NFP and Me Part I: I owe my life to the Couple to Couple League

I may owe my life to the Couple to Couple League. If not my own life, then at least the lives of a few of my siblings, and I would gladly trade my life for theirs.

I grew up knowing that my parents desired a large family. I remember my father being was asked about family size and answering with a straight face that he “hoped to have a large family someday.” Considering my place in the birth order, he would have had at least 9 children by the time I could remember such conversations.

But I also knew that my parents had not planned most of the pregnancies, and that at least a few of us were conceived at times when they were avoiding conception.

As a teenager I was quite frustrated with my mother because I thought that there was no option for family planning (or lack thereof) that met her standards. She thought it unwise for couples to simply have as many children as possible/natural for a very fertile woman. She also thought that hormonal birth control was evil, that condoms were highly questionable in many ways, and that NFP did not work especially well.

A few years later my mother came with me to hear Toni Weschler speak. As part of her presentation Weschler mentioned that in the case of highly fertile cervical fluid sperm can survive for 6-7 days. Afterwards my mother told me that this made all the difference. In the old Couple to Couple League materials they had underestimated sperm survival. This may have been fine for less fertile women, but it did not work for my mother. Years after giving birth to her last child my mother was finally convinced that NFP could work, provided that couples were given correct information.

Sperm carrying an X chromosome not only produce females, they are also tougher than Y chromosome sperm. They are better able to survive smoking, and extreme conditions. They are also able to live longer, given a highly fertile environment. And there are twice as many girls as boys in my family, including the one sibling whom I know for certain was a huge surprise.

I am not certain whether the Couple to Couple League has revised their information on sperm life for their new materials. It seems quite likely given the fact that there have been several revisions, both by the Kippleys and current directors of the organization. But I also know that some NFP groups believe that it is best to give the general life of a sperm in fertile cervical fluid (4-5 days) rather than the possible but unusual (6-7 days) because they want as many happy users as possible, and more couples are likely to struggle with additional abstinence than are likely to conceive from underestimating sperm life.

A few days ago I saw CCL’s workbook in a bookstore and was thrilled with what I saw in a quick flip-through. It helped solidify for me the fact that things have changed since the big book that I viewed (and hated) as the standard for Catholic NFP. As far as I can tell the Couple to Couple League has not yet changed enough for me to want to be involved directly. But I am quite happy that they are able to be what so many people need at this point, and I am optimistic that they will continue to change to better serve even more Catholics who really need to know about natural family planning.

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8 thoughts on “NFP and Me Part I: I owe my life to the Couple to Couple League

  1. Rebecca

    So, now I have to go back and reread all of our pre-ovulation *rules* – thanks! :) (We don’t use CCL’s NFP method, we use STM.)

    Your comments about CCL also struck me. Michelle gifted me a subscription to Family Foundations (and I love the magazine as a whole), there have just been a couple things that have preventing me from joining CCL.

    1. Rae Post author

      Oh, for some reason I assumed that Alison taught you using CCL’s materials. I’d be very interested in hearing what materials you did use. I often feel like I’m one of the only ones who learned STM through some place other than CCL or NWFS.

      Also, it’s been a while since I’ve looked at studies related to sperm life, but I do remember that it is very, very rare for sperm to live that long (only around a 2% chance of conception from sex 5 days before ovulation and almost, though not quite 0% for 6 or 7 days). So it is probably not worth extending abstinence unless avoiding pregnancy is of utmost importance. It would be worth it for me, but I don’t want to make other people start second-guessing their methods unnecessarily!

  2. Kathleen

    All questions @ CCL’s “new” method may be directed my way. :) We use the 5-6 day figure for sperm life, and have for as long as I’ve been involved (which is since 2001). The idea being, I’m sure, that if you have a good reason to avoid pregnancy, let’s make sure it works, and not take chances on who is and isn’t going to hit the 2% mark.

    As always, Rae, your knowledge astonishes me…I really didn’t realize that there had been retoolings of the method before this most recent (phenomenal, if I do say so) reworking. Though I suppose it makes sense.

    1. Rae Post author

      Thanks for being willing to answer CCL questions!

      I should say though that I don’t really have knowledge of CCL revisions. Just conjecture based on vague memories of going through old CCL materials in a poorly stocked library at a Catholic college. They had *no* new NFP (meaning past 15ish years) books, but they did have several versions of older CCL info which I browsed through, though I was really interested in newer info.

      I do want to be clear that this is just my view of things, not that I think that this is absolute objective fact.

      And while I haven’t had the chance to actually read CCL’s newest version, the brief flip-through that I did makes me inclined to agree with your assessment. It’s great!

  3. alison

    hey, interesting stuff! and yeah, we don’t actually teach CCL method. I tried to learn on my own with that HUGE book and agree that it was pretty complicated, but I had intention to use it once married. fortunately, our diocese switched over to a much more simplified version based on the Diocese of Harrisburg and now we are our own certified NFP method! pretty cool huh? I think the book is no more than 60 pages and the rules are much easier to understand and apply (at least I and several other teaching couples who learned both think so). as a result, they are more conservative as well since they are all inclusive. ironically enough, this was not the reason the diocese switched, but because it was way cheaper! CCL increased costs after the development of the software program and ours is about $60 now instead of i think around $150. It stinks that cost is part of the equation but with so many engaged couples cohabiting/contracepting already, the $60 lure is one way we can get them to take the class…

    1. Rae Post author

      So glad to hear that your diocese found a way to make it cheaper! That’s one of the things that I really think needs to be changed “going forward.” If this is something that we want to change (from contracepting to NFP) then we have to invest in it/find ways to make it cheaper.

  4. Pingback: 3 Things I Secretly Hate About NFP | There Is No Wealth But Life

  5. Jillian

    I just took the CCL’s NFP course – they are pretty big on “any cervical mucus must be considered fertile!” They are definitely not underestimating and if anything are a little (okay, a lot) stricter than I want to be. If I had to avoid for serious health/financial concerns, though, I think CCL’s current rules are pretty on the money.

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