What’s the Big Deal About Birth Control?

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First of all, thanks for your encouragement about our decision to neither avoid or attempt to achieve pregnancy. And as a follow-up to yesterday’s post about our super rad birth control method (AKA: none), some lengthy and very incomplete thoughts on contraception:

Since the HHS Mandate, there has been so much press about Catholicism and contraception. SO MUCH PRESS.

You may be wondering: “What’s the big deal?! What’s wrong with birth control?”

I’ll briefly (super briefly) go into the practical issues and the broader theological considerations. But, this post wasn’t written to convince you to quit using birth control, or make you feel judged for using it. Nor is it a thorough apologetic of the Catholic view of marriage and fertility. It’s an explanation of why we’re living our life in this crazy, wonderful way.

For one, I’m kind of a natural gal. I like my meat local and organic (I can prove it by showing you our freezer which is filled with ½ a pig my husband butchered). I like my eggs to be from our front yard chickens. I like to eat veggies from our garden. I like real wood and glass instead of plastic. I don’t like taking antibiotics unless they’re necessary. I’ve been blessed to be able to birth naturally and drug-free. I breastfeed and make my own baby food. I like to consider the source of things: What was I created to eat? How was my body made to work? Why then, would I medicate my fertility, as if the natural state of my body is diseased and needs to be altered with drugs? I think my body is just fine as it is, thank you. I’m not interested in fighting my biology by forcing my body to be sterile. So, oral contraception like the Pill or any other hormone altering contraception is obviously out (you can read here about how miserable it made me feel physically, as well as the possible abortive properties of the Pill)

But what about barrier methods, like condoms, that don’t put nasty hormones into my body? Well, among many other reasons, I think they kind of ruin the aesthetic of what sex should be. In my opinion, they’re kind of gross and make sex less fun. So, no thanks.

As for surgical sterilization…do I even need to address it? Surgically altering my body just because it’s working correctly?

Anyhow, as for theological considerations, what is sex for? Sex was created to serve both a unitive purpose and a procreative purpose. To promote the intimacy of the marriage and to make babies. When the procreative aspect of sex is divorced from the unitive aspect, the potential problems are numerous and I can’t possibly cover them all. But here’s a few examples: first of all, the spouses cannot give themselves fully to each other when part of themselves (their fertility) is being held back.  By severing my fertility from sex, I am holding something back from my spouse. By denying my fertility as part of what makes me a whole person, my spouse would be saying essentially: I want you…but not ALL of you. Not that pesky fertility.

The Blessed Pope John Paul II writes in Familiaris Consortio: “…Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death. The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding other wise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally. This totality which is required by conjugal love also corresponds to the demands of responsible fertility.”

My other issue is that severing procreation from sex contributes to the degradation of women. In our society we have promoted the idea that sex is created for pleasure and pleasure alone. In addition, every one is entitled to that pleasure without consequences. So, what happens when birth control fails (as it’s prone to do) after we’ve been taught that sex is for pleasure alone? Well, how about the rise of single motherhood we’ve experienced since the Pill became commonplace? After promoting the idea that sex is recreation, not procreation, do we really expect men to cheerfully accept the great responsibility of leading a family when birth control fails?

What about how we view women’s bodies? When we remove any procreative consequences from sexuality and emphasize pleasure alone, motherhood and fertility are no longer connected to female sexuality. Instead, pornography and the view of women as objects made for male sexual pleasure increases. Additionally, consider even the changes in what is considered a sexy female body type. Before the rise of the Pill as a commonplace drug, fertility was still part of the desired female sexual aesthetic. After the sexual revolution what kind of models do we have in advertisements? Stick-thin women without characteristics that even distinguish them as female. In essence, “the look” is for grown women to look like pre-pubescent girls. How creepy is that? It seems that a women is considered more attractive when she looks too thin to even menstruate. Because sex is just for pleasure! Let’s get that irritating fertility out of the picture!

But that mindset misses the fullness of what a sexual relationship should entail. What makes an intimate romantic relationship satisfying? An orgasm? Let’s be honest, just a climax of sexual pleasure isn’t going to satisfy anybody long-term. What makes sex awesome and satisfying is that it’s a central aspect of a full, whole, rich, and intimate marital relationship.

Well, what about NFP (Natural Family Planning)? It is definitely morally permissible. We’ve practiced it in the past and may do so again in the future. But, it’s just not for us at this time in our lives. And there are some practical negatives to NFP. For instance, taking my temperature at the same time every day after a good night’s sleep? Yeah right. NOT going to happen. Checking cervical fluid? Um, I’m sorry, that couldn’t be less appealing, not to mention confusing. Not getting to have sex with my husband because I might be fertile? Well, abstaining every month just isn’t super fun, is it?

Anyhow, prepare for TMI, sex is better when fertility is embraced. The Pill can kill your libido and condoms decrease sexual pleasure, but there’s an even bigger picture here. When you remove fertility, you remove some of cosmic nature of sex. There’s less mystery, less excitement, less trust, a diminished connection to something bigger than ourselves.

Also, I think of our fertility as an amazing gift. There are so many folks who struggle with the sorrow of infertility. We have had the blessing of being able to conceive easily. By denying our fertility, it seems that we are refusing an incredible gift from God. We love our babies and I cannot imagine life without them. If there are more little additions to our family that God wants to give us, they will be just as precious to us.

So there you have it: some very incomplete thoughts on contraception and why we don’t use it. I’ve probably used up my monthly quota of words like: condoms, cervical fluid, and fertility. So, I promise not to write another long-winded post about sex for at least…a couple of days.

I humbly request that in the comments you are respectful of our family’s decision not to contracept and the stance of the Catholic Church regarding contraception, although you are welcome to express disagreement in a kind and charitable manner!

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    • Haley says

      I was JUST telling Daniel last night: “I want to hang out with the Thoooooompsons!” in a slightly whiny voice used for statements like: “I want some icecreeeeeaaaaam!.”

  1. says

    Very well-written! The only way to engage in productive discussion on this topic is to first challenge the popular assumptions. You have done this very well, by providing a gentle introduction to the various topics which surround this issue. I particularly liked the theological reasoning.

  2. amy griffin says

    Oh, Haley. This is so fantastic.

    I am getting ready to take my loves hiking before the thunderstorm hits today (bravely, while my oldest and I still suffer from Wednesday’s chigger attack!) – but I’m going to read this more in depth.

    I’ve never read much about fertility philosophy, so to speak. I consider myself fairly natural, so the pill and other types of contraceptive were always out without a second thought. But, honestly, I’ve never delved into the deeper significance of this subject.

    I’ll probably comment again later.

    But thanks. This is so good.

    • Haley says

      Thanks ever so, Amy. Wish we were going hiking today! B would lose his mind over that (he looooves going hiking when we go to N.C. for a week every summer and Daniel takes him on little adventures here like blackberry hunting).

  3. says

    A great stance on it all – and I second Joseph.

    It’s also important to be that my husband was accepting of everything about me – from the way I cook or wear my clothes to my fertility (or possible lack there of). He needed to be man enough to be willing to take responsibility for the consequences of all his and our actions together or else he wasn’t good enough. Luckily I found a keeper.

    To share a point of view on one of the topics – we’re a Catholic family (well half Catholic I still have to go thru RCIA this fall) and we technically practice FA (fertility awareness). I can’t call it NFP because we use plain barrier method (condoms) sometimes. We chart and pay attention to my times of the month first and use the second as a back up on certain days just to be safe.

    As I said in yesterdays comment we’re postponing because of health and a few financial reasons – which is not to say we’re waiting because we want more money for us, but rather that we we’re waiting (just another year or so, my son just turned 1) so that we can offer our future child a healthy stable environment both pre and post partum. When I was pregnant with my first an uncertain financial situation contributed to a deep antepartum depression and it’s a big goal to avoid that if possible and since I had to deliver via c-section I want to make sure everything on the inside is healed and working to it’s best ability – I don’t want to intentionally risk a miscarriage because I haven’t made the space “ready” in a sense.

    It’s true that condoms take away a little bit (and let me be clear that if they were to fail we’d be thrilled and welcome the next addition to our family), but we’re willing to make that sacrifice at certain times right now because we still feel that we’re being told it’s not the time to conceive yet and to play it safe. In fact getting to do away with all of that is something we look forward to as a bit of a reward when it’s time be 100% open to conception. Our “contraceptive mentality” ends there, we’re trying to avoid but that fails we welcome the life we created, and yes the Catholic Church is technically against them, but they also make exception for different forms of “birth control” when health is at risk or in times of extreme situations. Perhaps when we leave this world we’ll get a talking to for not being completely, 100% open to life every second of our marriage, but we feel comfortable knowing that what we do is to keep conception from happening, rather than using methods (like you mentioned about the hormonal/chemical stuff) that could be abortive in some way and, as I said, before no matter what we’re always ready to accept the “consequences” of our actions.

    It’s a tricky spot to be in as it’s not enough for some of my “super Catholic” friends and it’s completely perplexing to others who still consider what we do to be “risky”.

    • Haley says

      Molly, isn’t it wonderful to be married to a good man? And I can see why you would want to space out your babies for financial and health reasons. I’m so sorry to hear about your antepartum depression and hope you are healing well from your c-section and are soon 100% 🙂 I am not an expert in the specifics of Catholic teaching on fertility in extraordinary circumstances, so I’m not sure about the exceptions for birth control for health reasons. As you said, condoms are not permissible within Catholic teaching but you could always talk to your priest regarding your particular situation and how to delay conception within the bounds of Catholic teaching so that you can be responsible financially and healthwise. A friend of mine highly recommends the Marquette NFP method. We practiced FA before converting. I read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” and learned so much from it!

    • says

      With you, ma’am! We’re not Catholic (just plain Christians- Catholicism is great, it’s just not the way we choose to worship), but FAM has been a blessing to us. I never had negative effects from birth control, and was on the Pill for years, but I didn’t like the idea of putting chemicals in my body all the time.

      We also use a barrier method at times, because having a little one arrive during the summer months is not ideal- I don’t think our stress levels would be healthy for a little life at all- but we’re looking forward to the coming months when we can do away with the condoms!

  4. says

    I actually *just* learned about Marquette and I think if I can get my hand on a monitor I want to try it out. I think we’d be much more able to dive in 100% if we had a method a little more reliable than my own guesses – sadly I’ve found no NFP classes in our area – which is really sad because we have a newman center at our campus, a k-12 Catholic school system supported by a tri-parish system and numerous other parishes within my area… of course this city hosts a PP AND an Emma Goldman clinic, so you can guess the overall opinion of the area.

    I learned about this all from “Taking Charge” too! I actually picked it up when we were trying to get pregnant and now recommend it to everyone who shows the slightest interest in “NFP” but is scared off by the religious aspect of it. It’s a great ice breaker to the subject.

    • Haley says

      Well, if you end up doing Marquette teach me about it when you’ve got the hang of it, in case we’re in a similar position someday and need to postpone for health reasons. And we are in the same boat in our diocese regarding the complete lack of NFP classes. Seriously, there’s NOTHING within two hours of us and it’s not a small diocese. I think that is such a serious problem. If couples are going to follow the Church regarding fertility, we NEED to have NFP classes readily available. I think it’s very upsetting!

      • says

        We use Marquette and love it. Prior to that I used sympto-thermal as taught by CCLI. While we spaced pregnancies I still made mistakes and we had unexpected pregnancies. We are in a serious season of delaying (6 kids in 8 years, 5 via c-section) and love the confidence we have in this method. We do use the most conservative protocol, but that is by choice. The monitor is expensive and the sticks seem expensive at first, but via Amazon they are affordable and the more cycles you chart the less you have to use per cycle. I registered with Marquette and chart online–by giving them access to my charts (anonymous) I get access to message boards moderate by NFP physicians, nurses and others. It has been so worth it. So, if you have any questions about the method I’d be happy to answer.

        I admire you for writing these two posts. People often have very negative and judgmental responses to this lifestyle. Thanks for sharing where you are.

  5. says

    What an awesome post – thank you for taking the time to stand up for morality and logic. I really have enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to more of your great insightful posts! Pax et bonum!

  6. says

    Thank you for this really thoughtful and personal post on NFP. I’m a young woman, unmarried (and Protestant) and while I disagree with your methods in my own life, I’m really grateful for your honesty and discussion of your own reasons. Like you mentioned, NFP practicing Catholics often get the “crazy” reputation, which is completely unfair.

    Some questions that I am thinking about are: is NFP a viable Catholic teaching in the global context? It’s possible, but difficult, to practice when you live in poverty without access to good health care. Unplanned and undesired pregnancies can be life threatening (both physically and economically) to women in these contexts. How should the church attend to these women and families and serve them as Christ would?

    If fertility is so strongly connected (as you argue it should be, but currently is not) to the female sexual aesthetic, what does that say about women who struggle with infertility? Are they less “woman” or imperfect in the way they were created? I agree that the separation of sex from fertility has become problematic, but a switch back to the strong connection could be equally harmful to women and families that are already struggling.

    And finally, overpopulation is a real thing. Some people choose not to conceive in order to reduce their carbon footprint. In a way, this is their act of service, sacrifice, and “fruitfulness” if you will. Others may choose not to conceive of their own children and opt for adoption instead. Should these couples just have less sex? Taking their temps and checking cervical fluid all the time?

    These are just some questions that popped for me while I was reading your post. Again, I thank you for your honest and gracious sharing of your own philosophy.

    PS. I hopped onto your blog from the “books to read to your daughter so that she doesn’t turn out like Bella Swan” post. THANK YOU for that. I’ve been so troubled by the seeming lack of good material out there for young women. I’ve already started reading some of them! Also, check out my blog for a great post on Edward Cullen’s fall from grace in a 14 year olds mind. It’s amazing. 🙂 The books that saved me from being Bella Swan (even though those came out while I was in college and past the desired audience age for the books) were by Madeliene L’Engle who somehow manages to blend spirituality with sci-fi in the most poetic way. Her non-scifi books about the Austin family are my favorite though. They’re beautiful and challenging and spot-on with the sort of thoughts that were going through my adolescent mind.

    • Haley says

      Thanks for your thought-provoking comment, McKinna! I think you have some great and important questions.

      For your first: “Is NFP a viable Catholic teaching in the global context?” I can give an unreserved yes. In fact, because it’s FREE I can’t imagine a better way for those who cannot afford or have access to good health care to avoid pregnancy for physical or economic reasons. NFP works. And let’s not kid ourselves that the Pill or barrier methods are 100% effective. Personally, I don’t practice it because I’m not trying to avoid pregnancy but in the case of grave physical or financial concerns, I would. How should the Church attend to these women and families? Providing access to good health care, education, and charity (something the Catholic Church, as the largest charitable organization in the world is doing all over the globe). If women cannot afford to feed their children, I don’t think the answer is to make them sterile, but rather to help them provide for those children.

      And I thought your second question about women who struggle with infertility was very insightful. Infertility is a heartbreaking thing for so many women. Does being infertile make them less “women”? Absolutely not. Are their bodies working perfectly? No. For example, my mother is a breast cancer survivor. She has had a double masectomy without reconstruction. She has no breasts. Is she therefore less of a woman? No, of course not. Is her body perfect? No, because of her cancer, her body is no longer perfect. Does our fertility or our breasts make us women? No. Are they aspects of femininity that should be celebrated? Yes. But just because there is suffering and sorrow, does not mean that we cannot rejoice in God’s plan for women’s bodies anymore than we should stop celebrating Mother’s Day or Father’s Day because some people have tragically lost their parents. Are those holidays difficult for children who’s parents have passed away? Yes. Does that mean no one else should celebrate their parents? No. The Blessed Pope John Paul II has some great passages on this very issue of infertility and the family in “Familiaris Consortio” if you’re interested 🙂

      And as for overpopulation. I think if you do some research you’ll see that overpopulation is controversial, not just in more “conservative” spheres but in “liberal” ones as well. Take this article, for instance. I don’t agree with the author on everything, it’s just an example that even in the secular “liberal” sphere, overpopulation as the root of all our environmental problems is seen very skeptically. Even now there really is enough to go around, but only if we don’t all become voracious consumers. There is definitely enough food right now to feed everyone on the planet. Yet, there is rampant malnutrition and starvation. So, we know the problem isn’t overpopulation, it’s an easy scapegoat. And, of course, there are a lot of places on earth that are actually facing population collapse. The issue is that some of us are using way more than our fair share. Easy to say when we’re using up all the world’s resources, “Hey! You over there! Stop having all those kids so I can use more than I should!” And as the Blessed Mother Theresa said, “Saying there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers.”

      And adoption is awesome! But being an adoptive parent doesn’t require that you don’t have biological children.

      Thank you for your interesting questions and gracious tone! I’ve enjoyed thinking over these issues 🙂 And I’m so glad you liked the books list for girls post. I’m a big fan of L’Engle, too 🙂

    • Mary says

      I actually took a few geography courses at ASU before I graduated last year. In actuality, UNDERpopulation is a bigger issue than overpopulation. Economically speaking, the future of all European countries are in big trouble because couple aren’t having enough children. They’re not even having enough children to sustain their population. Russia is the same. The US, if I can remember correctly, doesn’t quite have the same problem, but we’re on the cusp. I say, “get married! Make babies!”

      It seems to me that if you wanted to reduce the world’s carbon footprint, you’d have children and educate them in doing just that so they could teach their children, etc.

  7. Sarah says

    I am so glad I found your blog via pintrest. Actually from “why kids should read Harry Potter”. Interestingly, I am Catholic, a Harry Potter fan, and anti- Twilight, and recently a new mother. The best part. We were diagnosed infertile. My husband and I have been married for over 13yrs at this point. In 2001 we were elated to find out we were expecting, then quickly saddened by our loss. Since then we were having trouble conceiving. We should of bought stock in pregnancy tests. Over the years we suffered lots of heart ache ever month that my menses would show up or think is this it when it didnt show that month only to be disappointed. We went to a fertility specialist to confirm our fears, but then we were like great what to do now we can’t do ivf, and even though they highly suggested it, I refused donor anything. Well we still halfheartedly tried to track my cycle, and just went about life. Low and behold September last year I had these crazy symptoms. Normal people would call them pregnancy symptoms. (LOL). Finally after a few weeks we apprehensively took a test. YES we were pregnant. Despite having a very normal pregnancy (according to the docs) It was filled with alot of fear of again loosing our precious baby. But in May this year we finally welcomed our little blessing. So believe that the strengthening of our faith and our overall health(gym, vitamins). I had to share to show that even being infertile does not mean all hope is lost it just means we need to figure out what is out of whack take better care of our bodies on all levels, and be ready for the right time. Love your posts. 🙂

  8. Dory says

    I’m so glad you wrote this, I’m a Mormon and none of my Catholic friends could tell me what the Church’s stance on BC was all about. I love the Catholic Church, they stick by their guns.

    • Haley says

      Thank you, Dory! We do stick to our guns, haha. It always cracks me up when I read new articles about how the RCC needs to “get with the times.” That’s not really…our thing. 🙂

      • Liz says

        It makes me laugh too when people tell Christians to get with the times. Our Prime Minister David Cameron recently made a similar comment to the Church of England: get with the program. I think the question is, whose program are you going to get with?!

  9. says

    I found your blog through clicking on your books for your daughter that someone pinned. I read this post, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So now I feel compelled to respond. You made your points very eloquently, however, I would like to share a bit of my story so perhaps that will help you see birth control in a different light. I have been pregnant 4 times. I have one living child. Yes, that means exactly what you think. I lost my firstborn at 34 weeks, had an early miscarriage, and lost another boy at 20 weeks. I knew that my husband did not have it in him to keep trying. He literally couldn’t take the heartbreak anymore. It took me longer to get there, but the same is true for me. You see, as I was reading your post, I couldn’t help but relate on so many levels. What you have is pretty much what I always wanted. I didn’t want to “plan” my children. I wanted to enjoy my husband and if it led to pregnancy, all the better. Until it wasn’t better. Until pregnancy meant untold amounts of stress and heartbreak. Having my daughter, (who was born between the miscarriage and my 20 week loss) made me sit up and take notice that I had a stronger duty to be a good and present, not depressed mother to her. That thought is what helped me go back on birth control for a bit. Now, I absolutely can’t stand pretty much all forms of birth control, none are great in my opinion. But, I did it for a short while, to give myself a break from being afraid of sex, and also to help regulate my out of control periods since my loss. Now, I am thinking of a permanent method. And even though I have come a long way in accepting things as is, yes, it breaks my heart that I cannot have what you have, because that is so exactly what I dreamed of for my adult life. So, when the church, or politicians vilify birth control and the women who take it, they are not looking at the whole picture. Many, many women prevent pregnancy for reasons other than being able to have sex for pleasure alone. To think that there anyone out there who thinks it may be better to have a women endure yet another stillbirth, instead of using birth control breaks my heart, because anyone who thinks that, clearly, has never experience a silent delivery room.

    Whatever choices you make for your personal family is awesome and I applaud you for them, but showing support for the ladies who cannot, for various reasons make that same choice, would make the church, the Republican party and the world in general a more human and compassionate place.

    • Haley says

      Dear Mrs. G.,
      Thank you for sharing your story. My heart breaks for you and your husband and as type this, I am weeping for your loss of your three precious babies. I am so sorry for your heartbreak and grief.
      I cannot comprehend the suffering you have gone through. Dear friends of ours lost their daughter, Ava, at 38 weeks when she was stillborn and that loss is one of the greatest sorrows of my life–and it didn’t even happen to me! So I can only imagine your grief. Another dear friend recently lost a son during pregnancy (she has one living daughter, age 2) and told me a similar thing to what you said, that at this point in her life, another loss would affect her mental/emotional health in a way that she could not be the parent her daughter deserves. Devastating. She and her husband are practicing NFP to avoid another pregnancy at this time.

      Your story highlights a very important truth: that for some women, avoiding pregnancy isn’t about not wanting children, but because facing the loss of another child is too devastating or because of a grave medical condition. You are so right. I have the luxury of not having to avoid pregnancy, some do not. The Church does not ask that we never avoid pregnancy and it acknowledges that financial or medical situations might make avoiding pregnancy necessary. But it does not teach that the answer to these crises is artificial contraception. (The Pill isn’t always effective anyhow.) Are you at all familiar with NFP? Many friends have been very with the Creighton model of NFP, you can read about it here: http://www.1flesh.org/argument_page/a-better-way/
      It’s actually more effective than the Pill in avoiding pregnancy in a natural way that follows a woman’s natural cycle of fertility/infertility.

      I offer this information about NFP to illuminate that the Church is not deaf to the suffering of women whose grave circumstances require them to avoid pregnancy, not because I consider myself in a position to tell you what to do. I am so sorry for the loss of your little ones and for the grief you must carry. Thank you so much for offering your perspective and your story. Love and prayers from this mama’s heart to yours.

    • Sarah says

      Thank you for this heart wrenching and inspiring response. My heart goes out to you and I pray for you to be comforted in the losses of your babies.
      My husband and I (both Catholic) are in a similar situation. We have roughly a 50-75% chance of conceiving children with severe and fatal chromosomal abnormalities. We have been blessed with two miraculous girls (by accident), but have also suffered miscarriages. While we would love more than anything to have more children, but cannot bring ourselves to willingly bring a child into the world who will suffer. And to think of our daughters mourning the death of a precious sibling, when we know it could’ve been prevented…I can’t imagine anything more heartbreaking.
      Up until now, we have used hormonal and barrier methods. It has been difficult to enjoy sex (or even want it), because we always know there is a risk. So we have chosen, with heavy hearts, to use permanent sterilization.
      I applaud, admire, and am honestly jealous of those who can leave their family planning and fertility in the hands of God. But like Ms. G. said, please remember to be supportive of those of us who can’t. I don’t believe that my sexuality is based upon the premise of fertility, and believe that my husband and I will be able to enjoy a much more satisfying, intimate, and loving sex life without fear of pregnancy. Thank you for understanding!

      • Liz says

        Thank you for your honesty, Sarah. I myself faced the possibility of not being able to have children at all, and it made me think a lot more carefully about where God’s plan for our life lies. I think I can understand your heavy heart a little bit as even now we struggle with secondary infertility. We thought about adoption before, and I find myself wondering again if this is why God is holding back conception for us at the moment – to make space for some of those precious children whose natural parents can’t or won’t care for them.

  10. Jennifer says

    I loved reading your blog! My husband and I have been using NFP for 3 years now, minus time for a planned pregnancy. We are not Catholic, we are Pentecostal. And even though our Church has no official position on the use of BC, I felt the very same reasons that you have written here. I feel very encouraged to see so many people responding respectfully and encouraging you in writing about such a controversial topic. Thank you for such a refreshing and honest view point.

  11. Suzanne says

    I appreciate that you wrote about this particular topic. As a student at a secular, private university, I have come across numerous people who see intercourse as ‘not a big deal’ or a ‘stress reliever'(I am not of the mind that sex should be disregarded so cavalierly), while I would love to see everyone wait until they are married, I understand that not everyone is Catholic, nor ready for a child. Also, within the secular community, disease prevention by usage of condoms is especially important. I personally have several friends that have suffered miscarriages and they never have emotionally recovered from them; as well as infertile women taking the pill to prevent possible future health issues. My boyfriend and I have discussed our future children in the regard of waiting to have children until he has finished his doctorate and we are both ready to be parents. I feel that God gives children as gifts, and to have a child before you are ready to be the best parents possible is a bit like wasting God’s gift to yourself and your husband, because I think that God wants every child to grow up in the best atmosphere possible. God Bless.

    • Haley says

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, Suzanne. This post is about the Church’s view of sex and fertility. As you said, many people do not follow the Church’s teachings in this regard which include marital fidelity and sex only within marriage. Sexual abstinence outside of marriage is the best way to prevent the spread of STDS, because, as I’m sure you’re aware, disease can still be spread even with the use of condoms.
      My heart goes out to your friends who have suffered miscarriages. The Church allows the avoidence of pregnancy through Natural Family Planning and I have friends who have used NFP after suffering miscarriages because they are not emotionally or physically ready for another pregnancy. That is perfectly acceptable. And my understanding is that if the Pill is being used with the intent of helping a medical condition, it is permissible. However, it cannot be taken merely with the intent to avoid pregnancy using artificial means.

      As for couples waiting until they are “ready” to be parents, well…no one is EVER ready. I also believe that God gives children as gifts; however, when I had an unplanned pregnancy right after college and we were blessed with our son 9 months later, I would never describe him as a “wasted gift” merely because we weren’t 35, financially secure, and settled in our careers. Every child is a gift and a miracle. No matter when or where they are born.

  12. Rose says

    Hello Haley!
    I was so happy to come by your blog through the “10 books you should read your daughter” and other such posts. I was extremely encouraged by your love of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and other such fantasies, and your love of your faith. I come from an extremely religious family who refuse to talk about the positive aspects of Harry Potter, the books that helped raise me as the person I am today. I looked to Hermione and Ginny and Luna as role models and they have never done me wrong.
    I am not particularly religious, however, though I have no problem and encourage my friends that are. I am so happy you were able to explain the Catholic Church’s view on birth control in a non-judgmental, forthright, and kind way. Though I disagree with a few of your points, I feel I now understand more and can offer more insight when discussing these things with my boyfriend, who is quite religious.
    You are your family are beautiful, and living a beautiful life. My best thoughts are with you.
    Thanks again-

  13. Kelly says

    I came across this post from following a pin on Pinterest that brought me to your list of books for girls (which I adore, by the way), and I came to this post because the title caught my eye. And while I completely respect your values, faith, and how you choose to approach your fertility, I do feel the need to politely take a contrasting stance on some of the issues you address in this post. For starters, the birth control pill was invented primarily by a man named John Rock, who was a devout Catholic. He saught to create the pill in an effort to regulate the “safe” periods for sex that the Church advocates for the rhythm method. He was absolutely devastated when the Church issued the edict labeling the pill as sinful. Also, the pill did not start any kind of sexual revolution. Research (see the Kinsey Institute) has shown that the “real” sexual revolution, during which premarital sex became much more commonplace, took place in the 1920s. All the pill did was open the door for discussion of female sexuality, which, at least to me, is a good thing.

    As for the social side effects of the pill, oral contraceptives sparked widespread and much needed reform in informed consent laws. Prior to lawsuits brought against doctors who prescribed the pill without warning women of the side effects (the original pill, prescribed from 1958 to the mid 1970s, had 10 times the amount of hormones needed to prevent ovulation, which led to a lot more blood clots, especially because so many more women smoked at the time) doctors and pharmacists didn’t have to tell patients about a drug’s ingredients and side effects. Thanks to these lawsuits, all prescriptions now come with that little pamphlet that gives you much needed details about what you’re taking. In addition to this advancement in medicine, oral contraceptives also marked the beginning of the second wave of feminism. For the first time in history, women had the power to delay pregnancy without having to be celibate. This empowerment had resulted in more women going to college, more women working outside the home, more women in government, and hundreds of new laws passed to protect women and their rights.

    As I noted at the beginning of this rather long comment, I respect your life choices and I don’t expect my thoughts to change them. As someone who’s been on the pill for seven years (with no plans of stopping), though, I did want to point out the good sides of the history of the pill. I feel with any debate of an issue of this magnitude that’s it’s important that people get to see both sides.

    • Haley says

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Kelly. I appreciate your kind and respectful tone. I just want to address a couple of claims. Obviously, I think we’re all on the same page that more women being able to attend college, have employment opportunities, and be given equal rights is a good thing (and lauded by the Church).

      As for John Rock, I don’t know much about him personally or his faith. But Catholics accept the authority of the Church, which very early on forbade the use of artificial contraception. Although Rock’s intentions for the Pill may well have been good, the Church quickly saw what the outcome of widespread use of birth control would be: Opening the way to the lowering of moral standards for the young as well as leads to marital infidelity;
      leading to the lowering of respect for women; and becoming a dangerous tool in the hands of government or public authorities who care little about the moral law and who may force the use of contraceptives on everyone.

      It’s clear that a sexual revolution took place in the 20s but I have a hard time understanding your claim that “the pill did not start any kind of sexual revolution.” In fact, I don’t think the consequences of a widespread use of artificial contraception can be overempasized! Indeed, you even claim that the Pill “marked the beginning of a second wave of feminism. For the first time in history, women had the power to delay pregnancy without having to be celibate.” That sounds pretty revolutionary to me!

      Again, thank you for contributing to the conversation in such a gracious way.

  14. Katie says

    Hi, I just came across your blog recently and found this post and just wanted to say thanks!! I am a cradle Catholic, and I’m one of 11 kids in my family. So growing up I definitely heard it all. I’m now married and have a beautiful baby girl of my own. We currently practice NFP mostly bc my husband is military and about to be deployed, so i’d kind of like to avoid giving birth during deployment (again). Anyway, it’s always refreshing to find like-minded, fellow Catholics out there. And especially ones who can explain so well and so simply our beliefs on birth control. Thanks again! wonderful post, and you have a beautiful family!!

  15. says

    I was wondering Haley, if I could borrow some of your words (of course I will give you full credit). It has been on my heart as of late to explain to people why we would not use birth control when we are “allowed” to as protestants. I love what you have here and on your AFP page. Would this be agreeable to you? Let me know or email me and we can talk.

    • Haley says

      Hi Leah, I’m fine with you using quotes (not the entire piece) as long as credit is given (like you said) with a link back to the original post. I’m glad you think it’s worth sharing! 🙂

  16. LJ says

    Just wanted to applaud Haley and all commentors on the most respectful, kind-hearted comment stream I’ve ever seen on this topic! What a blessing!

    • Haley says

      Thank you, LJ. I have been so impressed by the commenters. Good questions and real CONVERSATION without spite. Thank you, everyone.

  17. Heather says

    When my husband and I got married we agreed that we would let God plan our family. We are both older and my husband is not sure he wants to continue to have children for years to come, but he is willing for this time. We decided before we were married, that when he felt our family was complete, he would have a vasectomy. We are not discussing that at this time, but I am feeling challenged about letting God plan our family. I can say it, but there are times in my heart that I don’t feel it. I am honest with God in my prayer time and I ask for forgiveness when it’s warrented. My reason for posting is this,… What are your feelings about fertility and no intervention, when fertility is the problem. I have considered seeing a doctor, but that seems so impersonal and it does not align with my beliefs that God grants children. I am going to be 38 this year and my husband 52.and I feel like we are on a time schedule. (that sounds so not romantic!) I don’t think I would agree to something extreme like invitro (especially with my own eggs). (in the defiant kid voice 🙂 I want it now and I don’t think waiting is a good idea since we are both older. .

    • Haley says

      Thanks for your comment, Heather. I am NOT an expert on the Church’s teachings on fertility interventions, although I know that in vitro does not follow Church teaching. Here’s my take (and I’d love to hear other more learned thoughts on this): fertility is a wonderful gift from God and something that should not be treated or medicated like a disease. But that doesn’t mean that medicine isn’t also a wonderful gift from God. I have many friends who struggled with infertility who were able to solve the issues with simple interventions such as receiving progesterone shots in order to conceive and maintain pregnancy. You and your husband will, of course, need to decide together what interventions, if any, you want to seek, but I think it would be a great idea to find out your options, consult a physician, and see if an easy solution is available. Bless you as you tackle these big decisions! Best to your family.

  18. Catherine says

    Interesting. If I may just take issue with one or two points, as I feel you are over-generalizing somewhat.

    >>spouses cannot give themselves fully to each other when part of themselves (their fertility) is being held back.
    >>sex is better when fertility is embraced.

    I presume you say this from the perspective of a young, healthy woman. Not from the perspective of an older woman who has had children and in whom pregnancy would probably be very damaging, possibly even life-threatening. Maybe you could try to imagine for a moment how it would be to try to give yourself to your husband without any contraception, fully and willingly, knowing that any slight mistake could start you on a path of sickness? How do you think the husband would feel in such a situation – knowing that to ask at the wrong time may be to subject his beloved wife to months (at least) of agony?

    And I will just mention in passing as someone has already said above: infertility or problems with fertility can make sex horrible. The pressure of waiting every month to see if it “worked” or not, trying at the right time of the month whether you are in the mood or not, going on for months and years. Sometime a little break from all that is what the marital relationship needs.

    >>severing procreation from sex contributes to the degradation of women.

    Can’t say I agree with you here either, nor do I think the evidence of history is on your side. Sex and procreation have always been linked, up until very recently – I don’t see the majority of history as being particularly respectful of women. Nor do I see that last 50 or so years as demonstrating a sudden *decline* in the value of women in society. On the contrary, I personally feel that having the right and ability to control my *own* fertility gives me much more agency in my own choices and in my own life.

    Since I’m all about women having choices, I respect your choice not to use contraception – you go for it and enjoy having the ability to choose that for yourself. In my opinion “removing the procreative consequences of sexuality” is one of the great steps *forward* of the last century.

    I also find it interesting that you explore this issue solely from the point of view of the woman, and not at all from the point of view of the couple as a whole. In my marriage sexuality and reproduction is something we decide together – and my husband has always said that when the time comes *he* will be the one to be sterilized. Fertility (and the control of same) is not just a female issue.

    I think your scope of view may be a little narrow, that’s all, and I hope to have suggested some other POVs for you. Not all avoidance of pregnancy/fertility is about pleasure devoid of responsibility – sometimes it is about caring for the marital relationship in a different way. And with all due respect, I don’t think the unmarried clergy are the best people to advise us on this issue. I find it significant that the vast majority of couples *do* want and use contraception/sterilization at some stage in their married lives. I am not convinced that *all* of them are selfish and/or theologically careless and/or less respectful of their own marriages than the clergy. Is it possible that what goes on between a husband and wife with regards to their sexuality and intimate choices can best be determined by themselves?

    • Haley says

      Thank you for sharing your perspective, Catherine. Of course, as a woman in my 20s with only two children and one on the way, my perspective would be different than that of someone for whom pregnancy would be dangerous. But I’m confused how the use of artificial contraception would alleviate any fears of pregnancy. Even artificial contraception is not anywhere near 100% effective. And, as I”m sure you know, the Church fully supports the use of NFP to avoid pregnancy in cases of grave circumstances such as the life of the wife. The Catholic faith does not teach that every couple need to have as many children as is humanly possible. I think it’s interesting that you didn’t mention the option of NFP. Modern methods of NFP are more effective than condoms or the Pill.

      I suppose we’ll have to disagree about women’s issues in the past century. I believe that by treating fertility like a disease, modern culture has degraded women. It seems that texts such as Familiaris Consortio and Humanae Vitae have been exactly right in what would happen if artificial contraception became a fixture of the culture.

      Since I am a woman, it is natural for me to take a woman’s point of view (a view that the Church is maligned for lacking since the clergy is male). However, it doesn’t follow that my husband is not involved in making decisions about our fertility and I don’t think I ever insinuated that in the post.

      I also did not claim that “all avoidance of pregnancy/fertility is about pleasure devoid of responsibility.” As I said above, the Church does not say anybody has to have as many children as possible. But the divorce of procreation from sexuality is problematic.

      And the fact that “the majority of couples” use contraception does not speak to whether the use of artificial contraception is moral. I believe that as a Catholic a place myself under the teaching of the magisterium and Church teachings are clear on the use of artificial contraception. One can of course, agree or disagree with the Church’s teachings.

  19. Tiffany says

    Another refreshing post! I am protestant (although I claim to be “half Catholic” in reference to my beliefs). I have 4 children, miscarried one in the middle, and have only used barriers methods in the last almost 9 years. I tried BC twice (maybe thrice), but it made me a basket-case and physically nauseous. I also had a moral issue with it. My doctor could not tell me that I would not ovulate at all or that the egg would be totally unable to be fertilized. He could only say that it *should not* be able to implant. As fertile as I was, I was afraid that I could be aborting every other month without knowing. A friend asked me once, “Are you that serious about it?” Answer “Uh, yeah.” We have only been pregnant once in the last 8 and a half years, and that once was planned. We use barriers, and eventually, he will have a vasectomy. I do not plan on letting my daughter be on BC either, as long as she’s mine to boss around. Hopefully, by the time she’s old enough to make that decision, I will have instilled in her a good set of morals and common sense and dislike for unnatural things.

    • Haley says

      I was on the Pill for about 18 months when I was first married and it made me so sick, too! I was so emotional and up and down and when I took the Pill I would throw up and get terrible headaches. Yuck. Quitting was probably one of the three best thing I’ve done in my life, the others being marrying my husband and converting. Thanks for your comment, Tiffany!

  20. Evelyn says

    Hi! I just stumbled across your blog! I started with “10 books to read to your daughter,” and finally landed here where I had to let you know how beautiful all of your posts are! It feels like I am reading my own heart, but much more eloquently! Thank you for taking the time to share your life with us!

  21. AJ says

    I just found this blog, and I LOVE it. I can’t stop reading! And this post, specifically the paragraph about why you choose not to contracept for natural reasons, is so well-said! My husband and I have been using NFP for the 4 years we have been married and I try to explain to people why taking medicine to stop my body from working seems crazy to me, but this post says it so well! So thanks, and congrats on baby #3 on the way!

  22. Kitty says

    Wow! Well said! I actually am liking this website.
    Anyhow my DH and I used Birth control Pill for 10 years. Yikes what was I thinking in the first place. I was put on a low does. But when we wanted to start our family it took over a year to conceive off the Pill. We practiced NFP so we had no Pill Chemicals for 2 years pre pregnancy. We didn’t have the option to do anything but natural try to conceive and I’m didn’t want to mess with my body more than it had been messed with on the Pill. My DH still blames the Pill for messing with my cycle so much that we was unable to conceive.

  23. Sarah says

    I just found this site. I just quite hormonal BC since we are trying to have another kid. But I have been feeling for awhile that we should not be on hormonal birth control at all. I didn’t have my husband’s blessing to stop before now, and even though I know I could have anyway I respected him and didn’t want to quit before he was ready. Its something we both have to come to the realization & agreement of (I believe). However, I plan to get some great resources on NFP and present it to him as my preferable option after this next kid is born. Thank you for this post!!

    • Haley says

      I am hoping to do a little series on NFP methods and options (since it’s something I want to learn more about, as well) in the next couple months, so stay tuned 🙂

  24. KK says

    I, like quite a few other commenters, made my way over to your blog through a link about books your daughter should read – and then I made my way to your article about picture books to read to your kids that won’t annoy you (which made me laugh because my mother never fails to remind me that my persistent demands of re-reads is why she’s come to hate almost all children’s books) – and then to your article on why everyone should read my beloved Harry Potter – and now to here.

    I’m going to preface this by stating that, from the very little that I’ve seen of your blog, we are about as different as night and day. I’m completely athiest, culturally Jewish. It probably sounds odd, but I’m from a suburb of L.A. where it is quite normal. I don’t know many religious people, although I go to a large, incredibly diverse east coast university. My truly religious friends can probably be counted on one hand, and most of them are Orthodox Jews. I’ve been told by friends that if I become any more liberal (at least socially), I’ll start to seem Communist. And my views on birth control? Well, I’m not on it – and can’t think that I will be anytime soon – but if I’m ever at a point where birth control between me and a partner would be relevant, I’d probably be on it in a heartbeat.

    And yet I read this article. I actually read it, all the way through, instead of clicking out of the window in frustration. And I think it’s not only because I like your writing style – it’s because you seem like a genuinely nice person who just wanted to put her story and her views forward. And I really respect that, so thank you for not doing what so many people automatically do, which is generally to raise their hackles and snap.

    Do I still disagree with some of your views? Sure. Am I still going to do what I want when or if birth control becomes a relevant subject to me? Yeah. But I really, really respect your views – and on a lot of it I could see where you’re coming from – and just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write many posts, but especially this one, with care and with (although I don’t know you, what seems like) the view that you have your beliefs, and they are right to you, but other people have their beliefs as well and they’re not necessarily bad.

    A happy new year to you and yours.

    • Haley says

      KK, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate your willingness to try to respectfully understand a view that you heartily oppose. This was a real encouragement to me because I often wonder how some of my posts are viewed by those who disagree with my point of view. Do I sound like a big jerk trying to be up in everyone’s business telling them what they should do? I hope not 🙂 And I’m glad I didn’t come across that way to you. So, thank you. Your comment meant a lot. Wishing you a new year full of good things.

  25. Christina says

    Hi Haley,
    I just found your blog through pinterest & I’m so glad I did! It is so nice to find other good, Catholic Moms who think alike! I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  26. says

    Thank you so much for you honest, heartfelt look on birth control. I’ll never go back on birth control! Ever! When I was 14, I told my mom that I’d only ever had 1 period. Being the great mom she is, she took me to the OBGYN. The doctor’s first reaction? Put me on birth control. No tests. Nothing. I was on birth control for several years before I realized it was completely unnecessary. Fast forward 11 years and my husband and I are trying to have a baby. We’ve been trying for over 2 years and are desperate to add to our family. I weep daily and it breaks my heart knowing that birth control could be part of the reason we’re having so much trouble.
    It takes a very strong, Godly woman to stand up to the world and say what you are! Thank you for your message.
    God Bless you and your beautiful family!

    • Haley says

      Cortney, I’m so sorry to hear of your struggles conceiving! Praying that you will receive the desire of your heart. I’m preparing for a series of guest posts about different methods of NFP (because I am SO not an expert on all the methods), including some posts about couples who used NFP when trying to conceive, maybe some of their experiences could be helpful. Blessings on your family.

  27. The Atomic Mom says

    Found your blog thru a click of a click and so on. I love it when I find good new blogs to read…YAY! While I have no issue with people using birth control or not, I am saddend by the HHS mandate. Just makes me sick that our govt wants to force people to do things against their religion, because what’s next after that? I look forward to reading more of your delightful insights. 🙂

    • Haley says

      Thank you! And yes, our freedom of religion is such a precious thing and it is very scary that it’s being threatened.

  28. Mikara says

    I just wanted to say that I love you! I recently found your blog by chance and I’m glad I did. Its like you took my thoughts and put them into words for me. I’m not very good at expressing my thoughts and opinions with words, so it can be difficult telling people why I don’t use birth control, I just need a lot of thinking time. So thank you, you’ve really helped me sort out some of my own ideas and thoughts. You’re amazing!

  29. J.C says

    I love reading your blog & seeing your passion for living a natural lifestyle with a Christian basis.
    I want to share my story, not to have people say how sorry they are for me, just to show how birth control pills change my life for the better.
    From the age of 17 I had painful periods, that also gave me migraines & nausea. They often lasted 8 days of heavy-ish bleeding and usually kept me in bed for a day, once every 6 weeks ( my normal cycle), which was really annoying when you’re in high school & uni & starting out your adult life.
    At that age I was going to our family doctor who was a male & a Christian & basically told me, it was all part of being a woman & there was no need to make such a big fuss.
    So i didn’t.
    The older I got the worse it became & finally I went to a uni doctor who suggested the pill my sort things out for me. What a blessing! The pain & bleeding was reduced, I knew when it was due to the day & I felt in control of my life again.
    Then I met a lovely guy & I decided that I needed to not be using birth control any more, because this one was a keeper & I wanted my body to be ready for making babies sometime in the future.
    So the horrible cycle started again, but worse, because now the pill had regulated me to a ‘normal’ 28 day cycle & I was getting ovulation pain too.
    The pain was sometimes severe I couldn’t stand & breathing was an effort.
    Over the next few years I became pregnant 6 times & had 6 miscarriages.
    I became so obsessed about what I was doing wrong & what I could do to get pregnant & stay pregnant that it ended up ruining our relationship.
    It also strained relationships with all my friends who were starting to have babies, because I found it really difficult to share in the joy of their pregnancy & birth. I was eaten up with jealously, how easy it all seemed for them & the mere thought of holding their new bundle of joy would reduce me to tears. How could you try to explain your pain, while they were so happy, & tired, & could only talk about babies, so I lost contact with many of them.
    At 36 I moved interstate & started seeing a young female doctor & it just happened that I was hit with a wave of debilitating pain in her office. I shrugged it off, but by the end of my visit I had appointments at the Women’s Hospital. I was quickly diagnosed with endometriosis & admitted for surgery.
    It was so good to finally know I had been doing nothing wrong, but equally the years of non treatment, because this was a ‘normal woman thing’, had probably stopped any hope of bringing a pregnancy to full term.
    In my post surgical appointment I was strongly advised to go on hormone treatment that would reduce my cycles to a few a year & stop ovulation. As all I was single & in my late 30’s, it seemed like the best option & it has revolutionised my life.
    I wish I had been able to go down the natural path, & I persisted for a very long time, but for me medical intervention has been the best option.
    I am still extremely sad that I have never had my own babies to hold & nurture & see grow up, and I still find it hard to be truly happy when couples at church announce they’re pregnant.
    I got married two years ago, in my 40’s & now I have 3 lovely teenage step children, but it’s not the same.

    • Haley says

      J.C., I am so sorry for the loss of your six babies. Thank you for courageously sharing your experience. I am heartbroken for you. And you bring up a great point, sometimes the natural route doesn’t solve serious health problems and medical intervention IS necessary. Just to clarify, the Church does not forbid using the Pill when prescribed to solve a medical problem (as long as that reason is not in order to avoid pregnancy.) A similar example would be that a hysterectomy might be needed for a woman’s health (my mom had a similar problem with endometriosis) and would be completely licit, but choosing to have a hysterectomy because you’re trying to avoid pregnancy and not for medical reasons wouldn’t.

      Congratulations on your marriage, and thank you again for sharing your story.

  30. Susanne says

    “My other issue is that severing procreation from sex contributes to the degradation of women.”
    “What about how we view women’s bodies? When we remove any procreative consequences from sexuality and emphasize pleasure alone, motherhood and fertility are no longer connected to female sexuality. Instead, pornography and the view of women as objects made for male sexual pleasure increases.”

    I was about to leave a comment on your post AFP when I read this – I can’t tell you how great it is to read someone who is so closely in accord with how I feel.
    For us as a couple ABC has simply never been an option and although we have tried NFP, like you, my husband and I have decided that it is not for us. I’m sure it is fine morally, if (as the Church requires) it is for serious reason and you remain open to life as couple. But you have expressed exactly why I don’t feel comfortable with trying NOT to concieve in any conscious way, even if we are not trying TO concieve.

  31. Sara says

    Hi Haley,
    I can’t remember how I stumbled upon your site, but I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading different posts and I wanted to thank you for the care and thought you put into each one. You do a beautiful job of sharing your views clearly, while respecting those who do not share them. That is definitely not the easiest thing to do and, moreso, not something we see often in the blog world.
    Having married into a Catholic family, I’ve become very curious about the Catholic faith and, while my inlaws are more than happy to share information with me, my knowledge is so limited that I often fear my questions to them might come across poorly, or even as criticism, instead of the honest curiosity I actually feel. Your blog has given me great insight into the Catholic church’s views and I appreciate that greatly! I’m sure that, armed with this extra knowledge, I can approach my inlaws with more questions that are a bit more informed and we can have discussions that lead to my learning even more.
    This post in particular was interesting to me. I’d grown up knowing that “Catholics don’t believe in birth control” and that was the extent of what I ever heard. Many of the things you discussed were, honestly, fascinating.. not only from the standpoint of the Church’s teachings, but also from that of a woman and what all she brings to a marriage.
    I’m not sure that I agree with everything you’ve mentioned, but we both seem to feel that’s okay and that’s all anyone can really ask, I think. Even so, this post has really given me a lot of food for thought and, for that, I thank you. A new perspective, written in such a convicted, yet respectful light has left me open to considering your points and perhaps adjusting some of my views… Much more than other blogs out there that simply scream their ideas are the only way and that those who differ from them are condemned. I applaud your writing as well as your insight. You’re making more of a difference in people’s lives than you might think!

    • Haley says

      Thank you so much for your encouragement, Sara, you really made my day. I’m so glad you’re finding my posts to be helpful!

  32. Baleigh says

    Hi Haley,

    I wanted to say thanks for sharing your views in a respectful manner–I am Christian but not Catholic, so it was interesting to hear a different viewpoint. I would ask you, though, to please keep an open mind about the use of oral contraceptives simply because they have medical applications as well as contraceptive ones. I am 19 years old and have been on the pill since I was 16. I have endured judge-y peers and glares at the pharmacy for being a teenager on the pill. Here’s the thing: I’m a virgin, and have no plans to change that status anytime soon. I, like many women, have extreme menstrual cramps. Please understand that I’m not talking about discomfort or normal cramps that can be managed with pain pills. I can clearly remember one day when they were so bad that I laid curled in a ball on the bathroom floor for an hour because I was in so much pain I could not stand. Birth control pills allow me to live a normal life where I do not have to miss school or work because of severe cramps. They also serve a dual purpose for me; my mother has ovarian cancer, which directly increases my risk of developing ovarian or breast cancer later in life. Taking the pill is one way to lower my risk.

    As I said before, I applaud you for sharing your story and mean no disrespect, but I hope you can see the flip side of the coin. If my body’s “natural” state involves severe monthly pain and excessive bleeding, I’m perfectly happy using an “unnatural” product.

    • Haley says

      Thanks for your comment, Baleigh. The Church does not forbid the use of the Pill for other medical necessities as long as the purpose is not to contracept. However, I highly recommend looking into NaProTech and Creighton method for your difficult periods. A close friend of mine had debilitating periods (she would miss class, work, etc. every month) and was able to pinpoint the problem and get well through working with NaProTech doctors who were willing to do more than mask her symptoms with the Pill. I would also caution about the carcinogenic effects of the Pill. I have seen studies that show a decrease in risk for ovarian cancer, but the Pill actually increases your risk of breast cancer (my mom is a breast cancer survivor so I’m been trying to do my research about how to decrease my risk!).

  33. Cait B says

    I found your website on twitter and was interested enough to start reading some of your back posts. If you will allow I would like to take a minute to advocate for another side of birth control (specifically hormone pills) that to my frustration never seems to get addressed in this debate. I read your post but I have not read all the comments so I apologize if someone has already addressed this, but here goes.

    I have two hormone related issues, PMDD and endometriosis, I have since I began having periods when I was about 14. I lived with the pain for year, basically hiding my symptoms from everyone (which only worked because my dad was the one home when I was sick, while my mom, a teacher, was usually at school by the time I was dying) and missing close to 30 days of school because I was in such intense pain. The PMDD gave me horrible migraines, nausea and fatigue while the endometriosis made me cramp in such a painful way that in all honestly I used to lay on the floor of my bathroom because it was cold and that made me feel better.

    It got worse every month and I dreaded my period, which was always a surprise because I wasn’t anything like regular. The only pain relief I could take was Advil and I often took it by the handful in hopes that they might make it work faster or better, of course it didn’t. The only thing that consistently gives me sustained relief is the hormone therapy of birth control pills. I went on them when I was 15 and stayed on it until recently (I’m 27 now and my husband and I would like to start trying for children).

    Does this pose a risk to my health, yes. You are right, its not exactly natural to be on synthetic hormones, especially for year as I was, but for me and for many women it is an absolute necessity. I literally can not function in society without relief from that pain.

    My condition is genetic, which is why my mom knew that I needed help once she saw my symptoms. It did not, however, encourage me to sexually permissive, my mother ensured that we talked at length about what birth control meant and later I was lucky enough to find a man who actively wanted to wait for marriage, and I am proud to say that my husband is the only man I have, and ever hope to have, sex with.

    Now I am 27 and my husband I are preparing for children, I honestly don’t know what my condition will mean for my fertility (it can range from nothing to complete infertility depending on the severity) but I do know that I am terrified of being off my pills and returning to the pain that I knew in my teenage years. But, I have no choice if I want to try for a child, so I will endure it and hope to be rewarded with a quick pregnancy 🙂

    I am not saying that your choice or any choice is wrong, much like you I am merely asking that other sides, other opinions, be considered. Unfortunately I never seem to hear my side, so I thought I would try to articulate it as best I could. Thank you, I hope you allow this to be published on your site.

    • Haley says

      Hi Cait,
      I’m so glad you added your voice to the conversation. According to the Church, the use of the Pill for medical purposes other than avoiding pregnancy is not prohibited. I have a close friend who grew up with almost identical symptoms (like you, missing weeks of school a year due to excruciating and debilitating periods) and her Drs advised her to start on the Pill which did briefly mask her symptoms. However, she was told that due to her health problems she wouldn’t be able to conceive and she was concerned about not finding a solution to her illness but just temporarily masking the symptoms. So she found some a Dr trained in NaProTech (Natural Procreative Technology which is associated with the Creighton method of NFP) who was able to discover the source of her issues and received medical care that addressed those problems. Praise God she and her husband just welcomed their second child without even needing fertility drugs of any kind! If you’re interested in some alternative forms of women’s medicine and fertility treatment that don’t require hormonal BC please check out the series I’m running right now (Women Speak on NFP) to find some great resources. My heart goes out to you for your health problems as you desire to start a family and many prayers that you will be able to have your heart’s desire!

  34. Cait says

    Love your blog! I’m a mormon and my husband and I have a two year old, a one year old and another on the way (extremely fertile!). I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s always so refreshing to see others following Christ regardless of what others think! Thanks!

  35. Courtney says

    I really appreciate your “voice” and the heart behind it. It is evident in the way others respond to you. A friend pinned your article about leaving grad school to SAHM and I found myself here. Having some things in common like academia that seemed to justify only career (double majored Econ and Poli Sci and working for a consulting firm a couple years before our firstborn joined us) and staying home with my two boys, as well as Christ being Lord of my life, I am so enjoying your perspective. I wanted to point out what appears to be a fallacy in the logic and see if there is a connection I missed. That the church, and you consider NFP acceptable means that it is OK for fertility to be removed from the equation – only that there is only one approved method to do so. So much of your writing was related to not removing fertility from the sex, but the bottom line is that the church does allow birth control, only not through barrier, hormone or surgical intervention. I can’t get away from that bottom line in the logic. Our personal and medical reasons for stopping after our two boys, while compelling and covered in prayer, are no more compelling than other stories here and don’t change the logic (as I believe you were pointing out to another commenter, that the exceptions of a broken world don’t change God’s Truths). To try to be concise, if the church allows one method of birth control, NFP, isn’t it legislating the HOW rather than the WHY? And if you don’t mind the PS, what is the scriptural authority for any of it? Even in my Protestant/Evangelical community, there are proponents of having as many children as the body will produce from regular marital intimacy. Nowhere in God’s word can I find the authority. I challenge only because I already hold you in high regard from the compassion and conviction I read in your writing.

    • Haley says

      Hi Courtney, thanks for stopping by! Great question. First of all, NFP isn’t a Church-approved form of birth control. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of discussion lately about whether the phrase “natural family planning” might not be the best way to describe it. It doesn’t remove fertility from sex. Partly because in order to use it to space children, you have to practice the self-control of abstaining from sex during the time you’re fertile. You can’t have sex without the possibility of creating new life. As Jessa pointed out in this post: http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/2013/04/25/women-speak-on-nfp-seasons-of-love/
      it’s also a matter of intention. Here’s another good explanation: http://ccli.org/nfp/contraception-sterilization/why-nfp-is-different.php

      As for the scriptural authority, just as many topics, such as abortion and even the Trinity(!) are not explicitly explained in Holy Scripture, birth control isn’t overtly discussed, but that doesn’t mean that scriptural authority doesn’t play into Christian understanding of these ideas. Indeed, since birth control and even fertility awareness didn’t exist in biblical times, how could there be anything explicit written about the topic? I think the issue is that the Church interprets Holy Scripture to teach us about broad ideas of the purpose of marriage, fertility, children, etc and that’s why the catechism can speak on topics like natural child spacing. But I understand (especially as a former Protestant) that interpretation of Scripture is very different coming from a Protestant background. Thanks for your great questions and your kind tone, Courtney!

  36. hannah says

    As someone who was not blessed with fertility i think you have a wonderful stance on it. It kills me to see women throwing away such a wonderful gift. I wish that more people would see this i really don’t think a lot of people understand.

  37. Kristina says

    Precursor — this wound up being very, very long! If you don’t have interest or time to read the whole thing (and no offense taken, if that’s the case!), the actual questions I asked are in the last paragraph…


    Today’s “More From BlogHer” links included your Molly Weasley post. From there, it was click, click, click… until I wound up here. I read the entire post, and all of the responses and replies. I echo several of the earlier comments — I am amazed that the dialogue here, by people from many paths and belief systems, has remained respectful and considerate even in staunch disagreement. Kudos to you and your readers!

    I was raised Christian, but for many reasons am now atheist. My brother, probably the most important person in my life, was atheist as well until the last couple of years, when he found faith again. In March, he married a woman who is devout in the purest, most admirable sense of the word. I know, because she told me, that they plan to use AFP (I just Googled that to see if it’s a real thing… the only thing that comes up is your post so I guess it’s a phrase of your own invention!). She feels that since she trusts God implicitly, she should leave the plans for conception and family to Him, as well. I have serious reservations and concerns (which for the record, I have not and will not voice to them). Pieces of those concerns will never change, but this post lent additional insight into why they might choose to use no form of family planning. So, thanks for that.

    Acknowledging that our belief systems are pretty much opposite, I’m wondering about your perspective on a subject that I don’t think has been touched in this thread — how to handle birth control and family planning when a couple does not want children. I am 30, and have known since I was a teenager that I will never have children. For a variety of reasons, I would be a terrible mother and so I intend to never procreate. Although it occasionally makes me sad, most of the time I’m ok with it, because I think it would be incredibly selfish to have children knowing they wouldn’t have the mother they need and deserve. I know no form of birth control outside of abstinence is 100%, but I intend to do my absolute best to very careful, and make sure I never get pregnant.

    I know I’m not the only person who doesn’t want to ever reproduce; I even know some people who have very strong Christian faiths, but do not want kids. So I am wondering, how does the Church (and/or you, personally) feel about this? Should people who don’t want kids not have sex? Not get married? Is there room in the Christian theology for individuals or couples who choose not to procreate?

    • Haley says

      Hi Kristina,
      I’m sorry my response has been so delayed, I’m recovering from delivering our third little one! I think Liz did a great job in her comment of explaining some Christian views of children and marriage and I would echo her statement that in Christian faith (at least Catholic Christian faith) marriage and children do go together. That doesn’t mean that couples struggling with infertility are any less valuable, of course! And the Church does teach that if a couple needs to avoid pregnancy for very serious reasons, it is permissible to do so (through natural family planning.) I’m not sure exactly what motivates your belief that you would not make a good mother, but I also want to affirm what Liz said by confessing that EVERY DAY I realize my failings as a mama.

  38. Liz says

    Hey Kristina,
    thanks for sharing your viewpoint! I have a dear Christian friend who feels the same way you do, and we have some interesting discussions 🙂 Just wanted to share a few thoughts, just from my own viewpoint (and by the way, thanks for the respectful way you have treated the beliefs of people on here – I hope I can do the same).

    First, I want to let you in on a little (haha maybe not so little!) secret – even people like me who want children feel like terrible mothers sometimes. I can see how my words and my actions affect my children, and I feel horribly about it. It’s here that my faith helps me. God has made it possible for me to be forgiven for the times I mess up. He gives me the courage and grace to apologise to my children when I do, and He helps me change for the better. I don’t know why you think you would be a terrible mother, but I do know that nothing in impossible with my God.

    As I said, this is just from a personal viewpoint. I don’t really know what any particular denomination says about this, or what Christian theology generally says, but Jesus certainly has room for those who don’t want children. One can’t win His approval or make Him love us more by having more kids! He just loves us anyway, more than we can possibly imagine. Yes, it’s true that He has an ideal way for us to live, but He is also patient with us as we get to know Him and find out the things that are close to His heart.

    As one reads through the Bible, it’s impossible to escape the fact that God loves children. He has a particular care for those who are vulnerable, and children, orphans especially, are counted as vulnerable and in need of protection. If part of being a Christian is seeking God’s heart and sharing His priorities, then we end up sharing His view of children. They are precious! That doesn’t mean we have to go all goo-goo over babies and talk in saccharine voices to toddlers 😛 It means valuing and respecting children, and treating them with dignity.

    In my case, that was made a lot easier by having been through the experience of being told we might not be able to have children. That made me realise that they are a gift, not a right; a blessing to be cared for and loved, not a accessory to a lifestyle or a horrible burden (not saying that’s how you see them, but unfortunately some people in our society seem to have that attitude). I have 2 and would love more. But I know that not everyone feels that way. The way I see it is this: Jesus has been exceptionally patient with me as I work through things like money issues, eating habits etc. He doesn’t give up on me because my views don’t totally coincide with His. As far as I can tell from the Bible, marriage and children (or at least the desire for them) go together, so if a Christian was adamant they didn’t want children (I don’t mean for medical reasons or something like that) I confess I would wonder why; wonder if maybe they hadn’t yet understood that God views children as a blessing. And if they really didn’t want kids of their own, maybe there is another way that they could express a belief that children are a blessing, eg: sposoring a child. That kind of thing would be a personal decision, something they would have to discuss with God!

    Sorry for the long post! In nutshell, yes there is room for everyone in God’s kingdom. And there is no condemnation, only hope and help. Maybe you know the famous verse John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…”? The next bit couldn’t be clearer – God sent Jesus not to condemn us but to save us, and bring us into a life full of good things.

    • Kristina says

      Hi Liz –

      Wow, thanks for the the time you took to write that and share your views in response to my post. And I echo the appreciation for the respect of different beliefs… it feels like we’ve found a secret corner of the internet where people don’t default to screaming at each other over their differences.

      I am indeed familiar with John 3:16… I’ve read large portions (though admittedly not all) of the Bible, and there are amazing things in it for those who have faith. It’s interesting to me that I agree with pretty much everything you wrote. It’s just that the feelings, interpretations, and beliefs are very different for someone who has faith compared to someone who does not. Children absolutely are blessings that deserve love and respect, so I won’t have any because I couldn’t raise them with the love and respect they deserve (and don’t believe in God who might help me overcome these deficiencies).

      • Liz says

        Hey Kristina,
        Just want to say that I appreciate your candour. I’m so encouraged by the way you see children as blessings too 🙂 and by how we can chat openly and disagre respectfully. This is a great little corner of the internet!

  39. says

    This is a lovely post. I am not Christian at all and country I come from, practices Greek Orthodoxy, so I always wondered what was all that about birth control for Christians. This post made sense and I realised many things I didn’t know before.

    When people lose their tolerance and respect to each other that’s where scary world of media and atheism begins. Your blog really makes positive difference. And so nice of you to reply to every comment above.

    Hope your pregnancy goes well or did you already have a new baby? Haven’t followed the updates.

    • Haley says

      Thank you, that is so kind! We just delivered our baby girl one week ago and she’s doing great 🙂

  40. Rachel says

    So, I actually found this through the round-about ways of the Internet (Pinterest link to great girls your daughter should read, your letter to your daughter about not reading Twilight (I totally agree), then eventually here). I found this article quite interesting. I am a non-religious, opinionated-but-trying-to-be-open-minded 20-year-old, for the record. Anyways, my specific comment about your article is about how well-written, tolerant, and personal your views are. I’ll be honest, sometimes reading articles by Catholics are irritating to me, simply because they often disagree with my own views (although like I said, I’m trying to be open-minded; I see why so few people are, it’s very difficult sometimes). But your post really felt warm and open to me. I actually take the pill, but not for contraceptive reasons. I have bipolar disorder, and used to have terrible rages, and my psychiatrist suggested the pill because of the way it would alter my hormones. Since I’ve started it, I’ve basically been rage free for about 4 years now. But that’s just my story. It helped me, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for others (especially when they choose to be all natural, which is sometimes the right path). And when it comes to a time when I consider having children, I don’t know how I’ll feel about contraception. I guess the point of all this is that I’m glad I stumbled across your blog, because it reminds me that not everyone is trying to shove their ideas down your throat (on all sides of all spectrums – not trying to single out Catholics). It seems like you (and I assume your family) are the type of person who has found a balance between sticking to your beliefs and not judging others for theirs. So thank you for that. 🙂 I look forward to reading some of your other posts on here.

    • Haley says

      Thank you so much, Rachel! I really appreciate that you took the time to write this encouragement!

  41. Jessica says

    Hello Haley,

    I have enjoyed reading your thought-provoking blog. I also enjoy the fact that you are so ‘women-empowerment’ centered. I am sure that your children, especially your daughter, will appreciate you as a fantastic role model. Although I do not necessarily agree with birth control, I can respect your views and how moderately and gently you convey them. I grew up catholic and though I do not practice anymore, I still have a lot of respect for the religion and religion in general.

    I wanted to ask what you thought about population control. In reading this section of your blog, I noticed that you did not address this topic whatsoever. While children and birth are a beautiful thing and families are a gift that I think are more precious than anything, I remember going to mass on sundays with my parents when I was young and seeing these incredibly large families. It just always made me think…our world is already struggling to accommodate us all and there are millions of children who need homes that have already been born. I would like to have my own children one day too but I am not sure about the ‘mystery’, as you put it, in being fertile and not planning my family. How do you feel about that?

    Also, this may be unrelated somewhat but I am bound for graduate school in the fall and I hope to eventually obtain my PhD. I read that you gave up graduate school to be with your family. Was that a hard decision? Do you miss it? I am young (21 years!) and school has always been my first and epic love and I just wanted to know how you felt.

    • Haley says

      Great question, Jessica! Overpopulation is a controversial issue, not just in more “conservative” spheres but in “liberal” ones as well (I hate using those labels because they’re so vague). Take this article: http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/is-overpopulation-a-green-myth.html, for instance. I don’t agree with the author on everything, it’s just an example that even in the secular “liberal” sphere, overpopulation as the root of all our environmental problems is seen very skeptically. Even now there really is enough to go around, but only if we don’t all become voracious consumers. There is definitely enough food right now to feed everyone on the planet. Yet, there is rampant malnutrition and starvation. So, we know the problem isn’t overpopulation, it’s an easy scapegoat. And, of course, there are a lot of places on earth that are actually facing population collapse. Even the US is facing birth rate problems as explained in this WSJ article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323375204578270053387770718.html. The issue is that some of us are using way more than our fair share, not that there are too many people. And as the Blessed Mother Theresa said, “Saying there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers.”

      As for grad school, I truly have never regretted for a moment giving up getting my graduate degree and pursuing a career in academia even though I always thought that was what I would do. I find raising my kids challenging, stimulating, wonderful, and more difficult than anything I’ve ever attempted. It was a difficult decision that required a lot of soul searching and questioning why it was that I wanted to do grad school in the first place. It really came down to the fact that my heart wasn’t in it the way my heart was with my kids and I could face delaying or completely abandoning a career in academia while I couldn’t face missing out on being with my kids. That being said, some women are able to do both gracefully and successfully, I just don’t think I’m one of them! Best of luck in grad school 🙂

  42. Tracey says

    Not sure how i stumbled across your blog but it was a very interesting read. Great job in writing about stuff to help others in your position though i did smile to myself as a mum of 3 young children for at which point one may decide that not having any more babies for the time being would actually seem like a really great idea. To me, no more children right now is the only form of sanity i could cope with. How easy life is with one child compared to 3. Friends and i joke that when we only have 2 children with us its like being on holiday. I can only assume that for many, despite every reason you listed they might agree with, deciding when to stop having children is a life choice everyone should make without religious or moral pressure.

    • Haley says

      I have three kids (4 and under), too, Tracey, so I absolutely understand how crazy things can be. But, I definitely don’t choose to avoid contraception because of “religious pressure” but because I believe the Catholic view of marriage, sex, and fertility make sense and are good and beautiful. 🙂

  43. Kathryn says

    I just happened on your blog today (by way of Pinterest) and I’ve been devouring the posts along the left sidebar. This post really spoke to me. I’m not Catholic, and have never really given much thought to not being on birth control. I stopped about a year ago because my husband and I decided that we were ready for a baby. We didn’t track anything or try to get pregnant, we just did our thing and figured we’d conceive when we were supposed to. Well, now I’m 39 weeks pregnant with our first baby and couldn’t be more thrilled. When I was reading your post, though, it occurred to me that during the time we were “trying” for a baby, sex did become more fulfilling. It goes back to what you said about truly not holding anything back from each other and also incorporating God into it by trusting Him with the outcome. It definitely gives me some food for thought about how we’ll handle family planning after this little bundle arrives.

  44. Mary says

    I’ve stumbled across your blog after searching for posts about going to grad school and having a family- loved reading your story, and its definitely given me a lot of food for thought.

    my husband and I started NFP a few months ago because I was sick of taking the pill, I felt awful and was very moody most of the time when taking it, and I became more aware of the risks associated with taking it long-term. Well, come to find out, I have endometriosis- which explains a lot of other issues I was having- and my doctor said that basically, there are three options: 1. take a low-dose continuous pill to essentially stop my cycle to prevent tissue growth and hopefully reduce pain, 2. have a laproscopic procedure to ‘clean things up’ and essentially trim back all the extra tissue to reduce the risk of it causing infertility, 3. have kids now. I’m fully funded in a Ph.D. program right now, and am halfway through, but I almost feel like I’m having to choose between school and my morals and having a family. I could take the pills, and stop when we’re ready to have a family; I could have the laproscopy, but risk potentially needing it again if we wait a few years to have kids; or have kids now- I’m wanting to get to a healthy wait before being pregnant for both my health and baby’s, but….. I feel completely torn! We’re not Catholic, but I still have very strong feelings about life beginning at conception, and the idea of a pill causing a ‘chemical’ abortion really doesn’t sit well with me..

    Any advice, or know anyone else who has been faced with the challenge of choosing a treatment for endo?

    • Haley says

      (Mary, I just realized that my reply was underneath your comment instead of a “reply” to the comment so I’m not sure if you saw it. Reposting it now!)
      Hi Mary! That’s a difficult situation! Wanting to grow our family is actually why I decided to quit grad school, so I completely understand feeling torn between finishing your program and starting your family. You know your situation far better than I do, so I feel weird giving advice but here’s what I’d say from the information you gave in the comment. I think that your body has a limited window for fertility and that the younger you are, the easier it will be to conceive. That doesn’t mean that if you finish your program, you won’t be able to have a family as well, but it’s something to consider, particularly if you’re experiencing problems with endometriosis which can result in fertility problems. For me, I realized that I could live with the idea of not having an academic career (not that taking time off from grad school means your academic career is over, but I knew that even if I never went back I could be ok without it) but that I couldn’t stomach the thought of not growing our family and because my mom had problems with uterine tumors that could be hereditary and had to have a hysterectomy, I wanted to be sure to take advantage of the years when I’m young and healthy to have my babies.

      And taking the Pill will mask your symptoms but will not actually cure you, so if you decided to take the Pill until you want to get pregnant, you will end up with the same problems when you are ready to get pregnant.

      One of my best friends IRL, Kaitlin of the blog More Like Mary, would certainly be willing to share her experience with endometriosis with you. You can read her story about conceiving her first child through the help of doctors trained in NaPro (connected to the Creighton method of NFP): http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/2013/04/24/women-speak-on-nfp-how-nfp-got-me-pregnant/ She’s super sweet and would certainly chat with you about it over email. And feel free to email me (haley.s.stewart@gmail.com) if you want to talk about it more!

  45. Haley says

    Hi Mary! That’s a difficult situation! Wanting to grow our family is actually why I decided to quit grad school, so I completely understand feeling torn between finishing your program and starting your family. You know your situation far better than I do, so I feel weird giving advice but here’s what I’d say from the information you gave in the comment. I think that your body has a limited window for fertility and that the younger you are, the easier it will be to conceive. That doesn’t mean that if you finish your program, you won’t be able to have a family as well, but it’s something to consider, particularly if you’re experiencing problems with endometriosis which can result in fertility problems. For me, I realized that I could live with the idea of not having an academic career (not that taking time off from grad school means your academic career is over, but I knew that even if I never went back I could be ok without it) but that I couldn’t stomach the thought of not growing our family and because my mom had problems with uterine tumors that could be hereditary and had to have a hysterectomy, I wanted to be sure to take advantage of the years when I’m young and healthy to have my babies.

    And taking the Pill will mask your symptoms but will not actually cure you, so if you decided to take the Pill until you want to get pregnant, you will end up with the same problems when you are ready to get pregnant.

    One of my best friends IRL, Kaitlin of the blog More Like Mary, would certainly be willing to share her experience with endometriosis with you. You can read her story about conceiving her first child through the help of doctors trained in NaPro (connected to the Creighton method of NFP): http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/2013/04/24/women-speak-on-nfp-how-nfp-got-me-pregnant/ She’s super sweet and would certainly chat with you about it over email. And feel free to email me (haley.s.stewart@gmail.com) if you want to talk about it more!

  46. says

    I just wanted to say this is one of my favorite blog posts by anyone ever!
    You have stated my thoughts and feelings on this subject to a T.
    If only I could get my vegan sister to see the light about not putting chemicals in our bodies with respect to using the pill. I’ve even shown her that the pill is a class 1 carcinogen according to the World Health Organization.
    Thank you for this well written post. 🙂

  47. Amanda says

    I am new to your blog and thusly late to this post. Quick background: I am not Catholic (wholly unchurched) but am taking RCIA classes currently, my fiance is Catholic, though fallen away. We have been together for 5 years and have a 4 year old son and have recently decided to come home to the Church. I am taking hormonal birth control currently and have been since I was 18 (save the pregnany- obviously the pill wasn’t 100% effective). I am fully aware of the Churches stance on contraceptives and I am slowly coming around to them. We have both financial reasons (no savings, massive college debt, low paying jobs) and medical reasons (fiance has a bad back which makes him seem like he is in his 60’s, I had a traumatic C-section with our first, emotional instability brought on by the certainty of financial instability) to use NFP, but I am terrified of it failing. We barely survive on two incomes now, I am not sure how we could survive on one, and given we are barely surviving I am not sure where the $800-$1000/month for childcare would come from.
    I want nothing more than to be a stay at home mom to as many kids as God would give us- but it doesnt seem financially possible. And, coming from a secular world/family, everyone would regard us as irresponsible for “going-off” the pill.
    I know that NFP works well, if used perfectly. What if I can’t get it to work perfectly? Also, wont the many years of ABC cause problems while trying to decifer signs of fertility? I know what we should be doing (firstly abstaining until marriage- which we are working on, and then not contracepting) but the thought of another child, no matter how desperately wanted and loved it would be, is terrifying. I am so sad that children have become such “problems” in modern society.
    Any advice or success stories of avoiding pregnancy from ABC to NFP?

    • Haley says

      Hi, Amanda!
      I completely understand the difficulty of your situation. It is really hard to turn over control of your fertility when your circumstances are not at all ideal for welcoming a new family member. But, as you said, ABC isn’t 100% by any stretch of the imagination! I gathered some stories of different women’s experiences with NFP (some of whom were just coming off of the Pill) which might be helpful! http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/2013/04/01/women-speak-on-nfp-introducing-a-new-series/

      I know abstaining is so hard, but do you think you could abstain for a few weeks while your body’s hormones even out after quitting ABC? And learn to chart your cycles during those times? I’m currently using Marquette method (which uses the ClearBlue Fertility Monitor) to figure out my fertility signs post partum before my cycle completely returns. I’m new to this because we haven’t been delaying pregnancy until now, but the other contributors to the series I posted above know what they’re doing : )

      And feel free to email me (haley.s.stewart@gmail.com) if you need more info or want to get in touch with someone who knows all about a particular method! Or just need a word of encouragement. I’ll be praying for your family and your financial situation!

  48. Amanda says

    Thank you for the link to the stories. ClearBlue sounds very promising. Ideally, we will abstain in the very least from Lent through Easter (when I am baptized, etc..) til our wedding day shortly after- so if that is enough time to rid my body of chemicals and hormones, then we can probably manage. (I assumed it might take months?) But, I am definitely not confident in my ability to trust my own evaluations of fertility signs, and this ClearBlue looks like the perfect confidence booster! So relieved to have stumbled across this.

    • Haley says

      Yes. Because everything is wacky during post partum and breastfeeding, the ClearBlue takes a lot of the guesswork out for me!

  49. Paige W says

    Hi, I just found this blog and I love it so far! What a brave topic to plow through with confidence and honesty.

    I can also recommend the Billings Method of NFP because it is pretty much fabulous. It’s really user-friendly, since you don’t have to take your temperature or do anything outside of what you usually do and it’s Catholic-based and everything. (obviously you have to obstain so you don’t get pregnant if that is what you’re trying to do/not do…)


    It has tons of scientific research to back it up and is used by millions of people worldwide which make me feel a part of something reliable ;D It is used in areas of poor sanitation and poverty effectively because it doesn’t require devices (thermoters) or self-examinations. One thing that is great about it is finding an instructor/mentor person who will review your chart with you. Who doesn’t want a support person? Okay, actually I haven’t been sharing my chart with my instructor for the past year because I’m a really private person and I since I know the method now I don’t like it when she emails me and says hey that’s technically not following the method… But it’s great to have someone to ask questions who you can trust to really know their science and charting.

    But although I appreciate NFP I am totally with you on everything you said in this awesome post here! I am kind of sick of NFP right now or feeling burned out in some ways. I have four kids 6 and under though so I have some motivation to be patient, but there are drawbacks to denying your fertitilty and I don’t like that.


  50. B says

    I converted to Catholicism from Protestantism 5 years after I had my tubes tied. I had a traumatic and high risk pregnancy with my last child, and I didn’t want to ever go through it again. Since then I have really regretted my decision, and it has been a really difficult road for me especially after these kinds of conversations in the Catholic church. Natural family planning makes so much sense to me, and I think is a huge testament of your faith and trust that God will provide. We are praying for a way to adopt since I had already decided to alter my chances. Someday…


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