When my husband and I were first married, we aspired to have two children (one of each, of course) as the cafeteria Catholics that we were. I was a career woman and figured daycare and parochial school were in our future.
Nope. After a couple of miscarriages and inability to get pregnant during times we "SHOULD" have gotten pregnant, I finally convinced my family practice doc to refer me out to a fertility clinic to find the root cause of both problems. After test after test, we were told we would be best to adopt or do other "assisted fertility procedures" that went against our Catholic beliefs. The day we were told, we were 4 days pregnant with our first child. At my son's six month check up, my doctor said, "This is when I usually give moms the birth-control talk, but I don't think I have to with you. He (meaning my son) is one in a million, so I won't worry about it." I showed up in his office 3 months later at my first prenatal visit for my second child. Fast forward to now, when I have six. I say God is good and He's the doctor of my body, not the medical world. God has a plan. Had God's plan been to not give us children, we would have prayerfully considered adoption. I, in no means, believe God ever punishes anyone by not giving them children. I just believe His plan is different than someone's wishes.
One thing that I have been thinking about lately, though, are the folks who encourage me to either use birth control OR to get permanently sterilized. Do they Trust in God? I hear friends (non-Catholic) who talk about others who should "get fixed" or use birth control. I just had a garage sale this weekend. I put all my baby clothes out and a neighbor said to me, "Are you finally done?" I said, "Only if God thinks I am. We've always trusted He would provide for us, and He always has."
This leads me to this Bible verse that I've had my kids memorize from Proverbs:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.”
What does it mean to trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding? It means that we completely trust God with all that is in us, that we rely not on anything that we can do on our own strength, and that we give all of the strength we possess, both physically and mentally, to the will of the Holy Spirit. Then God can fulfill His perfect will through us and bring glory to Himself. We do not seek our own gain but desire God to receive all the glory. We get to enjoy what God does for Himself.
So how does this apply to NFP and birth control. Well, NFP (Natural Family Planning) is a method of tracking a woman's fertility by charting her basal body temperature, cervical position and cervical mucus. Those three beautiful God-given signs tell her about her fertility. Together, those things change as a woman goes through her cycle. During ovulation, her temperature drops (albeit slightly), cervical position changes to a lower position and her cervical mucus changes in consistency and amount allowing for conception. Once you've learned to read these signs, it is possible to improve your chances of conception. Also, the opposite is true. It is possible to abstain during this time to avoid pregnancy. The basal body temperature rises after ovulation, the cervical position raises and the mucus goes away or becomes nominal. Now, one must prayerfully consider why they are avoiding pregnancy and be sure they have good reason. The most important part is that a couple remain open to life. God is the maker of life. He can decide when a new life will be created in cooperation with the choices of a couple.
If God is truly the center of our lives, we live for Him and Him alone. Do we really believe that He lives? Then we should also believe that we can trust Him with all our hearts. The result is the blessing of God falling on our obedient bodies, the body that was used to fulfill God’s perfect will. If His will is that a child be conceived, then that is a blessing.
"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3)
Children are a reward.
“In all your ways acknowledge Him” To acknowledge the Lord is to be wise. We should acknowledge God when we get up in the morning, we should acknowledge God when we start to talk, think, eat, listen, and act (or engage in a marital act). When we are around people we should acknowledge God. This keeps us wise, and most importantly keeps us from sinning (Proverbs 1:7; Exodus 20:20).
Here's the blessing: “HE WILL MAKE YOUR PATHS STRAIGHT.” Why? Because they are no longer our paths but His. Since He is perfect, He can’t have any fault. So the paths must lead to fulfilling His work, His perfect will, in and through the life He has given. So many have fallen to the god of Money or Health. They would rather have things than children or they worry their health will suffer (or heaven forbid their body shape) if they have more children. We go down the wrong path when we fail to trust Him. Have you ever heard the saying, "The Lord won't give you more than you can handle?" I believe that stems from this Bible verse. We've banked on that. We've got six children. We've experiences health issues, miscarriage, unemployment and family losses. That doesn't give us an excuse to stop trusting Him.
A friend, bearing, is writing about St. Francis de Sales book Introduction to the Devout Life. This particular entry hit me right across the head, and it applies here:
They will watch us carefully; one word of anger and they will say we have an ungovernable temper; if we show prudence in our affairs they will say we are avaricious; if we are gentle they will call us foolish, while as for them, their anger is courage, their avarice economy, their over familiarity honest fun...
In this case, I think the "prudence in our affairs" is our choice to use NFP. And when they use birth control or get permanently sterilized, they call it economy "economy".
One last thing:
Psalm 127:4-5: "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate."
Ed. note: A friend emailed me over a little confusion about the temperatures. I added more info to make it clearer what happens during ovulation ;-).