I discovered You, Me and NFP on Instagram and fell in love with their mission. I was thrilled when I sent a request for them to contribute to this series and Val replied with a big YES. She and her husband Brendan held nothing back with their story. They dove right in to the good the bad and the glorious of NFP. You can find out more about You, Me and NFP and join their community here: Website | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube
TW: Let’s start with a brief into. Tell us a little about yourselves.
We’re Brendan and Valerie Kelly and we’ve been married for 12 years. We have 4 beautiful and energetic children, 2 boys and 2 girls, and one baby in heaven due to miscarriage.
We have found putting our Catholic faith first; attending Sunday Mass, praying together daily, confession and adoration and serving others helps us to be the best we can be. We enjoy date nights and are craft beer and coffee enthusiast. When we do watch TV it’s “The Office” or “This is Us”. We love adventuring outdoors with our family and are so blessed to journey life with some of the greatest friends!
Brendan: I am the owner of a small telecommunications agency, Perennial Communications. I love to golf, snow ski and play softball with my dad and brother.
Valerie: My background experience is in youth ministry, but has been a joy to recently choose to be a full time SAHM. I enjoy DIY projects! I am happy to be a part of a new venture, with the Lord bringing us all together, my team members (who blow me away!) and myself co-founded a ministry: You, Me and NFP. Rooted in prayer, we joyously and shamelessly share the Catholic teaching of the good news of sex and marriage. Using today’s technology we strive to: reach people where they are, empower with knowledge, make NFP easily accessible, and accompany each other on our journeys
TW: How long have you and your spouse been practicing NFP?
We learned the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) when we were engaged. We started practicing NFP day one in our marriage because after discernment, we decided to postpone having a baby at the beginning of marriage. To our disappointment (especially because we were saving the gift of our sexuality until marriage to give to one another) this meant abstaining on our wedding night. Looking back, I believe God gave us the opportunity, grace and self control to abstain on our wedding night because He was preparing and strengthening us in self control for future abstaining. We currently use NFP and will continue to do so.
TW: Did you know about NFP prior to marriage, and if so when?
Brendan: The short answer is yes, though certainly not on a deep level. I will never forget the car ride with my dad when he told me about how the Catholic Church promoted NFP and how it aligned with its teaching against contraception. I was dating Valerie at the time. My dad told me that during the first part of his marriage, he and my mom did not practice NFP. They eventually discovered and practiced it, and although it wasn’t easy, it was a huge blessing on their marriage. He also shared his regret of not practicing NFP sooner, wondering if perhaps God had plans for them to have more children.
Valerie: I had no idea what NFP was! When Brendan and I were dating, we were driving in his white car and I remember to this day, he randomly yet boldly said, “When we get married, I want to practice NFP”! I thought woohoo, He wants to marry me, then said, “Ok, but what is NFP?” He immediately shared his parents story. Although, I still didn’t know all the practical/scientific details, he convinced me with his passion on NFP. I was drawn to the beauty that NFP could bring to our marriage, and we were excited to use it. I love that Brendan had the backbone to bring up a subject so delicate when we were dating. It told me so much more about him and I desired marrying him even more.
TW: How did you learn NFP? What resources were helpful to you (ie. instructors, books, Facebook groups, friends, Church ministries)?
Once we were engaged, we signed up for an NFP class through Couple to Couple League(CCL) (which teaches STM) at a local parish. We had 3 sessions and met monthly with our instructors and other couples.They taught us, reviewed and helped us interpret our charts and were there for us via phone if we ever had any questions. They were great instructors! Learning about our bodies and charting was empowering. As rookies to NFP learning and the various “rules” with this method, we were still a bit overwhelmed and confused. We were thankful for our instructors guidance.
At the time we were married, our instructors and the books that came in our CCL starting packet were our biggest resource. We don’t remember many more resources available to us, although maybe there were, and we were not concerned with it at the time. I do remember about 5 years into our marriage going to a Catholic book store and looking for resources, only finding books from our parents’ generation, not up to speed scientifically with newer methods (this inspired me even more to help promote NFP).
A few helpful resources I did find were; The book Holy Sex by Greg Popcak, (confession: I didn’t read the book in entirty so I can’t speak for all of it) but the section devoted to NFP was a very great and we referenced parts of that when we taught Why NFP in Pre-Cana classes. Another book I enjoyed personally was The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher. Connecting with and hearing from people in NFP Facebook Groups were also resourceful.
TW: What methods do you/have you practiced (Creighton, STM, Marquette, Billings, etc.)? Briefly describe the costs, financial, mental, emotional, etc.
Valerie: The methods we have practiced have definitely been a journey, so we thought it made the most sense to simply tell our story through the methods themselves.
As we mentioned, we first learned STM, which combines basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and algorithms to determine the fertile window. At the time, I believe it cost somewhere between $100 – $200 for the in person class and books, along with a whopping $7 basal body thermometer from a drug store, after which there were no more recurring costs. We used STM to avoid pregnancy for our first year of marriage. When we knew we were called to try to have a baby, it was exciting to make the switch and use STM to help us achieve pregnancy. We believe knowing our fertility cues helped us conceive sooner than if we hadn’t been aware of these signs. It took us only a few months, before rejoicing over two pink lines. Our son Simon was born 9 months later by an unplanned c-section.
STM was difficult during postpartum , and we found ourselves confused. Taking a consistent waking temperature every day while getting up multiple times with a newborn was a challenging. I remember half the time falling asleep only to wake up later with a thermometer falling out of my mouth.
I because lazy with NFP, I stopped charting and basically guessed if I was fertile or not.
I was no longer the poster child for NFP!
We were just navigating how to be parents and I needed to heal from the c-section before becoming pregnant again. By not using a method accurately it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that at 6 months we promoted our ‘baby’ to ‘big brother’, irish twins! Receiving the positive test came as a surprise to me though, and I was nervous to tell Brendan. Calculating the due date gave me greater anxiety, it was a week before my friends wedding in which I was to be the matron of honor.
I don’t know what he was feeling when I broke the news to Brendan, but he showed me complete joy, excitement, and support. It wasn’t our timing but God allowed us to create a new life and that’s something to celebrate. It was His will! I praise God to this day for Brendan’s supportive reaction and openness to God’s will. It greatly reduced my anxiety and I became filled with greater joyful anticipation for this baby.
We had so many plans and dreams already for this baby and our growing family! I remember dressing Simon in a onesie I made that said “big brother”. We brought him to his grandparents waiting until they noticed the words printed on his onesie, and all were surprised and excited for this new life. As Simon learned to kiss, he would lift up my shirt and kiss the baby in my tummy, it was so sweet! I remember hearing the baby’s strong heart beat for the first time and how special that was. This baby was a part of our family. I remember at 16 weeks going in for my routine prenatal appointment how nervous I felt when the doctor suddenly couldn’t find the heartbeat, and how empty I felt when the UltraSound tech was speechless. I looked on the screen and saw no movement, there lay a very still image of our baby.
This journey of miscarriage – the medical trials and emotional, physically, and spiritually pains and healing – could be a blog of it’s own. To stay on point, I am going to jump to why I even shared this.
A few weeks after we lost the baby and after our D & C, we were informed the baby we lost was from a partial molar pregnancy. For my health I absolutely needed to avoid getting pregnant for a few months as a partial molar can cause cancerous cells to form. My doctor needed to see my hcg levels were where they needed to be before trying to conceive again.
I was freaked out to use NFP to say the least. I wasn’t confident in it postpartum, and essentially that’s what I was again – cycle-less and in limbo! I was emotionally distraught. I asked a really close catholic friend of mine to see if she could find out if there were any medical reasons where the church would accept contraception while still having marital relations. She researched and came back with an answer, “NO” you can’t contracept but you can use NFP and abstinence. This was before I fully understood Theology of the Body (TOB) and the WHY behind NFP.
Thankfully, we trusted God and the church, but I still did not trust our postpartum NFP knowledge and implementation. I busted out my NFP book given to us by the CCL and started reading, highlighting, and taking notes like it was my job. I began charting, now like a poster child! We were very conservative but were still able to love each other occasionally. It became more about quality than quantity. We were able to avoid becoming pregnant again using STM then my doctor gave us the clear to try to conceive a few months later. It wasn’t easy, but when we practiced the method correctly, it worked effectively. It was empowering sharing our NFP effectiveness with my doctor, whom I greatly love and respect, but who had her doubts.
We then used NFP again to help us conceive our rainbow baby, Silas. I nursed him for a long time and my cycle didn’t come back for over 2 years. Then we knew we were in our fertile window and we were open to whatever God had planned for us and along came our daughter Gracie.
Before our 4th child was conceived, I had heard about the Marquette Method (MM) and switched to it for convenience. To get started we bought a clear blue fertility monitor for about $150, another $35 on a box (30ct) of ovulation test sticks that are needed for the monitor. I tried learning the method on my own and it worked well. To this day I’m still not sure when we conceived or how (I mean I know how! but…I didn’t think we could). I must have miscalculated our fertile windows beginning or end.
We were thrilled to find out another baby was growing inside of me. Before Adele was born and before my 4th c-section, the doctor on call (not my personal physician) persistently tried to convince me to get my tubes tied, and we of course turned him down. We were blessed with what I call our “gift’ child and Adele, like all of our children, is an absolute blessing and joy to our family.
After all of this, my doctors made it very clear I should wait at least 2 years to heal. I was given all the general risks and personal risks to me and told to be certain if we ever want to conceive again.
After these concerns (from my trusted doctor), I was so anxious about conceiving. I knew for NFP to be as effective as it could be I would need an instructor, costing $100-$200 for a class depending on the instructor. I reached out in an NFP Facebook group asking for recommendations for a Marquette Method instructor. I contacted the highly recommended Sarah Tramonte, and took a live online class with her. In that 3 hour class, I never understood my body and NFP better in my life! At the end, she took time for just me and my questions. I remember being in tears still anxious about the possibility of becoming pregnant again sooner than we’d like or should. The Holy Spirit worked though her as all fears where relieved when she spoke words reminding me that all is in God’s hands, specifically saying “He is the Author of Life”. Sarah walked with me on my postpartum NFP journey. When I had questions, she always had the answers. Not only was Sarah my instructor but we quickly become amazing friends and true sisters in Christ.
NFP postpartum wasn’t easy, we had 40 consecutive days of abstaining before I hit peak and the return of my cycle. I called it our own little lent. Having a responsive instructor and the ease with objective data using Marquette Method brought us the confidence and peace that we truly needed.
It’s been over three years of effectively avoiding pregnancy with MM. While we constantly discern God’s will for our family, we haven’t been called to add to it just yet. MM has been such a blessing to our marriage, taking any guesswork out by helping me accurately pinpoint my fertile window each month. There is a recurring cost of buying test sticks (more sticks postpartum, less when cycles return), but the peace of mind and ease of use in this season of life is more than money can buy and greatly outweighs the small recurring cost.
TW: What is your favorite thing about NFP? Your least favorite?
Valerie: My favorite thing is that Brendan desires me and I desire him. I don’t feel objectified but instead worth the wait! It’s fun in our time of abstinence to love each other and grow our relationship in different ways that then only leads to greater intimacy when we come together. There is such beauty in this Christ-like authentic love.
My least favorite; dang, it’s such a sacrifice giving up that time together in that awesome fertile window! I mean our bodies are wonderfully made, and God designed us to desire sex more when we’re fertile. It’s hard on both of us not to be sexually intimate for the days of abstinence when we feel called to avoid pregnancy. It always helps when a kid wakes up and crawls in our bed, and I truly think that’s all part of God’s grace. Whatever God calls us to, in every different season, He’ll also give us His strength to embrace His will.
Brendan: My three favorite things about NFP (in no particular order): the feeling of a “honeymoon” every month; learning to love and communicate with my wife in non-sexual ways; and the grace and joy received from following God’s plan in NFP.
Hands down my least favorite part about NFP is abstaining from sex with my wife during her fertile time of the month, knowing that she desires it most at that time as well. Physically, that is very difficult and sometimes I/we get frustrated.
TW: NFP can help cultivate the understanding that fertility is shared, however, the burden of charting typically falls on the woman since NFP utilizes her bodily symptoms to determine the fertile window. How do you share your fertility as a married couple?
Valerie: I do the charting and let him know where I am at in my cycle, once I hit peak I always give Brendan the “final countdown” to when we can be with each other again.
Brendan: Although Val keeps track of her own body’s cues and charting, discernment is a mutual decision and usually a monthly conversion for us. I think it’s really cool how my wife’s body goes through these different changes every month. Being able to monitor and predict her fertility (with very accurate results) I find amazing and another example of God’s amazing creation with a woman’s fertility. Our God is so amazing!
TW: Describe a time when NFP was exceptionally hard. How did you work through it?
Valerie: Postpartum was hard, but I think I answered this question above, in the fact of using Marquette Method with a professional and responsive instructor and a supportive spouse helped so much!
Brendan: Similar to my answer above, on what my least favorite thing is about NFP, it’s really difficult every month when my wife and I so sexually desire each other but do not have sex. Although difficult, the pros certainly outweigh the cons. NFP is similar to lifting weights, eating healthy, working hard and most things in life that you know are good for you: they may not be the “easy” way, but they’re the “right” way.
TW: How would you respond to someone who says that NFP has a high failure rate?
The facts are in and NFP is very effective. Effectiveness increases with an instructor and correct usage of a methods protocols. Many people think that NFP fails because they see couples using NFP having multiple children, and assume it could only be because NFP doesn’t “work”. It’s often that couples have multiple children not because of method failure, but because they know when the fertile window is and choose to embrace each other knowing conception is a possibility. NFP users are generally prayerful people open to whatever God’s plan and likely to be generous if God calls them to create more souls for earth and eternity!
TW: How do you think the Church can better spread/ teach NFP?
Personally, I think we’re turning a new page in the church. The teaching is the same but we’re starting to commuicate more about marriage, sex and the way God designed it to be, and that’s a good thing! This is precisely why You, Me and NFP was created, to help build up the Kingdom, evangelize, and help the church accompany many on their NFP journeys. It’s up to both lay people and religious to evangelize NFP, and here are some ways in which we can do this:
- Holy Couples living their lives by example as a witness to others, and sharing their personal stories. Jesus taught with parables, and I’m a big proponent of mimicking the way the best Teacher taught, and share stories precisely our NFP stories. They in themselves will impact others.
- Speaking truth with love when evangelizing NFP:
- Share the WHY behind NFP (Theology of the Body is key); help people understand why this is the right way.
- The church should be bold in proclaiming truth, rather than shy away from the subject as if sex is meant for the bedroom and therefore not for the pulpit. Let’s not water the truth down when we long for truth.
- When we know we were fearfully and wonderfully made, that our creator God made our bodies to work together as male and female in each sexual embrace to be intrinsically procreative and unitive (although not having to conceive each time, these aspects remaining inseparable), it is then conversions can take place.
- Meeting people where they are, showing mercy and reminding all it’s never too late for we have a God of restoration and new beginnings. Invite friends into NFP and help them live the way the Lord intended us to.
- Provide and make known modern and easily accessible NFP resources!
- Build safe communities where we can journey with one another, places where we can ask questions, be honest and vulnerable and accompany one another sharing in our experiences (sacrifices, fears, blessings and joys) of this NFP lifestyle without being condemned.
- Be not afraid to speak and live this truth! Will some people be turned off? – Sure, but that shouldn’t keep us from sharing the good news boldly and in love. We never know the seeds we may plant or the long term conversion that may take through us being a vessel.
TW: If you had one minute to share NFP with someone, what would you say?
Valerie: NFP helps one learn about their fertility. It’s scientific, it’s about learning the cues of our body along with a specific NFP method’s protocols to determine one’s fertile window. We can use that information to help either avoid or achieve a pregnancy . Getting a trained instructor helps tremendously. It’s natural and healthy for a woman and very empowering to know our bodies so well. Although sacrificial and difficult at times, everything worth doing can be difficult. Ultimately, NFP is such a huge blessing for marriages!
Brendan: NFP, like most things in life that are truly good for us, do not come easy. But it’s worth it. Most people don’t work out or get enough exercise. Most people don’t eat healthy. Most people watch too much TV. Most people don’t like to get up early to start the day. Most people don’t get enough sleep. The list goes on and on. Most people don’t practice NFP. I say give NFP a try. Read books, talk to other NFP practicing couples, become educated! Again, will NFP be easy? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Our marriages, our faith, our virtue, our self-control and overall joy will increase and lead to a much-improved life.