One of my big rules for myself on this blog is that my sex life is off-limits. BIG boundary. Brick wall with razor wire over it.
Yeah… just drove a battering ram through that wall and am talking about it for the purposes of this post.
When I was in college, I took a class in “Religion and Social Change” from the Sociology department and my professor was a complete jerk. When we hit Catholicism and were going to be discussing liberation theology, he devoted an entire lecture to perpetuating Catholic stereotypes like the rhythm method being “Vatican roulette”. If you want to know how bad it was, my little evangelical Christian self was sitting in lecture praying for him to STFU. I honestly didn’t know anything about Catholic teaching on sex other than pre-marital sex was banned and back in the day, the “rhythm method” was the method recommended to avoid having kids. I did know a number of Catholic women, however, who openly thumbed their noses at Church teaching and were on the Pill so I guessed that dissent was allowed.
Let me just make it clear: my former denomination and my current denomination have no opinion on birth control. My current denomination is pro-life (no abortion) but they’re fine with me being on the Pill.
Fast forward a few months to me going in for a pelvic exam before I got married where I was given samples of the Pill. I had a bad reaction but figured that it was a fluke. A couple years later, I got another script for it and it caused me to be incredibly nauseated. I tried the patch two years later. The patch also made me nauseous and caused bleeding so severe that they had to put me on progesterone pills for three cycles to try and stop it. The next year, my doctor found an incarnation of the Pill that didn’t mess with my system and I was happily on it for 4-5 months until I missed a dose and had to deal with breakthrough bleeding. By the time the breakthrough bleeding was over, Jon and I were pondering the idea of a family so I just never renewed my prescription. We had no problems conceiving Daniel and thoughts of contraception left my mind until after his birth.
For those new to this blog, let me put Daniel’s birth succinctly: he was born by emergency c-section at 29.5 weeks because I developed HELLP Syndrome. In addition to multiple organ systems threatening to fail, I also had a 30% placental abruption so I was also bleeding out when they opened me up. I was in the hospital for 6 days and he didn’t come home until he was 2 months old, a month earlier than they were estimating. My first order of business was getting back on my anti-depressants because I was so susceptible to PPD that I had a number of people watching me for it. My second order of business was getting back on the Pill because I did *NOT* want to be pregnant again after what had happened to me. My odds of having HELLP Syndrome again are around 20% and that scared the daylights out of me. I spent the next 2 1/2 years on the Pill.
So what changed?
In August 2011, I injured a muscle in the back of my leg and it took its sweet time in healing. Daniel was being treated for a blood clot that had developed from his central line while he was in the hospital so there was the potential risk of me developing one. After having a venous Doppler done (easiest ultrasound EVER), we ruled out a clot but it still unnerved me a bit that it was even a consideration because I was on the Pill. At the same time, I was getting to be good friends with a lot of Catholic women who were faithful to Church teaching, including Katie of NFP and Me. Reading her posts on the subject as well as what a few others wrote made me re-think the Pill. I’m one of those weirdos who reads the packaging insert for all her medications and the packaging for the Pill (at least Levlen) talked about strokes, high blood pressure, and a number of side effects. After the scare about a blood clot in my leg, I really did not feel comfortable being on it. Finally, I just didn’t refill it after I finished a month’s dose and after briefly going back on (and forgetting pills left and right), I have been free of hormonal birth control for a year.
I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t terrified of getting pregnant but what I’m really finding is that I’m not in favor of using artificial means to suppress pregnancy. My body told me exactly when it was ready to have a baby in no uncertain terms and I didn’t have problems with fertility because I listened to it. It begs the question of whether or not I could avoid pregnancy by listening to my body and learning what signs it gives for when I’m fertile. I had a really great Anatomy and Physiology professor in college who showed us full color slides of the hormone changes that take place in a woman during her monthly cycle so the idea of NFP actually makes sense to me. My current method (which may be added to eventually) is the Lady-Comp. Every morning, it goes off at 7:30 a.m. (though I can set it to go off within a window of a couple hours in any direction) and I stick the probe under my tongue to take my temperature. Once it records it, it shows me a green light if it’s an OK day to have sex and a red light if it’s a fertile day. At the moment, I’m only getting red lights as it’s my first cycle using it but my plan is to learn about STM in addition so I have some back-up that actually relies on my body instead of using condoms or something artificial. I’m not going to lie — the idea of checking my cervical mucus grosses me out — but there is science behind the reasoning for it so I’m willing to try it.
I realized my thinking had changed last year when I was going over my med list with the nurse at my doctor’s office (my med list is pretty extensive) and when I told her that I had gone off the pill, she asked why I didn’t just ask my nurse practitioner for a prescription to another type of birth control. It was a fair question but I remember thinking “why would I want to do that???” I’m not comfy with the risks associated with the Pill, I’ve had friends who had horrible experiences with Depo-Provera, the thought of an IUD being inserted makes me contemplate celibacy, and none of the barrier methods like condoms appeal to me. I’m on so much medication because I seem to be the repository for genetic conditions on both sides of the family that I’d rather not add ONE. MORE. PILL. to my daily pill box, especially one with that many side effects. I know what the side effect statistics are and I’m one of those *special* people who is statistically likely to be affected by them. I’m sure this question is going to come up on Wednesday when I go in for my yearly physical but I’m prepared to answer it and my nurse practitioner is on my wavelength enough that I think the words “I use NFP” will be sufficient.
So there you go… a non-Catholic kinda sorta secular view on NFP. Now if anyone knows of a good mason who can help to repair the gigantic hole in the brick wall barrier around my sex life, let me know. 🙂