I can’t believe it’s already been almost two months since you called me with news I should’ve been expecting: You’re engaged! Ever since you and Mark started dating last August, I knew God was orchestrating something special. After all, isn’t it just like Him to continue to lead us down parallel paths?
When we met five years ago, we began noticing how we were often going through the same stuff at the same time in our extraordinary, long-distance friendship: our senior year of college, relationships, internships, jobs, break-ups, and every up-and-down in between. Then, when I got married in November with you standing between my sister and my longtime pen pal, I should’ve guessed that your turn would be right around the corner. Now, on September 9th, it’ll be my turn to stand behind you (I’m so thankful that you’ve asked me to be your matron of honor!) while you and Mark say “I do.” What a wonderful day that will be, Jess! I can’t wait for you to become Mark’s wife—it’s just another journey we’ll take side-by-side, together!
In the meantime, there’s so much to do—so many decisions for you to make. I’m glad there’s been a few I could try to help you with, even though I’m so far away. But I know there are a handful of decisions only you, Mark and God can make together. That’s actually why I’m writing.
You and I have always been candid with one another, which is something I appreciate about our friendship. So, when you came to me looking for some advice on birth control, I was happy to share my experience with you, hoping I could save you some of the confusion and frustration I felt during the first couple months of my marriage.
I’ve told you before how Erran and I made the birth control decision fairly quickly during our three-month engagement: Following in the footsteps of my married Christian girlfriends, we would give the birth control pill a try. It appeared to be the perfect “quick fix” for a couple who didn’t want to have children right away: easy, painless and, from what I gauged, mostly foolproof. I remember my trip to the gynecologist and the subsequent trip to the pharmacy vividly. It seemed so simple—and weird. As I took the bag of pills home, I couldn’t shake the strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. At the time, I think I just thought it was weird to be at this very adult place in life, but in hindsight, I think that’s when the Holy Spirit started convicting me of the mistake we were making.
I don’t remember exactly when I started sensing a voice telling me not to take the pills, but I do recall the voice’s consistency. I was able to suppress that voice for awhile. Our wedding came and went, and I thought it would go away, but it didn’t. The voice got more and more urgent.
“You need to stop taking these,” the voice insisted. It wasn’t a harsh voice, but very gentle and very concerned.
In the back of my mind, I started to question what God thought about our decision. It’s not that Erran and I hadn’t prayed about it beforehand; I just assumed that what was right for my Jesus-following friends was right for me. I slowly began to awaken to the fact that I was not experiencing peace about our decision.
When I mentioned my concern to my husband, he shared with me that he hadn’t been at peace with our decision, either. And it wasn’t just that nagging voice that woke me up at this point—it was the fact that I was starting to experience some strange effects. There was a weird tingling—almost numbness—in the back of my legs that I never had before. I was more crabby than usual at certain times and I was getting headaches more often than I ever had before. Perhaps the most noticeable for my husband was my lack of desire to be intimate with him. Especially as a newlywed, I expected to be more interested in sex than I was.
As much as these side effects scared me, I seemed to be more afraid of getting pregnant. We had agreed that we would wait a year (God-willing) before trying to conceive. While Erran was open to what the Lord had for us and our family, I was rigid about that timeline. My desire to control that, to the point that I was possibly harming my body, was another wake-up call. I realized I wasn’t making any room for God to give us a child, if it was in His will. I knew I had to release my grip.
I began researching what Christian sources had to say about birth control pills and what our other options were, as far as family planning was concerned. I discovered that there are few, solid Christian viewpoints out there on the Pill (aside from the Catholic point of view), which only left me with more questions. They didn’t need answers, though. No matter what others had decided, my conviction (and my husband’s) was clear: I would go off the Pill and we would try Natural Family Planning.
That happened January 1st and it was the best decision we could have made. The side effects subsided and peace reigned in our hearts again. I continued to do research after that and discovered message board after message board, describing the personal struggles of women who have suffered through depression and other debilitating effects due to the Pill. Reading these accounts, I was both angry and relieved—angry that I thought the fine print on the Pill packaging wouldn’t apply to me and that my doctor never led me to believe that such a harmless drug was actually not so harmless, but relieved that I was off of it. I thanked God for the Holy Spirit’s persistence with me and for saving me from any further damage than what I might have already done to my body.
The past several months have been a waiting game. First, to wait for my body to regain normalcy after the Pill, I was told I would need to allow my body time to rid itself of the hormones and return to regular cycles again. God was really working on my heart around this time, and Erran and I decided we were open to the possibility of having a child. We strayed slightly from the “avoiding” Natural Family Plan. When I got pregnant a month later and miscarried, I was convinced the Pill was still plaguing me. I’ll never know the truth, but in my heart, I believe the Pill was involved in preventing me from carrying a healthy child at that point. I played the waiting game again, as my body recovered from the miscarriage. Six months later, I think my body is finally back to some sort of normal.
Jess, I know you and Mark are wrestling with the birth control decision. We’ve talked about it and you’ve told me how you are attracted to the Pill because it seems so easy. You take a pill and you’re protected. For us, that was true. We never became pregnant on the Pill. We could be intimate whenever we wanted. It was convenient. But it’s deceptive, too, Jess. There were consequences we faced that I never dreamed would be part of the equation.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I know I’m not a medical expert. I’m not a spiritual advisor, either. I don’t know if the Pill is really wrong for every woman or if it was just for me. All I have is my experience—our testimony—of how God delivered us from continuing down a path that would have been wrong for me as a woman, us as a couple and our future family. I hope that you and other brides-to-be will examine their hearts and truly do their research before making this very personal, very important choice.
I’ll be honest, Jess—it’s been so tough for me to stand back while you make this decision. I want so badly to protect you and Mark from what we went through, but I know I can’t. I need to trust that our Heavenly Father will guide you and your future husband through this process and ultimately help you to make the right decision.
I just want you to know that I support you. I don’t know what God will lead you to do or what choice you will make for your new family, but no matter what, I love you and I am so thrilled for you and Mark. Marriage is a journey like no other, and I am excited, as you have described it, to be along for the ride. Erran and I are praying for you both!