NFP – 100% All Natural – Good for the Body, Great for the Soul

Like we talked about in our initial blog post, there were many things my husband and I talked about prior to getting married, but two things that were most important. Last week we talked about the first of the two; Finances and gaining financial peace. This week we are going to cover the topic of intimacy in marriage, the use of birth control and what we decided to use in regards to our own marriage relationship.

First let’s start by talking about how we got to this place of searching for better options. Like we mentioned previously, when my husband and I met, I did not know the Lord and he had fallen away from the Lord. When we met, I was an avid user of hormonal artificial contraceptive prescribed by my doctor and my husband and I were intimate. As our relationship grew and we developed a relationship with God, our hearts changed and we decided we no longer needed to take any sort of birth control because we wanted to abstain from intimacy until we were married. Therefore, I quit taking the birth control and we remained abstinent until our wedding. During our engagement, we thought it was important to discuss birth control options and what we would do once we were married. A married couple who are close friends of ours who were mentoring us discussed with us some things that we should think about regarding marriage, one of which being intimacy in marriage and birth control. They were open and honest with us and shared that they had learned about NFP prior to getting married themselves and had used it, successfully, all 11 (now 12) years of their marriage and three children later. They began using it when they got married and they haven’t looked back since.

What is NFP exactly?
Natural family planning (NFP) is fertility awareness, which is simply knowledge of a couple’s fertility. It is a means of reading the body’s signs of fertility and infertility; applying this knowledge through the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) is over 99% effective in postponing pregnancy. A married couple’s virtuous application of this knowledge either to try to achieve a pregnancy or to postpone a pregnancy is called responsible parenthood.

Practicing NFP is 100% natural — there are no drugs, chemicals or devices involved, which is one reason many today find it to be a positive and refreshing alternative to contraceptive methods. NFP honors our dignity as persons by respecting the natural rhythms and functions of the body. It is very common to hear couples who use NFP speak of an increased awe and respect for femininity and their mutual fertility, and a greater sense of empowerment through self-knowledge (ccli.org)

We use what is called the “Sympto-Thermal” Method of fertility tracking; not to be confused with the rythym method, as every woman’s cycle is not the same and every woman’s cycle varies even month to month.

“The Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) taught by CCL is based on three key signs of fertility: cervical mucus, basal body temperature and changes in the cervix. By observing and recording these signs you and your spouse will be able to identify Phase I, II and III and therefore know if you’re in a time of fertility or infertility.

These signs are easily noticed by any woman who has learned to watch for them. It takes only a minute or two each day to record them in CCL’s mobile app, CycleProGo, or on a paper chart. The chart provides a daily record that can be used to identify the days of fertility and infertility. Once the fertile and infertile days have been identified, couples apply “rules” that they learn in class (and that are explained in CCL’s Student Guide) to frame the boundaries between the phases of the cycle.” (ccli.org)

What are the three phases of a woman’s cycle?
“The female fertility cycle can be divided into three phases.

Phase I begins on the first day of menstrual bleeding, and normally includes a few infertile days after menstruation.

Phase II begins as soon as a woman’s daily observations detect the onset of signs of fertility. This fertile time lasts up to and a few days after the time of ovulation (when an egg is released from the ovary). In a normal, healthy woman, Phase II will typically last up to 12 days.

Phase III is the post-ovulation time and is a time of infertility. Phase III typically accounts for the last one-third of a healthy woman’s cycle.
The three phases of the female cycle are the result of the interplay of four key hormones – estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. These hormones are also responsible for the fertility signs that a woman can learn to observe.”

So why did we decide to used NFP instead of alternative methods to birth control?
My husband and I decided that we didn’t want the responsibility of responsible birth control to fall just on one person or the other. We also realized that the effects of using birth control long term can have lasting effects that can cause issues with conception when a couple is ready to start having a family. In regards to the health issues alone, we decided that an all natural option was our best bet. So we signed up and took the class, which our friends are certified to teach and they helped us understand it better and how to use it effectively.

Upon beginning the classes and trying to track the necessary information, it was definitely overwhelming and confusing, and it usually is until you get into the swing of things and actually know what you’re doing. Now that we have been charting for a year and a half and actually implementing the use of NFP for the last year of our marriage, we have found it to be easier to track and understand as time goes on. I’m sure there are people out there who doubt if it works, or are skeptical or scared to try it out but I assure you it does work. I am also sure that there are some people who would ask if there are any drawbacks to using NFP over other alternatives, and there definitely pros and cons to every decision you make. One reason we ultimately chose to use NFP was because we wanted to honor God with our marriage relationship and with our family. We feel that using NFP promotes trust in God and using our bodies how He intended them to be.

NFP, although all-natural and 100% cost effective (aka free), it can definitely be taxing, as you have to take certain periods of time and abstain from sexual intimacy if you don’t want to get pregnant. However, that has never caused us to choose anything differently. Is it frustrating, at times, that I cannot be with my spouse whenever I want? Absolutely! Are my health and well-being along with the communication that is built between my husband and I worth it? Yes.

My husband and I have had to learn over the last year of marriage, how to communicate regarding our charting and how to take time to spend together when we aren’t able to be physically intimate. We have found that during times of fertility we simply take care to enhance our marriage through reading marriage books to strengthen our marriage. We love the times of spending intimate time together that doesn’t involve physical intimacy just as much as we enjoy spending time together when we are able to be physically intimate. The biggest challenge that we have faced using NFP is making physically intimacy a priority during times of infertility. We love the freedom that NFP has given us and the way it has strengthened our marriage and we highly encourage married couples and engaged couples to look into this option for themselves.

You can find more information by visiting CCLI.ORG. Feel free to shoot us an email with any questions you may have, and we will do our best to answer them for you. Have a great day and God Bless!

Keep an eye out next week for a special blog post!

Getting to Know the Harts

This is the post excerpt.

Hello! My name is Melinda; I am 29 years old and a Cosmetologist. My husband’s name is Ryan; he is 30 and a Strength Coach and Personal Trainer. We are the Harts. We are a Christian couple who lives in Ohio, and have been married for 1 year as of yesterday! Happy Anniversary! I had been contemplating writing a blog for a while, and after a suggestion from a friend of mine, I thought ‘what better timing than our anniversary to get started!’. I love the idea of being able to relate to people in all the joys and struggles that this life brings. My husband and I are real, everyday people just like you. We want to be able to share our lives with you so that you can know you are not alone. We believe that our story is not our own, that God has given each of us a particular story and testimony and we want to share ours with others in the hopes that they can relate and find hope in what they are going through, but also to find peace and joy in the mundane of the everyday. Our history makes us into who we are today and shape the testimonies that we share with others. With that being said, my husband and I would like to share our story with you.
Ryan and I met July of 2013. Four years ago today to be exact. Ryan had a roommate that was a karaoke dj that I was mutual friends with. On this particular Tuesday night, it happened to be karaoke night, so I got ready for karaoke as I usually did. Prior to karaoke, my friend/ Ryan’s roommate had invited me over to go swimming at their apartment complex.
Ryan at the time was working 2 jobs, participating in 2 internships and going to school for his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science. So needless to say Ryan was never home. There was a staff meeting for the physical therapists at the hospital that Ryan was interning at and he wasn’t required to attend, so they gave him the rest of the day off. And so…
Ryan was already at the apartment, preparing to take a nap that afternoon, when his roommate and I returned to go swimming. This is when I first caught Ryan’s eye. We spent all afternoon hanging out, which led to me asking Ryan out on a date before I headed off to karaoke for the evening. Ryan, of course said “YES!”.
From here, we spent the next few weeks hanging out and getting to know one another a little more. Our first official date was at Otani’s; a little hibachi restaurant in the city where we live that is no longer open. Soon after that Ryan invited me to an afternoon cookout and hike at Mohican State Park. The hike consisted of a 2 hr. long trek in the WRONG direction! Ryan’s plan was to take me to Lyon’s Falls and ask me to be his official girlfriend. Once Ryan realized we were on the wrong trail we decided to head back and eat lunch because at this point we were pretty hungry. So we headed back and parked at a spot to grill out. During lunch, Ryan realized there was a different place he could take me to and ask me out officially. So after lunch we headed over to the Gorge Overlook in Mohican State Park, which is up on a large hill and overlooks a beautiful valley. It was here he officially asked me to be his girlfriend. So on August 18, 2013 we started our journey towards what we didn’t know would actually be forever.
From here we pursued an average life for a dating couple in our modern culture. I moved in with Ryan December of 2013, where we kind of “played house”. Although we were committed to one another, this was not God’s plan for us. Over the Spring/ Summer of 2014, I started working as a Mary Kay Consultant. I was invited to church by my MK director. The following week, I decided to give the church near our apartment a try, as I was seeking new faces for my MK business. (I am no longer in the MK business) I am not sure what lead me to go to church on my own, as I was not a believer at the time, however I feel that God was meeting me where I was, and using my circumstances to draw me closer to Him. He was probably looking down thinking to himself “whatever gets her in the door will work, because I have an important message for her to hear”. (This is something I love to share with people now, to show them that God meets us where we are and can use even the most selfish of circumstances to draw us closer to a relationship with Him). It was on August 10, 2014 that I discovered who God is, and I also began pursuing reconciliation with my mother. At this point, my husband was still absent from a present walk with Christ; even though he had been going to church all through childhood, he fell away due to family circumstances in his early adult years.
Even though I became passionate about the Lord and living a life that would honor God, I was still ignorant (or unlearned) to his word, and there were basic things that I didn’t understand that would go against what God would want for my husband and I prior to us being married. From August 2014 to November 2014, we continued our normal dating relationship just as we had been prior to going to church. All the while, God was continuing to work in my heart and beginning to work in my husband’s heart. In early November 2014, Ryan began to attend church with me because he had seen what a positive difference it was making in my life. On November 22, 2014, I got baptized, making a public declaration of my love for my Heavenly Father. It was on this night that God would change our lives and the path of our relationship forever.

 

Following my baptism, we were headed to a friend’s house to celebrate that same evening. On the car ride from the church to their house I mentioned to Ryan that I wanted to talk to him about something. Now mind you, when men hear this, all sorts of crazy things go through their head. Ryan’s first thought was “what did she just say?”. During that conversation, I told Ryan that God had been working in my heart and convicting me that we should end intimacy with one another until we were married. At this point, we were not even engaged yet, and in our current culture, this can be something that tears down and breaks relationships. However, I knew that God was ordaining everything, and I trusted in Him that Ryan was someone I wanted to spend my life with, and I could tell that Ryan was nervous but felt the same way. We both agreed to wait until we were married and even though there were times of struggle, we did everything we could to eliminate any temptation between us.
We got engaged on April, 26, 2015. Ryan was baptized on May 2, 2015 devoting his heart to the Lord as well. At this point, we were still living together and playing house, but we remained abstinent. On the day of Ryan’s baptism, Ryan and I both felt it in our hearts to separate our sleeping arrangements. We continued to live together, but I began sleeping on the couch, giving Ryan the bed, until we were blessed with a family member donating a second bed to us, where I could then start sleeping in our second bedroom. In late October 2015, a little over 8 months until our wedding, we met with our officiating pastor for the wedding, and we were informed that we must live separately or our church would not be able to marry us. This was very important to us that we be married by our church, and so I moved home with my dad until the day we would become husband and wife. It was probably one of the best times I have had in my life being able to spend some last times hanging out with my dad and really learning what God says about marriage and giving us a chance to grow in our faith as we learned to trust God and pursue a Christ-centered relationship.
On July, 9, 2016, three years exactly from the day we met, my husband and I exchanged vows and wedding rings, participated in foot washing, communion and celebrated our marriage with our closest family and friends. There were a lot of things that happened in our families and in our lives between April 26, 2015 and July 9, 2016. Our faith was tested, many times, but we always trusted that whatever life had in store for us, God would be our rock and help us make it through.
Fast forward to today, one year of marriage in. They tell you that the first year is the hardest, and while we believe that is partly true, we also believe that marriage is what you make of it. During our first year of marriage, my mother and step-father moved into a new house, my mother-in-law moved into an apartment, and my father moved down south to a new place, all within the week prior to and including the week of our wedding. My father was finishing up his divorce from my step-mother, a relationship that not only broke down between them, but I suffered the loss of her in my life as well. (A year later from our wedding and things just recently got finalized) In the fall of 2016, my husband’s father began to face a declining health situation, and would eventually lose his battle with alcoholism in January 2017. I had a falling out with a dear friend prior to my wedding, which caused her to miss my wedding, and we worked on forgiveness and started rebuilding our friendship shortly after our wedding. Things couldn’t be better than they are right now for her and I. Through that short time apart from one another, our friendship was strengthened and fortified.
There wasn’t just family things that we had to experience and learn how to deal with. We also had to learn what it meant to be married, how to handle different things, and how to make our marriage the best that it could be. Great marriages don’t just happen; they take work. We had to learn how to share the bathroom, how to communicate effectively and how to share the responsibility around our home as we are both working full time jobs. There were two very important things that we were told are really the breaking points for many marriages… Take a guess as to what those two things are… You probably guessed it; sex and money. While these two things don’t seem like that big of a deal, just look at the causes of many broken marriages and divorces; the end result of a broken marriage or why someone gets divorced is usually caused by those two things. This is not to say everyone who suffers a broken marriage or divorce that these are the reasons, but they usually tend to play a role in there somewhere. So how did my husband and I communicate about these two things and what did we do to alleviate the problems that they can cause?

My husband and I had long conversations about what things we could do to eliminate the stress that these two areas can bring to a marriage. We began looking into birth control options prior to marriage so that we would be prepared when our wedding came, and we found that NFP or Natural Family Planning was our best option. When it comes to finances, neither my husband nor I had great counsel on finances growing up. Both of our families had their own financial difficulties, between lack of budgeting, credit cards and frivolous spending. We discovered something, (that I had actually heard before but never really put to good use) called FPU or Financial Peace University. This taught us how to budget, pay off debt and prepare for our future, children’s future, home-buying, saving, etc. These two things have become strong pillars in our marriage and have worked to increase and strengthen our communication and our relationship.
This is just the beginning of our blog. We are thankful that you took the time to read about our story leading up to our marriage. We will continue to talk about what we think about marriage so far, how we’ve managed, where we have made mistakes, where we have had success and how we lean on God and our support systems through it all. In our next couple of posts we will dive into more detail on how we have built our foundation for success in intimacy and finances through using NFP and FPU.

Stay tuned for our next blog post!