Self, Sex

I Don't Believe In Natural Family Planning

The pill

Growing up, my parents taught me that sex was only for marriage, kids were the purpose of marriage and, contraception? Well, that thwarted God's plan for kids and marriage.

My parents had eight children in the span of 15 years. My oldest sister and I were born when my dad was still in law school. My parents wanted to wait, but the method of contraception they used was natural family planning. It didn't work. This made the early years when we were younger, a strain. I frequently remember my parents arguing about how to discipline us, how to raise us and then there was the stress of feeding us, buying us clothes. It was harder before it got better and I often envy my younger siblings, who never saw that side of my parents. They weren't bad parents. We did have a lot of fun (my mom let us play hide-and-go-seek in the dark, in the house!) but having six kids by the time you are 35 would wear anyone down. And while my parents love each one of us and never made us feel like we weren't wanted, there is no doubt that eight kids caused a strain on their relationship.

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And it's not just my parents who experienced the strain that natural family planning can have on a couple. Two former natural family planning advocates, Bethany and Sam Torode, recently divorced and have changed their views on contraceptives. A New York Times article about the couple quotes a statement the couple wrote about their shifting perspective on NFP: "'Wanting to make love to your spouse often is a good thing, but NFP often lays an unfair burden of 'guilt on men for feeling this,' the Torodes wrote. And it is "a theological attack on women to always require that abstinence during the time of the wife's peak sexual desire (ovulation) for the entire duration of her fertile life, except for the handful of times when she conceives.'"

I couldn't agree more. Truthfully, I love all of my siblings and I love that I grew up in a big family. But being one of eight showed me how big of a responsibility kids are. It also showed me that I wanted to wait until I (and my relationship) was good and ready. When I got married, I bought a year's supply of the pill. I would have snorted powdered Tri-Cyclen if I thought it would help. My husband and I didn't want kids, not then and at the time, we weren't sure if we ever really would want them. And call us selfish, but we wanted to take a few trips, save some money, and spend some time figuring out how to be married before we added in the TNT of kids. 

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The argument against contraception is that it undermines the primary goal of marriage: to create a family. But I disagree. Contraception does what natural family planning tries to do, it just does it more effectively. In the same way I bristle when I hear the term "natural childbirth" (all birth is natural), the term "natural family planning" also strikes me as ridiculous. The idea that using a pill is not an OK way to plan your family, but using a method that is both emotionally and sexually frustrating is, seems ludicrous.  

Contraception gives couples choices and allows them to build a stronger relationship that will result in a stronger family when the time is right. Children are wonderful. I have a daughter of my own now, and I am amazed at the way she's changed our lives and our relationship. Seeing my husband in her and with her makes me love him more than I ever have. But having a kid has also made my relationship more difficult.

Having a daughter has added a whole new level of anxiety and joy in our lives that frequently manifests itself as a strain on our relationship. We ignore each other in favor of her and often take our sleep-deprived frustrations out on one another. But we also have the benefit of having built a solid relationship that we can fall back on. Very often, we've found ourselves swallowing our frustration and walking away from a fight, because we realized we weren't mad at each other, just tired. I cannot imagine having the maturity to do that when we first got married.  

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Being on the pill allowed us to fuss, fight, move, experiment, switch jobs, save money, buy a house and grow up. Essentially, do all those things that we needed to do in order to make our relationship work and keep it working, before adding in a kid. And staying on the pill will allow us to continue to grow stronger as a family, before we add number two. 

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