Living the Joy of Humanae Vitae
By Rebecca Royce
When my boyfriend and I got engaged, we agreed to abstain from sexual intercourse during our 2-year engagement, even though I had been on the pill for a few years. Even though this method of birth control is supposed to be 99 percent effective, I was worried that the pill would fail and not only would we be faced with an unplanned pregnancy, but also the disappointment of my parents.
At that time, we mistakenly thought that the Church taught that we were supposed to have as many babies as physically possible. With me starting a new job and my husband still in school, "as many babies as physically possible" was not a realistic option for us so, we began our marriage with the pill. We went to Mass sporadically and faith was an "add-on" feature to our lives.
As newlyweds, things were great. We enjoyed finally living together, but as time passed we faced challenges and struggles. In our first five years, we faced financial, medical and career difficulties and our intimate relationship, which we frequently fought about, was a mess.
In the fall of 2009, after an intense fight with my husband that left us both in tears at a loss for what to do next, I consulted the internet with the symptoms I had been having: bloating, fatigue, migraines, no sex drive, and general low energy. Much to my surprise my top results were the PDF files of birth control pill package inserts – and the list of side effects was a checklist of my "issues."
When I approached my husband with this information, his immediate response was "well, you just have to stop taking those pills then." I did some research about other methods of birth control and found all sorts of options, some of which scared me. But then, I started wondering about this thing called Natural Family Planning that I had read about. I wasn't sure about it because all of the women touting how wonderful it was had 4 or more children. We, at the time, lived in a one bedroom apartment. So, I continued researching.
I found enough information to convince me that NFP was reliable and could be used to prevent pregnancy. Without a plan for how we would learn NFP or a real understanding of whether it would work for us or not, in December of 2009, I threw away the pills I had left and said a prayer that my marriage didn't disintegrate in the meantime.
In late January 2010, we took our first NFP class. We were astounded! Not only at the science and accuracy of the method, but at the Church's teaching! Who knew that the church taught responsible parenthood?! We didn't know that we didn't have to have as many babies as physically possible! We could space pregnancies and financial reasons could be legitimate reasons to avoid a pregnancy?! We were in shock, good shock, all the way around. The Church teaches that contraception is intrinsically evil. Something that is intrinsically evil will cause harm, even if the person engaging in it is unaware of its evil. When we removed the pill from our marriage we experienced a healing that we never expected or dared hope for.
After four months of abstaining, we finally felt confident in our ability to understand and chart my body's signs of fertility. The love that we experienced now that we were fully open to one another was unlike anything either one of us had ever hoped for.
It wasn't until I attended TOB 1 in October 2011 that I learned the depth of the Church's teaching; the beauty of the Truth of our bodies and our sexuality. I spent the entire week thinking to myself "No wonder my marriage improved so much; no wonder our life is so much healthier, happier, and more faithful." I finally had a deep understanding of why.
We've moved out of our one-bedroom apartment into a three-bedroom house and our financial situation has improved. So much so, that for the past 18 months we have been trying to achieve pregnancy rather than avoid it, but we have not been able to conceive. When I consider what would have happened if we had gone straight from contracepting and the state our marriage was in to trying to conceive without success, I am not sure we would have made it. The healing that has taken place within our marriage has allowed us to walk down this painful road united and with a sense of love and respect for one another that wasn't present while contracepting.
Learning NFP and the teachings of the Church not only changed our lives, our marriage, and my career, but it also opened our hearts to the beauty and sacredness of human life. It allowed us, from the very first month of trying to conceive, to realize that human life is a gift from God. It is something He invites us to participate in the creation of, but that we may not demand.
I thank God every day for the gift of His Grace to heal, to grow, and to love as I was created to love. This month, as we celebrate the anniversary of Humane Vitae, I find a continually deepening sense of appreciation to Pope Paul VI for standing at the gates and holding strong to the Truth.
Rebecca is the Coordinator of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. She and her husband have been married for 8 years and await God's reply to their prayer for children. Rebecca attended TOB I in October 2011, Love and Responsibility in January 2012, and will attend TOB II in August 2012.