11.23.2005

Your Stories... (Discussion pt. #2)

So how about all of you? I know by now that this blog has some gained at least some readership. What is your story as a married couple living in this contraceptive age? What wisdom were you, or have you been given during the period of your engagement. Or, as a single person, what are your thoughts, hopes, and convictions on the matter? What teachings and pastoral care concerning marriage, procreation, and contraception have you received from the Lord's Church?

I am looking forward to reading your stories. I expect that many experiences, burdens, surprises, and joys will be shared. It will be interesting if we see any common themes even in the midst of so many individual stories.

23 comments:

Sarah said...

I am lucky enough to have friends like Sam and Bethany Torode!! When Erik and I were dating he told me that he wouldn't want his wife to take the Pill. He told me that a woman's body is designed to opperate in a certain way and chemical birth control interrupts that. Needless to say, his unselfish love for his future wife (which is ME now :o)) really endeared him to me. We took classes at a Catholic Church, but honestly are totally lazy about charting, so we thought we'd use condoms until we were "ready." Well, only 6 weeks into the marriage we have totally abandoned the condoms! Everyone tells us to wait and be married awhile, but we can hardly contain our love in only two people. We will see how long the Lord wants us to be married before he blesses us with children ;oP

This is why I think many NFP couples have so many children- they cannot contain their love!!

jconner said...

When we got married, my wife was prescribed the pill by her doctor. We didn't know any better; it’s just what people did.

For the first two years of our marriage we were on the pill and thought nothing about it. Occasionally the topic would come up in school (I attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis). Some of my classmates were strongly opposed to it and, quite honestly, at the time, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. Some were even opposed to barrier methods, which, at the time, I thought was a crazy thing to be opposed to.

When, however, I heard that the pill could cause early chemical abortions, my attention was piqued. Now I had questions, but I didn’t know where to go. I started researching on-line and I requested resources from Lutherans for Life. Well, it didn’t take long for me to realize there was no unanimity on the subject. What seemed obvious to me was that pro-lifers didn’t want the pill to have an abortifacient property. Pro-choicers had no problem with it. That gave me reason for concern.

Then my wife’s friend gave her a book on NFP from Couples to Couples League. At first I dismissed it because it was Roman Catholic, but finally my wife and I waded through the 300+ pg. Book. To our surprise, mastering NFP wasn’t really that hard. I know a lot of people take classes to learn, which I’m sure are very helpful. We learned it together and it’s doable. After much thought and discussion amongst ourselves and with fellow classmates, we decided to drop the pill and try NFP.

It’s hard to explain, but something changed in our marriage (and no, we didn’t get pregnant). Our relationship changed for the better. Suddenly, I understood my wife’s cycles and began to appreciate them in a way I never would have if we had stayed on the pill. My wife’s fertility was an amazing gift of God. We appreciated God’s gift of sex in a way we never had before.

Gradually, we even began to understand why some people were opposed to barrier methods. Barrier methods encouraged people to seek the pleasure of sex while trying to avoid the consequences, i.e. the unwanted child. NFP simply abstained from sex during the fertile time. Obviously, the end result was the same – no conception, but the means to achieve the goal was different.

Well, to make a long story short, God blessed us with our first child Timothy. And after having him, we couldn’t figure out why we waited so long to have children. We had made ourselves believe that we weren’t ready and that we couldn’t afford him and that we needed to get to know each other before we started to have kids. These were all things we told each other because, if truth be told, we didn’t want kids. We wanted to do our own things without kids around for awhile. We were really quite selfish. It’s an attitude we’ve changed since having Timothy.

Anyway, understanding my wife’s cycles helped us tremendously after he was born. As any woman knows, having a child is a life changing experience – emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I’ve know women who have gotten pregnant three months after giving birth, but, let’s just say my wife wasn’t ready to have another child for a good twelve months after giving birth Timothy. Understanding her cycles helped us to know when her fertility was returning, which helped us in spacing our next child.

We are now pregnant with our second child (who we jokingly call II Timothy). Our perspectives on marriage, sex, and children have greatly changed over the five years of our marriage as we have continued reading and educating ourselves on the topic of birth control and NFP and God’s gift of children. Once we had a firm grasp on God’s teaching on marriage, sex, and children, the topic of birth control became much easier to understand and discuss, but it took a lot of wrestling with Scripture. It’s now a topic we are both passionate about. We now understand children as incarnations of parents’ love. I have been at my current congregation for about 17 months and I am speaking about it more and more.

Today we are looking forward to a God-sized family. If He blesses us with many children, He will provide a way to care for them; we genuinely believe that. Five years ago, I couldn’t have said that. So when I, as a pastor, talk to people about this topic, I remember where I was and the process of getting to where we are now. It was a slow process as God worked on our hearts. We are thankful for the resources our friends provided for us, which is one of the reasons I’m thrilled to see this blog – it’s an excellent resource, which I hope will help numerous people. So there’s our story in brief.

J. Conner

rmgc said...

Ditto for us on the early days, and then finding out the pill was abortifacient (I had asked 2 ob-gyns and my pharmacist about it and they assured me that you could still get pregnant on the pill; it wasn't abortifacient). We decided to go with NFP not because we were opposed to barrier methods but because they looked pretty icky. But we didn't know how NFP worked and while we waited for our CCL book to be shipped, we got pregnant (should have been keeping the Lenten fast if we were really serious!). I've been pregnant and/or nursing ever since we quit the pill. Baby the Third is due in May.

The CCL book and other research convinced us that all forms of artificial birth control (those that separate the gifts of God) are un-biblical and un-catholic.

The hardest part of NFP for us has been that we never learned to use it before getting pregnant. Return of fertility after childbirth is very tricky (for us anyway), especially if you don't know what you're looking for. My flesh was not happy about having only 18 months between our first two.

I wasn't one of those girls who loves babies. I never thought I'd be the lady with 7 kids (and at our rate, that may be an underestimate!). Our plan when we got married was to have two. But walking by faith means dying to self. And there are few better ways of dying to self than having kids. rmgc

Bob Waters said...

My experience is that, as someone who married too old to be confident of seeing any children grow up; who has serious doubts as to my suitability to be a parent on the ground of temperment; and who economically simply could not responsibily become one, it is a blessing to enjoy the intimacy of marriage without feeling the need of resorting to the self-chosen monastic variety of self-renunciation involved in foregoing contraception.

I am grateful to God that sexual intimacy with my wife is not something which He has denied me despite the circumstances which would make parenthood a disaster for parent and child alike.

Should my wife ever become pregnant, there is no question but that we would bring the child to term and raise it with love and all the support we could muster. But just as we tend to cross the street with our eyes open and do not see this as reflecting poorly upon
our faith in God, so we partake of the
gift of sexual intimacy responsibly, well aware that if God wills that we be parents, He will not be prevented from bringing that about because we have not chosen be imprudent.

Bob Waters said...

By the way, NFP is also notoriously unreliable.

Pr. David Rufner said...

Bob, as to your claim that NFP is "notoriously unreliable" I would ask you to back that up. As is often the case there is a large discrepancy here between common folklore and the actual facts.

Tina said...

NFP has been remarkably reliable for us for nearly 15 years (too reliable I might add--there've been times I wish we weren't so good at it, LOL).

Like any method, it's reliable if used correctly. If you ignore the 'rules', you can't blame the method, any more than you can blame the barrier if you leave it in the drawer, or the Pill if you forget to take it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Bob--What's your take on Gen. 1:28 (be fruitful and multiply)? rmgc

rmconner said...

Hi Bob--I'm with you and rmgc, in that I long felt myself temperamentally unsuited to be a parent, much less a stay-at-home mom like I am now. I hardly ever even baby-sat, having no desire whatseover to do so--an aversion to it, in fact. But I've had to question myself on that attitude--just because I know myself to be, for instance, too selfish and lazy or impatient or angry to desire raising children, does that mean God gives me a pass on it? Or does that mean I'd better be casting myself at his feet on a daily basis and praying for the strength to allow me to carry out His will? Obviously, I've become convicted that it's the latter. I just read a quote somewhere that struck me to the quick--to paraphrase, "much of what I thought was my personality was just sin." Ouch. That one hit home. It's so much easier (at least i've always found it to be so) to say, for instance, "i'm just a hot-tempered/high strung person" and to leave it at that (perhaps even taking a bit of pride in it) than to confess before God and occasionally man, "I struggle with the sin of anger, I repent of it, and I seek earnestly to become more christlike in all i do, say, and think." Like rmgc said, there's no better way of dying to self than having children, as we're finding!! But I digress--that quote's just been on my mind lately...
And God does promise to provide--both the immaterials like strength and patience, and the material necessities as well. On it being "imprudent" to have children--yeah, you better believe it. I think it's often been said that if you wait to have kids til you can afford them--guess what, you'll never get there! As my husband shared in his previous post, we still aren't sure exactly how many kids will be in our "God-sized" family, nor does it seem possible right now that we'll be able to provide for them, but we're learning to trust that He provides a way when we walk in His will. We're like rmgc--we used to think we'd have 2 kids. More than 3 seemed just plain irresponsible. Still does, in fact, whenever i consider the "facts" from our culture's perspective. And one last parting thought before i'm off to practice some more dying to self (i hear my little faith-aid waking :) )--like Dave, I'd encourage you to check out the facts on NFP--maybe you're thinking of the old "rhythm method"--now that was indeed notoriously unreliable. -rmconner

Anonymous said...

Please explain the term "God sized family." How many children constitute that size?

Sue said...

rmgc,
I do not own the CCL book, so could you please cite for me how articial birth control is unbiblical? Thank you.

rmconner said...

to anonymous--
How many children in a "God-sized family," you ask? Good question, I say! Which is also to say, I don't know what that answer is yet for me and my husband. I know that some people who contribute to this site would say that to abstain during fertile periods (i.e., to use NFP to limit/space children) is to interfere too much in limiting the number of children God wishes to bless you with. I'm not there (yet, anyway!)...but I've come a long way from thinking that my husband and I would have 2 kids, spaced exactly as we wanted them. What "God-sized family" means to me right now is that I'm not setting a number of kids and saying "ok God, I don't want any more blessings than that" or "ok, God, I don't think we'll be able to afford more than 3 kids, and more than that might drive me crazy, so we're going to stop there." We are going to take life as a walk of faith, trying to be open to God's will and leading; right now we're planning on using NFP to space our children a bit because of the toll that nursing/pregnancy takes on a woman's body (and psyche!). (Disclosure: Baby #2 is due to arrive about 22 months after Baby #1. Nursing actually did most of the spacing, but knowing the NFP signs helped too). So, what size is a God-sized family? I think it's different for everyone--God has blessed couples with varying levels of fertility, health, etc.--it's up to each couple to be very prayerfully considering what size family God has in mind for them. BUT in so doing we need to be very, very careful to realize the extent to which our culture has influenced our thinking in terms of what we "need" (whether in terms of material possessions or personal space/autonomy to do what we wish) and what kids "need." Do these not-answers to your question help you out at all?

rmgc said...

Hi, Sue--here are a few texts that speak to the question:

Gen. 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Gen. 38:9-10 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD's sight; so he put him to death also.

Ps 127:3-5 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

rmgc

Caspar said...

Bob Waters wrote: My experience is that, as someone who married too old to be confident of seeing any children grow up;

Funny, that's just what Sarah thought. It caused her to laugh when God said she would have a child in her old age.

...who has serious doubts as to my suitability to be a parent on the ground of temperment;

All those who have not been given the gift of celebacy are capable of being parents, being endowed by their Creator with the capacity to care for His children. Even infertile couples can be parents to adopted children. Intentional childlessness is not condoned by the LCMS or the WELS. They have at least retained that much regarding the divine ordinance "be fruitful and multiply."

...and who economically simply could not responsibily become one...

Listen to what Martin Luther has to say to those who believe such things:

"Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: 'Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.' But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper."
[LW 5, p. 332]

Caspar said...

Bob, you also wrote: ...if God wills that we be parents, He will not be prevented from bringing that about because we have not chosen be imprudent.

Are you really making the argument that it doesn't matter if you use birth control because God will cause your efforts to be to no avail if He wishes you to be parents? I have only heard that argument from double-predestination Calvinists!

Then you write: By the way, NFP is also notoriously unreliable.

Where on earth did you come up with that uninformed conclusion? Those who practice NFP properly can expect a failure rate of only 0.5%. You call that unreliable?

Caspar

Tina said...

I would add that if the family is "god-sized", that by definition, we don't know what that number is. I know some who have never used any form of birth control who had 2 children close together, and then none for 15 years, when they had one more. Another family had 5 children spaced less than 2 years apart, and then God closed the womb and they never had another. I also know families who have 10-12 living children and could still have more. One family had 8 biologically, and have since added 2 more by adoption.

We currently have 3 and are wrestling with these issues.

The point being, we can't LOOK at a family and know if they have used contraception to achieve the number they have (or don't have), or not.

Since we can never actually MAKE a child happen (all we can really do is decide to NOT have a child), I think the issue for a "God-sized" family is where the authority for number/spacing was placed--on our human reason, or in God's loving hands.

Caspar said...

Excellent point about family size, Tina!

You also wrote: "Since we can never actually MAKE a child happen (all we can really do is decide to NOT have a child),..."

In comments on another post yesterday, I made the same point this way:

"When these ongoing biological processes result in new human beings is God's business, not ours. Once one accepts that fact and submits to God's good and perfect will, the whole question of abortion and contraception are mute points.

"God chose each human being before the foundations of the world. To say that what we do has no effect on the existence of this or that individual is faulty. If a person is conceived and born, it is entirely God's doing, even though He uses us to accomplish His purpose. He deserves ALL the glory. If a person is prevented from being conceived and/or born, it is entirely our doing. We deserve ALL the blame. Does this concept sound familiar? It should!"


Yes, this is the Lutheran (Christian) paradox that all good that happens is God's doing so to God alone is the glory, and all bad that happens is man's doing so to man alone is all the blame. It is the heart of the doctrine of Justification. One is saved by God alone, but if one is damned it is one's own fault alone.

Any good that I "do" is God working through me. All the bad that I do is my work alone.

Caspar

Lauren said...

Tina,
You mentioned God 'closing a woman's womb'. Could you please explain to me your understanding of how that works? Thanks.

Tina said...

Lauren, I'm not sure I understand how it works when God does it. If we do it, it works through sterilization and contraception.

I do know the Bible repeatedly uses the words, "God opened her womb and she conceived", and "God closed her womb and she was barren". So because the Bible says it, I believe it to happen.

In the instances above, I used it to make the distinction that the couples I was talking about did nothing on their own (contracepting or sterilizing) to reject additional children.

Why or how it happened is a mystery to me. But I'm ok with mysteries where God is concerned.

Jenna said...

Life carries such irony, let me tell you. :) God certainly does close wombs. *nods* When I was a younger woman (not that I'm old...), I took "the Pill" in order to prevent pregnancy. For all of my silly trying, the Lord blessed me with a wonderful daughter.

Now, my husband and I seem unable to have any more children. Thusfar, the "problem" is unexplained, as my doctor hasn't found anything wrong with my body. As I read through the articles of this site, I am struck by this strong though. --I wonder how many young women will find themselves in my shoes. How many will look at their days of purposeful contraception, and feel a deep sadness in later years, due to bareness. Many times women think of putting off having children, but don't entertain the idea that children ARE a blessing, and one that is certainly not guaranteed us.

Tina said...

Jenna, I am so sorry that you have not been able to conceive again.

I have several friends in their 40's who bought the "you can have it all" myth of feminism and are now finding it's not true. They pursued career first, at the expense of marriage and family. In their mid-thirties, they finally married, and found they were not able to have the children they'd waited to have. (I'm not saying this is your case, just that we--as a society--often take for granted that we can have a baby just because we decide it's time).

I pray that God will open your womb and bless you with another of His children to love and nurture in the faith.

I too, regret the years early, and late, in our marriage that we rejected the blessings of children. I am 40, and praying that God would bless us as well.

Tina

Trudy said...

Hi,

Bob wrote that he is too old to be confident of living long enough to see a child grow up.

Bob, as someone whose father died when he was 42, who can ever know that they will live long enough to see a child grow up?

What is God's solution?

He knows the number of our days, yet he continues to bless us with children, even when our death will leave them as orphans.

God's solution is found in his repeated commands to his people: care for the widows and the orphans.

I have been blessed throughout my life by those who have obeyed God's command, especially my Papa, who lovingly courted our whole family, not just my mother.

Trudy

Favorite Apron said...

What a great blog on an issue that I wish more pastors would address. So many just go along with the culture, never giving their fertility a second thought.
I am 40, married for 16 years, with 4 children, 3 miscarried babies and a whole lot of extended breastfeeding.
We took the NFP class shortly after we were married. It really changed our lives and our marriage for the better.
I am not sure that NFP is the final word on the subject - I certainly can see myself in Caspar's camp too. But it is a step in the right direction.
What I find sad is the prevelence of permanant sterilizations. Who knows what life might bring?