family planning | the why

I have debated on writing this post for quite a long time. I get quite a mix of reactions when I am seen out with my three kids under three, and as my belly grows, so do the looks and remarks.

I would say most of our close family knows our desire for a large family and our reasoning behind our choices regarding (a lack) of birth control and child spacing. What finally prompted me to write this is not to assuage anyone’s curiosity or defend our decisions. It is simply because I feel led by my Lord to live a certain way, and having found the joy in that way, I want to share it. This is where we are now, and how we feel convicted, but I am constantly seeking the Lord in this area, and I know my feelings grow and evolve…

So, if you if is going to make you uncomfortable to read about ovulation and family planning, go ahead and move on now. I promise I won’t be hurt!

First and foremost, I absolutely hands down am not judging ANYONE’S choice of birth control (short or long term) or family planning. To each their own. Seriously. I hope to honestly give my feelings and where I feel scripture has led me PERSONALLY. I hope to encourage each of you to look at your choices regarding family planning and talk them over with your spouse, but honestly, it’s between you, your spouse, and God. That’s it. I will be honest and say I do care about what decisions my friends and family make, because I want them to experience life as fully and richly as God can give them, but I have absolutely no judgement for anyone. I hope I can get them same back from my readers.

When we were just a few months from marriage, I began looking into birth control options. I still had one more year of student teaching left and we were still going to be living separate. We felt it would be best to wait a while to start our family. Even though we took several different types of marriage counseling and I consulted a doctor, the only real options provided to us were hormonal birth controls or barrier methods (condoms, etc). At the time, I thought nothing of it. Fast forward two years and a short 6 months of hormonal birth control had caused chemical infertility. Eventually we went on fertility drugs (clomid) and were able to conceive our firstborn, Jarvis. But in the process of trying to have a child, I finally learned the details and various things that need to all align to result in a successful pregnancy. I knew more than I would have ever thought possible!

That experience changed my outlook on birth control and family planning. We decided then and there to never use hormonal birth control and that we were not going to prevent pregnancy at all. Well, lo and behold, turns out pregnancy fixed my hormonal issues permanently and we found ourselves pregnant again just a short 3 months after Jarvis was born. A bit shocked, but overall thrilled that it had been so easy! They were going to be 13 months apart, wow!

And then, the loss of our son, Job, at 20 weeks, once again rocked my world. I had felt him kick, I had felt his life. And as I held his tiny, perfect, still body, my entire outlook on parenting and the blessing of children changed.

The bible tells us that children are a blessing in Psalm 127:3-5, and I truly believe it. It is in mothering that I grow the closest to God. My weakness and failures are so evident, and I so desperately want to be better. These little lives, these precious souls and personalities are completely dependent on me. While I do believe God has a plan for them, and no matter how poorly I could do he can always redeem them to his purpose, I would like to make it easier for them. I want to model and show them Christ in me so that they always know His goodness. So they always feel His grace. I know their lives won’t be perfect or easy, for it’s through struggling that we learn to lean on our Lord, but I hope to make that realization a bit easier for them.

The loss of the chance to parent Job and the process of accepting that he was now in the Lord’s arms was the most humbling and difficult time of my life. The Lord broke me so I could truly find him.

We quickly tried to get pregnant again, but another loss made me stumble back. I doubted whether we were meant to have more children, if there was another path for us. But a few months later we found ourselves pregnant again, with an obvious and apparent blessing, TWINS! I knew, almost immediately that it was twins, somehow, He blessed me with that knowledge. And He blessed us with a healthy, easy pregnancy and full term twins who came home with us right away.

(photo by Stacy VanDyck Photography)

If you look back and add it up, at the time the twins were born, I had been pregnant for nearly 2 years of the 2.5 years since we got pregnant with Jarvis. We very quickly realized that our ‘no prevention’ method might not be the best approach with 3 kids under 3 already. But what to do?

Let me back up a bit explain our decisions regarding hormonal birth control and inner-uterine devices. I highly doubt many have done any deep research into the actual purposes and pregnancy preventative measures of all birth controls. I am linking more research, but in a nutshell, although all hormonal birth control pills claim to actually inhibit ovulation, realistically this is not effective all of the time because all birth control pills are such a low dose. The second claim is that the hormones create a hostile environment that prevents fertilization, but once again, this only happens a portion of the time. Very often, the first two goals are not met and what actually happens is the fertilized ovum is starved of necessary hormones it needs to implant effectively and establish a blood supply. The hormones in the birth control doesn’t allow a blood rich lining to form, so the fertilized ovum implants but starves. The same is true with inner-uterine devices, it prevents a healthy lining from forming and prevents the fertilized ovum from implanting correctly. This is written in the small print of every birth control but not something readily known or told by physicians.

Now, I will let you draw your own conclusion about what I consider this. It all comes down to when your opinion on life starts. And as far as I am concerned it’s not about a medical definition for me, although I know a heartbeat is not established until between the 5th and 6th week. But robbing the ovum of the opportunity to reach that critical time by starving it of necessary nutrition is not something I am comfortable with. At all.

So all of the above to say that we ended up deciding on practicing natural family planning. You can read more information on it here, but basically, in a nutshell, it’s being familiar with your cycle and abstaining  during the small window where pregnancy is possible. This method is practiced by Catholics typically, and our religious beliefs line up with theirs in this area. NFP allows us to space out our children as we prayerfully think is best for our family. But here’s the deal, although many studies show that used correctly, NFP has a 1% fail rate, the practice of NFP allows room for the Lord to show us when we are ready for another child.

And that comes down to why I am writing this. When we announced we were pregnant again, we had very mixed reactions. A lot of excitement and congrats, but also a few comments like, ‘Don’t you know what causes that?’ and ‘Again? Already? You are crazy!’ Don’t worry, I know we are a little crazy, but it’s not just us in this family, our Lord is leading us and He won’t give us more than we can handle without His help.

(photo by Stacy VanDyck Photography)

Bunny was not planned by us, but bunny was planned by the Lord. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details (our parents read this!!), but we were practicing NFP carefully in the hopes of spacing out the twins from a younger sibling but an unexpected and un-chart-able ovulation resulted in the blessing of this pregnancy. If that’s not God’s will in our lives then I don’t know what is!

I will be honest, I don’t know when we will be ‘done.’ I’m not sure that’s up to us. Do I want to have kids for the next 15 years? No, not by any means! But do I want a big family? Yes. Do I want God’s will served and to allow him to direct our family size and spacing? Yes, I do. Will we ever do anything permanent to prevent pregnancy? No, I do not believe we will. I am still learning and praying over God’s will for our family and I hope to continue to find out what he has planned for us. But for now, I feel we are doing exactly what he wants us to do. What that will look like in 5 or 10 years I am not sure.

I truly think one of the greatest blessings I can give my kids is siblings. Because no matter what, family is there for you. And the relationships I already see developing are strong and will last forever. Siblings are just a glimpse of the love of Christ and I want my children to have that joy.

**A side note of NFP. It is not the Rhythm method that was used back in the day, but there are many different methods out there to use {Creighton, couples to couples, etc}, and that these methods are specific to each woman’s individual cycle as opposed to a one size fit all approach. Another statistic that I think is interesting is that couples  who use NFP have a MUCH lower divorce rate {lower than 5%} compared to the national average of 50% due to the open communication, close intimacy, mutual decision making, etc.

Please, if you have questions or want to know more, ask! I would love to answer them or send you to someone who could. Please refrain from judgmental comments as they will be deleted. This is right for our family, and I understand that not everyone will agree it is right for their family, that is fine.

Wow, I feel like I need to step off my soapbox! If you made it all the way through that, I am impressed!! 🙂

6 thoughts on “family planning | the why

  1. Once again, you are such a brave woman. No judgements here just awe at your amazing ability to mother and love this beautiful life He has gifted you with. Many hugs!

  2. Isn’t it amazing how we just “know” what our family should look like? I look at my dinner table knowing no one is missing, and that is such a beautiful feeling. & let me tell you–after years selling (and taking, and experiencing infertility) the most popular birth control available, I, too, decided never to take them again. Sent the hubs in for the ol’ sniperoo. Synthetic anything scares me! I had a NFP course in college as part of my catholic education at my college and it was fascinating. I fear what these drugs are doing to women–is infertility this common or is there a cause? I’m sure it’s not just contraception, but a mix of all the hormones we are exposed to in our food supply. It’s quite scary. & on the flip side, I think I experience the opposite judgment as you–can’t tell you how many times I’ve been criticized and questioned for knowing we are done having children. My favorite comment of all was “oh, that’s so sad.” Really?? For who? 😉 Two beautiful babies seem like a beautiful blessing, and nothing to be sad about! I wish I could send you all my baby stuff!

  3. I just think it’s great that you have a plan! I worry about the people that don’t. Many of my high school friends found jobs they love and when I ask them about kids they say they are focusing on their career. Not that there’s anything wrong with a job… But we are almost 30, which means you need a kids goal because we are approaching the point where if you end up with some sort of issue (heaven forbid) you might not have as many kids as you want. I agree with you that no matter how overwhelmed with parenthood I might become we would never do anything permanent to prevent pregnancy. My plan is a bit different then yours in some ways. We know we want to have 4, when we get to that point we will reassess the situation and decide if we want more. I had my daughter in Oct 09 and I took the mini-pill for a year because I am a real strong believer in breastfeeding and didn’t want a new pregnancy to dry me up. Because of this the closest mine could be is 21 months apart. Then after her birthday I went off the pill. I had my son Dec 11 (they were 26 apart, but my husband was gone for 3 months so I don’t count those in the our “trying” time). This time I went off the mini-pill when he was 11 months b/c it wasn’t doing anything to regulate me anymore, lol. So now I am in my second month of the waiting game,.. Hope your pregnancy is going well and that everyone stays happy and healthy through out!

  4. I was very encouraged by this! Thank you for opening up and being willing to share! My husband and I have had to think of a lot of these same things… For us I think so much of it comes down to really trusting God with how many children He knows we can handle! It’s so hard sometimes because we do see things as the world sees them… Our children are 16 months apart and just thinking of having another one soon makes most people think we are crazy! And sometimes I think the same thing! Taking things one day at a time… But it’s encouraging to hear what you had to say! I have loved following your blog over the past year or so! Your family is amazing and just know that you are such a blessing to so many of us readers! 🙂 God is using you in some awesome ways!

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