It’s almost NFP Awareness week (July 23)! It’s easy to get swept away in NFP promotion and forget that it’s not always a breezy journey for everyone. So here we have laid out the guide to promoting Natural Family Planning without the rose-colored glasses. The three most important things to keep in mind when sharing your love of Natural Family Planning are sincerity in the struggles you have encountered, joy in the wonderful parts, and flexibility in allowing others to be where they are on their journey.
Sharing Your Struggles
NFP can be hard. I don’t think I’m the only person ever to say that. In seasons of difficult charting – like postpartum, perimenopause, times of stress, or hormonal imbalance, it can be hard to find the type of support you need. Sometimes finding NFP support period can be a challenge. NFP Instruction is not usually a full time job, therefore instructors are often fitting it amidst their already busy lives. While there are chat rooms and facebook groups and great literature on learning NFP, nothing replaces that one-on-one exchange.
Abstaining can be hard. Biology has other plans. Dealing with questions of whether or not your pregnancy was planned can be awkward at best, and downright offensive at worst. As I’ve written before, the decision to grow your family is not always an on/off switch. NFP is not, by definition, a wonder drug for your relationship. It will not solve pre-existing issues, it won’t make your in-laws any easier to deal with, and it certainly won’t clear up any financial debt.
Before I crush your spirits, this is not to say that NFP is dreadful, or even unfavorable. It’s just important to be honest about the struggles that can accompany the choice to use NFP. When one person speaks out about their challenge, another person says, “Hey, me too.” And another pipes up, “Yes! Same!” These voices deserve a place in the conversation. Otherwise, they don’t get heard and it becomes too easy to outcast them.
So if it’s not a wonder drug, then what it is it? NFP can be an amazing tool for couples and women. One of the reasons we hear so often that NFP has improved relationships and health is because it can. When couples are communicative, and open, and working through their challenges, NFP can open many wonderful doors. The empowerment a woman gains by learning her cycles is alone reason enough to get excited about sharing NFP! It’s important to share your joy. I love teaching women simply because it’s a joy to watch them grow in the self-discovery that they had never realized was possible.
Along with joy, (and empowerment and sheer awesomeness of knowing your cycles), there are the undeniable health benefits to steering clear of hormonal contraceptives. Some people are desperate to find an alternative for both managing hormonal health and family planning. It’s important for the risks of hormonal contraception to be considered, but emphasizing the health benefits of NFP is key, including an improved ability to figure out what hormonal imbalances may be behind symptoms and what to do about them.
Meeting People Where They Are
Lastly, and arguably the most important thing to keep in mind when promoting NFP is flexibility. Meet people where they are. Listen to their journey and don’t try to place them on yours. Maybe they’re not ready yet, maybe they don’t want to use an app, maybe they don’t want to learn X method, or maybe they want to blend a few methods. I always tell my clients the most effective method of NFP is the method they feel is sustainable for their lifestyle and fits in line with their family planning intentions. Maybe they don’t really care if they get pregnant so they don’t need a super strict set of rules. Or maybe they want as many biomarkers as possible. Or maybe they hate paper charting or can visualize better with a different style of chart.
The reason flexibility is so important is that people will never listen to you if you’re not first listening to them. You can plant the seed by sharing your joys and yes, your struggles, but then let them make the choice for themselves. I’ve had people ponder getting off the pill for months, even years before making the switch. But when they do, they are stoked to jump in and learn about their cycles.
So now that you have a guide for promoting NFP without the syrup, we want to know: how you are planning to celebrate NFP Awareness Week? Writing a blog piece? Giving a talk at a local library? The awesome thing about the NFP community is that most of us really do love it and just want to share the love. So here is a challenge for you: if you are interested in sharing your joys and struggles about NFP (and how you overcame them), send us your story. We’ll get as many as we can on our blog during NFP week. Not sure how to start? Use this short questionnaire.
Photo credit: Tango by Anna and Michal