We use Natural Family Planning during the times that we need to abstain from having a baby. I have talked about why we use the Sympto-Thermal Method in this post from way back in the day. Once we understood what our church taught about God's design and purpose for the sexual union within the context of marriage, it made perfect sense to us and we have been happy to use NFP.
So it came as a huge shock to myself (and to Rob) when I started questioning whether we should use birth control after Francis Marie. I was at the hospital and I had already read up on molar and partial molar pregnancies and knew that the doctors would recommend a long wait before we could try to conceive again. This is because the doctors monitor HCG levels after you have a molar pregnancy and if they start to rise or stop declining, it is because the tissue is re-growing and you are at risk of a type of cancer called choriocarcinoma. If you get pregnant while they are monitoring your HCG levels, your levels will also rise due to the pregnancy, so the problem is that they do not know if your HCG levels are rising because of cancer or because of a new pregnancy. Choriocarcinoma from what I understand is a quick-growing cancer, so if I were to become pregnant it would not be so great to have to "wait around to see if this is a new pregnancy".
The one doctor (the one who I feel was concerned for my health, but was pushing for me to have a D&C early on) came in to talk to me right before my D&C to let me know that I would need to be on some form of birth control and that she could easily place a nuva ring or something else (my mind started spinning trying to think of what I would say to her) after she did the D&C. The only thing I could sputter out of my mouth was, "No, no nuva ring...I would rather do pills." Thinking full well at that moment that this was not what I would do either....I would simply go back to NFP as we had always done.
But after that conversation, I just felt like there was so much pressure not to get pregnant. Every doctor was reiterating the seriousness of not getting pregnant. I started doubting myself, doubting NFP, doubting whether God really understands the seriousness of our situation.
I took all this to confession the following weekend, and the priest so simply said, "You know what the church teaches, you must do this. And you need the support of your husband." Luckily, I already had my husband's full support with NFP. And when I came out of confession it was totally clear that of course I couldn't use birth control...not even along with NFP. It was just such a strange situation that I had had this time of doubting whether NFP would really be effective enough, and of doubting whether I could stand up to the pressure of the doctors who want me to use birth control. I remember the priest in confession said point blank...."It is your body. Not the doctors'." Yeah, it is. They can't tell me what to do. They can make recommendations and counsel me on my health choices...that's it.
So I came out of confession with this renewed trust in God's design. In fact, it seemed absolutely ludicrous and unthinkable to me that I had had that period of doubting.....how could I doubt using something to which I had already been committed (using NFP)? How could I have fought hard in the hospital for my values, for what was right, for the dignity and sacredness of life and then turn around and reject my values and use contraception? It was like I had been overcome by this massive fog and everything became cloudy....lines became gray and blurred. And then after confession the fog just cleared and I realized what was true and right again.
Then I got this confirmation from the 2/16 Laudate app's reflection on the Mass readings....here are some of the excerpts:
"Jesus teaches that righteousness involves responding to every situation in life in a way that fulfill's God's law, not just externally but internally as well."
"Jesus sets the high ideal of the married state before those who are willing to accept his commands. Jesus gives the grace and power of his Holy Spirit to those who seek to follow his way of holiness in their state of life – whether married or single."
"Reverence and respect for God’s commandments teach us the way of love – love of God and love of neighbor. What is impossible to men and women is possible to God and those who have faith in God."
Doctors think that NFP is impossible. Not good enough.
It is possible with God's help.
I say all this not to open up a debate on birth control, but just to mesh out all the back and forth feelings I was having....to recognize that spiritual fog can roll in when you are least expecting it, and that sacramental grace can give you renewed clarity. That God does pour out consolations and confirmations of His plans for you and for me.