By Christian and Helen Rada
Married couples have the awesome task of witnessing God’s faithful love to each other, their children and society. Over the years, a couple can expect to face many issues, both big and small. One issue that is constantly brought up during discussions is the planning of family and space of children.
In today’s society, there are several methods of family planning that are both natural and artificial. Nevertheless, through prayer, communication and selfless love, Natural Family Planning, (NFP) is the only way of family planning that is healthy and is in accord with God’s plan.
We were introduced to NFP when we were preparing for our wedding in 2014 during our Engaged Encounter Retreat. Afterward, we attended an introduction to NFP sponsored by the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. Hearing from a couple about their experiences with NFP was helpful and truly informative. They introduced us to the Billings Ovulation Method.
What surprised us about using NFP is that Chris now knows just as much of my cycle as I do. We always pray together to discern each month if we’re open to having another child, or if now would be an appropriate time to abstain. Even though NFP does present its challenges, it has provided us with an increase of grace, happiness and intimacy in our marriage. We have learned more about ourselves as individuals and as a family unit.
The fascinating thing about NFP is it has no side effects, no chemicals or hormones. NFP is completely natural.
We recall something that the priest who conducted our pre-nuptial investigation told us. He said, “The sexual act of human intimacy is the closest way that two individuals can physically be.”
In other words, the act itself is an invasion of personal space. A personal space that is open to the possibility of familial growth. With NFP, we were able to achieve pregnancy after months of trying. Today, we are truly blessed with our beautiful baby boy Stephen. Since parenthood is a sacred duty, Stephen has helped us grow in our marriage. Our relationship has enhanced with our new responsibilities as parents.
There are several ways that NFP has strengthened our relationship and marriage. NFP relies on couple communication, discernment and corresponding behavioral adjustments. It requires the husband and wife to cooperate with each other in one of the most intimate areas of their lives.
During the times of periodic abstinence, a couple learns to practice several virtues such as patience, self-control, self-giving and understanding, which transcend well beyond the marriage bed and into all aspects of their marriage and family life. There are several ways to show intimacy without sex. We connect with each other by holding hands. We have deep conversations where we always challenge each other to grow intellectually. With these discussions, we learn more about each other and ourselves. We try to do each other’s favorite activities. Finally, we pray together for each other, our families and friends.
The keyword is discernment. Couples can discern whether it is the right time to postpone a future pregnancy using NFP. Reasons to limit family size may include physical, psychological, economic and social conditions with respect to moral law. Since a husband and wife are co-creators with God, discerning the timing of the creation of a new life will hopefully include intentional communication among all three of the players.
It is important that a couple be taught NFP from a certified instructor in order to ensure that they are being instructed properly. Couples should continue to have their charts reviewed by instructors until they are confident in their understanding and application of their chosen method.
Couples are also encouraged to contact an instructor at any time they have questions or when a significant change in fertility has occurred such as after a pregnancy, while breastfeeding/weaning and during perimenopause.
Through NFP, we discovered the virtue of love in a new light. We learned that love, especially self-giving love, can multiply. Before NFP, we never felt as close as we do now, and we realized that God’s love for us could not be contained solely for us. It is for our whole family.
Editor’s Note: For more information on Natural Family Planning, or if you are interested in taking an introduction to NFP class, call the diocesan Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis at 718-281-9540.
Christian Rada is the director of marriage, family formation and respect life education in the diocesan Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis. His wife of almost four years, Helen, is a New York City public school teacher. They are parishioners of St. Patrick’s Church, Bay Ridge.