My Story: A Recovering Birth Control Addict


I have had medical issues with my cycles since they started at the age of 12. For a year I was too embarrassed to tell my mom, or anyone outside of my journal, that just about everything was wrong with them. You name it; I probably experienced it. So when the time came for me to go to the doctor because I was literally miserable, the pill was my miracle. Instantly everything was resolved and at the age of 13 I wasn’t thinking about sex, so this was solely medical in nature.

I was on the pill for five years before I sat back down with my doctor and talked about the side effects, namely if it caused abortions. I was really coming into my faith at that point and had begun hearing how my faith denounced the use of birth control. I never really got an answer as to why, except I had heard somewhere that it caused abortions. 

Now, I wasn’t having sex, but I was in a relationship I knew was destined for marriage. It was a ways off, and we were trying our best to wait, but I knew the day for that life-giving embrace was coming. So I asked my doctor, “Does this cause abortions?” She said no. How was I supposed to know that my medical professional used a different definition for when life began than I did? I had told her my concerns were religiously based, but either she didn’t know her definition of life (implantation: when embryo imbeds in uterine lining) and mine (fertilization: when egg and sperm meet) were different, or didn’t think it was relevant. Regardless I felt that it was time to stop using the pill because I had been on it for five years. There’s just something that feels wrong about taking medication like that for too long and that feeling had no religious basis for me.

I was off the pill for about three months when my cycles went crazy again (because the pill doesn’t cure anything, just masks it), and this time the pain from the cramps had me sitting in front of a toilet my entire first week of college. I went racing back to my miracle pill.
The summer we started dating <3
That same year my steady boyfriend decided to convert to Catholicism (yay!). It was a fun and enlightening process, with him as candidate and me as sponsor. We learned a lot as a couple about our now mutual faith. Then, near the end of the process, we went on a retreat for his Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). I vividly remember sitting down with the other couples, many of them boyfriend-girlfriend like us, when the priest opened the floor to questions. He wanted us to ask anything about our faith. The girl next to me asked, “Is birth control a sin? Is it OK to use?” My head whipped around to face the priest, and I braced myself for the answer. I didn’t want to give up its magical qualities. His answer was, “It’s not dogma, so no worries.” Phew! Missed that bullet.

I went the next few years on the pill when my boyfriend asked me to marry him our junior year of college. I of course said YES! I had only been waiting three and a half years! We set the date for two weeks after graduation, so a year-and-a-half engagement (aka forever!). Near the end of eternity we went to our pre-cana (pre-marriage) class. When the subject of birth control came up, I clammed up. I didn’t want to hear what they had to say. I had medical reasons for being on the pill. I wasn’t hurting anyone by being on the pill, and we were SO NOT ready for kids. But I did hear one important thing. There was another option, natural family planning (NFP). I had NEVER heard that before this class, but it was enough of a seed for later down the road.

At the age of 24, having been on the pill for a total of 10 years, one and a half of which were as a married couple, my new group of young adult, Catholic friends started talking about birth control like it was evil. I wanted to throw up the I-have-medical-reasons-for-the-pill card, but didn’t. This was partially because I didn’t want to look like a “bad” Catholic, but also because this group had already tested my faith tremendously and I had grown because of it. Maybe this was another test. 

It took a few months, but I eventually went online and found CCLI’s website because I remembered this thing called NFP from our pre-cana class. I watched their YouTube videos and started crying. I’ve never felt God so clearly ask me to change as I did in that moment. That night I went to Ben with my concerns. Being the truly amazing man that he is, he said, “Let’s learn more.” There was no hesitation. He wanted me to feel comfortable with the medication I was taking because it was my body.

Before the first class was over, I was completely on board and ready to take over the driving! Kendra and her husband, Drew, mentioned in that class that they would be moving away soon and that the area needed new teachers. It was like God saying, do you want what I’ve made ready for you? I was ready to sign up.

Following that first class and continued research, my husband and I learned many things about how our bodies work naturally, about our marriage, and about God’s incredible love for us. We learned a deeper and more profound respect for the body and subsequently for human beings in general. We also became open to the possibility of children. My view on children as gross, scary, time-consuming little monsters changed to how God wanted me to see them: gifts and a perfect reflection of not only His love, but my husband’s and my love for each other. 

I also learned I have hypothyroidism, or a thyroid that produces necessary hormones too slowly. This is a cause for infertility, and my charts have shown me I will have issues conceiving. But now I have the tools and the knowledge to attempt to fix that before Ben and I are ready for children. I learned through NFP that vitamins, diet, and exercise can greatly improve my health and in conjunction, my fertility. No more crazy cycles, and my new miracle pill is a vitamin.

I have also learned that my risk for cancer, especially breast cancer, is significantly higher due to my prolonged usage of hormonal birth control. As such, I know I need to be mindful of screenings and taking every necessary precaution to prevent that from happening or catch it as soon as it does.

Wedding Day. Photo by Deidre Lynn Photography
 Now, this story is not a description of my “out” for using birth control for as long as I did. I could have, at any time, dug deeper and asked more people what was right and wrong, or healthy and unhealthy. I chose to listen only to what I wanted to hear. It wasn’t until God sent people who spoke directly to my face that I finally listened. We need more of those people! We need more people that love us enough to tell us the hard truths and steer us toward a happiness worth working for. My husband and I want to be some of those people so we’re continuing to educate ourselves to tell other people what we believed to be true and healthy. Natural Family Planning offers a window to the body and its health, but also to total love and life.

6 comments:

blairarden said...

Thank you so much for being so open with your NFP story. I know that with wanting be a "good" Catholic women, we can sometimes blind ourselves away from the aspects of our faith that are directly related to us. This is a beautiful example of when you let go of your fears of God's plan and really let him take over beautiful amazing things can take place.

I also wonder just for my own curiosity what type of NFP you teach? My husband and I practice the Creighton Method and I have really never felt more empowered by my body then I do now. Thanks again for sharing!

Karina and Ben said...

Thanks! God's plan is truly beautiful, and I'm happy we're following a small part of what he has planned for Ben and I as a married couple.
And to answer your question, we are teaching the Sympto-Thermal Method. I've heard a lot of good things about Creighton and would love to learn it someday soon.

Christina said...

Hi Karina! My name is Christina Mead and I am the Web Content Editor for LifeTeen.com. I was wondering if you'd be open to us sharing this blog on LifeTeen.com for our teen audience. I think your witness is powerful and would be a great example to young women. Please email me at cmead@lifeteen.com if you'd be open to this idea! Thanks and God bless.

Anonymous said...

What about girls who have miserable cycles and don't have hypothyroidism? Not everyone's problem's can be solved with " vitamins, diet, and exercise".... what advice do you have for young Catholic women in that situation? I agree that birth control is not a "miracle pill" but what other options are there for ovarian cysts, 10-day periods, and severe PMS/PMDD?

Karina and Ben said...

Hey, Anonymous,

I thought about leaving a comment, but I had way too much to say so I wrote a post for you. http://pretty-bones.blogspot.com/2013/01/what-about-miserable-cycles.html. Check it out. I have even more to say so if you want to know more, keep asking those questions!

Lee Gran said...

Your love story is inspiring and your struggle to be good Catholics is commendable.