Here's how I convinced my husband, in spite of the culture, friends' advice, and doubt
We had driven down First Avenue hundreds of times before, but never had it created such anxiety for each of us. As he described in a past article, he was nervous about an idea I had proposed, which he thought a bit crazy and a bit irresponsible. I was nervous because the course of our lives and the integrity of our impending marriage would be decided in the next hour of our lives. Recently, we had been to dinner at Hacienda, which happened to be a few doors down from the Holy Family Center for Life, where we were headed that day. As we had been filling ourselves with the usual baskets of chips and salsa, I had broached the subject once again. Would Natural Family Planning, rather than contraception, be the right thing for our marriage? I knew it was. He was not convinced.
The conversation wasn’t easy. Nor was it comfortable. In fact, it provoked fear for a long period of time. And periodically, after 14 years, it still does. It wasn’t that my husband and I had a shaky relationship, but even in our stability and the great unity with which we’ve been blessed, the topic of using Natural Family Planning versus artificial birth control methods was, at first, a bit of a dicey subject. I was naïve to think that all Catholics understood that contraception is not how God intended us to use our fertility, especially those, like my husband, who were brought up in faith-filled homes and attended Catholic schools. I found myself in an uncomfortable position. Not only was he questioning the use of NFP in our marriage, but I realized that I was on a pretty small island and the world was definitely not stopping to discover why I was there. Instead, the world was trying to convince me that contraception was the answer.
Medicine was telling me that using natural methods of birth control was something that applied to generations past, but not to our advanced world. Society was saying that if I would just use this great advancement in “reproductive freedom,” surely I would find contentment.
The women’s rights movement was telling me that I needed to fight for equality of the sexes and that contraception would free me from the burden of children so that I could climb the corporate ladder of success. If I wanted freedom and equality, the movement seemed to say that contraception was necessary. Then I would find contentment.
Financial experts were telling me that kids are too expensive. With the cost of college increasing at a rate of 6% per year, by 2020, attending a university for 4 years would cost $100,000-$300,000. Again, the advice seemed clear: Use contraception and I would be fiscally responsible and free; ultimately, I would find contentment.
The secular media that glamorized sex was telling me that life was about seeking pleasure. If only I used contraception, we could have the freedom of sexual pleasure any time we wanted. Then I would certainly find contentment.
My peers were telling me that it’s no big deal because the modern American dream included contraception. If only I would conform, contentment and freedom would be around the corner.
And, honestly, I was trying to convince myself that surely one of these was a valid reason to allow contraception into my life. It would certainly be an easier route to take. To start with, I wouldn’t be in this deep debate with Jimmy about whether or not it was right for us. Like most people I knew, I could walk into the doctor the next day, ask for the pill, and we would then have one less thing to worry about. We certainly did not want to get pregnant right away with my husband in a graduate program, while
we were trying to make ends meet on my Catholic-school salary. After all, I concluded, “I’m living a pretty solidly Catholic life.” Surely God would overlook my disregard of this little teaching, especially since everyone else seemed to be in the same frame of mind.
To make matters more confusing, there was not a clear direction from members of our local church regarding the use of NFP. Yet, God is faithful, and although by the early 1900’s Protestant denominations dropped what many perceive as an antiquated teaching, the universal Catholic Church—although pressured by secularists and Catholics alike—remained firm in her teaching.
Jimmy likes to joke that my conscience has always worked in overdrive. And this instance was proof positive, I guess! Despite the fact that so many were telling me otherwise, so that I was even convinced myself that it was going to be okay to use contraception (at least until we were ready to have children), that little voice inside would not be quiet. It was something I had heard or read hundreds of times, but became key to what I am called to do in this life. It echoed the words of Proverbs 3:5—“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thine own understanding.” I was definitely not fully understanding it. But God, through the wisdom of His Church, was telling me that contraception was not the road to contentment.
“Prove it to me,” Jim said. “What do you mean, ‘Prove it to you?’” I asked. “Prove to me that this method is going to work.” So, my scientific, rational husband wanted me to make my case. This is not what I had in mind, but I gathered the information I could and convinced him to attend an NFP intro session. On that pivotal day as we headed into our introduction session on the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning, I said a quiet prayer and gave his arm a reassuring, grateful squeeze.
Despite the uneasiness of the day, I was incredibly grateful for his willingness to be there with me. The Creighton Model of NFP, developed by Dr. Hilgers of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and the National Center for Women’s Health, is said to be 99% effective in avoiding pregnancy. This percentage is even better than most contraceptives, including condoms and the pill. Although I could tell Jimmy was not 100% convinced by my evidence that this method was going to work, after much deliberation and with great hesitance, yet unwavering love, he agreed that we would do it because of its importance to me.
Six years went by, and we managed to use the Creighton model to prevent pregnancy. We were now ready to start our family. But a year later we still had not conceived. I questioned God about why He was not cooperating with my grand plan. After all, I rationalized, I was doing my best to follow His rules. Selfish and proud, now it was me who was in doubt. It was a tough year for me emotionally and spiritually, as I was not trusting in His timing, but was instead trying to take control of what was not mine to control.
, who was I to doubt God’s beautiful plan? Eight years and six children later, I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams. Our five very caring and active boys and our amazing and loving daughter give my husband and me
such incredible joy, continuous challenges, and—through their mere existence—they impel
us to look beyond ourselves in search of the eternal world that awaits. The lessons learned and graces received along the way have shown us that the challenges are not to be feared, but embraced.
I recently listened to one of Father Robert Barron’s presentations in which he described why God created us. In essence, we are each here because He loved us into being. Though I have
probably heard this stated in so many ways through scripture and homilies over the years, this particular moment it struck me with a new light. am here because God loved me into being. My children are here because God loved them into being. That is the only reason. Not to meet some earthly image or standard of success. And if the only reason I’m here is because He loved me into being, then I owe Him everything. I owe Him my life. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
NFP helps me grow in virtue every day. Contrary to what the world tells me, the practice of NFP opens doors to greater contentment. It is a built-in reminder that I can use God’s gifts to make good decisions with my free will, but God is ultimately the one in control. God’s plan is so much better than my plan. I have heard it said that obedience can be possible without love, but true, faithful love cannot exist without obedience. Only God knows if our family will continue to grow in size, but I have faith that by being obedient, it will grow ever in love. God has showered us with tremendous blessings; we must now use them for His good to bring others into the Kingdom. We must use them to bring the joy that comes each day from giving our lives to Him, submitting to His will, and finding meaning and transcendence amid the struggles.
lives in Evansville, IN with her husband Jim and their six young children. She has a degree in Elementary and Middle School Education from the University of Evansville. She spends her days trying to hear and discern (through all the noise) the various ways her family is called to live out the Catholic Faith.