The Perils of NFP

I awoke this morning with a thermometer in my eye.  My two and a half year-old, having recently mastered the art of crib climbing (as in, out of), came stealthily to my bedside and announced her presence by handing me my thermometer, point-first, in the eye.

“Thank you, honey,” I murmured as I deftly plucked it out of her little hand and out of range of my eye.

Rousing myself to face any day is hard enough – exhaustion keeping me down, thoughts of the daily grind keeping me from getting up.  A poke in the eye by a metal-tipped prod adds injury to the insult.

Every morning for more than a decade, I’ve taken my temperature before rising, marking it down on a chart as part of the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning.  I’ve also noted other symptoms of my cycle, such as the start and duration of my period, any pain, etc.  For the most part, it’s been no problem.  For all the reasons that matter, I’m glad my husband and I have chosen this method to order the reproductive part of our lives.

Then there is the drawer of my bedside table, spewing charts from months past, always a pen, the thermometer.  One more thing to add to my morning routine – the taking of the temperature; and one more thing to do before bed – recording the temperature (because I usually don’t have – or take – the time to do it in the morning).

And the restraint it takes to successfully practice Natural Family Planning.  There are certain days in my cycle that we must abstain from sex if we wish to postpone or prevent pregnancy.  Then, there are days when it ‘might’ be safe.  That’s when the third ring of our circus (see last post) found her way into the world.  My husband may never get lucky during that range of days again!  Unless I/we decide to throw caution to the wind.

But, then, that’s the point of Natural Family Planning – and perhaps what makes it hardest for even the most God-fearing humans to practice.  Relinquishing control.

I may not have been ready for a baby at that time, and yet, I cannot imagine my life without her love in it.  And the personal struggles that I dealt with during my pregnancy and postpartum with her, have wrought changes in me that never would have happened had I waited until a time I deemed the right one.  The self-control and mutual respect that my husband and I had at the start of our marriage have blossomed into a stronger partnership as we follow this method.

With the ebb and flow of my body’s natural cycles, God has a chance to interject His will into our usually tightly structured plans.  There certainly is no peril in that.

Me getting over my control-freak tendencies – and avoiding blinding by impalement – that’s another story.  At least I can find a new spot for my thermometer – because I’m thinking the crib climbing is just the beginning.

Making Whoopee

In the middle of the pain-induced delirium of my first labor, I turned to my husband and said, “How can something that is so much fun lead to so much pain?”  We laughed: at the absurdity of the situation; at the fact that I could still joke in between contractions; at the ultimate truth of the statement.

And little did I know that as we pressed forward into parenthood, that statement would stretch and morph to encompass so much more.

When we returned home with our infant, my husband and I camped out on the couch passing the baby between us.  They fell into dreamland while I fell into the throes of a fever, my milk coming in with a vengeance.  I didn’t know why I had the chills, why I couldn’t lift my arms higher than my shoulders without hurting, why my baby wouldn’t latch on . . . I just watched my husband sleeping peacefully, the baby nestled on his chest, and shook with wracking sobs, realizing that the one I needed most couldn’t comfort me because some other little thing needed him even more than I did.

When we added a second child to the mix, the house was never quiet enough, the baby never had uninterrupted sleep, our nearly-three year-old never caught a break.  The pained look on her face when one of my tirades went a little too long and a little too loud broke my heart – because I was afraid I had broken hers.

Baby Number Three ushered in a matrix of physical and emotional pain unimaginable.  It took me months to figure out what the hell was going on and years to fix it (or work on it – I’ll let you know when I’m done).

Then there’s the toll parenthood takes on the bond between husband and wife, or ‘Mom and Dad,’ as it seems you will now forever be known as.  In the beginning, doing the act that landed you in this predicament in the first place does not seem appealing at all; never mind the doctor’s estimation that you will be back to ‘normal’ in six weeks, ludicrous.

In fact, I used my pregnancies as warnings to others.  When I overheard two of my twelve year-old students discussing sex, I piped up, “I hope you’re not thinking of becoming sexually active,” at which their pretty little jaws hit the floor.  I went on, from my perpetual position behind my desk because I was too tired to stand, “Because you don’t want to end up like me.  I’m married and it’s hard enough.”  At a wedding shower about a month before the due date of my second-born, I told the bride not to break any of the ribbons from her presents.  Circling my belly with a pointed finger, I said, “This is what happens when you break a ribbon.”

But that weird mind-blanking trick that humankind’s desire to procreate does to our memories soon kicks in, allowing you to forget the (seriously) gut-wrenching pain and remember the joy of intimacy again.  That is, when time and circumstance allow.  When you’re alone.  When the kids are sleeping in their own beds.  When you’re not so exhausted you fall asleep before your head hits the pillow.  When you can think like man and woman and not Mom and Dad.

Just last week, as my husband reached for me, brushing my arm in the process, I cried out, “Ow, watch out for my boo-boo!”  Nothing like the mention of a decidedly kid-term to ruin the moment.  Even when they’re not there, they’re there.  But, all parents somehow find a way around such dilemmas.  You lock the door.  You find a way to connect without hurting the various wounds you’re nursing.  And you learn to have fun.


When we were invited to a party at our newlywed friends’ place, we decided to bring whoopee pies for dessert.  We thought they fit well with the southern menu of pulled BBQ, cole slaw, and corn bread, but also that they were somehow apropos for newlyweds.  Wink, wink.  Then the girls, who love anything sweet, wanted to help prepare them.  I couldn’t help but see the irony as I watched them.  Here, in living color, devouring what was left of the frosting, were the literal fruits of my labor.

That’s what you get when you make whoopee.  Three gorgeous girls.

It’s been a long road since the first pangs of labor, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And I wouldn’t do it with anyone other than my husband.  (Wink, wink).

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