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A Male’s Perspective On Learning NFP: The Wonder of Woman

June 5, AD2014 8 Comments

My fiancee and I have been taking classes on Natural Family Planning as part of our marriage preparation. Going into it, I knew the basic concept of it: a woman has cyclical phases of fertility and infertility, and knowledge of these phases and the physical signs indicating them can be utilized either to achieve pregnancy or to space out the births of children, provided that the couple has determined there is a just cause for this. I knew the theory. Learning the practice and the details of it has been a much deeper experience.

Though it might be educational to discuss the clinical details of the a woman’s reproductive system, I’ll employ an analogy so as to not scare off the squeamish. A woman’s reproductive system is designed to be a home for a child. Every month it makes itself ready to invite a child in should one arrive: storing food in the cupboards, setting out a clear and easy path for the child to arrive, opening the front gate. When no child arrives, the place has to be swept out and the beds remade so that everything will be fresh and perfect should one arrive the next month, and no children can enter (usually) until everything is ready.

And when a child does arrive, the body naturally focuses on that child and (usually) does not allow others to come in for a little while. (OK, time to abandon the analogy.) I didn’t know this before, but a woman’s fertility remains very low during the time of breastfeeding–the woman’s body is designed so that each child born may have its mother’s maximum attention after the child is born. The woman’s body naturally spaces out the birth of her children.

Some of these facts I already knew, some I did not, but all of them together have shown me a truly remarkable thing: the conception of a child is a wonder. The conditions must be just right. With all the factors involved, it’s a marvel that anyone is ever born at all! Every child conceived in this world is a miracle, a gift from God.

While you could gather this knowledge in a high school health class (which I did, I’d just forgotten some of it), learning these things together with the woman who will be your wife, who will bear your children, who has and will have all of these things happening in her body, makes this knowledge much more concrete and real. I look at my fiancee with even more wonder and amazement than I did before. She is a participant in God’s fantastic work of creating new life. By God’s design she has been fitted to this high and holy purpose. I am in awe of her.

She is at once better-known and more mysterious to me. She is better-known because I have a greater understanding of her physiology and the ways in which her body operates to bring forth life. She is more mysterious because, even with this knowledge, I cannot grasp what it must feel like to have all of this activity and potential in one’s body.

By knowing more about her, I can grow closer to her. By that knowledge, I can have a deeper level of emotional intimacy with her. But I will always be in awe of her. Psalm 8 says that God has made human beings only a little lower than the angels. That seems an awfully lofty place for fallen beings such as we are, but when it comes to woman, I’m inclined to believe it.

Filed in: Faith, Marriage • Tags: , ,

About the Author:

Nicholas Senz is a master's student at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, CA, studying, surprisingly, philosophy and theology. Born and raised in Verboort, a Catholic enclave in irreligious Oregon, Nick grew up in a solidly Catholic family that encouraged asking questions (and boy, did he), taking him on a lifelong journey of fides quarens intellectum ("faith seeking understanding"). Nick enjoys science fiction, basketball, playing guitar, and the usual suspects: J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Church Fathers. Nick blogs at nicksenz.blogspot.com.

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  • Phil Dzialo

    OMG! The wonder of a woman is not solely expressed in an understanding of her biology and the menstrual cycle…I cannot imagine anyone being “squeamish” about using words like menses, menstruation, uterus, vagina, ovaries, etc. These are all parts of most mammalian biology….we never need to resort to cleaning the cupboard to discuss menstruation…it is dehumanizing.
    One wonder of a woman is gestate a fetus, the other, and equally important wonder is eros, sexuality, passion and love. Please make a part of study a careful reading and meditation of the Song of Songs in the Old Testament written about 931 BC. It is a conversation between two lovers, without law, covenant and Yahweh….not for the prurient as it speaks of breast, thighs and smells of love. Since the Bible is God’s word, inspired by his SPIRIT…..EROS

    • Nicholas Senz

      Phil, I think there’s a simple misunderstanding here: I didn’t say that “the wonder of a woman is solely expressed in an understanding of her biology and the menstrual cycle.” I said that an understanding of these things leads one to a greater appreciation of the wonder of a woman. This was not an attempt at an exhaustive description of everything that makes women to be amazing works of God’s creation. This is like if I were to write about how looking at a valley from a mountaintop made me appreciate God’s work of creation, and you were to respond, “There’s much more to God’s creation than mountains and valleys. You’re leaving out the stars and the oceans, not to mention all the wonders man creates through his God-given ingenuity.”
      My reference to people being “squeamish” was tongue-in-cheek (although I do know people who are squeamish about using such words), and my analogy was meant to bring out the notion that the womb is a home for a child; that notion is brought home better by “sweeping out the house” than by “the lining of the woman’s uterus sheds and exits her body during menstruation.” There’s nothing dehumanizing about an apt analogy.
      Your comments about the importance of relationship and eros are appreciated, but your tone is unnecessary. My fiancee and I actually have chosen a reading from the Song of Songs as a one of the readings for our wedding Mass, and I am (and we are) well aware of how human sexuality and relationality model the love and creative and unitive power of God.

  • Micha Elyi

    “A Male’s Perspective On Learning NFP: The Wonder of Woman”

    Whoever picked that title is a bigot and a sexist. Dogs can be male. Other dogs are female but no matter how female a dog might be, it is never a “woman”.

    Why do Catholics join in the secular culture’s ongoing campaign to dehumanize men?

    Just look around you. You’ll see plenty of examples of the Catholic campaign to dehumanize and denigrate men next Sunday. As you listen to the homily after the Gospel reading, ask yourself why do Mother’s Day homilies so often gush with praise for mothers and Father’s Day homilies bash fathers?

    • Nicholas Senz

      I chose “male’s” as opposed to “man’s” because “male” refers specifically to sex differentiation, but you have a point: I was inconsistent in putting “male” and “woman.” I should have put either “male” and “female” or “man” and “woman.” I assure you I had no intention of joining in any sort of secular campaign of dehumanization, but thanks for the diction tip!

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  • David Peters

    Nicholas this is a wonderful article! Thank you for sharing how knowing more about your fiance has given you a deeper level of emotional intimacy. Awesome! I believe your marriage will be very blessed.

    • SayWhat

      Sounds like its’s not that he understands his fiancé better, it’s that he, apparently, just figured out female physiology.

  • Emily

    Thank you for your post. For stories about NFP from a woman’s perspective visit http://www.conversationwithwomen.org