By Becky Aubut
MILFORD, Mass. — Natural Family Planning is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancies; the Catholic Church supports the methods of NFP because it respects God’s design for married love. NFP represents the only authentic approach to family planning with methods based on observation on the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s cycle. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of Marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife.
Mark and Maureen Trettel have been married almost 27 years and have been given the “gift” of seven children ranging in age from 11 to 25 years old. The Trettels learned about NFP while attending an Engaged Encounter weekend six months before their wedding.
“This was the perfect time to learn NFP before we were married,” said Mark, “[We attended] one class a month for three months, and this allowed Maureen to understand her cycles, therefore becoming more confident and competent when we were married.”
“This was an opportunity, taking the classes together, to spend quality time with Maureen in an intimate way. It was an eye opener for me, a simple 25-year-old happy-go-lucky guy, how complicated a woman’s body is, in a good way, and what a gift natural motherhood was. We were taught the technical part of NFP, which I call ‘belts and suspenders,’ in regards to how thorough the science is — 99 percent effective — but soon after practicing NFP as newlyweds [up] to now, 27 years in May, the ‘communication’ that we have developed between us through NFP is one of the main factors” as to why their relationship is so strong, added Mark.
Twelve years after that weekend, the Trettels turned their learning about NFP into becoming certified to teach others and holding annual NFP sessions.
“We did attend a weekend training seminar in order to become certified,” said Maureen. “We are professionally certified by the Couple to Couple League International, but we teach as volunteers.
“We were drawn into holding classes because we realized the drastic shortage of teaching couples for this method of NFP, the symptothermal method (monitoring a woman’s temperature). We believe it is the most comprehensive method for the average married couple to use. The more we shared with others how good NFP was, not only for planning our family but for an overall healthy way of life in regard to Marriage [and] better communication, shared responsibility, respect and awe for how God created our bodies to be complimentary, etc., the more we became aware that there weren’t many teaching couples to refer them to for learning the method!”
The Trettels have been offering classes four times a year since 2001, and have taught more than 200 couples who have seen firsthand “the fruits from NFP,” said Mark. Working as members of St. Brendan Parish in Bellingham, and Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Milford, the Trettels are gearing up for the next session being held at the end of April, and Maureen helped break down some of the main points each couple focuses on during the three-class sessions:
“To understand that the human body speaks the language of love in a unique way through the sexual powers; learn how to record and interpret the observable signs of fertility; know how to identify the boundary between the most-fertile time and the most-infertile time of the female cycle; effectiveness of NFP compared to that of contraception; know how to use NFP to achieve a pregnancy; learn about other methods of NFP; how to apply NFP in special situations; recognize behaviors that attack human dignity and marital love; understand problems with contraception; supplemental classes are available when relevant to the couple’s needs; and postpartum return of fertility and pre-menopause.”
“The Church’s teaching on NFP is beautiful,” said Maureen. “The Catholic Church is often mocked for its so-called ‘archaic attitude’ toward birth control and marital sexuality. We disagree! The Catholic Church recognizes the Sacredness of sex, and will continue to protect it in the context of Sacramental married love between one man and one woman. Contraception has wreaked havoc on our society in a vast number of ways. It has put the focus on self instead of focusing on being self-less and life giving. It has also made it easier for many other immoral behaviors to come in on the scene.”
Maureen cited Pope Paul’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, stating that “you will realize that he warned us that if contraception became accepted, so would all immoral behaviors” such as promiscuity, adultery, pornography, abortion and other deviant sexual behaviors.
Maureen clarified that NFP is not the “rhythm method” and that NFP is backed up by years of research and science. She said they often hear from happy couples who have conceived using NFP, and they appreciate the positive feedback. The Trettels are passionate about NFP and how their experience has strengthened their Marriage: “I mean really,” said Mark, “if you can talk about mucus, estrogen levels, etc., you can talk about anything that life can bring you! This simple open communication has allowed us to work through everyday stresses like finances, jobs, [and] life challenges in general.”
The next NFP series begins April 30 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Brendan Parish Hall, 384 Hartford Avenue, Bellingham. Registration can be done on the Couple to Couple League website: www.ccli.org. The site also offers live online classes and self-paced online classes.