My Other NFP Gripe

While I do know many providentalists and many NFPers, Deo Gratias, neither have been the extreme ilk described in the post below. Well not at least within the circle of people I consider my friends and confidantes, just opinions I read on the Internet here and there. I think my main gripe with NFP, both sides will agree is one of the tragedies of NFP in philosophy.
As I mentioned before, I suffered from Post Partum Depression after Berylla. My OB/Gyn (not Catholic, but a kind doctor) asked me the usual questions:
“do you have help?”
“how many small children do you have at home?”
“too many”
Then he asked if I could get dispensation from the Bishop to use birth control. I actually considered this option, knowing darn well my very liberal Bishop would grant it with no problem without even truly weighing the issue with true Catholic teaching. (Perhaps I shouldn’t have such doubts and trust God’s shepherds more.) There are the other factors though:
~Contraceptives are abortifacient.
~Contraceptives are carcinogenic.
~Contraceptives aren’t good for you.
~It is bad for marriages.
~The pill was funded by Margaret Sanger for eugenic purposes.
So here I am, working out, eating organic brown rice, refraining from drinking and smoking and I would give up all that work for an drug that is not necessary to sustain me or keep me healthy. The Church in all her wisdom simply understand what Truth is, and trying to find a back door is just denying the Truth.
I went home that day and spoke to my mother, the wife of a deacon. I figured with all my parents’ religious training and as a mother of four, she would have a better grip on the intricacies of this delicate situation. Her reply was that since I have tried NFP with earnest many times, that is God giving me the thumbs up to use birth control. That was the spoken part. The non-spoken part has been made obvious numerous times when I was a week or two post partum, and I was struggling to juggle cooking dinner, lessons, mastitis. After I had number four and I was in this situation, I called her and begged for a bit of help to which she replied “it was your choice to have more children; I did my time.” I never asked again. Of course she never volunteered.
You see NFP, even among Catholics who understand the moral and health contraindications of artificial birth control now have NFP to fall back on to allow large families to be labeled “irresponsible”. That means if they have lots of kids that is their responsibility and no one has a Christian duty any longer to help families in need, even their own families, who may be struggling financially or practically. “You got yourself into this mess, and don’t use that ‘being Catholic thing’ as an excuse, it’s your job to get yourself out.” There are no more of those stories from the 50’s about how the Murphy’s had 10 kids and they were dirt poor, so the girls couldn’t afford dancing lessons, but the kids enjoyed each others company, had tons of chores, looked out for one another and grew up to be good Catholics. Remember those stories? Today: “how can you neglect those kids by not giving them dancing lessons?”


  1. I read your blog often but have never left a message. Your thoughts about NFP resonated with me. There seems to be a deafening silence about the struggles of using NFP. I belong to a marriage group and sometimes in our discussion of NFP all we want to do is reassure ourselves that we are not like the “others – those who are on the pill, those who are choosing not to have children. But what about being honest with ourselves? My husband and I do not have any children yet and I realize more and more that when I said I was open to life it means open to other people’s children as well.
    Sometimes it just breaks my heart that I do not have any children of my own and I want to just cut myself off from other families. Your post reminded me that regardless of where we find ourselves in life- being open to life- is never quite as simple as it sounds.
    Thank you for having the guts to be honest. It is a powerful witness to me.

  2. Hi Pansy,
    I know how you feel. My husband and I use NFP, for many reasons.
    My Catholic family doesn’t understand it, so we just don’t talk about it much. When people ask if “we’re done” (we have 3 small boys) we usually just say yes. My husband is the only man in my family who is not “fixed” and I wouldn’t ask him to do that for me!
    BTW–I think we’re practically neighbors–I’m in Schenectady county.

  3. Boy, oh boy, does this sound familiar. My youngest of seven children is four now, but when she was born, I had seven children under 10 years old. The first 3 were born rapidly, before we learned NFP, because we didn’t think we had a reason to. After 3 babies in fewer than 3 years, I thought we had a reason, but my husband disagreed. God heard my prayers anyway, and I got a 27 month break between babies (between the 3rd and 4th). Then I learned NFP, and tried to use it, but ecological breastfeeding only gave me 4-6 months of infertility, and continued breastfeeding played havoc with my charting. If you do the math, you will see I had 3 more children after that, approximately 2 years apart each. I cried alot those years. I felt alone, isolated, ungrateful, exhausted, and persecuted. I was afraid to ask for help, because of the “you made this bed, now lie in it” mentality.
    But, even if NFP wasn’t perfect, I did stop feeling “used” by my husband, because he really tried to follow the rules. When we “failed” in NFP and got pregnant, we failed together, and that was better than feeling victimized by my “wifely duty”.
    Fast forward to now, I have no little ones, and while parenting this many children isn’t a breeze, it is easier than it was (I get full nights of sleep now, if I choose to). Our struggle with NFP has ended, because after STRICTLY following NFP after the seventh baby, after a few years I was less terrified, and the long spaces of abstinence were getting tiring. We practiced NFP less strictly. Still no baby. Now I don’t even chart, and still no baby. What freedom!! The time does come when fertility decreases, and a baby at that point is just a gift (if I ever have another). Bottom line, NFP was horrible, but effective in the fact that my husband and I had to traverse the rapid waters of working out our intimate life with discussion and shared frustration. I hated it, but looking back, I can see the benefit to our marriage in a true growth in emotional intimacy. It sure didn’t seem at the time we were growing in intimacy, but I can see it now.
    Sorry this is so long. I know so exactly how you are feeling now! I wish there were an easier way to go through all this, but if it is any comfort, it does pass, it does get easier, and these hard times do pay off later. If I lived by you I would SO be bringing you dinners and watching you kids. Are there any “mature” mothers in your church who have been there, done that, who would help you? Can you hire a babysitter for even as little as 4 hours a week (I did this after # seven. It was all I could afford, but this was a responsible college student who liked the pocket money, and I needed those four hours a week like oxygen).
    I don’t know if commiseration helps, but it’s all I’ve for you now. Except prayer, which I will certainly do for you. Just know you are not alone!!!

  4. Wish I lived closer too…
    My husband was just not interested in NFP, as long as I was doing it and it worked, he was satisfied. We had four kids, which was okay with him, the fourth was planned. Then he didn’t want any more. When I got pregnant with the fifth, after two years, he took matter into his own hands and got a vasectomy. Which I hated. Certainly didn’t help our relationship. Although I am willing to guess that he has no idea…
    I wish I knew why there are these exception when you are sure you are infertile but you’re not. Is that God’s way of getting around what we want and giving us what HE wants for us? Who knows.
    I can’t believe your mother. Mine on the contrary, I can imagine, is secretly hoping that I am going to get pregnant again sometime soon. And I am going to have to disappoint her. Unless DH suddenly dies in some freak accident and I meet an uber catholic guy who absolutely loves kids. (Not gonna happen)

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