I think I have saved the most unusual and unexpected aspects of “NFP” worth improving for last. So many view it on a shallow level, but you will see that fertility awareness is multi-faceted and dynamic when you begin to unpack it. If we approach it as such, I think we can have quite the impact on families and culture.
One of the most disappointing things I have witnessed as a Creighton Practitioner is the surprising lack of interest that so many good Catholic men seem to have in the fertility of the woman they love, which should be recognized as their combined fertility. When I have witnessed a man who is sincere in the attention he gives to the whole process (from discernment to accepting crosses to involvement in method), there is a palpable difference in their relationship. What exactly that looks like for each individual couple will be unique and determined by them alone. It takes two people to co-create new life with God, and this should be reflected well before and well after each act of intercourse.
To improve this type of engagement, men need to begin being encouraged by other men before they are married. Early education is important for men, too! We all benefit from being educated on the fertility process and challenged early on to reverence reproduction as a combined responsibility and combined appreciation for God’s impeccable design for the transmission of new life. It will look differently than for girls, but also change over time as more information becomes relevant. I would be interested to see how this early education might affect the rate of teenage promiscuity in addition to marital intimacy.
9. Access to Information
Another common request by women is for information on fertility awareness to be more easily accessible. They want to hear about that and the whole picture of birth control from the pulpit and in marriage prep. They want church teaching on contraception and openness in discernment of growing families to be explained clearly. They want early access to FABMs promoted for the health of younger generations. A list of resources to help people find research, websites that differentiate between methods (find two options in #6), a list of local and long-distance instructors, “NFP-friendly” doctors (doctors who won’t give women a hard time for declining birth control), and doctors who provide restorative reproductive medicine (fertilitycare.org and mycatholicdoctor.com).
Offer group introductory sessions from multiple different methods and invite instructors or speakers to give talks that go into more detail than church leaders can provide. When attending a group intro session, the couples will most likely be expected to pay a fee – not the Church parish. If the Church is simply hosting a general talk, they should compensate speakers fairly for their time which includes the speaking itself and hours of hard work in preparation for such.
Improving access means at least attempting to make posters, handouts, social media, and websites appear inviting in order to attract people to the important information. Whether we’re ready for it or not, communication is becoming modernized and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There are many ways that the Church cannot and should not conform, but marketing style isn’t one of them. I bet there are many parishioners with experience who are willing to help. Some churches and Catholic organizations are doing an awesome job at this. Some others find it hard to make changes. If we want fertility awareness to thrive as the asset to our families, faith, and community it is, we have to be willing to invest in it all around.
10. Financial Concerns
Financial cost varies between methods and between providers. For some methods, the cost decreases and nearly disappears over time. Insurance is slowly beginning to cover some methods under very specific conditions that most cannot fulfill. HSA and FSA do typically reimburse. It can be a high expense that is difficult to afford and may prevent some from accessing it, but many offer sliding scale payment options and won’t turn a client down for financial reasons.
This does not mean the cost should be lowered. Instructors spend a significant amount of time and money to be highly trained in providing this crucial service that so many count on. Being Church approved does not make it a charity. It is a part-job for many whose hard work deserves to be fairly compensated, as with any other profession. Some views on cost may be a reflection of its perceived unimportance by our culture. We are generally willing to pay for the things we deem worth it. Hopefully this will improve along with proper education of what NFP/fertility awareness actually is.
Regardless, there is a lot Church parishes can do to help improve access. There are two local priests in my area that pay for their engaged couples’ Intro session and materials for one year. Parishioners can donate to a fund used to support potential clients in need or to fully sponsor them. What about allocating a portion of the collection at mass on different days throughout the year? Couples benefit from going to sessions together, but are often unable to do so because of children at home. Babysitting opportunities can be explored as well. With widespread improved education on fertility awareness, people may be more willing to contribute.
11. Becoming Familiar with Social Media
Whether you are using social media or not, your audience is. We are composed of many different generations and many of us are learning about numerous topics daily. Social media has become an excellent vehicle for connecting with each other and strengthening our faith. Recommend accounts to follow that will educate and motivate them in regards to NFP/fertility awareness, single life, and marriage.
There are a large number of couples who desire to get married in the Catholic Church, but are unaware of what it means to live out a marriage that is faithful to God and each other – and many times it is through no fault of their own. My husband and I are a relatively new marriage prep mentor couple and have had one engaged couple who had been living together for years to test the waters because no one ever taught them otherwise, nor had they witnessed authentic Catholic living. They were not opposed to the hard truths communicated with love, but set free by this expression of our faith that was new to them. This beautiful expression of our faith lived out is something I constantly witness on IG.
I am by no means suggesting that social media will solve all of our problems. But for many, it will be their only access to genuine representations of our beliefs. From a young age, we need to see women and men who are living their Catholic faith through the same struggles and triumphs as we are both in person and on the web. Social media is just one of many ways this can be done. You do not have to use or understand any platform to direct others to it. Go to marygbruno.com for a list of some of my favorite resources.
Understanding these concepts equips us to have more empowering conversations and provide more access to important information. From church leaders to marriage prep mentors to the people in the pew, we are all always learning and growing. These eleven points are some of the most important ones that I have identified within the realm of NFP and the explanations I have provided are only scratching the surface for some of them. Stay tuned to my page for more easily digestible ideas and information to improve education and accessibility to fertility awareness.