Mistaken Conception (Or The Time I Thought NFP Let Me Down)

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The most accurate results are obtained in the morning, the instructions pointed out. I clutched the unopened pregnancy test that night and sank to the floor. The suspense just added to the angst I was already feeling.

This was just about the worst possible time for me to get pregnant, I reflected. My husband, with a nerve disorder in both arms, couldn’t physically help around the house or with the kids and was finding it harder to maintain his studio as a private music teacher (let alone play his instrument); in fact, one of the schools where he worked had just let him go; though we were struggling financially, as a self-employed, independent contractor, he couldn’t get disability benefits; we had recently moved and had only managed to unpack the basics, so everything was chaotic; I had just gone back to work part-time in a stressful job that didn’t end up paying well; and we had two little ones: a preschooler and a fifteen-month-old.

Then I thought of what some of my friends and family would think. This would, in their minds, just confirm how dumb an idea NFP was. Announcing a pregnancy at this difficult time in our lives would be so humiliating.

Would it be better to admit I had messed up?

The irony of it all was that neither of us had even been in the mood! I had been exhausted that night but had it in my mind that we’d better do something because I knew the abstinence period was probably going to start the next day. My husband was wrapped up in the World Series; I later found out that—unbelievably—he would have been happy to forego but only complied because I had said something! Our intimacy that night was an act of self-sacrifice on the part of us both. However, in my weariness I forgot that that morning I had found the slightest, smallest sign of oncoming fertility, earlier than expected. Another reason it hadn’t stuck in my mind was probably that it had taken so long to conceive our first two children—months and months of trying, during the most fertile days—who would have expected me to get pregnant on the very outer edges of fertility this time?

So a month later, just thinking of being pregnant on top of everything made me sob my heart out. I was already so tired! After a while, I thought of asking God for help, but then . . . I didn’t know what to pray. Either there was someone in my womb already or there wasn’t.

That thought gave me pause. If a new little person were inside of me, I wouldn’t want my child in any way to feel unwanted. So I just put the whole thing to rest and went to bed.

In the morning, I took the test, reminding God that He was supposed to know what we could or couldn’t handle.

It was positive.

I laughed.

Unbelievably, I laughed. But I was able to just say, “Okay, this is definitely on you. I don’t know how we’re going to do this otherwise.”

And you know . . . it all worked out.

My husband—after seeing 17 doctors and physical therapists over a few years—finally got a treatment that worked. By the time that third child was born, my husband, who previously couldn’t even pick up a serving spoon, was well on the road to recovery and able to pick her up and hold her. In addition, a distant relative passed away and unexpectedly left us something—not a huge legacy, but enough to take off the strain. In fact, it was the one year I was able to stop working and just mother those precious children. In fact, looking back almost two decades later, the first year of that child’s life was the most peaceful year in our family history.

She was an easy baby too. Her older siblings adored her and helped me by playing with her—for instance, when I was making dinner. Life with a new baby was much easier with her than it had been the first two times.

And our third child has continued to be a deep well of sweetness, love, and peace in our lives. Even when she was an adolescent, her eldest sibling sometimes called her “the saint in the family”—not in a sarcastic way, but proudly. I called her my “self-regulating” child, as she almost seemed to raise herself. Of course, she needed us, and we loved her and took care of her and gladly did everything for her that we should. What I mean is that most of the time she needed to be corrected only once; after that, it was never an issue. It was as though God went out of his way to show us that he knew what he was doing, and we didn’t need to worry.

We’ve had other struggles and difficulties of course, but this child—whose conception had initially seemed such a calamity—was never one of them.

NFP has always worked very well for us. In 28 years of marriage, we worked with our fertility in a natural way, without harm to my body or to our family and are so grateful for every child we were blessed to have. In that time, we had one pregnancy unplanned by us, but that wasn’t due to any deficiency in the method. I made a “mistake” one night: I forgot a sign of fertility I had seen earlier that day . . . and I’m so very glad I did.


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