Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Reasons to Read "Sinner's Guide to NFP"

10.  Because you hate NFP, and think no one should be on such an arduous system because it doesn't work.  

8.  Because you hate NFP from years of charting the progress of being miserable, personally and as a couple.

7.  Because you love NFP, and can't comprehend why everyone doesn't love it as much as you do.

6.  Because you want to love (or at least unhate) NFP, and want to notice a temperature spike on any kind of happiness in a system full of charts, thermometers, and--er--"goop."

5.  Because you think non-Catholics have sooo much more fun than we plodding prudes.  Or you don't personally know any non-Catholics, and thus couldn't say one way or the other...

4.  Because you need inspiration and further understanding of what God requires of us.

3.  Because your marriage is imperfect and could use ideas for improvement (or because your marriage is perfect, and you just want to gloat.)

2.  Because you just need a good laugh.  Or because you need a good cry.

1. To know you are NOT alone.

This is the book I've been waiting for and wanting all my married life.  And 12 years into that blessed vocation, I finally got it!  "Sinner's Guide" was a book that absolutely had to be written.  I was worried it might have to be me... and I'm not mellow enough to tackle something this controversial in book form yet.  Three cheers for Simcha!  :)

Managing somehow to be absolutely inspiring while remaining plainly hilarious, employing the most refreshing honesty coupled with the most charitable fairness, Mrs. Fisher addressed all of the major issues of the "joys" of NFP that, prior to this book, I'd only heard whispered late at mom's nights out with cocktails.  

I ordered this book on a Saturday, and immediately drove to a "new" playground so my four kids would be distracted as my husband and I read it together.  As they wearied of that playground, we drove to another.  Three in total.  

I haven't smiled this much about NFP... ever.

It's not even that any of the info was new to us.  Both hubby and I have majors in theology (from an orthodox Catholic university to boot).  It's simply that now there's a book publicly stating the collective private worries, fears, and misgivings of a couple generations of well-meaning, practicing Catholics.  Married folks who want to be holy and "do the right thing," but found that "doing the right thing" sometimes made them feel anything but holy.  A pair of disgruntled malcontents perhaps, but not holy.  

Good Catholic gal that I've always been, I had written papers on the glories of NFP since high school.  Upon getting engaged (and not a moment before), I dutifully signed up for the local NFP class. Unbeknownst to me, I was taught a variation of the rhythm method instead.  And six months of considerable carefulness into marriage, while studying for the degrees we planned to use to earn a living, I had a positive pregnancy test.  

"Betrayed" doesn't begin to describe how I felt.  I had done everything "right," and suddenly I was a mom at 23, when I'd hoped to first work on marriage and saving money (we had nothing) and curing some health issues. While I never regretted our beautiful baby, I very much resented the timing, as our carefullly laid plans of getting a home and jobs were thrown to the wind.  We hurridly finished off half our masters' degrees, and a month later had our baby at 32 weeks gestation.  I took another NFP course.  But I was nursing, and the teacher we had was from the same organization I learned from before.  18 months later, again while carefully charting as best I knew how, we were pregnant again.

So we had a crash course in parenthood, and our financial situation has remained challenging to this day...for instance, just this morning I fielded a phone call from our student loan company.  Yep, still from what we owe from my attempts at finishing grad school when I became a mom instead in 2002.

I never did get back to work like I'd planned.  But as Simcha illustrates in this book: by being obedient to God's will, we have been blessed in ways I would never have chosen, but would now never want to be without.

I finally found a teacher who knew the system, and had six years of "just" two kids before we expanded our family by two more.  And just for good measure, I took the course one more time, and love Creighton style best of all.  

But I still struggled, and at best have only come to a resigned disgust with the system.  The well-meaning "encouragement" of other women of how "NFP really brings you together as a couple.  Really!" did not help at all. (Particularly when such pep-talks were coming from those beyond child-bearing years, who only remembered having kids as "the best time of their lives.")  Very few were willing to admit the simple truth: that NFP can be very difficult to learn, very difficult to practice, and only through God's grace and significant trial and error will a couple begin to see the elusive benefits promised at pre-Cana class.  

Simcha does a spectacular job of describing how all these NFP benefits (improved communication!  increased understanding!  deeper appreciation!) can be true, but they don't come automatically, and can be very far from the truth in the learning stages of the game.  Especially when most of us are given  bright pink glasses beforehand, and only in practice find out the incredible amounts of sacrifice required to practice NFP and maintain sanity.

While I still hope further studies in fertility will someday make this system less arduous, thanks to this guide for sinners, I am again inspired to look at NFP more positively, even as the system is today.

I absolutely loved the non-judgmental nature of this book, the demonstration of the fact that you just (really!) never know someone else's situation, and so should never attempt to decide for someone else whether they should have more or less kids, that they should be "providentialist" or "NFPers."  That such decisions really involve a personal, daily, (and yes, monthly) discernment of God's will.

Thank you, Simcha.  Thank you for saying, out loud that NFP can absolutely stink sometimes.  That was utterly refreshing to hear publicly... after years of being silenced and shamed into thinking "I should be so happy with this," it was great to have someone call a luteal phase a luteal phase. On a scale of 2 to 10, I give you a 10S! :) And thank you, even more, for highlighting the heart of the whole matter: the creature's submission to the Creator's plan. 

I will never forget your depiction of God's conditional will for us, as a Father who says, "Okay, let's see what we can do with the choice you've made" in a way that makes the best of it.  I can't wait to see what He does with your work.  Keep it up.  :)


  1. Katie, I do not think NFP is difficult to learn, but yes, it is very difficult to practice:)
    I have yet to read the book!

  2. I loved the book too! I just finished over the weekend. The thought that hit me very clear was that there is not just one choice - to have or not have another child. That there are multiple good choices & God works with the decisions we make. I needed to hear that. With 6 and age 44 - I feel done but sometimes felt guilty that maybe God wanted me to have more & is disappointed in me. Great book!

  3. I have not yet figured out how to put things on the kindle but if I can remember at the same time my husband is home and not in the middle of something...maybe I will be able to read it sometime in the next 6 months. Or maybe it would just be faster if I figured it out myself. Anyhoo, I too have been waiting for such a book. As a couple who does marriage prep and used to do the talk (informercial?) about NFP - we have struggled through being defensively sheepish - "well, yes, we had 4 kids very close together but that doesn't mean than NFP doesn't work, we had read the book but not taken any classes. And number 5 was sort of planned. And number 6 was not really a failure of the system but was the product of a hotel room, a very emotional wedding and possibly a misunderstanding of where we were in the cycle. But don't let that discourage you!" Is it any wonder that we switched to having the couple whose story is more along the lines of "NFP helped us overcome years of infertility" give that talk?

  4. Oh, my GOSH, that's my yearly dip into Catholic cyberspace. Who ARE these loons? Put off having sex on your wedding night to have a religious pilgrimage?? Hahahahahahahahahahahahhaha!!! Whew! Excuse me while I wipe away a few tears of helpless laughter! Um, yeah! Because the Church says that a religious pilgrimage is the act which makes a couple married -- oh, no, wait, that's sex! Hoo, dear. There is absolutely nothing so stupid that someone hasn't thought it was Catholicism.

  5. And by the way, NFP is great. And it does work. And it's better than poisonous contraceptives. And it's hard to live. And it's harder after kids. And it drives me nuts. And it's not in any way opposed to letting God plan your family for you -- that sort of mentality is utterly disrespectful of the advances of modern science and of secondary causality, or in other words the, like, real world. I believe that the hairs of my head are all numbered. I also wash my hair.