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  • Tonya Sauer

How this Geriatric Nurse Started Teaching NFP

Most of the bios of Marquette instructors that I've read have been professional nurses (and APNs, FNPs, CNMs, or MDs) and almost all have a background in women's health or pediatrics. So...why the heck would a nurse with 100% of her career spent in a nursing home advance her education, not in geriatric specialization, but in Natural Family Planning? Well...it all starts with conversion.


Becoming Catholic three years ago is by far the #1 catalyst that lead to this life direction. If it wasn't for the Church's teaching on love and marriage, I would've never even considered using NFP to plan my family and space my children. Why?


Well, first off -- what do you think when you hear NFP?


Chance, gamble, "rhythm" method.


I.e. totally unreliable and I'll take my pretty pink pill to-go, please and thank you. I had one kid already. I didn't need another yet and I couldn't take any chances.


But in the discovery of the Catholic faith, I discovered the truth about my fertility, and NFP. In choosing to become Catholic (not out of obligation, but out of deep, intense study of Church history, the Bible, the Catechism, and lots of tearful prayers along the way), I entered into the long and beautiful doctrine on marriage and the gift of fertility. My fertility was not an obstacle, but a cooperation with God in the creation of life. My joint fertility with my husband was an opportunity for us to grow our relationship in ways I didn't realize we needed to grow in.

Saying "yes" to God over our baser needs helps us love each other better; our relationship is becoming more firmly rooted in Jesus, the only one who knows how to perfectly give of Himself to us, the beloved.

Before our marriage was sacramentalized by Fr. Rich, before my first Confession, months before Easter and my confirmation in the Church, I chucked my birth control pills and signed us up for Couple-to-Couple NFP training online. Why? Because when I do something, I do it 110% (ask literally anyone who knows me how intense I am). I wasn't going to fight my way into the Catholic Church and only follow her half-way. How many treasures I would be missing if I had done that! Let me be clear -- training in CCL required a solid month of abstinence. No sex. No nothing. Was it hard? Uh, am I a living, breathing woman who loves her husband very much? YES, it was hard! But the information I gained about my own body was amazing. I learned my unique fertility patterns and could feel confident in reading my signs -- no month before we conceived our second baby was left to "chance." We discerned each month whether it was time to add to our family, or if it was another opportunity to grow in self-giving love for one another.


Lemme tell you, nothing highlights the fault lines in your marriage like periodic abstinence. Not going to lie, it really sucks sometimes. But in all that struggle, our relationship is transforming into something more beautiful. In difficult moments, we work on our communication and commit more fully to one another in a hundred little ways that were never necessary before because sex had always been on the table as an easy way to express ourselves. Saying "yes" to God over our baser needs helps us love each other better; our relationship is becoming more firmly rooted in Jesus, the only one who knows how to perfectly give of Himself to us, the beloved.


After the birth of our son, I reviewed the CCL postpartum protocol and gulped. Wow...it felt like we would never have sex again using mucus protocol. And while we had grown in the year we used NFP, I didn't know how we'd handle this time, as long periods of abstinence seemed to loom ahead. Thankfully, I reached out to a Catholic mom's FB page and was flooded with messages like this:

"Learn Marquette!"


"Marquette all the way."


"Marquette definitely gave us more 'usable' days."


Another woman in the group put me in touch with Rebekah, the founder of Feminine Genius Ministries. I was 6 weeks postpartum when I learned Marquette NFP. The ease of use with the ClearBlue Easy monitor, the objectivity, and the research gave me peace about my "usable days." Originally, I had planned to use the monitor just through the postpartum transition, then switch back to CCL. But as a new mom of two little kids, the convenience of tracking one sign in an objective way was too attractive for me to give up.


I began following Rebekah's blog and learning more about the delicate balance of hormones involved and the ways in which cycle tracking could be used to identify other health risks. I read and wept at her realness about fertility as a blessing and a cross, about the beauty of every human life. About self-knowledge, discernment, and what true feminism (and femininity) is about. It was in these moments I began to wonder, maybe I could teach this, too.


I reached out to Rebekah about how to become certified and in her answer was the validation for my intuition: only BSN-prepared or higher medical professionals could teach Marquette. I had gotten a BSN just after completing my associate's degree in nursing, but had never used it for anything. Now, I had my reason. After a few months of hemming and hawing, I finally applied and began my training.


Maybe I could teach this, too.

There have been many tears shed, many temper tantrums and almost-quitting moments, many fearful and anxious doubts that have crept in time and again. But the Holy Spirit kept on nudging me through the loving and compassionate care of others, most notably my husband (who consoled my heart and encouraged me), my best friend Mary (who cheered me on every step of the way), and Rebekah at FMG (who answered many frantic, confused emails -- a million thanks). Without them, this would not be a reality. No one can do it all by themselves, and I certainly had the best of help.


Now, in the process of completing my practicuum for official certification, I am teaching and loving it. I feel joy in teaching women just how amazing their bodies are, and how each person's fertility is an opportunity to honor one another and honor God. As I continue my studies of the medical applications of Marquette NFP to solidify my medical knowledge surrounding cycle health, I hope to bring the delight and beauty of NFP to life in every session I teach.



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