Category Archives: birth control

facing your fear

Pulling Back the Veil and Exposing Your Genuine Fears

As far back as I can remember, heights have posed an unwelcomed challenge. I was the kid who scaled the jungle-gym only to become paralyzed at the summit and tearfully beg for rescue. Ferris wheels are totally off-limits and, even today, escalators require a mental strategy.

So, I never dreamed of spending my days balancing atop an extension ladder, but the chipped and peeling exterior of our old house begged for my attention.

After repainting the easy-to-reach portions, my three-step ladder quickly became insufficient. Lacking the superhero trait of Mr. Fantastic, I had to engage some problem-solving skills and a ladder seemed my next best option.

Some Self-Hypnosis

climbing ladder paint houseIt took a little self-hypnosis, of sorts, to talk myself up that first ladder, but work awaited and time was fleeting. I let go a little, and convinced myself that a fall from a standard ladder couldn’t inflict too much damage.

Now our lovely home was built on a downgrade, so while the front door was a mere three steps from the solid ground, the rear was two-stories above stable earth. That standard ladder only raised my stature to the lower heights of the our home’s backside and painting only half of the house didn’t appear sensible. An extension ladder became unavoidable.

Step by step, paint supplies balanced in my right hand as my left hand secured its death grip on the metal side rail, I inched ever higher toward the firmament.

Positioned at the ladder’s apex, I briefly dared to look down, a long, long way down. My previous risk estimations made from atop the standard ladder somehow didn’t ease my mind because from this height surely parts could break that might not be mendable.

Let Go of the Fear

Surrender and prayer were my last and best resorts. “Let go,” I persuaded, “let go of the fear.” Fear constrained me to the ground, but surrender could loose its hold. Reciting a prayer, I offered up my terror and released myself to the care and keeping of my guardian angel.

It’s amazing how fear has the potential to overpower in some cases, or to protect in others.

Years ago, I read a book by Gavin DeBecker called The Gift of Fear. In it, Mr. DeBecker gave real life examples of how people’s natural-born fear mechanism, or intuition, set-off red flags and sirens in the presence of serious dangers.

Those who listened to their internal sense typically avoided entering the danger zone, or quickly fled before a perpetrator could inflict harm. Those who over-rationalized away their instinct generally paid a painful price. In those cases, fear was a gift bestowed on the individual, a signal by which they could gauge a circumstance or assess a stranger’s unspoken intent.

Fear Needs to Be Addressed

While teaching Natural Family Planning (NFP), also known as Fertility Awareness (FAM) I realized that fear really needs to be addressed.

Often we have lovely, young couples register for our course to fulfill a marriage preparation requirement. Or sometimes they’ve attempted to self-study and feel the need for more instruction.

Patiently they sit through our witness talk and intently they follow along with the training, but sometimes I can detect the fear in their hesitations and read it in their body language. Some fear that they are not smart enough, or vigilant enough, to learn and apply the method, so as to postpone a pregnancy.

Beneath that fear, of their ability to apply the method properly, is the deeper fear of their procreative powers.

Outside Forces Are In Control

Quite often, the women have been controlling their cycles with hormonal birth control or contraceptive devices. These “outside forces” have led to the perception that fertility, or at least its suppression, is the responsibility of some “thing,” not the individual woman.

She feels relieved of her role in family planning beyond the routine exam and prescription refill. If an unexpected pregnancy occurs, she “blames” the it on her contraceptives.

Up to 99% Effective

Truly, the effectiveness rates of NFP methods are equal to (up to 99% effective) the best contraceptive rates (though that doesn’t mean they are morally or ethically equal).

A woman has the same chance of conceiving on the pill as she does practicing NFP/FAM. But the couple must practice self-mastery over their sexual desires, if their goal is to postpone a pregnancy with a natural method.

Our modern culture has duped couples into believing that sex has only one purpose; when in truth, it is meant to be both unitive and procreative.

Sometimes people question why birth control is unethical if naturally spacing children is not. Rightly, couples can deem themselves not in a position to welcome a child at a given time, but their plan to avoid the fertile time doesn’t directly frustrate that procreative end.

God designed woman with fertile and infertile phases in her cycles. In choosing to abstain during the fertile time, the couple is simply working within the system God designed.

Ends Don’t Justify Means

A well-used analogy goes like this: Two men have families to support. One man gets a legitimate job, works hard and provides for his family’s needs. The other man sells illegal drugs, makes fast cash and pays his bills. Both men have fulfilled their role as provider, but clearly their methods are not equal.

The ends don’t make the means ethical.

The culture also pushes the notion that children are a burden to the marriage/family, so fear stems from that thinking. We’re suppose to worry about college tuition, braces and trips to Disney World even before the baby is born. It’s no wonder newlyweds are frightened at the prospect of enlarging their family circle.

Far from true, children bring countless gifts to a family. They create an environment that invites their parents to move beyond their small, self-serving circle. Additionally, when marital trials come (as they always do) parents have a vested interest in working out their differences in order to preserve stability for their children.

Unexpected Pregnancy

Let’s think about the term unexpected pregnancy. If a couple is engaging in the sexual embrace, they risk a pregnancy. It doesn’t matter if they are contracepting or not. Sex between a fertile man and a fertile woman (during the fertile time) can result in a child. That’s why the only 100% effective means of avoiding pregnancy is 100% abstinence.

So the term, unexpected pregnancy, is illogical. Sex produces babies, at least some of the time. Couples who practice NFP/FAM understand that and take responsibility for it.

Fear, in the case of our students, isn’t a helpful natural instinct, but an emotion,fueled by man-made distortions. Couples need to identify their fear, face its source, and work together to overcome thinking/beliefs that are erroneous, or misplaced.

Once they manage their fears, they are better prepared to ascend the ladder of faith together. In time, some will even learn to surrender their man-made plans, allowing God to expand their limited view of happiness.

Next time, let’s consider: (1) Reclaiming Womanhood: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Birth Control Plan(2) Demystified: How the Female Fertility Cycle Works; (3) The Nitty Gritty of Birth Control and the Abortion Back-up Plan; (4) Knowledge Is Power: How Doctors and Big Pharma Profit From Ignorance; (5) Pulling Back the Veil and Exposing Your Genuine Fears; (6) Now That You Know, What’s Next

Pope Francis Said What? On Rabbits and Responsible Parenthood

I’m taking a brief detour from my post series on birth control to address the recent comments made by our Holy Father.
Drifting down the aisle at Sam’s Club, my brood and I were busy absorbing all the sights as we awaited our pizza. Having just persuaded the seven of them (the baby was in the cart) to leave the books behind, we were absent-mindedly milling about when a man halted our parade. The stranger (an apparent nursery rhyme aficionado) began reciting, “There was an old lady who lived in a shoe, had so many children she didn’t know what to do” Seeing as my children were quite well-behaved (thankfully they generally are in public), I was baffled as to the reason for this unwarranted serenade.



Pope Francis’ recent rabbit comment has been splashed across the headlines. There are accusations, questions, criticisms and explanations. Admittedly, as a mama of a big brood who has endured more than a couple of comments (plus the aforementioned serenade) and as a teacher of Natural Family Planning with boots on the ground in the ministry, his comments touched a nerve. I cannot claim to know his motivations on the matter, but I am going to offer some balance to the statements he made.


On his trip home from Manila, Pope Francis stated,
“Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this.”

Certainly, his choice of the term rabbit must have been a simple oversight, but it still was one that could be called unsettling. Although it is probably more disturbing to families who’ve already experienced the judgment and ridicule of a society that equates a child to a burden or an environmental hazard. He is correct that not all couples are obliged to produce as many children as they are physically able to; however, that also does not mean that God is not calling some couples to total surrender.


Consider Pope Francis’ prior comments shared on the Feast of the Holy Family. “In a world often marked by egoism, a large family is a school of solidarity and of mission that’s of benefit to the entire society. Every family is a cell of society, but large families are richer and more vital cells.” These words seem to provide a counterbalance to the notion that responsible parenthood means simply that less children should be received.


Pope Francis also pointed the faithful toward the guidance of “experts” in this matter which reminded me of an instruction I’d come across during adoration some months ago. At the time I sprawled the comments in the back of my pocket calendar because they seemed necessary for me to keep close at hand. The book was Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and here’s his expert opinion: 
“If you are the father or mother of a family, you ought to conform your will to God’s with regard to the number or sex of the children He pleases to give you. When men were animated by the spirit of faith they regarded a large family as a gift of God and a blessing from heaven and considered God more than themselves as the father of their children.” He went on to say, “Never be afraid of relying too much on Him, but rather seek always to increase your trust more and more, for this is the most pleasing homage you can pay Him and it will be the measure of the graces you will receive. Little or much will be given you according as you have expected little or much.”

If Pope Francis issues us in the direction of our pastors as experts in the matter, there could be a difference in the direction we receive. The pope warned a mother, who was expecting her eighth child to be delivered by cesearean section, that she was tempting God, but Fr. Saint-Jure seems to instruct that we should never be afraid to rely too much on God. That leaves room for one to wonder what exactly makes someone an expert in guiding a couple in their family planning.
As an NFP teacher, I concur that there are licit means of postponing a child, but we must be clear that licit does not mean required. When we began teaching NFP a decade ago, we encouraged couples to prayerfully discern each cycle whether or not they had a serious reason to postpone a pregnancy. Later, the word serious was changed to a just reason (the change being attributed to a better translation) and now we have discarded both of those terms and replaced them with responsible parenthood.
I think the argument could be made in either direction as to whether in our age/culture the words (serious, just, responsible parenthood) bear the same weight and express the same meaning. But the more important point is that couples need to ask God (continually) to align their will with His, not the other way around. Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure says,
“He (God) promises solemnly to give them not only life everlasting but a hundredfold all things they deny themselves to please Him in this life (Matt 19:24). He further promises to ease the burden of His cross so as to lighten it; for He not only says that His yoke is sweet but adds that His burden is light (Matt 11:30). If then we do not experience the sweetness of Christ’s yoke not the lightness of the burden of the cross, it must be because we have not yet made the denial of our will and completely given up own human outlook so as to consider things in the light of faith.
Interestingly, Pope Francis said, “Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say ‘God knows how to help me’ and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.” He seems to acknowledge that some, but clearly not all, recognize a child as a treasure and he mentions the generosity of parents who see children as a treasure.
Of course, we should acknowledge the audiences he was considering when these comments were made. Because an impoverished, third world parent, who has no means of providing for a child’s basic needs, is not at all the same as the parent, who lives in a modern subdivision and eats five meals a day. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to use a broad brush in applying this idea of what exactly is responsible parenthood. Additionally, there is a real danger in one group discerning what is best for another (thinking of China’s one-child policy).
Clearly, his comments could use a bit more clarification, but I suppose it is a good that he has once again spurred a conversation about what the Church actually teaches. The large family is not by default more faithful, but neither is the small family automatically more responsible. There are licit means for planning a family, but there can be illicit intentions for doing so. We must all learn to listen. Not to the noisy banter of the media or even of those who might wish to serenade us with their opinions, we must listen to the small voice Who knows what is truly best for us, His children.

“It is very different from the serenity of spirit to be found in parents who are surrounded by a rich abundance of young lives. The joy that comes from the plentiful blessings of God breaks out in a thousand different ways and there is no fear that it will end. The brows of these fathers and mothers may be burdened with cares, but there is never a trace of that inner shadow that betrays anxiety of conscience or fear of an irreparable return to loneliness, Their youth never seems to fade away, as long as the sweet fragrance of a crib remains in the home, as long as the walls of the house echo to the silvery voices of children and grandchildren.

“Their heavy labors multiplied many times over, their redoubled sacrifices and their renunciation of costly amusements are generously rewarded even here below by the inexhaustible treasury of affection and tender hopes that dwell in their hearts without ever tiring them or bothering them.” Pope Pius XII

big pharma prescription

Knowledge Is Power: How Doctors and Big Pharma Profit From Ignorance

Cramming the pillow I’d brought from home a little more to my left, I attempted to placate the cramp that was forming in my back. After years of slumbering on a waterbed, this rock hard hospital bed felt like a torture rack. So, there I was, trying to create a bit of comfort while counting down the minutes until I could scoop up my newest bundle and check-out, when my midwife slid a chair beside me.

Having just given birth to my 4th child several hours prior, I figured she was stopping in to assess my rate of recovery. She made a bit of small talk. Then, she looked me straight in the eyes and asked what kind of birth control I wanted to take home so, “I wouldn’t have to do this again in nine months.”

Huh? was my first thought

medicalSure, I’d taken the pill for the first two years of marriage (and suffered the daily nausea and monthly weep-fest), but in the previous eight years (prior to the baby I’d literally just delivered) I had only practiced Fertility Awareness (and successfully so, I might add). Clearly, this fact was documented in my chart. And, seeing as she was one of my primary caregivers, it seemed unlikely she was clueless to my choice.

Mind you, she hadn’t saddled up to my bedside to chat about my thoughts/desires on family planning options (although as a Catholic there is only one ethical option for me). No, she was there to hawk a prescription. And she was using fear to get the job done.

The Tempter Comes to Call

Looking back now, it seems easy enough. I should have told her to go bugger off. But something was happening behind the scenes to which she was not privy. My marriage had been undergoing an intense trial. We were actually in counseling at the time, but I hadn’t shared that fact with my caregivers.

She was my temptress in the desert, come to offer me promises during my weakest hour, if only I’d bow down to her plans. There I lie, sore from having just pushed a 7 pound-something human out of my body, thoughts swirling with the knowledge of the current state of my marriage. And then, suddenly, illogically, I was terrified that, before there was time for mama-birth-amnesia to set-in, I’d be back in this very hospital, grunting and groaning baby #5 into the world.

Caving Into Pressure

childbirthPlanning to breastfeed, I suggested that the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM) had certainly worked well for me in the past. LAM extended my postpartum infertility for more than 6 months each time. I also inquired how the drug she was pushing might affect my newborn.

No worries she told me, staying the course on her mission to get me contracepting. She’d write a low level prescription for a progestin-only pill.

I stammered and stuttered and ultimately caved under the pressure.

By the Grace of God Alone

Rolling my van up to the drug store drive-through a week later, everything inside of me was screaming NO. But, I stuffed those thoughts and handed the sheet of paper to the girl behind the counter.

During what seemed like an extra long wait time, I ran over the options in my head, again. Then in what I can only chalk up to the grace of God, the pharmacist returned to tell me that they were out of those pills. She returned the white sheet of paper and informed me I’d have to try back in a few days.

I never returned.

The Prize for Un-professionalism Goes to…

physicianComparatively speaking, I should count myself as lucky. A number of my Catholic girlfriends faced more egregious treatment during their postpartum visits. One friend’s doctor found it hard to take no for an answer. He tried 5 times in the course of one conversation to strong-arm persuade her to allow him to stick an IUD inside of her body.

But the prize for un-professionalism goes to the doctor who, upon being told no, threw the woman’s chart in her lap. He said, “I’ll see you back here in nine months” as he stormed out of the exam room.

I guess the free lunches and pharmaceutical kick backs must be pretty awesome for these obstetricians to want to dissuade a repeat customer in obstetrics?

Intentional Misinformation

“Knowledge is Power” was a theme song lyric in one of my favorite childhood programs. Indeed, knowledge is a powerful tool, and with it we can make right choices. Unfortunately, there’s not much education going on in the gynecologist’s office. And I’d even boldly assert that women are intentional misinformed; just as I was on the day my midwife undermined my beliefs and used fear-mongering to pass off a prescription.

Let’s do a little fact checking.

Fact Check

The Pill

The Pill utilizes synthetic estrogen/progestins to trick the pituitary gland into producing less Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Lutenizing Hormone. The trick attempts to suppress ovulation. However, studies show there is a 2-8% chance of breakthrough ovulation in any given cycle while on the Pill.

So, the Pill has two other built-in functions. The back-up measures cause a thickening of the cervical mucus (to slow sperm motility) and a depletion of glycogen in the endometrium or lining of the uterus. This last mode of operation is abortifacient because it prevents a fertilized egg implanting, thus forcing an early abortion.

The Mini-pill

The mini-pill, or progestin-only pill, relies predominantly on the the abortifacient mechanism. It creates an inhospitable environment for implantation, should a new life have been formed after a breakthrough ovulation.

Sadly, I didn’t know this fact at the time my midwife handed me a prescription for the mini-pill. And it wasn’t advertised to me. Additionally, the package inserts for the Pill offer a laundry list of possible side effects- from weight gain and decreased libido, to blood clots and heart disease.

Intrauterine Device aka IUD

The IUD, that my friend’s doc was so eager to implant in her just-vacated-uterus, has a high rate of effectiveness. It’s great, so long as you don’t mind the possibility of headaches, acne, breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, mood changes, weight gain, ovarian cysts, cramping, pelvic infection, inflammation of the endometrium, perforation of the uterus, endometrial or cervical cancer and high blood pressure. Oh, and, as long as you don’t mind that it is an abortifacient device.

A popular form of birth control in the 70’s, Dalcon Shield was forced to remove its IUD from the market and declare bankruptcy, after paying out millions in malpractice suits. You might assume the new Paraguard and Mirena IUDS are an improvement. But, lawsuits filed against Bayer, Mirena’s maker, tell a different story. Well, it’s really the same old story of harm done to women.

Lactation Amenorrhea Method LAM

That LAM plan, that I mentioned to my midwife, has no negative side effects on the body. And it is completely free. My midwife snubbed her nose at my suggestion, but over the course of my mothering years LAM, along with the Symptom-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning, has proven successful, again and again. In fact, with my last three children I enjoyed a delay in my fertility (meaning no periods) for 12 to 14 months, beyond childbirth!

First Do No Harm

I suppose to be fair, I have to admit that I am not a reader of hearts. I do not know for certain the motives of these physicians. However, if their pledge is to first do no harm, then their actions don’t support that position.

In each of the anecdotes I relayed (and I have LOTS more), my friends and I had not been contracepting before our pregnancies. We were not seeking birth control. We all expressed a hesitancy toward, if not an out-right refusal of, the unsolicited prescriptions.

Birth control carries mild-to-serious risks. A woman who opts-in, requires annual, if not biannual, visits to her doctor. If her side effects are depression, infection, cysts, etc. then she’ll need more trips to the doc. Clearly, birth control is a profitable product for both birth control manufacturers and prescribing physicians.

What’s a Woman To Do?

So what’s a woman to do? Well, like I said, knowledge is power. An informed woman has the power to make better choices.

There are safe, effective means of postponing pregnancy. They require education, and little more. In fact, poor women in India, trained by sisters in Mother Teresa’s religious order, enjoy a 99.4% effectiveness rate in practicing a method of Natural Family Planning (NFP), according the World Health Organization.

That should make you wonder why the Gates Foundation and our government are so persistent in their desire to export birth control drugs/devices to poor nations. Why not empower the poor with education?

Good News Lies Ahead

In parts 1 and 2 of this post series, I discussed the necessity for women to reclaim their wholeness and recognize their inherent feminine genius. I covered the intricate and readable dance of the female fertility cycle, and now we see how mis-education leaves women vulnerable, to a healthcare system which too often places financial gain above all else. But good news lies ahead. Once we unmask deceptions, review the science and evaluate the options, women are free to make wise decisions that respect their whole selves: body, mind and spirit.

Next time, let’s consider: (1) Reclaiming Womanhood: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Birth Control Plan; (2) Demystified: How the Female Fertility Cycle Works; (3) The Nitty Gritty of Birth Control and the Abortion Back-up Plan; (4) Big Pharma and Your Doc: Your Ignorance Pays the Bills; (5) Pulling Back the Veil and Exposing Your Genuine Fears; (6) Now That You Know, What’s Next

woman's health

Reclaiming Womanhood: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Birth Control Plan

It’s happening again. Article after article appearing in my news feed. The theme is the same, although each has a slightly different slant to offer. Just as last year, I pour over each one, nodding all the while as my eyes scan the screen. The topic is birth control. Each post does a good job at lifting the veil and sparking interest. However, I’m usually left thinking that there are a few more dots to be connected if the author’s aim is to cast a wide net.

What I mean is, there is so (SO) much more to this subject than simply deciding whether or not to swallow a pill or allow a doctor to insert some device inside of you. Yes, yes we need to shout from the rooftops the truth about the indisputable physical harms being perpetrated against our sisters, but that’s not where we need to start.

Let’s Start Talking

Here’s my intention: I want to begin a conversation and continue it for a while. I want to offer a few thoughts/facts for you to ponder. And then let you walk away to digest it. I hope you’ll come back with questions because I’m going to try to cover a few more bases than I’ve seen covered recently, by the end of this blog post series. Continue reading