Marriage, Love, Life

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org

As they expect their first child, couple shares beauty of natural family planning as envisioned in 'Humanae Vitae' 

When Stacey and Nick Gish of St. John Paul II Parish in Affton were married in the Church in 2009, having a family was part of their plan. But the plan didn't unfold exactly as they envisioned.

"Everything we wanted to happen didn't happen," Stacey Gish said.

After a year of trying to conceive, she was referred to a specialist, who said she had "unexplained infertility." The doctor recommended in vitro fertilization. It was a huge leap they didn't want to make.

"Nick was like, 'I don't understand why the doctors don't want to try to find out what's wrong with you first,'" she recalled. "I'm a microbiologist, so I agreed with that. Why don't we want to figure out what's going on?"

When the Gishes went through marriage preparation in Carbondale, Ill., they were given general information on natural family planning. They had never learned the specifics of NFP — including how to chart her menstrual cycles. "It was like NFP light," she said.

They also hadn't learned about the different NFP methods, including the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, which was developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers as a direct response to Blessed Paul VI's encyclical, "Humanae Vitae." The document, written 50 years ago this month, outlines what God intended married love and life to be and how the procreation of children are a part of that.

Pope Paul VI also noted in the document that doctors must "support those lines of action which accord with faith and with right reason. ... For then, when married couples ask for their advice, they may be in a position to give them right counsel and to point them in the proper direction."

The Gishes were introduced to Diane Daly, director of the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning and supervisor of the Department of FertilityCare Services at Mercy St. Louis. The couple began charting Stacey's cycles via the Creighton model, and they were referred to Dr. Gavin Puthoff, a Creighton/NaPro Technology trained OB/GYN, who helped them discover several contributors to Stacey's infertility and treated them.

The couple is expecting their first born in August.

The Gishes are still in awe at the miracle that they have created. They see "Humanae Vitae" as a good foundation that helped them keep close to God when they were struggling with infertility. Prior to this pregnancy, the couple had experienced an early miscarriage, and "Humanae Vitae" served as a reminder that God was not abandoning them at what was a difficult moment in their marriage.

"'Humanae Vitae' says that God is in your marriage," Stacey Gish said. "I had to remind myself that this (miscarriage) happened for whatever reason ... but I clung to God and Nick, and that helped me through it."

Now that they're celebrating the impending arrival of their first child, they're anticipating all of the things that come with being parents — including future family trips to Table Rock Lake, playing sports and Sunday morning donuts.

"I'm looking forward to having our own little family, and our own little rituals," Nick Gish said.

Advancing NFP and women's health care

In the past decade or so, there has been a shift in the degree of accuracy in which Natural Family Planning methods such as the Creighton Model identify issues with a woman's health. Dr. Thomas Hilgers, who founded the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in 1985, published a comprehensive reference book in 2004 that has been described by doctors and other medical professionals as a platform for the practice of medicine working in cooperation with a woman's natural fertility.

Daly noted that roughly one third of clients at Mercy FertilityCare Services are dealing with infertility, and the other two-thirds have at least one gynecological health issue. NFP, "is advancing to include the area of women's health care in a few forward-moving way so women can get better health care," she said. "There are better approaches now, and it's becoming more accepted in our culture."

Daly also described "Humanae Vitae" as the foundation of the work her office does with NFP. Blessed Paul VI called scientists, health care professionals, priests, bishops and others "to help people live this teaching, recognizing that it can be difficult for people," Daly said. "It can also strengthen the marriage and family life."

Blessed Paul VI predicted several issues society would face if it embraced contraception, including an increase in the objectification of women, governmental support of contraception, and a general weakening of morality in the area of sexuality. "These things he prophesied have come true in our culture," Daly said. "We're here to build strong couples, strong families and to build a culture of life."

In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, there are five methods of natural family planning offered and more than 30 providers at 22 locations. Instruction in Spanish also is available. As part of marriage preparation in the archdiocese, engaged couples are required to attend an introductory NFP session, which explains how it works.

Julie Bostick, executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life (formerly Office of Laity and Family Life), noted that the introductory NFP session is critical to having well-formed engaged couples as they approach the Church to receive the sacrament of marriage.

"The Church's teaching is we should be using NFP for responsibly planning our families," Bostick said. "They need to be able to make an educated decision when it comes to NFP. If we're asking them to stand up in front of God ... they need to understand what it is they are consenting to. If they don't understand it, we're not doing our job efficiently."

Bostick also said there are several positive factors engaged couples learn after being introduced to NFP, including an increase in a couple's communication skills and a deeper respect for each others' bodies and fertility. "It makes such a difference when they see it as a shared fertility, and not just about her fertility," she said. 

Upcoming events marking the 50th anniversary of 'Humanae Vitae' 

July

St. Louis Young Adults Theology on Tap: 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 24, at Kirkwood Station Brewing Company. Lauren Scharmer will present "Love in the Waiting."

Love and Life Mass and Dinner: Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, 5 p.m. Saturday, July 21, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Catered dinner will follow in Boland Hall. Cost is $12 for adults, $6 for children 3-11, or a maximum of $60 per household. To purchase tickets, visit stlouisreview.com/jLw or call Melissa Barnason at (314) 997-7576.

Natural family planning talk: 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 27, at Ascension Parish in Chesterfield. Four couples will share their personal stories of using natural family planning. A priest and several health care professionals will participate in a panel discussion with the couples. Register at www.bit.ly/NFPevent or email Katie Sullivan at ksullivan0409@gmail.com.

Papa Palooza: 2-7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 28, at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury. The event will include family games, Mass, dinner and an outdoor concert. Adult registration (17 and over) is $12.50, children's (ages 3-16) tickets cost $5 and entrance is free for ages 0-2. Register online by July 25 at archstl.org/palooza.

September

Wine and Wisdom event: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of "Humanae Vitae," a panel discussion, "On Love and Life: An Evening of Conversation, Wine and Wisdom," will bring clarity to the Church's teaching on marriage, sexuality, life and fertility. Heavy appetizers, wine and beverages will be provided at the free event. RSVP by Sept. 15 at bit.ly/WineWisdomSTL.

October

Conference on "Humanae Vitae" in health care: Oct. 11-13 at Saint Louis University. "Advancing 'Humanae Vitae': Best Practices and Next Steps in Catholic Health Care Delivery and Education" is a three-day national conference that will address how to better advance the encyclical's core principles in contemporary health care. The conference is open to health care professionals and other diocesan leaders, allied organizations and health care ethicists. For more information or to register, visit HVandHealthCare.com 


 

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