Welcome to our first Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this first series, we’re talking all about fertility. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
There I was, sitting on the bathroom floor staring at two little pink lines. My heart was pounding, I could feel my blood pulsing in my ears, and I could not breathe. I walked over to the foot of my bed where my husband was waiting. I sat down next to him and broke down in sobs—gut-wrenching, cannot-catch-my-breath sobs. He held me and rocked us back and forth. His face was nuzzled in my hair and he was whispering that everything was going to be okay and that we are blessed and that we will manage everything together as always.
But I could not see it that way. Truthfully, I was terrified.
Terrified at a future I found overwhelming, terrified at being unprepared, terrified of the unknowns and the what-ifs, and mostly, terrified that none of this was planned.
Finally Saying Yes
I am a planner. I am an organizer. I live comfortably in the known zone. You’ll find me with my calendar and planner, filling out every moment of my schedule. I’ve lived by spread sheets and timelines and to-do lists and checkboxes. And it worked for me—or so I thought.
If you have lived like I have, planning every moment, day, week, and year, you will find that anything that does not go according to plan completely throws you off balance. And here I was, completely spinning.
When my second child was born, I felt a pull by the Holy Spirit to change my mindset on contraception. Like all other aspects of my life, I was trying to control something so innately feminine and precious about me—my own fertility.
My Journey to NFP
It started when I was around seventeen years old. I had been experiencing excruciating menstrual cramps in high school, sometimes to the point of fainting. And when seeking help from my doctor, I was placed on hormonal birth control. Like so many other women, instead of trying to figure out the root of my pain, I was given a bandaid.
I took hormonal birth control every day, set to my alarm, for years. When preparing for marriage to my college sweetheart, I finally learned about Natural Family Planning (NFP).
I am a cradle Catholic but I had never understood what NFP meant for my fertility and for my future marriage. I thought it was another thing to checkoff during my marriage preparation. I learned about my temperatures and mucus, but ultimately, I did not think I would need the information. I did not understand on any real level what contraceptives would mean for my marriage or my saying yes to God’s plan over my own.
My Plan. Not His.
And while I never actively decided to reject the plans of God for myself, I definitely did not allow them to guide me in my daily decisions. I lived in ignorance. Was I faith-filled? Yes. Did I love God? Absolutely. But did I live a prideful and selfish life? Completely.
I decided exactly when I wanted to have my first child. I stopped the contraceptive and got pregnant the next cycle. My plan. Not His.
After I gave birth, I started the contraceptives right back up again. My plan. Not His.
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A Yes that Led to More Yeses
But in 2014, something changed. God brought something into my life that completely changed my entire way of thinking. It changed everything. And that something was Blessed is She.
One day, I saw a message that would change my life.
“Are you a Catholic woman interested in this writing project I have in mind?”
I thought, I am Catholic. I write a blog. I am interested.
And my involvement in this life-changing ministry was born.
I was a new mom, a dental student, and a wife trying to navigate a world that felt lonely and incompatible with my Faith. I met the other writers through emails and video chats during that summer before the first devotion went live in September of 2014. These women completely changed my heart. Here was a group of women, in every life stage, from every background, with an infinite number of perspectives and experiences different from my own, and I was completely inspired.
The Witness of Other Catholics
Several women in particular inspired me greatly. These women had multiple children and they still kept their hearts open for more. I was in awe of their bravery, their selflessness, and their own yes to God’s plan. It made me question my own hesitation and pride. I wondered why I could not trust that the Father had a greater plan for what our family would look like. They shared their struggles and fears so openly with me and yet they kept saying yes.
I was jealous of that trust. I had never been able to trust the Father so fully.
Several months after the birth of our second child, I kept feeling that stirring in my heart. The Holy Spirit would whisper to me in the quiet of the night while nursing my baby. He kept saying, “Trust, love, be open, say yes. I will guide you, I will protect you, you are safe.”
As someone who planned every minute of my life, I could not imagine what it would look like to fully trust. Relinquishing my control and death grip on my life would take more than a nudge. It would take a giant push off of the cliff.
Being Open to Life
Several months of discernment, prayer, and
arguments conversations with God, my husband and I decided that we would start the process to learn to trust and be open to life. A Blessed is She friend started teaching us an NFP method. I learned about charting, mucus, stamps, and more about my own body than I thought possible.
When my menstrual cycle resumed, I continued to track my symptoms daily. A yellow stamp here, a white baby stamp there. If this was my way of saying yes, at least I had a chart that made me feel productive and in control. I finally felt like I was getting the hang of it.
By saying yes to my own fertility and allowing my mindset to shift from one of contraception to one of openness, I saw other aspects of my life change, too. I learned to lean more heavily to the guidance of God. In January of 2018, I felt the Lord calling me towards a career change. I took on a huge responsibility of leadership at work and I felt like I had finally learned to listen to God’s plan.
But then, just as I started this new position at work, I saw those two little pink lines that terrified me. I was flabbergasted! God, how could You so clearly lead me towards this change at work and now add a baby into this chaos!?
I was frightened because this was my first pregnancy that was not planned to the day. I had to trust again. And it was scary. But I turned to those sisters who inspired me and to a loving Father with a plan for me. I finally said yes.Allowing my mindset to shift from one of contraception to one of openness to life changed other areas of my life, too. #BISblog #blessedchats // Click To Tweet
Freedom from Fear
What I learned so entirely from this change in mindset is that God does not promise to remove the chaos or lay out every plan with neon signs and arrows. He promises that I am never alone, that to say yes to His plan is to say yes to the unknown, too.
He turned this type-A, control-freak, planner extraordinaire into a trusting daughter. And while you’ll still find me planning every moment of our family schedule, you’ll also see me now including God in the mix and mess of it all.
Has anyone else made the shift from contraception to natural family planning? Please share your story with us in the comments below!
If you want more on the Church’s rich teachings on these engaging topics, our best-selling study, “Blessed Conversations: Rooted,” dives into the Catechism’s teachings and now offers a video companion series along with it featuring Theological Editor Susanna Spencer and Managing Editor Nell O’Leary. Get it here.