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Learning the Hard Way About the Empowering Benefits of NFP

Recently, as I was nursing my three-month-old son, I came across another writer taking yet another swipe at the Church and its position on the HHS health care mandate business.

Just the week before, I also had seen an image, courtesy Planned Parenthood, which pictured five religious leaders, all men, as they testified before Congress against the mandate. The caption? “What’s wrong with this picture?” as it went on to lambast “anti-birth control lawmakers” for disallowing women a voice in sharing how birth control should have a role in women’s health.

As a Catholic woman, I’ve had it with these weak arguments in favor of birth control (including the false argument that 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control in their lifetime), and the insinuation that women want — even need — birth control.

My fellow Catholic sisters, you should be fed up, too.

As the Church continues its fight against the mandate on the grounds of religious liberty (Oh, and by the way, the Lutherans, Southern Baptists and others have joined us, too) there’s been an interesting parallel discussion going on about artificial contraception and why women “need” it. The birth control issue, it seems, has gone from the elephant in the room to front and center.

Somehow, women have been conned into thinking that the pill helps them take control of their fertility. And why should we believe otherwise? For exactly 28 days, each pill, meticulously delivering the exact amount of hormones, presents a perfect cycle, from start to finish. Have sex, don’t worry about producing babies until you’re ready. What could be better, right?

Problem is, it’s just placing a mask on top of a woman’s true fertility.

And I had to learn that the hard way.

Like many other young women in college these days (and many high school girls, too), I went on the birth control pill right before I got married. In a way, it was a rite of passage. I told my OB/GYN at the time my husband-to-be and I didn’t want to have kids right away, so she offered me a prescription for the pill. It was a no-brainer.

I should have known then what havoc it would wreak on my body. I remember right after my first dose, I began experiencing horrible cramping. Totally normal, my OB/GYN instructed. It will take your body a little while to get used to the change in hormones.

Several years of wedded bliss passed, and my husband and I decided we were finally ready to welcome children into our lives. I went off the pill. But as I quickly discovered, my cycles were not normal anymore.

It started with the brown bleeding. Then the irregular bleeding at various points in my cycle. I was confused. This wasn’t what I remembered my cycles to be before I went on the pill. It was then that I realized I never really was in control of my own fertility while I was on the pill.

After more than six months of trying to conceive, I finally went back to my doctor. I told her, “I don’t think this brown bleeding is right.” She wrote it off as normal. At my urging, we tested my progesterone level; it was low, but good enough to conceive, she said. Something didn’t quite settle with me, though. I started reading everything I could about fertility and charting my own cycles.

Out of desperation, I emailed Diane Daly, director of the St. Louis archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning. I had befriended her through my work as a reporter for the Review and told her my whole story. I admit, I was embarrassed at the time. For years, I had been writing about the good work that her office did with NFP, but at the time, I told myself that personally, NFP wasn’t for me.

Diane didn’t bat an eyelash. She said, “Come see me.”

For the following months, we got down to the work of charting my cycles using the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. Not only did we discover that my low progesterone was a problem — in that it had the ability to hinder my chances of carrying a baby to term — but also that potential fibroids and endometriosis, based on the irregular bleeding, were potentially contributing to my infertility.

That, my friends, was empowering.

I could have been devastated by the news; but instead I took it as an opportunity to understand more about how my body works. Diane referred me to Dr. Brian Gosser, a Catholic OB/GYN who specializes in NFP. He looked over my charting history and immediately scheduled me for a laproscopy to see what was causing the irregular bleeding. The result: confirmed endometriosis and low progesterone, which were treated with a removal of the endometriosis and the addition of a natural progesterone compound to boost that hormone.

A month after surgery, I became pregnant.

We lost our first baby to miscarriage, but after several more months of trying, my husband and I conceived again. Our first born was a healthy baby girl, Lauren Julia. We just had our second baby, a boy, Evan Joseph, last fall.

So for those who say the fight against the birth control mandate is merely being fueled by a bunch of old, celibate guys in pointy hats, trying to tell women what to do with their bodies, you’re wrong. This woman has control over her body, and she doesn’t need a pill to make it happen. And there are many more women like me who are out there.

Ladies, this is the time for us to start sharing our stories. And start taking back our natural fertility.

This article courtesy of the St. Louis Review.


Jennifer Brinker is a staff writer for the St. Louis Review, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. She covers the St. Louis pro-life beat, among others, and is a proud wife and mother of two children. She can be contacted at jbrinker@stlouisreview.com or on Twitter @JenniferBrinker.
  • laymonk

    I really like this piece. When I was on my parish RCIA team, this issue came under the topic of ‘morality’ which I faciliated. I brought up the harm the pill can do and the lingering affects it can have. There was a nurse in this particular group who told me I was wrong so I promised I would the following week present proof I was on the right track. During that week I searched for all the information I could gather: chemicals in the pill, what they did and their lingering affects on the body. I put all that into printed handouts along with links to where the info had come from. Needless to say the next gathering was interesting, the nurse was even sort of taken aback with what I presented and finally agreed that I had been right.
    Some of the symptoms Jennefer discribed are all contributed to chemicals in the pill.
    Richard

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    So for those who say the fight against the birth control mandate is merely being fueled by a bunch of old, celibate guys in pointy hats, trying to tell women what to do with their bodies, you’re wrong.

    Even a cursory look at the news for the past couple of months should make it clear that the birth control issue is really about a bunch of old, 60s-morality women in pant suits trying to tell other women what to do with their bodies — especially if those women are poor.

    I get where Mrs. Brinker was when she was on the pill. It’s just that in my case, it was condoms, and I wasn’t Catholic yet. And I can tell you from personal experience that even when none of the nasty physical symptoms of hormonal contraception come into play, everything the Church says about artificial birth control is true. Actually — and more to the point — everything the Church says about being open to life is true. Life is better over here, even if it’s still hard sometimes. OK, it’s better even if it’s still hard quite frequently.

    If — like me — your only choice is conversion after several years of marriage, then convert your heart now. But if you are younger, please don’t wait for such a conversion to come along later. And certainly don’t wait for the celibate men in the pointy hats. Even if you could find one who met the caricature that’s been offered, it really is your decision. Choose the Church now. Don’t wait. Life may not get easier, but you’ll discover heretofore unknown graces.

    And especially in open-to-life-land, you will meet a great many people — some of them celibate men no less — who will quite literally go to the rack for you, should the need arise.

    • Mary Kochan

      You will also meet your own children — beings who will be brought into existence in this world and the next because you choose to cooperate with the Creator.

  • Michele

    This is fantastic. More women need to hear this message! Thanks for sharing.