SYBIL ANTHONY, AN NFP instructor since the 1980s, had always wanted to have a child of her
own. But since she was diagnosed
with end-stage renal failure soon after her wedding in 1988, it was impossible for her to get pregnant without it being a threat to her life.

Inspired by the message of
“Humanae Vitae” that contraception has no part in a Catholic marriage, Sybil and her husband Luke used Natural Family Planning (NFP) to delay pregnancy until a time was possible for her to bear children.

Teaching NFP at Blessed Sacrament Church and Church of the Risen Christ was tough for Sybil as she had to undergo dialysis three times a week, but serving God was her joy. What was too painful for her to bear was the medical advice that she could not have children.

Sybil was warned by her renal
doctor that if she were to conceive,
she would have to undergo daily dialysis and even then, it was not guaranteed that she would be able to bring her baby to term.

Fearing that such a pregnancy would also overwork her kidney, Sybil’s doctor wanted to put her on
the Pill, but Luke and Sybil told
the doctor that they were Catholics
and were practising NFP. The doctor was skeptical of the method,
but said that it was their choice.

In 1990, Sybil underwent a
kidney transplant and nine months
later, she asked her doctor if she could have a child. The doctor told her that it was doubtful, as the medication she was taking to prevent organ rejection also reduced her chances of getting pregnant. However, by using NFP, Luke and Sybil were able to conceive since they knew exactly when her fertile days were.

Five weeks later, Sybil was back in the hospital where she learnt that if she continued with the pregnancy, she would risk losing her transplanted kidney. The specialist tending to her then scheduled her immediately for an abortion, but Sybil refused to consent to the operation.

Knowing the risks that she was
taking, and the fact that she would
have to be hospitalized during most of her pregnancy, Sybil was determined that her child should be given the chance to live.

Seven months after conception,
Sybil faced another dilemma. Her renal doctor wanted to have the
baby delivered prematurely, as there
was a danger that the baby could kick inside the womb and injure the transplanted kidney. Sybil’s gynaecologist, however, was of the
opinion that the longer the baby stayed in the womb, the better the baby’s chances of survival.

That night, Sybil prayed for God to make the decision for her, and in the middle of the night, she felt a kick and her water bag burst. She soon realized that God did indeed intervene, and they had a healthy baby girl, although the baby did need incubation for her first few weeks.

Luke and Sybil believe that with
NFP, “we help couples to be open
to life and at the same time respect
human life and procreation”. “We have seen couples avoid intercourse completely fearing pregnancy. That is sad, because NFP is available to all couples, and fertility awareness formed [through practice of] NFP have
resulted in couples communicating
more about their bodies and sexuality, which in turn improves communication skills throughout the entire marriage,” they said.

Luke and Sybil also believe that the scheduled periods of abstinence required by couples delaying pregnancy through the use of NFP helps couples to experience a “courtship and honeymoon effect”. It encourages couples to express love to each other in non-sexual ways, and to have a greater appreciation for intercourse when it does take place.

Their experience has shown that NFP can be used to not only delay pregnancy, but also to achieve it, which is something that contraceptives cannot do. – By Daniel Tay