Thursday, March 19, 2015

How Learning NFP Led this Couple to Convert to Catholicism: Why NFP?

Alicia and Thomas Sanjurjo have been married for 10 years, have 5 kids on the every-other-year-plan (ages 9,7,5,3,2) and have heard every inquiry about their family size as if it were bizarre. Is five really that many? Thomas works at Nativity Catholic School in Brandon, Florida as the technology teacher for grades K-8. Alicia is an accomplished librarian, channeling her book prowess into intensive home schooling / circus training (serious on the home schooling, only partly joking on the circus training). They've been using NFP since 2009.

1. Why do you use NFP?

The practical one in our marriage (Alicia) says we use NFP to space pregnancies. Which is absolutely true.  Otherwise, we'd have children one on top of the other. But we have also found a great many other benefits, spiritual, emotional, and physical, because of it. In particular, we credit learning about Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body while learning about NFP for our entering into the Catholic Church in 2010.

2. Which method of NFP works best for you?

We use the Sympto-Thermal method presented by Couple to Couple League International. It's very easy to understand, not at all intrusive, and if you don't start in a post-pregnancy cycle, it's probably even really easy to learn (says the voice of experience). It works best for us because Thomas does the charting which allows us to both be aware of our fertility. Alicia points out that Thomas is at fault for being fertile all the time, which is true.

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

The cons are having to make our own choices about what constitutes a good reason to abstain. We have a running joke that the Church needs to develop a flowchart -- a quick, clear guide on what constitutes a valid reason to abstain.  But there's really no easy answer for it.

Ironically, the pros are getting to make our own choices about what constitutes a good reason to abstain. Everyone's situation is so unique, how we deal with our situation is unique too.

The other benefit that we've found with NFP is the constant awareness we have of each other, from the daily little stresses to the very big ones that would otherwise go unnoticed. We have to talk these through on a regular basis when we're discerning if we are abstaining. We're also very happy about the lack of adding extra chemicals to Alicia's system.

4. What NFP resources does your diocese have?

There are several different teaching methods that work within the Diocese of St. Petersburg (Florida) to share NFP instructional opportunities. There is also a local OB/GYN practice, called Women First Center, which doesn't prescribe birth control. It's a wonderful practice with doctors (a married couple) who teach at parishes about NFP and other pro-life issues.

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

Couple to Couple League has been fantastic. We get a regular news letter from them, and it is always full of great articles, as well as having the ability to retake classes and keep contact with your teaching couple has been very useful. Learning about the Theology of the Body is helpful on a spiritual level, and finding other large families is a must on the social level.

Alicia says that the most beneficial resource she's experienced is going to an obstetrics/gynecology practice where she isn't treated like an alien for not being interested in contraceptives.

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

We both agree it would be a lot quieter around here! We both always wanted a large family, but we had originally talked about waiting to have kids. Then we were convicted about not using contraceptives due to a public service announcement on our local Catholic radio. The month we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, we had our oldest child.

When we look back now, had we waited, it's likely we would have decided there were too many risks involved in having even as many kids as we have now. Add to that the fact that we wouldn't have had to discuss *why* we were contracepting, and just lived with it as status quo until we wanted to try again.

Even without wanting a large family, making a choice to welcome a new life is much more immediate than waiting as many as three menstrual cycles to come off of a hormonal contraceptive. The reason we turned to NFP was because they started coming so quickly. :^) As is, five honestly doesn’t seem like that many, though. Just one handful.

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