Note: I know that NFP is a scientific and very effective way of understanding a woman's fertility. It can be used to great effect in helping couples with fertility troubles to conceive. This is certainly a good thing. But, as we all know, NFP is mainly discussed as a moral alternative to artificial birth control. And this is the aspect of it which I want to address in this post.
All over the Catholic Blogosphere, people are singing the praises of NFP today. I admit, when I first learned, years ago, just why contraception was wrong - and that there was a Catholic alternative for postponing pregnancy - I thought it sounded pretty great. But over the years, after reading more about it, talking to people who use it, and dabbling in (an admittedly minor and half-hearted way) it myself, I have to say: I just don't get what all the hype is about.
Sure, it's moral, and it's effective. But that does NOT mean it's ideal. For a married couple to have to postpone pregnancy is NEVER ideal. It means your family is experiencing tough circumstances. Raising children is the primary purpose of marriage. Of course, it's virtuous to be able to accept the fact, and cooperate with God's Will for no new babies for a time. But it's basically a self-imposed temporary infertility. Isn't it proper to think of infertility as something less than good?
You always read how NFP is so great for "communication" and engenders "respect" between a married couple. Some sources even seem to promote it merely for this reason. Why doesn't anyone talk about the difficulties of abstinence? The ever-present questioning of one's motives? The strain it can put on a marriage?
Maybe Catholics are too concerned with spreading the Gospel of NFP that they don't want to admit any of the negatives?
I don't know. Sometimes I get sick of hearing people go on about NFP like a high-schooler with a crush. One priest once asked us what we thought about the idea of using NFP all our lives. Using it "to achieve pregnancy" at those times when God seemed to will it, and "to avoid pregnancy" at times when He did not. I understand that sacrifice - even of a sexual nature - can be good for the soul. But we said we didn't think that was the right thing for us to do. I mean...what ever happened to just leaving things completely in God's hands?
Sometimes, too, I feel unsettled because it seems like some people use NFP with a contraceptive mentality. I'm not trying to judge other people here. I really can't know what anyone's situation is actually like. But I have trouble seeing a desire to "space" children as a grave enough reason for using NFP.
Maybe if there was a child with special needs, the parents might legitimately need more time to adjust. Or they'd had multiples or something....
So many people cite financial reasons for postponing children. I wonder if everyone is being realistic about it, though. Okay, if you don't have health insurance, or both parents are unemployed, it's probably not the best time for a new baby. But kids can be much less expensive to care for than society wants us to believe.
Unless our financial situation completely turns around, there's pretty much no way we can pay for our kid(s) to go to college. We might not be able to give our children a ton of gifts at Christmas, or go out to dinner much, or have two cars. But these are facts that I'm okay with. I think God wants us to experience some measure of poverty. And it's okay for children to be raised in homes without a lot of money. The children who lived through the Great Depression grew up to be known as "The Greatest Generation." And there's a reason for that.
Maybe I'll understand better after I've been married longer, and have more children. Maybe one day, we will have to use NFP, and I'll experience the blessings it can bring. But for now, I just thank God that we don't have to use it.
I'd be interested to hear thoughts, experiences, and wisdom that anyone has to offer about this topic. I apologize if anything I said brought offense to someone. Please correct any misunderstandings I may have.