Friday, October 28, 2011

The lure of ABC

A and I never looked into contraceptive methods.  We are both committed Catholics and we always planned on using NFP when married. So when we didn't always listen to our consciences before we were married in the sex department, we didn't use any 'protection,' and that lack of contraception got us our gorgeous daughter, L.

While we were preparing for marriage, we tried our best to learn NFP so that we would be ready, but I was four months postpartum when we married, and let me say that NFP while breastfeeding is pretty dang confusing, especially for someone who has never used it before.  It wasn't that we were not open to the idea of having another baby, more that we wanted to have at least a little bit of space between them. I have seen first-hand how tough it can be to have children very close together, and since I'm only 24 we really want to avoid parenting burnout especially this early in the game.
I charted until my cycle came back, but we didn't do much abstaining (the whole newlywed thing and all :) ).  I started cycling again when L was nine months old.  We felt that an 18-month gap was less then we wanted at that stage so we started using NFP to postpone another pregnancy, and man was it hard for us!  I know some people take to NFP easily and find it incredibly grace-filled, but I can honestly say we have had some of our worst stress induced arguments while abstaining during my fertile periods.  I'm not saying that this means it's not good, because it did genuinely help us work out some of our early marriage problems. But, our stress levels go up significantly while we are abstaining, and I'm sure we aren't the only ones who feel this.  I'm sure part of the issue is that we did not practice the whole abstinence thing perfectly before marriage.  We abstained for months at a time, but we did not have a chaste dating or engaged relationship.  So for us learning to abstain has had to come after getting married. 

We successfully used NFP to postpone pregnancy for six cycles. Somewhere in the middle of that sixth cycle we decided that a two year gap between kids was good enough for us, and baby J was conceived, and we have been frolicking freely while I'm pregnant. So, I have a pretty short experience with NFP, but let me tell you our short experience with it was, well hard. We have friends who have successfully used NFP to postpone pregnancy for years at a time, and I truly admire their dedication and self control.  And the couples pictured in those darn NFP how-to manuals always look so blissfully happy! However, this type of self control with each other certainly does not come easily to A and me.  I know that means we need to work on it when it is time for us to postpone pregnancy, but it often scares me to consider how many years of fertility remain to me.  I'm only 24, and many of my female relatives have had children in their forties.  I realize many women would love to have the 'problem' of an over-abundance of fertility, but it can feel like a different type of struggle. I have a few relatives, my maternal grandmother, and an aunt on my mother's side, who have over 10 children. And judging from the generous fertility of my mom's side of the family I know that mine will probably be similar (I'm guessing I'm quite capable of having a dozen children, finishing up in my early forties).  I know I could have over ten myself if we continue to have children at this rate--and I honestly find that thought a bit terrifying. 

Hence when I read Simcha Fisher's article, "The Grass is Just as Complicated on the Other Side" ( I really identified with the lure of contraception.  I'll admit that when my fears about being able to successfully use NFP for longer periods of time and of having more children than we can reasonably care for are crowding in, using contraception sounds blissfully stress-free.   In our darker times we have discussed using ABC. I often forget that contraception comes with its own set of problems and uncertainties. 

Although we have discussed using some kind of ABC before, we always come back to thinking that NFP is the best choice for us both morally and physically. A, again, reminded me of our beliefs a few days ago when he told me about an ad he saw on TV for some new contraceptive pill.  He told me how one of the side affects was 'death,' and how horrible he found it that we are willing to risk a woman's life to make her a non-fertile being.  He told me how he found the whole idea of contraception to not just be morally wrong, but to be blatantly anti-woman.  He never wants me to do something like that to my body so that we can have sex whenever we want. That's love!

Hearing his thoughts on this issue from a health perspective helped me to understand the respect using NFP brings to us for each other even though it's hard.  My fertile future is scary to me, but I know I've got an amazing husband to stand with me and figure it out with.  And when I read of the adverse affects of contraception physically and on relationships, abstaining doesn't sound so bad. 


  1. Way to go in sticking it out with NFP!!! It IS hard to abstain, especially when "emotions" run high. You have an amazing husband who realizes that it's better for you to not take birth control ... They don't get better than that! Yay, hubby!

  2. Thanks for this reflection. I think each couple experiences this differently, and it's so helpful to hear multiple perspectives. It's so great you can face this challenge together!

    By the way, what method are you using? My younger sister and her hubby were using a method that required more abstinence than was necessary and now they've switched to a different method (Creighton of course - hey, she's my sister after all, haha). But for her particular pattern of cycles (and her need to use the method while breastfeeding), the switch allowed them to select more days to be together. They too have been blessed (and feel the incredible weight of) being super fertile.

  3. Novie, thanks for writing this post. I know this wasn't easy to share, especially when you're worrying about being very fertile around of some not-so-fertile ladies.

    It's funny, Husband and I haven't abstained for NFP reasons for over a year now, but I remember how much more difficult it felt like our relationship would get when we'd been abstaining for a long time. I think the physical connection and closeness that we get from making love is really difficult to replicate, like it is our bodies' way of making sure our hearts are connected.


  4. Sarah--We have used sympto thermal in the past but are looking into other methods for our next post-partum time coming up. I've had marquette recommended by several women for breastfeeding, but I hadn't even thought of creighton!

    Jan--Yes, I often feel almost guilty for having feelings like these when I know women who wish they could just get pregnant already.