The people NFP made {NFP Awareness Week}

It’s Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, in case you weren’t… um, aware. Much has been written about it, in every corner of the Catholic blogosphere.  How it strengthens your marriage, how it’s better for your body and the environment than hormone-based birth control, how terrible and/or wonderful it is, hyper-fertility and sub-fertility, you name it.  Quite honestly, even though Kevin and I have practiced NFP (sometimes vigilantly, sometimes very lazily) for our entire marriage, I didn’t think there was much to add to the plethora of information shared by better writers.

I happen to have the distinction, however, of being an adult child in a family formed by NFP.  I come from a family that, by today’s standards, is insanely – some might say obscenely – large.  I’m the second oldest of eleven children (and the only girl until I was nearly 16 years old – a little sympathy please?). Since that’s a curiosity to most of the western world, I thought I’d share how I feel about my parents’ choice to practice NFP, and to openly accept more children than most people thought necessary or even wise.

Let me back up.  My parents married young and had my older brother within a year.  They were practicing Catholics, and my mom was one of the original granola moms (tofu and homeschooling in the 80’s firmly planted us in that category) but my parents didn’t always practice NFP. Or rather, they did, but rather haphazardly, and without fully understanding the teachings, the *why* of Natural Family Planning.  Soon, my parents found themselves with 6 children under 9 years old, tired and unsure of why they were continuing with NFP when it didn’t seem to be helping them space their children at all.

Struggling to find balance in their lives, they consulted with a priest about the possibility of seeking permanent birth control via a vasectomy.  The priest congratulated them on being open to life up to that point, and told them he would never be able to counsel them to permanently end their fertility.  That wasn’t quite what my parents were hoping for, but they trusted the priest and decided to focus their efforts on practicing NFP more intentionally.

Thank God.  Thank you God for that priest. If my parents had sought the counsel of a less faithful priest, or no counsel at all, my life – indeed, the world – would be radically different.

Over the next few years, my parents felt their hearts being called to having more children.  My mom likes to half-joke that the only kids who weren’t surprises (she hates the term “accidents”) were the last four. After years of struggling to suppress their fertility, they finally embraced it and are eternally grateful for the blessings of all 11 of their children.

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My brother Nathan: a husband, an intellectual, a chiropractor, an outdoorsman (and his lovely wife, also from an NFP family)

How would my life be different without NFP? Well, I’d be missing:

  • 2 brothers
  • 3 sisters (I’d have no sisters at all, in fact.)
  • 1 sister-in-law
  • 3 potential brothers-in-law
  • ??? potential nieces and nephews
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My brother Stephen: a seminarian, a beloved uncle (that’s baby Aliya in that photo), a friend

The world would be missing:

  • a chiropractor
  • a seminarian
  • a prayer warrior
  • an artist
  • an animal lover
  • 2 college students
  • 2 redheads
  • 1 lovely lady with heterochromia iridium
  • 1 introvert
  • 4 extroverts
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My sister Katerina: a college student, a thinker, a missionary, a prayer warrior, a lover of laughter, and the lone introvert in our loud family. (Photo credit: Matt Seal)

My family would have less conflicts, and possibly greater wealth, I suppose.  But we’d also have fewer:

  • Weddings
  • Birthdays
  • Baby showers
  • Philosophical debates
  • Ridiculous family competitions (Spoons, anyone?)
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My sister Anne Marie: a college student, an artist (she designed my blog header), a true friend (Photo credit: Matt Seal)

and far less:

  • Laughter
  • Love
  • Support
  • Friendship
  • Opportunities for serving each other
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My sister Teresa: a dreamer, a model, a nanny and the best “big sister” playmate my kids have ever had. (Photo credit: Allyson Walsh)

These 5 people, and any future children they may have, exist because my parents, at great personal sacrifice, chose not to permanently end their fertility.  These are my brothers and sisters that exist because of NFP.

This is what people often miss when we talk about the Church asking us to be open to life.  It’s not an abstract concept or a list of rules, far from it.  Our fertility  strikes at the deepest desires of our heart: the longing to create as God has created and to love a child as God has loved us.  Christ, through His Church, double-dog dares us to live in love and not fear, to trust and let loose our iron grip on control.

I am a child of NFP, and Kevin and I are forming our family the same way.  I don’t want to get past my childbearing years and wonder if I refused my children the same love God has showered upon me through the gift of my siblings. NFP doesn’t just open us up to more babies, more children.  It allows us to give the world irreplaceable people.

NFP changes everything.

NFP4

Comments

  1. Micaela, this was so amazingly beautiful. I love this perspective you wrote from. Thank God for your parents “yes”!

    I am the eldest of 9 and come from a VERY similar background….eight brothers, but no sisters. I’m grateful my parents practiced NFP so that I now have eight strapping men who’ve got my back. 😉
    Laurel recently posted…Breakfast Peach Crisp ~ {Eat Seasonal}My Profile

  2. I spend a lot of time thinking and feeling conflicted about NFP for a single girl, and this is such a lovely witness to it. I really pray to live the same courage your parents and you have shown in NFP when I hopefully have the opportunity to have my own family.
    Brigid recently posted…favorites for summer skinMy Profile

  3. This is so beautiful!
    Tomato recently posted…Why I Use NFP: For a Healthier MeMy Profile

  4. I love this Micaela! I am grateful that my parents were open to life enough that God was able to surprise them with my baby brother at almost 40. I am also glad that God called me from my contraception ways and has so far blessed us with 3 children. The timing for all of them was different than I would have picked and just goes to show that God knows best. If my heart had not been called to really embrace the full meaning of being open to life, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here with a precious baby girl on my lap, and that would just be heartbreaking. I can’t imagine never having the unspeakable joy of knowing each of my children and my brother. Thanks for sharing your story!
    Jennifer @ Little Silly Goose recently posted…Anticipating baby girlMy Profile

  5. This is beautiful, Micaela! My husband is the youngest of nine and I often shudder to think of what I would have missed out on had his parents taken what I’m sure was the advice of many, and stopped having children. I also think frequently on how incomplete our extended family would be without any of my parents’ (combined) eleven siblings and their children/grandchildren. I wonder what my brother and I missed out on because my parents contracepted, even after we BEGGED them for more siblings.
    Julie recently posted…7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 34): He’s Not Afraid to Climb the Roof, But I’m Afraid to Ride a BikeMy Profile

  6. Frances says:

    I’m a student at Franciscan and I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks. As it turns out, you’re my friend’s older sister! I did a double take when I saw Katerina’s picture and started laughing out loud at how small the Catholic world is!

  7. So beautiful Micaela. NFP does give us irreplaceable people. I don’t want to die and find out that God wanted me to mother someone who could have changed history and I refused. So sharing this!

  8. Jen Butcher says:

    Love this article, Micaela! I cried reading it, knowing your beautiful family and the impact that they have had on my family! I remember when your folks came to a bible study at my parish and spoke about NFP and we thought, “what, they have 11 kids, it obviously doesn’t work!”. That night changed our lives forever. We now have 7 beautiful children and so many great memories as we became close to your family. We miss them terribly since we left California but they have left a permanent imprint on our lives by teaching us about NFP and homeschooling and what it means to have a God centered marriage. Oh I could go on and on. Thanks for this beautiful reflection! Hugs to all of you!!!! Jen Butcher

  9. This is beautiful. What love God has shown your family!

  10. I can relate. I’m seventh of eleven! Excellent piece!
    Ana recently posted…From Number Two’s blogMy Profile

  11. oh…Micaela…this post just gives me goosebumps.
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  12. Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this!

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