Finding Freedom Through Natural Family Planning
Finding Freedom Through Natural Family Planning
I had just gotten back to the house after dropping the last kid off at daycare. I brewed yet another cup of coffee, grabbed my prayer book and sat down on our loveseat to pray before logging onto my computer.
This was my prayer: “God, please tell me it’s okay to use birth control.”
Yes, you read that right. That was my prayer.
I was terrified of getting pregnant again. Life with three kids ages 3 and under, plus working 60 hours a week at a fast-paced, international marketing agency was hard. It was really freaking hard. I was stressed out and incredibly sleep-deprived. No matter what I did to try and keep everyone happy, I always felt like I was letting someone down.
We had stopped using contraception about two years before, but now I was starting to second-guess that decision. I thought if I prayerfully discerned that birth control was okay, then God would be cool with it too.
So I went on to tell God all the reasons why I just had to be on birth control, and if He could just let me know that it was okay, then I could make my appointment with the doctor and get my prescription.
In the middle of this somewhat ridiculous, yet honest prayer, God spoke directly to my heart:
“You don’t trust me.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks. He was right. I didn’t trust Him. I was putting my trust in those little blue pills more than the all-good, all-loving Father who created me.
It was a moment of truth — either I really trusted in God or I didn’t. There was no middle-ground. I had to choose.
To appreciate the impact of this moment, it’s important for you to understand a little bit more of my story. Early in our marriage, I thought the idea of Natural Family Planning was totally ridiculous. Taking my temperature every day? I didn’t have time for that. Monitoring cervical mucus? Gross! Not to mention, most people practicing NFP seemed to have at least 6 kids. It obviously didn’t work.
But while putting those little pills in my mouth each morning, I pushed aside the feelings of intense anxiety that plagued me every day. I found other reasons to blame for the underlying tension within our marriage. When it came to intimacy, I thought there was something inherently wrong with me for feeling like an object. And I ignored the uneasiness I felt from never being able to reconcile the fact that I claimed to be Catholic but wasn’t following the Church’s teaching.
Contraception was supposed to be liberating. I felt trapped.
By the grace of God, I discovered St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. It changed everything for me. Finally sex and marriage made sense! Lust and love are two different things. In marriage, we are meant to totally give of ourselves. By using birth control, I was holding my fertility back from my husband. As I studied more and more, it became obvious that we had to stop contracepting.
But when life got a little hard (i.e. three little kids and an intense job), I was once again seduced by the false promises of the pill. I mean, I just couldn’t get pregnant. But now that I understood Theology of the Body, I was having a hard time finding a logical, and theologically correct, reason for contraception. So I turned to prayer.
That brings us back to the moment of truth. It was time to choose.
I answered, “Okay God, I trust you. No birth control…. But I better not get pregnant…”
It’s hard not to laugh now at my infantile prayer. No wonder God refers to us as His little ones!
Friends, that moment of prayer on my loveseat was not just about choosing birth control or Natural Family Planning. It was about letting go of my false sense of control. It was about choosing to trust in God. Really, truly trusting in Him.
Was it easy? No, not really. But once I loosened my grip on my own plans, I started to experience true freedom. The anxiety faded away. My marriage blossomed. I finally felt at peace with myself.
Fast forward to five years later, and I find myself on a team of women who recently launched You, Me and NFP, a resource for sharing the joy-filled living of Natural Family Planning. It has been an incredible journey. Looking back, it’s clear that God’s plans are truly greater than my own.
Is God calling you to trust him with your fertility? If He is, I am here to tell you that it’s not only possible, but it is liberating. And once we break the chains of enslavement to our own plans, we are free to experience a joy that is complete and a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Katie Ratliff has worked in marketing for over 14 years, but spends her time sharing the Catholic faith as a Regnum Christi member and teen catechist. Inspired by Christopher West’s books, Katie felt called to share the beautiful truths of Theology of the Body. Eventually God led her to become one of the founding members of You, Me and NFP, a community designed to accompany one another in our journeys to embrace Natural Family Planning as a way of life. She is a wife and mother to four children.