Natural family planning helped Gina Loehr telegraph abnormalities in her health. The method helped her and her husband, Joe, to postpone pregnancy and then to achieve pregnancy as soon as they were ready. The couple, members of Shepherd of the Hills Parish, Eden, will speak at the Aug. 29 archdiocesan NFP conference. (Catholic Herald photo by Sam Arendt)
Married for 14 years and parents of five children, David and Grace Urbanski, members of St. Mary Parish, Elm Grove, believe that natural family planning enhances the sacramental aspect of their marriage. (Submitted photo courtesy David and Grace Urbanski)
NFP-practicing couples praise approach, success
By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald
ST. FRANCIS – It is no accident there is a three year span between David and Grace Urbanski’s fourth and fifth children. They planned it that way.
“We had four children in four years,” said Grace, an adjunct faculty member in the English department at Marquette University, and a professional vocalist and private voice teacher. “It was physically and emotionally exhausting.”
While neither considered artificial contraception an option, they realized that the form of natural family planning that they were using was not working. Married 14 years, the couple, who belong to St. Mary Visitation Parish, Elm Grove, began with the sympto-thermal method taught by the Couple to Couple League. While effective for many, Grace’s fertility cycle was erratic and she was unable to achieve an accurate morning basal body temperature reading. “And, if you are out of bed four times a night with babies and have to hit the ground running in the morning, there is no such thing as a stable temperature reading,” she explained.
During her fourth pregnancy, Grace wondered if practicing natural family planning was worth it. She prayed in earnest that God would provide an alternative.
“After I delivered my fourth baby, I came to see how God answered my prayers in three ways,” she said. “We had this wonderful new person to love. We discovered the ClearBlue fertility monitor and became involved in Marquette University’s test program, and we became acquainted with other earthy, vibrant young couples who use NFP and who could support us.”
The monitoring system detects ovulation by identifying the surge of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) in a woman’s urine. LH is always present in a woman’s urine, but levels surge in the middle of her cycle, causing ovulation.
Neither Grace nor David, a Latin teacher at Brookfield Academy and convert to Catholicism, ever thought about bringing artificial contraception into their marriage. Both were captivated by the way Pope John Paul II expressed the gift of the human body and sexuality into modern theological understanding.
“The Catholic understanding of the universe is so good, integrated, true and beautiful. It was easy for us to realize that every act of married intercourse must be both unitive and procreative,” Grace explained. “We could never fully be open to each other if we were not fully open to God’s will for our life together, including our sex life. If I sincerely believe that God is the author of life, and if I know that the way humans generate life is through sex, then it follows that it is God himself who visits us in sex. Using contraception would be like inviting a dear friend to visit at our house and then barricading the doorway when he approaches.”
Remaining open to life is not always easy for the parents of Clare, 13, Paul, 11, Ann, 10, Jack, 8, and Rose 5. Negative comments about the size of their family and criticism of their unwillingness to use artificial contraception is all too common – and hurtful.
“One friend argued that if God blessed scientists with the knowledge of how to use chemicals to disrupt the woman’s fertility, then we can use the birth control pill gratefully,” said Grace. “Well, I’ll bet we can all think of scientific discoveries that threaten rather than enhance human dignity. I am grateful that “Humanae Vitae” encouraged scientists to find more accurate means of determining the fertile period of a woman’s cycle. The ClearBlue monitor we now use is evidence of that kind of scientific progress which allows David and me to make free and knowledgeable decisions about what to do when I am fertile.”
Bringing natural family planning methods into a sacramental marriage is different than artificial contraception in that there are no side effects, it doesn’t interfere with a sexual act to render it sterile, and it depends on a couple’s commitment to one another and their willingness to abstain from intercourse during fertile times if pregnancy needs to be postponed.
Author and speaker Gina Loehr studied the Creighton Method of natural family planning to monitor her irregular cycles and uncover underlying problems a year before meeting her husband Joe, whom she married in April 2007.
Under the guidance of a Creighton-trained physician, Gina learned to chart biological markers which let her know when she was naturally fertile or infertile, as well as telegraph abnormalities in her health. The Creighton Method helped her unravel mysteries in her own menstrual cycle.
“I isolated some hormonal imbalances through a combination of charting and blood work,” she said. “So even before Joe and I were married, we were aware of some potential troubles I might have had with fertility, and were able to correct them through hormone therapy.”
The method helped them to initially postpone pregnancy and then to achieve pregnancy as soon as they were ready. As parents of a 16-month-old daughter and another baby on the way, the Loehrs believe so completely in natural family planning that they decided to become a teaching couple in the Billings Method to determine ovulation. Additionally, they will speak at the Aug. 29 archdiocesan NFP conference sponsored by the Nazareth Project.
Located within the John Paul II Center for Lifelong Faith and Ministry Formation, the Nazareth Project prepares couples to live a Catholic sacramental marriage.
Lydia LoCoco, NFP coordinator and director of the Nazareth Project, is enthusiastic about the upcoming conference designed to educate average parishioners, parish staff, professionals and those contemplating marriage.
“It is an ‘NFP for Dummies’ conference, and that is exactly what I want it to feel like because I want everyone to feel welcome,” said LoCoco. “This is good news and we want people to hear it.”
The Loehrs view their marriage as a sacrament where they work hand-in-hand with God to live out their vocation.
“By practicing NFP, we respect God’s plan for sex and marriage, which is only one of many ways we try to respect God’s will in our married life. In our experience, when we follow his plan, he blesses us abundantly in return,” said Gina.
The periods of sexual abstinence are not always easy for any couple in love, but for Joe, owner of Loehr Dairy, LLC and Gina, the time apart fosters appreciation for the many facets of sexual union. As practicing Catholics and members of Shepherd of the Hills Parish in Eden, following NFP is respectful of the dignity and meaning of sexual union and supported by the church.
“Some couples fear that NFP will negatively affect their sex life,” said Gina. “On the contrary, NFP encourages a flourishing, fulfilling sex life. Instead of taking each other’s sexual generosity for granted, or allowing sex to become a boring ‘given,’ or treating fertility like a scary disease, the periods of abstinence are just short enough to be totally manageable and just long enough to keep sex feeling new, year after year.”
There are a few occasions where following NFP can be a bit disappointing admitted the Urbanskis. But with a bit of humor, ingenuity and a back-up plan, the romantic interlude can be salvaged.
“We can have a romantic weekend all planned, and then discover it falls right in the peak fertility time,” said Grace. “That’s not cool. However, it’s fantastic to know my co-abstaining husband thinks I am worth the wait.Then we play Wii.”
Marriage and Natural Family Planning
Archdiocesan NFP Conference
In conjunction with Columbia, St. Mary’s Hospital Saturday, Aug. 29, 8 a.m to 3:30 p.m. St. Joseph Center
1501 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee
Conference is $15 and includes continental
breakfast. Download registration form: or contact Lydia LoCoco at (414) 758-2214 or e-mail