the thing about nfp

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Of course I’m not speaking for you, or all Catholics, or even my husband, but nfp is the hardest and easiest part of my marriage, my life, and the living out of my faith.

It’s easy because as a married Catholic, faithful to the teachings of Christ and His Church, practicing nfp is like meatless Fridays in Lent.  The Church – with its 2,000 years of theologians, philosophers, and other people who are way smarter and holier than I – says that I should practice nfp.  So I do.  I already did the studying and soul-searching and came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is the Church.  So if it tells me to have fish sticks on Fridays I do.  If it tells me to constantly pray about a possible pregnancy I do.  And if Holy Mother Church tells me to not use contraception I don’t.

And all those things they told me about nfp making my marriage better are true.  Except when I’m lying next to the man I love him and we’re both sure that we shouldn’t conceive a child.  Those moments can bring frustration to our marriage and make living out my faith harder.  Because sometimes I just want to say “to heck with it” and use contraception.  And sometimes when I’m paying for the ept at the dollar store, exhausted and holding a 7 month old who has been crying for 7 months, all I can think is, “oh no, not now, oh no, not now, oh crap.”  And actually living out nfp – prayerfully and obediently – is sometimes nothing like what they told me in my class.  It can suck a lot more – especially postpartum.

So that’s the harder.  But don’t get me wrong; the difficulties do not outweigh the blessings.  When I think of my children I am certain that because we are open to life we have all the kids God wants us to have.  (Please God that we have more!)  There is joy in knowing that eternity will be better because my husband and I did not say, “to heck with it!”  We have peace of mind and heart because we discerned and followed God’s will to the best of our abilities.

I suppose that what it comes down to is that trusting God is the hardest and easiest part of my marriage, my life, and the living out of my faith.  It is hard because I want to be in control, I want to plan, I want to worry.  But when I let go of those desires and trust in the Lord my life becomes so easy.  Not without crosses or troubles, but filled with joy, peace, support, and beauty.  When I rely on an all good God to lead me the yoke is easy and the burden is light.  Even through a miscarriage or a long stay at the NICU.  Even through the grocery store with a 1, 2, and 3-year-old all crying.  Even then.

Image from Sara Alfred.

Bonnie Engstrom

Bonnie Engstrom

Bonnie Engstrom is a cradle Catholic and stay-at-home mom. She married her dashing husband in 2006 and they now have five children: one in Heaven and four more wandering around their house, probably eating pretzels found under the couch. Bonnie lives in central Illinois and gets excited about baking, music, film adaptations of Jane Austen books, and the Chicago Bears. She was a cofounder of The Behold Conference and she blogs at A Knotted Life.

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7 thoughts on “the thing about nfp”

  1. I’ve been in the same situation, but it doesn’t happen as much anymore, even though we are trying to avoid pregnancy at the moment. Here’s why: when we’re there, frustrated, we say “OK, this is what we want but it’s not what God wants, so how can we live out a (physical) intimacy with one another without having sex right now?” Sometimes that means reading a book out loud to each other while cuddling. Sometimes it means Just Dance 2 on the Wii. It sounds like you’re stuck in the house, too, with other little ones; it used to mean going for a run/walk/bowling/ping pong before kids. But essentially doing an in-house date night with some physical component gives us the intimacy we need while we live how God wants.

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