"no need for a secret handshake"

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Making Babies: A Very Different Look at Natural Family Planning
By H. W. Crocker III

Natural family planning (NFP) needs a slogan, because as a “product”—if I might adopt business-speak—it’s not selling too well. According to some surveys, about 90 percent of professed Catholics reject the Church’s teaching on birth control. Even among priests, fewer than one in three considers artificial contraception to be “always” sinful.

So let me propose a new rallying cry: “Use NFP: It Doesn’t Work!”

You think I jest.

The case for NFP should, by rights, be the case for more babies. To have them is good. Not to have them is to be deprived. Every wife deserves to be a mother, and every mother’s son deserves a brother and a sister. And since a cat-o’-nine-tails has nine tails, surely having nine children is the proper way to scourge selfishness right out of one’s family.

As a slogan, “Use NFP: It Doesn’t Work!” has many strong arguments in its favor. First, it is true. NFP proponents tout its 99 percent effectiveness rate, but they neglect to mention that this is true only if the husband is in the Navy and assigned to extended, uninterrupted sea duty of three-year tours or longer. Otherwise, for most Catholics I know, NFP means a baby every two years or so, though the rate can slow with age, as the couples learn a proper respect—that is, fear—for each other and are too tired in any event for what Catholics call “the conjugal act.”

AMEN! read the rest of this totally coolmoe and shamelessly lifted article at crisis magazine online.

thanks for the heads up, enbrethiliel.


I'm at that point where babies aren't staying put anymore... and I'm getting old enough to make it worrisome, but boy, I'd like another... I should have started sooner, but didn't meet my DH... I was in one of those baby superstore places yesterday, and seeing all those young mamas with big bellies was almost painful...

But it is true that NFP can really put some stress on folks who aren't able to do babies anymore, but want to stay faithful. just musing...

Um, for those of us with medical issues that make postponing or avoiding pregnancy the prudent decision, "Use NFP -- It doesn't work!" is terrifying. And there are people like that out there.

I don't know how to react to that article. During sections of it, I'm nearly convinced he's writing for planned parenthood.

My parents are NFP instructors and we grew up in contact with a lot of NFP families. I would say that the average number of children was 3.something.

I guess I just don't get it (trying to appreciate the humor) - ann

ann, thank you for your comments. i suspect that your unusually close assosiation with NFP hinders your ability to see the humor. would you agree that your default reaction would be one of defensiveness, having probably grown up having to defend the concept? NFP is still a radical concept -- as crocker puts it, NFP is "a technique that wrongly strikes most lay Catholics as medieval." [emphasis mine]

tiakay and martha, i am one of those women with "medical issues," and can certainly identify with your concerns. i appreciate the article for what it intends to be: humorous. crocker never mentions special cases because his article isn't intended to be a serious medical case for NFP. it's rather like swift's satircal piece "a modest proposal."

as a mom with children 2, 4, 6, 8 and "baby on the way", and as a friend to several mommies of "2-year stair-step" families, i fully agree with crocker's position that "for most Catholics I know, NFP means a baby every two years or so."

I was making an effort to like his piece because hey -- who could argue with someone saying good things about openness to life? But maybe I'm also too close to the issue to see it as funny, since I teach NFP.

It seems to me that it is a piece which could deepen division instead of encouraging greater openness to life. Established NFP users chuckle; people on the fence say, "See, I knew those NFPers were all wackos." What couples considering obedience to HV need to know is that they can use NFP effectively. What often sneaks up on them is that they no longer want to.

I dunno Smockmomma, I wanted to like the article. I am having some fierce discussion on my blog (have since November ) with Christian, nonCatholics about NFP and contraception. I started to read the article with the idea that I could maybe use some of this on my blog, but... I don't think so. There were some things on there that I found offensive! I think I get what he was trying to say, but I just didn't like how he said it.

I get really sick of these arguments. The "NFP doesn't work so why bother with it" and the other "NFP isn't really different than artificial birth control, You shouldn't use anything at all"
It usually comes from husbands who in my opinion when it comes down to it, don't want to have to abstain at all, anytime , for any reason.

"As a slogan, “Use NFP: It Doesn’t Work!” has many strong arguments in its favor. First, it is true. NFP proponents tout its 99 percent effectiveness rate, but they neglect to mention that this is true only if the husband is in the Navy and assigned to extended, uninterrupted sea duty of three-year tours or longer."

Ok, I have used these arguments before also. When I was newly married and thought NFP was awful and restrictive. As a newlywed, I thought any kind of required abstinence to be cruel.

Right after our second anniversary and the birth of our second child, as I realized my sanity was all but gone, we decided it was time to take NFP seriously. SO we did and miraculously it worked. Until my second born turned three and I got the baby bug again. My third will be one in a couple months.

The "We'll show them how Catholic we are" attitude really bugs me. If God has blessed you with ten children, then more power to you. I am struggling trying to afford three. Don't get me wrong, I want to have more, if God gives me ten then I will be grateful, but I will say this, I will not be caught dead in a jumper ever, denim or otherwise and I won't drive one of those huge extended vans and I have given my husband permission to shoot me on sight if I ever try to wear matching outfits with my daughter.

If following church teaching means having ten children, then I can see why so many Catholics are terrified of NFP. I have met women who think embracing NFP will leave them barefoot and pregnant for the next ten years. I do think it's more helpful to address the openness to life aspect of NFP over the effectiveness rates when used as a means to avoid pregnancy. I also think the "We're more Catholic than you because we can field both sides of the baseball game and still have players on the bench" attitude to be unhelpful.

Sorry Smockmama, just had to vent.

And yes, I get that it's supposed to be funny, I'm just not buying today.

Elizabeth, there are other Catholic mothers who agree with you, but we really do, generally speaking, need to lighten up at least a little. I'll never have ten kids - I'm not called to it - and I've stopped the anger with those who suggest that I'm not Catholic enough because of it. Perhaps, instead, we can come back with some humor of our own...and jumpers (of any kind!) are a great start. After reading his paragraph, I did have a couple of thoughts. He wrote:

"Married communication, as successful husbands know, is best limited to grunts and hand signals—one upraised finger meaning, “I need a beer”; two upraised fingers meaning, “You need to change the brat’s diapers”; three upraised fingers meaning, “Honey, why don’t you mow the lawn while I watch football?,” and so on. No words are more doom-laden than a wife’s sitting down and saying, “Let’s talk.” Communication is, of course, the first step toward divorce."

Yes, precisely so, which is why I have a few fingers of my own...two fingers means I'm off to lunch and the boutique sale with the girls and I just know you are so full of Christian charity you won't mind watching the little ones this afternoon instead of playing golf...three fingers means yes, it's time for me to go to the gym (add a thumbs-up if there's a post-work out massage involved) and...if my husband were Crocker, I'd probably limit myself to one finger. Yep, that one.


Kudos. Well done with the finger riff.

I maybe didn't react as viscerally as my wife, but I understand the sentiment. I think Crocker was trying to play the role of jerk to comic effect. He was only slightly successful.

And for the record, E thinks she definately overreacted a little, but I encourage that impulse. She's so cute when she comes out guns blazing.

What a great discussion. Our latest blessing/surprise is due in June, and our third child is only 10 months old. I'm definitely feeling a bit overwhelmed. My problem was figuring out when to start using NFP after giving birth. This time we'll be using it from baby's birthday! I think the point is that we are to be open to life. And NFP really does work if used properly!

Lucky for me I have a husband who is now becoming fearful of feeding all these kids and is certainly willing to abstain if necessary.

There's a saying that goes, "With every child, God will give you a loaf of bread." I hope that's true, because we're definitely going to need it!

Wow, like the others I didn't know whether to laugh or cuss. I have 7 kids in 10 years. My dh didn't even think NFP was moral at first. God wouldn't give you more that you can handle and all that. Frankly I think he thought of marriage as a "have sex anytime you want" card. But I digress. After the 5th baby in 7 years, I sunk into a fairly significant depression. Even then, trying to use NFP since has led to two more babies in 4 years. Now, we have reached that time once again to rigorously chart because baby is still only 7 months, and I admit, I am frightened. BUT, truly I say to you, whenever I have been faithful re:charting, I have not gotten pregnant. Somehow, after a while, it seems less critical, and I get a little sloppy with the science, and viola, another wee one. So, I think, no matter how good a 3 year span sounds, there must be a better reason in our family for a 2 year spread. I could go on, but I won't. i just think Crocker was a little disrepectful. I fought a real battle with similar sarcasm, and suffered alot to get my point across to my dh. He does get it now, by the way.

great discussion here. i don't know how many times i've heard myself say i "only have three." not to mention conversations overheard that include the phrase "these people who call themselves catholic with only 2 or 3 kids." people can be very cruel. i would dearly love to have a house full but can't, i want to wear a sign around my neck "HAVE FIBROIDS, JUST TRYING TO KEEP MY UTERUS OUT OF THE CLUTCHES OF THE SURGEON"

Carmella, try having only one, and see what kind of looks you get.

Most of the ugly comments I have gotten have been from the more "rad-trad" types, and I will admit that it has prejudiced me against their cause, thought that's not exactly logical. It wasn't until I started reading the blogs and came across such kind traddies as Mr. Culbreath at El Camino Real, that I was able to take a deep breath and "undemonize" them.

The cruel words really do cut both ways. Those of you with lots get it from the outside world and "non-practicing" (birth control at least!) Catholics. Those of us with an only get it from those who we thought were our compatriots.

For the record, yes, we came to the Church late, but that's not the reason for our one child-ness. We had not contracepted for >3 years prior to Zteen's conception, and never used it again--and that was before we were Catholic. So 21 of the 25 years of our marriage were spent free of contraception. We have one kiddo (but he's a good 'un) to show for it.

MamaT, I'm sure ZTeen is thrilled about this thread of conversation. *grin*

More generally, I must confess that my wife saw the humor in the article long before I did. My quibble, even now that I find it humorous as intended, is more that Crisis published it. In a magazine not reputed for its humor pieces, it seems singularly out of place.

Well, maybe it's a new beginning for Crisis; ya never know...

I tell 'em not only do I have "only" three, I was clever enough to figure out how to do it with only two pregnancies! Ha!

The anger from those rad-trads really makes me wonder...if children are such a treasure, why are they so angry that some of us don't have a huge brood? For example, if I won the lottery, I wouldn't get angry if others didn't win it...I'd be wistful that they couldn't live like I could. So why wouldn't large-clan moms be...just wistful that I can't live like them? There's something missing there...

And, if you ever need reassurance, some awfully devout Catholics I know did not have large families. Madelaine Stebbins, wife of Lyman - founder of CUF (Catholics United for the Faith) had one child. Her best friend, Alice von Hildebrand, had none. Alice's husband, Dietrich, had one by his previous marriage. So some of you are in good company!

But to be serious for just a sec, if anyone out there needs just-about-as-foolproof-as-you-can-get NFP, do consider using NFP in conjunction with a fertility monitor. You will know exactly what's going on with your body at any given moment of every single day. I highly recommend it.

A very odd article. I won't spring hastily to the conclusion that Crocker is a cad, but in this piece he certainly writes like one.

when we had "only" one, i confessed to a mother of (at the time) nine children that i wanted very much to have a large family. very seriously and kindly she said, "ah, but y'all are the image of our perfect Holy Family." i was so grateful to her, and i will always have a special place in my heart for this woman.

Our numbers are growing: Noncontracepting couples LEAPED from an astinishing 5% to a whopping 7% from 2001 to 2002. It takes pennies to make a dollar, as the saying goes.

Yep, Smock, but that's a rarity. I can testify to it.

But bless her, whoever she is, for saying that to you!

As a mom of seven I sincerely hope I have never offended anyone with fewer children. I know I accidentally did once, when I was joking about getting all our kiddos to the car after church, and I flippantly and thoughtlessly said, "It doesn't matte if we loose one, we'll just make more." Turn around, and a couple struggling with infertility staring at me. I felt so small. I think some "rad-trad" people think of their children as a get out of jail free card. Then there is the saying, "misery loves company." I can attest to a small degree of jealousy when I see a mom with a smaller family have the freedom to take the kids places, wear clothes without a shred of elastic, and other such things I can only dream about. Basically, I have come to understand we all have our own, individual God given families that are meant to perfect us.
BTW, the last edition of Couple to Couple League's newsletter had the best article I have ever read on what it means to be open to life. This addresses couples with infertility, health issues, large families, and other issues. The one thing we all have in common is that we have to trust God in His plan for our lives. Scary, eh?

Micki is right about estimating a couple's devotion to the Faith by counting their children. I've tried to avoid that fault ever since my second son's godmother, who was childless after many years of marriage, remarked one day, a propos of nothing in particular, how exasperating it was to hear people say, "Oh, they're a great Catholic family - they have eight children." Well, of course, they probably are a great Catholic family, and their openness to children is one of the aspects of it. But it sure stings when you have one, or none, to think people are assuming that you use contraception because you don't want to be bothered by children. (She and her husband were finally able to adopt a dear little girl, so all's well that ends well.)

Well, I finally read the whole article. I really am having a hard time stomaching it. As a faithful NFP or at least noncontracepting woman I find his additude a bit cavalier.

It is wonderful to be among you who also practice NFP, but we all know it can be a tremendous struggle as we are the minority and our children are looked upon as a scourge by the trendier set. For me, NFP is a daily commitment, it has not been easy or thoughtless. I have had countless women Catholic and non-Catholic alike try and talk me out of this seemingly bizarre position that I have taken.

It is simply that I cannot simply ignore the Church's teaching. Yes, more children is what this world needs, but having recently delivered a baby girl, the thought of another pregnancy in a year or two or three makes me cringe.

Maybe we'll adopt the next time around.

karen h. is absolutely right about the fertility monitor!! for folks struggling with nfp it's a great help. highly recommend it.

I'm in the minority here, Smock...I thought it was hilarious. But, then, look at the title for my blog. ;-)

I took the article for what it was..A JOKE!! And a very funny one at that.

Man, that attitude (it doesn't work!) ticks me off. I think it has a lot to do by what you mean by "work".

The point of NFP is to allow couples to work with God in the planning of your family. It makes couples ask every month, "why are we not having a baby now?" Some people decide their reason isn't enough to stop that baby. Others decide it's a pretty serious reason. And if you're diligent, it does work. I'm living proof: I space my kids to allow my uterus healing time from the C-sections.

As for people who say it's the same, they tend to contracept. Ask them to try NFP then. Bet they'll say, "That would change everything." The lifestyle change, the fertility awareness, is significant.

Every OB I've ever had - except the one at the HMO, who left to set up a private practice dispensing Norplant - has observed the same thing. It's easier to take care of a woman who knows what her body should be doing, and what it is doing. Knowledge is good.

always assuming i've been charting, the first thing my OB asks when i see him: so, when are you due?



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This page contains a single entry by smockmomma published on January 8, 2005 9:16 PM.

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