The Thing I Wish People Would Stop Telling Me
I hear it all the time. No really, I do.
Upon seeing all six of my kids…
You know what causes that, don’t you?
For the last 14 years I’ve been at this motherhood gig and with each passing year we’ve added to our growing brood.
You would be shocked at the things people say. Our kids have been called “oops,” my sex life has been questioned by a stranger in an elevator and we’ve been mocked in Target. I get it. It comes with the territory.
I always want to respond, “Actually, I do. Quite well, in fact. Hold on a second, would you like to see my NFP chart?” But instead of being all sassy pants, which I’m known to be, I’m trying hard to respond with this gem from Mary:
Yes, of course we know what causes it. It’s love. Always love.
So many people fear fertility. Like FEAR it. Like willing to injest chemicals that alter their body’s normal makeup kind of fear. Like willing to undergo elective surgery kind of fear.
And I get it. I have felt that fear.
When we first decided to add children to our marriage, we postponed it several years because I feared the impact it would have on my budding public relations career. Surely a baby would hold me back. I wasn’t ready, I thought.
When I miscarried a baby 13 years ago, I feared getting pregnant again. Having to say goodbye, again. When I started bleeding a few weeks into the next pregnancy I was kind of a basket case. It was not pretty. Somewhere along the way, I dug deep and overcame the fear. We had three more normal pregnancies after that miscarriage and I thought the fear was conquered.
And then our fifth child was born premature, spent 44 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, almost died and underwent seven surgeries to his major organs – brain, spine, gut, ears and brain.
Enter the fear. Me and my fertility? We were not BFFs.
And then I got pregnant with my sixth baby. That fear? It simply disappeared. Not in the poof! kind of way, but in the “Jesus I trust in You” kind of way.
You see, 13 years ago, a year after our first child was born, we gave up using artificial birth control. Not because the Catholic church encouraged it, not because we felt pressured and not because we couldn’t afford it. No, we gave it up because what we were doing wasn’t working. I mean, physically, yes the pill was working. But emotionally? Spiritually? There was too much unrest. We figured we didn’t have anything to lose so we wanted to give Natural Family Planning (NFP) a shot.
I would be a big fat liar if I told you that it’s easy to practice NFP. That it’s easy to defend our choice among my artificially contracepting girlfriends. That sometimes I want to throw caution to the wind and be with my husband whenever I want.
But every time I want to throw in the towel, shake my fist at Rome and declare that the church has no business in my bedroom (yes, I actually said that to the priest during our pre-marriage counseling), I am reminded of one thing.
All the other methods are singular. They require action from only one partner. Vasectomy? Man. The pill? Woman. The ring, IUD, tubes tied? Woman. But with NFP, my fertility is not mine alone. Through NFP I have a partner in my husband. I don’t live on some island where I feel fear alone, where I chart alone, where I raise kids alone.
Scott and I are in this together. We pray every month, every single one, and ask one another and God if adding another child is something we should consider. On the months where the answer is no, we abstain during a certain period of time. And when it’s a yes, well, you know how that ends.
I’m not naive to think that this abandonment of what popular culture tells us is okay comes easily to every couple. For us, it took years to get here. Others may take decades. But, ladies, your fertility should not be yours alone.
We fight about it in the courtroom and with medical professionals in the context of abortion.
We let it drive a wedge between us and dissolve the trust in our marriages.
We fear that it will derail our careers, deplete our savings or impede on our vacation plans.
We worry about what others might think if we throw out artificial contraception and vasectomies and put our trust in something else.
We fear the leap of faith.
But by taking the leap of faith, instead of eliminating the conversation between husband and wife that artificial contraception erases, NFP requires us to have it. To work as a team in creating life and nurturing it.
Practicing NFP doesn’t mean your wedded life will be complete bliss. It doesn’t mean you won’t have a miscarriage, give birth to a preemie, endure post-partum depression or have complications from childbirth. It doesn’t mean the walkway is paved with gold while the angels sing above. The good and worthy things in life always require sacrifice. Our road to NFP has not been easy. I’ve cussed it. Hated it. Resented it. In that same breath, I have also grown from it, loved it and embraced it. If you’re Catholic – shoot, even if you’re not Catholic – I urge you to consider throwing out your pills and canceling the vasectomy appointment and learning more about NFP. I’m always here to listen, email me anytime.
And the next time someone asks you what causes it, I pray we can all answer, with love.
WEB: Couple to Couple League (we use the Sympto-Thermal method)
BOOK: The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher
PERSON: Your local Catholic diocese family planning office (Diocese of Austin)
You have done it again! Such a brilliant post and such a smart answer instead of being snarky I’m going to steal it and hopefully someone else will remember that our fertility should not be feared.
Mary gets all the credit!
Kathryn, what beautiful post for NFP Awareness week! Bravo! Your willingness to write with such vulnerability is such a blessing. 🙂 Thank you very much.
If I may, I’d like to also offer the Creighton method as another alternative for others seeking guidance in NFP: http://www.creightonmodel.com/
That’s a great method, thanks for sharing!
Ha! I get those comments too.. And thanks to Mary, I have an awesome comeback.
Good post, Kathryn
You and your beautiful family are an inspiration to me (a holy family). I like your pictures and your blog. My meditation a day or two ago was on the question from Clement I letter to the Corinthians ” Who can express the binding power of divine love?” …..Who are worthy to possess it unless God makes them so? To Him therefore we must turn begging of His mercy that there may be found in us a love free of human partiality and beyond reproach……..Happy are we beloved if love enables us to live in harmony with God’s commandments, for then it will also gain for us the remission of our sins…..scripture says….Happy the man to whom the Lord imputes no fault, on whose lips there is no guile.This is the blessing given those whom God has chosen through Jesus Christ our Lord to Him be glory forever and ever. Amen
My goal in this life is transforming union with God. To follow the will of God every day is a daunting task but one which will be greatly rewarded in heaven.
Love to all and God bless!
Wow, what a meditation, Maureen.
Beautiful! It’s because of faithful women like you that NFP/FA is becoming reality for more and more families out there. Thanks for sharing!
Beautiful share, Kathryn! Every bit of it!
When I still had six at home, the exact comment came to me more often than I liked so I finally decided to answer them directly with a huge knowing smile and an “I sure do!”
Thank you for your succinct, straightforward comments. NFP is hard but it is the working together that bonds you.
Excellent straightforward post!
Thank you…I tried so hard to write from a place of honesty and love.
So spot on. I am pregnant with #2 and it is so hard to not let the bitterness in sometimes – the selfish thoughts of “I wish I didn’t HAVE to be open to life.” But even saying that out loud it’s clear how silly and selfish it is and praise God He gives us the courage and strength to cooperate in His plan! Love your sweet blog.
Hey, the struggle is real! There are moments of joy and moments of frustration, but all the reason more to be grateful for this life, right? Love your sweet comment.
Kathryn, as someone who leads a single life, I want you to know that your family and most especially your children bring joy to me! I don’t think I tell you that often enough when I do see you and I didn’t want to let this chance pass. When someone says something ugly to you about those wonderful children of yours its a lost chance for them to experience the beauty of those kids if only for a minute.
Judy, we value your presence in our life!
What a great testimony to NFP, we too practice NFP, and know how challenging it is in this crazy society we all live in to have a big family (we have 5) and look like you love your family, even though its not easy and it can be challenging we wouldn’t have it any other way. You are supporting NFP week! Way to go!
I. Love. This. Honestly sometimes I don’t even read all the “Yay, NFP Week!” articles because I’m so tired of the same flowery stories. Our experience with NFP is very close to yours, and I am so grateful to find myself in your words. Thank you so much for this!
Flowery I don’t do. I’m grateful you found yourself in those words, too. Just what the Holy Spirit intended!
❤️ This! I have 6 myself, had high risk pregnancies and been threw the NICU.
God bless you. The NICU is no picnic.
Great post! On my first solo Target trip with all 4 kiddos, the person in line behind us sarcastically posed that question to me – and as I stood speechless and feeling angry my innocent 4 year old loudly replied: Babies come from God, don’t you know that?
Amen to that
God bless your kids.
Truth, from the mouth of a babe 🙂 I love it!!
Kathryn…I truly love you and your family.. Even though I am much older, I feel that I could learn a great deal from you. I don’t say that very often in my life . God Bless !
Oh Shar, I miss you!
Thank you for such a beautiful, honest post! I am going to share this with many I know, both NFP users and others. Your writing is so wonderful to read : )
What an incredibly nice thing to say, Sarah. Thanks for sharing!
[…] The Thing I Wish People Would Stop Telling Me […]
Wow! What a powerful blog post!! My non catholic husband and I never considered NFP but I can’t help but feel after reading this if we had we might not be divorcing. (His choice). As always your blog asks me to stretch and be a better Catholic.
Chris, what beautiful words from you. As you enter into your new adventure, you have my prayers. It sounds like he might be losing a pretty faithful woman, but how blessed are your children to call you mom.
The start of this story is so much like ours. That contraception wasn’t working on so many other levels. We only have 2 for now, but these stories are so encouraging, that we are not alone as our friends and family shake their heads at us. Thank-you!
You’re so right about fear. Your words reminded me of a phrase Hallie used at Edel, “fear has me run into the wreckage of my future”. Such a powerful way to describe how fear pushes us to make decisions based on disasters that haven’t happened and may not happen. This has been part of our fertility journey too…imagining something terrible and then allowing the fear to become our master. “Be not afraid” is repeated so often in Scripture. Listening to those words and heeding them is a lifelong process.
Thank you for the lovely post!
I don’t want to get too personal, but this thought came to me as I reflected on your excellent post. It seems like this was truly a journey for you, and that now you are at peace and not in a place of being fearful. My question is this. . . What do you do in the situation when one spouse is at peace and one is still full of fear?
That is a great question and describes Scott and I just before my pregnancy with Gianna. I was at peace, he was not. So, we prayed a novena. And someday I should really share the true fruits of that process. Long story short, pray, specifically and ask for God’s wisdom and guidance. For me, I needed something concrete. Praying a novena was the perfect solution, especially to a saint that holds a special place in our family, St. Therese, Gianna’s middle name. And now you know the rest of the story!
Thank you for your generous answer. What a great idea – to do something concrete together!
My husband is also terrified of more kids. Last year, after NFP week, I was so inspired to start (formerly using barrier) that I ordered everything from CCL and started looking into a class for us both (I had already taken one on my own). Well lo and behold the thermometer wasn’t working, unless my normal body temp is 95 degrees, and before I could get that sorted out we were pregnant with #3. LO turned 1 today. 🙂 Anyways, hubs has done his research on getting snipped and is upset and feeling unheard that I don’t want snipping, so here we are.
Karen, my husband and I prayed a novena to St. Therese before getting pregnant with Gianna. It was life changing. I know your husband isn’t Catholic, but perhaps finding a concrete way to pray together is a start.
No he is Catholic. Very Catholic, except the thought of having more kids causes physical anxiety symptoms. But yes, prayer is the answer.
What a great post! NFP is certainly not always easy and I’ve definitely had the thought, “Oh my goodness, I have to track this for the rest of my life.” But with time things have gotten easier and my trust in God has definitely grown!
Thanks for the post, I’m sharing it now!
HA! I have had the same thoughts.
Wonderful post! We have 8 amazing children ages 24-7 and it has been a struggle living out the church’s teaching on being open to life. Now that our baby years are behind us and life is a bit easier, I am humbled and blessed beyong belief. Our children are wonderful people. It is a joy and privelege to see them grow up. I always tell people that it is hard to have a big family, but we have a BLAST at Christmas and any other time we get together! They are not perfect, but we are so proud of them! They are all very serious in their Catholic faith-our oldest son is a new seminarian. We have received so many awful comments from friends, family, and strangers. But I always think they just don’t have any idea of what they are missing! God Bless!
“Don’t you know what causes that?”
“Yes, yes we do! Its so much fun! Do you need some pointers?”
(says this mom of 11, while gazing adoringly into my husband’s eyes and then turning back to the rude stranger.)
“But by taking the leap of faith, instead of eliminating the conversation between husband and wife that artificial contraception erases, NFP requires us to have it. To work as a team in creating life and nurturing it.” Thanks for a beautiful post!! I’ll never forget a former babysitter turned apologist giving her first-ever speech at a Catholic women’s conference several years ago. It was about her and her husband’s journey from contracepting to NFP. Will never forget it (oh yeah, she brought the house down!!)
I bet she did!
We have dear friends with 8 children who gave us a great response to this same question, and that response went like this: “No, but we’re getting closer!”
We used that response during pregnancies 6, 7, 8, and 9, when the (nosy) question was posed to us. We have 7 living children, ages 31 – 17. My favorite thing to do in life?
Be with my kids.
Thank you for the great post! God bless you!
We have 6 and one on the way….I am really tired of hearing “Was this planned? ” I have even heard will you be keeping it? Also that I am nearly 40, “you will need to hurry along and get the Downs Syndrome testing as their are certain….mmm decisions you might need to make” Well…. No I won’t be having the genetic testing, all my babies are welcome to stay in my womb for as long as God plans.
My newest response to Dr’s when they ask Was this planned ? is..” By Who?” I get some funny looks. I make a concerted effort to wear my tiny feet pro life badge these days and they get the lecture as well if they want to push it!
Yes fertility can be scary…IF we try and fit it all in OUR time, to OUR plans, OUR ideas. However when we surrender to Gods plan His time seems to be the best clock to run by…He gets it right every time, we just need to Let Go and Let God.
[…] The Thing I Wish People Would Stop Telling Me: Team Whitaker […]
Great post! NFP is not easy to approach in the culture we live in, but it made our life better. More joy, more trust. Also a great gift my husband accepted it- he is not a Catholic.
That is a gift!
God bless you! Amen to all of the above. Preemie, miscarriages, infertility, NFP struggles, etc. God is love is always the answer! Check out NaproTechnology and Natural Womanhood…Great resources that are improving and saving lives and marriages, through fertility awareness and natural methods.
It was a joy to read your article. As a mother of 7 wonderful children I too have had those comments. I learnt that being positive about it from the start changed the tone of the conversation, so when someone asks me how many children I say ONLY 7! Usually after asking a second time ensuring they heard correctly we end up talking about how lucky we are to have them.
Only 7. I love it!
Go Team Go! You are a Modern Day 1:38 Woman! (As spoken of in Luke.)
Hugs n’ Blessings!
Wonderful post! I too have struggled with NFP and as a Creighton Model teacher, I find it important to share the truth of the challenges of using NFP to couples. I have 6 and it must be something about Costco. I get asked all the time those weird questions there. My response to one young gentleman who asked me “Do you know what causes that?” was “Yes, that is why I have so many!” He almost fell over laughing as he was not expecting that for an answer. I will use Mary’s response now too.
Thank you for your honesty! I will forward your post. 🙂
How sweet, thank you!
Your response to the spikey, “you do how that happens, don’t you?” is the best I’ve heard yet. A woman from our parish, whom I trusted, hit me with this zinger when she learned of my last pregnancy it still smarts now and then. Love. That is exactly how it happens, Love. Thank you for this simple yet powerful reply. Our little Mairi (the youngest of five) is coming on 18 months and is a very cute truckload of mischief and we could not imagine life without her. May God Bless you and your beautiful family.
All the credit goes to my friend Mary, and her mom. She shared it with me and I’ve loved it ever since!
[…] The Thing I Wish People Would Stop Telling Me. yes […]
This was a great article for me to read, we have four kids (the oldest is almost 4) and we are learning NFP for the first time. Thanks for sharing the reality of it’s benefits AND difficulties! Both are encouraging. God bless you and your family!
Oh, what kind words!
I’ve been looking for a perfect answer to all the probing questions we get. We are pregnant for the 7th time, when this baby enters the world, they will be number 5 we have been blessed to raise. Answering the questions with “love” is perfect. Thank you. 🙏
I’m not sure how I happened upon your article, but I love it. We have six and my husband starting getting this question at work all the time. He finally started responding , “Yup, and I’m really good at it too!” People either start laughing or just turn beat red.
My husband still struggles with NFP, in trusting God, we lost our seventh at 10 weeks. He’s totally onboard with it, but yeah, fertility scares him.
Thank you for sharing!
I love that response! And I understand the fear. I’m so very sorry for your loss.
We were convicted over birth control after our last pregnancy. The doctors push it so hard after delivery too. But we decided that we would put the decision with God and trust in Him.
We have an toddler daughter and twins and just found out we are expecting again! We are thrilled but I’ll be honest, I still am not used to all the negativity we get just with them. It’s discouraged me from telling people, very few know in my family. I just don’t understand why large families are feared like that. My grandmother had 12! Large families was the normal back then.
I want to thank you for writing this piece. I love your beautiful family and drew inspiration from your story. Thank you for sharing!
You’re very kind, thank you. And, congratulations!