Editor’s Note: When I first read Karina’s story, I knew I had to share it with you all. It’s so easy to take the easy route to escape pain instead of digging deeper and finding healing. I hope you’re as inspired as I was by Karina’s witness and honesty. She kindly agreed to share her story with us, which was first published on her blog Pretty Bones.
I have had medical issues with my cycles since they started at the age of 12. For a year I was too embarrassed to tell my mom, or anyone outside of my journal, that just about everything was wrong with them. You name it; I probably experienced it.
So when the time came for me to go to the doctor because I was literally miserable, the pill was my miracle. Instantly everything was resolved. At the age of 13, I wasn't thinking about sex, so this was solely medical in nature.
My First Concern
I was on the pill for five years before I sat down with my doctor and talked about the side effects – namely if it caused abortions. I was beginning to come into my faith at that point and had begun hearing how the Church denounced the use of birth control. I never really got an answer as to why, except I had heard somewhere that it caused abortions.
Now, I wasn't having sex, but I was in a relationship I knew was headed for marriage and that the day for that life-giving embrace was coming. So I asked my doctor, 'Does this cause abortions?' She said no.
How was I supposed to know that my medical professional used a different definition for when life began than I did? I had told her my concerns were religiously based, but either she didn't know her definition of life (implantation: when embryo imbeds in uterine lining) and mine (fertilization: when egg and sperm meet) were different, or didn't think it was relevant.
Regardless, I felt that it was time to stop using the pill because I had been on it for five years. There's just something that feels wrong about taking medication like that for too long and that feeling had no religious basis for me.
Nevermind, I need it!
I was off the pill for about three months when my cycles went crazy again (because the pill doesn't cure anything, just masks it), and this time the pain was unbearable. I went racing back to my miracle pill for the next few years.
In our junior year of college, my boyfriend asked me to marry him. I of course said yes! I had only been waiting three and a half years! We set the date for two weeks after graduation – a year-and-a-half engagement (a.k.a. forever).
Near the end of eternity we went to our pre-cana (pre-marriage) class. When the subject of birth control came up, I clammed up. I didn't want to hear what they had to say. I had medical reasons for being on the pill. I wasn't hurting anyone by being on the pill, and we were so not ready for kids. But I did hear one important thing. There was another option, NFP … Natural Family Planning. I had never heard of it before this class, but it was enough of a seed for later down the road.
What if there was another option?
At the age of 24, I had been on the pill for a total of 10 years, one and a half of which as a married woman. One time, my new group of young adult, Catholic friends started talking about birth control like it was evil. I wanted to throw up the I-have-medical-reasons-for-the-pill card, but didn't. This was partially because I didn't want to look like a 'bad' Catholic, but also because this group had already tested my faith tremendously and I had grown because of it. Maybe this was another test.
It took a few months, but I eventually went online and found a website about Natural Family Planning by the Couple to Couple League. I watched their YouTube videos and started crying. I've never felt God so clearly ask me to change as I did in that moment.
That night I went to my husband Ben with my concerns. Being the truly amazing man that he is, he said, 'Let's learn more.' There was no hesitation. He wanted me to feel comfortable with the medication I was taking because it was my body.
Freedom in God’s Plan
Following that first class and continued research, my husband and I learned many things about how our bodies work naturally, about our marriage, and about God's incredible love for us.
We learned a deeper and more profound respect for the body and subsequently for human beings in general. We also became open to the possibility of children. My view of children as gross, scary, time-consuming little monsters changed to how God wanted me to see them: gifts and a perfect reflection of not only His love, but my husband's and my love for each other.
I also learned I have hypothyroidism, or a thyroid that produces necessary hormones too slowly. This is a cause for infertility, and my charts have shown me I will have issues conceiving. But now I have the tools and the knowledge to attempt to fix that before Ben and I are ready for children. I learned through NFP that vitamins, diet, and exercise can greatly improve my health and in conjunction, my fertility.
No more crazy cycles, and my new miracle pill is a vitamin.
I have also learned that my risk for cancer, especially breast cancer, is significantly higher due to my prolonged usage of hormonal birth control. As such, I know I need to be mindful of screenings and taking every necessary precaution to prevent that from happening or catch it as soon as it does.
Now, this story is not a description of my 'out' for using birth control for as long as I did. I could have, at any time, dug deeper and asked more people what was right and wrong, or healthy and unhealthy. I chose to listen only to what I wanted to hear.
It wasn't until God sent people who spoke directly to my face that I finally listened. We need more of those people! We need more people that love us enough to tell us the hard truths and steer us toward a happiness worth working for.
My husband and I want to be some of those people so we're continuing to educate ourselves to tell other people what we believed to be true and healthy. Natural Family Planning offers a window to the body and its health, but also to total love and life.