HOUSTON, TX (Catholic Online) - My name is James, and my wife and I use Natural Family Planning. We made the decision for a lot of reasons that stood out, such as: that it is natural, has no negative side effects like the ones associated with hormonal contraception, encourages us to truly talk to each other, and low divorce rates among users. That last one truly was the icing on the wedding cake for us. After all, we got married with the goal of staying married until death do us part, and we meant it!
With divorce rates at 50%, it seems anybody that marries has a cloudy future in our current challenging age. We figured that if half of marriages end in divorce, then something is wrong with the way we view relationships in our society.
There was a time, long before any of us were around, where people stuck together for better or for worse. This is what we wanted for our marriage. I love my wife, and I'm so lucky to have her; I want to keep things this way.
We use a method of NFP called Standard Sympto-Thermal Method, which means we check temperature, cervical mucus, and for greatest accuracy, cervix position. I didn't get it at first. I struggled with charting and figuring out when a chart indicated the woman was fertile or infertile.
When I got married 6 months after our third, and final class, I had to do a crash course when my wife was good enough to ignore my doubts by putting the charts in front of me, and said, "here, this belongs to you from now on."
I got REAL serious about charting and was frequently using the cheat card and instructional book to re-educate myself. I even contacted our instructors to make sure I had all of my questions answered. It didn't take long before it all came together. I guess I knew it was "game time," and it was time to be serious about this.
As time went by, I could see trends in my wife's chart. For example, as a school teacher she is less stressed in the summer time and so her charts are a few days shorter because the stress of teaching sometimes causes her ovulation to take a day or two longer to occur.
I remember on one day as I was looking at the charts she said she could tell she was about to start and suggested it could be within the week. I noticed her temperature dipped suddenly, and told her I thought she was going to start within 24hours. She disagreed with me until that night! She wasn't prepared and we had to make a quick stop at the pharmacy. We learned, these charts don't lie, and that I had become the more confident charter.
I think of myself as a fairly good man and husband. I try my best to place my wife and our marriage first at all times. I try my best to be attentive, sweet and romantic and to be helpful around our home. I try to be as spontaneous as I can be, and to listen to her even though I just want a little quiet time. But the truth of the matter is, if I, or any guy for that matter, were meant to understand women, we would have been born women. Since we are not, we are hopelessly destined to fail in our attempts to understand women.
What I didn't expect from NFP was how my wife's chart had become a visible sign to me of the unseen reality of womanhood (a visible sign of an invisible reality if you will).
Despite my best attempts to be a good and understanding man who "gets" my wife, I fail often enough.
Well, one month not too long ago we were about 20 days into my wife's cycle. Following the start of the cycle and up until ovulation, the dominant hormone of the reproductive process is estrogen. In addition to helping develop the eggs in the ovary follicles, the estrogen forms the endometrium, produces cervical mucus (which my wife observes) to keep sperm alive and aid it, and it also suppresses basal temperature (which we chart).
Sometimes when ovulation occurs the temperature drops really low because of the sudden burst of estrogen that is released to aid the dominant ovary follicle to complete its development. This dip in temperature is not always present, but it can be. Most times with my wife, it never happens, so it was a surprise two months ago when I saw her temperature dip really low.
I didn't think anything of it except that this meant ovulation was about to occur which means I can start planning on how to romance my wife in the next couple of days since we're using NFP to avoid a pregnancy at the moment.
The next day her temperature went up a little bit, but then the next day it dropped really low again. It was unusual for it to have happened the first time, but then for it to happen a second time was really confusing. So I was really perplexed when I saw it rise the following day, and then return to the really low temperature for a third time. I thought to myself, "what's going on with my wife's body?"
Comparing this chart to her previous 3 years worth of charts, I couldn't find a single instance where this had occurred. Usually with this kind of a dip, the temperature goes really low and then the next day it shifts up and stays high because after ovulation occurs, the progesterone becomes the dominant hormone which causes the basal temperature to rise higher than the pre-ovulation temperatures and stays high until the next cycle is about to start.
I was wondering why I was seeing this weird anomaly in my wife's chart when it occurred to me as I was getting ready for bed. She was trying to ovulate but it wasn't happening because she was probably stressed, which as all women know, can cause you to have a longer cycle.
So as she laid in bed I asked my wife, "how are you?" It's a very open ended question that I learned from taking psychology, is meant to get somebody to start talking about what is affecting them. She replied, "I hate my job." And it wasn't the words that she said, but how pained and sad she sounded when she answered me. The next morning she told me she couldn't sleep because all of the things that stressed her about her job was on her mind.
She had mentioned things here and there in the weeks leading up to that question. But even she didn't realize how much it was negatively affecting her until I asked about it.
I knew my wife was in a low place, and what's more, I realized that for months she had been giving me hints and clues about this struggle she was having, and I hadn't noticed.
The next day, I made sure to make the bed (because I don't always do that). I left work early and stopped by Crave Cupcakes (super delicious and expensive cupcakes). I bought some flowers, and wrote my wife a letter telling her how much I love her and what a great teacher she is.
I left everything on the bed, because I knew she would be stressed and usually wants to take a nap when she gets home from work.
In addition to all of this, I took out the trash, cleaned the living room, and washed the dishes. (Whew!).
While all of these acts didn't solve my wife's problems, it did give her emotional support and confidence; and it gave me a chance to do what a husband is supposed to do: make his wife feel how much she is loved by her husband.
There is another benefit to all of this too; her body got to ovulating and for those of us who practice NFP, this meant we could make love without having to worry about getting pregnant while we try and get out of debt frist.
Some people today think of NFP as the rhythm method, but we in NFP circles refer to it as "Russian roulette."
Today's NFP uses so much science and there are different methods using the same fertility signs so we even have reliable options now.
I never expected NFP would help me understand what is really going on with my wife. The truth is, had we not been charting, I would have never asked what was going on, and months down the road my wife would feel like I was out of touch with her needs, and she would feel alone. I know this from the experiences we've gone through in marriage.
I learned NFP because I was willing to think outside the box, in a way that is different from those members in society who are failing in marriage so my wife and I could have the best chances of staying married until death do us part.
I learned NFP because I was assured that it works. I didn't expect it would help our marriage the way it has, but you won't hear me complain. Nor will you hear my wife complain. Now if I could just do a better job of making the bed EVERY morning!!!
My name is James, and I use NFP because it helps keep me out of the dog house, and in bed with my wife, where I belong.
James and Whitney Cueva live in Houston, TX where they teach Natural Family Planning, RCIA, and Engaged Encounter. They have been happily married for two years and enjoy sharing God's love and hope for the Sacrament of Marriage and their rewarding experience of practicing Natural Family Planning in their lives. If you have questions about Natural Family Planning you can reach them via email at NFPJames@yahoo.com or on twitter @NFPJames.
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