I’d like to talk about ovulation. It’s a rather phenomenal thing and it is one of my favorite times of the month. This is perhaps an odd statement coming from someone who is presently postponing pregnancy. As anyone who uses NFP knows, this means that I don’t get to share a marital embrace with my husband during that time. That’s why I said it is one of my favorite times, perhaps slightly less favored than what many people call “the Honeymoon Phase,” which is that time when my fertility ends again for the rest of the cycle and there are no restrictions on the aforementioned marital embrace.
Physically, as probably most people know, ovulation occurs when the mature egg is released from the ovary and takes up residence in the nearest fallopian tube. Simple. Are people aware of what else happens during the approximately 100 hours of the cycle that a woman is fertile? When a woman is fertile, she is bursting with creative energy. She naturally feels nurturing, selfless and giving. For me, often my best writing seems to correlate with my fertile phase and I love all the energy I have. In this phase, six hours of sleep is enough for me, and this is true even now while I still nurse my infant during the night. Though I’m not usually a morning person, when the time of ovulation nears, I’m eager to get up and seize the day. Elizabeth Ministry founder, Jeannie Hannemann talks about how one of her daughters got great scholarships to college because she purposely wrote her application essays during her fertile phase. She whipped them all out in no time at all and they were phenomenal. Several studies have been done that show that men find women more attractive when they are fertile, and also that women emit pheromones that make her intimate partner more attracted to her and less attracted to other women. So while abstinence is difficult, it is also the time that I feel most alive, energetic and beautiful. Also, I’ve written before that it seems as though if my husband and I can’t come together physically, we come together emotionally. It seems like our best conversations seem to happen when I’m in my fertile phase.
I feel that this is also a very powerful time spiritually. It occurred to me one day that God waited for Mary to enter her fertile phase to send the angel Gabriel to her to ask if she would consent to be the mother of His Son. If women today would use their fertile phase to say yes to God, we would set this world on fire! I feel that our time of fertility is such a gift for women. For even those whom God does not call to be physical mothers, God still gives them the gift of fertility — this creative, life-giving energy. Single women and religious women still get a time of fertility. Why would God give this to someone that He willed would never use it? I feel because God does want us to use it. During our fertile phase, our task in prayer is to ask how God wants us to bring forth life. Are we being called to bring forth physical life? Or are we being asked to bring forth life in another manner? Is God asking us to say yes to something that we have been scared to say yes to because we are afraid of the sacrifices involved? Mary herself, was called to bring forth physical life once, when she conceived Jesus. Each cycle after that, however, she was called to give life in other ways, and probably when she was nearing menopause, perhaps in her last fertile cycle, she said yes to giving birth to the Church at Pentecost.
It is quite saddening then to think that millions of women, who wish to avoid pregnancy, choose not to ovulate by using hormonal contraceptives such as The Pill. Do women not want more energy? Do they not want to function at their peak creativity? Do husbands not want their wives to be naturally giving, selfless, and nurturing? Do women not want their husbands to find them more attractive? For although they may not realize it, all of these things are handicapped when women choose not to ovulate.
I know that our culture thinks that the way women’s bodies naturally function is burdensome, but our bodies are not a mistake. God created our bodies with concern and care and, although it can be scary to make the leap from contracepting, it can also be very freeing. Although there are often challenges in living the NFP lifestyle in this culture where there is often little support, there are abundant gifts that come from planning our families while trusting in God’s plan and design for us. This is why Elizabeth Ministry is beginning an NFP Women’s Group at Elizabeth Ministry Retreat and Resource Center in Kaukauna for NFP users to meet other users and get support from those who have made the leap too. It is for new users of NFP and seasoned users, and for users all methods. Go to elizabethministry.com for more details.
Jaure is healthy living coordinator for Elizabeth Ministry International.