Natural Family Planning

Just a quick update following today’s Sunday Morning Live.

Obviously there is quite a lot of Internet derision as I lauded the success rates of modern NFP systems, despite the fact that my last two pregnancies were unplanned – our perfectly legitimate attempts to avoid, were unsuccessful!

Here’s the thing about being open to life. One accepts that every act of intercourse is both unitive and procreative, i.e for bonding AND babies. Neither can be separated out. Every time one is intimate with one’s spouse, you accept the consequences that could result, even if those consequences are not what one was hoping for.

Having sat down with my NFP practitioner, I realised that the mistake was user error, not the system itself. What happened on the last occasion was that I had a sick bug around the time of ovulation, which threw the whole system out. Thinking I had already ovulated, with the entire family beset with illness, some observations went awry.

That’s more than enough information but the point is, like any method of ‘traditional contraception’ it didn’t work out. We accepted and welcomed the imminent arrival and are now looking forward to meeting her. Many of our non-Catholic friends and acquaintances have testified to multiple condom/pill failure. These are all intelligent people able to follow instructions on a packet. Anecdotes are not the plural of data. Contraception is not 100% effective. If you have sex, there is a chance you will have a baby, regardless of how careful you think you are being.

But here’s the crucial difference. I live in the developed western world. I know how jolly hard it is when one doesn’t space pregnancies. I’ve been either pregnant or breast-feeding continually since February 2009. This pregnancy has proved the most physically and emotionally demanding of all. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult this situation would be for a woman in the developing world. I have access to decent healthcare, ante-natal care, the ability to eat healthily, take vitamins, have clean running water and will give birth in sterile conditions. I am able to provide shelter for and feed and clothe my existing children .

A woman in the developing world has none of that. My contemporary in sub-Saharan Africa or any other impoverished country, would, in all probability die, if she were in my situation.

So what’s the answer? Accept this and give her a long lasting hormonal contraceptive jab to prevent her from having any more children? What happens if it fails? Or should that extra $4.6 billion that the Melinda Gates Foundation has acquired to prevent women from having larger families be spent on ensuring that women in the developing world have the same choices, opportunities, access to quality healthcare that women in the western world have? So that if a woman finds herself facing 3 pregnancies in 3 years, she actually has a practical and realistic choice? The choice of life, not only for her, but her family and children.

Shouldn’t aid be about helping and empowering women to raise healthy babies and choose their family size, large or small? No matter how difficult the circumstances?