“So what do you do?”
In the last few months his question has caused me some anxiety. At first, I would take a deep breath and then begin to ramble “Well, you see, I teach Natural Family Planning to women and couples….” However, I quickly learned that most people (Catholics and Non-Catholics alike) did not have any idea what that meant. Many assumed that helping couples with their fertility meant in vitro fertilization, some thought I counseled couples about whether or not to have children, and others eyes just glazed over.
It wasn’t long before I began to revise my sound-bite to something closer to this: “I help women understand their signs of fertility to enable them to avoid or achieve pregnancy naturally.” Of course, there is a lot more to NFP than the explanation accounts for, but I figure it is a solid start.
You can imagine how exciting it is to begin to try and explain NFP, only to have someone tell you they know what it is all about. Well, it happened to me. About 5 minutes after I met a stranger who I would spend the next 45 minutes with… “Oh yeah, I used that!” my awesome new hairstylist exclaimed. “Wow! Someone who knows what I am talking about,” I thought to myself, but before I could say anything she added, “It didn’t work for me.”
She went on to explain that a friend had suggested she learn NFP as a means of avoiding pregnancy. And she did. Unfortunately, she learned from a book. I love learning things from books. You can go at your own pace and it is often free (public library!). What could be better, right? Lots of ladies have consulted fertility books to learn about their bodies.
I just don’t think that learning NFP from a book with the intention of avoiding pregnancy is the way to go. The margin of error when self-teaching is typically wider than when learning from someone else for a variety of reasons. Of course, if you are going into learning from a book with a true mindset of being ready to welcome life, should you create it, then there is really no harm done. If, however, serious reasons exist to avoid pregnancy, learning a NFP method from a teacher is the way to go. That being said, it is important to remember that any act of intercourse (regardless of family planning method) carries with it the chance of conception and pregnancy.