Making the decision to go with a natural method of family planning can be terrifying. At least I felt that way when I started in 2002. There is a popular statement around these days that goes something like this: “This is not a change in habit, but a change in lifestyle.” Natural Family Planning is no different. If a woman is using some other form of contraception, the rules that govern sexual intimacy are going to change dramatically, and this can be unnerving for both husband and wife. I write this blog to help that couple. When my husband and I began this journey we were alone. This is the advice I wish I had when I made the decision to stop taking the Pill.
We had been married for almost 2 years, I was still a fairly new Catholic, and very dedicated to my faith. My husband and I had recently moved from Louisiana to Indiana, and the prescription for my birth control pill ran out. Because we were in a new city, I needed to see a local doctor to have my prescription refilled. As I was searching for a doctor, I told my husband, “You know, the Church says that contraception is wrong, but I grew up Baptist, and I am totally fine with this in my conscience.” He told me, “If you can convince me that the Church is wrong on this, we’ll just keep taking the Pill.”
Mission accepted. I woke up early the next morning before work and went online to google “how the birth control pill works.” It didn’t take me very long to find out that the Pill works in 3 ways to prevent pregnancy. First, it prevents ovulation. Second, it thickens cervical mucus so the sperm cannot reach the egg. Third, if these contraceptive methods fail, and a baby is conceived, it thins the lining of the uterus to keep the embryo from implantation. Wait, hold up. I’m a pro-life Christian woman. I believe life begins at conception. Conception occurs in the fallopian tube close to the ovary, and the baby can be up to 10 days old by the time it implants. You mean to tell me that this pill can prevent a fertilized egg from implantation? Doesn’t that kill a baby?
CS Lewis once said that “only a risk tests the reality of a belief.” I had always said I believed life began at conception, but here I was faced with a dilemma. If that was true, then I couldn’t take this pill anymore, or do anything else that might have same effect (read IUD, a patch, or injection since they all work the same way. If you don’t believe me, go look it up). I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I was only 24, hadn’t finished college, and I wanted a career. Did I really believe that life began at conception? Surely the pill kept me from ovulating each month. Surely I hadn’t inadvertently aborted one of my children in the 2 years since I had begun having intercourse. There was no way to know about the previous years, and the only way I could know now with any certainty that my pill kept me from ovulating would be to have an ultrasound of my ovaries once a week, every week, to see if there was follicular development, and no insurance company would pay for that. Besides that, sometimes a woman becomes pregnant and no follicular development can be seen on her ovary anyway!
I was terrified and heartbroken at the same time, but knew what had to be done. I woke Jacob up and told him what I found out. We got on our knees and asked God to forgive us if we had unknowingly aborted one of our precious children, and made the decision right then that we would learn a natural method of family planning. I purchased the book **Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Tony Weschler and taught myself how to use NFP.
**comment from reader: There are many good USCCB-approved methods of NFP which can be learned from a variety of sources. Tony Weschler’s book is problematic because it condones the use of barrier methods of contraception during the fertile time. [The Church teaches that] barrier methods are not licit even though they do not kill a newly -conceived baby.
Stay tuned for another blog post that addresses the issue of barrier methods!