You both think you want kids ... just not yet.
So you found the perfect guy, you settled down and you married him. Now what? Then comes a baby in a baby carriage, right? Well, only if you've had a long talk with your partner and agreed that kids are the next step for your relationship. Marriage isn't a job, but it sure is hard work. And trying to compromise with your partner about something as life-changing as when to have kids is one of the hardest decisions you will have to make.
Before my husband and I got married, we sat down and had a pretty long discussion about our future together — when we wanted to get married and when we planned to have a family. After graduating from college, we both still felt like kids ourselves. How were we going to raise one? We decided that we wanted to wait a while before trying for children. We also wanted to enjoy some time together, just the two of us. Because let's face it, having a baby changes everything.
You're up all night at first, then, before you know it, you're running around chasing your little one, trying to get him to eat. There's the doctor visits, and there's definitely no more private trips to the bathroom. Oh, and news flash, babies are expensive!
My husband and I asked ourselves a few questions when the baby subject came up. Can we really afford a child right now? Do we have a good support network? Are we ready for a lifestyle change? We both answered a resounding "no" to all three questions. And so, we decided that we would use birth control to help plan our family until we felt ready.
That being said, as Christians, my husband and I both believe that our Heavenly Father has everything in control, and if His plan is to add a baby into the mix, then we would understand. We would start our family on His time. Control is something we like to think we have down, but the Bible explains that God really does have everything in control:. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). God is in control, but we'll still make plans unless he has other ones. We decided that using preventative contraception would help us stick to those plans.
Knowing Your Options
Birth control has been in the news a lot: whether to use it, whether the government should provide it, whether it violates the beliefs of certain Christians, like those in the Catholic Church. Here's what we believe. We're Christians, but we're not anti-birth control. My husband and I feel that the use of birth control as part of our caring, monogamous sexual relationship is a way to prevent expensive, life-altering, not-ready-quite-yet, unplanned pregnancies. And in our eyes, that's a good thing. But it's not always easy.
If you've ever taken birth control, you're probably aware that the pill isn't exactly magical. While taking birth control helps reduce the risks of unplanned pregnancy, it comes at a cost. The side effects are less than lovely — mood swings, weight gain and decreased sex drive (among other things) — and have certainly affected our relationship. But despite the side effects, we still feel that the positives outweigh the negatives for our marriage. And that's a choice every couple has to come to on their own.
So how do you decide if birth control is right for you? And how long do you and your partner continue to use a birth control method before you decide to have kids? It all comes down to communication. You and your partner have to decide what's right for the two of you. In a committed relationship, you must communicate. You see, I've been there. I'm a non-communicator, which can hinder smooth sailing in our marriage. But I know clamming up or shutting down doesn't solve things, and that's why I'm so thankful my husband is big on communication. He's so great at getting me to open up. He always says, "No, don't say, 'I'm fine.' Let's talk!"
Communicating in your marriage is all about handling the message. And somehow, I always end up talking after he says that line, because I know he's right. But what if you're on the opposite end of the spectrum, and what if you and your partner are in disagreement over birth control and can't come to a decision?
Find a way to get on the same page, and realize it might take several discussions to get there. Big decisions don't always take root overnight. There are certain things you absolutely must cover, like when you want kids and if you want them at all. Talk about the method of birth control and the impacts of the route you will choose to take. And certainly, if you're on birth control, don't simply go off without your partner's knowledge. Becoming pregnant under false pretenses? Wrong. It's still unplanned, at least on one end, and will only result in major trouble. Bottom line: Discuss, discuss, discuss — until you have the best solution for your marriage.
What About My Religion?
But what about if it's against your religion? Trickier, maybe. But don't fret. You still have options.
Growing up in the Baptist church, I've learned that we have a different perspective than Catholics do on the use of contraceptives by married couples because we believe scripture does not condemn it. But in a discussion about birth control with one of my Catholic friends, I learned how you can work around usual birth control. "My church actually offers family planning classes where they teach you how to plan the size and timing of your family without birth control," she told me. "I was taught that birth control is a 'no-no' because of children being God's will."
There are many types of birth control out there for couples, whether natural or man-made, and it's up to you and your partner to decide what's right for your family. And even non-traditional methods can work. Another one of my friend's daughters? With the help of her husband, she uses a fertility calendar ... and they've been kid-free for over eight years.
Every couple is different, but every couple can still come to a fantastic solution for family planning.