“I was introduced in marriage prep, and the way that it was packaged and pitched was just, ‘Oh, it’s going to make your marriage amazing, it’s going to give you the best sex, the most sex,’” she said. “None of that played out in our marriage.”
Among other things, people told her that practicing NFP meant six or seven days of abstinence per month, at most. Instead, she and her husband were looking at two weeks.
“I just wasn’t prepared for that,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, we’re doing something wrong.’”
“The way that I describe it is, we live in a post-resurrection world and so we like to focus on the resurrection and deny the crucifixion,” she said. “But you don’t get one without going through the first one.”
She used her struggle to help others, she said.
“Basically, I just started speaking very honestly about NFP practice and people were like, ‘Thank you so much for saying this,’” she recalled. “I started just seeing how that would free people, when they knew it was OK to struggle.”
Bruno agreed. “How much better will we set people up to choose something other than birth control long term by actually being honest with them.”
“For all my Creighton clients, there’s a slide that says that it’s easy to learn and easy to interpret,” she described. “I always stop, and I’m like, ‘OK. This is sort of true, but I want you to know there’s a learning curve. You’re going to mess up, this could get frustrating, you’re going to be forming a lot of new habits. So you can do this, but be patient with yourself.’”
While the effectiveness rates of avoiding pregnancy with fertility awareness and hormonal birth control are “comparable,” they also have major differences, Frase said.
“Typical use for fertility awareness is higher than typical use for hormonal birth control,” she said. “The difference is, it takes work and it takes discipline and it’s a lifestyle change.”
Today, both Bruno and Frase realize the health benefits of NFP and charting.
“It helped my doctors figure out hormone imbalances, helped me to time blood draws and hormonal supplementation, but also it gave my doctors indication about endometriosis and infection, some thyroid abnormalities,” Bruno said. “Then [it] ultimately connected me with restorative surgeries.”
For Frase, she said, “the reason that we stuck with it is because we needed to avoid pregnancy and we are faithful Catholics.” But, she added, “over time, I’ve been able to use it for the health component, as well.”
“I think that this is really one of the best tools of self-care,” she added, “because it really does have you clued in to, how do my hormones affect my mood and behavior and then what impact does that have on the people around me and then how can I use that information to make these little adjustments to clue in, to give myself a little grace and patience here and there.”
For women exploring fertility awareness, Frase delivered a special message.
“It can feel isolating, and I think that’s probably one of the most scary things,” she said, especially if they don’t know anyone who practices it. But, Frase concluded, “there’s a ton of women just waiting to be like, ‘Hi, welcome, how can we help?’”
Former Washington, D. C., correspondent Katie Yoder covered pro-life issues, the U.S. Catholic bishops, public policy, and Congress for Catholic News Agency. She previously worked for Townhall.com, National Review, and the Media Research Center.