There is a common canard in certain NFP circles that goes like this: if you’re not trying to avoid, you are trying to achieve.
I understand why this is taught in the context where it protects an organization and serves to enhance the reputation of NFP as truly reliable for those who are absolutely determined to do what it takes to avoid pregnancy.
The problem is that this simply is not true in reality. I can come up with many, many thought experiments where it is impossible for an objective outsider to declare whether a couple is seeking to achieve or avoid pregnancy. But instead of sharing those, I offer instead the situations of three women I know in real life.
Woman One: wishes very much to become pregnant. She and her husband have (randomly timed) sex about once a month, sometimes less. She menstruated 6 or 7 times last year and is not pursuing any reproductive healthcare.
Woman Two: does not expect to become pregnant for another year or so. In addition to having regular cycles, she knows her body exceptionally well. If cycle day 7 happens to fall on a Saturday, then she and her husband might have sex on cycle days 7 & 8 and then abstain until the evening of peak + 1 or +2, depending upon how certain she feels that cycle.
Woman Three: is not quite certain of her own intentions. She would be happy to be pregnant, but it is not an appropriate time for several reasons. Then again, she is well aware that it may never be an appropriate time. She also knows that she has short luteal phases and that achieving pregnancy could be difficult, if not impossible, so she is glad that she is not trying to become pregnant.
According to some people, all three of these women are “trying to achieve” pregnancy. In reality, Woman One is not doing the basics of what she knows would have to happen to make pregnancy at all likely. She is not trying to achieve anything, she is simply hoping. Woman Two is absolutely avoiding pregnancy, she just is not using a 99% effective approach to avoiding pregnancy because she does not need a 99% effective method. Woman Three most likely vacillates back and forth between seeking to avoid or achieve pregnancy depending upon how she feels during a particular cycle.
The truth is that the only person who can know whether a woman is trying to avoid or achieve pregnancy is the woman herself. Everything else is just a matter of behavior making pregnancy more or less likely. And when it comes to behavior and statistically likely outcomes, you have to consider each case–each day–on its own merits.
When we spew logical absurdities such as declaring that failure to avoid perfectly is the same as intention to achieve, we set ourselves up for fair accusations that NFP is about nothing more than control. And after that there is not much more to do than to start selling diet materials based on the idea that if you’re not trying to lose weight, you’re trying to gain it. Something tells me that just isn’t going to sell well.
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