One more thing I’m thankful for

This holiday weekend, as I prepared Thanksgiving dinner, dodging children underfoot, I thought about what I might say when we had the inevitable “tell everyone something you’re thankful for” moment around the dinner table. My ideas ranged from the brutally honest “that I don’t have to touch raw turkey skin for another year,” to the brown-nosing “that I can be here with all of you,” to the true-but-not-appropriate for polite company “for my IUD.”

It’s true. I’m very thankful for my IUD. Just as I was usually thankful for the birth-control pills I took (when I wasn’t pregnant or trying to get that way) for the first decade of our marriage.

We got married when we were both 22. I was a new college graduate, about to start my first teaching job. My husband still had a year left before he got his bachelor’s degree, but he had big plans, involving years of school and lots of postgraduate training. We lived in BYU’s Wymount Terrace, where pregnancy seemed spread through the apartment complex as quickly as swine flu on a band trip. I desperately wanted to join what I perceived to be the cool kids’ table filled college students (and their babies!) who were so righteous that they didn’t let their lack of a college degree from getting started multiplying and replenishing.

During that year, the pill I swallowed each morning tasted bitter. Once we got out of Provo and both started grad school, I was relieved that we’d waited. But the morning I threw out the pill pack and we started  “trying” was one of the happiest days of my life.

My grandma got married in 1950, when she was 19. Before her fourth wedding anniversary she had three children. She talks about being devastated when she found out she was pregnant for the third time, and spending the first year of my aunt’s life in an overwhelmed fog. She went on to have three more babies by the early 1960s, which is also when the FDA approved the pill (until that time condoms were one of the only reliable reversible options). While she certainly doesn’t regret any of her kids, she would have felt mentally healthier and better prepared for the challenge of raising her large family if she’d had more control over when they arrived.

We should be thankful to live in a day when many of us can choose when to have children, and how many children to have.  For my husband and me, having babies right away when we had so much school ahead of us would have been devastating financially. The three years we had together before our first baby cemented our relationship as a couple, which was especially beneficial for us because my husband spent much of our four kids’ baby years working insane hours. We’ve also been exceptionally lucky that once we felt it was the right time to add another child to our family, we stopped birth control, started baby boot camp, and got pregnant pretty quickly.

I don’t think birth control necessarily removes Heavenly Father’s will from the family planning equation, as long as we’re open to the whisperings of the Spirit and relatively flexible to adjusting our plans. In the days before birth control, “another blessing from heaven” was usually the simple biological result of fertility and sex, regardless of will, mental health, or added strain to already stretched resources. If we as women of the first world are grateful for birth control, it’s likely that reliable birth control has had an ever greater impact on the lives of women in the third world.

Now that I’m done having babies, I’m very thankful for my IUD. I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant, don’t have to remember to take a pill every day, and don’t even have to mess with a monthly period. And the fact that it’s reversible really helps with my tendency to “what if” every situation.

I recognize that the choice of when and if and how to control when we add children to our families can be intensely personal, but if you too are thankful for the pill, or your IUD, or your husband’s vasectomy, or if you fear that our desire for control sometimes manifests itself too strongly, speak up. We want to hear your story.

About Shelah

(Editor-in-Chief) lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids. She has a BA in English Teaching from BYU, an MA in American Culture Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA in Creative Writing at BYU. Her work has been published in Dialogue, the Mormon Women Project, Irreantum, BYU Studies, and Segullah. When she’s not writing or wrangling, she can often be found running through the city in the pre-dawn darkness.

107 thoughts on “One more thing I’m thankful for

  1. Not what I expected on Segullah.
    Feel a bit protective of friends’ feelings who are still desperately trying for, and praying for children.
    Sorry! Just had to speak up on their behalf.

  2. I just linked over to the “Magic 8 Ball” post and enjoyed reading that discussion along with this post. I too am grateful for my IUD, although I haven’t gotten over the guilt I feel for having it. Guilt over whether the decision to get it was selfish and whether I should be having more children because I “can” (I have 3 kids now, and am only 32), but I won’t rehash here the wonderful discussion others had on Magic 8 Ball about how to know if our will is in accordance to God’s will. I recently read “East of Eden” for the first time, and was especially impressed by the character Liza Hamilton. Even though she wasn’t a major character, I spent a lot of time thinking about how happily hard she worked to raise her 9 kids. It made me worry that my desire to stop after 3 kids was just a result of society telling me that spending my time sunup to sundown caring for all aspects of my family is a waste of my education. Eliza didn’t have those societal pressures and she was very happy to be such a tired matriarch. So, even though I appreciate my IUD (and very light periods), I am still adjusting to the emotions that come with having it and trying to sort through the guilt vs. gratitude.

    Side note–doesn’t the Church Handbook of Instructions advise against vasectomies?

  3. Sure, it’s sad that many try and pray for children to no avail. I would never think to downplay that trial, and I definitely don’t think that was the intent of this post. But do you seriously think that those with children should never use contraception? They should just be endlessly pregnant?

    I think contraception is definitely something to be thankful for.

  4. Huh?–I don’t think this post is insensitive to those still desperate for a baby. Just like there are posts about marriage even though Segullah has readers who are single. Similarly, a forum about busy kids might seem insenstive to a friend with a disabled child if you chose to look at it that way. We are all living in different stages of life with different challenges. This is just a forum for thought; some posts might be better for some than others.

  5. I think the control in a lot of ways is an illusion. I know lots of people who have become pregnant on birth control and lots who desperately want a child but don’t have the luxury of choosing when or if it ever happens.

    I think it is so important to acknowledge that alot of people really have no control at all over their fertility and be sensitive to that. How many times have we judged someone on the size of their family, small, large, or no children and thing they chose that? It just isn’t the case so much of the time.

    Overall I think we are better off with birth control, it works for the most part. But like you said we need to be open to the spirit and realize eventually that the most important thing is giving up our will to the Father’s – a hard thing.

  6. I have also posted about being thankful for birth control. We’ve used a variety of methods, combined with personal revelation, to plan and space our family. For a while the pill worked great, and then after two children it didn’t work so well for me. We actually successfully used Natural Family Planning (charting) for a year to avoid getting pregnant, and then used it for a cycle to get pregnant (that was fast!). I ovulate very regularly and have had no problems getting pregnant, but due to problems with my uterus I have to have c-sections and end up with long, difficult recoveries.

    I really am grateful for the technology we have. I don’t think that contraceptive devices themselves are ‘evil’ but they do give us a lot of responsibility to make sure we’re in tune with the Lord and really acting in his will. The birth of my second child was very traumatic and involved some serious complications. At the time we both were scared and wanted to never have another child. It was tempting to do something permanent at that time. I’m glad we used something else and waited for a while, because revelation came after three years that we should have one more. I actually wish I could get an IUD but I can’t, so we’re planning on going the surgical route. Yes, the Handbook advises members to avoid it if possible, but we have both prayed about it and know it is the right decision. The one for us, not neccessarily for anyone else. Three c-sections and (so far) two cases of PPD are enough for us. I think that we should remember that the decision to use contraception or not is always personal and individual, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being thankful for it.

  7. Is it any coincidence that the advent of birth control appeared at the same time as plummeting infant mortality rates? No.

    Birth control allows women to finally have a voice in how their babies come; it is a blessing.

    I struggled with infertility and I am THANKFUL and JOYOUS that I have a modicum of choice to say Yes or No.

  8. After Thomas (my seventh child) was born I knew I needed to stop having babies for multi-faceted health and safety reasons, but wasn’t sure if a permanent procedure would be okay. Over the course of three years, my feelings changed from “well, in our circumstances it probably wouldn’t be wrong” to “it would be RIGHT.” That might sound a little extreme, but the message was very clear. I’ll never forget the night I prayed and asked the Lord if my offering in bearing children was accepted, and if I could have his blessing in pursuing permanent birth control. (I’d prayed many times, and Reed and I had prayed together as well of course, but there was something different about this prayer–it was prompted by the spirit and I had faith in a way I didn’t have in previous prayers.) I’d never felt such relief when the confirmation came, overwhelmingly and unmistakably.

    After this prayer I wanted to get my tubes tied (emotionally I thought it would be better for me to know I couldn’t get pregnant again), but my doctor strongly recommended the vasectomy. We did talk to our bishop about it (well, Reed did) and the bishop was adamant that this was a personal choice. It’s been a year now since v-day, and it’s been wonderful to have the burden lifted. I still wish I’d gotten the procedure for myself, though.

  9. I am grateful for birth control. I grew up with the impression that you could use birth control if you had to, but you were really a better person if you just let the babies come. Consequently, I had 4 babies before my 6th anniversary (3 of them before my husband finished school) and secretly wished for the infertility some of my friends were struggling with. But I couldn’t really express that sentiment in public. I know I can’t imagine the pain that comes with infertility. I’ve heard people talk about how it brings added stress to their intimate relationship with their spouse, though, and I completely understand that. I think people sometimes minimize the mental anguish that women with high fertility and birth control guilt also experience. My children are blessings and I am grateful for them. I’m even grateful for their timing in coming to our family, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t extremely difficult.

  10. “Surgical Sterilization (Including Vasectomy)

    The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. It should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgment and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer.”

    Church Handbook of Instructions, 2006, p. 188

  11. Also, I wonder if you lived in Wymount the same time that I did, Shelah. Your picture looks awfully familiar. Were you there anytime between 2000 and 2003?

  12. What a blessing birth control is. I’m one of those women whose fertility would cost me my life if I’d been born just 50 years earlier. My body likes to get pregnant. I resume menstruating exactly 28 days after giving birth!!! We get pregnant the very month we decide to, and even a time when we were on birth control. Two of my children are not quite a year apart–”Irish Twins” they’re called.
    And every delivery has been accompanied by complications; what is easily begun is finished with great difficulty for me.

    My maternal grandmother was similarly fertile and a devout Catholic. She didn’t have the choices I have. So, after six children, she literally moved out of the marital bed. She and my grandfather were never to share a bedroom again because she knew the inevitable result. I wonder how that must have changed their relationship?

    I am truly thankful that I don’t have to choose between my health and my husband!

  13. I’m someone else who’s grateful for birth control. Personally, after having a lot of miscarriages and knowing that it wasn’t time for us to have another baby, I am very glad I could use birth control and not have any more miscarriages for a while. Now I’m grateful for an easily-removeable, but very reliable IUD.

    I think children are a wonderful and important blessing. But I do not think they are the only wonderful and important blessing that can come to a family, and sometimes there are things a couple needs to do that cannot be done with a large family, or with pregnancies and babies.

  14. Birth control is definitely a blessing. For those who are extremely fertile, having the constant fear of yet another pregnancy looming over your head can seriously interfere with your sex life and having true intimacy with your husband. I don’t think that’s what God intended. Husbands and wives are supposed to be able to share a true bond, and that isn’t possible if the wife is in constant fear that she’ll have another baby because she already has a passel she can hardly take care of and she’d exhausted and the family is stretched to the limit.

    I see families you just “let them come” and then get into financial and other straits. And I can’t help but think that God not only gave them the ability to prevent the problem but also the brains to do so, and instead, they’re making children suffer for their own stupidity.

    I believe contraception is a God-given gift–especially in today’s world, where smaller families are a MUST. Parents simply CANNOT spiritually arm children against the adversary properly if there are fifteen of them. Two generations ago, fifteen kids could all be raised well, mostly because they were all working together on a farm, and the older kids raised the younger ones, and everyone was happy. In today’s world? Yeah, right.

    Oh, and I was thankful for my IUD for a year–until I got pregnant with it and miscarried. I didn’t dare repeat THAT, so now I’m thankful for my quarterly Depo shot. Some day I’d love a V-day around here, but my husband feels uncomfortable about anything permanent. I was hoping it would be an IUD forever, but after my last one? Nuh-uh.

  15. #16, I sympathize with your first and last paragraphs. But your middle two are out of line. If we’re going to have a discussion on such a sensitive topic as birth control, it’s imperative to avoid mud-slinging. I suggest you apologize.

  16. I too am so, so, so grateful for my IUD! I am so grateful that my husband and I waited almost three years to have our first, and I am grateful that I can prevent pregnancy right now when I am not physically or emotionally ready for another child. (My baby is 19 months.) Plus, we don’t have health insurance, so we couldn’t financially handle another pregnancy right now. I am definitely one who views birth control as a blessing from God.
    I actually just learned last week that my mom had her tubes tied after she had my youngest sister (and I learned a lot more about my mom’s sex life than I ever wanted to know– eek!). But I was surprised to also learn that my mom didn’t tell any of us because she didn’t want us to think that she didn’t value her children or that she didn’t like being a mom. Of course I don’t judge her! But my mom came from an age when birth control was in its early stages of being acceptable with the church. I think she probably *was* judged by a lot of people.
    My aunt had nine children, the last four all one year apart. And she suffered very serious post partum depression. (My entire family is incredibly fertile.) Her husband was a stake president, and for a stake conference, they met with a general authority. My aunt was pregnant with her ninth and they asked the GA what the church stance was one getting one’s tubes tied. The GA said that was absolutely not an option. It was wrong. No way, no how. My aunt was devastated. The next day, the GA asked to meet with them again and he said he needed to clarify. He said that what he had said was his opinion as a person. But, speaking as a GA, personal revelation always trumps. He said that if they felt it was right for their family, then they needed to follow the spirit. So they did! I’m sure if my aunt would have had any other children it would have been disastrous. Luckily that GA was prompted to speak to them again and he listened to the prompting.
    Anyway, long story, but some people can have a million kids and do great, others can only have one or two before they are maxed. It’s 100% personal– between a woman, her husband, and the Lord. Each woman’s offering as a mother will be different. It is up to her to decide what is acceptable to the Lord.

  17. Anon #16-
    “smaller families are a MUST. Parents simply CANNOT spiritually arm children against the adversary properly if there are fifteen of them. Two generations ago, fifteen kids could all be raised well, mostly because they were all working together on a farm, and the older kids raised the younger ones, and everyone was happy. In today’s world? Yeah, right.”

    That’s a pretty extreme view. I know several families with well over 10 children in this generation are “spiritually armed”. Sure, it doesn’t work for everyone, but to assume that there is some number threshold where suddenly parents are incapable of good parenting across the board is pretty silly.

  18. Anon #16, “Parents simply CANNOT spiritually arm children against the adversary properly if there are fifteen of them.”

    Wow.
    You must not know the incredible people I know…. Good thing my parents stopped at twelve!
    (And thank heavens they had that choice.)

  19. I had a vasectomy many years ago with not a single regret. I think the “discouragement” quoted in no. 11 is grounded in old fashioned views against birth control that used to be dominant in the Church decades ago. I remember comparing notes with some friends at EQ a few years back, and each of us had gotten vasectomies. It has become fairly common in the Church. I think the negative slant of the Handbook is behind the times.

  20. Anon for this one just because I am a little embarrased. My question is what is the problem with just using a condom or some other form of birth control that is less invasive or permanent? I know it can be annoying but lots of things in life are. (not meant to flippant)

    Personally I wouldn’t go the permanent route because there have been a lot of times in my life when I thought I was “sure” of something and then later realized I wasn’t. That would be horrible to have that happen with having kids. Maybe that is why there is the counsel to not do anything permanent except in certain circumstances. But of course going the permanant route will be right for some people. For me, I would be too nervous to.

    This kind of decision is a very emotional and personal one, though, and I don’t think any of us have the right to judge other people on their decisions in this matter. Everyone has the right to personal revelation and that should be our assumption when we view others. My question isn’t meant to be judgemental, just sincerely wondering.

  21. The only thing I want to add to the discussion is that all bc options should be researched for health and side effects. When I got a bc pill I read the entire pamphlet included with it. There ARE actual risks in all bc options and it is irresponsible to just “take a pill” or “have a procedure” or “do nothing” without finding out about the risks or side effects.
    Only you can make the best decision about what is best for your body and your life.
    Also, remember that one bc option might be best for your twenties, but another might be best later. Your health changes as time goes on so you have to take the time to reexamine your choices.
    We have the luxury of choices and the ability to be educated about these choices. Let’s encourage each other to get accurate information about the choices out there. Simple testimonials about the options never paint the whole picture yet so many couples make a choice based on “this is what my friend did/does and she says it works great” and a 2 minute consult with a doctor (who never really fully explains it). Also, choices are constantly changing so there are now newer methods that you may be unaware of.

  22. Speaking as one that DOES appreciate and use birth control to a degree, I have some thoughts that I wouldn’t want anyone to take as critical of choices. Really, I’m just wondering out loud, and I don’t think this really conveys my actual opinion on the subject, but why wasn’t there always a natural form of birth control available if we are supposed to be able to make these choices? I mean, other than self proscribed abstinence, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nothing else existed for thousands of years. Why do we only now have a choice in the matter? I just think it’s interesting that we feel the need for sex to create the close bond in marriage – what would we do without birth control in this area? Risk it? Or avoid it?

    Again, I’m not saying that I believe one way or the other – I’m all for control over my body, but I also like my choices to have a natural component to them…and I can certainly see how the argument can be made for many other medical advances, but as I read the comments, this question kept knocking around in my mind.

  23. anon, even non permanent bc can have side effects. Condoms can break and can interfere with the pleasure of sex for some couples. Pills have risks like stroke and blood clots, or reduced sex drive. The rhythm method fails a lot. IUDs can increase periods, or other IUDs with hormones can decrease them with other hormonal side effects and all IUDs are out if you’ve ever had an ectopic pregnancy. Vasectomies can leave men with testicular pain or difficulty orgasming. Pregnancy past a certain age increases many risks to a woman and her baby.
    So, with all those side effects and risks that a couple has to weigh, I think that sometimes they choose a permanent one. From what I have read is that those who make a permanent decision at a young age are more likely to regret it. I would discourage anyone from making a permanent decision who just had baby #2 and has post partum depression and is 28 years old. You just can’t really know what life has in store for you and how things change, how you change in a few short years. However, if someone is older and is really thinking it through, it may actually be a better decision than a nonpermanent option. I can’t really say.

  24. Joy- I had a similar experience to what you’re going through when I got my IUD (I was 32 too and had just had my fourth baby). Now that she’s almost 3, and I’m busier than ever, feeling very much like a tired matriarch (if matriarchs hang out in minivans), the guilt has lessened somewhat.

    Heathermommy- I think you’re right that we have less control than we sometimes think we do, but even having a measure of control feels like a plus to me.

    Karen M- Nope, that wasn’t me. I’m old– I was there in 97-98.

    anon/Kevin/others who referenced the handbook of instruction– the fact that the only place you can find this stance against permanent forms of birth control has always puzzled me. If the decision to try to have or stop having children is prayerful decision between a couple and God, then it’s interesting to me that such a bold statement is put in a document that so few people have access to. I personally tend to agree with Kevin that it’s a relic of an older era’s thinking about birth control, but I know that everyone doesn’t see it that way.

    Amira– I love what you said here “I do not think they are the only wonderful and important blessing that can come to a family, and sometimes there are things a couple needs to do that cannot be done with a large family, or with pregnancies and babies.” That’s so true.

    #22– I don’t presume to know why other couples choose their forms of birth control, nor would I judge them for their choices, but I personally think condoms are icky. We used them for a few cycles after I’d gone off the pill but when we got cold feet about ttc, and both times we gave up on them and I ended up pregnant. You’re right that condoms, and FAM/NFP are non-invasive and don’t mess with hormones and stuff like that, and are the best option for a lot of people. I also think that in general people (other than Michael Scott) don’t take the decision to have a vasectomy or a tubal ligation lightly, and don’t do it until they’re SURE they’re done. If they can have a procedure that will stop fertility that takes an hour and gives them a couple of decades of not needing to fumble in the nightstand for a condom every time, then that sounds like a pretty tempting option.

  25. I know this will be a thread jack, but you did ask what we were thankful for. So, I a thankful for the combined RS/priesthood meeting we had Sunday that was about using the internet…which prompted my husband to check my kids’ search histories.

    I say I’m thankful, but I am also devastated. And now we have found out my teenage son has a porn addiction.

    I can’t really tell anyone. And I need support. This is so hard.

  26. I don’t have any problem with the Church stance on sterilization as stated in the handbook. It is a serious procedure and should be taken seriously. Most people I know who have had it done have received ‘divine confirmation of their decision through prayer’. The topic of why the Handbook is not more accessible to members is probably best left to another day…

  27. I didn’t mean to offend.
    I guess I just felt like a conversation like this would be more appropriate in a private setting, with close personal friends — with no kids at home.

  28. Just a shout out for the IUD! It has been terrific for us without having to make the “final” decision. I had four kids by 32 then took a long break and had our little guy at 38. So grateful i could choose, and so grateful I left my options open! What would have been unbearably hard at one stage became a fabulous blessing a few years later.

  29. anon #27, so sorry.

    corktree, keep in mind that lactation was/is an effective form of birth control for many women. Thanks to the popular practice of breastfeeding through the toddler years, our sisters in ancient times weren’t categorically doomed to have babies every 9 months.

  30. Count me as one of those who nursing a toddler was not an effective form of birth control for. Despite using other barrier methods, I have kids 20 months apart.

    Like #30, I took a break and had a baby in my late 30s which was followed by my husband having a vasectomy a few months later. It was a great decision and we have no regrets — given the evolving nature of the church’s stance on birth control, I decided not to be in a constant state of worrying until menopause hits and then see the church further loosen it’s control over BC in another 20 years.

  31. #27

    There is an online program called candeocan.com that is fabulous! You will probably want to speak to your Bishop and an LDS therapist through LDS Social Services. Both can help you and him if he wants to overcome this. You’re right, it is an addiction for some. Simply a weakness that becomes a sin. He CAN learn the lifelong tools he needs to confront this! But he has to want to, you can’t make him want to defeat this.

    Back to the OP, I agree 100% and I think it’s a great blessing that we have modern birth control in our lives. We are spoiled compared to our sisters who came before us and many of our sisters in other parts of the world. As a fertile mertyl, it has been a huge blessing to me to be able to space my children to when I felt ready to handle them. People think I am crazy for having 4 children, but having them all spaced the way they are is what made it possible. It has turned out perfect for us and I know that is a huge blessing that not all are granted.

  32. I am amused. I’ve been reading this blog for a week and this is the third post I’ve read on a sex-related topic. Just this week I was in a friend’s house and noticed that she has at least five LDS-authored books about intimate relationships. Am I missing something?

    I have four kids. The first was conceived in a doctor’s office after years of tears and frustration. The next two required Clomid and patience. Number four was a surprise — while I was taking the mini-pill, when #3 was 9 months old. The kids range from 8 years to six months, and I am very overwhelmed.

    For the first time in my life, I appreciate the gift of birth control. I can finally see the other side of the coin that I judged so harshly in my early married life. Having another baby right now would not be a good choice for our family, and yet I still struggle with the idea of an IUD (I have one) or more permanent measures. I struggle constantly with wanting to do the Lord’s will, wondering what the Lord’s will is, exactly, and being able to balance my current load. Peace of mind, for now, is the card that wins.

    I think women who have large families are courageous. It’s such hard work! But because of my own life journey, I do not judge anyone on family size or birth control.

  33. Very funny! Thanks for the heads-up. The topic seems to be showing up wherever I look (here and everywhere else)…I was thinking maybe I needed to start reading between the lines for some life application. Turns out I just stumbled into a conversation in progress.

  34. Yes, well, can you blame me? A bunch of Mormon housewives speaking frankly about private matters (and sometimes getting a little stirred up in the process? It’s highly entertaining! I think my mother is blushing, and she doesn’t even know…

  35. Anon 27: A couple of years ago, The Exponent II magazine published a special issue on this topic. It might help you feel less alone and provide some insight. Lots of women — and some professionals — sharing their stories. In addition to articles, it includes LDS resources and resource books geared toward Go to:

    http://exponentii.org/issuesTOC.html

    And click on:

    Winter 2008, Volume 28 Number 4

    for the PDF

  36. I had no idea that the church handbook even mentioned permanent birth control. (Of course I’ve never, ever looked at the church handbook, so I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked.) But I know loads of men in the church who have had vasectomies, including my husband. We chose to have the proceedure because there came a point where we felt we were getting too old to have a new born in the house. I just don’t want to be changing diapers in my 40′s and attending HS graduations in my 60′s. That may be okay for some women, but not for me. Is that selfish? We did pray about our decision and while I didn’t receive a lightening bolt answer, I haven’t had any regrets and it’s been at least five years.

  37. I had the misfortune of ending up with the really funky side effects related to my IUD. So no more IUD for me, since I don’t enjoy brain surgery. So, with it out, and the speculation that the hormones in the IUD were responsible, which in turn ruled out any Pill, or shot, I find myself pregnant with #5. Which is great, since we were already contemplating another little one, the others ranging in age from 9 down to 2. I am nervous for what I will do after this baby comes, since we have known for a long time that there are at least 6 babies to come to us. (all together, not 6 more!!) I almost wish for twins, to be done with, since I would most likely end up with a c-section and I would just have my tubes tied. I would love for my husband to get the big V, but that isn’t even on the table, which I think is lame, since men should be just as responsible for reproductive issues as women. Just because we are the ones that pop the babies out, shouldn’t mean that we have to take care of everything! When will they develop a pill for men? Or and IUD that they can have implanted?(that would be the day!!)
    I am very thankful for birth control, but, I wonder if we are messing our bodies up with all the stuff we pump into them.

  38. “I don’t think birth control necessarily removes Heavenly Father’s will from the family planning equation, as long as we’re open to the whisperings of the Spirit and relatively flexible to adjusting our plans.”

    I LOVE THIS! Birth control (in its many and varied forms) gives women so much agency, and so much more scope to enjoy sex. Thank you, thank you for speaking up.

  39. I am very thankful for birth control, as well. I have been a proponent for a long time — long before I was even in the running — when I did a research paper about “Margaret Sanger: Advocate of Birth Control” in high school.

    We have 4 kids, I am 38, and after my 4th c-section and the doc taking a look around, she advised us that it would be dangerous to get pregnant again. We mulled that around for 2.5 years, still using our favorite form of bc, condoms, and then 2 months ago, my dh had a vasectomy. We still use condoms, because we prefer them for tidyness, and dh can’t tell the difference. We feel good about getting the vasectomy and that it was the right choice for us. I was still a bit nervous last night, however, when the condom stayed in the bedside drawer and I realized that I’m halfway through my cycle. Hopefully that lab test he had last week was an accurate one!
    I also loved the quote that Nan referenced above (don’t have time to scroll through again to see who the original author was). Beautifully said.

  40. What a great conversation! How fabulous to see that in spite of the varied experiences, there are so many women out there with the same thoughts and questions that I have. I just wanted to add that one of the blessings of birth control for me is that it allows me to continue to care for the family that I already have. I was surprised with my first pregnancy to find out that postpartum depression doesn’t have to be postpartum–for me it starts in the first trimester (when my doctors have said there’s nothing they can do to help with it) and gets increasingly more severe after the baby is born. By using contraception, I can give myself a chance to heal, and be the best mother I can be to the kids I already have. Birth control allows me to enjoy the season I am in.

  41. I agree that birth control is a blessing, however, it makes me a little squeamish to hear flippant descriptions of couples who choose to have more children. I too lived in Wymount (disrespectfully called the “rabbit huts” in my day) while dealing with infertility.

    While I’m thankful for the option my husband and I had of waiting 3 years until trying for children, I completely respect many friends who had honeymoon babies (purposefully!).

    We are all so different and there is no “one solution” or “right way” to things regarding fertility.

  42. My view on birth control has changed. I married a little later in life. I had finished college, completed a mission, and I was almost done with graduate school. I wanted a baby right away and I was blessed with one. She was such a tough baby. I used birth control until she turned one. By then my husband had finished school and found a job. I didn’t feel bad using birth control because for seven months of that we had no job and no insurance.
    I thought I would have another baby right away, but it took one year to get pregnant. During that year I swore I would never use birth control again.
    Now four years and three more babies later, I am using it. I am so blessed with my children. I am also stretched to my limits. I feel that I could not handle another baby and remain sane. My last baby was almost ten pounds and was in the NICU with an infection for a week. That pregnancy took so much out of me. He was sickly at first and didn’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time at night for the first four months. I had no family support and was such an exhausted mother.
    I feel that I am done having children. Things are getting so much better for me now and I am getting to the point where I can enjoy my little ones again. I am in my thirties and am fairly sure that I have as many kids as I can handle. It is hard for me to recognize my limits, but it would be harder not to recognize them.
    I now do not judge anyone’s family size. I have seen women who can’t handle two children and those who can handle 14 beautifully. We all have unique physical, emotional, financial and other resources. Isn’t it wonderful that birth control gives us the option to prayerfully make choices that are right for us.

  43. Interesting topice choice, interesting conversation, which is why I love Segullah, of course. I have two children and just found out one is on the way, and have had an IUD between pregnancies twice — for us, it is the greatest invention of all time. I have been blessed to never feel guilt over this decision at all. Every family is different, and I think that is awesome! I also think sometimes we forget just how risky it is for a woman’s body to bring a child into the world. At best, it is super uncomfortable. We experienced some danger after my last child and it scared us badly — having a child right away would have been most unwise. Could this be my last pregnancy? Very likely. And I feel just fine about that. I know the Lord loves me whether my body and sanity can handle three children or twelve. I know He loves you whether you can have lots of children or no children at all. And finally, I truly feel that handbook or not, birth controls in all forms — temporary or permanent — are between you, your spouse, and your maker, and when you have made a decision — you should feel no guilt over it. Only comfort. That’s my comment from the peanut gallery.

  44. Posts like this, as well as discussions with other LDS friends, sometimes make me feel like I’m swimming in a totally different pond than everyone else! I don’t use birth control and I feel my life has been blessed by that choice.

    Let me say up front that I’m not against birth control. After prayer and the confirmation of the spirit, I have used birth control in the past for a short period of time. I know of many people who need to use it for non-selfish reasons, such as their own mental or physical health. In such cases, birth control is indeed a blessing. However, I think sometimes we are simply following the standards of the world rather than seeking out God’s will in the matter of birth control.

    I am sometimes surprised and shocked at how casually it seems so many make their choices about birth control (And before I get flamed, I’m not talking about ALL who use it). It seems to me it’s become an automatic thing that everyone uses UNLESS they decide that the timing is just right for another baby. I personally think that in a matter as sacred and as important as this, it ought to be approached the opposite way, that a married woman should do without birth control unless she feel prompted to use it.

    It also sometimes seems that the same people who eagerly affirm their belief in the proclamation, including the reminder that “God’s commandment to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force” also ridicule those who choose to have more children or *shockingly* have them close together. (See post #16 above.)

    Honestly, sometimes it can be very lonely and disheartening to be a mother of a large family and to deal with negative attitudes and judgment, especially among other members of the Church. The positive comments can sometimes be just as frustrating. “Well, it’s good that you’re having children because you just seem to handle so well,” is one I get a lot and it bothers me because if I handle it well, it’s only because Heavenly Father has led me through many tough experiences that have prepared me for where I am and what I’m doing today. It’s only by faith in Him that I have become the woman I am and the woman I’m striving to be. I’m not some super-woman like some paint me to be; I’m just an ordinary woman who tries really hard and prays a lot. I’m also not the crazy, irresponsible woman others comment to me about (though usually it’s strangers who make those comments).

    I also take exception to the comment above that
    **** “I see families you just “let them come” and then get into financial and other straits. And I can’t help but think that God not only gave them the ability to prevent the problem but also the brains to do so, and instead, they’re making children suffer for their own stupidity.” *****

    We had five children before my husband started his career, and yet the Lord provided well for us. We didn’t always have an abundance, and we worked darn hard during those student years (we fixed up two houses, DH always worked in addition to school so I could be home) but we always had enough. I treasure those times when we learned to rely on the Lord.

    I think we ought to consider the role of faith in having and rearing our children. Too often I hear from people “we couldn’t afford any more kids,” but then I see how they drop $80 on a haircut or $300 on a photoshoot. If it’s God’s will we have more children, then don’t you think He can provide for them?

    The worst reason I think for not having more kids is “I don’t feel ready yet.” If you wait until you feel ready, you’ll never have kids. Of course, there are real financial, spiritual, and emotional health concerns to take into account, but ultimately, almost no one feels ready to have a child when the time is right.

    As we put our faith in God, He makes us equal to the task of having and being enough for the children He sends. I love the Worldwide Leadership Training that was given in 2008 (you can purchase the transcript online) where Sister Beck says, “I think it is a matter of faith. We don’t have children because we have money, because we have means. We have children with faith. That feeling and attitude of seeking for the Lord’s blessings under the plan, I believe, will create miracles in the lives of people.”

    As one who has seen those miracles in the life of my own family, I can say with confidence that God helps us when we make our choices prayerfully and with faith.

  45. I have no problem with birth control at all. Used many forms of it myself, as a matter of fact. (Note the use of past tense here…I am now officially OLD.)

    We are, in my family, a a bit wary of IUDs, though, because three years ago my DIL had a pretty serious surgery resulting from hers becoming embedded in her uterus. She almost lost the uterus, in fact. The thing is, they had told her with the new IUDs she didn’t need to worry about having this happen, and they told her wrong.

    Thanks goodness she came through the surgery okay and was able to have our second grandson.

  46. I love all the support for and thoughtful discussion of birth control on this thread. We prayerfully and thoughtfully know that this is not the right time for us to gave kids, but with so many of my friends having babies and some negative attitudes towards family planning floating around, its great to see so many others celebrating the blessing of birth control and being willing to do whats best for them.

    Just a quick note from someone who is waiting until they’re ready. I doubt I’ll ever really feel ready, there will always be a reason not too. But I’m so glad I have the opportunity to do the things I need to, like law school and otherwise preparing for the future. I want to have kids, and I want to be a good mother. I’m glad I get to take the right steps for me and my family.

    Granted, I still panic about once a month when I feel like I must be late and am about to become one of the many who conceive on birth control, but all in all I’m hugely grateful for the control they give.

  47. jks – having had an ectopic pregnancy does not necessarily rule out having an IUD placed.

    I’m grateful for my IUD. It was necessary to have one placed so that I did not become pregnant during two years of cancer treatments and now I can safely that my husband and I feel our family is complete (the IUD sill stay). I’m also grateful for the five children we are fortunate to have.

  48. I’m so glad for a place to hear the thoughts of so many different women on so many topics. I’ve enjoyed November’s topic because we (LDS women) don’t have many chances to discuss sex appropriately with each other. The articles and comments this month have helped me not only think about my own thoughts, but also re-focus on my relationship with my husband–both good things for me. Thanks to Segullah and readers for providing a forum for polite, thoughtful, yet very real and emotional, discussions. I just have to keep coming here.

  49. “We should be thankful to live in a day when many of us can choose when to have children, and how many children to have.”

    “Individual choice” is what we smugly call it when we get our own way. Demographic disaster is what we call it when others get theirs. “Family planning” has led directly to the deaths of untold millions of female fetuses in Asia and elsewhere around the world. This is not to say that contraception is morally equivalent to abortion; it is not, but the underlying warrant for personal choice in reproductive matters is the same. Furthermore, widely available contraception has led directly to a permissive cultural environment in which risky sexual behavior for girls and women has been normalized; the consequences of this profound cultural shift over the past fifty years are abundantly obvious.

    And yet it is also abundantly clear that smaller family sizes are an economic boon to women and children in developing countries. Contraceptive birth control poses a intractable ethical dilemma. I’m not sure a want a world without it, and yet I cringe to hear such uncritical cheerleading for such a powerful human technology.

  50. My attitude towards birth control has always been that I would pray about it and let the Spirit guide my choices. This belief was challenged when I had a couple of religion teachers at BYU-Idaho pretty much say that using birth control was a sin, or at least come as close to they could without saying it outright. (This was only five years ago.) Now I have a pretty firm testimony that they were wrong – that the church’s position that birth control is a personal decision really means it is a personal decision, and the Spirit does guide us as we make that decision, and that the decision to use birth control is not a sin if it is made the right way.

    Even though I have used birth control for most of our married life, I have definitely felt God’s hand influencing when our children were born. There were times when having a baby would have been devastating for us financially (mostly due to the difficulty of getting health insurance that covers pregnancy without a good job), and there are times when having a baby would have been devastating physically and mentally due to some very real health problems, and during those times I really felt comforted that birth control was the right thing to do. Then, when it became apparent that getting pregnant was the right thing to do we got pregnant right away, even before I was really “ready”. The first time we were using condoms to put off getting pregnant until some supplemental insurance took effect, and one broke, and we got pregnant (losing the insurance policy and wasting the premiums we had already paid, but happy to have a baby nonetheless). My second pregnancy I got cold feet and yet managed to get pregnant in the single week between when I stopped taking birth control and decided to wait a little bit longer. Both times I felt like God was saying, “Before it was okay to wait, but now it is time to have a baby.”

    Birth control is such a personal decision, based on so many personal details that others would never know about, that it really is wrong to judge anyone about their decision to use or not to use birth control.

  51. I find the idea that it is insensitive to talk about pregnancy and birth control around infertile people a little puzzling. Just because I am infertile, doesn’t mean all you regular-bodied women have to pump out the babies every other year.

    And even as a women with dysfunctional ovaries, I am also grateful for birth control, which most of the time keeps my ovarian cysts under control.

    I wrote a couple of papers on birth control in college- one on the Church’s evolving policies regarding birth control, and another on the origins of birth control. It is seriously one of my favorite topics. I believe very strongly that it is one of the greatest things to happen to women.

  52. I sometimes wonder if it’s possible to look at someone else’s choice without second guessing my own inspiration. For instance, I look at women who avoid birth control, and I think wow, that should be me. I should have more faith. If I were a better person I could handle another baby or two.

    In some ways it was easier when the official Church policy was so unambiguously against birth control. It was like paying tithing, an easy commandment to know whether or not you were keeping. Now the commandment, from the Proclamation, is still “We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force,” but we have a good deal more leeway in the ways we apply this commandment.

    I take comfort in this account from _Lengthen Your Stride_, the second volume of President Kimball’s biography:

    “Against strong social pressures in the country favoring population control, President Kimball felt that large families were desirable… This position did not, however, mean that a woman should have all the children she could physically bear. Her general well-being, more than just her physical ability to have children, should be considered in family planning.” (page 170)

    There’s more, but I won’t quote it directly; it’s pretty long, and describes the process by which President Kimball approved the first tentatively okay-ing article on birth control in the Ensign. Good stuff, though, and very comforting to me personally. I know that God is aware of my general well-being, and I very much appreciate that it’s okay to take my mental and emotional stability into account when considering having children.

  53. Cates, you wrote while I was posting, and I agree: contraception has normalized risky sexual behavior for girls and women. And not just risky, destructive. It is good to look honestly at all the implications of birth control, and I appreciate your bringing this point up too.

  54. I am very thankful for my non-hormonal IUD. Initially, I went the pill route when first married. It left me severely depressed. I stopped taking it and because of my fertile genes, I got pregnant almost instantly. The hormones left me even more depressed and that continued throughout my pregnancy and post-partum days even with treatment. When my doctor recommended paragard while we were discussing contraception options, I felt it was a gift from God just for me. For my mental health, and for wellness of my family, options in birth control is a blessing.

    I think that whenever we talk about fertility we need to be aware that everyone is different with different trials. It is a sensitive topic because of its ties to our self-worth and divine nature as women. I felt worthless because of my inability to find joy in pregnancy while some have the same feelings about their infertility. I’m am just so thankful that no matter where you are in your child-bearing journey, there are options.

  55. I think everyone here would agree that BC or Not to BC is a personal decision, and every angle has pretty much been mentioned here. But I just wanted to mention my situation since it’s a little different.

    I’m newly IUD’d…still adjusting to it (8 weeks). In my case I didn’t get it for contraceptive purposes.

    It hadn’t ever occurred to me that my hormones could be the culprit for the intensely dark feelings I struggled to wade through for a couple weeks every month. Then I was left kind of reeling and recovering from the effects of said mood swing and before you know it, it would start all over again.

    I’d already tried medication to help with the depression, but it didn’t really impact me. When the doctor talked about the drop in progesterone and the spike in estrogen, and how that could definitely make me feel like i was the mayor of crazy town every month, we discussed how evening out my hormone levels might help. i’ve been averse to taking a BC pill, because i’m just horrible with maintaining a consistent schedule…so she suggested the Mirena IUD might help.

    I was willing to try it, and so far, I’ve actually had a pretty good response to it. I have (fairly mild) head aches often, which i used to never get. and i’ve been putting on weight, which i can’t say i’m at all happy about (just joined a gym 2 weeks ago to counteract it. hopefully.) but I am happy to report (like you all care) that my baseline emotional state has been better the past 2 months than for the last few years! which is making it easier to be a happy mommy and wife. and person!

    so i’m thankful for birth control even though for a decade i’ve wanted another child (or 2. or 3.). the hubs is thrilled about the IUD by the way. it’s definitely made a difference. we’d always used condoms, but that fear of one breaking has had him paranoid since the 1990′s. We’re in our 40s, and he’d love a V-day, but I’m reticent about that (what if he suddenly changed his mind?!) so this seems to be a good decision for me for now. (unless that weight thing doesn’t change!)

    I love this blog! ♥

  56. So many thoughts swirling in my head.

    -jks brings up important points — *every* bc method has its potential downside.

    -I agree with cates about considering the downsides in general to bc and the negative effects it has had on our culture. I also think it has the potential to have negative effects at the personal level (not just physical). I think in general we should be more sobered by the power we have to make these choices than sometimes we are. The power to create life is a big deal; to me, having a measure of control over that power is a big deal, too.

    -I think it’s unfortunate that culturally there is the assumption that to-be-married couples just go on birth control as a matter of procedure or expectation. I am also disappointed that more isn’t shared about natural methods (NFP is NOT the same as calendaring alone, and many people still don’t realize this. If we are going to talk options, they should all be on the table.) I am also sad when I hear of couples who felt impressed to start and add to their families, and they get opposition from parents or friends because they didn’t wait for some amount of time (before having children or between them — as one who had them close, I can attest to such responses — and yet what a blessing having my babies when I did and having them close has been for us). In short, I think we ought to rejoice more in people who choose to have children and who are able to do so and who welcome them into their lives and homes and hearts. And we should support couples more when they make such decisions, rather than criticizing them or thinking them foolish.

    - I think the Handbook counsel about permanent options is still good counsel. I also think caution is warranted even w/ more commonplace usage of chemicals (that from my own experiences and experiences of others whose bodies have not responded well to hormones). Again, I think choice is a blessing, but that power to choose brings with it great responsibility.

    -I think Elder Scott’s recent talk applies to this issue — life is too complex for us to be able to rely on others’ experiences or choices. We need revelation of our own to know what is right. And I know from personal experience that we can and will get answers if we seek them. Sometimes the answers will not be what we want, though…either way. (We have had a no for having more for several years (health issues and meds I need to take make having more unwise), and it has broken my heart.)

  57. One more thought–

    For all that the Church respects our agency in this regard, I’m not convinced that the teachings are SO different from before. I see many of the underlying principles as being similar…selfish motives for not having children are still condemned, we are still being reminded that ‘we believe in having children’ and that having children involves faith. Also, a woman’s health has been on the table for quite a while, so to me that suggests that the earlier counsel wasn’t just about methods (as I have studied this topic, I interpret the condemnation of ‘birth control’ as much about attitudes as anything).

    To me, then, the current counsel is not so completely different than earlier counsel, even though it’s clear we don’t hear the words ‘birth control’ said as often and it’s clear that our personal agency is acknowledged. But we do still hear reminders about our core doctrines and commandments, though, and about the responsibility that comes with the agency we have been given. I find it all sobering, even as I am grateful we can make such choices, as I might not be here now had I not had such ability to choose.

  58. (Don’t know if this would be of interest to anyone, but I did a review of past and present counsel on this topic a while back on my blog. The two-part post can be found here and here.)

    FWIW, an example of the kinds of things that can be found from even the end of the 19th century include the following:

    “As to…preventing conception, no general rule can be laid down, there are so many different circumstances distinguishing one case from another and such a difference in motives that each particular case has to be judged by itself and decided by the light of the Spirit.” (Wilford Woodruff and Joseph F. Smith to Job Pingree, Jan. 23, 1894, emphasis added.)

  59. I have used birth control for 22 years. I never thought about whether it was right or wrong. It is necessary for me. If there is anything I’ve learned in life thus far it’s that there pretty much is no black and white when it comes to looking at personal decisions. I am thankful for it. If I had had children 100 years ago, I would have died in childbirth with the first one. I am thankful for birth control for additional reasons–my migraines are under control because of the current pill I’m using. I am also in my 40′s and it is unwise for me to continue having children. I actually wanted to have a third child, but never had the confirmation to continue. I am a woman who would have loved to have had more children, but chose to prevent it for very strong reasons that were decided on between me, my husband and the Lord. There is so much I could say, but I mostly just want to send a hug to those who have put so much thought and time into their comments. Whatever you have decided to do in your life is completely fine. Even if I don’t agree with you, it is completely fine. Who am I to tell anyone else that what they have chosen to do is incorrect? It’s not really our place to judge anyone else. I cannot see into another’s heart, nor they mine. I really respect all of the stories that have been shared here. Some of these subjects are more tender than we would imagine. :D

  60. re: church handbook.
    (This is not meant to be a threadjack and FWIW)
    I have not personally read the handbook, but many years ago when we were kindly directed by my group of doctors, then politely pressured to consider a more permanent birth control solution, my husband was in the bishopbric and read the church’s stance on “surgical sterilization.” I believe one of the reasons for the stance on vasectomy is so that a future wife would not have her opportunity of having children denied.
    I’m not going to lie,
    this made me fume a bit.
    Ok. ALOT.
    For many reasons we chose not to go through with the surgical sterilization for either of us.

    I, personally, am grateful for birth control. I have been through the gamut of fertility issues. We had our first (and planned) baby 16 months into our marriage. I didn’t think I would ever do that, but we both felt strongly prompted to start our family instead of wait. It turned out to be a medical life-saver for having future children because after our first, we went on to have several years of infertility when we tried for our second. It was determined that I had severe endometriosis, and had we not been prompted to have that first child when we did, it would have gone unchecked for several years and could have had devastating results to my ovaries, tubes, intestines, you name it. I was able to have surgeries to remove what they could and then went on fertility drugs. We conceived and I miscarried after 3 months. Devastation.
    But miraculously, we were immediately blessed with another pregnancy (all on our own–no drugs!) just weeks later. As grateful as I am for birth control, I am equally grateful for modern medicine. My son and I both would have died if not for the emergency c-section I had at 36 weeks. (Again, I was prompted to go in to the hospital and demand attention–another long story–and not be sent home for “false labor”.)
    Lactation was NOT an effective means of birth control for us and we conceived again (naturally, no drugs) when my second son was 7 months old. A shock to be sure, but after the infertility and enodometriosis diagnosis, we were grateful to be able to add to our family. We were again blessed to conceive our fourth child when number 3 was 12 months old. Three in three years was almost more than I could handle, but we felt SO very blessed that we could have the children we had hoped for despite the medical issues that kept rearing their ugly heads. After 4, I really could have no more. We were miraculously blessed and so lucky to add one more to our family through adoption. What an awesome and spiritual experience for our whole family.
    The very bottom line of my TMI comment is that whatever you decide is between you, your spouse, and the Lord. Even if it seems to go against things like the church handbook, etc. I appreciated the story (courtney #18) shared about the couple and the GA. A fantastic example of listening to the guidance that Heavenly Father so graciously gives each one of us.

  61. jenny,

    FWIW, there is no such rationalization given in the Handbook. In general, members are strongly discouraged against permanent means of contraception, but the decision is ultimately to be made a matter of prayer between them and the Lord.

  62. I don’t have much to add, except that I love the comments that you guys posted throughout the night.

    Cates– thanks for bringing up the issue of the role of birth control in the rest of the world, as well as the amazing responsibility it is for each of us.

    I really appreciate all of you sharing your stories, some of them intensely personal. I agree with Emily M (and I’m paraphrasing here) that it’s easy for me to second-guess others’ approaches to family planning when they differ from my own. It’s easy to be judgmental, and hard to see how we each approach the directive to “multiply and replenish” differently. I really appreciate the great discussion we’ve had about this so far!

  63. “I have used birth control for 22 years. I never thought about whether it was right or wrong.”

    Wow. If this is true, it points to a colossal moral failure in our society.

  64. Just to keep things nice, let’s review commenting policy #2:

    No insults. Please critique the argument, not the person.

    Just want to make sure no one gets too close to that line.

  65. On a blog where actual argument is rare and the sharing of personal experience is encouraged, your policy effectively bans almost any kind of critique.

    Of course it’s nice to be nice, and it’s easier just to retreat into the fluffy relativism of personal experience. But that immediately defuses meaningful moral reasoning. Indeed, I think there’s an argument to be made that personal narrative is the enemy of moral reasoning. A moral defense of personal narrative as a moral discourse—now that’s a post I’d like to see at Segullah! :)

  66. Appreciate the historical perspectives on the Church’s stand on BC. We’re both converts, and even 30 years into the LDS experience, sometimes we don’t quite realize where attitudes are coming from, or what “everyone knows”.

    My husband had a vasectomy in May, after we’d talked, studied, and prayed the issue half to death (we’re both 44). We went looking for official counsel and found, among other things, “Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple” on the church website. So, with the Spirit’s help, we made the decision that seemed correct for our circumstances, age, and health.

    So, 6 months later, it’s a bit of a shock to hear from the Church handbook that
    a) permanent solutions are strongly discouraged and
    b) you should counsel with your bishop!

    Since we’d read that the decision rested “solely” with us, we didn’t hear this from the bishop. Or over the pulpit, or in gen. conference, or in any leadership meeting or generally-available Church publication. It makes me nervous to say, “Oh, that’s just outdated counsel,” when we’re talking about the publication in current use. For that matter, #11 could be mistakenly quoting an old book, or making it all up, and I’d never know the difference, since the book’s not available to me. It’s certainly confidential counsel, at any rate.

  67. cates, read our mission statement. Then read it again.

    If you find personal narrative to be morally corrupt, I suggest–no, I insist–that you find another blog to comment on.

  68. There’s a limit to every notion of inclusiveness, isn’t there. It’s good to know where Segullah’s is.

  69. Elder Uchtdorf from this October’s General Conference.

    “…there are so many “shoulds” and “should nots” that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.”

    This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious “experts” of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters.”

  70. Cates- We actually very rarely moderate comments on the blog. We don’t ban critique. We encourage thoughtful discussion however we try very hard to keep the tone civil (hence the not personally attacking someone i.e. saying they are stupid or things like that)On sensitive subjects we try to ensure people are familiar with our policy as well as the underlying intent.

    There is a delicate balance in using language that promotes looking at things in a different light and language that just incites people & quickly disintegrates into bickering.

    We appreciate a balance of voices.

    I for one am grateful for birth control. As someone who has a blood clotting disorder, pregnancy for me is risky and results in the loss of the pregnancy if untreated. Hence any “accidental pregnancy” is risky for me and the baby. Also as someone who experienced secondary infertility in the form of recurrent pregnancy loss I don’t find discussions of birth control insensitive but I appreciate and respect those on the the other side of the aisle for whom this is a very applicable issue.

    I appreciate this is moral issue. I do I think should be weighed seriously. It’s easy to take on a worldly paradigm of childbearing. We have to actively balance and process the seriousness of our choices within our spiritual beliefs, doctrine, and promptings.

    I see birth control as many other advances something with both good and bad uses and implications.

    I champion children & families. I love to see people have as many children as they can handle and take care of well. My hat goes off to the devoted moms of many who do an amazing job, I have seen the sacrifice many make to have large families that often goes unappreciated or unnoticed. That is not to say those with less are less diligent or good and often smaller families are limited by physical/other constraints.

  71. I feel a little badly that my postscript about vasectomies and the handbook (comment #2) created such a stir of negativity. I was honestly just curious because I had vaguely heard it before, but knew of so many people who had one. I had no idea the reaction would be so intense.

  72. cates, it seems to me that you are in essence bringing up the tension between justice and mercy–justice being moral principles and mercy being personal experience. It’s true that retreating into the “fluffy relativism of personal experience” may blur the line of absolute principles, but the ability to safely express a wide variety of personal experience and how the absolute applies in each is one of the strengths of this blog.

    It feels little extreme to lay a colossal moral failure of our society on the shoulders of one woman for whom the choice was so clear that she did not have to think whether it was right or wrong. It was, as she said, necessary.

    Frankly, I’d like to see you write that post.

  73. (Matt,#68, I swear I’m not imagining things! :) My experience with the church handbook that I shared happened WELL before 2006. Maybe there has been some {needed} revisions since then…)

  74. To cates #56

    “Furthermore, widely available contraception has led directly to a permissive cultural environment in which risky sexual behavior for girls and women has been normalized; the consequences of this profound cultural shift over the past fifty years are abundantly obvious.”

    I think that birth control just like any other tool can be a blessing when used appropriately. What others choose to do outside of the gospel light in relation to using or not using birth control is somewhat irrelevant to our discussion here. My presumption is that the women and girls reading and discussing here are not using birth control or contemplating to or not to use birth control to engage in risky sexual behavior.

    Likewise I don’t know what the loss of countless female fetuses in Asia and elsewhere in the world has to do with our discussion. Those losses are due to the misuses of the ultrasound and the cultural acceptability of abortion for sex selection. I don’t think many would argue when used appropriately that in many cases the prenatal ultrasound can provide real benefit to the mother and unborn child. Additionally within the light of the gospel there may be a very rare occasion to terminate a pregnancy, not that I want to open that discussion, I’m simply bringing it up because it is a tool of modern medical technology that though most often misused still can be in a narrow set of circumstances a blessing.

    Lastly many of the profound cultural shifts of the last fifty years have been an enormous boon for women. I’m so grateful to be a woman now.

    I have an IUD. I felt uncomfortable about getting one after baby five, so I didn’t though there was a lot of advocating for it by my health care provider. The post pregnancy had been difficult due to a chronic condition I was struggling with, but I couldn’t shut that door. Four years later surprise baby six arrived. Six weeks after his birth I felt at peace having the IUD placed. I felt like this was the right decision for me and our family. That’s all I can really speak to my own experience that is all I have stewardship over.

  75. Awesome comment Dovie — we all have stewardship over our own experiences! Nothing is more private or personal (or emotionally charged) than our procreative powers and decisions. We have agency over this beautiful gift, and the framework of the gospel can guide our decisions. How grateful I am for the Spirit to direct me in my own choices — and in those of my fellow Saints!

  76. Wow, I lot happened since I logged off last night. Since I am the one that cates referred to, I will comment that I am not offended. Cates does not know me well enough to decide what I meant by my opening statement. I choose not to be offended by others who feel it is their duty to pass moral judgement, or even stir the pot. Cates, when you pop in to stir the pot on something like this, it appears that you have little care or sensitivity for the subject, and that your goal is primarily to ruffle some feathers. If you had asked, I would have been happy to further explain my statement.

    Since it was a bit late last night when I was posting, I hope that my comments were okay. I think most of the readers here understand what I meant by my statement that I never thought of the decision in terms of “right” or “wrong”. There are very serious decisions that are made all the time by members of the church, or even those outside of the church, that are subject to judgement based on the “black and white” thinking that we grow up with. I didn’t think about it being “right” or “wrong” because this kind of thing doesn’t fit in a right or wrong category for me. The parameters for the decision, in the beginning and through the subsequent years, have had to do with what was best for our situation and my health.

    Segullah moderators: If my responding to Cates has been incorrect, please feel free to delete my post. Thanks. :)

  77. Great discussion.

    I am one who thinks that the church still endorses the “large family attitude”, but they no longer say it as clearly.

    So I ask myself, why not? Why are they not exactly clear on this? I can think of a lot of possible reasons:

    1) Members of the church who don’t want to hear it will shoot it down and then be accountable for that.

    2)People would grudgingly follow the counsel to have bigger families. That would create bad situations.

    3)The message would provide the media and popular culture with a field day. Not worth it.

    4)They are not saying it to everyone because it is not the best message for members in third world countries.

    5)Its not a one-size fits all message and therefore too complicated to put out there and have people misinterpret and get upset or judgemental about it.

    6) People who are spiritually mature enough to heed the counsel already “get it”. (“Mothers who know” don’t need to be told.)

    I personally think that any serious student of our church’s doctrine will see the “large family attitude” is there all right. And anyone who doesn’t want to see it isn’t directly confronted to the contrary. I think there’s wisdom in that. People make up their own minds, but I think the clues are all around without it being directly said.

  78. Cates, I read your line “On a blog where actual argument is rare and the sharing of personal experience is encouraged, your policy effectively bans almost any kind of critique” and I thought whoa! In a way, she’s right. I never thought of it in those terms before.

    Here’s where I think personal narrative is moral discourse, though: personal narrative encourages charity. By “charity” I mean the capacity to see others clearly, and therefore to love them. That charity is essential, core, key, and I think my charity has increased since I became aware of so many diverse stories.

    I don’t think that charity means “it’s all good, if it’s part of your experience then it’s not a sin.” But it does mean that when we’re admonished in the JST to judge righteous judgment, charity informs the way that we look at others and their actions (Moroni 7 is also a great discussion of how to discern with charity). I can think of no better way for developing our capacity to see others clearly than to hear their honest, real stories about applying gospel principles and truths in their lives. I don’t think charity means that we wink at sin, or are blind to it. But it does meant that we try to see individual weaknesses and frailties in the larger context of a life.

    I don’t know if that answers your question, or is the blog post you hoped to see. But I loved your insight, because it made me think differently about our comment policy and the way our discussions unfold.

  79. anonyfortoday,

    I think that we often misunderstand why certain things are in the General Handbook, and not available for public consumption. The section of the General Handbook where policies (such as the stance on birth control) are discussed are available only to bishoprics and stake presidencies. They are the ones who will be placed in counseling positions, where such questions will be raised in private settings.

    I don’t see any conflict between the publicly available counsel and the counsel given in the Handbook. Bishops are being told to counsel their members to be very cautious and careful when considering permanent birth control procedures. It sounds like you and your husband did things right without needing to hear that from your bishop.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think the Church has any problem with taking a clear stand on these kinds of issues. We shouldn’t try to infer that the true policy is something other than what has been stated publicly, and recognize that the Handbook is for a very specific audience, and it is in no way intended to set out a “truer doctrine” than what is otherwise taught, or to create a “those who REALLY know” subgroup in the church.

  80. Kathryn Soper in #9 Your last line intrigued me.

    “It’s been a year now since v-day, and it’s been wonderful to have the burden lifted. I still wish I’d gotten the procedure for myself, though.”

    Wondering if you could expand a little on that if you felt like it was something you could share.

  81. I think most of the readers here understand what I meant by my statement that I never thought of the decision in terms of “right” or “wrong”.

    FWIW, I read your comment as saying that you had felt at peace with how you had approached this part of your life.

    For instance, I look at women who avoid birth control, and I think wow, that should be me. I should have more faith.

    Emily, my thought on this is this: Faith on this issue to me equates to more than just having more children (although to be sure having children takes faith) or x number of children. I think faith with this issue also means leaning on the Lord’s guidance and grace as we make decisions about whether and when to have more children. I believe God cares about our hearts in all of this, and our hearts won’t or can’t necessarily be measured by counting heads in the family (indeed, the reasons that not everyone can or will have large families (whatever that means) are varied, and there are valid reasons to not have another child — again, it is a blessing that we have the ability to choose). I have found that as I trust in Him and His guidance and Atonement, I trust more my own ability to make these decisions with His help — and make decisions that are right for our situation.

  82. #87
    I appreciated this comment. Thank you.

    Emily, your 86 was awesome. One of the reasons I appreciate Segullah is that it has helped me appreciate how complex life and issues of faith really can be, because each of our journeys is a little different, and none of us really knows where another is coming from. For that matter, I’m not sure we are always informed enough to judge OURSELVES correctly!

    I think the use of personal narrative also reminds us that none of us has authority to declare anything for the Church officially. We have been specifically asked not to be a voice of authority on the internet, but to speak personally how the gospel affects our lives. I don’t think that precludes us from discussing our perceptions and understanding of the doctrine, but we really can’t impose our interpretation on others, because the principle of agency allows us to each engage that doctrine individually. Using personal narrative and reflection can allow us to share our perspectives, but not insist that others accept our approach or perception. It shows a respect for agency and a willingness, as Emily said, to be charitable. And we can be charitable even when we disagree.

  83. r.e. #85

    The doctrine of having and welcoming children has never changed. Despite changing counsel about the use of contraceptives, nothing has changed about the fact that we should have children, that they are a gift from God, and that families are our biggest priority.

    I guess I worry that your comment seems to imply that those who have larger families are somehow ‘getting something’ that the rest of us aren’t, or that they are living some kind of higher law. There are many reasons why those who value children and have a testimony of the plan of salvation don’t have larger families. Just like people who are single don’t neccessarily devalue marriage or don’t believe in it. There are many, many reasons why people don’t have larger families, many of them most of us won’t understand or need to know. If you look at the general authorities of the Church there are widely varying numbers of children in their families; I don’t think that indicates they are somehow less ‘spiritually mature’

  84. Segullah, I love you. I love the respect and diversity you encourage. And can I just say to Kathryn Soper, I don’t know you but I really do love you. I think you handle thoughts with strength and grace, so thank you. Thank you to all the moderators who try to clarify so well. So many amazing comments… and Melissa, I want to thank you for teaching me with your response. I would love to emulate the graciousness of your reply “I choose not to be offended by others who feel it is their duty to pass moral judgement, or even stir the pot.” I knew exactly what you meant in your first comment and am thankful for you that you had the ability to listen to what the Spirit directed in your own life for your own body. Thanks to all for the thought provoking and respectful comments!

  85. #24 corktree–

    There are natural ways of controlling birth.

    1. Breastfeeding was the primary way to control birth. Ecological breastfeeding allows for the spacing of children to be about 2-3 years apart. In order for this to be effective, you must be exclusively breastfeeding (no water, no food for the first 6-12 months.) You don’t use pacifiers, or bottles, and nurse on demand. You sleep with your baby and nurse on demand at night and during naps. You spend very little time away from physical contact with your baby. The child should wean themselves. Generally, this means they would have been 2.5-4 years old when weaned. This is why in western culture, royal women often did not nurse, because they were expected to have more babies as soon as possible and lactation interfered. In intact indigenous cultures, where ecological breastfeeding is still practiced, births come about every 2-3 years.

    2. Watching your personal cycles. You would have been aware with secretions which phase of fertility your body was entering. i.e. “egg white” means close to ovulation, and you would have avoided sex during that phase. This would require no literacy or other special skill other than being aware of your body’s phases. This is the most traditional form of birth control and one that mothers/grandmothers would have taught their daughters to observe.

    3. Condoms have been around for a millenia.

    4. Charting. You note your days, menstruation, etc., on calendars and avoid the days, or use barriers, during times when you could get pregnant.

    5. Sadly, no longer sharing a bed, and not being intimate at all. This was relatively common in societies when a woman got older, knew she was taking on risk of being pregnant, and until she became menopausal, the woman and the husband were no longer intimate.

    All of these prevent pregnancy, if that if your wish, as long as one is disciplined enough to say “no” on certain days.

    The wonderful thing about modern birth control is we are in control of it. Historically, some women did not have the option of telling their husband NO during fertile periods. True partnerships would allow you the space to delay activities, but culturally, some women would not, and to this day cannot, turn down their husbands.

    I’m thankful for birth control.

  86. Marie, thanks. You made my day.

    Dovie, I wish I’d had a tubal ligation instead of my husband having a vasectomy. My doctor recommended otherwise because the vasectomy is considerably much safer, easier, and cheaper. But the reason we pursued permanent birth control was that I cannot endure another pregnancy without significant risk to the baby’s survival as well as my own health. While it’s a relief to know that my husband is no longer fertile, I know that I still am, and that causes me some distress–irrational, I know, given the fact that I don’t have any other partners. But there you have it.

  87. Breastfeeding was the primary way to control birth. Ecological breastfeeding allows for the spacing of children to be about 2-3 years apart.

    Count me as one who shows that this is not necessarily an effective form of birth control. I started my (very regular!) cycle six weeks postpartum after baby #1, and I was exclusively breastfeeding.

    You can also be fertile w/o a cycle postpartum, from what I hear.

  88. I wasn’t really referring to the ability to space the pregnancies, but to avoid them altogether once deciding to be *done*. I’m aware of the effects (good and bad) of breastfeeding and the risks involved with that and all aspects of NFP – but I’ve always questioned the use of hormonal and invasive control methods, but only because they are not available without what I consider to be too much medical interference.

    I was not, however, aware that condoms had been around for so long – and that answers a big part of my question I suppose. That’s our primary BC method (in addition to charting) and probably will always be, however unfortunate or uncomfortable that may be. But my other query was really more about the societal effects of saying “no”, and why that has become such a bad thing. It just seems that part of most feminist attitudes tells us that we should enjoy the fact that we can enjoy it so much more now. Which, again, isn’t a completely bad thing (and I wouldn’t necessarily want to have to say “no” when I’m in the mood) but as I said, this is what got me thinking. What would we do without such reliable or permanent options? And would our marriages really suffer, or not?

  89. “What would we do without such reliable or permanent options? And would our marriages really suffer, or not?”

    Yes, absolutely. I was raised in a Catholic family, and my parents slept in separate beds. Mom was pregnant the last time in her mid-40s. She had 8 living children and 5 miscarriages. She was very burned out and an unhappy mother, and I weep often over the lack of sexual expression in their marriage.

  90. I went on the pill when I got married without thinking much of it. I just knew I didn’t want a baby right away. I was glad that it worked for me and I was able to have my first baby three years later, when I wanted to. I’ve been pretty open to the promptings of the Spirit and have gone on and off the pill over the years. I am extremely fertile for the most part (except for one four year stretch where I could NOT get/stay pregnant) and made the choice to have six kids. Most people assume there are one or two “ooops” babies (it’s amazing how many people will ask if they were all planned). I love to tell them that yes, I actually meant to have that many, and I even meant for my last two babies to be 14 months apart (by that point I was thinking “let’s just get this over with!”)

    When the time has been right for me to get pregnant again, nothing stands in my way; not a lack of insurance or even the lack of a job. I’m sure people will think that’s horrible, but in retrospect it wasn’t that big of a deal. The Lord blesses those who are willing to make such a leap of faith, I think, and having a baby is the ultimate leap of faith.

    When I was pregnant with baby #6 I felt like we were finally finished having kids. I had never felt that way before. It wasn’t that I was tired or overwhelmed (although some days I was). I just finally felt like my family was complete. I was 35 and my husband was 41. I had a vague inkling that vasectomies were frowned upon, but I knew we were done, so my husband and I felt completely fine about his getting one. Honestly, I would never have discussed the subject with my bishop any more that I would have asked his opinion on how close together we should space our children. I felt, and still feel, like The Lord takes a special interest in women because we share His job as creators of life. As such He will direct us as to what is best for our families. Often His plans are not our plans.

    To me, birth control is a powerful blessing and is another example of the way the Lord gives us agency. Just like sex, it can be used unwisely or it can be used with faith, following the Lord’s counsel.

  91. I felt, and still feel, like The Lord takes a special interest in women because we share His job as creators of life. As such He will direct us as to what is best for our families. Often His plans are not our plans.

    I love this. Thank you.

  92. Melissa (83), you were right not to take offense, because I obviously didn’t direct my criticism at you personally but rather at a societal failure to frame the issue morally. You were clear in your first statement and I understood exactly what you meant; your follow-up comment confirms it. You don’t consider the use of contraception to be a moral matter (ie, it doesn’t fit in “right or wrong” categories), but rather you approach the matter in purely instrumental terms (what’s best for me, and what outcome do I want). The reason you are able to think about it this way is that our culture, or some segment thereof, has removed the moral dimension from politicized issues of life and reproduction. I see this as a moral failing in our society, one that affects all of us and particularly the unborn.

    Emily (86), thanks very much for your thoughtful response. I suspect that our core disagreement is in whether personal narrative is a reliable way to arrive at objective moral truth—what you call “our capacity to see others clearly than to hear their honest, real stories.” In my mind, the very act of artfully arranging the chaos and misdirection of lived experience into a coherent narrative is a step away from objective clarity: to construct a narrative, we must shape, omit, and emphasize different kinds of information, and we are inevitably going to do so according to our own limitations and biases. A personal narrative is going to be deeply informed by whatever blind-spots and delusions we harbor about ourselves and our motives, and heaven knows we all have them. This is not to say that personal narrative is “corrupt”; on the contrary it’s important in several capacities, including maintaining our sanity and self-identity, organizing our memories, and creating trust between individuals. But it is not particularly good at arriving at moral clarity, because its epistemological resources are so limited, it can only rely for legitimacy on a single person’s inevitably limited, inevitably biased experience. That is why the only response Kathryn could make to me was, in effect, “shut up”—personal narrative, for all its uses, simply doesn’t have the epistemological foundation to respond any other way.

  93. Cates– I want to thank you for sticking around and contributing meaningfully from the discussion. I feel like you’ve provided a lot of food for thought in your comments and the discussion they’ve sparked.

    Thanks again to all of you who have shared your stories. They continue to help me shape my feelings about birth control and how we use it in our home.

  94. Cates, for all your intellectual finesse, you missed my point entirely, which is this: Blog Segullah is all about personal narrative. You’re welcome to participate here if you respect the purposes of the forum. But if you feel compelled to make arguments that don’t fit our paradigm, you should find a forum that’s better suited to your preferred flavor of discussion.

  95. Kathryn and others, I didn’t mean to offend, and I realize that my statements came off differently than intended and differently than how I feel. I could write volumes about my opinion on this matter (trust that it’s not something I take lightly or haven’t given much thought to–and my opinions are based on more than just flippant observations), but only a tiny bit of what is in my mind and heart came out–rather passionately and not very well expressed. I apologize for that and will try to remember to not type with my foot in my mouth in the future.

  96. Health issues severely limit the family planning options open to us… we pay attention to the cycle, and that’s worked well for 14 years. I do find one thing interesting: my parents were married for three years before having me, and both say that time together was wonderful and needed. My oldest was born within the first year of our marriage, and we don’t regret it at all.

    (In fact, on our first and only date, my then-date, now-husband said, “Please understand that my goal in dating you is marriage, and children pretty quickly after that. I’ve been waiting a long time to be a husband and dad, and I think you’re the right one. If you’re agreeable, cool. If that’s not the right goal for you, please let me know.” I was okay with that–for someone as lacking in spontaneity as I am, the instant “YES, DO THIS” confirmation was a real shocker. :) )

  97. Anon (#16), that was a gracious apology–thank you. I apologize for the misunderstanding and I’m glad you’re part of this discussion.

    (and #1, thank you as well.)

    Touchy topic = touchy commenters and even touchier admins. But I’m very pleased with the conversation as a whole. Well done, Shelah.

  98. As someone who has/is experienced infertility, birth control really isn’t a concern for me. Haven’t used any in 12 years, and I have a 4-year-old that must have been a miracle baby. That being said, I am a proponent of birth control because not every woman is capable of handling a large group of kids. I know I struggle with the one I have–and desperately wanted! I can’t imagine having 4 or 5 or 8!

    Also, I would not even consider talking to the bishop about a vasectomy. I think it’s a personal decision to be made between husband and wife.

  99. I completely “get” Melissa’s comment about not worrying whether birth control was “right or wrong,” and don’t think it shows a moral issue at all.

    I have been married for about 15 months now, and have used birth control the whole time. Despite the fact that I deeply desire a baby (and would love one right now, thanks), there was never a question of having kids right away in my situation. Frankly, pregnancy has the potential to kill me, and if/when we pursue that option it will have to be very carefully planned, prayed about, and monitored. Right now, I still don’t know if that will ever be an option for us. (Our alternative would probably be adoption.) When I got engaged my doctor almost had a hernia, insisting that I get on birth control right away (which I didn’t, because I knew nothing would be necessary till we tied the knot!). She had had patients die because they were pregnant and didn’t know it before. For me pregnancy is a serious issue that MUST be approached with caution and prayer.

    For that reason, I have never felt guilty about being on birth control. I’ve never spent a lot of time thinking about whether it was “right or wrong”. I firmly believe that we as LDS parents are meant to raise strong, loving, and maybe even large families. I can totally see how birth control would not be appropriate in every instance. For me, I never questioned whether or not it was right or wrong. I knew that it was the right (and really, the only) choice. I hope to someday before too long get the chance to bear a child of my own, but that may not be the wisest choice for me. (I want my children to have a mother to raise them, not a mother who died because of complications of pregnancy.) Either way, birth control is a must for me.

    Also, one other reason I am grateful for birth control – I learned this summer that I have osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis thinning of the bone) in my spine, something that isn’t uncommon in cystic fibrosis, my disease. I mentioned to the technician doing the bone scan that I take birth control pills with estrogen and she said “That’s good – if you didn’t, your bones would be a lot worse!” So… there are good things about hormonal birth control, too.

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