Friday, June 29, 2012
Periodically when I post about Natural Family Planning, some people become upset that I have failed to mention what the Catholic Church teaches about contraception, or what a certain pope has written on the subject. Some actually seem highly offended if someone talks about NFP in non-theological terms. So I thought I would clear up any confusion by stating that such omissions in any of my previous posts are completely intentional. Yes, intentional.
Don't get me wrong. I am glad that there are many people committed to helping other Catholics understand why the Church is opposed to contraception, and helping other Catholics understand the beautiful and profound theology involved in living the NFP-lifestyle. I am grateful for this and I personally have benefited from their work.
There's a question, however, that I frequently ponder: What about people who aren't Catholic?
Oral contraceptives are classified as a group one carcinogen for breast, liver, and cervical cancers. Breast cancer is the leading cancer death among women of child-bearing age today. And I don't want just Catholic women to be free from breast cancer. I want that for every woman.
Hormonal contraception causes many changes in a woman's body, which can cause problems with infertility when a woman wants to conceive. Infertility is heartbreaking. I don't want just Catholic couples spared this heartache, I want this for every couple.
Some women are on the pill because they have a gynecological disorder. The thing is, though, pill-use doesn't actually treat any gynecological condition. It merely covers up the symptoms. NFP empowers women to know how their bodies work; they know when something is amiss, and with a NaPro-trained doctor, they can get the benefit of receiving actual treatment for infertility and other problems, rather than just treatment of symptoms. I think every woman deserves the benefit of real health-care and to have this basic knowledge of how her body works, not just Catholic women.
From the many birth control forums I've perused, I've gotten a sense that a lot of women don't actually like birth control. I've read quite a lot of rather common experiences women have had with various kinds of contraception, and I don't know if these women feel resentful towards their partner for what they go through in order to be sexually available, but I feel resentful on their behalf, not to mention that women are only capable of becoming pregnant about 100 hours a cycle, while almost all birth control affects her normal and healthy functioning every day of her cycle. I know contraception is marketed as woman's liberator and all, and of course some women use it without noticing any side-effects, and some vehemently defend it's necessity, (though even then they often do so because they think the only other option is to have gazillions of kids), but I've noticed that a lot of women actually hate birth control. I really don't hear a whole lot of feelings of liberation. It seems large numbers of women tolerate it because they think they don't have any other option.Well, I don't want just Catholic women knowing that they don't have to put up with the expense and side-effects of artificial contraception. I want every woman to know that NFP is 97-99% effective when used to avoid pregnancy and has ZERO side-effects.
The divorce rate in the US is around 50%, while the divorce rate for couples who practice NFP is around 1%. Now, some say this is because only highly religious people who don't believe in divorce practice Natural Family Planning. But I personally don't think this is the full story, or even a significant part of it. This description doesn't explain why NFP-users report greater sexual intimacy, even despite periods of abstinence; growth in respect for self and spouse; enhanced communication with their partner; and greater satisfaction with the quality of sexual intercourse as compared to contracepting couples. Here is my own explanation and observations about this statistic. Keep in mind, the only thing my husband and I have in common is our children. We have vastly different personality types and are pretty different when it comes to religious belief, life outlook, and how we view and interpret life-events. I'm very religious while he is agnostic. These things could be a source of great conflict in our relationship, and yet, we have a pretty phenomenal marriage if I do say so myself. It is my belief that NFP has something to do with that.
When a woman is ovulating she wants to give herself to her husband, and she's emitting pheromones that make her husband really want to give himself to her. What I have observed is that if my husband and I can't do this physically because we are choosing to abstain during my fertile time in order to avoid pregnancy, it seems like we end up doing this emotionally. There have been many times where if we could have had sex we would have, but we were abstaining that week and we ended up getting in the most profound and deep-sharing, connecting conversation. I've written further about this in another post if you are inclined to hear more. Our culture is pretty obsessed with sex, but having these built-in times that lend themselves to nurture the other aspects of our marriage, I feel has helped my husband and me.
I see using NFP as entering a school of respect, for self and spouse. I learn to view my body as good and amazing, not as a burden to medicate away. This has improved my self-esteem. My husband also learns to respect me as I am, without asking me to put myself at risk from the various side effects of contraception. He loves all of me, just as I am. I feel like I can trust him with all of me, physically and emotionally, because his actions have told me that he would rather sacrifice sex-on-demand than change any part of me. This makes for a great friendship and amazing sex. He honors my femininity; that is to say, he honors who I am. I don't want just Catholic couples to have strong marriages, I want that for every couple.
Throughout the world, many vulnerable women have been placed in the hands of abusive and coercive population-control programs whose main goal was to control rather than to empower or help. Women who know NFP are empowered with the knowledge of how their bodies work and couples have autonomy in deciding when to postpone pregnancy and when to achieve. I don't want just Catholic women protected from such coersion, I want that for every woman.
What I'm saying is, if I went on and on about Catholic doctrine, people might get the impression that NFP is only for Catholics, and it's not. NFP is for everyone who wants to have a good health record and an understanding of her body. NFP is for every woman who wants real answers to her gynecological health problems. NFP is for everyone who wants to be able to plan his or her family size in an effective way without any harmful side effects; it's for everyone who wants to be friends again with her spouse; for everyone who wants to have a profound and satisfying intimacy with her spouse. NFP is for everyone who wants to experience the freedom and joy of being loved fully as she is for who she is.