10. Because you hate NFP, and think no one should be on such an arduous system because it doesn't work.
9. Because you hate NFP, and think only God should plan when it comes to fertility.
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.
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. :)