Mike and Cindy

My husband, Mike, and I have been married for 33 years and have used only NFP for almost that long. First learning about it at our Engaged Encounter Weekend a month before our wedding, we had little time to master it before using it for real. We did like the fact that NFP seemed very natural, as well as scientific, and we liked the people who taught us, but we thought that it would be a good idea to also have a backup contraceptive that we could use during the fertile times.  We thought we’d be able to outsmart the method, by using NFP to identify when I was in the fertile part of my cycle and then use a barrier method for those days. And, so, we got a diaphragm.

I can still remember getting the diaphragm at a Planned Parenthood Clinic near Arizona State University.  I didn't know at the time that abortions were probably being done down the hall. I was only 21 and pretty innocent.  I do remember thinking that the clinician who fitted me told me that inserting the diaphragm could be a type of foreplay and I laid on her table thinking how disgusting that seemed. I felt really dirty and guilty just being there.

I never liked the device or the spermicidal cream that needed to be put into it. Mike and I were newlyweds and were just beginning our sexual lives together. The diaphragm seemed like a third party in our love making and it had to be considered. When to put it in? If I put it in early in the evening and we ended up not making love, I either felt stupid or I resented Mike for not being able to read my mind or "know" that I had put it in!  If I hadn't put it in and we got amorous, I hated having to stop to go put it in. I resented the idea that I had to have this thing to protect us during lovemaking. Was it really protecting us or was it dividing us?  It sort of killed the mood altogether for me and I remember feeling used. It quickly became more of a barrier to our wanting to make love, then just a barrier contraceptive.

And it also became harder and harder for me to distinguish my fertile signs and make useful NFP charts, because of the spermicidal cream  which masked my own cervical mucus signs. So, just to be sure, we used the diaphragm for more days in the cycle than we needed to and since we had the diaphragm as the backup, we started getting sloppy with our charting.  

Looking at our sloppy NFP charts and having to show them to our teacher made us start talking about maybe getting rid of the diaphragm. We really thought the idea of NFP made a lot of sense for the health benefits but we knew that we would have to start over again with relearning some of the NFP concepts and maybe have some longer periods of abstinence if we did. It was hard to make the decision, so we started to pray about it.

Once we started talking and praying about this decision it wasn't very long before we had our answer.  One of the other things we talked about a lot was about having a baby. Because we were pretty young when we got married and Mike was still in college, he thought it would be best if we waited to have children. I was in graduate school but still wanted a baby right away. So, every time I started getting that maternal itch, he went out and bought me a new pet! I loved animals and was delighted. In our first year of marriage he gave me baby ducklings, a pair of parakeets, baby rabbits, chickens, and a 6 week old golden retriever puppy named “Sammy”! We had a little farm in our backyard in the middle of Phoenix! Well, puppies like to chew and our little Sammy was always in trouble for chewing up anything that was lying around.

One day, soon after we started praying about getting rid of the diaphragm, I left the plastic diaphragm case out on a low bedside table and, you guessed it, Sammy chewed it up! Mike brought it to me, saying, “Well, I think we have the answer to our prayers! We either need to go get a new one, or just start practicing NFP the right way.”  I wasn’t about to go back and be fitted with another of those hateful devices. By then I had also learned more about Planned Parenthood and could never have brought myself to go there again.

We decided to embrace NFP in its fullness, even with the required abstinence. It’s what we’ve used ever since. We really didn’t understand much of the church’ teachings about contraceptives at that time, so I really think it was the grace of the sacrament that made our puppy help us out!  We only used a diaphragm during the fertile time for about 6 months, but getting off it was a tremendous relief for both of us. It only took a cycle for us to see all my signs of fertility and infertility and because we now relied on the chart, we were more careful to chart correctly.

The abstinence wasn’t easy, but we worked through it by saving all our new homeowner chores for the fertile times. We would do landscaping and gardening together and getting physically tired helped us deal with the abstinence. We also took up tennis which we would play late into the night. Eventually Mike graduated from college and we started our family. We were able to use NFP to postpone having our first child for 4 years and then used it to space our five living children and the two in heaven. After our last child was born we still hoped for one more, but it seemed harder for me to get pregnant as I was almost 40 by then. Since that time we have used NFP to avoid another pregnancy during later pre-menopause years.  I am happy that Mike understands my body, respects me, and shows it by really embracing this method even though it hasn't always been easy for either of us to abstain from the marital embrace when we were trying to postpone a pregnancy.

 We didn't use the diaphragm very long, but we both definitely remember feeling so much freer when we stopped using contraception. It felt very special that Mike was willing to use a method that called for periodic abstinence and sexual mastery. When I hear women complaining about sex with their husbands and feeling used and not enjoying it, I feel sorry for them. For us, NFP has really helped us have a close, intimate relationship and strong marriage.  It has also helped lead us closer to the Church and her teachings and has been  helpful when we talked to our children about their sexuality. 

A reproductive lifetime lasts from 30 to 40 years. We feel so blessed to have experienced our reproductive lifetime within the strong arms of our Mother, the Church. While we decided early on to embrace the Church’s teachings, we feel we have, in turn, been embraced and carried through these years by those very teachings which have given life and meaning to our entire marriage. NFP has truly given us a lifetime of love!