Upon seeing all six of my kids…
You know what causes that, don’t you?
For the last 14 years I’ve been at this motherhood gig and with each passing year we’ve added to our growing brood.
You would be shocked at the things people say. Our kids have been called “oops,” my sex life has been questioned by a stranger in an elevator and we’ve been mocked in Target. I get it. It comes with the territory.
I always want to respond, “Actually, I do. Quite well, in fact. Hold on a second, would you like to see my NFP chart?” But instead of being all sassy pants, which I’m known to be, I’m trying hard to respond with this gem from Mary:
Yes, of course we know what causes it. It’s love. Always love.
So many people fear fertility. Like FEAR it. Like willing to injest chemicals that alter their body’s normal makeup kind of fear. Like willing to undergo elective surgery kind of fear.
And I get it. I have felt that fear.
When we first decided to add children to our marriage, we postponed it several years because I feared the impact it would have on my budding public relations career. Surely a baby would hold me back. I wasn’t ready, I thought.
When I miscarried a baby 13 years ago, I feared getting pregnant again. Having to say goodbye, again. When I started bleeding a few weeks into the next pregnancy I was kind of a basket case. It was not pretty. Somewhere along the way, I dug deep and overcame the fear. We had three more normal pregnancies after that miscarriage and I thought the fear was conquered.
And then our fifth child was born premature, spent 44 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, almost died and underwent seven surgeries to his major organs – brain, spine, gut, ears and brain.
Enter the fear. Me and my fertility? We were not BFFs.
And then I got pregnant with my sixth baby. That fear? It simply disappeared. Not in the poof! kind of way, but in the “Jesus I trust in You” kind of way.
You see, 13 years ago, a year after our first child was born, we gave up using artificial birth control. Not because the Catholic church encouraged it, not because we felt pressured and not because we couldn’t afford it. No, we gave it up because what we were doing wasn’t working. I mean, physically, yes the pill was working. But emotionally? Spiritually? There was too much unrest. We figured we didn’t have anything to lose so we wanted to give Natural Family Planning (NFP) a shot.
I would be a big fat liar if I told you that it’s easy to practice NFP. That it’s easy to defend our choice among my artificially contracepting girlfriends. That sometimes I want to throw caution to the wind and be with my husband whenever I want.
But every time I want to throw in the towel, shake my fist at Rome and declare that the church has no business in my bedroom (yes, I actually said that to the priest during our pre-marriage counseling), I am reminded of one thing.
All the other methods are singular. They require action from only one partner. Vasectomy? Man. The pill? Woman. The ring, IUD, tubes tied? Woman. But with NFP, my fertility is not mine alone. Through NFP I have a partner in my husband. I don’t live on some island where I feel fear alone, where I chart alone, where I raise kids alone.
Scott and I are in this together. We pray every month, every single one, and ask one another and God if adding another child is something we should consider. On the months where the answer is no, we abstain during a certain period of time. And when it’s a yes, well, you know how that ends.
I’m not naive to think that this abandonment of what popular culture tells us is okay comes easily to every couple. For us, it took years to get here. Others may take decades. But, ladies, your fertility should not be yours alone.
We fight about it in the courtroom and with medical professionals in the context of abortion.
We let it drive a wedge between us and dissolve the trust in our marriages.
We fear that it will derail our careers, deplete our savings or impede on our vacation plans.
We worry about what others might think if we throw out artificial contraception and vasectomies and put our trust in something else.
We fear the leap of faith.
But by taking the leap of faith, instead of eliminating the conversation between husband and wife that artificial contraception erases, NFP requires us to have it. To work as a team in creating life and nurturing it.
Practicing NFP doesn’t mean your wedded life will be complete bliss. It doesn’t mean you won’t have a miscarriage, give birth to a preemie, endure post-partum depression or have complications from childbirth. It doesn’t mean the walkway is paved with gold while the angels sing above. The good and worthy things in life always require sacrifice. Our road to NFP has not been easy. I’ve cussed it. Hated it. Resented it. In that same breath, I have also grown from it, loved it and embraced it. If you’re Catholic – shoot, even if you’re not Catholic – I urge you to consider throwing out your pills and canceling the vasectomy appointment and learning more about NFP. I’m always here to listen, email me anytime.
And the next time someone asks you what causes it, I pray we can all answer, with love.
WEB: Couple to Couple League (we use the Sympto-Thermal method)
BOOK: The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher
PERSON: Your local Catholic diocese family planning office (Diocese of Austin)