An NFP Teacher’s Experience (1982-2015)
I am happy to share some thoughts about NFP, since we are probably unusual in that we have now studied with 4 different NFP organizations. Shortly before our marriage in 1982, we took an NFP class from an organization that taught the mucus-only method. We met with a very nice woman who taught us about mucus. I think that if a man had also been involved in the teaching, it would have been helpful. As it was, my husband was not enthusiastic and did not really believe that “normal” men did abstinence. Between my husband’s reluctance and the fact that I could not figure out the mucus-only method, we did not use NFP. Instead, we resorted to barrier methods for the first few years of our marriage.
Four years later, I was able to observe the return of fertility after our first baby was 14 months old, and I decided that now I only wanted to use NFP, no more contraceptives for me! I found a new NFP organization shortly after the birth of our second son. This group taught the sympto-thermal method. It made so much sense to me, as a scientist by training I could easily figure it out. Cross checking the symptoms gave me a clear picture and confidence in the effectiveness.
Yet my charts with a 3-month-old breastfeeding baby were very different from what I saw in the book. There was little information given for breastfeeding mothers. I received a one-page handout about postpartum that was not covered in the book. Very powerful message there; apparently breastfeeding amenorrhea was not part of the normal course of fertility! I eventually found through my own observations that the all-the-time mucus of breastfeeding was best ignored and to watch the cervix. I sure wish that had been addressed! It would have saved us a lot of unnecessary abstinence.
When my fertility returned with this second child, again at 14 months, I now had charts that looked like those in the book, so we took a second four class series with this same NFP organization to learn to interpret my cycles. We continued using the sympto-thermal method for several years including through a miscarriage and the birth of our daughter followed by two more miscarriages.
One day after liturgy, I found an NFP magazine at our parish hall. This magazine provided support and continuing education for couples through yet another sympto-thermal organization. However this organization included breastfeeding as an integral part of the cycle of fertility! My breastfeeding amenorrhea was not abnormal (14-20 months).
We now desired to teach so I looked into all the NFP methods in order to comparison shop. I wanted a sympto-thermal method, my husband felt it critically important to have men involved in the teaching to provide a witness to male abstinence; and I agreed with him. The NFP group that taught us the sympto-thermal method was very expensive to train. I spoke with them and was not interested in their focus on teaching being a moneymaking proposition versus an apostolate. Additionally they did not teach how to use breastfeeding as a valid form of natural family planning, which I felt was very important.
Hands down, the NFP organization I had found in the magazine won out. We first took a full four class series with a local teaching couple, which brings us to the third organization we studied NFP with. Then we trained as teachers and began to teach 16 years after our first NFP class in 1982. We continued teaching for 10 years, until the program was revised and eliminated the focus on breastfeeding as a form of natural family planning. We served in our community encouraging couples to study NFP and talked about how breastfeeding spaces babies. Recently my daughter and her fiancé took their NFP class from this organization and she was dismayed that no information was given on how breastfeeding is a form of natural family planning and is as licit to use for child spacing as is systematic NFP. It was time for a change for us.
Shortly afterward, I found that there is one NFP training organization that has the most complete program including breastfeeding. I learned this when I saw a letter to the editor by John Kippley in a national Catholic publication. Now we took another full NFP series with Natural Family Planning International; which brought us to NFP organization number four! I feel that NFPI is the only NFP organization that is teaching a comprehensive program to address the challenges we face in the modern world of using natural methods of family planning. It has multiple rules to address problematic charts. It makes sense to include lactational amenorrhea in the NFP picture. It is the original form of family planning throughout the ages. For those who do not want to use systematic NFP with the charting and abstinence, we have ecological breastfeeding to help them learn how God’s design for baby care spaces babies. There is nowhere else to learn it that I am aware of, other than Sheila Kippley’s work.
I have the sense that simplifying NFP methods, with marketing, apps, promoting and branding focus, etc. has apparently led the younger generation to more easily view NFP as “Catholic birth control.” They have been raised in a world with a contraceptive mentality, of sex on demand and without babies as a consequence. With that mindset, we are encountering people who are dissatisfied with NFP. We believe this has led to a backlash against NFP. They do not understand the differences between NFP and contraception, or the sacrifices inherent in marriage.
We know that natural family planning is not the same as a contraceptive, and so does NFPI. We must share this important difference. NFPI is teaching with information that has stood the test of time. So though NFPI does not have fancy branding or webinars, etc., it has the truth. In the long run, that will prevail. We are pleased to be part of the NFPI organization!
Margaret Turano, MS, IBCLC, LLLL (Paul and Margaret Turano became NFPI teachers as of August 6, 2015)
If you would want to get the NFPI program started in your area, contact NFPI.