When I entered the Catholic Church (which event sounds more like massive reconstructive surgery instead of what it really was: a faith enhancement), I did so for one main reason: the Eucharist. I simply couldn’t find a way around John 6. I just really, deeply, achingly hungered for the Eucharist. Frankly, I was starved for it.
And it has truly satisfied my deepest soul hunger.
I’ve discovered, though, that Catholics and non-Catholics alike want me in a faith-box. It annoys conservative Catholics that I regret voting yes on Prop 8. And it annoys Protestants that I love Mary. And it probably annoys even middle-of-the-road Catholics that I have issues with the Catholic teaching on birth control. All said, I’m a very bad Catholic.
Or maybe, I just really struggle/misunderstand with some of the teachings of the Church? It’s difficult for me to accept the No Birth Control Pill rule when the pill is probably the #1 reason why I pulled out of that debilitating depression this past year. Yes, I had PPD. But I also had freak-crazy-hormone issues. I won’t go full-out TMI on you, but let’s just say this: my period? It was out.of.control. I literally only had like 4 good days a month.
My estrogen and progesterone levels were a rollercoaster on steroids. I was all kinds of messed up.
Now, I have great respect for my priests. But I also know this: they are not doctors. Plus also? They are not women. I could be totally wrong, here, but if a priest had 10 days of PMS followed by 14 days of bleeding? I’m guessing we’d have the whole birth control pill issue re-examined. Stat. Then again. I could be wrong. Maybe the more saintly thing to do would be to suffer through those 14 day periods. I dunno because I’m not a saint.
The point is, no matter how saintly we are, I think we all make decisions based on our life circumstances. I’m not saying this is a justifiable reason for sin, but I am saying that maybe a devout, devoted mother of 5 is not sinning when she takes the birth control pill because shouldn’t motivations count for something? I wasn’t taking the pill so I could go have philandering, consequence-free sex. I was taking the pill so I could mother my children. I couldn’t do that very well–or, at all–when I could scarcely get out of bed half of the month.
I felt absolutely horrible about going on the birth control pill. I went to Confession and totally broke down crying about it. The priest was more than understanding. In fact, he was almost a little impatient with me, hurrying me along as I babbled out my woes. It was almost like (and I’m paraphrasing here): Woman, you have 5 children. Obviously, you’ve fulfilled the whole “be fruitful and multiply” thing.
I didn’t really get a clear answer from him about whether I was sinning and so I just assumed I was (that’s pretty much my default mode). So, I was torn up about it for a couple months (NOTE: so there’s no need to berate me in the comment box, k?) Then, my health began to remarkably improve. I had energy again. I was happy again. I could serve my family without feeling like I was dying. I know some would say that I should have been willing to suffer physical debilitation in order to remain obedient to the Church. I get that.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s difficult for me to accept that my taking the birth control pill is a sin when it has dramatically improved my ability to perform the vocation God gave me. Sure, perhaps I could have sought out natural remedies or researched other ways of balancing my hormones without going on the pill. But when you’re battling through PPD and severe periods, you don’t have the luxury of time to do that kind of lifestyle overhaul. At least, I didn’t.
I needed help. Fast.
I suppose it’s also true that I’m not thoroughly on-board with every aspect of the Church’s stance on contraception; ie. especially as it pertains to devout, married mothers. Go ahead and blame my disobedience on my Protestant DNA. Maybe I’ll get to 100% Natural Family Planning someday.
Is my love for God, my family and the Church entirely questionable because I’ve been on the pill? Am I somehow “living in grave sin” because I took my doctor’s advice instead of practicing Natural Family Planning? Sometimes I think about those questions and yes, I’ll even go to Confession about it.
But I also have to believe that God gave me these five children and He wants me to parent them. I’m a better/saner mother, a happier wife and a more balanced human being when I’m on the pill.
Also? I’m weak. I’m still learning. I’m still growing.
It’s a journey and obviously, I’m nowhere near doing it right. But God knows I really am trying my best. Doesn’t that count for something?