete cradle to grave package of human goods. Grace builds on nature, and the Church thrives best in cultures with strong family and community bonds, and it cannot replace those with programs and methods. We need to grow up and realize that nobody is going to give us all the things. We have to rise up out of the ashes of our culture, use the power of the Sacraments, and rebuild our families and communities. There is no escape from the fact that this responsibility lies primarily with mothers. Ok I know we are all so exhausted and lonely. But what do we do about it? We need to stop pitying ourselves and put our game faces on and get serving.

        • Rob

          “pity.” I have to say, this kind of approach does not seem really helpful especially to people who are honestly struggling to live out their faith according to their understanding of Christ. There are a lot of comments here and I have not seen any that smack of self-pity. Many of them are painfully real and it is extremely important for human beings to acknowledge honestly their own struggles and to feel the reality of their weight and messiness. Certainly this kind of honest acknowledgement is part of God’s will for our own wholeness in Him.

    • Kirsten

      I agree with you that its more than the church can offer. Its a symptom of our convoluted society that has distorted what family life should look like. Our parish has very few young families and no support for them except a once a month dinner get together. It used to be, in days gone by, when more women stayed home, the ones without kids (young and old alike) spent their time volunteering to help other families. Families lives together with more than one generation or family group. These were the days of women working together to raise children. With the advent of female “empowerment” and working women, we have lost touch with those realities and the one’s who still try and live out that lifestyle find themselves alone. Please don’t misunderstand, I AM NOT dissing on working moms. I was one at one point myself out of necessity. I have been blessed to be in a position for the last 4 years to stay home and homeschool my kids 10, 9, 4 and one on the way. But it is a decision to be countercultural. I have no support. It would be nice for the church to find ways to help people to be faithful to her teachings but in the spiritual desert in which we live, resources to do that are seriously lacking. I have decided I just have to tough it out and carry my cross. Its difficult but in the end I hope when I have to answer to God he will say “welcome my good and faithful servant.” I imagine it was harder to live as an early Christian. They were such a minority as well. We live in troubling times and the comments here testify to the modus operandi of the devil in trying to undermine marriage and the family. Death by a thousand cuts.

    • Marie

      Tanya and others, thanks for sharing this. I am pregnant with our 5th (our oldest is starting high school next year). We have had some kids close together and spaced others for years, largely because of the cost of daycare (I work full time, have always done so, and am not interested in comments from anyone who might think that’s not the right choice for our family–we have been fortunate to be led clearly by God and I know the path we are on is 100% the right one for our family). I think there are all kinds of reasons for spacing children, and the Church is ALSO very clear, in HV and subsequent teaching, that this is a matter for the couple’s discernment….so to place the expectation on any woman that you ARE expected to turn out baby after baby, without any further context or reflection, is also an injustice to NFP. There are all kinds of blessings that come from having many children, close together….AND all kinds of blessings that come from working within God’s plan to space them as we can. A mom’s mental and emotional health is just as much a reason as physical health (look at all the medical literature on how the two are related!) or financial need. For those who find it harder to space, the frequent abstinence is surely a cross and spaces like this are a really valuable support to discuss that in more detail.

  • Lisa

    Amen to this, Jenny! Just some random two-cent thoughts I had while reading this:
    -I wish our NFP class had been more real (while maintaining the why behind why we practice it) about how hard it can be.
    – NFP resources need to be less textbook examples, as I would posit that the majority of women’s cycles aren’t neat and tidy, cut and dry cycles.
    – Better postpartum resources or some way to offer more clarity during months where charts are one big WTH question mark!
    – I wish I had someone who was in my face with an air horn in our beginning classes to point out that being super fertile happens, and in order to postpone pregnancy, the entirety of phase 1 is off limits.
    – Like others above have mentioned- more support from the Church/ pulpit.
    We belong to a huge parish in a solid diocese but often feel like we’re viewed as extreme for having 4 kids in 5 years. I wish I could tell so many parishoners that we didn’t plan it that way; all we are are two flawed people trying our best to be faithful to the teachings of the Church. I don’t think certain Catholics realize that some families with closely spaced children are carrying a cross!

  • Anna sanchez

    Support support support….. In reading all the comments to the story you posted I felt that I met a hundred kindred spirits. That understood that this call is as lofty as it is heartbreaking. I want to be open to life I want to dream of a strong catholic family. Some of the comments from older women helped me to keep that dream alive and the comments from the younger women helped me to not feel so utterly alone. Just being able to talk honestly about it has helped me. I am on pregnancy 6. I get a lot of unwanted comments and I was glad to add some of your witty replies to my arsenal. Please pray for this baby I have been praying for all of you.

  • Lara

    Priests, teaching and reaffirming the Church’s teaching on being open to life, what marriage is for and why the Church offers such a beautiful example of family life. Boldness of words, that’s what I need. I’m doubtful I will hear it in a homily, but one can hope and pray.

  • J

    I wish we had more conversation about what it means when we say that NFP is “hard.” Because people did tell me that before marriage, but I assumed that abstinence during fertile times was hard in the sense that not eating a brownie when you’re on a diet is hard (“oh, I want that and I can’t have it!”). But for us, in a postpartum stretch of a gazillion H’s in Marquette cycle 0, it’s gotten more tangled in questions of intimacy and relationship. Like: is my spouse even bothered that sex is off limits? is my spouse still attracted to me? will our libidos ever come back from this? are we just roommates and co-parents now?

  • Cara

    More of an emphasis on openness to life, in whatever form that is. . . . and more support for the products of that openness. . . we are going to an ordination at St Patrick’s in NYC. We have six kids 9 and under. There are no public bathrooms. They just spent 200 million on renovations. That is insensitive to the needs of the flocks, especially families with small children.

  • Shealyn

    I would love to see the encouragement of several new ministries. Perhaps new empty-nesters who don’t have grand children yet could help young families just starting out. I’d call it “Give a mom a nap!” How awesome would it be to know and count on a nap for 2-3 hrs every Thursday? I would love to see more parish social family events, parish family service events, couple mentorship programs, marriage enrichment, with babysitting, I would love to see a sort of welcoming ministry after Mass to encourage families with littles. Oh there is so much need! Discouragement is from the Devil and so many people feel alone carrying their crosses. I have lots of ideas but do not have the charism of administration. I am grateful for programs like InJoy (bible study with free babysitting for moms), and ENDOW.

  • Cora

    I would love to have a class offered and maybe even taught in a way that I can participate on my computer on my couch in my pj’s with a nursing baby… for post partum cycles and all that strange things that come with nursing a baby and getting your cycle back.
    I wish I would have learned more than one method of nfp before having kids (when I had time to take them) so I would have several “tools” to help me.
    I think it would be totally appropriate to mention the possible struggles of nfp in the pre-marriage classes and let the couple know what resources they could access if they meet those struggles. It is so hard to find the time and energy to reach out for help when you have 2+ small children you are taking care of.
    More in-depth classes offered of how our bodies and cycles work… almost like what an NFP instructor would and should know. So that maybe we can interpret oddities on our own.
    Pamplets listing all the resources from Doctors to Nfp instructors to books and websites that would be accessible in all parishes.
    Parenting, marriage and nfp classes offered.

  • Dixie

    We need priests who publicly and repeatedly rejoice in the presence of children at Mass, who chuckle at kids being yanked out of church to time-out and kiss the crying babies at Communion!

  • CM

    BABYSITTERS! Seriously though, for all of us extra-fertile women using NFP to try and slow down the baby wheel, yet still have a baby every other year, I would love to be supported physically with some mother’s helpers, a date night to remember what it’s like to be an adult, a night out with other moms, etc. I know children are a blessing from God, and we live out the church’s teachings on this. But then when you’re open to life and have lots of little lives, it suddenly seems like the church isn’t there to help you live out the vocation. It’s not easy to remain open again and again and again, along with the financial burden that comes with it. Is it too much to ask for some help from the church whose teachings we kill ourselves to follow?

    • Tina

      In a few years you get built in babysitters ;)!

      But, yes, it’d be nice to have a mothers/parents night out sponored by the church. There are often teenagers who need service hours for school who could help. I did this in high school. It was fun!

      • C

        But then I think the hold up for that option is that each volunteer would have to go through the diocese training for working with children, which can be extensive. So, sometimes for the teen who would help but also has (fill in the blank activity), they are automatically out because they don’t have 10 more hours or aren’t free on that training day.

  • CJ

    So many good comments.

    I have to echo so many of the previous comments – more homilies on the subject, more resources. We call our priests “Father” in part because he’s supposed to be OUR father, and as such I wish they would admonish parishioners who corner me after Mass to complain that our toddler was too loud (they weren’t, but they’re toddlers so they’re not silent), or that the sound of children are welcome (a quiet church is a dying church), or a million other things that a parent would do to support their children.

    So many of us live away from our families now. We live 200 km away from ours, so help from grandparents, siblings and cousins isn’t readily available. Even if we lived closer, often grandparents are still working these days and aren’t able to help in the day-to-day of child rearing. We were never designed to do this alone!

    The biggest thing we need is help. We have 4 kids from 2 to 11, and expecting #5. Our oldest has significant cognitive and developmental disabilities, and yet we’ve remained faithful to church teaching even though most sane people don’t have another child past a disabled child (hence why so many of the them are sadly only children in the secular world). But heavens, sometimes I just need a nap. I need someone to take the baby from me while I deal with the 100 lbs of hot mess on the floor because there was no cup of Precious Blood that day. I need someone to bring me a few groceries because getting to the store can be overwhelming with our brood.

    We get lots of positive comments from many parishioners – you are doing a good job, your children are beautiful, keep it up mom – but at the end of the day I need someone to make me soup when I’m sick and take my kids to the park while I’m vomiting. I need someone to keep an eye on my oldest and youngest so my husband and I can actually work on our renovations to build those extra bedrooms we’re soon going to need (going on 3 years now).

    One of the things I have found especially hard, with so many Catholic contracepting and getting sterilized, is that it’s hard to find community. For awhile, I had a good group of same-age peers and we had children of similar ages. But what happened? They had their 2 kids, and then went back to work. Those friendships become so hard to maintain, partially because the parents are gone 40+ hours working, but also because their children age but you keep having babies. So you make new (younger) friends, with babies similar ages to your younger children. They have their 2 kids, and now they’re going back to work too. I’m working on my 3rd wave of “mom friends” because no one keeps having babies, and it’s so hard to “fit in” when they want to do older-family stuff and you’ve got a baby and toddler in tow. It makes me sad and frustrated.

    Enough lamenting. Onwards and upwards.

    • MommaD

      I hear ya. I hear ALL of you ! At age 50, my long-time friends are second-honeymooning with their husbands, re-kindling the bond that is so hard to nurture while parenting babies- to -twenties for 26 years. It was my choice to embrace my faith and NFP, but nobody said what a roller coaster ride it would be and how hard it would be to find like-minded mommies of many who are not extreme in their views of exactly how NFP should or should never be used to space children. I’ve been more hurt than helped by radical- grave -causer’s views, more condemned than commiserated with by family members who see me struggle and care too much to watch me go through bedrest again :/ Nobody told me that ushers would tap me on the shoulder at mass and ask me to take out toddlers who were too loud ( not rude loud, just toddler loud). Nevermind that Daddy was going to 5 o’clock mass because he had worked overtime to pay the bills and wasn’t at mass with us. This is a BIG BIG topic because we have a tendency to be a tad judgmental in this lovely Catholic bubble in which Pro-life , anti-contracept women live. We are a wide and various range of people and we all need the compassionate connection that bridges the gap. Even on line, it helps. That said, I am grateful that I did not have full control of the size and timing of my family. I do believe that God knows exactly what he is doing , even when it looks like chaos to me and to people on the outside looking in and calling us Crazy Catholics. The struggle to embrace NFP is truly a beautiful cross. What we need is a strong network of local and online mommies of all ages who can listen, empathize, offers ideas, and remind us WHY we do what we do. For the Glory of Our Lord and the submission of our will to His. All this chatter is making me wonder if our parish has an NFP support group.

  • Brittany

    First of all, I really do appreciate the discussion here. At the same time, I think we need parishioners to be pro-active about telling their priests these things or taking action for ourselves. Every parish is going to look different and the clergy can’t possibly know which of these comments applies to their parishes without parishioners who are willing to step forward and say something–politely of course, but to say something.
    And I am very aware of the number of priests who won’t do anything no matter what anyone says! But I do think this needs to be handled on a local level, and that requires lay people speaking up and taking on some responsibilities to accomplish some of these things

  • Julie

    In reading all of these great comments, there is one support that I am not seeing much of: where is God in our fertility? Do I trust Him, truly trust Him to give me what I can handle? Or to give me the graces I need to handle all He entrusts me with? Am I praying, consistently with my spouse? Do we both trust God? The future belongs to the fertile, let my children belong to God–whether it is one or ten, may they belong to God. It is in our suffering/struggles/sacrifices that we draw closer to God. Bearing and raising (Godly!) children is the.hardest.job.ever. And it truly does go quicker than you realize.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      You’re so right Julie! I think one of the HUGE problems with NFP is that we? the church? the 70s? tried to hard to equivocate it with contraception, as if it’s some kind of baptized birth control the backwards old Church approves. It’s not. And the stupid effectiveness rates only make people feel crazy, frustrated, and overwhelmed, in my opinion. NFP is a great tool and it’s a blessing that we have it, but it can not be understood (or properly embraced) outside the context of openness to life and ongoing, daily discernment as a couple of God’s will for your family and your marriage. It’s not just that you have to chat physical symptoms and be aware of where the cycle is at, it really should translate into constant conversation (and conversion) about family size and how we are using the temporary and magnificent gift of our fertility.

    • Beth

      Yes! I think we should “teach” TOB in marriage prep classes and then maybe a little about fertility awareness FIRST! Then, if a “tool” is needed, then a referral can be made to one of the several options for NFP. Right now, the order of information presented is backwards.

  • Julie

    I wish my required premarital NFP class had been only Theology of the Body and a recommendation to read some books on FAM and NFP/use the Kindara app independently. It wasn’t helpful to me to take the class as it was structured because at the time I was on the pill and majorly eye-rolling the whole time the 60-year-old couple teaching the class talked about mucus and 98% efficacy “just like other forms of birth control.” I wish there had been more formation as a couple about sexuality and marriage, rather than a how-to of paper charts. I was so immature and didn’t understand (was never taught) why being open to life was so important as a Catholic. I didn’t fully understand the seemingly semantic difference between the pill and NFP for contraception. And though I’ve continued to grow past this point of view, my husband hasn’t. I am not nearly educated enough to educate anyone else on it, so we remain on very different pages when it comes to sexuality and marriage and without any options I know of for continued formation/reformation. What a lost opportunity those hours and hours of classes were!

    • Kirsten

      Julie, its amazing how similar your attitude with the premarital classes was to mine. It could have been my story except our couple that talked about NFP was younger. I would suggest Dr. Janet Smith’s videos “Contraception: Why Not?” or “The Pill: Why Not?”. You can look them up on You Tube very easily and she makes very clear and easy to understand cases for why the church is against contraception and the theological logic behind NFP. You might ask your husband to watch these with you. Another good book is called “Adam and Eve Before the Pill” by Mary Eberstadt. I was fortunate that my husband never liked me on the pill simply because he didn’t think pumping my body full of artificial hormones was healthy. Its amazing how some women try to be so environmentally friendly and eco-conscious and will go out of their way to buy food at pricely natural grocery stores or web sites, buy hormone free milk and eat only organic foods, use only all natural body products, etc…. but don’t mind pumping their bodies full for artificial hormones that have been listed as a Group 1 carcinogen (which are the worst offenders) by the World Health Organization (WHO), proven to contaminate water supplies and have detrimental effects on wildlife that rely on those water sources. Amazing hypocrisy! Hope you and your husband can find some common ground. I will pray for you. Please pray for me and all the wonderful women and men here that are struggling to be faithful to God.

  • Anamaria

    When I read through the comments on the other post, I just kept thinking, “Gosh, she just needs a FRIEND.” Someone who will tell you, “Congratulations,” with a genuine smile when you say that you are expecting, no matter what number that is or how close together they are. Someone you can also talk to about how you are anxious about getting pregnant again because you get extremely ill/your husband works a lot/your children are a handful/you haven’t slept through the night in however long. Someone who will bring you a meal when said baby arrives and take your other kids to the park so you can nap. Ideally a group, so if one friend has a baby the same time as you, there are others to bring you meals. Others who perhaps aren’t your bosom friends but are on the journey with you.

    These are not really things the institutional church can provide. Some of the things mentioned above are great- ways for older people to meet younger families and help out, MORE CONFESSIONS TIMES (seriously!!!), ways for young, faithful families to meet each other, more family parish social gatherings, programs with childcare for parents to go on a date (one parish in our city does this once a month- they have a 30 minute video or something and then send you away. we have never gone because we are too crotchety about bedtime!), etc. But none of this is as life-changing as people to walk the journey with you and people who have walked it before you to be friends.

    To have a good friend like this, we have to a. be a good friend and b. meet like-minded people. The St. Greg Pocket’s page on LMLD has lots of good suggestions for both of these if you are struggling with them, especially b. Pray for good friends!

  • Suzy

    1. Practical support, ministries to mother’s and families. Stop requiring both parents to attend kids sacrament prep classes at dinner time with no babysitters. Be big family friendly instead of punishing us, ie baptism class for every baby. Have more childcare available. All the middle age mom’s are absent, back to work to pay for #2:

    2. Lower school costs based on income level and number of children. stop requiring volunteer hours, forced scrip purchases, moms to be at preschool tea with no babysitters. School families are torn apart on a nightly basis between volunteering, sports, lessons, concerts, homework. The family dies. Make it possible for Mom to stay at home and not have to sacrifice by limiting family size or going back to work so they can “afford” school.

    3. Universal, complete, concise Church teaching about our sexuality and marriage. Spell it out. Does it have to be grave reasons to avoid? US bishops page says “serious” reasons, not grave. Is birth control and IUD ok for heavy or irregular cycles? (The center for bio ethics says it is, so most of the women from our parish are on one or the other!) Is sterilization ok? How about mutual masturbation, or pulling out? I’ve heard of priests ok-ing all three! So much grey area, so much beating up couples for abstaining for serious reasons, too much confusion. One teaching, publish it and pass it out so everyone is on the same page. Don’t leave it up to interpretation by bad priests.

    4. Would love to see more napro doctors, but this is outside the church. We have no access to one, hence comment in #3 why so many women are on birth control for cycle issues. I admit to having a couple babies because it seemed easier and better for our marriage than trying to use nfp and abstain for months with irregular cycles. my obgyn just laughed at me, “why are you making this so hard? Here’s a pill” I didn’t realize when we got married how little sex we would have, or just keep having babies yearly, or no support from doctor without violating our conscience. Ostracized the most by fellow Catholics for not getting sterilized or using BCP.

    • Cami

      It’s so concerning that priests are approving of sexually immoral acts that scripture easily describes as immoral. In Genesis chapter 38, the Lord kills Onan after he spills his seed. If we discount certain areas of scripture, how do we not discount it all? It’s either Truth or it isn’t. The pick and choose people have started the churches we now see that call themselves Christian and followers of Jesus with giant rainbow flags hung all about. I do wish every priest and Catholic was required to study TOB. It covers all the bases in how to honor our spouses, honor our bodies, and honor our Creator. For me, it left nothing to question.

    • Karen

      Suzy, you hit the nail on the head! #2 is the result of many problems in the church today. Children are not valued. AND We have lost our reason to be a Church, a community of believers who recognizing the depth of God’s love for us should enthusiastically bring others into that community. We DO NOT evangelize our own and so we are unable to evangelize others. I firmly believe that it is a dereliction of duty to require families who desire a Catholic education/ formation for their children to pay additionally for it. Formation of children should be a community effort and covered by the entire parish with parents- who can -paying for uniforms, books and lunches. I know people who would contribute more to the parish if the schools were open to the lives of all children! Do we charge for RCIA? A Bible study? Adult formation? No, and because of bad attitudes/formation Adults complain if they have to buy the book! They want everything free yet the tuition requires parents to stop sending younger children or pushes the mom out of the home. You have enough to do! Schooling the parish children should be the number one mission of every parish. If we can’t give to the least of these what are we doing?!?! There are ways to make this work. TRUST. ADORATION. TRUST. Are we Catholic? Do we really trust Christ? If they could build the school during the depression on the salaries of immigrants then we who are more fortunate could do the same with the right motivations. We all have a talent given to us by God to share for the purpose of forming children. Dioceses, even individual parishes, HAVE taken up this NOBLE CAUSE. But we MUST value children. Such an endeavor would go a long way in changing people’s attitude toward the children who are our future and toward their parents. I’ve seen old biddys, men and women, stare down and even scold parents right during mass if the child makes a peep. My immediate reaction because I’ve been there, is to immediately go to the parent and thank them for bringing their singing children and to have courage. There are many things parishes can do to make it easier for parents to form their children. Have a daily mass follow school drop off. Have it in the main church. So many moms have told me that they would go to daily mass with their toddlers or homeschoolers but the chapel is too small. Yes, there should me more babysitting…and if we changed attitudes toward children…there would be more grandmas and pas helping out. We only give our attention to the things we value. If we truly were “Catholic” we would be teaching to fullness of the faith and our beautiful understanding of marriage and the domestic church with abundant willingness and then #3 would not be an issue. Until as a community, we recognize ourselves our identity as children of a God who has loved us from the beginning of all time, it will be difficult. Keep your joy, continue to reach out to moms, keep the conversations and ideas flowing, with unceasing prayer and trust in the Holy Spirit to surprise us!

    • Karen

      Suzy, I left this page to read another article which to my surprise speaks some what to the point I was making regarding the value of this person, the child.

      A Sleeping Child
      Anthony Esolen

      TUESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2014

      Herod heard of the Christ child, and he and all of his advisors were troubled. He instructed the wise men to find the boy, and to bring him back the news, so that he too might go and pay him homage. The homage that Herod meant to pay the child was to put him to death. When the wise men, warned by a dream, stayed far away from Jerusalem on their way back east, Herod did what Herod had been wont to do. He eliminated the opposition – or he tried to.

      The baby boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem were things for Herod, obstacles to his dynastic plans. If a tree is in the way of your road, you cut it down and root out its stump. For you it has no life. It is just a blank negation of your will.

      All of the paintings of this slaughter that I’ve ever seen are of dramatic and terrible action. Brutal over-muscled soldiers swing their swords, sometimes piercing mother and child together. What I’ve never seen, though, is a painting that might better correspond to our situation now.

      I imagine it this way. The room is dim and still. Neither father nor mother is there. Perhaps they are in the fields, at work. Light from one window shines upon the countenance of a man, a soldier. His brow is knitted. He holds a sword at his side. He is not moving. On a bed before him sleeps a little boy.

      I ask you to imagine that small boy. Gabriel Marcel says that the sight of any sleeping person brings us into the vicinity of a mystery: the feeling of a presence that cannot be reduced to propositions or to utility. This is especially true of the sleeping child: “From the point of view of physical activity. . .the sleeping child is completely unprotected and appears to be utterly in our power; from that point of view, it is permissible for us to do what we like with the child. But from the point of view of mystery, we might say that it is just because this being is completely unprotected, that it is utterly at our mercy, that it is also invulnerable or sacred.” (from The Mystery of Being: “Presence as a Mystery”)

      We see the careless curl of hair at his temple. We see the shut eyes – what do they behold? We see the pursed lips, the slow rhythm of his breath.

      No one, to the extent that he remains safely within the warehouse of things, feels this presence. We do not sense a mystery in transistor 2451, shelf 32B. Once we replace a name with a number, most of our destructive work is done. If we see only instruments, we will not scruple to use them as we please. The important feature of a part of a machine is that it has no individuality. It can be replaced with another. It is meant to be replaceable with another.

      But if that soldier stops too long to behold the small boy asleep, he will have to harden himself against the natural and human sense of holiness and mystery. To treat the boy as a thing, he must himself become a thing, a tool of Herod, a part of the Herodian machine.

      To treat the sleeping child as an annoyance to be rid of, he must acknowledge the worthlessness of all small things; the seed in the earth, the chick in its nest, the beat of a heart, the soldier in an army, Judea in the Roman Empire, that little empire in the long sweep of the history of the world, that world a speck of dust in the heavens. He must deny the worth of created being itself.

      Imagine another picture of a sleeping child. He is sucking his thumb. He is curled up, knees tucked under his chin. His bottom is plainly and innocently visible. The picture is blurry, because he is swaddled up in the warm flesh of his mother’s womb. The nurse at the clinic sees and does not see the little boy.

      Imagine another picture. The boy is lively and half wild. A shock of hair falls over his forehead. He has been swimming in the pond. He comes out streaming with water and laughing. The older “friend” looks on, calculating, strategizing.

      Another picture. The boys and girls sit at their desks in the classroom. They are thinking about all kinds of things. One of the boys is thinking about the ballgame he is going to play that evening. One of the girls is thinking about paying a visit to her cousin on the way home from school. Two other girls are talking about where they go to learn how to ride horses. Another boy is daydreaming, gazing out the window.

      The teacher stands in front of them. Her brow is knitted. She frowns. She is holding a book at her side. By the time the boys and girls leave school that afternoon, they will know about – fill in the blank.

      “Is something wrong, son?” The boy hasn’t been himself this evening. He gives her an odd look, then ducks away.
 “No, it’s nothing.”

      Says Marcel: “There can be no doubt at all that the strongest and most irrefutable mark of sheer barbarism that we could imagine would consist in the refusal to recognize this mysterious invulnerability.”

      Herod and Herodias come in many guises. They are hedonists, for whom children are but an irritating check against their pursuit of pleasure. They are utilitarians, tools who evaluate the usefulness of other tools. They are statists, whose ambition is not to govern men, but to manage ants. They are doctors and nurses who will not see the child. They are all the murderers of innocence. They stand like the soldier in the doorway of the home.

      Sweet Jesus, save us from ourselves.

  • Allison Howard

    What do we need?
    1) Families practicing joyfully, even in the midst of it’s challenges. I grew up in a contracepting home with a mom who railed against the teaching, yet I knew this one family from school. This one awesome, joyful, peace-filled, unapologetically Catholic family with five kids who celebrated Saints’ days and invited you in warmly and here’s your rosary so kneel down beside the other teenagers and pray with us and our priest friend who just happens to be here for dinner. I’ve lost touch with them, but I still wear the Miraculous Medal the mother gave me and pray for them regularly. Live it joyfully. Hopefully God will allow me to continue this gift by using my joyful family to attract others.
    2) A Nursery and Children’s Liturgy during Mass. We are at our parish now because when we had one 18-month-old, Mass became a challenge and our neighbor encouraged us to use the church nursery with it’s lovely volunteers. As more babies came and they grew a bit, we now have them go with other incredible volunteers to the Sacristy and other rooms during the Liturgy of the Word to hear the Gospel in age-appropriate ways and return to us during the Offeratory. We sit up close to the altar at the family Mass and are so thankful for the support of the community. It’s not a matter of not being together during Mass as there are parts where we are, and there are liturgical seasons where we all sit together. It’s just a true understanding of what it means to have a family coming from our parish and priests.
    3) Encouragement – I need the older folks to compliment me afterward, especially during the days when my kids were real jerks during the Consecration. A quiet church is a dying church? So. True.
    4) NFP Classes run by people who do not drive 15-passenger vans. I realize this is snarky, but I have to admit that when you are in the beginning stages of your journey to NFP, some people don’t start with the philosophical depth and theological understanding that we are assuming in this thread. Sometimes seeing NFP as an option that is healthy for your body, or a gift that you can use if and when life gets particularly and unexpectedly dicey, or a method of spacing kids that is actually achievable … these reasons may not reflect the true beauty of Humanae Vitae, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t relevant gateways to people at the early stages of a “conversion” of sorts to orthodoxy. When you are in marriage prep and you see that van roll up, many think the method just doesn’t work. Or it’s ridiculous to them. It wasn’t to me, but I have heard such a gripe continuously. Perhaps we need younger people stepping up to teach and counsel, or people who have fewer children for whatever reason but who are faithful followers. I want to teach it myself (or at least Marriage Prep) and my husband and I are praying about the decision to do so now, but I will be very honest that the reason we have four currently and are open to more is not because NFP is ineffective, but because it’s led us to think regularly about the gift of sexuality, fertility, marriage, and God’s plan for our lives. We welcomed all four of our kids to date, and also welcome the reality that God may surprise us with his own way one of these days. Or he may surprise us by closing the door, which would also be hard. I think this journey is long in regards to living out the teaching on sexuality and to only talk about it from our current place on the spectrum doesn’t always attract more people to it’s awesomeness.

    • Melissa

      I didn’t actually take any NFP classes as an engaged person, we taught ourselves and were already sold on it but I DID take a class at my very Catholic college on the theology behind NFP. I think that much of that is not being discussed and I think it absolutely should be. I agree that if you roll up to class as a teacher to tell everyone about your 10 kids who are all spaced a year apart or something, people might close their hearts to what you’re saying on principal. But I think parishes offering a class about ALL the WHY behind it would be so great. That way were not *just* coming to people who aren’t sold on it with the whole “it’s just as effective as birth control” mentality. But I do agree there are so many pros to it that can serve as jumping off points for people who are skeptical or non-religious

    • Kathleen

      Allison, I agree with everything you have said and the ways you have said it. I sat down to write a response then realized you had already said all of the things for me. So, ditto from me! I hope we can build a movement to provide these things to our parishes and families. Even if the priests don’t. Even if dioceses don’t. We can do it. Together.

    • Valerie

      Ha ha! We teach NFP classes and drive a 12 passenger van – but never to class! We just take our mini van there. 😉 We do have to give an extra explanation sometimes though when we bring up that we have seven children and the couple’s eyes nearly pop out of their head.

    • Colleen

      Hey Allison, your point about how NFP is perceived by those who don’t want abandon contraception is a valid one. I don’t love my huge van-my husband and I sat in bewildered silence downing a couple margaritas after we picked up ours from the dealer. #livingthedream
      I think a lot of us felt like NFP as it was presented at the beginning was a bit of a bait-and-switch. My concern is that our attempt to make it more palatable to a contracepting culture is changing us more than them in the process. Without reminding myself numerous times a day of our eternal purpose for doing any of this I get so aimless. I just don’t want us (Catholic moms) who use NFP to end up feeling at odds with both the God who loves and blesses and the faith that’s supposed to nurture us.

  • MimiT

    We need support not only in NFP sand dealing with fertility- but support and encouragement in infertility. Being open to life sometimes means month after month of being told no, and that is really, really hard to carry on your own- especially when a Catholic Culture too often makes assumptions about people who don’t have kids, or only have one or two.

    And family friendly parish events- theology of tap is awesome- theology on tap WITH A NURSERY for the kiddos is AMAZING. Being able to do day long marriage retreats is great- but marriage retreats when you have small children are a headache to be able to make happen.

  • Ginnie

    I want the Church to foster an environment where people can talk about their varied experiences and offer advice support and love without making it a contest. For example, a couple can talk about how awesome NFP has been for their marriage while their best friend also talks about how hard it has been in theirs, neither of them shaming the other for how they feel about NFP. A woman struggling to have babies and a woman struggling to NOT get pregnant can come together and show solidarity in their different but still sucky hardships. Couples who struggle with their many children can be offered help through their parish, even if others are from small families.

    NFP users already have the world against them: we shouldn’t be belitting one another as well.

  • Katherine Broberg

    I need other families. I am a 25 year old mother of a rapidly growing family. Our parish is 40 people, of whom I am the youngest adult, there are 3 other children, all significantly older then my own. I need other moms to show me how to raise my children. I need other families, so my kids can make friends in the Faith. I need families to have kids so mine aren’t alone. I need other young women and mothers to whom I can relate, form friendships with, and form networks of support. Doing this on my own is too exhausting, and I have no idea what I am doing

  • Lisa

    Also, a central resource website for fertility would be a helpful start. Links to NFP methods and the differences b/w them, places couples struggling with infertility can turn to (Gianna centers, NaPro), support after miscarriage and even- what are options for Catholics who are miscarrying (burial etc.).
    Links to books like Simcha’s and Jen Fulwiler’s upcoming one, and maybe even articles people have written- so many good ones but I’m forever forgetting which site I read them on…
    I read somewhere about a doctor in TX who reverses vasectomies on the cheap as a sort of ministry- just stuff like that all in one central place!

  • Micaela

    -Priests who speak about marriage as a cross
    -Parishes who have ongoing marriage classes
    -Small groups of likeminded (or at least open minded) couples to meet often in support and study (We have something called Family Enrichment here that meets that need.)
    -Prayer groups specifically for married couples
    -Men’s groups and women’s groups that meet on the same night with childcare provided. Somewhere fun, even.

    There’s so much more I could say but I trust much of this has already been suggested. Thank you for asking a very important question.

  • Allison

    As a 20-something preparing for marriage this fall, I need reality. I need couples who say both “yes, this is worth it”, but also “sometimes its a struggle, and a really difficult one”. I’ve been engaged for 2 1/2 months, and charting just as long, and it’s already been difficult for me. The pressure of realizing that if *I* mess up my observations, if *I* miss a sign, we could be unexpectedly pregnant really weighs on me. I know that my fiancé should be supportive, and he is- very much so. But that doesn’t take away the stress of the fact that it’s my body that is responsible for these signs I need to be reading. I need more married women who talk openly about the struggles and let me know that it’s ok to be struggling with these things… and I need to know where to find these women!!

    The other realization that my fiancé and I just came to is that there is an in-between. Not everyone who uses NFP needs to be in “achieve” or “avoid” mode to its fullest extent. We can also be in “general avoid” mode, and that’s ok. For us this isn’t a contraceptive mindset, its the knowledge that it would be best for us if we do not conceive right after marriage, but if we do, it’s not the end of the world. I only ever hear about the women who need to avoid for serious, serious (and legitimate) reasons, or the women charting in order to excitedly conceive. Both are valid and necessary, and I don’t mean to belittle either. But for my fiancé and I, we felt trapped by these mindsets. We needed to realize that we could intend to avoid for the time being without abstaining for 15+ days a month, and that didn’t make us horrible people.

    I feel a little ridiculous saying anything, since I’ve not really had to use NFP, but those are the challenges I’ve already seen.

    • Melissa

      Congratulations on your engagement!!! As evidenced by my first two children it is also an option to have “no mode” so to speak and to not be trying to achieve or avoid. I think this is what’s baffled my friends the most. You aren’t doing *anything*?! But it’s been by far my favorite way of doing things so far, especially now that we are charting to avoid for a while before a potential fourth. And as far as the responsibility being on your shoulders, I just have to say that I’m pretty sure my husband has a better handle on reading and interpreting my cycles than I do :/ haha but seriously. He remembers from years past what my cycles were like whereas those things leave my brain fast, and it is very much a two way street for us in terms of figuring out what it all means. It might seem like it has to all be up to you and that you will end up giving a red or green light or something, but it really doesn’t have to be like that. Good luck and I truly believe God blesses these efforts!

    • Beth Turner

      Even if you do all the charting correctly, you could still end up pregnant! In my mind, there are two levels of risk: “absolutely unacceptable to us to conceive right now” (very rare), and “we’d rather avoid, but we would make it work if God surprises us” (much more common). For the “unacceptable” level of risk, you really have to be prepared to abstain for a few months up to a couple years, I think, especially if your signs are unclear. I love NFP, but it’s just not always as simple as it’s advertised.

      Blessings on your marriage! Never contracept or sterilize, and rest assured that you are fighting the good fight. Sex is a powerful expression of love, but when you must forego sexual intimacy to prevent pregnancy, that sacrifice is also powerful expression of love for both your spouse and your children. I wish you many fruitful years together. 🙂

      • Anna

        Beth! That last paragraph! Thank you! It seems to me so many forget about the difficulty of foregoing as a sacrifice and a powerful expression of love for your spouse and God.

  • Amanda

    I second pretty much everything, and have a couple more.

    Support for brining kids to Mass. When we haul our 5-under-9 plus my belly in, we make people see it can be done. The having the kids, the bringing them to Mass. I’m not exceptional, and my kids are neurotypical, but it’s doable. We exist! We take up a pew! Our church is reasonably supportive of kids in Mass and I’m grateful – I know it’s right, but I don’t want to fight for it. And when we saw a family with three under four, one disabled, pregnant – we had so many smiles and brief after Mass comments. It’s good to feel community.

    I’m in the opposite boat, but I’d say information and support for infertility is hugely necessary. I don’t think most Catholics even know IVF is immoral, much less how to find a NaPro doctor.

  • Beth Turner

    I can barely get to the grocery store or the doctor with my five little boys. I need reliable child care for about 3 hours every week, and we simply can’t pay what most people would expect to watch five boys (including an infant) to do that. I also can’t go to the doctor (in fact I often don’t go when it’s recommended, and lack of childcare is a big part of that), counseling (which I desperately need because I am sad and angry a LOT), a date (which my husband and I haven’t been on in months because you guessed it! We can’t find a babysitter that won’t cost us more than we have to spend on the date in the first place), adoration, or confession with all my kids. I could take a few of them, but not all. The childcare also needs to be reliable. Most babysitters I’ve had don’t change diapers and get freaked out by snotty noses!

    Also, everybody needs to know that there are times when no method of NFP works (continuous mucus), and the only moral way to prevent pregnancy is to abstain for a loooooong time. We need to be open and honest about that and not make women feel guilty when they can’t figure out their charts to find the available days. I don’t need more information about NFP or my cycles or whatever. It’s not that I’m not in touch with my body. It’s not that I don’t breastfeed often enough. I just need everybody else to chill out about a few months or even years of abstinence within marriage so that we can space our kids apart a little more!

  • Marissa

    Refreshing topic!

    I know this is directly out of the hands of the Church, but more NFP teachers and options on different methods! The Church cant directly fix this, but they can throw their significant weight towards it and boy would it help. There are so many great methods out there and it is hard enough to find a teacher for one, much less the one that might be right for you. (Example, we learned CCL STM and I’m considering switching to Marquette for awhile).

    I know this doesn’t solve everyone’s issues, but I truly believe solid instruction with readily available resources to ask for help would go a LONG way in many of the frustrations people talk about with any of the available methods. Having a CCL teacher to call postpartum was awesome.

    And finally–I don’t think the “Grave Reasons” translation is helping anyone. The original latin was “iustae causae” or good reasons. Not “Grave Reasons.” Grave reasons implies serious illness, a devastating financial situation, etc. Good reasons are the sort of thing that you hear over and over among users on these forums–“I’m overwhelmed and need a break.” “We could support all these kids financially, but just barely.” “Some of my children need more attention than I can give right now or have special needs.” “My marriage is not solid now and I need to work on it before adding another child to the mix.” “I may not be gravely ill, but repeated pregnancies is taking a toll on my body and I need time to heal and take care of myself.”

    This fits very well with responsible parenthood teachings of the Church–I don’t think that is a coincidence.


    Finally–I really just want to say that practicing NFP has been a blessing for our marriage. It hasn’t been easy all the time and there have been frustrating months, but even if the Church changed its teachings, we wouldn’t go back. I actually asked my husband today if he felt NFP had been a burden and he said no. I hope this is not taken as a minimization of the issues others are facing, because I believe they are real. I just want it out there that even with the imperfect state of things, it can go well and be a positive part of a marriage. (I’m not going to get into details, but from what I heard, it appears we have more sex than most contracepting couples!)

    • Colleen

      Iustae causae is “just cause”, which in the mind of the Church involves a serious weighing of the issues at stake.

      We are in an unprecedented time in history and everything is directed against us procreating. I’m the first to admit I struggle not to do something permanent to end my fertility.

      I just wanted to put it out there that the ability to have some self directed control over when and how many children come our way is a new phenomenon in the history of Catholic laity and we need to make sure that we are treading down this new avenue very carefully.

      • Dixie

        Well, both abstinence within marriage and lactational amenorrhea have been legitimately used by Catholics and other Christians to space children throughout history. The use and recommendation of these — especially abstinence — has varied over place and time, of course.

        • Colleen

          Yes, my point is the scientific determining of fertile days and abstaining only on those days is new. The Church having on classes on how to do this is new. When NFP results in a pregnancy the first place I want to go is contraception because I had it in my head from the beginning (with NFP) that babies and sex would be on my terms. In a crisis total abstinence makes complete sense. Partially abstaining gets a bit dicey especially when the only biblical precedent we have is in the negative (it was unclean to sleep with your wife during her menstrual cycle-those are acceptable days in NFP).
          We need to tread carefully.

          • Colleen

            Wanted to clarify about the biblical example. My piont-the Jews also wanted to the same thing-sex without babies. That’s why the elders had women go away during their “unclean” time and had them return (right on time) for the fertile phase. If blood was bad wedding nights would have been unclean too and they weren’t. Onan tried to use withdrawal, he was struck dead on the spot. God’s first command to Adam and Eve was “be fruitful and multiply”.
            We are never obligated to have sex, but if we do, babies are the likely result, that’s how God made it.
            This is my kast comment, I promise, sorry!

      • quidproquo

        I agree with that, Colleen, that everything in modernity is against life, and that because the science and the ability to ‘avoid’ with such precision is so new, we might want to use this new power with extra vigilance. My only concern is that we do not become more or less strict than the Church in guiding others how to use or not use it.

      • Marissa

        Colleen–Really interesting documents. They provide a lot of detail I think people are looking for. I agree that the place and time we are in demands extra vigilance. However, my comment is more directed at a subset of the Church that starts waving the “Grave Reasons” translation like a judgmental banner–to the point that the theology is closer to the Quiverfull ideology than anything the Catholic Church teaches.

        It’s also inspired by conversations I have had with my mother (a Catholic Therapist–and CCL NFP promoter back in the day!). She has counseled more than one Catholic woman overwhelmed by her children (we are usually talking 5+ in a short period of time) with the marriage on the rocks (hence the counseling). Yet, she feels like it is wrong to use NFP to space pregnancy because of the “grave reasons” translation. That is a travesty.

        • Colleen

          I totally hear you Marissa, I was coming from other side of the coin where people (fellow Catholics) are judging me for the number of kids I have.

          I think all of us are so isolated because both society and the Church has embraced the idea that fewer children are better for all of us.

          Our grandmothers didn’t struggle quite the same way as we do because just about everyone was doing the same thing, raising a bunch of kids, and society was better for it on every level. Schools and governments could not get away with all the things they are now because there was a never ending tsunami of Catholics standing in their way.

          • Jenny Uebbing

            Such a valuable point, Colleen. So many women live in total isolation, whether they’re working at home or going to the office, and have zero community support or immediate extended family available to be the village. You can’t call your neighbor and run to the grocery store, your mom probably can’t come over and hold the baby while you nap, your boss is certainly not going to be sympathetic the 24th time your kid gets strep in January, and when you take the whole crew out in public you look like a (hopefully) well behaved freak show. It’s really a totally different universe from 60 or 70 years ago.

        • MommaD

          Points well made.
          “Grave reasons” look different to each couple and when your marriage is on the rocks and you can barely get out of bed to emotionally meet your children’s needs – those are grave reasons in my book.
          More than anything else, the kind of open conversation happening here is incredibly helpful. It’s amazing and encouraging to read comments form couples who have truly embraced God’s will , no holds barred, and have welcomed 7,8, 10, 15 children! It is also edifying to read about couples who were open and could not conceive. I don’t think we can condemn others for timing their intimacy to get their financial, physical, or emotional affairs in order according to their needs. Let’s face it – if you are HERE and discussing the use of NFP, you have made a terrific leaping the right direction! We, as a group of NFP Catholics, would do well to take each couple’s story as it is and give examples or ask questions ( as the original post intended) to give support for trying to determine God’s will in our lives. Understanding, capacity, and fear all play their part in our struggle to do God’s will. We are not perfect……yet. 🙂

  • Laura

    I just want to pray for all of you, after reading these comments. I wish that some Bishops and Priests would read this. I am of a ” certain age” now and past child bearing, but I feel for your struggles and remember the baby years well. I have four, and it is a joy and of course difficult. It seems like the days are long when they are little, but boy do they speed up when they get older! My generation still had neighbors at home to help to each other, and I can recall trading babysitting with many friends even for weekend vacations. I don’t know how you all do it in this world today with more isolation. I think the local church community needs to offer you all a lot more help if you are expected to live these teachings. My age group didn’t worry so much about living the teachings I guess, and we perhaps had it easier in our ignorance, but as one Priest told me, we also missed some blessings. My one bit of advice would be to find a good confessor, I have had many over the years, and we are often more hard on ourselves. They can offer advice and a different perspective. There are ” good” reasons that maybe a Priest will remind you of and give you dispensation for….at least they used to in the ” old days.” God Bless.

    • quidproquo

      Laura – It is women such as yourself who are past the time of childbearing who really give a boost to those in the thick of it. Your smiles and gentle encouragement, advice even, and an offer of support make moms of little ones feel so welcomed and encouraged. I have been very grateful just knowing that if I had to go to the hospital or something, I would have someone to call on for help.


    I have done parish and campus ministry for about ten years now. I am a trained NFP teacher. I offer free classes as a personal apostolate and try to make my presence and support known, but as a professional, what I need are foot soldiers! I need women to be bold and confident in starting conversations with other women. I need couples to know their method well enough that they can support *one another* so that I don’t have to shoulder the burden of constantly fielding frantic texts and emails! I need networks of women who are comfortable offering to compare charts, methods, etc. and teach each other what they know. NFP Professionals should be people we turn to in exceptional cases, not the norm. When I teach couples, I try to teach them enough that they could do basic NFP instruction for their friends, making NFP something that is cultural wisdom to pass down, not just a “class” that can only be taught by “trained professionals.” As long as it stays in the realm of OFFICIAL INSTRUCTION ONLY, we will never have enough people to meet the needs and spread the word and offer support.

  • K

    Honestly this online conversation is really helpful (at least in the short term). Just having a forum to discuss and support each other seems like a good first step. If there was a way to create an online discussion board/forum (preferably private!), I would be interested. It’s not the same as real life interaction, but the only reason I read this blog & other Catholic mom blogs is to fill the void of Catholic community I feel in real life.

  • Casey

    What about guidelines for acceptable/unacceptable romantic behavior with your spouse when you’re not able to commit the marital act because you’re delaying pregnancy (for a just reason)?

  • J T Ridd

    To all:

    I have been a priest for over twenty years. I lead a celibate life. I would think most priests are like myself. What is the big deal about abstaining from sex?

    My mother was told she could not have anymore children after six difficult pregnancies. The doctor gave her birth control pills. One day, she showed them to me. She never took one of them. My parents abstained from sexual relations for twenty years. Guess what? They have been married for 63 years.

    There are times to be intimate and times not to. Do I really have to say that from the pulpit?

    • Beth Turner

      Yes, because I’ve heard that it is “unhealthy” for us to be abstinent in marriage. I’ve heard that I am “starving” my husband of sexual intimacy when we need to prevent pregnancy and I can’t find available days. I’ve heard that “sex is the food of marriage” (comparing it to the Eucharist), and that implies that we should do it often. PLEASE tell us from the pulpit that it is OK to abstain for a long time. PLEASE! PLEASE! It would have made me feel so much less ashamed, and it would have helped my husband to be courageous in the sacrifice.

      • Kirsten

        I agreed with the good Father until I read your response. I do agree people need to hear it from the pulpit. We live in a sex crazed and saturated society. We see it everywhere we go even when we don’t want to (ie: signs on the sides of buses, commercials during innocent TV programs, book stores, grocery store check out lines, etc). People are indoctrinated to equate sex with love and don’t realize you CAN have love WITHOUT sex. The idea of celibacy in this day and age is almost unthinkable for most. They think of sex as right not a privilege. Unfortunately, this mentality is even in our own pews.

    • Ari

      YES, Father, you do!!! You really do. We are a sex-saturated, pornified culture. We are hearing the complete opposite everywhere else. And even from some well-meaning and misguided in the church, we feel ashamed and that we “deprive” our spouses when children is just not an option. The disconnect between sex and babies so SO strong that you have to say it. It would mean a lot for you to say it, too, coming from a celibate man. Christians divorce and are addicted to porn, Catholics contracept. We are lost and need it said from the pulpit. Chastity is a virtue. I have never once heard that explained or preached on in a homily. Abstinence, maybe, but not chastity. That includes marital abstinence.

    • Gillian

      Thank you for your perspective! Yes you (not trying to be harsh, I mean all priests) really need to talk about all the areas of Christian marriage, sexuality, generosity and responsibility in having children. We SHOULD do a lot of things, but we are all human, we sin and we struggle, and it doesn’t ever mean that you don’t need to guide us and support us and challenge us from the pulpit.

    • Marissa

      Yikes. Yes, perhaps the hard truths of periodic and even long-term abstinence need to be preached to bolster those carrying that burden, but boy oh boy not with that attitude. Yes, long term abstinence within a marriage is a big deal. It’s a cross that some have to carry due to situations like many have laid out here, military deployments, illnesses, etc., but it is most definitely a big deal. For any couple in a strong marriage, it will be a constant struggle that could be the source of much bitterness.

      To be clear, I’m not saying that long term abstinence is wrong when practiced for the right reasons, but to dismiss it as no big deal definitely is wrong. The beauty, joy, and place of sex within marriage is discussed often in our Faith (even in the Catechism!) and shouldn’t be kicked to the side simply as some “thing married people do for fun.”

      No one would (or at least should!!) ever tell a couple struggling with infertility that the current or long-term unfruitfulness of their marriage was “no big deal.” The topic of marital abstinence should approached with the same respect.

        • CC

          Agreed, Marissa. Also, another point in response to “abstinence is not such a big deal” – a married couple is simply not called to the same vocation as a celibate priest, therefore, it’s not hard to imagine that it actually IS much more difficult for a married couple to abstain than it is for someone who has been called by God to be celibate. Anything is possible with prayer and God’s help – but to merely brush it off as “well we do it, why can’t they?” seems to ignore the reality of a couple living in matrimony versus that of a priest. Couples need support and empathy when they are struggling to live out this difficult teaching. Peace

      • Rob

        Amen, and amen. Neither scripture nor therapists schooled over the course of decades of family practice would claim long periods of abstinence is good for a marriage. People who are practicing such are doing something either terrifyingly heroic or terribly tragic, but they are most certainly not weak, ridiculous, corrupt, or failures (as can be inferred from the usual language used to talk about it). And the fact that we live in a sexualized culture does not necessarily mean that the desire for sex–even frequent, joyful sex–within marriage is sinful.

        What picture of Christ, exactly, emerges from such attitudes? The One who poured himself out on the Cross for love, and does so still?

    • Colleen

      Thank you for becoming a priest Father!

      When I asked older priests about issues like these they told me “it was something that people only talked about in confession because it was highly private and practically indecent to talk about anywhere else.”

  • Kristen

    I think support is what we need. When I took my nfp class, she said that because we took the class we get lifetime support with nfp. I remember thinking lifetime??? Wow that’s a lot! But it also comforted me. It felt like if I ever had a question or needed help with my chart, that I could ask her or email her. I wish we had more of that feeling in our parishes.
    We need more nfp trained people. More nfp minded people. Maybe even like a couple NFP mentor program or something. Maybe a regular ongoing class that people can come to to ask questions or learn it in the first place. Maybe making it free would be helpful, since we are all supposed to be following this. I like the idea of child care for those who need the class after already having children.
    More information about NFP and the methods, and advertising about it. I still hardly even know what the difference for the methods is. Think of how much birth control is advertised. We need to be doing the same but for NFP. We need more facts that we can share with people and show that nfp isn’t a fools errands. We need it clearly layed out why NFP is important, how it’s not the same as birth control, and why birth control is illicit.

  • Kathryn

    This is a roundabout way of arriving at NFP, but I wish there were occasional homilies on the responsibilities of being a husband and father. If boys grew up knowing they are called to provide for a family, perhaps they would approach their career lives differently, i.e. less pursuit of fun times and frivolity and more time working towards being able to support a family once married. It is easier to be open to life when you don’t have to worry about food, clothing, and shelter.
    Also, having a place to go during the day with your children would be nice. A playground at the church with an easily accessible restroom would be a life saver for weary Moms. We had a large church hall that stood empty most of the time because there was concern that children would track mud all over or otherwise make a mess. I’m not saying let toddlers climb all over expensive statues, but have a place that is kid friendly.

    • Laura

      Kathryn: Agree agree agree! Talk to the men and boys about Sex & being Husbands & Fatherhood! The Archdiocese of Boston used to have (may still have) a program where college students give canned preapproved classes on 1) sex, contraception, marriage and 2) abortion. The audience was teenagers. I was the driver. My friends gave the presentation. One girl, one guy. The guy was a college wrestler and joyfully Catholic. In one presentation on sex/pregnancy, the adolescents boys all were slouching, looking off into the distance. They had tuned out, maybe concluding that sex and pregnancy and fertility charting and babies were all “the girls’ problem.” Well. The guy presenter saw that and broke with the script a little: ” BE THE MAN in the relationship,” he exhorted them. “BE A LEADER. What kind of a man leads the woman he loves into sin? She needs YOU to be strong. She needs YOUR support.” Like you’d think a wrestling coach would. And those boys snapped right out of the fog! The sat up straight at attention, surprised, really that this message was for them, that it involved their masculinity. I could see what a difference it made and the moment has never left me. Young men need men to tell them how be good men.

  • Emily

    Def agree about educating healthcare professionals, and making pro-life medical centers more available!
    Also, some refresher/updating courses for those of us who had NFP when we were first married, but 15-20 years (and many kids) later are still solidly in their fertile years, and would love an update on how things have changed (e.g. Creighton, NaPro) and practical tracking for insanely busy families (I do not chart, nor take my temp, and haven’t for years…). I feel like my husband and I avoid sex so often because we’re not entirely sure we’re “safe”. I’m sure they would allow us to sit in on classes, but I don’t want to sit in a class of young, starry-eyed engaged couples who have no idea what’s coming.

    Also, I don’t know that priests are all that comfy talking about this type of thing from the pulpit (whether or not they should be…), and not all parishioners are comfy hearing about it.

    • Christy

      Hi Emily,

      I would just love to encourage you to seek out an NFP professional of whatever method you’re currently using. Just working with someone to help you in your current situation gives so much confidence and can really take away the burden. We’ve got to stop thinking of NFP as a one-time only thing, but really think of it as ongoing healthcare, working with a professional will help us the most be it in avoiding, conceiving, or utilizing more days. And there really has been improvements within the last ten years, just check in with your method and talk to a real person!

  • Jess

    I honestly don’t understand what the big deal is or why people are so nervous about/turned off by the Church’s sexual teaching. My husband and I have never used birth control — and my husband didn’t convert to the Faith until 5 years into our marriage, so I know I am lucky with this part. We have a medium sized family (so far). We love family life. We work, we pray, we love each other, and we try to get each other to heaven. Is it difficult? Sure! So we unite our sufferings to the Cross. I think the real problem is that we all expect to have an easy-going, entertaining life with minimal effort and no suffering. But that is not why we are here.

    • Kirsten

      My story is your story. I agree some people think we need to live comfortable lives with easier sufferings or only the sufferings we are willing to take on. There is a reason in the “Hail Holy Queen” we say “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears”. Life was meant to make us long for heaven. BUT I also hear the cries of so many of these women who have a large number of kids and are struggling mentally. You seem to be coping mentally better than most but I do know women with mental hardships that struggle with lots of kids. I am not saying they have mental illness just that they struggle to mentally cope with the challenges in their lives. We all have our different strengths and weaknesses. People like you and I, who seem to be able to just go with the flow and take things in stride, need to have compassion on those who struggle.

      • Colleen

        I hear you Kristen and my 8 kids are really hard to manage at times. I felt overwhelmed when I just had two kids. When I really think about it though, it’s society’s pressure on women and mothers that take me to the edge of sanity.
        For instance-
        Making sure my kids can academically compete and the the ever increasing homework load.
        Combine that with time for sports, musical instruments and faith
        On top of that, I need to be get my pre-pregnancy body back ASAP because look at the yoga moms of my kids’ classmates.
        Oh and my house and meals need to look like something off of HGTV and food network.
        And above all, my kids need to be the BEST behaved children at Mass because I can’t be the walking stereotype that people expect a huge family to be.

        That’s my daily inner monologue and I suspect I’m not the only one.

        • Liesa


          God Bless You and your beautifully large family.

          I get what you are saying about the pressure. I can only add this: that almost every large, Catholic family I know has one thing in common. They don’t compete.

          Societal pressure is removed.

          The ridiculous homework loads don’t exist because they therefore, the 17 activities and constant school fundraising schemes that come with schooling are non- existent. The kids learn to follow their passions, and not be minimally involved in several activities designed to “keep kids busy” after school.

          The clothing expenses are suddenly halved because kids don’t need to dress for school, and the kids are not expecting to wear the latest expensive sneaker.

          Non-school sports teams and other activities are carefully chosen, with the understanding that most kids are not passionate about playing in formal leagues, and often it is just “something to do.” Suddenly the sports teams with their screaming competitive parents and coaches seem silly. The trophies they get for merely showing up are not missed at all.

          Every family meal time is not spent running kids to practices, lessons, and games.

          Family activities include everyone HELPING you get those meals on the table! And valuable life skills are learned.

          Some time is given to maybe traveling a little farther to find that parish where your large family is welcome and more normative …maybe where part of the weekly liturgy schedule is the Latin Extraordinary form. Those parishes are usually made of families like yours, and your kids can find others whose families have also opted to remove the societal norms from their lives.

          The peace that comes from simply opting out of the pressure gives a peace you can’t fully describe here.

          • Colleen

            Thanks so much for your support Leisa!
            We actually do attend the parish where the extraordinary form is the only Mass :). The NFP pressure is there too. I truly respect women who homeschool but I realized that it was something I wasn’t able to do, so I’ve gone the school route.

            My husband and I feel really responsible for making sure our kids get into good colleges and pick very practical majors that will ensure that our girls can support themselves if they never marry and our boys can support a large family. I made the mistake of picking something totally impractical and kick myself everyday. I have friends who husbands picked something impractical and they kick themselves everyday for it too.

            The rapidly changing demographics of our country are re-shaping our children’s futures. My children’s classmates are from immigrant parents whose home countries aren’t Christian nations and human life is valued very little there. When they arrive here their kids are put through the meat grinder of constant pressure and they outperform their peers daily. While I don’t want to do that to my children I realize that it’s those same kids who will be competing with my kids in the ever shrinking job market. I think to myself, “who will my kids even find to marry?”, because as Catholics there are simply not enough of us anymore to maintain the culture we and our parents enjoyed-and it’s all because of contraception. We’ve culled ourselves out of the equation.

            I realize that it’s totally uncool to drive the huge van (like one of the commenters said “don’t have the NFP instructor drive up in the 15 passenger van!”). But have any of us asked ourselves why the site of such a thing is totally repugnant? If we had been formed from an early age to see children as 1. eternal beings expressly willed by God, 2. blessings and 3. fundamentally necessary to preserving and expanding the Christian world perhaps the site of a 15 passenger van wouldn’t make us sick.

            Something is getting gravely lost in translation with Catholics and sexuality. The contracepting society has changed us and our ever growing use of NFP is changing us.

          • Allison

            COLLEEN, I’m so sorry if my comment about the vans seemed to imply that I find them distasteful! God-willing, I’ll need to upgrade my own minivan to one of those beauties someday. I am coming from the place of wanting to evangelize in this regard: how do we get people to see the beauty in the life-giving purpose of marriage? how do we entice them away from the contraceptive mentality? how do we convince them that welcoming children and using NFP when necessary are actual options? It seems that those on the outside who don’t understand just think that NFP is “bad birth control” … I know my heart has certainly changed over the years from why I originally wanted to try NFP as I’ve gained a fuller understanding of my vocation as a wife and parent and co-creator. Meeting people where they are and letting God do the work in them through us often means they won’t walk into that class with an appreciation for this counter-cultural life we lead. With that said, I absolutely agree with you: how tragic that our world is so infused with such selfishness that big families are seen as burdensome! How warped it all is. And how much easier would it be if we weren’t so alone in living it out when the rest of the world has turned away? Solidarity to you, my sister in the trenches. I’m currently doing a hybrid of homeschooling and Catholic schooling and nursing an infant and can barely get dinner on the table with so many young ones. If I get one more request to volunteer-but-don’t-bring-younger-siblings, I might crack ;). Come Holy Spirit!

  • JR's mom

    Hi Jenny,
    I am a big fan of your website. We have 2 on earth and 1 in heaven.
    To your question, what do you want from the church – I think my answer would echo most above,
    but I’d like to add one more that I haven’t seen here.
    I would love to hear more from couples who abstain-within-NFP, with smaller families.
    Both me and my husband work full time outside the home, and the NFP world of working moms is an even lonelier world.
    For moms who stay home, there is at least a mom’s group. The world of working mothers on NFP I just haven’t even found yet. Most of my working mother friends automatically assume that full-time work and NFP isn’t compatible. I don’t buy that. I believe that God blessed me with fertility, and he also blessed me with talent which is my work. I want to live out my faith, because I believe that what I cannot do, God can.
    But it would be wonderfully encouraging to see more posts and appearances of women who work outside the home full -time, but are proudly NFP. I have lots of friends who are wonderful role models of NFP but their day-to-day circumstances are so different than mine that it is harder to relate. Like the reader above who suggests that NFP teachers can use some diversity, I agree – more input and shared experiences of moms – on NFP, breadwinners – please!! thanks you so much. God Bless.

    • Marie

      JR’s mom–couldn’t agree with you more. I also work full-time and strongly believe NFP, and Catholic marriage, are very compatible with two parents working outside the home (just as they are also compatible with having one stay at home parent–God calls each of us to different things!). Incidentally, with my current pregnancy I have gotten nothing but support, joy and excitement about this baby (our 5th) from colleagues at my (secular) workplace….the only snarky or negative comment I’ve gotten, the whole way through, was from another mom at my kids’ Catholic school. So, sometimes we find support in unlikely places and opportunities to evangelize in unlikely places too. It’s hard to talk about broadening this community when so many women feel like it doesn’t even exist yet, and so I hesitate to insert this perspective here, but as a Catholic NFP mom who gladly works full time I often feel that I have yet to find my tribe. Blessings to you and to everyone posting here. A lot of lovely, positive support just in this conversation…thanks Jenny for starting the discussion.

    • Beth

      I’ve found support in the Catholic Working Mothers’ facebook group for just this topic. You might want to check it out.

  • yay

    NFP should be the exception. Being “radical, counter cultural,” is being open to life and having the children that God sends you.

  • Allen

    I think we need more preaching, not less, from the pulpit on the goodness of sacramental marriage rightly lived. I think we need very loud and clear preaching on the gravity and the error of contraception. Would be nice if the couples who sacrifice by using NFP got as much recognition as the music team. That would be supportive!

  • Anna

    Pastoral awareness that there are two humans involved in the process, not one. Realization that using NFP can be a help in healing pornography addictions between spouses and individuals and may be even necessary for that reason alone while couples actually learn how to love and not take. More in-depth study and use of TOTB and not just Humanea Vitea. That sometimes Christ can be trying to reach your spouse and you through your using of NFP in New and different ways that would be difficult otherwise.

  • Jacki

    Thank you for this article. Its nice to have someone who seems to be on the same page with how I am feeling. I am lucky enough to have an OB office nearby that solely promotes and teaches NFP (the doctor is Catholic and the place is even named after Mary!) So on that front I am very lucky. As for parish support though, its nothing. We unfortunately go to a parish that is probably 70% 50+ year olds and the other large population of the church are people who do not speak the same language as us. There are very few families with small children. All the ministries are directed toward either single people or people much older than us. The priests are wonderful and they love seeing young families, but there is just nothing there for us fellowship wise and certainly nothing there related to NFP. It feels like we are in a boat by ourselves. It would be nice to have a group or something nearby of people with kids about the same age as ours who also would like support as a family and with NFP.

  • anna lisa

    Marriage is *not* a cross. Fallen nature is. Marital unity (reciprocal love) is probably the closest thing to heaven we can experience on this earth.

    • Yes, this!


      I would never have gotten married if I thought marriage was a cross. Far better to be single than miserably yoked! Marriage (over 25 years of it now, and half a dozen children) is the sweet refuge that has gotten us through all the other crosses life has thrown at us.

      I do not in any way want to discount the sufferings of those in miserable relationships (child of divorce here, so I am hardly naive), but marriage is not the problem, fallen human nature is.

  • Anonymous

    In some ways this conversation circles back to the question of a “Benedict or Franciscan Option”. If you are taking the path lesser traveled and living out your marriage according to Church teaching, practicing NFP, having a handful more children than those living in your immediate physical community, then inevitably you walk a lonelier path. You NEED a supportive community for all the reasons mentioned in previous comments. I know there are amazing parishes out there who provide this type of community, but I think they are few and far between and it is more the norm that there is not this type of community at the parish next door. I struggle with this immensely. There is the part of me that desires to be part of a community of women and families who want to ardently seek Christ in prayer and to raise our children in the Faith, but there is also a very practical side of needing outside support to raise my children with all the day to day struggles that accompany a home with many children. The need for this kind of community drives me to seek a Ben Op, though ideally it would be my own parish!

    • Lucia

      Anna Lisa, I love you. If you’re the Anna Lisa I think you are, I’ve seen lots of your comments about marriage on other blogs (Simcha Fisher). I’m not married, but am seriously considering it, and it’s SO terrifying to hear how miserable marriage is, and how it’s such “hard work”, and it’s like a burst of hope to hear your wisdom and witness. Thank you!!!

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Yes, I agree with this assessment. I would be dead without my sisters, my girlfriends, my FUS alum sisters, my FOCUS alum sisters, etc. I am in a relative position of privilege concerning all things sex and babies, and it’s still hard as hell some days. I can’t fathom the difficulty of walking this path alone, and yet I know from the hundreds of emails I get every month that for many, many women, that’s just life. My prayer as we flesh out some of the ideas and inspirations from this survey is that each of us look around at our parish, our community, our little collection of sisters and friends and potential comrades in arms and makes a conscientious decision to do something. Even if we’re currently drowning a little bit. Maybe it’s putting a noticed up in the back of the church about starting a mom’s group (ideally in person, but even on Facebook) where parishioners could gather and discuss TOB, read the encyclicals, go through an Endow study, start a meal train ministry for new moms; maybe it’s begging Father to arrange for an hour of adoration once a week (or month, if that’s not feasible) where children and all their noise and chaos are welcome into the Church for 60 minutes with Jesus; maybe it’s reaching out to your diocese and seeing what already exists as an NFP resource and asking what you can do to help promote/expand/support the existing effort, or taking something on yourself if nothing yet exists.

      It’s clear we all have a lot we need, but it’s also clear the need far outstrips the capacity in most cases. But “perhaps it is that you have come in to the kingdom, for such a time as this.”

      We have a lot of work to do.

      • M

        Jenny I love that Adoration idea.
        My husband is a former FOCUS missionary. It’s been 10 years now, but when he joined, I had 2 children – ages 3 and 1.5, and was VERY, VERY pregnant. (We now have 6 total.) When we attended NST, and they had babysitters for me, and I was able to attend Holy Hour every day for 6 weeks – it literally changed my life. (They also had excellent health coverage, which NO other church work has given us, ever. But I digress…)
        After that, during his second year, we lived on campus in the house that holds the campus chapel. Jesus lived in my house! BUT, I could almost never make it to daily mass (even though it was in the basement) or even down for a few moments of prayer because I was very actively mothering 3 extremely young children. I remember one day being so distraught by this, that I laid on the floor in my dining room, on top of where I knew the tabernacle to be, and just cried.
        I share these two opposing tidbits to illustrate how desperately mothers need prayer. We need time to pray. I just LOATHE seeing a young mother bouncing a tiny crying baby, trying to manage her under-5 crowd, while a ton of people stand in front of her in line at Confession. I always ask those ladies to go in front of me, and really don’t care what anyone else in line thinks about it. It is SO hard just to get there. Much less to actually make it in. I’ve had times when my children were younger that I couldn’t go to confession for almost a year because it was just impossible to figure out!
        I have no big picture answers for the issue of NFP, but if mamas had a bit more time and space for the Sacraments, it would be huge. I know that God can and will work in wonderful ways.
        Anyway, that is a really great idea. 🙂

  • anna lisa

    I’ve read through about half of the comments, and I’m wondering if there are any parishes that have successful outreach programs for new, and not-so-new but tired Moms. I’d like to help out with something like that, or get one going…

    Also–one little tip for the those in their mid forties to early fifties–It’s extraordinarily rare to carry a baby to term after 47, or 48. I mean I know it happens, because my husband has a cousin who was born to an aunt in her early fifties, but that child was also such an enormous blessing, and so talented–most of all–so utterly RARE. Look up the odds of such a child being born without fertility drugs at that age!

    My husband and I decided (after a very sad loss in the 9th month, when I was 45) to give it over to God completely. We had a lot of miscarriages after that. After a couple of short years I never would have even known those little souls existed without pregnancy tests, and the pregnancy tests prepared me for the loss because the second line was always faint, and never became dark after several days of testing.

    After about the third “faint second line pregnancy test” we began to feel this new kind of joy about the little lives that came to us for such a brief little time, –and the relative assurance that we wouldn’t become geriatric parents! There was no grief with the last one because I knew everything was in God’s hands. It seems to me that what the husband and wife confer upon each other is not only spiritual, but physically it is very healthy. I also think that physiologically speaking, it really helps keep a better hormonal balance. It’s not a cure-all for pms, but it really helps.

    I’m sooooooo glad that NFP doesn’t add to our burdens! We’ve had our share of those, and a lot of stress lately with a change in jobs. Marital intimacy is a blessing I can’t even quantify. It takes the edge off of the difficulties that life throws our way on so many levels. In our case it has definitely been worth the “risk”.

    Even though I never resorted to any kind of ABC, sometimes I really wonder about following the rules to the point of zero intimacy. I don’t think God would ask that of us. It’s makes me think of the Pharisees being so hot and bothered about Jesus healing on the Sabbath when it was technically against the rules. Being open to life is so much bigger than crossing t’s and doting i’s.

  • Laurence

    Before retiring, my wife and I brought five into this world. We did use NFP during most of those years. Wait — we still are using it! I mean, call us low on hormones but we haven’t had or wanted sex in years. (So no need to check charts.) It makes me wonder: before the pill got the culture so over-interested in sex, I bet that guys, in spite of testosterone, were more respectful of the natural relation of sex to children. But by now even Catholic guys bring that culture into their marital expectations — to the extent that erectile relaxation is called dysfunction. This supposed “need” of guys — to have LOTS of sex — could be one of the biggest factors making a natural family life hard.

    • Claire

      Hi Anna Lisa! (I’m assuming you’re the same Anna Lisa I know from Simcha Fisher’s blog and the NCR, but if not, hello anyway!). I never had a later in life pregnancy, but my first pregnancy was a “faint line” pregnancy, and I will be forever grateful for it. If I hadn’t been trying so hard to conceive and watching my cycles so carefully, I never would have known about that baby. So sorry for all your losses. I only lost three, and that was more than enough!

      • anna lisa

        Hi Claire :),
        Yes, same Anna Lisa! You are one of the first people I ever met on the internet 🙂 Your little boy must be turning into a big boy! !
        Yeah, losing them is hard. It’s like having the rug pulled out from under you. I had to learn how to let go. God allowed me to see something really beautiful at my third loss. The baby was 8 or 10 weeks (the loss before was a little girl at 22 weeks). They shared the same due date! I begged God to let me keep that baby, ….but He has a reason for everything. I went on to lose so many more, but in this one singular instance He allowed me see that child’s soul leaving my body. It was nothing cosmically earth shattering, just a soft glowing, rosy kind of light emanating from my belly. (She?) had this beautiful undulating upward movement. It’s not like I could see an actual form, but the light was sweet and radiant. I sat up in bed and just stared. I called my husband the next morning (he was away) and told him that I knew the baby had passed on.

        • Claire

          Wow Anna Lisa, that is amazing! What a gift to be able to witness your baby’s departure to Heaven.

          Yes, my son turned 9 in January and is finishing up 3rd grade! Crazy! He’s still a very sweet little guy, though.

  • Tina

    -Doctors and/or nurses trained in NFP employed by OBGYN offices and consultations covered by insurance

    – NFP conferences free for doctors so maybe more docs will attend

    -NFP pamphlets in doctors offices or NFP info in birth control pamphlets ( and DON’T call it the rhythm method!)

    -NFP pamphlets at churches and priests and pastors who are at least nominally informed about NFP and can give you resources or contacts to find out more

    -billboards with a website that easily explains NFP

    • Marguerite Duane

      Tina – please see my original post – the first one on the in the comments section about FACTS – Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science –

      We are working to educate al current and future medical professionals about ALL evidence based methods of NFP or as we refer to them fertility awareness based methods (FABMs) to highlight these can be used for more than just family planning!

      We have an annual meeting to provide an overview of the latest advances in the field, including the research we are doing, such as developing a shared decision making tool which described the different types of FABMs (NOT including the rhythm method!). Our txt meeting will be November 9th in Cleveland, OH.

      We also have brochures available on our website, including a medical update providing an overview of the science supporting these methods –
      as well as patient education handouts one each of these methods

      We are also starting to offer a webinar entitled The Signs of Your Cycle Explained – providing an over overview of the signs a woman can observe to identify her fertile window and the an introduction to the different methods of NFP. Our next one is THIS WEDNESDAY, June 21st and invite anyone interested to join us:

  • Heather

    When I reached my breaking point from NFP a couple years ago, I turned to my online tribe over at Living the Sacrament Forum ( With them I was able to ugly-cry and then take a deep breath and realize I needed a new method, a new instructor, and fresh hope (YAY BILLINGS!). I loved learning this method and following up with my instructor via Skype (so convenient!), but I do want to become a local resource for women in time, once life settles down enough to get the appropriate training. I wish that I could have gotten help and support locally, but my parish doesn’t talk openly about NFP at all, either from the pulpit or in women’s groups, but I think it’s used a lot based on other pro-life and pro-marriage comments from our priest and the Facebook activity of some of the women in the groups. Ending the silence would be great though and perhaps have kept me from offering my “personal intention” vague prayer request when I was dying inside.

    It would be wonderful if priests could give, either during announcement times or in the bulletin, gentle reminders about how it can be charitable to stay home from Mass when you’re sick, especially if you know Mass will be full of kids and pregnant moms (not to mention truly immune-challenged parishioners). We’ve had 4 rounds of ear infections in 11 months and 3 rounds of sinus infections in 4 months (2 different kids), and that’s not even beginning to mention all the things that aren’t treatable. It’s just overwhelming to think that we’ll likely get sick every time we leave the house, primarily because of sick people attending Mass. It’s not the most glamorous pro-life issue, but it’s grueling for a young family to run this sort of sickness gauntlet!

  • Young wife

    I’d love for NFP discussion to include more MEN!! We followed the Creighton method and at our first meeting I asked the instructor what was my husband’s “job” amidst all this charting, as it essentially all falls on your shoulders!! She replied that “the husband is the one who fills in the chart”… obviously it never happened. Creighton “worked” for us for nearly a year and then I got pregnant with baby n.2, a happy accident as I was feeling so guilty towards my husband for having to abstain for so long (I have very irregular periods due to a condition, so my chart was always indicating me as fertile even when I was not) that I just gave up. Mind you, I love my children, but n. 2 came at a really difficult time economically-wise, and this method (and NFP in general) always make me so anxious, it feels more like a lonely burden on me only than something to help a close relationship with my husband…

  • Valerie

    I haven’t read through the other comments yet, but what I see as being contrary to an NFP lifestyle is Catholic school costing an arm and a leg. If we are encouraging couples to be generously open to life, can we not charge $5,000 a year for Catholic school? I currently homeschool for many reasons, however our current bishop seems to be making great progress in bringing back some Catholicity to our parish schools. It would be nice to have the Catholic schools as an option for our family, but paying $35,000 a year to send all seven of them there is quite a reach. Also, I have friends and family that purposely limit their family size to 2, 3, or 4 with the main reason being that they need to be able to afford their catholic education from K-college.
    Another issue that I have revolving around NFP comes from being a volunteer NFP teaching couple surrounded by “Catholic” Ob/gyns that promote the use birth control and claiming that the church is okay with it. Arggg!!!

  • BridgetAnn

    What do I need? Trustful surrender to Divine Providence! (In no way diminishing practical needs and heavy crosses…) It truly is the “secret of peace and happiness” as the subtitle of the little book so titled states. I’ve been there with some big issues and surrendering has definitely brought peace 🙂

    • Julie

      Amen! I was just thinking that really, our fertility needs to be in light of discerning God’s will for us. Reading through all the comments, there are so many diverse family situations, can there be a good answer to all of them? Yes! God’s will, discerned through prayer–trustful surrender at the end of it, because anything less than openness to His will and life is not trust. God is truly gracious and generous to our faithfulness!!

      And I have to say, I know many people who regret not having more children, but I don’t know any who regret the children they have!

      May God bless all of you wonderful women and strengthen you in this crazy world–remember our goal is Heaven (for all our family!).

    • Colleen

      Thank you Bridgetann for mentioning that blessed book! I gave it to my husband when we were dating and it totally changed his life. He’s given out copies to more people than I can count and now I am totally lagging way behind him in applying it!

  • Archdiocese of Anchorage

    Not staffing the parish offices with aging Boomer dissidents who hate Church teaching would be an amazing start.

      • Jean C

        And we aging Boomers are *so* looking forward to experiencing how the younger generation does everything perfectly as they take over. Elder bashing is a popular pastime these days but is as much of a sin now as in biblical times. Your turn is coming, and the generation after yours will do the same to you as you’re teaching them by your words and attitudes.

        • Ari

          I have great hope in the up and coming generation, especially those who are faithful, orthodox, Catholics. I have much despair in the watered-down, “in the spirit of Vatican II” types of heresy that has led countless astray, all the while thinking they are devout Catholics. Just look at our “catholic” politicians of that age group. That’s all I mean.

  • Greg

    I’m 28 and my wife is 26. We have 1 daughter and 1 child on the way. Both of our children were intentional. We decided to use NFP. We had a nurse who offered to teach it on our Marriage Prep Course. My wife finds it has made her more knowledgeable about her body and it definitely has made out marriage more intimate.

    The reality is that if we feel like we are not ready for another child in a responsible manner all we have to do is abstain for about week. We are certainly not sexually repressed. I would say its quite the opposite. Our relationship is has been more exciting since we have allowed God into our lives in a very real and intimate way.

    My suggestion to young couples. If you want to increase the freedom and joy you get out of marriage, use the NFP method.

  • Laura

    Can I just give you all a hug and a casserole? Seriously, you guys are freaking amazing. I’m a young single gal – hopefully I’ll be living this out one day, but who knows. I’m more than willing to offer my time, free childcare, meals, etc. to families – I just don’t know any I could reach out to! Hmm. I’m going to think about how I can do more for families like you, because I SEE you and your struggle and want to help. Thank you for living the hard and beautiful truth.

  • Beth

    I think that churches can do a MUCH MUCH MUCH better job offering a variety of NFP resources. In my experience, churches in Ohio offer only sympto thermal, no doubt because of the Kippley’s influence here. I think that is a tremendous disservice. There is no reason that a diocesan office can’t offer training, or at least referrals, about multiple excellent options. I don’t know where I would be without various blogs and Facebook groups to learn what other Catholic women are doing around the US. Maybe there could be a central office, or regional offices, that could coordinate these services for the parishes and diocese. I wonder what other churches (LDS?) have in place for their women? Finally, we’re clearly losing men and women in their 20’s, and I can’t help but think that the two issues are intertwined.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      From my understanding, the LDS church doesn’t have any kind of theology of sexuality or any teachings on contraception. I have had several interesting (for me at least) conversations with LDS missionaries over the years, and they all have backpedaled in furious discomfort when I’ve tried to ask them about what their church teaches about fertility.

      • Beth

        Gotcha. Not knowing anything about their specific beliefs, I mentioned them since (from my limited perspective) it seems like that is a church that is very infused into culture of their members. Thanks for the info!

  • Beth

    Gosh, these comments are all overwhelming. I can’t read them all. Above many comments talked about NFP as a mandate to space babies, about learning a “contraceptive” method of sorts, etc. I think these comments get at the heart of what needs to change. I think that a paradigm shift needs to happen where the approach during marriage prep is to learn fertility awareness and TOB truths and then, as a second step can be referred to actual method classes if they have discerned the need to postpone pregnancy. The methods are just tools to monitor fertility.

  • K

    Also interested in any thoughts regarding the cost of just delivering a baby. I had to have a c-section & we did everything medically to prevent it (including a very costly procedure to “flip” the baby, which didn’t work & we still have a large bill for that). I think my total hospital bill was around 50k & thankfully insurance covered most of it. However, we still have about $5,000 t0 pay off on our end. I think it will take a couple of years, which makes me nervous/anxious about having another birth before the first birth is paid off.

    • Ava

      I guess we have good insurance because we ended up paying about $3,500 for an induction, vaginal delivery, epidural, and several days at the hospital.

      My husband and I are happily welcoming another child currently (due around Christmas), but we’ll be needing to practice nfp after this child as we’re saving for a house. In our city, it’s illegal to have more than 2 kids in a 2 bedroom apt and no one has 3 bedroom apartments that are decent or we could afford. We split a car right now, but if we have another child after this one, we’ll need to buy a second car same year as 3 approved car seats won’t fit in the back of our sedan, so that’s another reason we’ll need to practice some method of nfp (abstinence, creighton, marquette, etc…) after this precious baby.

    • Anamaria

      Look into Samaritan! We paid SO MUCH for the birth of our first child (close to $10,000!) because our insurance was terrible (yes, truly terrible. We paid that much for a vaginal birth with no drugs and a midwife in a hospital). We paid less than a hundred for our second because of Samaritan. They will even cover a doula and doctor-recommended supplements.

      As for illegality of three kids in a two bedroom apt, gosh, that’s terrible! But who will report you??? Three diono R100’s also fit in the back of most cars. They are pricier than other carseats but much less than a new car (we are hoping to put off a new car until #4).

      • Ava

        Good to know about those car-seats…not sure I could get the child in the middle one into the middle one, but maybe 🙂 I should’ve clarified with the 3+ kids in a two bedroom apt. situation. As far as I can tell, according to Texas Law, you’re not allowed to have more than 2 people (over the age of 2) in a 1 bedroom apt, more than 4 people (over the age of 2) in a 2 bedroom apt., and so on. I think it has something to do with fire code and liability, but I’m not sure. If we get blest with a 3rd living child sooner than planned, than perhaps we’d be able to have 3 kids in a 2 bedroom apt as 2 would be under age 2…but then we’d need to be financially ready for a house sooner. I don’t know as anybody would report us, but we’d want to be forthright. I’m pretty sure, too, that regardless of our children’s ages, we mention who all is living within the apt in our yearly lease which includes an in case of fire document; that way if our building was on fire, the fire department would know if everyone was out. That’s neat about Samaritan. We’ve considered their program before, but are just worried about the possibility of having serious longterm medical needs that couldn’t be shared, so to speak. Also, I stink at negotiating; that being said, it wouldn’t be bad for me to hone that skill : )

        • Marissa

          I think you might be okay–when we lived in Dallas, our first child was born when we were living in a one bedroom duplex. I asked the landlord about this when we signed the lease (anticipating that we would start a family while there) and he said an infant did not count.

          I hear you on the cost of living though–things are not as cheap in Texas as they used to be :/

          Finally, we have a minivan (that I adore), but I had to use a borrowed sedan for 2 weeks while we had a major repair done. We managed to fit our 5 year old, 3 year old, and 18 month old all in the backseat–2 Diono Radians and a Britax Marathon. It was tight, but it worked. I was happy to have my minivan back, but my husband commented that the kids actually seemed to like being back there that close together and I had to agree. I have a friend with kids the same ages that did it for the past 18 months in a Honda CR-V. So it isn’t ideal, but it is possible!

  • Ava

    – I’d like our archdiocese to acknowledge as well as promote SEVERAL methods of nfp. Our archdiocese (Galveston-Houston) only offers and promotes STM even though there’s plenty of Creighton & Billings Instructors around this city plus at least 5 doctors I can think of (4 ob/gyns and 1 primary care) who are nfp-friendly and particularly studied the latter 2 methods.

    – I’d like to see nfp classes on Catholic college campuses – even if it only happens at the newman guide schools, that’s going to impact a sizeable chunk of practicing Catholics that’ll get married and be active in the Church. Besides, if it’s “women’s healthcare,” why not? I guess it would look like a co-ed class on Church teaching and the why behind it, then a second optional course for ladies on practicing the different methods. No grading.

  • Cami

    I do have a little community of like-minded moms here where I live which I’m grateful for. But two things I wish were available are:
    1) More encouragement to parent in a Catholic way. This can be controversial but since we liken our challenges to carrying crosses and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I’m surprised how much parenting I see that is not self-donative. Lots of methods I hear being advocated among devout Catholics seem the opposite of self-donative or life-giving. My husband and I have adopted a parenting style we feel makes sense with Catholicism and it’s basic message but it’s isolating to be in circles where moms share their ways of parenting that seem so opposite from what we are called to. I realize we are all flawed but if there was family/parenting support to encourage low- trauma/self-donative parenting I think our children are more likely to adopt the full culture of our faith. 2) Elder mentors that lived this life, that welcomed children in the face of an oversexed, underloved culture. Wise couples that stuck with the teachings of the church despite their peers’ choices to abort, contracept, etc. My only sibling was aborted, I have no grandparents alive or aunts who lived this life pro-life. So I often wish I had an older, wiser, like-minded person to turn to.

    • Julie

      Oh, Cami! I’m so sorry for your lost sibling! God bless you for your faithfulness to the Church! I honestly wish I could support you (I’m 52, have eight kids ages 24 to 6)! Here is my hang up–since I’m not very good at tact, when I try to tell young women that I never really practiced any form of birth control (though we abstained some), that I just trusted God with whatever He felt best for me/us, I’m seen to be judgmental and self-righteous. That isn’t my purpose at all, rather I want to get across the point that trusting God and putting Him and His will first is what is most important. I still get such coldness that I’ve stopped sharing. Now I just pray for them. I am not some wise woman who knows it all, but my life experiences have given me understanding that I would willingly share with others.

      • Jenny Uebbing

        Having the pleasure of knowing Julie irl, I can attest that she is the kindest, wisest and least judgmental person on the planet 🙂

      • Cami

        I do not find that judgemental. We use NFP but have had to trust God when we still became pregnant while trying to space, simply because my cycle does crazy things sometimes that fly under NFP radar. I became pregnant with one of my children the day after my period ended. The bottom line I think with NFP is a user cannot have a contraceptive mentality because when God wills a child they didn’t expect, one could become angry and resentful toward Him. Rather we use what we know of our bodies and in the end trust He knows best. So whether someone uses NFP or just goes with the flow and let’s God have full control- both are an exercise in trust. Thank you, Julie for your kind words. Happy to hear any wise words from your experience.

  • Ryan LeBlanc

    I love this conversation. What do we need to live NFP?
    I want to follow Jenny as she collects, curates and reflects what her audience is telling her.
    I am presently discerning the permanent diaconate, which means my wife and I might be in a position to connect the ministry of the church to the needs of married couples in a unique way.
    If I were to walk in to an NFP-supportive space in my church, I would expect to be listened to without judgement, provided credible scientific information and compassionate pastoral care, and above all I would expect to be sheltered from agenda-driven moralizing and coercion of conscience.
    My wife spent time as a La Leche League leader, a breastfeeding support group for moms (sprung from Catholic moms and the devotion to Our Lady’s Milk, but not a church ministry). I was so impressed how they remained committed to the scientific value of breastfeeding while welcoming every mother and respecting every mother’s choice. They have to watch out for and defuse breastfeeding Nazis, but as a global, national and local organization they remain committed to the principle that a mother knows best what her child needs – in other words, primacy of conscience.
    I would wish NFP-supportive ministry would learn how LLL does that.

    Thank you Jenny for the conversation.

    • Ryan LeBlanc

      This is my add-on. My wife agrees with me. In the past few months I was part of showing “Beloved” by Augustine Institute for “preventative marriage maintenance”. It is a great program, but not quite what we need. A friend of my wife had a half dozen couples (wives) approach her with NFP struggles – either fully committed couples who were experiencing Too Much Fertility and marriage breakdown, or couples rediscovering their faith, but really struggling with moving their relationship into open to life. This is random sample of the need that is there.

      Whatever the supportive, pastoral response is, I think in terms of criteria of what a helpful response would be.
      * a gathering of couples with enough trust to speak honestly about their struggles in confidence
      * counsellors with full knowledge of church’s teaching on sexuality and conscience, working knowledge of NFP methods, and ethics of counselling
      * prayer support in the “back-end” with specific people (elders, religious, single people) praying for specific couples
      * willingness and capacity to go to the places where fertility discussions go: miscarriage, porn, adultery, body image, finances, family of origin, sexual desire, gender roles, mental illness

      I think if any pastoral response is worth its weight, it needs to welcome couples wherever they are, answer clearly and correctly any questions about church teaching, and ask couples what they want to do and what support do they need.

      God bless all married couples, Holy Family pray for us.

  • Jean C

    “And how about a homily once in a while about the call to Christian Marriage? A call on/smack down from the pulpit reminding us – and encouraging us that this thing we all signed up for? IT’S A CROSS.”

    Sorry, but you’ve got THAT wrong! Holy Matrimony is a beautiful Sacrament, a way of life, a life-long gift from God. We make it hell on earth if we so choose by our selfishness and sinfulness. Our last homily on this Sacrament reminded us it was the vocation of married couples to help each other get to heaven. Certainly not a cross! Choose an attitude of gratitude for your spouse, see God’s image in your spouse, but the minute we see them and marriage as a cross we’ve given in to another of Satan’s deceptions. – Married 44 years and still grateful for all the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations. Still open to Grace.

  • jeanette

    Awesome sharing of comments. Have read a great many of them and had so many thoughts about what people are saying here. The main thought I had was in the realm of prayer.

    Humanae Vitae is such a beautiful and profound place to start when one wants to examine carefully the spiritual dimension of the whole practice of NFP. It can be very supportive and uplifting to really spend time with this document. Take one little bit from it, maybe 15 minutes of your day, sit and ponder it prayerfully together with your spouse as a meditation on how you understand what God wants from you and how you can be at peace within your hearts about the decisions your make regarding this important area of your marriages. For example, in HV 13:

    “But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source.”

    OR how about HV 21:

    “The right and lawful ordering of birth demands, first of all, that spouses fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life and that they acquire complete mastery over themselves and their emotions. For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, essential to married life, conform to right order. This is especially clear in the practice of periodic continence. Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character.”

    for more, go to the document at the Vatican website:

    • Colleen

      Really well said Jeanette. I think the overarching point is that we all feel judged (by our own community) for trying to live the Church’s teaching on sexuality.
      We need to be a unified source of support for one another because we are truly on the same side.

  • Jean C

    Re-reading all comments, I’d like to get back to the ones made about the LDS. The reason you had a missionary back-pedaling on your question, Jenny, is likely because they were a missionary, very early into their adult spiritual life. My husband and I are friends with neighbours who are LDS members, one of whom traces a great grandmother all the way back to the wagon train migration to Utah. The husband is an elder in their church.

    Over the course of years we’ve faith shared on many topics and the RC Church’s birth control rules came up. In their church birth control is left as a private matter between a married couple. It may be used to temporarily (and heavy on the temporary) delay growing a family, for good reasons such as health issues, education, but they are expected to get busy with the business of co-operating with God’s desire to send “spirits” (souls?) which the couple embodies in the form of a child. Large families are the norm, and our friends have 8 adult children. Their children have married other Mormons and in total have provided our friends with 26 grandchildren at last count. Prolonged abstinence is viewed as unhealthy, termination of pregnancy is not allowed, so no abortive birth control.

    There’s no doubt LDS moms struggle with the same child rearing issues RC moms do, but the big difference for them is community. They share baby equipment, clothing, and there are always teenage daughters of other LDS families not far away to provide babysitting. In short, they live as we once-upon-a-time lived.

    Their teachings are drawn from a large array of letters and writings of senior LDS members, not encyclicals as in our church, and funnily enough our friends are of the impression we Catholics are bound by lots of rules, and my husband and I have always thought they live a strictly controlled lifestyle.
    Our friends state that LDS members “just know” how to go about living their lives, and if ever in doubt have elders to clarify. On an annual basis they must present themselves for a review in order to obtain their Temple Permit, answering questions regarding whether and how they’re living the church’s teachings on a daily basis. Can you imagine Catholics doing that? So, while it appears to my husband and I that they have a very controlled lifestyle in many respects, the flip side of that is they live in a tightly knit church community providing the support we so lack in ours.

    I’m not championing their denomination over ours, but I can see the disconnect between what our Church teaches and how our members experience those teachings in real life. There’s something very wrong with any RC couple feeling they have to defend a large family, and wrong for any RC individual(s) to criticize them for bringing another new life into the world. There’s been far too much western secular infiltration into our Church. I don’t know how we can get back to where we were, nor whether it’s even possible at this point, but it may be very worthwhile taking a look at how other Christian communities who also value the gift of children get on. We keep hearing about liturgy, doctrine, Church politics, lots of blather about trads vs. libs but I can’t remember when I last heard about the importance of community. It’s as though we, the body of Christ, are dismembered parts who can barely come together for an hour on Sunday mornings. I’m keeping all you young moms in my prayers, thanking you for your faithfulness.

    Sign me a “not-so-dissenting aging Boomer”.

  • Rosanne

    Jean C – your response is so correct. While the Church does need to support, encourage, and teach about NFP and TOB, we, as mothers and families can also step up without waiting for an official church person to do it. I was sick of the lack of support so I started what I called, “Mom’s Bible Study,” (or mom’s BS for short) in my parish. It was sort of like a bible play group. I hosted it in my home for any mom with any age children. It was held once a week and children and babies were welcome. Of course, my house got trashed. No Big Deal. We started off reading the Bible and discussing it, but I soon realized that most of the mothers had very little knowledge of the Catholic faith. So we switched to Fr. John Hardon’s Q & A Catholic Catechism. We just read the questions and then the answers. Wow! What discussions we had! I watched 15 or so ladies go from nominal Catholic to on-fire! I also invited various priests I knew to come and lead the group now and then. Our group lasted about 12 years, with different moms coming and going and some who stayed the whole 12 years. We also met on weekends with the dads, now and then, and even went camping and to the beach a couple of times. It was fantastic.

    From that group of nominal Catholic mothers, 4 have gone on to foster children and then adopt, one has become the head of the local Right to Life organization, and others have become religious ed teachers or have become very active in their parish. All of them have had their vocation as wife and mother strengthened and blessed. None have divorced.

    How proud I am of them all! When I started the group, I started it for me and for my need for companionship. But what blessing were in store! Please don’t wait for someone else to start take the first step forward. Go out and do it.

    • Jean C

      God bless you, Rosanne! All great points, and I especially liked the “any mom, any age children”. I am now a senior (a.k.a. ageing boomer/old biddy as described by earlier commenters). When I was the age of these young moms I gained much of my reinforcement from relationships formed through service for our parish. Our CWL was very active with an energetic white haired grandma leading. We brought our pre-school kids with us to afternoon events and fundraiser preparations, and went on evening retreats to the local convent for faith sharing/building sessions. It was the wide range of ages of other women willing to listen and share that helped us younger ones get through those tough years. Times change and so, too, might activities, but surely there must be something in their parishes waiting to be picked up and run with?

      I’m involved in other areas these days but I hope the moms so desperately in need of community take your advice and example rather than sit and wait for the Church to approach them with an offer, because they might end up waiting a very long time for that assistance, if ever it might come at all. As we’ve so often heard it stated, sometimes we have to be the change we need.

  • suzanne

    I need my local church to live out the call to be open to life, which I see as not just a call on families but on communities as it takes a community to support this way of life. My family have willing accepted the 5 awesome children God has given us despite the challenges each of them have, as they all have disabilities. However my local Catholic Church does not accept us, my children cannot ‘come as they are’. There is no support and attending mass is a marathon before you even add in the dirty looks. Lack of awareness that NFP even exists doesn’t help. When every Catholic Church within 50 km has no NFP classes, No NFP doctors and very few parishioners under the age of 50 NFP adds to the cross we already bear. A smile, a kind word, a visit for a chat, a NFP class and parenting class, a support group, a doctor who is trained in NFP, some babysitting and a few extra pairs of hands to help at mass would be great.

    • Jean C

      I’m very, very sorry for what you’re going through, Suzanne. In my diocese there is something about to start for young couples, can’t remember what it’s called, but all about living NFP. Most of the folks in our own little church are over 50 (myself included) and only a few families with many children. Not all parishes are as cold as you describe – in fact our youngest member, now going on 2 years old, used to wail that beautiful newborn baby cry we’d almost forgotten the sound of at the start of the Consecration. As her mom would remove her to settle her down we would hear one elderly man (our spokesman) say in his booming voice “Ah, Mother, don’t take her out. She’s a good girl. Just stay with us.” and when her mom insisted on removing her “Well don’t forget to get back in here and join us for Communion.”

      It sounds like you’re at a disadvantage in terms of distance (the 50km you mention) as well as that of the culture of your parish. Please don’t give up, and please know I’ll keep you especially in my prayers.

  • Mary

    What I could have desperately used last year was an NFP trouble-shooting book. A book with answers to questions like “What do I do if my husband doesn’t want to use NFP anymore?” Answer: Here try XYZ. “What if Postpartum you have perpetual fertile signs for months?” Answers: “1: Do you have an active instructor? 2:Try switching to this method. That’s my idea anyway. No one told me how to handle things when NFP goes wrong and when you are TTA after a baby for months and months. Some basic advice, like switching to a new method, could have saved my marriage a lot of heartache.

  • Hannah

    My biggest problem with NFP right now is what many above have commented — the difference in attitude between being open to life and the cost of Catholic school. We just moved to Omaha NE from Lincoln NE and although it was a good move overall, the biggest drawback in the move to me was the cost of education between the two! Lincoln high school costs $1000 a year, and the cheapest Catholic high school I’ve seen in Omaha is $6,000+ a year, PER CHILD. How does a Catholic diocese expect anyone, besides upper class families, to afford that? Yes, there are financial aid options and scholarships, but the premise of the huge cost I think discourages people from having many children. And the Omaha diocese is relatively affluent, from what I’ve gleaned, but they do not try to support families’ costs to attend Catholic education, and I just don’t understand it. My husband works in finance and we save for retirement, kids’ college funds, you name it and we save for it, but unless he gets a huge promotion in the next 5-7 years we will not be able to afford that if we have a lot of kids. And I even work from home with our two kids, 40 hours a week! And we don’t live extravagant lives. WHAT THE HECK. Catholic education should more than anything be *affordable*, to those on one income, to those who want to practice fiscal responsibility, to those who want to have lots of kids.

  • Rachel K

    Forgive me if it’s been mentioned, but I didn’t read all the comments!

    I would say that some sort of list/registry of NFP friendly providers would be extremely helpful. I’d love to see the diocese send a survey to family and women’s health care providers, allowing them the option to be put on a list available for people to access through the diocesan website or parish offices.

    • Marguerite Duane


      I love this idea! And, just so you know we at are exploring this very idea with our friends at

      Our goal is to create a list of ALL medical professionals that provide NFP / FABM services or at the very least support users of these methods. We want to include basic contact information, as well as which methods the medical professionals offer.

      It’s just one of the many things we want to do at FACTS, but as a very small non-profit, made up almost entirely of volunteers, it will take time. Please like us on Facebook to keep up to date with out work and if you are so inclined to support us and/or help spread the word about our work, we would appreciate it!

  • Katrina

    Pairing up mentor couples for difficult situations who are living with chronic illness or abstaining for years due to very high risk pregnancy. My husband and I have had a hard time with the sometimes 6 months to a year or two of abstinence that comes with NFP with autoimmune disease that makes signs difficult to discern.
    It would be nice to have a couple who has lived a mostly chaste marriage due to illness as counsel.

  • Sarah

    I’d like to know how a Catholic practicing NFP is supposed to respond to all the environmental arguments. Yes, I do think climate change is human induced. Yes, I do think we have a large enough population on earth. No, I don’t subscribe to abortion as a remedy. No, I don’t support birth control (how are the excess hormones this good for the environment?). Yes, I voted against abortion, but I’m very troubled at the direction our administration is headed for addressing serious environmental issues.

    Many Catholics seem to tell me that since I’m married, my whole point in life is to have kids (and if I don’t have kids they seem to imply I’m sinning). But for me to have children also seems to violate my conscience as much as having an abortion. I work an environmental job. I see firsthand the issues caused by a huge population and environmental degradation. With the world population at 7+ billion people, I think of farms I’ve visited where there are more horses than there is land to support that many animals. It would be like adding another 5 horses to a farm that already has 25 horses on only 20 acres (an acre of land can support about 1,000 of animal or about 1 large horse). Soon after adding the additional 5 horses, there won’t be enough grass to feed the horses or even withstand the pressure from all the hoof-traffic. Similary, we think there is still so much of Earth’s landmass to inhabit, but quite a large amount of that land mass is arid desert and bitterly cold (and arid) tundra regions.

    So, can someone tell me why I’m in the wrong for practicing NFP faithfully and not pushing to have children? God told Adam to be fertile and multiply, but he also left Adam as the caretaker of the garden.

    The Great Barrier Reef is dying off. The Amazon rainforest is being converted to grazing farmland. The Arctic is melting (the polar vortex swings will become worse as the cold in the north becomes less contain, much like a hurricane coming undone). This is the home we want to hand to future generations? “Hi kids! Don’t judge us for how we tended our earthly garden. Good luck reviving it for the next several hundred generations. We figured since you are only going to live about 80 years, then it doesn’t matter that we left you a miserable mess, because you know, you shouldn’t become attached to earthly things. See ya! I’m headed up to my eternal reward in the big garden in the sky! GOOD LUCK!”
    I’d like to know why I have to feel guilty for being married and not wanting children. Oh, so I should have let some other woman marry the good man I did? He’s my vocation to help me get to heaven, just as much as I’m married to help him get to heaven. As far as I’m aware, children aren’t necessary to help me get to heaven. That’s my husband’s duty, not theirs.

    • Sarah

      PS I’m open to life and will accept one if a child blesses our marriage, but I’m not in a rush to have a child any time soon. I don’t think my life will be unfulfilled if we don’t have children.

    • Julie

      Sarah, I highly recommend you watch The New Economic Reality: Demographic Winter (Parts I and II)–part 1 sets up the reality that our world is on a population decline (I love how one professor puts it: “It’s not that we are breeding like rabbits, it’s more that we are not dying like flies.” when he describes the high population.) And this series doesn’t even take into account war, disease, and natural disasters which could potentially affect population.

      We have eight children and I took my mother-in-law’s mantra of, “The future belongs to the fertile” and used it often when people would ask, “Are those all yours?” Funny enough, my husbands response is the true solution to our worlds problems: “And we are into world domination!”

      Children are not the problem. Our own selfishness, and desires for the four P’s (power, pleasure, prestige and possessions) are the problem. Only through the gift of faith and the gifts of children from God can we possibly hope to solve the problems in the world today.

      My children are the greatest blessing in my life (after my gift of faith in God) and they will belong to God through my own witness, faith and love of God…and by God’s grace and faithfulness to us.

      • Julie

        I forgot to add that part 2 is about solutions to the demographic issue–guess what? It’s strong families! My children and their children will be the solution to our dying world. We NEED strong, faith-filled, Godly children to sustain the future of our world. Have children and trust in God’s faithfulness to help you raise them.

  • Michael

    I needed to know about this earlier in my life. I attended Catholic grade school and high school and don’t recall receiving any catechesis remotely close to the theology of the body and God’s plan for marriage and sexuality. Also, the pre-Cana that my wife and I went through in 2001/2002 lacked teaching on the beauty of NFP. Having stumbled upon it only after deepening my faith about 5-6 years into my marriage, when we already had two children, and in our late 30s, adherence to the Church’s teaching has been difficult. We are faithful to the teaching, but the way it plays out is a dramatically reduced level of intimacy … it’s almost non-existent. With a wife that suffers from anxiety and mild-depression, the thought of a fifth child in her mid-40s is overwhelming. We both wish we had been able to learn about NFP earlier in our marriage to “practice” the methods and become so familiar with and attuned to the markers that the anxiety wouldn’t be with us today. I feel like its too late for us, but for the next generation there is hope.

    • Mama

      I remember reading a quote that a good society was one in which it was easy to do good. Our culture puts so much stress on large families. I wish Catholics did a better job of really helping each other walk the walk like the Orthodox Jews and Amish do. They pool resources and make sure that everyone has needs met.

  • Kristen

    So I’m late to comment here and I’ve read most of the comments above and have mixed feelings. Here are some things I feel the church could do better as a whole.
    1. Education about the different methods of NFP but also make it known that that church does not reauire us to use NFP only to be open to life and not use contraception.
    2. Support from parishes priests and marriage support classes. Talk about marriage in homilies, pray for marriage and expecting parents, adoptive parents, those struggling with infertility, etc during prayers of the faithful. (For the record on Mother’s Day at my parish they did pray for all these groups of moms and more. I was brought to tears. It was beautiful.)
    3. Support for those couples struggling with infertility (primary or secondary) and miscarriage. With this includes educating all Catholics that you do not have to have X number of children to be considered Catholic. That couples (huaband and wife) are a family just as much as the family of five, seven, nine.
    4. A movement within the church to start using the phrase, “you have a beautiful family.” Use this phrase for all sizes of families and use it for those in the secular world too. Maybe it would help soften hearts of those who might be considering alternative methods for making sure their family size doesn’t grow.
    5. Secular doctors to not roll their eyes at you when you tell them you will be doing Marquette, Creighton, nothing to avoid/achieve pregnancy. For the CDC to recognize NFP as a way to achieve/avoid pregnancy with accurate statistics.
    Background on me…my husband and I haven been married six year and God has blessed us with two little girls. We’ve been open to life for our entire marriage and have used NFP postpartum (which is the worst!) and have left it up to God and not charted (what was, honestly, the best ever because charting sucks) For the past two and a half years we’ve been struggling to expand our family. I’m grateful for what this journey has down for my heart and how I now have a totally different prespecitve on all families sizes. Inferitity is the pits and I’m praying for all you couples out there who are struggling.

  • Marguerite Duane


    As a physician, I can tell you that most doctors learn very little about NFP and sadly most reply on the CDC for information, which is highly inaccurate.! To address this significant knowledge gap, we launch FACTS – the Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science to educate our health care colleagues and future medical professionals. Please visit our website site and feel fee dos hare our medical update with those doctors that roll their eyes!

    Also, I would ask you and everyone that reads this post to please sign our petition to the CDC asking them to update the effectiveness rates that they quote for NFP / FABMs (fertility awareness based methods)

  • JM

    I would love someone representing the Alexander House to come speak to our parish about sterilization reversal. I remember years ago watching Greg and Julie on EWTN “Marriage Works in Christ.” I could swear that they mentioned some group that raised money to help couples discerning a sterilization reversal to be able to afford the procedure and referring them to a particular physician with a high success rate of return to fertility. This might be about the only way I could foresee my spouse considering a reversal. Will you please pray for us? My spouse just came back to the church after a decade away and we are still in our child-bearing years. I’m curious how many other couples in our parish are sterilized because they do not feel a sense of belonging among the families in our parish or have the support they need and so were sterilized because they felt overwhelmed and unable to be open to life any longer.

  • Judy

    Find a MOPS group in your community. Most offer free babysitting. You will love it ! Other moms, older woman an grandmas who are there to listen an have great advice. It’s for all religions. Do something for yourself, check it out.

  • Carolyn

    I think it would be helpful if parishes and NFPers at least mentioned Marquette among the smorgasboard of options. So many times – at parishes, at our Engaged Encounter retreat, and online – NFP seems to be taken to mean only STM, Creighton or Billings, all of which present real fear to any woman without much mucous. (Sorry I said mucous.)

    A friend of mine – she and her husband are both practicing Catholics – even told me she wanted to do NFP but “none of the methods work for breastfeeding.” Marquette has a breastfeeding protocol that is working for us. But so many people have never even heard of it.

    Marquette has been so effective and drama–free for us (we easily avoided for the first two years of our marriage, then chose to conceive the following month) that I have actually become one of those women who can’t really relate when people complain about NFP. For me, it’s been just as effective, easy, and structured as any pill, with the added benefits of being 1) approved by the Church and 2) open to life.

    If parishes brought Marquette into the conversation more, I think more 20- and 30-something couples would think NFP was a real effective option for spacing pregnancies, and not just a burden.

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