Fertility shouldn’t be a topic that is hidden away, it should be something that is natural, healthy and nurtured.
For users of the different methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP), there is also joy, pride and empowerment in discussing such a sensitive topic.
Recently, Catherine Bourne, Natural Fertility Coordinator from the Diocese of Parramatta’s Mission Enhancement Team hosted two online Fertility Awareness sessions that were open to anyone interested in learning more about their fertility.
During these online sessions, participants heard testimonials from couples and single women who are using NFP methods.
Germaine and Vasco, a couple with five children, explained that they share family planning and take responsibility for it as a couple.
“We discuss things that we know other couples simply don’t,” they said, “so we try to make NFP a part of our conversation with friends, one that doesn’t cause discomfort but one of encouragement.”
Vasco adds that he is happy to mentor other men in this subject, saying that he tries to keep the discussions light and humourous. “There’s nothing I haven’t heard,” he said.
For Ivy and Anthony, NFP helped them decide whether their family was complete.
Before learning about NFP, the couple were unwittingly spacing their pregnancies through breastfeeding, as breastfeeding inhibits ovulation.
After the birth of their fifth child, they researched NFP and decided that with the help of an educator, they could be successful in preventing pregnancy naturally.
The couple are still open to life but feel empowered by the knowledge that they can rest easier with each other and their family.
As well as helping to plan and prevent pregnancy, NFP can also help single women learn more about their fertility so that when they do decide to start a family, they have that knowledge of their bodies.
Sam has had instruction in all methods of NFP and explained that as well as the practical advantages of NFP, she has incorporated its methods into other aspects of her life.
“I’ve become more aware of PMS symptoms! I’m so much more aware of how my cycle changes my mood and feelings,” she said.
“Charting NFP has given me a greater appreciation of motherhood and helped me live spiritual motherhood in a more fruitful way, to pray for the protection of motherhood, fatherhood and the dignity of children.
“I’ve been adapting NFP to become more open and receptive in other areas of my life and using the fertility window to say ‘yes’ and act, whether it be starting a new project or taking the initiative to learn a new skill.
“With prayer, active discernment, taking steps, making decisions, utilising the best environment etc. all this helps with responding to God’s gifts and His action in applying that fertile window.
“As St Catherine of Siena teaches, ‘through knowledge of herself (the soul), she learns to know the truth about God’,” she said.
Eleanor’s* NFP journey began when she became aware of the NSW Government’s Abortion Law Reform Act 2019, and she wanted to learn more about the church’s teaching on contraception and family planning.
She appreciates how NFP invites men into the conversation around fertility.
“Men and women are different. Pretending otherwise disadvantages women. NFP invites men to be equally aware and responsible of what can happen when you have sex,” she explained. “Being equally intentional about their actions, men can then step up to their proper, equal role.”
Since learning to chart her cycle, she has become more open, prepared and confident in her abilities to speak about NFP.
“As a teacher, it has increased my confidence and changes the way I help young women appreciate their bodies and the way I appreciate my own,” she describes.
“Women also need to be given hope and confidence in their ability to understand their bodies and their fertility. Learning this is a way I can invest in myself too.”
Catherine told Catholic Outlook that fertility is not something to be treated, but a gift to be nurtured and learned about.
“All NFP methods require women to daily chart their symptoms of fertility, and it is suitable for all women, no matter what stage of life they’re at.
“It is healthy to be regularly ovulating and this is what charting helps women identify. If their charts don’t look ‘normal’, then medical assistance might help rectify the problems.
“All women, whether they are single or married, should know what their cycle can tell them,” she said.
The Diocese of Parramatta is fortunate to have educators available to instruct couples and women of all life stages in three methods of Natural Family Planning – The Billings Ovulation Method, the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and the Sympto-Thermal Method.
On Wednesday 17 November at 7.30pm, Catherine will be hosting a Zoom session with Vinetta Lobo, a certified FertilityCare Practitioner. The session will focus on unravelling the mysteries of a woman’s cycle and how The Creighton Model is a holistic method of assessing and evaluating your current fertility status and treating infertility. To register, or for further information, please contact Catherine on 0400 427 605 or email email@example.com.
* Name changed for privacy reasons