Life Doesn't Always Happen the Way We Plan, and That's Okay.

April adventuring with two of her children.
April adventuring with two of her children.

Many people assert that Natural Family Planning (NFP) or Fertility Awareness isn’t just a method of birth control, but that it is a lifestyle. After having used NFP for almost nine years now, since shortly after the birth of my oldest child, I would agree. Some of my outlook on life has been influenced by my use of NFP, initially used to plan my family size but has since become so much more.
One thing about Fertility Awareness based methods is that for people with normal fertility, its users don’t have to do anything special to have a child. They just let nature take its course and they’ll typically get pregnant within a few cycles. In order to avoid pregnancy on the other hand, they need to put forth effort and sacrifice. I think this simple fact influences how couples aware of their fertility view having more children. For me, the natural state of things is to be open to having more. If I have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy (financial hardship, health reasons, or emotional reasons, like feeling overwhelmed and tired much of the time) we avoid. But if things are pretty much fine, why not more? Things don’t have to be perfect, but typically speaking, why not? When I look at the American culture though, it seems to be the exact opposite. It seems the default state is not to have children. However, if your life is going perfectly and after one has sufficiently planned out his or her career, education, home mortgage, all finances, and life is going on the trajectory that has been previously planned and agreed upon by the couple, then (and only then) it may be safe to try to have a child, while strictly adhering to the previously agreed upon schedule, of course.
When I think about it, I think being open to more children by default is probably more realistic. Because you know what? Life happens. I mean that both figuratively and literally. When does life ever happen just the way people plan for it? People change their jobs, move, experience illness, and sometimes they simply change their minds. We do things that we never thought we would do. Sometimes we even enjoy things that we ourselves never thought we would. It seems unrealistic to expect that everything that we think we will want is going to be what we actually will want in reality. I used to want to get my PhD in English and become a professor. While I still love English, and reading and writing are a significant part of my life, I am not doing what I thought I would. Some years ago, after years of undergraduate work mostly expecting to go to grad school, taking my GRE’s, researching several colleges, going through the whole application process and getting accepted to the Dusquesne University grad program, I simply decided that grad school wasn’t a priority for me anymore but being more present to my young children was. I never expected to feel great satisfaction in being a stay-at-home mom, but I do.
Our culture also likes to think that children can be planned with perfect precision. When the fact is, every method of birth control, natural or artificial, has a failure rate. I think we would do well to acknowledge this. We like to gloss over the fact that nothing is 100% effective but to order our lives as though it were. But maybe, like planning our budget, we should plan our lives expecting the unexpected. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t try to be responsible about things, but when life happens, whether pregnancy or some other unexpected change in life, it doesn’t mean our lives are over. It doesn’t mean we’re failures.  It just means that things don’t always go as planned. But, like any good road trip, we can deal with the unexpected when it comes and still enjoy the journey.



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