Marriage & Children

What Do We Do Now? Making the Switch from Contraception to Natural Family Planning

By Patty Schneier

Schneier-FamilyDiscovering the Truth about contraception can be one of the most defining moments in a couple’s marriage. But quite often, the joy of this discovery is accompanied by fears, doubts, and many questions. My husband Larry and I experienced all of the above in January, 2002 when, after 13 years of marriage, we finally decided to live our lives according to God’s plan for love and life. We literally threw out the contraception. This was the best decision we ever made, and we have never looked back. It was THE defining moment in our marriage.
Today, we continue to joyfully celebrate our conversion. We celebrate the beginning of a whole new way of life together and a whole new way of loving each other. But we also vividly remember how difficult it was to be in the middle of this conversion process. Our transformation wasn’t so “joyful” when we were actually going through it. To be honest, we were a mess. We stayed up night after night until the wee hours of the morning trying to figure out, “HOW ARE WE GOING TO LIVE THIS???” Discovering the Truth about love wasn’t enough. What to do with this Truth proved to be a far greater challenge.
Perhaps you have struggled with the issue of contraception. Perhaps you have ignored the Church’s teachings in your marriage for many years. Perhaps you or your spouse has been sterilized. But now, for whatever reasons, you find yourself wanting to change, wanting something better, wanting authentic love and unity in your marriage. This longing is the first step on the road to holiness and healing. Do not ignore this longing! The road ahead may be filled with obstacles; it may be frightening and uncertain. But take comfort in Sacred Scripture, set your foot to the path, and take one tiny step forward. I hope the following suggestions will encourage you on your journey and help you take the next step. Be not afraid! Joy awaits you! Authentic love and real freedom await you! Just say “yes” and take one tiny step.

#1 Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation

No matter how often Larry and I may have rationalized it, using contraception was a sin in our marriage. In order to start anew, we needed the grace of this sacrament. This was the first and most important step for both of us. It was through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we resolved to “never go back.”
Find a priest who understands the Church’s teaching. Make an appointment if necessary, and do not delay in confessing this sin. Resolve to amend your life. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, where you’ve gone, or how long you’ve been away—NO sin is too great. Remember, you can just throw out the contraception—or you can throw out the contraception AND experience redemption, mercy, peace, and healing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The choice is yours.

#2 Gain Knowledge of the Truth—Read, Read, Read!

Larry and I literally had to re-learn how to love each other. We didn’t know that every sexual union was meant to be a renewal of our marriage vows; we had never heard that real love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. We didn’t understand why the Church says what it says, and we were still unsure about many issues regarding sex. But when we discovered the Theology of the Body, it was like finding “the pearl of great price” for our marriage. The Theology of the Body is a collection of talks given by Pope John Paul II on the meaning of human sexuality. The truths revealed in the Theology of the Body reflected the deepest desires of our hearts. We immersed ourselves into this teaching in order to understand the language of our bodies and how we communicate. It was only then that we saw the beauty of God’s original plan for our sexuality. This is what we had been searching for! Our hearts were transformed, and to this day, we are still in awe of the Theology of the Body.
You may have many questions that are still unanswered. Perhaps your spouse considers the Church’s teachings to be a burden and is therefore reluctant to change. Pray for faith and reason; search for answers! Gain knowledge and understanding of authentic love—the only love that satisfies. Read books or listen to CDs together. Re-learn the meaning of your marriage, and immerse yourselves in Truth. Go to onemoresoul.comCouple-reading-scripture for a wealth of resources. I recommend the following to get you started: Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West, Contraception: Why Not by Professor Janet E Smith, “Prove It, God!”. . . And He Did by Patty Schneier

#3 Take a Class on Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is fertility awareness that is simple, scientific, and reliable. It is basic knowledge that can be used either to achieve a pregnancy or to avoid a pregnancy when there are serious reasons for doing so. Many people don’t realize, however, that there are different methods of NFP—all of which are in harmony with Church teaching. The most widely used methods include the Sympto-Thermal Method, Creighton Model, Ovulation Method, and Marquette Model. Each has different levels of instruction and different physical observations. Find out which method is right for you and sign up for a class. Both spouses should attend together. A National directory of NFP Teachers and NFP Centers is available at onemoresoul.com (800-307-7685). Call your Diocesan Family Life Office or local Catholic hospital for information about classes in your area.

#4 Switch to an NFP-Only Physician

This may sound drastic but, if it is at all possible, find an NFP-only physician. For me, this was a very important step—one that I didn’t want to take, because I “loved” my former Ob-Gyn who had delivered all our children. Soon after our conversion, however, I realized that his practice of prescribing contraception no longer fit with our values. I couldn’t follow his advice, and I didn’t agree with his assumptions. When I found my new physician, I felt as if I had truly come home to an entire practice that understood me and valued my fertility as a gift and a blessing—not a disease or an inconvenience that needed to be “controlled.” Despite a much longer commute to this new practice, it has been well worth it!
An NFP-only physician will affirm your decision, help you make the switch, and lend great support with medical truths and NFP experience. If you have been given hormonal contraceptives for “medical reasons,” an NFP-only physician can evaluate the underlying problem and utilize natural hormones or surgeries to restore proper function of your body. An NFP-only physician may also be able to assist couples who seek sterilization reversal. Because physicians have such a powerful influence on their patients and have a relationship built on trust, it is crucial that you find an NFP-only physician. Go to http://onemoresoul.com/nfp-directory to find your nearest NFP-only physician. If none is available in your area, ask an NFP teacher to recommend an NFP-friendly physician. If switching physicians is not possible, you may need to educate your current physician. Get materials, take them to your physician, and encourage him/her to learn the scientific facts and moral reasoning behind modern methods of NFP. Unfortunately, many physicians remain unaware and uneducated in this area. You can help change that!

#5 Connect with Others

When Larry and I converted to the Church’s teachings, we knew five other couples who did not use contraception. That’s it—five other couples out of our entire parish, list of acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, and relatives. But these five couples were more than enough. These were the families we had always admired and respected. They soon became our confidants and closest friends. It felt so good to be able to talk with them! We swapped books and CDs; we swapped stories and experiences; we shared laughter and tears. Through it all, we witnessed their joy and learned how beautiful marriage can be. They encouraged us, taught us, and loved us throughout our entire journey. We are forever grateful.
Chances are, you know of at least one other family that practices NFP. You may not know them well, but you probably know who they are. Perhaps their marriage and family life have been an inspiration to you. Seek them out and share your story. The best place to look is within your own parish. These families can be a tremendous support for you. I strongly recommend that men seek out other men who have gone through this journey. Despite the initial awkwardness of discussing these personal issues, it can be most encouraging. You are not alone!

#6 Remain Grounded in Sacred Scripture

There were so many Scripture passages that strengthened me when I was afraid or confused. Two verses in particular were crucial at these times: Mark 1:17 “They dropped their nets and followed him.” I knew that contraception was my “net,” and I needed to drop it in order to follow Jesus. Luke 5:37 spoke to my heart as well: “No one pours new wine into old wineskins.” I wanted “new wine” in my marriage. But in order to get that, I had to get rid of the old wineskins. There was no other way. . . . The truths of these scriptures helped me to stay focused on God. His Word sustained me throughout this journey.
Pray for wisdom, strength, perseverance, and purity. Read the Bible. I recommend reading the following verses over and over again: Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 1:9-11, Ephesians 1:3-4, and Ephesians 3:14-21. Let them sink into your heart and speak to you personally. Know that you can be pure and blameless; know that you can be rooted and grounded in real love; trust that through grace you will be strengthened with power and Truth!
Finally, I share with you the life-changing question that Larry asked me after reading Good News About Sex and Marriage. I was extremely confused, frightened, and in turmoil after discovering the truth about contraception, and I didn’t know what to do. He simply asked, “What do you want for our marriage?” I replied, “I don’t know. . . but I want what’s in that book.” That was it. That’s how we began our journey together—reading, learning, praying, and talking. Then we took one step at a time to build the marriage we had always wanted. With time, our communication, our physical relationship, and our entire lifestyle changed for the better. May you be abundantly blessed as you discover God’s plan for your marriage, and may you be steadfast in your search for Truth. Make the switch. It could be THE defining moment in YOUR marriage.

NFP Contact Information

Sympto-Thermal
Couple to Couple League www.ccli.org 513-471-2000
Northwest Family Services www.nwfs.org 503-215-6377

Ovulation
Family of the Americas Foundation www.familyplanning.net 301-627-3346
Billings Ovulation
Billings Ovulation Method Association www.boma-usa.org 651-699-8139
Creighton
Pope Paul VI Institute www.popepaulvi.com 402-390-6600
Marquette
Marquette U. School of Nursing www.marquette.edu/nursing/NFP 414-288-3854

First Comes Love

Here is everything you wanted to tell your married child, and everything you wish your parents had told you about marriage. First Comes Love is a collection of the very best the Church has to offer to help couples have long and very happy marriages. Drawing from Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Christopher West, Emily Sederstrand, Steve Wood, St John Chrysostom, and many others, this publication offers articles, quotes, personal testimonies, graphs, prayers, and recommendations. Subjects include finding the right mate, the blessings of children, the value of Natural Family Planning, how chastity works inside of marriage, and infertility; everything a young couple needs to get their marriage onto a solid foundation.

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What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and postpone pregnancies. These methods, also called Fertility Appreciation or Fertility Awareness methods, are based on the observation of naturally occurring signs of the fertile phase of a woman’s fertility cycle. Couples using NFP to achieve pregnancy engage in intercourse during the woman’s fertile phase. Couples wishing to postpone pregnancy simply abstain from sexual relations during the time of fertility. No drugs, devices or surgical procedures are used in the practice of NFP.
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Why Use Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning accepts our fertility.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a comprehensive acceptance of the divine gift of fertility within marriage, wherein the couple monitors their fertility to determine fertile and non-fertile phases for the purpose of either achieving or postponing pregnancy. It is not to be confused with the older and significantly less effective “calendar rhythm method” which estimates and projects the couples fertile and non-fertile phases by observing when these phases occurred in previous cycles.
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On Christian Marriage (Arcanum) – Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII

Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on February 10, 1880.

To the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Catholic World in Grace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

The hidden design of the divine wisdom, which Jesus Christ the Savior of men came to carry out on earth, had this end in view, that, by Himself and in Himself, He should divinely renew the world, which was sinking, as it were, with length of years into decline. The Apostle Paul summed this up in words of dignity and majesty when he wrote to the Ephesians, thus: “That He might make known unto us the mystery of His will . . . to re-establish all things in Christ that are in heaven and on earth.”[1] (more…)

On Christian Marriage (Casti Connubii) – Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XI

December 31, 1930 – To the Venerable Brethren, Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Local Ordinaries enjoying Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, Health and Apostolic Benediction.

How great is the dignity of chaste wedlock, Venerable Brethren, may be judged best from this that Christ Our Lord, Son of the Eternal Father, having assumed the nature of fallen man, not only, with His loving desire of compassing the redemption of our race, ordained it in an especial manner as the principle and foundation of domestic society and therefore of all human intercourse, but also raised it to the rank of a truly and great sacrament of the New Law, restored it to the original purity of its divine institution, and accordingly entrusted all its discipline and care to His spouse the Church. (more…)

Sensible Sex

Three old friends, middle-aged mothers all, are having lunch together. Nancy is a Methodist minister; the other, Mary Ann, is Catholic and a pro-life executive; the third is myself, a convert to Catholicism and freelance writer. The subject of contraception comes up.

“Why can’t you Catholics just do it the sensible way,” says Nancy in a good-natured crack.

“It may look sensible to you, Nancy, but you know the facts as well as I do: the society that accepts contraception inevitably comes to accept abortion, too.” states Mary Ann.

As for me, like the tar baby, I ain’t sayin’ nuthin’. I listen to my two friends argue, their kind faces rigid and defensive now, and I am silent because I feel the “tar” of my own sins. I once thought, like Nancy, that artificial contraception was sensible. But Mary Ann is right; a contracepting society becomes a society that sanctions abortion and euthanasia, as experience and research have shown. My friends are deadlocked within these two irreconcilable attitudes toward unnatural contraception: Is it sensible? Or is it a preliminary to genocide, or at least infanticide? The Catholic Church recognizes that there can be no resolution and no compromise between the two attitudes, as incompatible as oil and water. (more…)

The Blessings Of Children

How are children a blessing?

The Church’s teaching on contraception is not just a prohibition but a calling to the joy of parenthood. Procreation of children, far greater than an obligation, is an outpouring of God’s love to spouses, who in turn pour out their love to their children. Parents accordingly become mediators, instruments, and ministers of God’s love. This sharing in God’s love of His children, as is true of all instances in which we share in the administration of God’s gifts, heightens our dignity, conforms us to Christ, and deepens our self-knowledge.

The transmission of human life is a prerogative so cherished by God that it has been entrusted only to the covenantal union of man and wife. That is why openness to procreation is essential to the vocation of marriage.1 Yes, marriage is a vocation raised by Christ to the level of a sacrament. Like all the sacraments, marriage is an encounter with Christ that nourishes one’s own earthly pilgrimage as God’s life and love (grace) is poured into one’s soul. Yet God in his abundance fills the soul to overflowing, surging beyond our boundaries so that we become vessels of his love. In so doing, we become living images of Christ in the world. (more…)

Stretch Marks: Making Room for One More Soul

My husband Joe and I have four children; a good size by today’s standards, but paling in comparison to the large traditional Catholic families we were raised in. We both would have said at the start of our marriage we wanted an even larger family, but as the realities of marriage and parenting set in, we found ourselves overwhelmed, stressed, and losing steam fast for the challenge of more children. Like many modern Catholics, we decided the Church’s teaching on contraception was simply not conducive to our needs and lifestyle, and could be ignored without consequence, so we took control of our fertility. I wouldn’t have considered doing something to permanently end our fertility, as this seemed like “mental menopause,” and I really did love kids, especially babies. But after four very difficult pregnancies and raising four children, we were drained. Accumulated stress during those years had left me depressed and anxious. Most of the time I felt like a failure as a wife and mother. My sense of humor had been my lifeline to sanity during stressful times, but during those years I often felt both humor and sanity slipping away, and that was scary. (more…)

We Had Everything… But Happiness

We had our health, six-figure salaries, a beautiful house, two great kids, and a vasectomy. And we were miserable.

We were married in 1987 and had our first child, Christopher, in 1988. In 1989 we gave birth to Lauren. The doctors told us we were the “perfect family” with two children, one boy, one girl. So, I had a vasectomy. We were Catholics, but we really didn’t know much about the Church’s moral teaching. (more…)