Topics of Crunching

Friday, August 5, 2011

National NFP Week: Part 4 - Top Ten Reasons (3-1)

Finally! The last installment of my Top Ten Reasons I love Natural Family Planning. Enjoy!

3. Rebellious   
Ok, I'm embarrassed to admit this, but the truth is that there is a rebel factor that really fuels my love of NFP. When I think about the masses, falling off cliffs of birth control like lemmings, it makes my little punk heart go all a flutter. It's really quite bad of me, but I feel so smart for figuring it out - except that I didn't.

This sticker was just too
appropriate to pass up.
You can buy it here.
Really, I'm just lucky. When I was thinking about becoming Catholic, I knew that the Church's teaching on Birth Control was the deal breaker. Like so many converts, I was not going to go through the long and arduous process of becoming Catholic (not to mention the confusion and sometimes even alienation of my protestant friends) if I couldn't go "all in." And how on earth could I go all in? They wanted me to have a million babies, loose all control of my body, and throw away any chance of being the independent success-driven woman that I was meant to be!

It takes about 30 seconds of REAL research (ie, not just talking to a cradle Catholic about birth control - since only 1 out of 10 of them follow this teaching, and certainly not listening to anyone who isn't Catholic - since I have never ever encountered so many myths about one subject before investigating the Church) to understand that the teaching that the Catholic promotes has nothing to do with a million children or a sexist agenda. In fact, when you actually bother to find out what the teaching is, rather than relying on hearsay, it's a very natural extension of a non-hypocritical pro-life, pro-feminity, pro-family viewpoint.

But I digress. As much as I would love to say that I'm superior to all those victims (and their well meaning healthcare providers) out there who are still falling for the lies of the fat-cat pharmaceutical companies, I just happened to be blessed to find out the truth. You actually don't have to take a pill that could kill you. You don't need to have surgery to stop your body's natural function. It's not neccessary, but more importantly it's downright unpleasant. And I choose not to. Stick it to the man, baby. Down with the machine.

2. Moral
"The Good News About Sex & Marriage"
by Christopher West is based on JPII's .
Theology of the Body.
This one is way too big for me to tackle on my own. First of all, people will believe I am condemning them, or at least condemning their friends. I understand why they think that; it seems like tolerance and acceptance have become inaccurate synonyms nowadays, but that's neither here nor there. Please remember that to condemn those who use birth control would be to condemn myself, since I used artificial birth control for a very long time. The only "condemnation" would be a self-imposed one: to fully understand what exactly you are doing by blocking the whole purpose of sex fully and intentionally, and continue to do it. Very few people understand it, and that's not their fault. However, if you are smart enough to want to know what's actually happening when you use contraception, then you do have a moral responsibility to learn more.

"The Good News About Sex and Marriage" is my favorite resource for information about the morality of NFP. The author, Christopher West, offers talks geared at Catholics, Evangelicals, Agnostics and more. YouTube it. It will be worth a listen - if for no other reason than to open your mind a bit to what God actually intended for sex. It's certainly not the Puritanical leftovers that most American Christians believe, nor is it the totally open agenda that our culture is pushing - it's quite refreshing and liberating. Sex can be both moral and fun. Who knew?
1. Pro-Life
There's a lot to this one, so I'll focus on the one aspect of it that I think will be the hardest to swallow: that using birth control within a committed marriage relationship to control the size of your family is anti-life.

I struggle so much to understand how someone can be pro-life and still take birth control. Forget the fact that it's an abortifacent it's also completely contrary to the attitude that welcomes life. If the myth that sex without birth control always results in an eventual pregnancy was true, I would understand the need for taking those measures. But it's simply not true. See reason #10. I suppose that's why they do it - they think that they must in order to be responsible parents and citizens. It goes back to what I said about your number of children exceeding your ability. If that's the case - kudos for trying to be a good mom or dad, and for considering the rest of the world when you make your decision. But you've been sold a bunch of junk. Return to sender.

The truth that I've discovered is that to be truly pro-life you have to really redefine sex all together. It's not about you. It's about the person your with. To quote JPII, sex is the free, total, faithful and fruitful union of a man and woman. You can't give yourself in a way that fits all those criteria without being void of anything that would block the giving. That includes cheating (the potential for current or future partners, ie, monogamy!), mental withholding (pornography and fantasies about someone else), and the intentional blocking of the miracle of life that results from the natural union that sex is. Anything less that a full giving of self objectifies your partner instead of honoring them. It makes them a thing of pleasure instead of a person of value. That's not a good marriage folks. That's not even a good lay.

How is that for a finish?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

National NFP Week: Part 3 - Top Ten Reasons (6-4)

Yes, I know. It's confusing. Part 3 of NFP Week is Part 2 of my countdown. So sue me. Anyway, on with the show! Here are reasons 6, 5, and 4 that I <3 Natural Family Planning.

6. Marriage-Building
Even though I looked up tons of great statistics on the success of marriage when practicing NFP, including divorce rates that are as low as 3% and usually cited at at least 5% in comparison with 50% for the average couple, I think that this is a more subjective point, so I'll just share my experiences on this. There are countless reasons why this method strengthens the bond between man and wife, but I'm going to focus on only one: abstinence as a positive thing. Say what?

Times of abstinence observed during fertility can be very frustrating to be sure, but the surprising thing is how profoundly they change your heart. You don't realize the difficulty of showing love outside of a single physical act until that act is not available. Sex often becomes a crutch to keep us from actual closeness, real intimacy. Eliminate that option, even for a little while, and you discover that the ability to show physical affection without sexual contact has all but disappeared. In the beginning of a relationship, a young couple can't seem to keep their hands off each other: holding hands, making out in public, constantly flirting. How many couples maintain that? You might argue that it's due to time passing and passion naturally waning in the wake of a mature relationship, but I would argue that we have used the "crutch" of sex to excuse us from everything else.

Monotony or Monogamy?
Here's the best way I can think of to describe it: simple and straight forward. You love Starbucks. You love it so much, that you decide to declare in front of God and all your loved ones only to drink only Starbucks Coffee all the days of your life. You move in next to a Starbucks, and every day you go in and get your coffee. Sure, there may be some variety: flavor shots, iced drinks, maybe even a little whipped cream (coffee, folks - get your mind out of the gutter!). But it's all really the same. After a few years, Dunkin Donuts is looking pretty good. Shoot, even a good pot of joe at home sounds pretty nice. Then Starbucks announces it's new hours of operation: they are closed for business from the 15th to the 22nd each month. Because you vowed not to stray, this means no coffee at all for that week of the month. It's gonna be a long week for sure, but tell me you aren't going to hug your barista when the doors open on the 23rd!

I know that the concept of abstinence during fertile times sounds horrible, but in my experience both the husband and the wife look at this time as a time of growth, love, and most importantly, appreciation. If you'll pardon the pun, I would say "Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder."

5. Healthy
I've already written a couple posts of the constantly-ignored and ever-present dangers of hormonal birth control and sterilization methods (see "Are you NovaSure about this?" and "Beyaz: It's Good (?) to have Choices"). The fact is that anything outside of a simple barrier method has terrible side effects that we tend to ignore. Why? I'm really not sure. I know that personally, when I used it, I played down the risks because I thought that they were worth it in order to not become pregnant (side note: did you know that 49% of unplanned pregnancies in the US occured while using contraception?).

Prevent Breast Cancer: Stay off Hormonal BC!
So what are the risks? Well, for all my ladies out there, there's what I refer to as the Big Four: greatly increased risk of Cervical, Ovarian, Uterine and Breast Cancer. (Note: a reader graciously pointed out that I have fallen into one of my least favorite traps. My source here was not up to date or accurate. Better information with reliable sources on the links between oral contraceptives and cancer will be available in a new post. I will update here. Thank you reader!)  In other words, this stuff attacks your reproductive system's ability to ward off cancer. Geez o petes, folks, leave my lady parts alone! There's also the abortive nature of some of the most popular methods of birth control. As I've mentioned before, IUDs (hormonal and the non-hormonal copper version), birth control pills, rings, shots, patches, and some forms of sterilization are known to not only prevent ovulation or the meeting of sperm and egg - they simply make it impossible for a fertilized egg (aka growing life) to implant in the uterus or to survive there. To make a metaphor, rather than locking your house to prevent the riff raff from entering, you leave the door unlocked until they are inside, then starve them to death.

And for a second, let's talk about body function. If the big pharmeceutical company came out with a new pill that you take every day that keeps you from ever having to pee again, would you take it? I mean, sure it would make car trips nice, and the bathroom would make a great walk-in closet, but come on. Wouldn't that strike you as incredibly unnatural, and probably unsafe? Would you listen a little closer to "fine print" at the end of the television commercial for this miracle drug? Something about stopping a function of your body just for convenience seems really wrong to most people, but that's what we are doing. Whether or not your birth control stops menstruation, it is stopping the function of your reproductive system entirely. A complete halt of something that our bodies have been doing since the beginning of time. That's just creepy.
4. Unifying (between Partners)  
I talked about the benefits of this method on marriage a little, but I don't think I really discussed the cooperative nature of the method. I have begun to realize that there is a real inequality in how we think about pregnancy prevention. We say that a woman has to right to declare, "my body, my choice!" Woo hoo! Except that, as Spiderman once put it, with great power comes great responsibility. And that responsibility, like the choice, is not also not shared.

Why does the man's half of the
responsibility resemble fruit candy?
When a teenager becomes sexually active, we tell them it's their responsibility to protect themselves. For a girl, this means a trip to the free clinic for birth control pills (accompanied by a lecture in safe sex, an education in options and possibly an STD screening) followed by a nearly endless pressure to keep up with that medication until menopause. For a boy, it means a trip to CVS for a couple rubbers that he'll keep in his wallet. No lecture, no education, no long term commitment - really not much of anything. His involvement is limited to the same actions as buying a comic book.

Not that I think this is man keeping woman down. I am not so sure that man is the awful, sex-crazed caveman we make him out to be. Maybe he wants to take some responsibility. Maybe, out of love for his partner, and appreciation for her natural responsibility to carry a child should she become pregnant, he wants to be a real man, and take action. But what choice have we given him? Just go get your rubbers, you cad.

NFP is completely unique in that it takes equal commitment and understanding of both partners. They are both in tune to their own fertility (since his doesn't vary, the focus is on hers, but the responsibility is shared). It would be unfair to ask a woman to do all the housework, or a man to do all child rearing. Fertility is a big job - it takes two.

Coming Soon:
3. Rebellious   
2. Moral 
1. Pro-Life