In the rare (and exciting! and beloved!) times I meet someone who uses Natural Family Planning, we always end up talking about the same thing: why in the world don’t more people know about NFP? I even have friends who have heard of NFP and, although they choose to not use it, also agree that it is every man and woman’s right to know that NFP exists and how/why it works.It is unjust that people have not heard that there are effective alternatives to contraception. It is outrageous that sex education is more focused on teaching students how to properly use a condom than understanding how their bodies work. It is sad that there are still doctors who don’t understand that NFP gives couples a medically sound way to avoid or achieve pregnancy. So why does our society have this injustice, outrage and sadness? Answer: we don’t talk about NFP.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking there’s no way you would feel comfortable doing this. Please hear me out, dear readers. I am not asking you to randomly talk to strangers about your cycles or sex life! I am merely suggesting that, when you are a part of a conversation in which NFP would be relevant (for example, a discussion about birth control), you might find the courage to mention it. Together, we can find a graceful way to talk about NFP that will make both us and those listening to us comfortable.
Talking about NFP can be uncomfortable because NFP is (1) incredibly personal and (2) intensely countercultural. While using humor and lightheartedness is often helpful, discretion is important since NFP remains a serious, intimate, and for many, holy, part of life. Additionally, many people have never heard of NFP, and those who have are often misinformed. We need to be brave and begin the conversation, but we also need to be thoughtful about how we will go about it.
There’s no way around it—any conversation about NFP that dips even a tiny bit below the surface is going to involve some pretty intimate topics. How can we strike a delicate balance when publicly sharing things so intrinsically private? Remembering the “who, what, where, when, and why” questions we learned to ask in lower school can help us. Know your audience and follow their cues. Even if you feel comfortable saying words like “mucus” in general conversation, please remember that not everyone is comfortable hearing them. Also, you might want to consider where and when you choose to bring up NFP. For example, while some people might find anonymity in a crowded restaurant, others might be uncomfortable knowing they could be overheard. As wonderful as this information is, there are many situations in which mentioning NFP is simply inappropriate. It’s important to ask yourself why you are introducing NFP into the conversation. If you or your friend is upset, it’s probably better to have this conversation at another time.
For a society so open to talking about birth control, it’s remarkable how little people know about it. People think that the only questions they should have about artificial birth control are questions about what kind they should use. In other words, people mistake the conversations about the types of birth control for a conversation about birth control itself. Additionally, because of the politicization of women’s health issues, the mere mention of NFP will sometimes elicit negative responses. (Side note: can we please end the “you hate women/no you hate women” banter that surrounds us? It’s insulting and horrifically objectifying. Ok, great thanks.)
Wait for your friend(s) to bring up a topic that offers a natural transition to NFP. (Do you see how you are thus suggesting how NFP actually fits quite nicely into our culture?!) Gently mention something about NFP and see what happens. Ideally, you want your audience to be curious. Sometimes the best thing we can do is just to let one more person know that NFP exists, even if they never ask you anything about it. How many times have you been at brunch with the girls when one of them talks about switching from the pill to the NuvaRing? When I found myself in these kinds of situations in the past, I would stay quiet. I was scared of rejection and terrified of offending someone. I’m guessing you were too. Now, perhaps you can simply ask our friend if she has ever considered Natural Family Planning. If she ends the conversation, let it rest. If she asks questions, either answer them or direct her to more information. The last thing you want to do is chat away about the differences between sticky, tacky, and stretchy while everyone else is trying to sip on their mimosas!
Believe me, I know how scary talking about NFP can be. The decision to become a Fertility Awareness and NFP advocate was overwhelming…as in, lying on the couch with a blanket over my head overwhelming. Because I am confident that this is the career path I need to follow, I had made peace with the fact that I would be sharing personal and countercultural details about my life with the public. Call me slow, but it took me some time before I realized that I wasn’t just making a decision about what people knew about me; I was also making a decision about what people would know about my husband. Although he didn’t hesitate when he told me that he was comfortable with me writing and speaking about our life, I wasn’t sure if I was capable of handling this responsibility. As I laid under that blanket, my dream of inviting everyone to learn about NFP just seemed too dang challenging.
As usual, in swept my superman husband to save the day. Smiling his charming smile and yanking that blanket from my face, he looked at me and said, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” (He’s a Lord of the Rings fan, if you can’t tell.) I took his hand, stood up, and started writing. Gulp.
Who’s ready to go out their front door? Here’s to adventure!