By Teresa Mottet
I read page 9 of the March 1 Messenger with a lot of mixed feelings. First was Father Bill Kneemiller’s article concerning Humanae Vitae. Fr. Kneemiller wrote: “One of the most stunning statements in this encyclical is that a man using contraceptive methods ‘may forget the reverence due to a woman… and reduce her to being a mere instrument… and no longer surround her with care and affection.”
It struck me as a stunning statement alright, but not like he thought. The statement was obviously written by someone with no first-hand knowledge of the dynamics of a loving marriage.
My late husband and I were married for 61 years and during the 30 years until I reached menopause we never bought or used any artificial birth control. We went with the rhythm method to regulate family size.
But what the rhythm method fails to take into account (and also natural family planning, which is refined rhythm) is that the woman experiences her greatest libido at the time in her menstrual cycle when she will get pregnant. Her urge is lessened at other times in her cycle. A man is not influenced by cyclic variations as a woman is.
Therefore, when a man truly loves his wife, he wants to give her pleasure at the time of her greatest desire. His love is enhanced by her joy. Contrary to Humanae Vitae, he is not forgetting to reverence her, or reducing her to being a mere instrument. He is wanting to surround her with care and affection.
In light of this, does this mean that a woman is to experience deep and profound lovemaking only three, four, five or six times in her married life, depending on what family size the couple can afford? That is absurd, to say the least. Sexual love is meant for the bonding of the couple, as well as for the procreation of children.
Practicing rhythm put a strain on our marriage because we could not show small signs of affection to each other at “those times” because it might lead to something that could not be stopped.
I think some of the arguments and disagreements in life were caused by sexual tension, not by money matters or childrearing problems per se. In observing others, young people nowadays don’t seem to have that problem.
In all the discussion over birth control, I’d like to hear more dialogue on this aspect of the issue. George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Marriage combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity.” He obviously wasn’t talking about rhythm or NFP.
(Teresa Mottet is a member of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield.)
2 thoughts on “Natural methods of birth control have downsides”
I admire your obedience to our Mother Church for all those sixty-one years of marriage, even though you lacked scientific and theological support. Wow, that means you trudged on without knowing really why or how!
As someone who has spent the last decade of my life studying, teaching and sharing the good news of modern natural family planning and God’s plan for sexuality, please let me speak to a few of your misleading points.
First of all, you are right. The fertile phase, due to the wonderful work of her God-given hormones, is the time when a woman most desires her husband. Unfortunately, couples who choose artificial hormonal contraception (ie. patch, pill, ring, shot, etc) trade this gift for probable sterility. Most contracepting woman NEVER experience this hormonal desire for intercourse. The divide between husband and wife grow and the marriage bed often becomes a battlefield or a lonely prison.
Secondly, our Church, who holds so dearly the beauty of the intimacy within marriage would not ask couples to “only experience profound lovemaking…” while baby making. The beautiful gift from Blessed John Paul II of the Theology of the Body teaches couples to trade the worldly vision of sex as use for the holy vision of sex as gift. I have seen this truth transform marriages and lives in front of my eyes, as couples pitch their pills and follow the Church’s teaching.
Finally, when you married, you had a 85% chance of staying together. Young people today have a 45 -50% chance of making it. Many marriages, which entertain the selfish lie of contraception, fall prey to unfaithfulness through masturbation, pornography and sexual affairs. This does not seem problem free to me. Today, couples using NFP still enjoy a 94-96% chance of celebrating a life long marriage.
If I could time travel, I would have loved to teach you about the Theology of the Body and the Billings Ovulation Method, so you could have more fully and joyfully embraced your marital vocation. Armed with the how and the why, I bet you and your husband would have shouted the good news from the mountaintops.
In my experience, the Billings method has put a strain in our marriage, and at times it has been a burden and a cross to carry and accept, to,show obedience to God and his Church, and it has been very, very, difficult, and many times it hasn’t brought joy to our lives, just the joy of obedience sometimes, but often resentment on my part at least. My husband used to travel a lot, and many times when he was home we couldn’t have sex. I miscarried twice, and because of the problems I faced, the doctor’s advice after the second miscarriage was that it wasn’t safe for me to become pregnant again. We’ve had to be more careful than ever, and it has been tough. I just can’t understand why it’s still wrong for me to have a ligation (yes, I have read all the encyclicals and all the official documents about this and feel cheated and angry)
Having another child become a danger many years ago, and now I’m too old anyway, I’m 47, and ligation is still wrong! Almost every woman we know has had one once they are done having kids, we are the odd ones, and yes, it’s embarrasing to say and explain why I havent and
wont have one, it’s so hard, but I try to change the subject, but if there’s no way out I have to explain it is because of religious reasons, and people just don’t get it, they say they are Catholic too! How can I explain to people, if most of the people I know don’t even go to mass anymore, they probably have never heard about Billings anyway.We haven’t used anything but the Billings method in18 years of marriage. We have a 15 year old girl and a 12 year old boy. I have suggested my husband on some occasions to use a condom but he doesn’t want to, and maybe I would have felt too guilty to be able to enjoy it. The English doctor who we had to see in order to,get some paperwork signed when we were living in the UK (we’re Mexican, btw), couldn’t understand why we didn’t want an “effective” method like everyone else at the University campus where we used to live while my husband was studying for his phd. I could almost hear her thinking we were some sort of fanatics. We’re still faithful, but I’m so afraid of getting accidentally pregnant now that I’m approaching menopause. I have hated this method all my married life, but understand now that the other methods would have probably been worse for us. I don’t like the Billings method, but I choose to remain faithful to the church’s teachings.
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