The number one obstacle to my returning to the Catholic Church was its teaching on birth control.
Looking back now, I find that absurd, as I had been known to tell many, many people prior to my return to the Church that I hated birth control and was going to go to my doctor and demand a better option. I had a lot of issues on birth control. I was put on it as a young woman to control my acne. Yes, my acne. The first “pill” I was on made me absolutely insane… it made my hormones spike and plummet and for at least a week every month (not the one where I was on my period) I was cranky, agitated, anxious, overly emotional. For 7 whole days, due to one little pill, I displayed classic signs of clinical depression. After about 3 months like that, I went back to the doctor, who cheerfully told me that there was virtually no shortage of the type of pill I could be on, and they would find one that was “right for me!”
So we tried a second pill, this one made me bleed for 3 weeks straight. A third killed my libido, which was devastating for a newlywed. A fourth gave me intense migraine headaches. I was so fed-up, but had no idea what my options were. When I went in to speak to my doctor again, her next idea was a copper IUD. That was where I drew the line. I am squeamish about a lot of things, one of which is things being inside my body. For this reason, the shot, the ring and the IUD were completely out. But I was allergic to latex and had no desire to have children, so I stuck with the pill.
When my husband and I decided to have our marriage convalidated, this was the bone of contention for me. He had been urging me to get off the pill altogether, he had heard the study about it being carcinogenic and, being a bit of a “natural health” buff, he was very concerned about the long-term effects on my health and fertility. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to give up the “control” on my fertility, and I didn’t like what I thought was the Church’s teaching on having to have a bunch of children. I would rather be sick than possibly get pregnant with a man I married for better or for worse. But, we were required to take the class, and we were required to “live as brother and sister” until we were sacramentally married, so it seemed as good a time as any to go off the pill.
When I received my materials to take the class (we had to take it online because no in-person courses were offered in our area), I opened it with trepidation. As I started to take the class, I got very frustrated. It seemed impossible to remember all the rules, it felt like a sneaky way to make people give up and have 10 kids. My husband embraced it, though and learned it like a champ. He was always the more logical of the two. As time went on, though (and after switching gynecologists to a nurse mid-wife who was helpful), I learned how to chart, I learned how to see the cycles and it made a lot of sense. I feel better than I have in a long time; I’m not bloated, or having headaches or cranky. And, guess what? I don’t have acne any more either!
But the thing I have learned the most aside from the charting and being in tune with my body is that all the things our culture tells us about “the pill” are false. They tell us it will make us free, but we are chained to it because we have to take it every day. We feel like if we don’t, we can’t do anything “fun” without the pesky fear of taking responsibility for our actions looming over our heads. They advertise it to us like it’s this really great thing, telling us all about the awesome side effects it has: lessening PMDD, getting rid of acne and fewer, lighter periods. But they never tell us that it can cause other issues like cancer or infertility after prolonged use.
NFP has opened up many new things for me. I feel like I understand my body so much better now, something that I never knew before. When they teach you in school about your menstrual cycle, it’s more like an advertisement for tampons, they don’t really tell you what is going on in your body. So many women think something is wrong because they have no idea, and their doctors don’t either! (When I went to a doctor’s appointment with a friend the other day, I was appalled when her doctor told her that he was a little concerned about her “white discharge.”) Now, not only do I know what is going on in my body at any given time, so does my husband! There’s a reason why the statistics on divorce for NFP practicing couples is at 2%! I feel freer now, and healthier! I’m also more open to life because I feel like I am working with the rhythms of my body and not putting up any kind of barrier between my fertility, my husband, God and I. We’re all in this boat together, and I have come to value my fertility as a part of me as a woman that, rather than being shamed into suppressing by the culture at large, I am now accepting and in-tune to it! NFP is a wonderful gift that I wish more women would learn and I know so many women could benefit from if only it had the kind of funding and advertising that the pill has. I, personally, try to spread the word as much as I can. NFP is a true blessing in my life and marriage.