Shae O'Brien is an English teacher, writer, wife, and mother to three beautiful girls. She takes life with a grain of salt and two spoonfuls of sugar! Please be sure to follow her on www.facebook.com/catholicmamablog.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Open to Life: The Beauty of NFP

I knew enough about Natural Family Planning to know my period should have come two days before. I told my husband I was going to buy a pregnancy test, and he thought I was overreacting but succumbed to my insistence. I hustled straight to the bathroom when I got home, with my toddler on my heels and my six month old fussing for my immediate attention. I didn't bother to close the door--if you're a mother you understand--and peed on the stick as my husband told me about his day. As I went to place it on the counter to wait my obligatory three minutes, I glanced down and gasped! The line had already begun to appear.

My husband tried to console me as I cried....they were not happy tears. My children were still whining for my attention, and all I could think about was giving it all up--my body, my sanity, my desires, my life--for a child we were not trying to have. We had taken a "risk" one night, and apparently one risk was all it took. As I sat there wondering why Catholics couldn't just support birth control, my husband asked me, "Aren't you even a little happy? God must really want this child!"

I was not happy.

Fast forward 11 months: Here I am, with an absolutely perfect daughter named Cassidy. She is three months old, and her coos would melt your heart. She captures all my love and attention, in the same way as my first two daughters, and she fits just right into the family God has created us to be. Just like puzzle pieces, we all complete a picture of miraculous design...one I could not have imagined, yet one I am grateful to be a part of.

I could not be happier.

It was not until Cassidy that I truly understood the Catholic belief of being "open to life". I practiced NFP the same way others play video games, to test my skills, prove my knowledge, and try to show off my ability to take charge. Except I never understood that the true purpose of NFP was to offer myself to God's charge. While it is our responsibility as parents to take care to provide a safe, healthy, and loving home for our family, it is our vocation as a married couple to offer ourselves to God's plan for our future. My husband said it best that day as I cried: "God must really want this child!" Who am I to say no to such an incredible gift?

The purpose of being "open to life" is to be open to the possibility. Even if we are not seeking out another child, it is important that we let go and let God decide, offer our lives and our hearts to the future of our family, and be willing to welcome with joy any blessing God sends our way. I cried when I first found out about Cassidy. I didn't understand then that happiness was a part of the bargain. Now I think back and ask forgiveness for ever letting my daughter feel sadness within me at the thought of her existence. She had done nothing to deserve such disappointment from me (and if you ever met her, you'd know no one could be sad in her presence!). Wasn't the point of practicing NFP to invite God to take control and open my heart to the blessings He offers? I understand now that is exactly the point. I am so thankful to Cassidy for teaching me this lesson, and I hope to instill the same understanding in my own children some day.

Before the end of World Youth Day in October of 2013, Pope Francis made a statement to the volunteers which included the following excerpt:

I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility - that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage to swim against the tide. And also have the courage to be happy.

Being open to life, within our family, within myself, is a vocation I may not have fully understood when I made my original vows to my husband and to God, but it is a vocation I readily accept now. This is the beauty I have found in Natural Family Planning--the beauty of taking responsibility for our decisions and our family while still allowing God to be in charge of the direction of the path we are walking together in this life. Who am I to say no to such an incredible gift? Instead, I humbly pray for the courage to be happy with every gift God bestows. Lord, hear my prayer.


  1. Amen to all of this! I am new to your blog. I came across it from the NFP group on Facebook. Thanks for a great post!

  2. My mother told me recently she thought her life would be complete with four children. She thought four would be enough, a full family. I am number five and I couldn't imagine life without six, seven, eight and nine. Trust God, believe that when He created us, He did it because He loves us and His love is immeasurable. Don't trust our own knowledge.....but His! Great story Catholic Mama......honest, brave and inspiring. It reminds me of all the times I had to do something that I really didn't want to do. When it was all done and said.....I was thankful that I did it.