A Second Opinion

Question

I am getting married in two weeks, and have been learning NFP over the last few months. My fiance and I have lived apart for over a year now and would like to delay pregnancy for a year or so. Every NFP counselor I have spoken with has informed me this is an immoral decision on our parts. They also told me I cannot look forward on a calendar when I am charting, because it is a one-day-at-a-time process. I am regular in my cycles and phases, yet they tell me it is normal to have a 14+ day Phase II, and that a Phase III with 10 days is fabulous. How is this possible if a woman is only fertile 100-120 hours in a month? As a newlywed, it will be near impossible to have 10 days of “safe time.” We may still be at the end of Phase II when we get married, although I would have been in it 10 days already. My counselors have told me just stay busy and wait a week to consumate the marriage. The problem with that is, according to their rules, if I wait a week, I then start Phase I. Please help. J.

Answer

Dear J,

If I understand your question correctly, you are asking:

1) Is it immoral to use NFP to avoid a pregnancy for the first year of your marriage, and

2) Is it normal for the fertile period to last over 2 weeks?

The answer to both is of course not!

NFP is a moral means of spacing pregnancy. I think you are saying that you have understood your teacher to suggest that just wanting to be married for a year or two before starting your family is insufficient justification for avoiding pregnancy. Your teacher might be of the opinion that beginning your marriage by being open to pregnancy would be preferable, and indeed maybe even ideal for many. But each couple must make this decision for themselves, prayerfully, and with much discussion. I would suggest that one consideration in getting married should indeed be an ability, and readiness to have children. But that is not the same as saying one is obligated to immediately seek pregnancy. If you and your fiancé feel you are totally unable to care for a child, should pregnancy occur, perhaps you are not in a position to seek marriage at this time. But if you are willing and able to care for a child, should pregnancy occur, but think it would be in the interests of your family to attempt to postpone pregnancy for a year or two, that is not unreasonable, or immoral, in my opinion. Each couple is very different, not only in temperament, but also in circumstances, and must judge for themselves the legitimacy of their reasons for avoiding pregnancy.

When using NFP to avoid pregnancy, commonly a couple will abstain from intercourse for approximately 9 consecutive days. This may vary however, from woman to woman, and to a lesser extent, from cycle to cycle for any individual woman. If the couple is consistently identifying a fertile window which is a great deal longer than this, such as the two week period you describe, then they must work closely with the teacher in identifying which days are truly fertile. This can sometimes take a few months, as the couple gains confidence in their observations and charting, and a pattern is observed. Sometimes the patterns can be a little more difficult in the month or two preceding the wedding, due to stress, and settle down once life settles down.

Reconciling a desire to avoid a pregnancy, and a desire to consummate the marriage on the wedding day, can be challenging to any newly married couple. Some couples decide their reasons to avoid a pregnancy are not so serious after all, and choose to begin their marriage by being open to children, should one be conceived on the honeymoon. Other couples are strongly motivated to avoid a pregnancy initially, and choose to simply wait until the fertile time passes to consummate their marriage, should their wedding night be during the fertile time. This is, of course, an intensely personal decision.

Perhaps you can make an appt to discuss all this with your teacher personally. You can review your chart together, clarify both the short term and long term expectations, and develop together a plan for managing these challenging questions.

Answered By:

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