I knew one day I would write this post, but not so soon.
However, with all the uber-Catholics drinking the NFP Kool-aid, I realized somebody needed to speak up and say something:
It sucks because it is inherently unfair to women.
It sucks because fertility is a pain in the butt to track
Women lose with NFPIn a nutshell, NFP doesn't "do" anything. NFP is simply information about your body's fertility. You can use it to avoid getting pregnant. You can use that same information to try and become pregnant. You can simply say to hell with it and let nature take its course. But--since most people do not have trouble becoming pregnant--"NFP" generally refers to the avoidance of a baby.
There is really nothing shocking or personal here. Anybody with kumquat's worth of biology knows these universal truths about women:
Phase 1) A woman's cycle begins with her period, which is a painful bloody mess. Bloody mess, I say. What do men think? That one ought to be very suspicious of any creature that bleeds for four days and does not die.
Phase 2) Then there is a precious window of time wherein things are normal and okay and the husband suddenly bears a striking resemblance to a Greek god.
Phase 3) Then a dark cloud called PMS hovers over the female brain causing all her loved ones to hate her, making every news story and sitcom tearfully sad, making all friends act obnoxiously, turning every passing comment into an accusation, all the while surfacing the deep conviction that she alone is responsible for the fate of the world. And she is failing.
And her boobs hurt.
4) Now go back to step one and repeat for forty years.
So, trying to avoid pregnancy? NFP says you have a 99% chance of avoiding pregnancy so long as you don't have sex during Phase Two.
Meaning, while a man can enjoy sex just about any day of the month, women practicing NFP can get busy only while they are a) suffering from internal hemorrhages or b) dry as a bone and hating life with a passion.
Should I mention that multiple studies show that women are hornier when they ovulate? Sucks for you, chica! Keep those legs crossed. Also beware: many books and know-it-all's like to say that Phase Two only lasts a "little while, like seven to twelve days." Right . . . if your body runs like a well-oiled machine and matches the textbook definition of a "normal" cycle. For all you thousands of women who have irregular cycles or are post-partum, good luck. You may be looking at a Phase Two of twenty days or more if your life's circumstances dictate that rules cannot be fudged.
Now, about those rules and why you're trying to avoid pregnancy in the first place. Listen to the Uber-Catholics and Uber-Trads and it's probably because you're selfish and want to save up $$ for your couple's vacay. Or you're just too "tired" being a stay at home mom with three kids. You know, you really ought to be more open to life. The oopsies! babies of NFP are really for your own good, you know.
Or . . . maybe you're receiving radiation therapy and want to spare your child from horrendous injuries in utero. Maybe you live in a third world refugee camp and you struggle to find food everyday. Maybe your public schools are awful and you're already working 65 hours a week (all night shifts!) to send your four children to private school.
I love (I mean hate) how the uber Catholic bloggers conveniently forget the latter scenarios. Whitewashing family planning with "It's all God's will!" is thin comfort. Apparently God is just as ready to give a poor stupid teenager a baby as He is to give one to a nice, Catholic NFP couple who had an "oops!" Are you ready to say that one baby was more God's will than the other? How was one pregnancy "supposed" to have happened but not the other? Maybe a closer look would tell us the difference was not in God's will but in a decision we made. The family with a gazillion kids: are they more generous and open to life? Maybe. Or are they just weaker and have less willpower to control themselves? Maybe.
The laws of nature and of free will may be instruments of God's will, but their outcomes are not all good. If someone asked you whether the Christmas Tsunami or the Holocaust was God's Will, how would you answer? Casually dismissing one hardship after another as "God's Will" sounds about as foolish as playing tea party with a live grizzly bear.
Let's stop blaming our bad choices on God. But I digress.
Tracking Fertility SucksI get a kick out of people who claim that their husbands do their charting for them and that doing so improves relationships. Who pulled the wool over their eyes? Crocker says it the best. He sees straight through the "goo-goo language about how NFP helps couples 'communicate' and about the joy of charting temperatures and discharges and plotting one’s conjugal acts as a captain might chart a course for his ship." Yep, fun stuff.
Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, the charts can be thrown away (what’s so “natural” about them?). And to hell with improving “communication” as a dogmatic defense of NFP. For men, the whole point of marriage is to avoid communicating; all that dating conversation stuff can finally be foregone.
Married communication, as successful husbands know, is best limited to grunts and hand signals — one upraised finger meaning, “I need a beer”; two upraised fingers meaning, “You need to change the brat’s diapers”; three upraised fingers meaning, “Honey, why don’t you mow the lawn while I watch football?,” and so on. No words are more doom-laden than a wife’s sitting down and saying, “Let’s talk.” Communication is, of course, the first step toward divorce.
I am also amused by the NFP guide which tells you to take your temperature at the same time every morning for consistency's sake. It has even been recommended that you wake up early on the weekend, have your temperature taken, and go back to sleep! Oh my ribs hurt.
Do these people have jobs? or kids? Who gets up every day at the same time? And concerning weekends, when one is sleeping one does not wake simply to take a temperature and risk not falling back to sleep. One certainly does not wake up a spouse so he can stick a thermometer in your own damn mouth. If you love your husband, you do your own charting and keep the thermometer on your own nightstand. Sleep is precious.
NFP is no walk in the park. I would add, however, that neither is a diet when you need to lose weight, or a tight budget when you need to save for a house. Besides, what's the alternative? Pouring unknown amounts of artificial hormones into your body to make it stop working? Why do you think folks pay $2 extra for organic milk?
Maybe there is one thing I hate more than NFP and that is contraception. We've learned that, when avoiding kids is too easy, our selfish civilization will opt to contracept itself out of existence. First world areas like Japan, the United States, and Europe are now barely meeting replacement fertility rates.
But I'm hating on NFP today, and The Pill is fodder for a whole other blog post.
Meanwhile, life goes on and the healthy path is usually not the easiest one. Saint Theresa was spot on when she told God, "If this is how you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few." God's own son was born to suffer. Not very reassuring that the rest of us will get off easy either.
I know people are going to read this and presume that, having been married for > 1 year and having no baby bump, I must be contracepting.
But I'm posting it anyway. Haters gonna hate.