Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Birth Control After Baby?

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. 


Leila@LittleCatholicBubble said...

Amen, and God bless you for your honesty. You will love reading Jennifer Fulwiler's experience in her book that is to be released in April. She had many of the same pressures with her life-threatening condition, and her Faith was new and fragile when the massive pressure came (she was not even Catholic yet, only in RCIA).

You are courageous, and you have a great priest to boot!

Angela said...

Thanks so much Leila. Jennifer Fulwiler will be at the Ignited By Truth conference here in Raleigh at the end of this month, and I can't wait to get to hear her talk. I look forward to her new book as well.

Tara Brelinsky said...

Thank you for this post. As a long time NFP teacher, I have to admit that I walked this same path of doubt during our two years period of repeat miscarriages. I believe that the evil one uses our moments of sorrow and weakness just as he did when Jesus was fasting in the desert. Far too many "healthcare" providers are unknowing ministers in his plan (pray for them) and they do a sincere job of pressuring mothers to make a choice which is really not at all good for their health (don't get me started on the adverse effects of the nuva ring). Praise God for speaking gently and directly to you as He always has your best interests at heart. Thank you again for bravely bearing your struggles as it will surely reach someone who is need of hearing the truth.

Kandice said...

I admire your faith and discipline!

Anonymous said...

I too, had a complicated pregnancy this last one (though not nearly as complicated as yours, I ended up with two live, healthy babies) and was told I need to wait. It is very hard to trust NFP...so hard, in fact, that we are just living celibate for the time being. I say "just" but it is the hardest thing our marriage has endured. The thing is, we cannot find any method that gives us peace of mind at this time. So we're just hoping and praying that once I start cycling again things become clearer, and in the meantime trying to suffer gracefully.
Thanks for sharing your struggle and triumph. I'm glad you made the right choice, though it was not the easy one.

Abigail said...

Thank you for the honesty in this post. Miscarriage is so hard and can really cause us to have weird/new challenges in our faith. I think we really honor God when we sit with those confusing, messy feelings rather than skipping ahead. Sometimes when I'm frustrated about my challenges I think about how grateful I'll be to be a Mother and Grandmother who has some really hard fought wisdom to pass along to others. Best of luck in your healing journey!

Anonymous said...

Oh, how insidious is the Evil One! Of course you don't want cancer, and of course to protect yourself you would need to monitor the HCG levels, and the best thing would to not get pregnant. So while in grief and sorrow over the loss of your child, you are faced with a test of faith on a whole different, but related issue, your own life, your own health. This is where Satan whispers to many of us.
Whenever something like this happens to me, a temptation presents itself to break God's law to protect myself from some bad thing that MIGHT happen, I like to pray my baptismal promise: "I reject you Satan, and all your works, and all your empty promises." It has almost an instantaneous effect of dispelling the temptation, and clearing my mind. If the temptation comes back, I pray it over and over.
I am praying for you and your family. Don't be afraid even if you do get pregnant. Trust in God and His faithfulness. God bless you. Bonnie

Lena said...

You must have had lots of thoughts and feelings swirly around during that time. Sometimes it is hard to think and make decisions when in a crisis, but sounds like you got it all sorted out. I'm sorry for the loss of your child. May God bless you and all your family with good health going forward.

Angela said...

Thank you all for your comments. There is so much wisdom in all of the comments you have offered. Thank you for taking the time to post.

Adrianne Niall said...

This is beautiful. I love that you go to a priest for your final decision. I wish that we all made our important decisions in this way. God's design is amazing and our trust in Him sometimes challenging. God Bless Angela. I will continue to pray for your family.

Anonymous said...
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maggie.danhakl@healthline.com said...


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Healthline • The Power of Intelligent Health
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