I argued with the priest — the strong-willed one — who sat opposite me in the confessional. For every argument I presented, though, his response was the same: a calm, understanding, but firm, “There are no exceptions to the Church’s teaching against contraception.”
Truth be told, if the Church had been less wise and had made exceptions, our family situation might have qualified as one. A few months earlier, after the birth of our youngest son, I had suffered from an acute depression with accompanying suicidal thoughts and a brief psychotic episode that had landed me in two different mental hospitals. I had been torn away from my life as the stay-home mother of a toddler and a still-nursing infant for the two weeks of hospitalization my treatment required, and the whole experience had been devastating — not only for me, but also for my family and everyone who cared about us. As a result, my husband and I were very afraid of the possible ramifications of another bout of post-partum hormone fluctuations. And, having recently returned to the Church after a 20-year absence, I was finding her teaching against contraception very difficult to accept.
But there was something about the way this priest calmly stood his ground (even when I told him for the twenty-third time why my family should be exempt from this particular teaching) that made me believe he was giving me the Truth. So, after a few more weeks, my husband and I discussed natural family planning, and we (somewhat fearfully) agreed to try it.
Our priest helped us again by putting me in touch with a nearby couple who taught the Creighton method of NFP. Soon after I began NFP classes, my husband and I did away with the contraceptives we had been using. As soon as we did, an amazing thing happened. It was as if God lifted the scales from my eyes, and instantly, I understood. I suddenly saw the pain a “contraceptive mindset” must cause our Loving Father, who cares for us and would never let anything happen to us that was not for our good. I saw what a great privilege He gives us by letting us share with Him in creating His greatest miracle — a new baby’s life. And I saw contraception for what it is — something we do to thwart God’s loving plan for our families.
Since then, our family has experienced God’s love more fully. He has blessed us with our first daughter, who was conceived when our Creighton chart said conception was possible. Our daughter brings great joy and love to our family, and the happiness she brings us far outweighs the pain of the (relatively minor) symptoms I experienced during pregnancy and shortly after her birth. I shudder now to think that we might have missed out on the privilege of raising her — and a lifetime of joy with her — just because of the weakness of our faith that God would take care of us. And I pray every day for a world full of priests who will stand firm on Church teaching, just like the one who first told us the Truth.
God Our Father, please send us holy priests…all for the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus…all for the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary…in union with Saint Joseph. Amen.