I started taking birth control pills shortly before I was married. I took them for 2 months leading up to my wedding so they would be effective in time for the wedding night. I gained some weight and my mom commented that I might not fit into the dress we were making, but other than the slight weight gain I didn't notice any undesirable side effects. I took my pills religiously every morning, and as long as I was taking them I didn't get pregnant.
I had done some research about the various forms of birth control before I chose the pill. The pamphlets I was given at doctors offices and other clinics listed many different types of pregnancy prevention, and they all involved some sort of hormones. I didn't want to have something inserted that would need to be removed by a medical professional when we decided to start trying to conceive. I felt that was an intrusion of privacy, and I wanted the freedom of being able to start trying without having a doctor visit. Likewise, a series of regular shots was not appealing to me at all. I don't like needles to begin with, and having to see a medical professional on a regular basis for a shot to prevent pregnancy was not my idea of a good thing. The side effects also scared me! It seemed to me that the pill was the least invasive method with the fewest and least severe side effects. I didn't have any of the risk factors which would put me at increased risk, and I felt it was safe. I also wanted to be spontaneous and not have to worry about inserting anything or putting something on in the heat of the moment, possibly spoiling the mood. It seemed like a good choice.
As I said, the pill worked well to prevent pregnancy as long as I took it. Our first three babies were carefully planned and conceived within a few months of stopping the pill. Whenever I was breastfeeding I would take the "mini pill" and it seemed to work until my baby was weaned and I was ready for the full pill again.
While I was breastfeeding my third baby something shifted. I don't know what prompted it, or why it happened when it did. I suddenly hated the pill. There was nothing logical about it, but I just couldn't stand taking it anymore. The only thing I could think of was that it must not be good for my body to be getting unnecessary hormones, and if I were to continue taking the pill regularly it could potentially cause some long term problems. I had no proof of this, but it was a very strong feeling. I talked with my husband about my feelings and he was very supportive of my choice to stop taking birth control pills. I must have prayed about it, because I remember reflecting about my dilemma for a few weeks before making a firm decision. Since none of the other hormonal contraceptives seemed like a good choice, we decided to use condoms.
My fourth child was a surprise pregnancy. While we weren't planning on conceiving that soon, we accepted that it must have been the right time for her to be born, and we were thrilled to be having another baby. We had new emotions at the beginning of the pregnancy compared to the first three, simply because it felt the situation was thrust upon us without our planning it, and it took some time to get over the initial shock and embrace the pregnancy. I still felt very strongly that I should not change our contraceptive methods, and felt that we had made the right choice.
My fifth pregnancy was likewise a surprise, and this was the hardest one to swallow. My baby was only 9 months old and still very much a baby herself. Our youngest two of five would be only 18 months apart, and my little girl had strong emotional needs and was very attached to me, quite literally, most of the time. I told my husband that the new baby had better be mellow and easy-going, because I couldn't handle two clingy babies at the same time.
I learned to have one child on each hip, and make sure there was a place for both the youngest two to sit with me and get the attention from me that they needed. It really was like having two babies, but I loved my children so much and would never have changed anything about the timing of their births. I saw the two little ones bonding in different ways than our older children had, and I felt this was partly because of how close they were in age. It was really fun to watch their interactions and see my little girl learn to share mommy with her little brother, even though it was hard for her at times.
After my fifth child's birth I decided to try natural family planning, otherwise known as the fertility awareness method. I had read the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and I felt it had solid foundations and could really work. I also really liked the idea of learning my body more deeply and watching for its cues to either achieve or avoid pregnancy. I felt like I was practicing for quite a while as I was breastfeeding my baby and trying to learn my body's pattern and cues. I was charting and marking things on the calendar, and I would let my husband know when we needed to use protection and when we didn't.
My husband would say that natural family planning didn't work, because once again I got pregnant unexpectedly. I disagree, and here's why. I had marked my dates on the calendar, and in the heat of the moment when my husband asked if we needed to put something on I miscalculated in my head how long it had been since my period, and I said we were fine. If I'd actually checked the calendar I would have known I was wrong and could have told him otherwise. One thing I've learned about fertility awareness is that it works, as long as the people using the method are doing it right. Just as the birth control pill only works if you take it regularly, natural family planning requires you to pay close attention and not guess. Although that pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I had no regrets about my decisions.
So here I am, not knowing how to approach this. I'm not sure I want to use fertility awareness, but I know for sure I'm not going to take extra hormones ever again unless there's a medical need other than contraception. If I've learned anything from my birth control experiences, it's that I'm not the one in control. I really feel that "birth control" only provides the illusion of control.
I've known women who repeatedly got pregnant while on multiple forms of birth control, and on the contrary I've also know women who stopped taking their birth control only to find they couldn't conceive when they wanted to. Some needed additional help conceiving, and some just took longer, sometimes much longer, than they'd hoped. What it comes down to is that we try to control our bodies, many times unsuccessfully.
I no longer feel the need to control this aspect of my life, and I'm finding I'm much more willing to leave it in God's hands now. If things had gone according to plan I wouldn't have the beautiful children I have now, and for that I'm really glad I wasn't in control.