Should I Use Contraception?

24 Mar

Let me begin by saying that my fiance and I desperately want children. We both love kids, we love each other, and we both feel that we’re ready to start a family (as soon as he gets back and I finish school so we can get hitched!). Honestly we’ll probably be pregnant within six months of getting married.

But.

Neither one of us comes from a large family. I have two siblings, and he comes from a (very) broken family, so he has a couple half-siblings and a couple step-siblings, but no full-blooded actual siblings – and he’s older than the others so he grew up as basically an only child.  So that’s doubt number one: neither one of us has any experience with being a member of a large family.

Then there’s the experience I have with large families – growing up, my best friend was the youngest of eight. Her parents forgot about her a lot. My family gave her a lot of rides home from church. She struggled in school because no one had time to help her with her homework. They would go through a drive-thru and forget to order her something. She told me once that she loved her siblings, but sometimes she wished that she’d been born first, because then maybe her mom wouldn’t have been so tired of raising kids by the time she’d had her. I don’t want my children to ever think or feel that way. 

I’m small – five feet tall, ninety pounds. My family has a history of long labors, miscarriages, and difficult pregnancies. Can I put myself through that? Would my body be able to handle more than a few pregnancies?

Would I ever be able to work again? I love working, and while I want to stay home with my non-school age kids, I don’t think I would be a good permanent stay-at-home mom. I get antsy, stir crazy, and quite frankly, a little nuts when I don’t have work or school or some reason to get out.

BUT.

I don’t know that I agree with the concept of “planning” my family. I’ve seen how God’s will transcends my own plans for myself, so how much more so will His will transcend my plans for my little ones?

Where does being a good parent start? I used to believe that my parenting choices would begin with the conception of my first child, but lately I’ve been thinking that maybe they start when S and I choose whether or not to use contraception – after all, we will be in charge of whether or not a life is created. Is it really our place to choose not to create life?

And then there are the parents I know who limited the sizes of their families. They used birth control for years until they felt ready. Then they struggled to get pregnant because they’d waited. They managed to have two or three, but always longed to have more children. My own mother just said the other day that she wished she had had more children – that she wishes she hadn’t been so worried about money that she’d thought her and my dad couldn’t “afford” more kids.

So what are your thoughts? I know what the Catholic Church teaches, I’ve seen the “Biblical” reasons both sides of the situation give, so that’s not really what I’m going for answer-wise. I’m really looking for personal experience.

Did (or do) you use contraception?

Do you regret your choice?

Why?

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28 Responses to “Should I Use Contraception?”

  1. melanie jean juneau March 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    as a former Protestant and mother of nine we used natural family planning but I am one of the 2% of women who can conceive 5 days or more before ovulation!!! my story and then we can “talk”

    Why Did You Have So Many Kids?
    http://melaniejeanjuneau.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/why-did-you-have-so-many-kids/

    • melanie jean juneau March 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

      I am tiny 98-104, had only one sister, had never held a baby and was scared stiff

      • elliejaneohara March 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

        Hi Melanie! I was so hoping you would read this post! I’ve read quite a bit of your story so I was wondering what your thoughts would be.

      • elliejaneohara March 24, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

        A lot of my doubts are related to having “too many” kids. I worry that someone would feel neglected or lost in a sea of kids, and that would break my heart. But I just don’t have the personal experience to know if that’s a legitimate worry.

      • melanie jean juneau March 24, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

        in the 50’s=70’s when floors were polished and shirts ironed- kids needs took second place but I learned how to let go and lavish love on each one
        .
        When Life is Stripped down to the Basics

        http://themotherofnine9.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/when-life-is-stripped-down-to-the-basics/

        Also my philosophy is in a Catholic mother’s Juggling Act
        http://melaniejeanjuneau.wordpress.com/a-catholic-mothers-hilarious-juggling-act/

      • elliejaneohara March 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

        What would you think is the best part of this choice for your family?

      • melanie jean juneau March 24, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

        I JUST LOST A LONG replaced I WILL STARTed OVER

      • melanie jean juneau March 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

        joy-sheer joy in each other because rather than driving kids to after school stuff in tension and stress our kids had down tim, even boring time and that leads to reading, and creative projects- I always had play dough, paper, paint, crayons, paste and scissors and plastered the kitchen with their art. We are all baby lovers because I let even the smallest bond to the newborn. Teen friends LOVED our house- home cooked meals, lots of activity rather that an empyt house and video games. The joy around the table when we all get together is incredible- they LIKE each other

  2. Jennwith2ns March 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    I have no advice, but you’re asking great questions. I often wondered what I’d do about that, although my “issues” were mainly that I didn’t actually have any interest in having my own children, even though I love kids and have worked with them all my life . . . then I got married at 40 to a man 11 years older who had had a vasectomy in a previous, unhappier marriage. So . . . I dunno. i’m kinda happy not to have to decide!

    • elliejaneohara March 24, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

      I grew up just assuming that I would use contraception, then two things happened that turned that upside down: the first was becoming Catholic (no brainer there haha), and the second has been watching a close friend carry her first (unplanned) child. She and I have talked a lot about life and the value it holds – so I’ve found myself questioning almost all of my beliefs about contraception and my own future family. You lucked out with not having to decide!

      • Jennwith2ns March 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

        Yeah–but I do still resonate with those concerns. I hope you come to some conclusions that offer you peace.

  3. Krystyna March 25, 2013 at 3:05 am #

    I was the last of three sisters, huge age gap (14 years) between my older sisters and me. My mom had a hysterectomy after having me due to complications so I basically grew up a single child. While it has it’s positive points – financially and in some pomits developmentally, there are many more positive points to being in a larger family – learning to cooperate, fight for yourself, communicate, share, being more grateful. Later on I went to school with kids from larger families and envied their interactions, the nuances. I’m more of an introvert, less grateful and more egotistical due to my upbringing, on no part because of my parents. It’s just the smaler family dynamic. I am not married, I don’t have a significant other yet, but if God will’s me to be a wife and mother I’m going for the 3+ range if possible.

    • elliejaneohara March 25, 2013 at 7:38 am #

      I agree that those are really nice benefits to larger families, and they’re all things that have run through my mind. Three or four has always been the number I’ve had in mind – I guess my fears lie more in what it would be like if I ended up with a family of eight or nine kids. Maybe there’s a balance between so few kids they feel lonely and so many kids they feel lost?

  4. theoress March 25, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Hi! This is a very heart-felt post.

    To share some of my experiences, I’m a married Catholic, and I’m a convert. When I was dating my now-husband (the oldest of 9), I abhorred the thought of stay-at-home-momming and having so many children. But let me tell you, God works in mysterious ways.

    We were married for 3 years before we had our first child (and did not use contraception). We were both in school, so we used NFP to wait. And it worked. NFP really is a real option for couples with legitimate reasons to space children. Now that our baby has been born, I found myself wanting to quit my job, so I did, though I never expected such a choice.

    But everyone’s path is different. Some moms are called to work outside the home. You need to you in order to be a good mom. Moms need to take care of themselves in order to give their best to their children, and if that means working, then it means working.

    About hard pregnancies, though I am also very small (5 foot 1 in), I was blessed with a healthy pregnancy and birth. But do not fear these things! There are many crosses in this life, and God wants us to take them up. Be not afraid! If sufferings do not come through pregnancies, they will come from somewhere else, so don’t let fear stop you.

    There is an amazing freedom in openness to God’s will. Slowly, slowly we realize, like I realized that we just can’t control everything.

    Love is enough. When my son was born, they nurses placed him on my chest and I hugged him, then I said, “What do I do?”
    My labor assistant, who is Christian, said, “Just love him.” And that is truly all there is to it.

    I am convinced that no one is ever truly ready for marriage or for children, but God’s grace is enough. Don’t be afraid! We are at our best when we are a tool in His hand.

    As for my husband, the oldest of 9, there is much love in that family. No one gets left out or forgotten. I wouldn’t have thought loving 9 children was really possible if I had never seen them.

    Read this http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/emotional-goodbye-for-young-italian-mother-who-died-for-unborn-child/

    I understand so well your fears and worries. You sound so much like me. But I promise, promise, that if you put yourself in God’s hands, He will not fail you. You have nothing to fear.

    • elliejaneohara March 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

      Thank you so much for your thoughts! Glad to hear that NFP works for you! I keep reading stories about couples for whom it didn’t work, and that made me feel kind of stuck without any options other than just not having sex ever.

      Also thanks for the link, I’m excited to read it!

  5. geloruma March 25, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Hi Ellie,
    I have six sisters and one brother. Sometimes things were difficult but we still all get along, meet regularly and pray together (not just at mass; in each others houses). When my dad passed away, we were so grateful that we could all console each other (and mum) The hard times growing up didn’t matter because we had each other – even if that sounds corny its true. People are invaluable.
    I always thought I’d have children, but when I married at 30 was told “no, you’re infertile…I was devastated. Now, three children later, all I can say is that none of us know what God has in store – so why worry about it? God gives us the families we need to grow in holiness, even though we can choose to do otherwise.Perhaps its because I have so many sisters – but I have found that the spirituality of the wife is often adopted by the husband.
    Marriage is about love which wants the best for the other – and that has to be heaven. So the intimate part of a relation ship is a good place as any for practicing virtues of respect of other and and self-control.
    Probably telling you all you know anyway, and as to contraceptives, the pill is a grade one carcinogen. Wouldn’t want you to take those for that reason alone…Practicing the words ” NOt tonight Josephine, ” as Napoleon was alleged once to say to his woman, is probably preferable to putting such chemicals into your body.

    • elliejaneohara March 25, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

      Yes, the chemicals have always been a HUGE concern for me! I have a lot of problems with hormones anyways, and I think the pill would probably make those worse. Thanks for your thoughts!

  6. Faith March 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    I have 4 siblings, ages 31, 29, 22, 19, and 13. There is such a big gap between my older siblings and I because my parents chose to have a vasectomy after 2 kids. They ended up regretting their decision, and got a reversal. I came along after several miscarriages, as did my younger sister. There are 18 years between my oldest and youngest sister. While I love my family, I see some problems this “spacing” did: my parents had 3 different types of parenting: first phase: very strict and religiously legalistic (two oldest and me); second phase: more relaxed but still had limitations (me and my younger brother); and third phase: complete relaxation of rules (youngest). My parents are 60 and 55. They’re tired. Yet they have a 13 year old who isn’t getting truly “parented” as the older 4 were. This is, so far, proving to be a huge problem…
    My parents are not Catholic, but they believed that God was not finished adding to their family. That is why they reversed the vasectomy and tried to have more children. I believe my mom suffered a total of 9 miscarriages over the years.

    As that experience relates to your questions, I believe that placing limitations like birth control, surgery, etc, on pregnancy can lead down a very hurtful road if you want to have kids. At least that is the experience my parents had with it.

    Personally, I don’t want kids, and I am not seeing that changing. That is something that I’m kind of struggling with because of the Catholic teachings on contraception. I don’t have a moral issue with contraception, but it is one of those things I know I will feel obligated to follow because it is the teaching of the Church. I’m not converting so that I can follow only some of the teachings. Still, it’s a scary thing, cause I don’t think I’m meant to be a mom. But what you said, “Is it really our place to choose not to create life?” really does cause me to question my own convictions about not having kids.

    • elliejaneohara March 25, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      I see the different parenting styles in my own family. My youngest sibling is also 13, and my parents are in their fifties and they’re tired…so they aren’t raising him the way they did me and my older sib.

      I didn’t start off having a moral issue with contraception – honestly just a few months ago I had a conversation with someone where I encouraged her to get on the pill if she felt she and her husband weren’t ready for kids – but the more I study and read, the more I have my doubts. But then I think “Well it’s no one’s business but mine and S’s what we do in our bedroom,” and then I think “It’s Jesus’ business what goes on EVERYWHERE.” So then I get into this battle with myself about what Jesus has to say about this stuff…

      So many thoughts…and then in the midst of it I feel guilty because my conversion means that my fiance might end up with more than the two kids he’s always wanted. All because I chose to convert six months into our engagement. I know he loves me and supports my decision, and he’s told me that my beliefs on contraception are something that matter to him and that he wants to honor…but is that really fair of me? And then I think, “That’s like asking is it fair to ask S to obey Jesus, you silly girl.”

      • Faith March 27, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

        Wow, it definitely sounds like you’ve got a lot to think/pray about regarding this issue.
        I will keep you in my prayers, that you will have clarity!

  7. conquererandcoheirofchrist March 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Wow, I feel like this blog post came directly out of my own mind. I am not Catholic, I am an Evangelist, but I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying. I do believe that God’s Will transcends our own (so if he wants me pregnant, he’ll get me pregnant), and I do use birth control.
    What I struggle with is: Does me using birth control give me the connotation of being lord over my own life? Because in that way, my husband and I are controlling whether we fall pregnant or not.
    And ever since we got married three months ago, I’ve wanted a baby so badly. I’ve dropped funny little joking hints to him, but I don’t think he realizes how badly I really do want to start a family. And I’ve started to wonder if it’s just my crazy mind thinking this, or if God is telling me to get off the birth control so we can start a family.

    I dunno. It’s a really tough decision, and I think it can only be resolved through prayer, and conversation with your S. It’s ultimately what you “three” decide.

    • elliejaneohara March 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      I understand your feelings of wanting a baby! Isn’t it strange how we can long so badly for something, but still want to have control over when (and how often) it happens?

  8. geloruma April 1, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    This is link to a tough post on the nature of sterile unions, (it pertains to the homosexual marriage debate,) it gives a clear run down of the history of, and consequences to society of contraceptive mentality. We got sold a lie about the “benefits” of contracetion… (hope it ain’t spammed cause its a long link!)
    http://www.courageouspriest.com/homosexual-marriage-sown-wind-reap-whirlwind?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+courageouspriest%2FqTKF+%28Courageous+Priest%29&utm_content=Yahoo%21+Mail

    • elliejaneohara April 1, 2013 at 7:39 am #

      Interesting link…I’m about to head off to class so I only skimmed. I’ll come back to it later for a closer read.

  9. Connie Rossini April 4, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    My experience, for what it’s worth:

    I grew up in a large Catholic family and loved it. I was the “forgotten one”, because I was quiet and in the middle, but it didn’t scar me for life. I was very loved and knew it. My mom is in her 70s now and still has more energy than I’ve ever had, so taking care of 9 kids was never a problem for her. I always wanted a big family too.

    I am 4’11” tall. I’ve had 4 boys–all c-section. Giving birth is almost always difficult, no matter your size, age, or birth method. My first c-section was the hardest, both mentally and physically. My fourth was *relatively* easy.

    Our oldest son is also the most difficult one to parent. He’s an extra-extravert, and my dh and I are both introverts. He’s full of energy; we’re not. He never napped, even in early infancy. He’s rather difficult to get along with, but he’s helping us learn what love really means! Even having 1 child is a risk. Love means vulnerability.

    The 1st child is a huge adjustment. Then you have to adjust to having a baby and a toddler at the same time. Hard again. With #3, the oldest 2 can play together and give you more time to focus on the baby. And by this time, you’re pretty good with babies. You think, “I can do this!” #4 for us came 5 years later, as I was getting older (43 at the time of his birth). Everybody loves and spoils him. My oldest is 10 now and my youngest 2. He brings so much joy and love to the family! And the older 3 really don’t need that much attention now. If you have older daughters, you also have built-in babysitters, apprentice cooks, etc. People who stop after 1 or 2 imagine that every child is as difficult as those 1st 2. That’s rarely the case. The more kids you have, the more you tend to relax and enjoy them. The more you know the sacrifices are worth it, because you’ve been through it before. The more precious those early days and months are–even with the sleepless nights, health issues, etc.

    That said, my hardest year of homeschooling so far was the year #3 was in Kindergarten and #4 was nursing and “demanding.” That was last school year. I was really stressed out, but I survived. And I think if I would have just relaxed a bit and trusted God more, things would have gone smoother. Much of the problem was myself, not the situation.

    As you know, the Church teaches that use of contraception is a mortal sin. Think about that! Would you want to discuss the pros and cons of stealing, committing adultery, purposely skipping Mass on Sunday, etc? No, because the cons are pretty dire. Don’t let our culture fool you into thinking using contraception is no big deal.

    I blog a lot about openness. I believe it’s one of the keys to happiness and holiness. Contraception closes you off from the full gift of your husband’s love, and from God’s as well. Don’t be afraid to be open!

    • elliejaneohara April 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

      I understand the selfishness aspect of using contraception, but I guess I don’t see how it’s a mortal sin. I want to be open to having the family God wants me to have, but to be frank, doesn’t that mean that even NFP is out? I wouldn’t feel comfortable going on the pill because of the hormonal, carcinogenic, and abortifacient aspects, but I’m just not seeing the problems with other methods. I guess in my mind NFP seems pretty similar to the pull out method.

      I just think there has to be a balance between the limited family of two my fiance and I’ve always wanted, and the chaotic family of twelve I’m now worried we’ll end up with.

      • Connie Rossini April 4, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

        I know you started asking for people’s personal stories, so if you don’t want to discuss the morality of contraception right now, let me know. That’s okay. But if you don’t mind, I’ll try to answer a couple of your points.

        It’s not always easy being Catholic. Just about everybody at some time comes up against a teaching he or she doesn’t understand. But being Catholic doesn’t mean just believing the easy things the Church teaches. It means embracing them all, because when the Church speaks on what we must believe, Jesus speaks. And the Church teaches officially that using contraception is a mortal sin.

        The difference between NFP and Onanism, as it’s sometimes called, is that NFP respects the integrity of the sexual act. It is based on abstinence and sacrifice. “The pull out method” seeks to interfere with the results of having sex without bothering to abstain. That’s it in a nutshell. Natural contraception is still contraception. NFP is just limiting when you have sex, and of course, everyone does that–we are all abstaining most of the time without sinning.

        No one knows ahead of time what God has in store for them. I can’t tell you that you won’t have 12 kids and have to stay home if you don’t contracept. But we can’t make moral decisions based on a fear of the unknown future. This reminds me of a scene from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. As a child, Corrie was worried about the suffering she might endure in the future–I think it may have had to do with death. Her father asked her, “When we go to Amsterdam together, when do I give you the ticket?”

        “Just before we get on the train,” she replied.

        Then her father explained that God would likewise give her the grace to make it through whatever lay ahead, when the time came–not before. We are tempted to look at the grace we have now and say, “I could never do such and such, if God asked me.” But He hasn’t asked you yet, so you don’t yet have the grace you need. If God asks you to bear and raise 12 children, He will also give you the grace to do it, if you are open to it.

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  1. Should I use contraception? Part 2 | Catholic Lite - April 4, 2013

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