This is the first in a series of posts featuring some women’s experience with natural family planning. For the post that originally inspired this project, click here. To read about the purpose and ground rules for this project, click here.
I have gone back and forth on the issue of birth control, but was committed to NFP when we first got married.
The sexual inexperience combined with the long periods of abstinence was definitely a strain (it often felt like we’d been sold a bill of goods) but it worked as a means to delay conception for over a year so that I wouldn’t give birth till I finished my master’s program.
I experienced a severe bout of postpartum depression after the baby was born and in this context — with an infant, depression, and very isolated having just finished school and having no friends anywhere close to the same place in life — that we resumed NFP. It was a disaster: my fertility signals were all over the place and between the baby and the NFP we didn’t touch for months, which didn’t help with the depression or our relationship.
Then we did – once – and I got pregnant again.
In between conception and figuring out the extreme fatigue was not just another symptom of the depression, I decided I couldn’t handle having any more children, which my husband very generously accepted. I was devastated when I found out but I started a new treatment for depression and I got through the pregnancy. We were managing but it wasn’t great. We had a newborn and an 19 mo old and I was better but still struggling with depression. Again, we attempted NFP and had the same issues with the fertility signals and I got pregnant again. I miscarried very early on and I would have never thought that could be so welcome.
At that point, my husband and I decided that that we were not willing to subject my mental health or our marriage to the anxiety of that came with the “threat” of another pregnancy – that is what it felt like – or the isolation of extended periods of abstinence and I went on birth control.
Almost seven years after the birth of our first child, I still struggle with depression so we have come to the conclusion that our family is probably complete. We are both at peace with that but it has been an isolating decision. We were part of a young families group in our parish — all very gung ho about NFP (we think) – it is certainly not a group in which anyone openly considers the “grey” of contraception… and we weren’t comfortable anymore so we dropped it. The priest we had at the time was not especially understanding of the challenges of parenting, so we didn’t even consult him (he used the example of mothers “dumping their children at daycare” as an example of how we are always “looking for the quick fix and easy way out” in a homily. I got up and left).
So, I listen to these celibate, childless men — many of whom were complicit in, lied about, or continue to make excuses for those who lied about sexual abuse and consequently ignore the suffering of the victims — unequivocally and without a trace of compassion condemn my choice and I struggle with being very angry at them. I think their recent history indicates that there has been far too much concern with protecting magisterial authority at the expense of discerning the truth, which might require talking to a few women.
In light of that and stories like Dominga’s, the AIDS epidemic and, frankly, the fact that the earth does have a carrying capacity, I have profound doubts about the the truth – even worse, the motivation – of this particular teaching and by extension magisterial authority in general as exercised by this particular group of men.