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.