What It’s Like To Practice Natural Family Planning

K and CAfter yesterday’s post about why I don’t like birth control, I think it only makes sense to talk about the alternative. Natural family planning is widely reviled as a game of reproductive roulette, an unreasonable burden on couples, or an unnecessary restriction on sexual expression. Those of us who use NFP try to dispel those myths, but we don’t really talk about what it’s like to live this life.

In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts about the fifteen years I’ve spent charting my fertility and using that information to plan our family.

1. I know myself. I know my body, what it does, what it’s doing at any given time in the cycle. I’m aware of sensations I once was not, and the cyclic changes are a continual source of awe and wonder. I’m coming up on forty this year, and I’m starting to see changes in the way my reproductive system responds as it approaches the waning years. I’m a whole lot more comfortable in my skin these days. NFP isn’t the whole reason for that, but it’s a big factor.

2. I’m a far healthier person because of my practice of NFP. I had erratic charts early-on, and that encouraged me to address dietary and lifestyle changes. Because I have to take my temperature every morning, I’m conscious of getting to bed and planning my life around good habits. I also learned that I drop two pounds when I go into Phase III (post-ovulation infertility). Huge implications for helping me manage my weight.

3. I’m aware of the hormonal shifts and how they impact me as a woman. There are two parts of the cycle when I am susceptible to being cranky, and knowing that makes me aware, as well, of the need to guard my reactions. This is particularly meaningful to me because I remember how out of control of my bitchiness I was when I was on progestin during the early part of the infertility battle.

4. I have a lot more self-discipline because we use NFP. I’m talking about the mental discipline to make sure I do the observations consistently and don’t get lazy. Because “lazy” leads to unnecessary abstinence.

5. We are intentional about intimacy. Our window of abstinence is usually 12 or 13 days, but on either side of that window we prioritize intimacy. I would really love for someone to undertake a survey to see how often people using different forms of family planning have sex. I would guess–but it’s only a guess–that we make at least as much room for it in our lives as couples using birth control. It’s just spaced out differently. Or maybe, just maybe, because it has to be intentional, we actually make better use of time?

This post is not even remotely scientific, but it is illuminating. Let’s just say if this is the benchmark, we’re doing better than most.

6. Being intentional has another up side. Spontaneity sounds great, but busy-ness and spontaneity don’t really mix–and who’s not busy these days? Especially when you’ve got kids. Intentionality helps me to get myself in the right frame of mind.

7. There are all kinds of implications of being intentional. We have to work together to get the kids in bed on time, we have to talk through the weekly schedules so we don’t park our butts in front of the TV, we have to make sure we are interacting appropriately during the evening (because who wants to be intimate after you’ve been snipped at and criticized all night?). We have microcosmic conversations and macrocosmic conversations. What all this intentionality boils down to is: We really pay attention to each other, because our family planning choice requires it. Of course all married couples pay attention to each other, but NFP strongly encourages the conversation.

These are off-the-cuff thoughts, but enough for now. Others who use NFP: you want to share what your lives look like?