Somehow, for me the pill never seemed like an option. As far back as I am able to remember, contraception always seemed to contradict my notion of marriage's purpose.
It's possible that someone could write off my opinion as the product of parental indoctrination. I was homeschooled for most of my life, the oldest of seven children, and raised by parents who practiced NFP. But, at least until I was 16 or 17 and had already personally decided against contraception, I don't remember either of my parents even mentioning birth control. Somehow I came to the conclusion myself.
Perhaps it all boils down to the environment I was raised in. Whether my parents were intentional about it or not, they had created an atmosphere where children anywhere were welcomed with excitement. To me, all those young couples that were waiting to have kids seemed like they weren't quite married. In my teenage mind, why bother marrying if you didn't want to have kids?
Needless to say, the culture's voice on contraception and sexuality broke in eventually. Worse, it was aided by our church.
I remember our pastor cracking a joke during his sermon the Sunday following the birth of my first brother, the fifth child in our family. You know, the usual: "Bob and Mary welcomed another child this week. Thankfully, the doctor has filled them in on what they were doing wrong." Worse, this sort of thinking didn't bother anyone. It was perfectly in sync with the standard worldview of the fellow members of our church. While our family celebrated a new life, our congregation giggled and pointed at its weirdness.
My run-in with a poor theology of family didn't stop there. At church summer camp, rows and rows of attractive 20-something couples offered seminars on "avoiding sex until marriage--because that's when the sex is best!" All of these couples were childless, and planned to remain so for some time. I heard hours upon hours of teaching on sex, but not a word was mentioned about children, or even family.
To me, the disconnect was eerie. Sure, sex brought a man and woman together. But in my thinking, that togetherness served a greater purpose than just satiating the desires of the two of them. It made their relationship with one another stronger--and not just for themselves--for the sake of the family, the church, and the community. To put it bluntly, all those pretty couples seemed selfish.
In practice though, things are never so straight-forward as the ideal. Years later, facing my oncoming wedding day, I struggled with the magnitude of sex without contraceptives. I'd waited so long for this, I argued with myself, shouldn't I be allowed to just enjoy it without interruption?
The true crime of contraceptives has been their complete marring of our vision of sexuality. God created human life in His image. Truly it is the greatest gift we have received. Without life, all God's other gifts are meaningless. Where life is present, God's gifts strengthen it all the more. Instead of seeing sexuality as necessarily joined with life's creation, we have been trained to see it as optionally joined.
A common argument against NFP posits that if some contraceptives are improper because they allow sex without fertilization, than all methods of family planning must be improper--after all, even couples practicing NFP have sex on days when it would be impossible for a woman to conceive.
But contraceptives are not unhealthy only because they prevent fertilization. They are unhealthy because they modify the sexual act itself--essentially shattering the picture of life-giving communion that God has given us in sex. By design, contraceptives divorce sex from its intended connection to the human race as a whole.
A good friend of mine began practicing NFP with his wife after a year of using barrier-method contraceptives. After struggling with the arguments and deciding to make the change, he commented that while using a barrier, he always felt the message he was sending his wife was "I don't want all of this." The use of contraceptives had essentially divorced him from his wife--and divorced them both from sex's greater purpose.
My family celebrated the one-year birthday of our first daughter just one month ago. We've been practicing NFP since day one. It hasn't always been easy. Especially when faced with the seemingly care-free marriages of many of our peers, it can be easy to say "What the heck were we thinking? Were we thinking at all?" Practicing NFP has not always been easy. Sometimes, when looking at the alternatives, it can seem downright crazy.
But the thought of trying anything else seems like trading wine for Welch's, a cosmic mystery for a cheap paperback. For us, the question has become not so much what might we gain by using contraceptives--more time, money, sleep--but what might we lose? The alternatives pale in comparison.