Unification News for July and August 1998

Rhythm and Family Planning

Opinion by Cathi Close-Arlington VA

After the birth of my first child, about 13 years ago, I learned about a class that was being offered at a local Catholic church. The class essentially taught the rhythm method using a variety of techniques from temperature to interpreting cycles. It wasnít taught as a birth control method but as family planning. The manual, which the church still uses, is called The Art of Natural Family Planning. This approach is not only endorsed by the Catholic church but taught there. It is not viewed as artificial birth control because it isnít. It is an art and it is natural. I highly recommend the course.

Through this course (which couples take together), a woman learns things about her monthly cycle which she never knew before. This understanding offers us a deeper appreciation of the complexities and mysteries of our bodies, most especially, our reproductive system. Through learning more about the timing of fertilization, a couple can use their knowledge to either plan a pregnancy or space pregnancies. This is the essential concept here. It is recognized that new life is Godís intention through the love of husband and wife, but it is also taking into consideration that to a certain extent we can plan for these little lives and thereís nothing artificial or faithless about that.

Emphasis is put on love, not the sex act. If a couple are hoping to space their children, then during the wifeís fertile time, it can be an opportunity to practice other ways to love and delaying sex can become sort of like practicing chastity before marriage. It gives you something to look forward to! Nursing is also one form of Godís own natural family spacing (one that I wish far more women took advantage of). The fact that a womanís menstrual cycle is delayed anywhere from 3 months to 2 years when she nurses is a very clear indication that God intends each little one to get lots of undivided attention from Mom and Dad.

I think itís great to talk about the ultimate ideal and having as many children as possible. But the reality is that we are far from being close to that ideal. Rarely in this country do we live in a situation in which our extended family is involved and available to help us raise our children. This is part of the ideal which goes hand in hand with having a large family. Also, many women begin child-bearing now much later in life. This can work against having many children and increases the dangers of birth defects. There are many factors which each couple must consider between themselves and God. Family planning or the rhythm method is not the same as using a contraceptive. It is not demonstrating a lack of trust in God but a shared responsibility. After all, we are co-creators, arenít we?

And above all, natural family planning still allows for those "acts of God" which birth control usually refers to as "mistakes." I had that experience myself and I wouldnít trade the little guy for the world! Still, because of my age and other factors, my health was greatly at risk during that pregnancy. I endured eight months of extreme sickness during which our other children were seriously neglected and then two more years of other health-related problems, during which time our children continued to receive limited parenting and attention from me. This is real life and another pregnancy would probably devastate me and my family. So, what does one do? Stop having sex altogether? Just have faith and take whatever risks and additional children as they come? I could easily live with the first choice and Iím sure my husband would have no problem with the second. After, itís not his body that dies a little with each birth....

Bottom line for me is, Iíd like to stay out of a wheelchair as long as my littlest one is still in a stroller! (Iím certain this child is going to grow up and accomplish amazing things in his life. Iím just trying to survive until then!) Heís a child who clearly requires the stamina of a 22-year-old mother, not a 42-year-old one. So, as a result, I pray a lot...and take plenty of vitamins (I am sometimes dream of investing in a toddler straitjacket). I do have faith in God. I have faith that God provided natural family planning for situations like this. I abhor birth control devices. They give me the creeps. They cheapen the love act, not to mention cause a multitude of side effects.

Now, as for the ideal, letís work toward it.e-mail: Cathi.Mike@JUNO.com 

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