Our Journey to Natural Family Planning
Like many other couples, my husband and I wanted to wait a little while to get pregnant after getting married 6 years ago. I visited the doctor about three months before our wedding and asked her what she recommended for birth control. She suggested a new (then) type of oral contraceptive that would prevent me from having cycles more than four times a year. I asked if it was healthy, she assured me it was, and that was that.
Fast forward to our wedding night… I still hadn’t gotten through the “adjustment phase” of my new pills and was spotting. Romantic, right? I also had pretty much no sexual desire. Even better! We had decided to wait until our honeymoon to enjoy that level of intimacy, so you can imagine how frustrating it was to be in our situation. My doctor’s advice? Take 8 Ibuprofen to potentially stop the bleeding. (Didn’t do a darn thing, in case you were wondering.)
My very patient and gracious husband helped me make it through that time with as little trauma as possible, but when things weren’t much better a month later, I found a different doctor.
My new doctor took the time to sit down with me and explain the different forms of contraception and how we could find one that had fewer side effects. He very thoroughly answered all of the questions I could think of and even gave me a comparison chart of the most common types of contraception – oral and otherwise. Honestly, it was the first time I got a real grasp of how conception… and “contraception” actually work.
We were able to find a pill that had fewer side effects than the first, and I happily switched.
During this time as a newlywed, I was also learning to cook. I wanted to ensure that our family was eating as well as possible within our budget and as I began to read and research, I realized that many of my previous notions of which foods are “healthy” were dead wrong. It didn’t take long for me to begin the process of examining the non-food products we put in/on our bodies as well.
As I became increasingly worried about the chemicals and hormones in our food, I also started switching out the types of hygiene products we used. It occurred to me that taking hormonal birth control didn’t line up with what I was learning about living a healthful life, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
Providentially, I was also examining my feelings on abortion during this time as I worked with women at a pregnancy resource center. I was shocked to learn that some “contraceptives” could function as abortifacients. I found myself wrestling with all kinda of questions. “Does life begin at conception? Fertilization? Some other point along the way?” “Is unintentionally ending a pregnancy the same as purposefully ending it?” “Are the chances of my birth control ending a pregnancy in the early stages high enough to stop using it?”
Naturally, I brought these questions and concerns home to my husband, and we worked through them together. He was as concerned as I was about protecting life and my own health, but he was also very concerned about getting pregnant before we were “ready.”
In the end we decided to research alternatives and then make our decision.
Natural Family Planning was not even on my radar. I’m not sure I’d ever heard of it. I started my research from the health angle. How did people prevent pregnancy before the birth control pill? Are condoms really as bad as the rap they’ve gotten (probably 1 out of 5 women I saw at the pregnancy center said they’d used a condom, “but…”)? Is there some other “natural” method of preventing pregnancy that doesn’t potentially end one once it’s begun?
A search for “natural birth control” lead me to this book:
Natural Birth Control Made Simple by Barbara Kass-Annese
I checked it out from the library, and again felt incredibly naive to learn that I had no real understanding of what happened each month in my body to trigger ovulation, or of the signals it gave to let me know I was fertile.
Rob and I agreed to stop taking my oral contraceptive and use condoms while we continued to learn more about this method of tracking my cycles.
It took a few months for my cycles to get completely back to normal, but when they did we were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to chart my cycles and avoid my fertile period.
We’ve never looked back. Over the years and after doing much more research, we’ve become completely uncomfortable using any “contraceptive” that affects the lining of my uterus. In the event that ovulation isn’t suppressed, conception could occur and then the baby would be expelled. Yes, we are convinced now that life begins at the moment of conception – or that if it doesn’t, there’s no way to prove it and we should err on the side of life.
Before Aidan, we used the sympto-thermal method of NFP. After Aidan and after Cora, we’ve relied primarily on Ecological Breastfeeding (different than exclusive breastfeeding) to space our pregnancies, and have gone back to the sympto-thermal method when my cycles returned.
I’m guest posting today over at Whole Intentions to explain in more detail how NFP/FAM (fertility awareness method) works and why it might be the right choice for your family, too. I’d love for you to take the time to read that post and respond with any questions you have in the comments at either blog.