When NFP Doesn’t Work

Oh, NFP week.  Wherein everyone wanted to tell you of the “beauty and marriage building” of NFP.  I’m glad more people are coming out to speak about the tough aspects.  It doesn’t always work seamlessly for all of us, but that’s ok.

When we were first married, I only heard the “beauty” rhetoric and even have a few NFP teachers go so far as to tell me it was my fault NFP didn’t seem to work for us.  The people who tout this do all seem to have one thing in common – they don’t seem to have what I’ve come to refer to as “hyper fertility”.

Sure, it all “works well” and you can have only a handful of children delightfully spaced to allow for recover and sanity retrieval when you have a normal level of fertility, but not all of us do.

We hear about the cross of infertility (definitely a hard one!) and pregnancy loss (I’m with you here. So, so tough!), but can we talk for a minute about the craaaazy of hyper fertility?  The one where the words “ecological breastfeeding” make you laugh?  Seriously.  I’m a walking, talking pacifier and I still get pregnant.

I spend the first ten years of marriage either pregnant or breastfeeding and usually both.  It’s a beautiful, messy, difficult life, this one to which the Church calls us. And when you take your vows before you can legally consume your champagne toast, you know full well that a twelve passenger van is probably in your future.  And today, that van is a badge of big family mama-hood I wouldn’t turn in for anything, but it wasn’t necessarily easy to get here.

Pregnancy is hard. Breastfeeding is hard. Trying to avoid pregnancy and seeing that pink line…again (and again and again) is hard.  But hard is not the same as bad.  Admitting that it’s hard is not failing.   Six kids in ten years is the single largest source of joy and pride for every member of this crazy family.


Admitting it is hard is not the same as wishing it were different.  The difference is that when we admit to the weight of the cross of hyper fertility, we aren’t met with sympathy.  When the world sees your choice as wrong or preventable, and then you dare to whisper that it’s tough, all it gets you is a big fat eye roll, huff, and sigh. There isn’t a lot of support out there for the seemingly crazy who supposedly bring their problems onto themselves.

There are so many things in life that are hard, but we do them anyway, because the end result is so much better than the hard road to get there.

I used to wish that NFP was more effective, easier to use, more black and white.  But now I know that the gift is in the trusting of God with your future.  How many times in life I think I know best, only to learn that His way is so much better.  The beauty of NFP is that it’s a hard, rocky road, but in the end, God’s gifts are so much better than the future we would have created on our own,



23 thoughts on “When NFP Doesn’t Work

  1. Beth Facemyer


    NFP is hard. It’s super hard. It’s a cross. It’s not meant to be pretty and easy. I hate when people are like “oh it’s just 5 days of abstinence a month!”. Have they ever heard of PCOS? Have they ever heard of breast feeding? What about babies who don’t sleep? There’s a lot more going into it than 5 days of abstaining. Not to mention you are abstaining when your body is saying “MAKE ALL THE BABIES!”

    I’m actually odd because while I don’t make much milk, if I’m nursing a baby with any regularity (so more than 3 times a day) there’s no cycle returning. Great. But then there’s lots of signs of fertility. Not so great.

    And I’ll have to end this now because one of the fruits of my vocation is climbing all over me. 🙂


  2. Lauren

    Beautifully written! As someone who got married in their late 20s I feel like my clock is ticking! We have used NFP to GET pregnant! I guess I’m one of the “lucky” ones that doesn’t get their cycle back until 2 months after ceasing breastfeeding. I sometimes wish that weren’t the case because we want mucho kiddos and I’m getting old! 😦


      1. Karyn

        I had one at age 40 and will have (God willing) one at age 42 and these two are my closest in age so far. You have time! 🙂


    1. Katherine

      I had my 7th 😁 at 44 (plus 2 more lost to miscarriages in there 😭).  And I’m still very,  very fertile at 48.

      As much as I treasure my role as momma I am definitely slowing down and I do pray I’m not making headlines for being pregnant in my 50s 😮 Lord, have mercy on me!


  3. Maryanne

    Great post! Speaking of people thinking you’re crazy: To be honest, we gave up NFP altogether after my first miscarriage six years almost six years ago. I’ve sort of just handed over my fertility to God and not stressed about abstaining/achieving/etc. I let Him worry about it instead. 😉 Anytime I’ve mentioned my lack of “family planning” to anyone, including the NFP crowd, I do get the look of insanity. But, hey, it’s just like everything else in this world: I’ll do what’s best for me; you do what’s best for you!


  4. Marianne

    Thank you for voicing what so many of us are thinking but don’t dare speak out loud. We had our first six in ten years and then a couple more. What a blessing but it was hard! It is still hard but so beautiful and worth it all.

    What I wouldn’t do to have more support within the Catholic community.



  5. Love this post! I got married at 21 and have had 5 in 7 years. Ecological breastfeeding doesn’t mean anything to my body! Most people don’t understand the cross of hyper fertility! Thank you for adding this wonderful post during NFP week


  6. jkuebbing

    This is awesome. Pregnant with number 5 in 7.5 years, and yet have somehow found myself as an unofficial and ironic ambassador for NFP. Your kids are gorgeous.


  7. TwinMama

    Finally someone I can relate to! I love NFP for so many reasons and it’s fabulous to see so many of my friends embracing it and loving it and sharing it. But it is so hard when dealing with “hyper fertility” and when NFP doesn’t always “work”. I feel bad saying it’s hard because I know so many who struggle with infertility and my heart breaks for them. I wouldn’t trade NFP for anything but it isn’t simple and perfect like some make it out to be!


    1. We all need to find our relatable tribe!! It *is* hard to talk about, because you never want to appear to be discrediting another’s cross. We all have to carry what God has given us. The challenge, sometimes, is finding the beauty in our individual cross!


  8. Paige

    Experiencing this right now, as the all-too familiar morning sickness (all-day) nausea and vomiting is annoucing the coming of #8. It’s hard not to feel like a failure when you feel like you just needed more time to settle into life with 7 after a move and it taking more than a year to sell a house and the current youngest has special needs, as well as #5.


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