Many of the couples I teach are switching to the Marquette Method as a last-ditch effort to follow the Catholic Church’s teachings on natural family planning (NFP), having struggled with NFP in the past.
I often meet couples who are exhausted, discouraged, and frankly don’t feel very optimistic about learning yet-another NFP method.
This blog is the NFP story of one of my clients, and was written by my client. It’s inspiring, to say the least. It’s the raw and deeply personal story of her marriage and of the challenges and frustrations of her NFP journey so far. This couple’s commitment to the teachings of the Church is profound. I’m honored to be able to share it with you.
If you don’t have textbook cycles, NFP can be challenging. This story will give you hope.
A Rough Start with NFP
Everything was set. The flowers were ordered, the Church was booked, and my dress looked amazing. All was ready for our wedding—just one week away—except one massive problem…the honeymoon.
I had been working with a lovely young lady in the months leading up to my wedding to learn a mucus-type natural family planning (NFP) method, but all my charts kept reading that I could get pregnant on any day in my cycle! That’s not possible, but my charts kept showing that I was fertile all the time.
In a last-ditch effort to get the system figured out, a friend referred me to another NFP coach, who ushered in a totally different way of monitoring and managing my fertility.
“How do you feel down there?” I remember hearing on the phone.
Well, other than totally uncomfortable and embarrassed, I was stressed! We were days away from the wedding and I had no idea what I was doing. NFP wasn’t something I needed to know just for my honeymoon. It was supposed to be information I needed for the rest of my marriage.
The wedding was wonderful, the pictures were breathtaking, and now we were off to start our life. A getaway for just the two of us … but first a very awkward conversation with my brand-new mother-in-law. “You and Dad taught NFP classes … what are the top tips that you can tell us?”
They taught us a new method which included mucus, temperature, and cervix checks. Armed with three methods I headed into my new life with no real understanding of what we were doing. So, we did what we thought would be the most logical: We combined our knowledge of all three different NFP methods into one. How could we go wrong with that?
We became pregnant with our first child 6 months into our marriage and with our second child 2 years later. Things seemed to be working well for us, until a surprise third baby came screaming into our family a mere 11 months after the birth of our second.
Charts that Read “Caution! You’re Going to Get Pregnant.”
We knew we needed to do something different in how we used NFP. We went back to the first mucus-type method of NFP, to be safe. Things started falling apart, however, in the months that followed, as month after month we were told to abstain. Once again, every day my charts read “Caution, you’re going to get pregnant.” As the weeks dragged on and the months piled up, so did the fights and the distance that was growing between my husband and I.
It was awful! We were miserable. We got to the point of asking ourselves if it was worth taking a chance on having a baby every time we wanted to be intimate. We took a chance after 9 months of abstaining, and baby number 4 was soon on the way.
After the birth, we went back to the mucus-type NFP method again and resumed the monotony of charting day after day of high chances of fertility, dreading that we were starting a months-long abstinence journey all over again. As the months added up, I remember challenging my coach and pleading, desperately,
“Is there anything we can do to make some days available in a month? Even just a couple?”
The discussion changed to maybe needing to cauterize my cervix so I didn’t produce as much mucus. The verbiage was the same as every other NFP method we tried: You’re broken, you don’t fit our mold, we don’t understand your charts. In the end, we were told “There isn’t anything more we can do for you … just keep abstaining while we wait to figure this out.”
As our fourth child grew closer to her first birthday, the thought of another baby crossed our minds, and we got pregnant on the first try. During the pregnancy, the discussion of what we would do after the baby was born quickly became the main topic of discussion. We knew we couldn’t keep abstaining for months on end at a time, but we also knew we couldn’t just take a chance and get pregnant any time we wanted to be intimate. We felt stuck and alone. We had reached our capacity with taking care of the kids we had, and we were running out of options.
Out of desperation, the conversation started turning toward having one of us sterilized. That was a conversation we never wanted to have, but it was looking like the only realistic option.
We were weeks away from having our fifth baby. We resolved that we would not pursue sterilization, but agreed we needed a method of NFP that did not hinge on my subjective observations and that would give consistent results in the chaos of life.
The concentration required to not pee while getting a mucus sample, while my kid’s fingers wiggle under the bathroom door as they scream “MOM I have something really important to tell you!” as my husband yells “What temperature did you want the oven set too?” was formidable. And it didn’t yield good results. I’d leave the bathroom thinking I could be fertile but hoping next bathroom break might be less chaotic.
Why We Hesitated to Learn the Marquette Method
I had heard of the Marquette Method from rumblings from friends, but I had heard that it was expensive and had dismissed it on that premise. But, as desperation grew at this point of my life, I was open to anything.
I had read up on Louise’s website a little more about the Marquette Method and was quickly sold on it as a method that was scientific, with biological markers that gave actual readings from a morning urine sample on a monitor.
I was ecstatic to say goodbye to the days of having to worry about fertility from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed—not to mention that I could stop caring about mucus in the middle of the night when using the restroom. (Who really has the time to check mucus in the middle of the night when totally disoriented from lack of sleep anyway?)
We connected with Louise. After baby #5 was born and I had recovered, I was excited to start the journey with the new method. However, like so many of my other NFP experiences, as my cycles started coming back it became clear I was not fitting the typical mold.
Some months, the Clearblue monitor was missing peak. I dreaded hearing what I’d heard so many times before—that I wasn’t typical, that the Marquette Method probably wouldn’t be a fit for us, that we needed to abstain for months on end, or that if we got pregnant it was our fault.
Finally, I Can Make Sense of My Cycles
Louise, however, had more arrows in her quiver than we were used to.
She added additional tests to get a handle on my cycle. In addition to doing urine tests in the morning with the Clearblue monitor, she added evening tests with LH strips. The new testing routine worked for a time, and then stopped working.
So, we started testing with progesterone tests to see if I was ovulating. Once we were able to confirm ovulation, we added temperature checking into the mix as well. While all this testing may look and sound like a massive checklist of things to do, it was easier to manage than a wipe-and-observe check every time you pee. Another perk of this approach was that it removed me from the equation. I no longer had to obsess over the accuracy of what I saw. My NFP routine was based off clear, objective tests.
Once we had gathered enough data, things finally, for the first time in our marriage, started to come together.
I could now accurately understand my fertility. Rather than having to guess and weigh risks, my husband and I felt that we could start make real decisions about whether we wanted to have another baby.
And we could make those decisions without month after month of forced abstinence.
We were able to permanently trash the topic of sterilization and live out our morals rather than sacrificing them for the sake of convenience.
In the end, I’ve finally found in the Marquette Method of NFP a method that works, and that gives me confidence, and that includes an instructor who can work with me to navigate my wacky charts. We have an instructor who does not look at someone like me, a total outlier according to other methods, as unfixable, but who instead told us,
“You’re not broken. I’m here for you. We’ll figure this out.”