Recently, I had a discussion with my wife regarding an important aspect of our marriage which is sex and natural family planning. For some days, I tried gathering my thoughts together so I can passionately explain what I realized, but instead of trying to find the best way to explain it, I just released my words. After all was said and done, my wife completely understood my point of view and I felt we had a unique experience to bond further on God’s definition of marriage and to authentically live out the Church’s teaching on marriage.
Now you might ask, what were my thoughts that I wanted to convey? Mainly about how birth control made me feel like I couldn’t trust God.
Let me explain
Prior to us getting married, we both attended marriage counseling with my former pastor. During one of the sessions, I asked him for pastoral advice on how to address us not wanting to plan for a family too soon. As a result, we discussed things such as condoms. Intuitively, I always felt condoms were a huge impediment to how sex was supposed to be. Without even reading Humanae Vitae, it was clear to me that the marital act was intended to be unitive, but items such as condoms thwart sexual unity. I voiced my opinion about condoms and my wife gave her view too.
Now it was time for the “pastoral” guidance on the issue.
I don’t remember 100% of everything that session, but I do remember him suggesting that using materials such as condoms were ok if used for good intentions. Furthermore, after hearing our reservations about a baby, he made it clear our intentions were petty valid, so we walked away with a sense of ease.
During the first two years of our marriage, we used birth control every time we engaged in the marital act. At the back of my head, this didn’t impact me at all. Truly, I was, according to the advice of so many church members, living a “fun life” without rushing to kids.
Birth control made this lifestyle choice even better for us because we never had to worry about the possibility of opening our sexual lives to the potential of pregnancy. Consequently, this made us feel more in control of our marriage. Instead of abiding by God’s standard, we became the ultimate decision-maker about our marriage. In the process of using birth control, we pushed God aside. There was no need for divine intervention or providence to intercede because we banished His loving presence from a key aspect of the Sacrament of Matrimony.
My fear of raising a child inadequately terrified me. Reoccurring thoughts of all the negative possibilities flooded my head: What if something bad happens? We’re just starting out in our careers, can we really afford a baby at this moment?
All these thoughts raced through my head, but I was still attending Sunday service and with my lips claimed to trust that God would provide for me in all aspects of my life. I believed this wholeheartedly yet I didn’t trust God would be there for us if we ever had a baby. No matter how much I thought I trusted God, I couldn’t allow Him in control of our reproductive lives because I felt He would bring catastrophic disruption to our lifestyle. So birth control was our way of blocking God out of this part in our marriage and weakening my trust toward Him in the process.
When I began RCIA in February of 2017, I knew I would eventually have to adopt the Catholic view of marriage/sex to avoid committing a grave sin. I learned about natural family planning progressively over a few months before I told my wife about it. I must say, Nov. 2016-Feb. 2017 was a confusing time for my marriage partly because I decided to become a Catholic. My wife had her own struggles with my decision, so I wanted to be careful at phrasing natural family planning to her and not allow it to become a divisive issue.
After finding the courage to lay out my case for natural family planning, my wife was really receptive to the idea. We even went to a natural family planning workshop in May 2017 and learned thoroughly about the practice from a highly skilled retired Catholic registered nurse. When the workshop ended, we were pretty convinced about the efficacy of the techniques so we signed up. What I ended up thinking would be 100% about me and my conversion ended up being not only spiritually essential but was scientifically and medically sound for my wife.
After using contraception a handful of times after the workshop, we made the decision to quit.
Now, the real test was about to happen: Now after learning briefly about Theology of the Body, would I learn to trust God in this area?
At first, we had a difficult time with NFP and how to check fertile/infertile days but over the course of time, with more feedback, we got totally better! It was a system both of us took ownership by memorizing the colors, textures, etc. Most importantly in the process, we began to open up more and more to God this hidden area of our marriage. By doing so, we’ve increased greater intimacy with each other over these two years.
Looking back about two years later from the NFP workshop, I definitely notice the surge in my willingness to trust God more in terms of family planning. My disposition is one of joy and optimism rather than anxiety and fear. Every time the marital act is done, I don’t worry about all the horrible reoccurring thoughts because I believe that God is pleased with a marriage when two are engaged in unitive love and openness to life in every act. Also, we’re cooperating with God by His standard using NFP, no more us being the sole decision maker.
Now, we use NFP to track our new goal, which is striving to have a baby! So great that science and a women’s natural God-given body can collaborate with their Creator to make the moment of conception possible. Even if we weren’t actively exploring the idea of pregnancy, NFP has days in a place to indicate fertility risks, so we’re in control and can plan prudentially depending on our life circumstances.
Looking back over these last two years, we totally fell for the birth control delusion. Unfortunately, there are many causes for this, but we take ultimate responsibility. There are millions of Catholics and people globally who are under the same false beliefs about contraception, but there is an alternative that is medically better. It’s not “Catholic birth control’ as many falsely claim NFP to be. Instead, it’s a natural law-abiding way for married couples to join the marital act with their Creator. No meds, implants, surgeries, or shots required too!
I honestly believe that since I started RCIA in Feb. 2017, I have become a greater husband who is more aware of the spiritual, emotional, physical needs of my wife. Catholicism has changed my mind on everything I ever knew marriage was supposed to be. NFP makes me better understand my wife sexually, spiritually, physically, and creatively!
So thankful to be released from the contraception delusion!