Today I am going to reflect on why I am a Catholic. I almost wasn't. There was a time when I just about left the Church, and it wasn't when I was a teenager or young adult. It was when I was 29 years old. As my kind husband wisely put it -- "Your faith was smashed upon the rocks of birth control." Yup.
As Catholics, my husband and I did not want to practice artificial contraception; so, when we were engaged, we took a course in Natural Family Planning, or NFP. We also both wanted a good number of babies. We do love children. Anyway, when using NFP, the woman interprets the days on which she is fertile using a number signals given to her by her body. I won't get into all that here. There are plenty of ways to find out all about this, if you wish. Herein, though, I discovered something about my own young self: using the method of NFP that we were taught, I appeared to be fertile about 75% of the time. This is just not how it was supposed to work. Anyway, our NFP instructor was very kind and told us that she had never seen cycles quite like mine before. And, after my husband and I got married, she asked me, "How important is it that you not conceive?" Because there were reasons that we wanted to wait for a little while before I got pregnant. I thought about it, and told her, "I guess it's not really all that important." So, she gave me some advice based on that statement.
A bit of time went by, and my husband and I got our "ducks in a row" and were in a position to conceive. About 6 months after our wedding, I very, very happily found out I was pregnant. But, this is something I realized: even if I hadn't been ready to get pregnant, I would have conceived, anyway, using the advice given to me by our NFP instructor. To be fair, though, if I had told her that we absolutely weren't ready to conceive, she would have given me different advice. This would have involved abstaining about 75% of the time. Kind of a tall order for newlyweds.
Over the next 4 years, my hubby and I VERY JOYFULLY welcomed three beautiful children. All of whom were wanted. Please don't misunderstand that. But, a few other things happened along the way to influence my feelings about this whole NFP thing. I got violently ill when I was pregnant; my fertility returned within two months of giving birth (even when following all the advice about breastfeeding and natural child spacing, which is supposed to keep your cycles from returning for at least 6 months); my fertility signs were very confusing (due to breastfeeding hormones and not being able to take an accurate basal body temperature, as I had to get up about 3 times a night with the babies); and I lost a lot of blood during the birth of my third baby, which I think caused me to feel pretty exhausted and unwell for quite a while. So, let's just say I built up a lot of resentment toward the whole Church teaching against contraception and, hence, against the Church, too. I was ready to call it quits with the faith. Thanks be to God that my husband is such a loving and understanding person. It was really his love and a few other amazing things that helped me to hang in there.
And in the next part of this 2-part series, I will explain why I did decide, once-and-for-all, to hang in there.