Did you always want to be a doula?
I always loved the sciences. I initially started pre-med in undergrad and ultimately decided that I wanted to be able to spend more time with the people whom I was providing some sort of care for than a primary care physician or a surgeon is currently able to. I ended up in the mental health field, where I got to spend extended time with those I was providing care for. Eventually, however, the Lord called me out of that.
Was it hard to follow a call out of that field?
I was pretty mad about that at the time, but while that was happening, I was also going through a reversion. I grew up Catholic, but there was a chunk of time during grad school where it was really hard to live out my faith, and I felt like I didn’t know Jesus well enough to know why I had been doing all the things that the Church teaches one ought to do. It was the first time that I really bumped up against “do I really believe this” and “have my actions always aligned with what I at least wanted to believe?”
How did this conversion help you clarify your faith?
Finally, during that time, I was with friends and mentors who had been walking that walk with Jesus for a long time and who could explore those deep questions with me —“Why does the Church teach what she teaches?” “How do we live that out?” and “Do I believe that?” — ultimately, the answer has been “Yes.”
How did that lead you to become an Natural Family Planning instructor?
During that time of conversion, a friend of mine was engaged. She and her fiance were being trained in NFP for their own use and, knowing I was a science geek, lent me her NFP manual. I read the manual cover to cover in two days, and it was a pretty hefty manual. I had all these “a-ha moments,” and my science brain was just on fire in the most enjoyable way of drawing out all these connections.
How did you react to what you had read?
I love metaphor and symbolism. So, I saw all these scientific truths, but they also pointed me toward theological truths. (These were) things I had heard growing up in the faith but didn’t know why. So, finally, I saw some of the why and how of human sexuality, and desire and married love from the angle of science. It was beautiful, and it really kind of tore my heart open in the best possible way.
How would you explain NFP to those who are not familiar?
First, it’s not just a hopeful guess. A woman’s body is potentially fertile for only a window of time within a given menstrual cycle, and a man is fertile 24/7/365, barring infertility issues. So, as a woman is experiencing these shifts in her fertility, there are biological changes that we can observe. NFP is all based on being able to identify and track those changes accurately.
Can you give an example?
Throughout a given menstrual cycle, a couple can track and notice these changes. That helps them to know when this window opens and closes for when they could potentially conceive a new life. And we’ll also know then what time they would not expect to conceive a child if they were to have sex.
What changes can you observe?
Shifts in basal body temperature and changes in the cervical fluid can be observed outside a woman’s body. Changes in hormone levels can be measured through urinary test strips. There are some internal changes that some methods incorporate and some don’t. For example, the cervix’s height changes, the cervix’s texture and how it actually opens and closes. Many different things are trackable, and with a trained teacher, some time and some dedication, NFP can be fairly easy to learn.
What advice do you have for couples in the trenches with NFP?
Start with prayer. It feels almost disheartening to say because you want an active thing to do first, and prayer is receptive, but the best advice is to start with your prayer life. Ask Jesus for the grace to live out his will together as a couple and for copious amounts of protection against division in your marriage, because it’s so easy to feel when you’re not able to share that beautiful part of marriage that it’s you against me, rather than us facing this challenging season together.
After prayer, what else should couples do when NFP gets hard?
Remember, you’re on the same team. Remember, you both desire to be together. If you’ve got friends in the trenches as well, some healthy commiserating can be helpful and a morale boost. If you have an instructor, seek their support and recommendations. Ideally, an instructor will know the couple somewhat well and can provide suggestions for how to handle those tricky seasons, especially those trying to avoid for long stretches. If you don’t have a certified teacher, I highly recommend getting one because they are so helpful. Perhaps there are usable days that you’re not noticing or seeing, and they can work with you to accurately identify things that may slip through the cracks.
If a couple does not have an NFP teacher, how could they find one?
The archdiocese has a list on our website, and I’m happy to make referrals. I can be reached at email@example.com or 414-758-2241.