Friday, August 20, 2010


About NFP: Why I Use It

I don't really mean to get up on my soapbox, but I was asked about the form of birth planning I use, and I thought I would do this right and explain my reasons first, and then get into he specifics on how Natural Family Planning works in a later post. If you're uninterested, no offense taken. Otherwise, bear with me because I want to explain NFP properly.

More info on the Couple-to-Couple League's form of the Sympto-Thermal Method can be found here.

Natural Family Planning is the concept of using the woman's body's signals to space children without the interference of artificial birth control methods such as the birth control pill, IUDs, depo-provera (the shot), condoms, sponges, et cetera. The method I use is called the Sympto-thermal method and takes into account the body's rhythm, mucus discharge, temperature, and cervix positioning. I am using the Couple-to-couple league's workbook and aid. The cost for the workbook, supplies, and the included year's membership (with free consultation) is $120. D and I decided to order the home study course and intend to attend the classes in person as soon as possible (included in the membership cost).

Our decision to switch to Natural Family Planning was made after we learned more about the hormonal birth control pill we were using as a form of family planning. We learned that hormonal birth control, nearly across the board, works by doing one of two things: first, it sends a signal to your body telling it that you are already pregnant, to which your body responds by not ovulating. Second, it weakens the endometrium, or uterine lining, resulting in any 'breakthrough' eggs to be flushed rather than to attach to the uterine wall. In other words, the initial function is to keep your egg from dropping, but in the case that your egg does drop and fertilization (conception) does occur, the fertilized embryo is then prevented from attaching to the uterine lining. It is starved and flushed from the uterus.

My personal reaction to this news was complex. I felt ignorant, guilty, sorrowful, and humbled. In my arrogance, I had believed that I could make a decision which directly countered a basic principle of my faith (Roman Catholic) based on very minimal research or understanding of the actual functions of birth control. In doing so, I had altered my body chemistry and quite possibly caused the miscarriage I had experienced a year prior.

While its reckless approach to life was the biggest reason for my turn from hormonal birth control (HBC), understanding the functions of HBC helped me to realize unadvertised negative side effects. When your body releases an egg from its follicle, the empty follicle (called corpus leteum), then begins to produce progesterone. Progesterone causes the pituitary gland to suppress ovulation. Psychiatric effects of progesterone include depression, mood swings, emotional instability, aggression, abnormal crying, insomnia, forgetfulness, sleep disorders. Sound familiar? Progesterone is basically the PMS hormone. Not surprisingly, progesterone levels remain high pretty much throughout pregnancy.

HBC works by combining varying levels of estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone). Essentially, HBC constantly increases the amount of progesterone in your system, telling your body that you are pregnant 3 weeks out of each month. The week of "pink [placebo] pills" is included to allow withdrawal bleeding (basically, it flushes your system). So in other words, on HBC, you're either constantly PMS-ing (hormonally speaking) or else you are on your period.

Although these alone are substantial arguments in favor of NFP, there are a number of other benefits to using a more natural approach to birth spacing.

It is well-known that nearly half of all marriages in the US end in divorce. According to enrichment journal on the divorce rate in America:
The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%
The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%
The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%

So it's incredibly heartening to look at the divorce rates for NFP-practicing couples. According to a study by the Family of the Americas Foundation, divorce rates in NFP-practicing couples is only 0.2%! "Jottings" by John Kipley of the Couple-to-couple league, cites multiple informal studies placing the divorce rates of NFP-practicing couples between 1 and 5 %.

Natural Family Planning works by educating a couple about how fertility works. What signs indicate increased fertility, when to expect ovulation, and when to expect menstruation. Without artificially controlling these things. This can be a boon not only in understanding one's body, but also in the future should the couple ever desire to conceive again.

One of my concerns when approaching the Natural Family Planning debate was effectiveness. However, this chart describes the effectiveness rate of different pregnancy prevention methods.

No birth control method 20%
Calendar Rythm (Ognio-Knaus) 87%
Withdrawl 91%
Ovulation (or Billings) method 96%
Diaphragm with spermicide 97%
Foam 97%
LAM (Breastfeeding) (first 6 months) 98%
Condom 99%
IUD 99%
Pill 99.7%
Sympto-Thermal Method 99.8%
Tubal Ligation 99.6%
Vasectomy 99.85%
Castration, removal of ovaries, abstinenct: 100%

This data was reported by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and various respected medical journals.

Artificial forms of birth control intentionally separate the act of sex from the act of creation. Therefore, when a couple practicing artificial forms of birth control gets pregnant as a result of "protected" sex, the resultant life is seen as burdensome, rather than as a blessing. The child is a surprise, and it is easy to see that life as an unwelcomed surprise. Practicing NFP, however, serves to constantly remind the couple that the act of sex is, in fact, a life-giving act. As such, an unexpected pregnancy can still be a welcomed surprise, because after all, sex causes babies.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Dear Aunt N,

Your nephews are asleep. Your brother-in-law is asleep. Your sister should be asleep. However, this fuzzy purple blanket you forgot in my sofa bed is so invitingly comfortable, and it combines with the quiet to give such a sense of peace. Even in the midst of chaos, I'm joyful :)

 We prayed for you tonight, and I should have been focusing on your discernment, but my mind wandered to your fuzzy purple blanket. I have written a letter in which I offer to send it wherever directed, and I will happily do so, but I will confess that a small part of me hopes you don't want it.

A greedy part.

I love you, my dear little sis.

You and your blanket.

Monday, August 02, 2010


Adventures in Potty Training

Weeeelll, life got away from us. And when N started waking up & entertaining himself for a while before calling to us to get him out of his room, he also started wetting his diaper in the morning. Previously, I'd been bringing him to the toilet first thing when he woke up. Now, it's been months since he used the potty last and we're struggling about getting him to use it again. No matter how often I put him on the toilet, he just waits until he has a diaper on (or else waits until he can no longer hold it).

Honestly, I'd be willing to accept slowly working through this if not for one thing: N hates soiled diapers so much that he will pull off his pants and take off his diapers if they are even just wet. It's incredibly irritating at the least to find a stray dirty diaper. Far worse to find a little boy covered in his own mess...and then to have to track down the stray diaper (after dealing with said messy boy, of course).

So I'm not doing it anymore. I have drawn my line in the sand. He will be potty training.

Today begins our marathon. We started the day in the bathroom, but since it's small, it wasn't going to work for both babies and me. So now the potty is in the living room (on a bathroom mat) and I have an eagle eye on my little guy. He really doesn't like it. He is insistent that he needs to wear a diaper. I'm not buying your shtick, buddy.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


Crawling Talking & Opinionated!

As promised, an update on the boys!

T started crawling! At first, it was rocking on his hands & knees and then catapulting himself onto his face. He would seriously use this as a method of transportation (silly guy!). It was pretty adorable. But now he crawls all around the house. He likes to get himself standing supported on things but then seems to get stuck a lot. It's nice to have him a bit more independent though!

I've noticed that he is going through more of a "stranger anxiety" period than N did at this age. He seems much more clingy to D and I than he had been, and his routine is all-important. This sometimes gets frustrating (like when I have to go into work, or when D and I want/need a date night) but we're working through it. It helps to have a baby carrier and his big bro around.

N's vocabulary is growing all the time. He's still on 2-word sentences like "No nap", "Go walk". "Hi Dad" and "Love you", but he is constantly using new nouns. This morning, he kept pointing to his closet saying, "bike" which had me completely confused until I saw that he was pointing directly at a shirt that had a bike on it. He also uses, "Off" and "On", "open" and "closed", and "yes" and "no" more accurately now. We're getting ready for his second birthday on the 18th! :)