Monday, October 13, 2014

Why and How Natural Family Planning Works for Us: Ben & Tina

This month's Natural Family Planning poster couple (so-to-speak) are Ben & Tina Butera from Bloomingdale, Illinois. They've used NFP for all of their 14-year marriage, and they have three children -- Antonio, age 12, Francesca, age 10, and Marianna, age 7. Although their main reason for using NFP is "doing what God wants," Tina and Ben also received an immense medical benefit when NFP helped them recognize warning signs early in Tina's last pregnancy, leading them to take steps to avoid possible miscarriage. To learn more about Ben and his faith, you can visit his Faith & Reason blog called Two Catholic Men & a Blog.

1. Why do you use NFP?

Aside from the obvious of wanting to live as God wants, we’ve always been uncomfortable with hypocrisy with ourselves or in others. We’re either in or out when doing something important, hot or cold. We live by either all Church teaching or none, and NFP certainly offers better family planning than no method at all. [Editor's Note: The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks out against artificial contraception, but praises Natural Family Planning.]

It brings a sense of peace to be in line with Church teaching. It is doing what God wants, even when one does not have full comprehension of natural law or the Theology of the Body, plus it’s something we do together.

2. Which method of NFP works best for you?

We have always used the sympto-thermal method. We primarily use body temperature and mucus signs, but also other, more subtle signs like cramping, temperament (mood), appetite and time (the day of the fertility cycle), etc.

3. What are the biggest pros and cons of using NFP, in your experience?


More knowledge fosters better family planning: It’s not only for avoiding pregnancy and spacing children, but also achieving pregnancy. You’ll know if you’re pregnant before a doctor can know. Many women miscarry without even knowing they were pregnant. We knew we were pregnant with our 3rd child not long after conception and noticed some unusual signs, so my wife consulted with a doctor. A prescription to boost a hormone may have prevented the miscarriage of our youngest daughter.

The method of NFP we use is “green,” costs nothing, and is all-natural. In fact, there are those who use NFP simply because they prefer to do things naturally instead of artificially (no theological reason). It’s really just common sense.

NFP also fosters better communication. Whether avoiding or achieving pregnancy, if you’re going to be intimate with each other, you’ll need to stay in “intimate” communication on a fairly regular basis. It’s gotten better with time for us. We experienced how a women’s cycle can become more regular after having children, which makes NFP easier to do. As you start having children, spacing them out can become more and more important, so the woman’s cycle becomes easier to read. God knows what he’s doing when he designs something. Also, if avoiding pregnancy, the cycles of abstaining and being together mirror a natural dating-honeymoon cycle that continually breathes new life into a marriage.


As that Tom Petty song says, “The waiting is the hardest part”. If avoiding pregnancy, waiting until an infertile time can be challenging.  Also, the women may be “in the mood” most around ovulation time. But truly, all the pros far outweigh the cons. If the Church changed its teaching tomorrow (which is not possible by the way), we would still live as we do now.

4. What NFP resources does your diocese have?

Our diocese, the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, offers classes on the Billings Ovulation Method (BOMA) of NFP.

5. What NFP resources have been most useful to you?

We basically have only used those resources offered from the Couple to Couple League.

6. How do you think your marriage would be different if you used artificial contraception instead of NFP?

It’s hard for us to judge since we have practiced NFP for so long. We think intimate times might become routine or less special. We might see each other more as objects in terms of intimacy. With NFP we are on the same page in terms of when we should be together or not. There is communication even without talking. Without it we might wonder what the other is thinking in terms of when is the next time we might “be together” which could lead to frustration or resentment.

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  1. 3 Cons:

    "..Also, the women may be “in the mood” most around ovulation time. .."
    That means that for all her active life, the woman does not enjoy making love when she wants.....all her active life, not only sometimes.

    Does the man carry the same burden ? In point: he is required by his wife to make love when he doesn't feel like doing it, but, he has to refrain, when he wants it most.... all his life, not only from time to time.

  2. You raise some excellent points, but the situation is not quite so grim. Not all women feel heightened desire around ovulation time. And of course since birth control pills suppress ovulation, any heightened desire would be chemically suppressed during the time that a woman is on the pill, making it no better as an alternative.

    Moreover, people don't use NFP continuously to avoid pregnancy. When not avoiding pregnancy, this is not an issue at all. During the whole nine months of pregnancy, couples can make love whenever they want. Breastfeeding on demand can also stop the ovulatory cycle, making it unnecessary to be careful about the time of marital relations.

    As for a man being "required by his wife to make love when he doesn't feel like doing it," certainly a wife shouldn't impose on her husband if he is genuinely unwilling. I don't suspect this is a widespread problem, however.

  3. Great points, Karee Santos! Thank you! I would like to add that there is another time at the end of the cycle that offers a heightened response for women.

    As well, "the woman does not enjoying making love when she wants..." I think misses the fact that sexual desire does not just have an "on/off" switch. Emotional desire leads the way into a beautiful encounter even when physical desire needs a little help getting started! The tenderness, selflessness, and attention that the husband offers the wife is what can elevate a physical act to an act of love.

    1. You're absolutely right that love and desire can't be reduced to hormonal impulses! Sexual enjoyment has a huge emotional component as well.