17 October, 2012

The Pill v. NFP: Are They Really Different?

Our beautiful niece Elizabeth! A beautiful example of YES!
Congratulations!! You are a wonderful mama and I'm sure you're very excited for another addition. This baby is very lucky to be born to such a sweet, caring family.

On another note, you say "we are so grateful that we have never imposed barriers to the life-giving gift we've been given. Imagine if God had given us this gift of fertility and we had chosen to use a contraceptive drug that acts to prevent the implantation of a conceived child?"

In using NFP, you take actions to avoid pregnancy. By taking a pill, you're preventing pregnancy. I'd be interested in a post on why avoidance is better than prevention. In reality, the both require the same intent and same result. Is the process actually so important?

I'm not being antagonistic...I really think it would be interesting to read your viewpoint!

I know that I've posted on this before, but it was also before I had children. There is a big credibility difference between someone who has children versus someone who has no children on this topic. The comment and question above is from a really dear friend of mine. I don't typically like to respond to comments, but her question is valid and I know it is one to foster dialogue not arguement. I wasn't sure I wanted to take the time to write a whole post, but after writing a direct email back to her, I realized it was a good post too!

If in fact birth control pills are as effective as they are and I were on them, there is a 99% chance that this baby, our baby, who we now lovingly refer to as "Spud", wouldn't be arriving in 9 months. Some pills prevent ovulation and that would have almost guaranteed no pregnancy. Some pills and devices allow conception, but make the uterine lining inhospitable to implantation, thus causing the body to flush the conceived embryo with the menstrual cycle. Condoms and diaphrams avoid pregnancy by imposing an artificial latex or rubber barrier. This baby was actually conceived (because I chart and I know) well out of my normal fertile window. I was all but positive, by way of my multiple symptom markers, that we were a full week post-ovulation. Suffice it to say, God wanted this baby to be conceived and because we don't use artificial barriers, the baby was able to be conceived. 

The process of avoiding or for that matter, achieving pregnancy, in our hearts matters a great deal because it is the difference between trusting God and believing that we, as flawed and limited humans, are in control. It's actually a pretty holistic approach for us. It impacts not only how we plan our family, but how we eat, how we interact, who we spend time with, and how we give. We were blessed to have been given these 4 infinitives in the first few years of our marriage and they have become a guiding philosophy for our family in so many aspects:
Accept God's Gifts Gratefuly
Nurture God's Gifts Responsibly
Share God's Gifts Justly and Charitably
Return God's Gifts Abundantly.

Don't get me wrong, a condom can break and medication interactions can nullify the effects of many birth control pills, so if God wants you to conceive all kinds of things can happen. However, this way we are not putting up additional barriers to the gifts and life God wants to give us. We don't live in a position/country/economic status where there is any reason to reject God's gift of life. It might make us have to live a bit leaner, with a bit less sleep, and we might not be able to travel as much or purchase the newest gadgets, but really, how can any of that compare to the gift of a child? Accepting a child is one of the most sacrificial, but sanctifying things I've done in my life, and God has provided every step of the way.

I often wonder, philosopher that I am, what if God offered to conceive a child with us who had the potential to cure cancer, but a condom or pill prevented it? (Please know that I propose this in all humility with any of the greatness falling on God and certainly do not presume myself a worthy mother of a child with these gifts.) What kinds of people and gifts are being lost to this world because people with the means aren't willing say YES? No judgement, just curiousity. There are a whole lot of philosophical and theological concepts in there about who you believe God to be and God's role in our world and how far God's power can reach into the free-will of humans lives, but it is a question worth considering for us.

***Sidenote: Humans conceived and not brought to full potential and dignity is also why frozen embryos used in other forms of technologically assisted fertility and embryonic stem cell research raise a concern for us. Human beings in suspended animation until another human decides it's time to see if they can be brought to life is utilitarian at best.

We are constantly discerning where to go with our family. We don't consider ourselves called to be a "big Catholic family" and we are not Quiverfull followers, like the famously large family the Duggars.  In fact, the weekend before we found out we were pregnant, my niece Elizabeth was with us and didn't really sleep through the night and I was pretty affirmed in our discernment of 2 due to some other health issues I've been facing. On the other hand, having Elizabeth with us and seeing the kids with her, Kevin made a complete 180 and thought it might be a good idea to discern a third. 3 days later, God gave us the answer. And it was an answer that had already been in the works for weeks. Strange how that works. And yet, when this baby arrives, we must once again begin our regular discernment of our family size and our call to be co-creators. Moreover, we believe that we have a call to co-create with God and be fertile through God in places beyond our womb, but that does not allow us to close our womb to life. Every month we must enter into conversation and prayer about the gift of life God may be offering us and if God is calling us to say YES.

My relationship with the Blessed Mother has been forever changed by my own experience of saying YES. This world would not be what it is today if it were not for her YES. I can't help but share a favorite reflection on Mary's YES. I have somewhere in my files a wonderful poem written about Mary's Fait (the Latin word for YES) and when I find it I will post it too.

NFP allows us to hold nothing back in our sexual intimacy and allows us to intentionally strengthen our relationship through other forms of intimacy when we are trying to avoid conception. There is a little bit of crunchy mama in there too because I hated what contraceptives did to my body and mind when I was on them through college for abnormal cycles.
Honestly, it is a marital decision. So long as a couple is not using an abortifacient form of birth control or Plan B that allows conception but not implantation (even if the science is still "inconclusive"), I can respect whatever family planning decisions they make. I don't believe in relativity, that something that works for me may not work for other people, I just know that respect is key to dialogue as long as a conceived life is not in jeopardy. It's just really important to me to be a witness for the choices and gifts of our own life and to give our perspective and beliefs a voice.

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