Author’s note: This is the first in a series of blog posts by a married man who learns most things (unfortunately) through trial and error, with lots of error. He often fishes on the wrong side of the boat, but is always grateful to hear the master telling him to put out into the deep and let down his tackle for a catch on the other side of the boat. This is his account of some of the things that actually happen in the deep, deep waters of a married Catholic couple who is simply trying to be faithful.
June 7, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — My wife and I had trouble conceiving when we were first married in 2004. After our daughter came two years later we again had trouble conceiving. Being open to a larger family, we went to a healing service to ask the good Lord for his help.
It came our turn to be prayed over. We told the priest we were having trouble conceiving and wanted more children. As he was praying over us, he started smiling. Then he started laughing. I asked him what he was laughing about. “The Lord has much in store for you,” he said. “You have nothing to worry about.”
Shortly thereafter we conceived our second daughter. In less than a year after she was born we had our third. Then came our son, another daughter, another son, another son, and three miscarriages in between.
Yup, our fertility had clicked. It seemed that all I had to do was look at my wife and she became pregnant. Now I knew what the priest had been laughing about.
While my wife and I dearly love our seven living children and our three little blessings in heaven, we realized that we needed more space in between births. My dear wife needed time to recuperate and build up her body after the exhausting months of nursing day and night. The baby just born also needed time to be loved and nurtured before another baby became the priority. We saw these as serious reasons.
My wife and I don’t believe in using pills or plastic to block the gift of fertility. We actually see contracepted sex as morally evil. Yeah, I know, sounds crazy. Let me explain.
We believe God made sex for the purpose of making babies and bonding with your spouse. Contraception essentially poisons both of these. It blocks the baby-making purpose of sex by rejecting fertility. By rejecting fertility, one spouse is basically telling the other that there is a part of them that they want nothing to do with. And out the window goes that unconditional self-giving and receiving-of-the-other in love that marriage needs in order to survive.
So, my wife and I didn’t want to poison our love with any kind of contraception. Our only options to postpone pregnancy for a time were to completely abstain (a struggle for any man) or to only come together when my wife was not fertile.
So, we learned a fertility awareness method.
A rather significant problem arose when it turned out that my wife had various fertility signs during many days of her cycle, not just around the days of ovulation. Bummer. This meant waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the right signs that would permit us to come together during the infertile time. And added to this is that she sometimes has a cycle length that is longer than for most women.
Ok, I’ll be honest. I usually find these times of waiting a trial. And no, there can’t be any kind of cheating during this time. No masturbation, single or mutual, since the former is a selfish perversion of the sexual act, and the latter really amounts to contracepted sex (see above).
The only real option to safeguard the beauty and holiness of the sexual act during this time of abstinence was self-mastery. And yes, self-mastery is difficult, a big learning curve.
If I wasn’t going to wallow in self-misery or fantasyland during this time, I had to learn to control my impulses and desires. And this is where I would sometimes fail, pushing past a boundary that we had set so as to not reach the point of no return. Or, me anticipating so much the time when we could finally come together that I would fail to find joy in the time that we had together right here and now.
One thing that I’ve found is that abstinence during fertility signs becomes a kind of mirror that shows me things about myself that I don’t really like to see. Ugly things. Such as how selfish I can be. How little I can control my impulses and desires. And how easily I can lose focus on what’s really important in our relationship, like the fact that we’re together, that we’ve been faithful and true to one another all these years, and that we’re still crazy-mad in love with one another.
I can just imagine people scratching their heads, wondering why my wife and I put ourselves through this struggle when there are such easy alternatives out there that make it possible for a man to never have to deny himself.
I’ve thought about this very question long and hard. I probably don’t have the perfect answer yet, but I know it has something to do with love being about denying oneself for the sake of the one you love.
I truly do love my wife. I have no doubt that contraception would poison our love. So, if we’re going to space our children, we have to abstain during the fertile times. This means that love demands that I not only deny myself during fertile times, but that I learn to find peace and even joy in it. Yup, that’s a tall order for any man, but I really think it’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Don’t laugh at this, but my wife suggested that we both make a little daily sacrifice with the intention of helping us be victorious during these times. I’ve found this has made a rather significant difference for me. It’s pretty amazing to know that I have my wife’s prayer support to back up my own (often pitiful) efforts at mastery of self.
Jesus said something about this denial thing too. He said that those who wish to be his followers must deny themselves and take up their cross. Sometimes prolific fertility can seem like a cross, but when I really think about it, I realize that it becomes an occasion during our child-spacing times to show my wife how much I really love her. And every man, including me, loves to show his wife how much he loves her.