Why I Don’t Use Birth Control, and What I Do Instead

The topic of contraception has been very much in the spotlight lately, perhaps more than usual, and it seemed like a good time to share a bit more about how we navigate family planning in our marriage in the hopes that it will be helpful. It feels especially fitting to share this during NFP week this year!

Please note that nothing in this article is meant as a substitute for official training in NFP methods. It is intended as an introduction and brief overview. If you’re interested, please reach out to me or connect with one of the resources below to learn more. I will also be using the terms NFP and fertility awareness interchangeably in this post, since they are both terms to describe the same thing.

Why I Don’t Use Birth Control

To start, I utilized hormonal contraception, as some of us are prescribed to do for other things, long before I used it for contraceptive purposes, and long before I ever imagined I’d be Catholic. There are religious reasons that contributed to why we decided to stop using this form of contraception, but I’m going to steer clear of those here and focus on the other reasons why I stopped, which are plentiful as well.

You don’t have to do more than a simple Google search to get a list of side-effects of hormonal contraception. The list is long. I had a lot of the side-effects. It wasn’t great.

I also started to question the concept of hormonal contraception in the first place. My fertility is a healthy, functioning part of my body, and I couldn’t think of any other heathy, functioning parts of a person’s body that we artificially and long-term suppress. We usually treat conditions in which our bodies are sick, or not functioning like they are supposed to. Why was I acting like my fertility was something that needed treatment vs. something to be understood?

This is all not to mention my general discomfort in putting artificial hormones into my body on a consistent basis for years at a time. Or the fact that hormonal contraception puts the responsibility for not getting pregnant squarely on the woman’s shoulders, which didn’t feel equitable.

I kept questioning why there wasn’t anything better out there? Something that was, perhaps, respectful of my fertility, and let me understand my body so I could make effective decisions on when I did or did not want more children?

Good News

Turned out, there is something better out there. Fertility Awareness, or as it is also known, NFP.

(I will immediately add the disclaimer that I am not going to be talking about an app that tracks your fertility. You can use an app if you want to help record your data, or you can do it on paper, but apps themselves cannot tell you accurately when you are and are not fertile. More on what you can do to know that information below.)

A bit of background. My husband holds a PhD in biomedical science. I have a Master’s degree, and work as an author. I am of the opinion that fertility awareness is something that would benefit so many women, but is not discussed among family planning options nearly as much as it should be. It’s also incredibly easy to do for most women. Once you learn it, it becomes part of your routine and doesn’t take much time at all.

A bit of data. When used accurately, fertility awareness is statistically as effective as an IUD or perfect use of the pill. Sources at the bottom of this post.

Fertility Awareness teaches a woman to understand her body, which can help her achieve pregnancy or avoid it. Anecdotally, we have been utilizing Fertility Awareness since 2016, and have had 2 children intentionally and have avoided pregnancy the rest of the time with success.

How Does It Work?

We use a combination of sympto-thermal and Marquette methods for tracking my fertility. Here’s a sample month, starting on day 10 of my cycle until the end.

A sample partial month of fertility charting

3 Things To Note:

  • At the very bottom you can see the letters L, H, and P. I use the Clear Blue Fertility Monitor starting a few days into my cycle (the monitor prompts you on which day you need to begin to test). It reads L for low, when it does not detect estrogen. It reads H for high when estrogen is detected, and this lets me know that my body is preparing to ovulate and I’m potentially fertile. It reads P for peak when it detects luteinizing hormone, which means that ovulation is imminent. This is wildly helpful for family planning purposes whether or not you are hoping to get pregnant, for obvious reasons.
  • The information in the middle of the chart (The colored bars, circles, etc.) relate to cervical fluid changes and other related pieces. Cervical fluid changes in consistency leading up to ovulation, and you can see peak cervical fluid (the yellow bars) just before my monitor reads peak, which is wonderful corroboration.
  • And finally, my favorite piece, are the lines and dots at the top, which track my BBT or basal body temperature. You can use an actual thermometer for this, or there are rings and wristbands you can use to digitally track this for you. Basically, your resting temp (after 3-4 hours of sleep), taken before you get up and move around, can help confirm if you’ve ovulated. In this sample chart, my temp is consistently below a certain point until just after peak. That rise lets me know that I’ve ovulated, and it is caused by an increase in progesterone after ovulation. I am past fertility on the evening of the 3rd day of the temp rise in this chart because the unfertilized egg is gone. If you are pregnant, this temp will actually stay high, and can be an early way to know if you’ve conceived. If you are not, it will drop back down as progesterone drops and your period approaches. I can not only confirm ovulation via my BBT, but I can also know with a high level of certainty when my cycle is about to start and I’m never caught off guard.

Fun fact- The amount of time between a new cycle starting and ovulation can vary greatly! It can be impacted by travel, sickness, interrupted sleep, stress, etc. With Fertility Awareness you never have to stress out if your period doesn’t arrive on its usual schedule. You can know from the data that you ovulated late, and therefore that it will be a longer cycle overall.

But, the other part of that fact is your luteal phase- from ovulation to a new cycle starting, doesn’t vary much. It’s pretty consistent within a day or so no matter what. If you have a really short luteal phase (shorter than 10 days often), it may be time to check with your doctor though to make sure that your progesterone levels are normal.

If this is something that you are interested in learning more about, please feel free to message, comment, or email. Or check out the resources below for training. Paying attention to my body and recording this data has become such a natural, small, easy part of my daily rhythm. I have pretty regular cycles, but Fertility Awareness can also be for those who have irregular cycles too. It can even be a tool to help you figure out what’s going on in there instead of putting a band-aid on the problem.

Why Check out Fertility Awareness/NFP?

And now, a bit of my personal story. Since using Fertility Awareness, I feel like I know my body better, and that I am respecting how my body works, which is very empowering. There is nothing wrong with my body and my fertility, and changing from suppressing it to understanding it has been amazing.

This is a team effort. If you have a partner or a husband, they can get involved in many ways, from recording the data, to running the monitor each morning. It also increases communication between couples on a regular bases about their family planning goals, which is a beautiful, healthy thing.

I also have friends who, through Fertility Awareness, were able to identify hormonal issues that would have likely led to miscarriage if they were not addressed (often, low progesterone). They were able to get medical care and remedy those issues and not lose their children from a preventable cause.

Now that I’m here and have seen the benefits, I would never in a million years go back. I’m happy to answer specific questions too if you have them! Feel free to get in touch.


Sympto Thermal: Sympto Pro, The Couple to Couple League

Marquette (instructors are all RNs): Marquette

Overall: Lumina Health Services

Book: Taking Charge of Your Fertility (Not a Catholic book, I skipped over the portions that dealt with areas that would be in conflict with my faith, but the overall book was very helpful.)

Effectiveness of methods:

Effectiveness of IUD and Pill: https://www.cwcobgyn.com/blog/the-pill-vs-an-iud-which-to-choose#:~:text=Both%20the%20pill%20and%20IUDs,failure%20to%20take%20it%20regularly.

Effectiveness of Fertility Awareness: https://www.factsaboutfertility.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/SymptoThermalPEH.pdf


Emerging From the Fog

Lent is always an appropriate time to reflect on suffering, and over the past 12 months, This Catholic Family has had some rough times.

I’ve shared a few times about the loss of my aunt to suicide in February 2018. The grief from that, and the slow path toward healing, has been a part of the fog that made it hard to write at times on this website. I poured a lot of my energy over the past year into writing a fiction manuscript about a young girl who experiences a loss, and finds her way to healing. Using words in that way for that time helped a lot.

The other fog we experienced has been for a much happier purpose.


We found out in December that we are expecting Baby Savaryn Number 4! New life is the happiest of news, but for our family, we also knew it would be difficult for a while. I, to varying extents during my pregnancies, suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. This is extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. A condition that used to be fatal for some mothers, and is slowly gaining more publicity in our current times for its devastating impact on an expectant mother’s health while she suffers.

This time, despite proactively taking nausea medication and planning for my care, I ended up incredibly sick. As it amped up, I wasn’t able to be in the kitchen, or prepare food, or eat much. It felt like I was on a boat with severe seasickness 95% of the time I was awake. Movement and smell made it worse. Relief only came when I slept. Then, I hit a point where I couldn’t keep anything down and hadn’t had something to eat or drink in over 18 hours. I had to go to the hospital, where I ended up being admitted for three days until they could rehydrate my body and until I could eat and drink on my own without getting sick with the help of some additional medication.

I was this sick with my son, who will turn five soon, and I had much better medical care this time than I did with him, but it was still one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through inside my own body. And when it was at its worst, it was very hard for me to see the light beyond all the darkness in the struggle to survive moment by slow moment.

Friends came through and brought us food, and there were so many praying, and my husband was good about reminding me that this would all be worth it.

It was still so difficult to lose myself, even for a little while.

The Hope and the Grace

But in suffering, there is grace.

I was fed by the Eucharist during my suffering, and I weakly attempted to unite my own suffering with that of Christ. In many ways, I do not feel like I suffered ‘well.’ But I also knew Jesus would carry me through, and that if I was willing to walk this path for Him, that he would not forsake me.

On the first Sunday I was home from the hospital, I was still confined to my bed, and the family had to go to mass without me. I hear the door open as they returned home, and in moments, my two oldest children entered my room with their hands folded in front of them in quite reverence.

JP soon followed, and produced that which had fed my soul so many times during this sickness.

A priest at our parish had helped JP bring Jesus in the Eucharist to me right where I was, and I was able to receive communion, right there, in my bed. When I couldn’t get to mass, Jesus came to me.

And there is such hope in new life too. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap our heads around the idea of redemptive suffering. That something good can come out of something hard.

It has helped more than a little to know there is such a clear and redemptive reason I went through all I did. I am bringing a new life into our family and into the world. At 18 weeks now, and finally feeling much better, I can feel our little one kick. I can speak to this baby, as it now can hear my voice. I can reflect on the phrase ‘this is my body, given for you,’ in a new and profound way. I can understand just a little bit better, in some small, small way, how Jesus gave his body for us, and the love that must have been there for him to go through his passion.

Let the Sun Shine In

The fog is clearing away from the difficult year we have had, and the very, very, dark and cold and grey winter. The days are getting longer. The sun is shining a bit more. And our family is soon to embark on a vacation to the beach, a much needed bit of togetherness and warmth and light.


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Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK and Why We Need Theology of the Body More Than Ever


I was too young to know much about the scandals surrounding Bill Cosby the first time around. Then, as time went on the media storm subsided and Cosby emerged as someone still able to find affection in the public eye. He was, if not The American Father, at the very least in the running for it. I remembered him as Dr. Huxtable, as the guy on the Jello commercials, and as the host of Kids Say The Darndest Things.

I saw him live with my family to watch his comedy routine in person- it was a fun, family friendly night.

But, when the accusations burst forth again in 2014, I was old enough to pay attention. Even without a conviction, and with only the knowledge of what Cosby has admitted to doing, there is something we as a whole find incredibly disturbing about his conduct.

Then, as name after name of male celebrities comes into the public eye, and similar, equally disturbing stories are told, we have to wonder… what is it exactly about this behavior that we know is wrong? Lack of consent? Yes. Abuse of power? Yes. A distorted sense of immunity? Yes. These and a myriad of other things.

But, I suggest, there is also a deeper underlying issue at the core.

Let’s Talk About Sex

What’s the point of sex? Well, it is the means by which we continue our species. But procreation is not the only purpose of sex. The other point of sex is that it is for the good of the spouses.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death

And how is that aim of benefit to the spouses achieved? Here’s the Catechism one more time:

“The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude”

Sex as Self-Giving


Jesus gave his body fully for us. He sacrificed himself for our good. And that is exactly what sex is meant to be. It is meant to be a husband giving fully of himself for the good of his wife, and a wife giving fully of herself for the good of the husband. It is an ultimate appreciation of the dignity of our spouse, through a total gift of ourself to him/her.

Anytime we do something other than that, we turn sex from a self-gifting act to an act of self-seeking. From giving to taking. From whole to broken.

Marriage and Church/Marriage and the Trinity

Marriage is often referred to in the Bible as a reflection of Christ and the Church. Jesus is referred to as the Bridegroom, and the Church as the bride. If we play that relationship out to its logical conclusion, we see the beauty in Christ’s sacrifice for us, and realize our job within marriage is to reflect the beauty of what Christ did for us as a witness to the world.

Marriage is also reflection of the Trinity.

God is a burning inferno of love, and that love between the Father and the Son ushers into being a Third, the Holy Spirit. And when a husband and wife love each other, it has the potential to bring about a Third. That love becomes so real and so tangible that another life is brought into existence from it.

Sex is powerful stuff. Not because we have a right to indulge for our own sake or pleasure, but because we have the ability to give the gift of ourselves wholly and fully to another human being.

When that gift is profaned and becomes a selfish act, it undermines the dignity of the humans involved and can cause great hurt and pain. People feel used, something inside us becomes broken.

Sex is meant to be a total gift of self. Nothing about it is meant to be selfish.

The Distortion of Sex In The News

That’s partly why the news stories coming out about famous celebrity males taking advantage of females in incredibly disturbing ways hits home. Those behaviors are the result of a myriad of things. Privilege, a hunger for power, pride. But they also stem from the view of sex as being something that ultimately we deserve. Sex is for us. Pleasure is something we take instead of something we mutually give. Sex becomes a carnival house mirror instead of a pure and true reflection of God and his love for humanity. A cracked and distorted facimile of beauty.

We can see so clearly in those examples that something, and yes, many things are broken.

But a distortion of what is meant for good can occur even within a Christian marriage. All Christians would benefit greatly from an exploration into Theology of the Body and diving deeply into the power of the purpose of human sexuality. If our marriages are meant to be a living reflection of the Free, Total, Faithful and Fruitful love of God, then it is vitally important that we know what we are being asked to reflect, and that we take seriously the responsibility and honor to live as Gift to our spouse.

If you are interested in learning more about the foundational Christian views on sex and marriage, please check out:


And, when we see these examples when good is perverted, let us know why it is we know, at the root of it all, that selfishness in any expression of sexuality, in any situation at all, is harmful and wrong.


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A Story of Healing

JP’s last post, found here if you haven’t read it, gave some insight into Jp’s journey during  a period of time where our marriage has been transformed. I (Lorelei) would now like to share my simultaneous journey. It’s one of the most personal, and, for us, the most powerful in our marriage so far.

When we found out we were pregnant with the little fella’ we would come to know as August, Jp and I were so excited. I was so sure it would be easier the second time around… somehow I’d feel better, be less nauseous, be able to eat more. With my daughter, I had lost 7 lbs in the first trimester from being sick.

How we announced our pregnancy with Auggie. I’m smiling, but if you look carefully, you can see I’m already pretty thin. I was losing weight at this point, but this is a few days before I started dropping 1-2 lbs a week for several weeks in a row. I don’t have many pictures from my skinniest days.

Little did we know, that my pregnancy with Auggie would be far more challenging than I ever imagined. Long story short, I developed hyperemesis gravidarum. Which basically meant I threw up all the time. I could barely keep anything down, even a sip of a drink or a single bite. When I finally was coming out of it, I knew I was getting better because I was able to drink an Ensure shake and keep it down. It took me 4 hours.

And here’s why this was difficult on our marriage. I went from being a normal, competent wife and mother, to a shrinking bit of humanity who could barely move from the couch or even shower myself well. It was a time when I was completely out of control of what was happening to my body, and my emotions were very depressive as a result. I felt useless.

JP had to cook the food, do all the grocery shopping, and take care of Felicity when he was home because I was barely making it through the day. He was also commuting to Chicago each day and working a challenging post-doc. He wasn’t prepared for me to completely tank.

As a result, at a time I needed my husband to support and love me more than ever before, JP wasn’t able to consistently provide it. I think he tried, as best as he was able to. But there were moments and times that were seared in my mind and heart where I felt ever so alone. There were the nights he was making dinner, and I knew he was frustrated and resentful of the additional responsibility, and yet there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t move. I had to focus so hard on each little bite, that making a dinner felt like Mt. Everest.

There was the time, when I, skinnier than I should ever have been- about 12 lbs below my normal healthy weight, my eyes sunken and dark, when JP came around the corner after tucking our daughter into bed and he looked at me with such sadness and distance and asked me “Where did you go?”

I didn’t know how to answer that question. I was just trying to survive. It caused deep wounds between us. I knew that, because of how life goes, this probably wouldn’t be the only significant trial we would face, and I didn’t know how I could endure those trials without the support of my husband.

Once I passed the 20 week mark, things started to get better, as it often does with those who have HG and I started gaining weight again. I was able to cook eventually and resume my regular responsibilities. But the space created by feeling so alone for so many weeks in a time of my great need still remained.


Fast forward a bit to last fall. JP and I were each simultaneously and yet independently of each other on a path moving us closer to the Catholic Church. During the winter, JP discovered Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. And, even though we were not in any sort of significant trial at the time, my husband started changing.

He started giving more, without being asked. He started offering, with true sincerity to help out in ways he hadn’t before. He started looking at marriage as a way to be giving and loving, and it started healing us. I read Theology of the Body (for beginners), and I understood, and I started changing as a wife, too.

This isn’t a post about TOB, but, in short, it is all about the way God designed marriage to be a reflection of the union of Christ and the Church. And our model is Jesus, who gave himself completely for us. So, as we grow in our faith, we grow in our ability to model our own lives after Christ Himself. And we learn to realize that happiness comes in giving, in being “gift” to others, and that this is the fullest sense in which we can live out our married calling, as well as our calling to the others we encounter. But, I’m sure we’ll write more on that later.

The main point of this is that we had another significant test ahead. Through our journey to the Church, our hearts became more open to more life in our family, allowing for the possibility that we would have more children.

There was a lot of fear associated with pregnancy for me. I had an 80% chance that the hyperemesis would reoccur. I had felt so alone last time.

And I remember, either just before getting pregnant or just after, as JP and I were getting ready to fall asleep, I said to him “I might need to be gift to this baby for a while, and if I do, I’m going to need you to be gift to me.” And I hoped that in so many ways this time would be better, but didn’t know.

Thankfully, I would not have qualified for the hyperemesis diagnosis this time around. For the first time, I did not lose weight. I was able to try a new medication, which I think helped. But I was still extremely nauseated, and fought being sick all day, every day, for weeks on end.

But, I also think that the change in JP made a huge difference in how I was able to cope with the intense sickness I did have.

Photo on 7-6-16 at 4.30 PM.jpg
On a particularly bad day. So tired from weeks of being nauseated with little relief.

He scooped up taking care of the kids when he was home. He willingly went to the grocery store, and made the food, and even still, when I’m “off” in the evenings even at 20 weeks, he brings me dinner, and anything else I need so I don’t need to expose myself to my “gag” triggers, which can sometimes be as simple as opening the fridge or smelling something in the pantry. He has let me sleep when I need to sleep, because I’m less nauseated when I am well rested. He massages my feet every night without being asked. And as hard as it is for me to be less helpful than my “usual” self during this time, I haven’t felt resented at all. All his actions have been encompassed in an envelope of honest love and desire to help me get through the struggle.

And I know that this change in JP is contributed only to one thing. He is growing more in love with his Savior, and is starting to look more like Him too. I still remember when he told me that he was praying for me at Mass, that God would show me how much He loves me. And God told him, “That’s your job.” I can’t even tell you how, despite being horrible and difficult in some ways, this pregnancy has provided our marriage with incredible healing. I have not been alone. I have struggled, but I have been lifted up by my husband, who is modeling spiritual leadership for me and our children. In growing this baby, I have not had to bear the challenges alone.

And that is one of the amazing gifts of this faith we hold so dear. Now, at 20 weeks, and still emerging day by day from the challenges of pregnancy sickness, our marriage has grown in love and kindness and thoughtfulness in a way that strengthens my own faith in our ability to be a model of Sacramental Marriage in the world, no matter what we may face in the road ahead.

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Children are Life

I write this as my 4 year old daughter is screaming and crying and stomping her feet in the middle of a time out. So, if I can still write this now, you know I mean it.

Felicity, our first little gift of life.

I hope to explore this further as time goes on, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how parts of our society view children. The decisions about how many children to have, how far to space them apart, what kinds of sacrifices are involved, seem to revolve more around the convenience and desired lifestyle of the parents than really looking at the matter from the perspective of a Christian, or, Catholic worldview.

I think those are important things to consider when deciding when or how many children to have, and the Church acknowledges that there do exist grave situations where limiting or delaying family growth is prudent. JP and I have no plans to need a school bus to cart our family around. But, there is a moral and ethical way to go about that planning that doesn’t wrap our fingers so tightly around the control that we shut out God’s movement. But my concern is that we are all too often addressing the issue from the view of society, and not from the view of the Church.

Example- the idea that having more children is going to postpone our life’s plans, are going to make it more challenging for us to have the lifestyle we desire, etc. Thinking about family planning from that perspective is looking at things from the point of view of society- that our goals and ambitions come first, and we somehow fit our child bearing into that plan for our lives. Somehow, bringing children into the world has become about us.

The Church comes at child bearing from a completely different angle. And this is the angle we should be using when evaluating issues in regard to family planning. The idea that children are not a barrier or a cause of delay in our own lives… children are life! They are life created in the image of God. They are life endowed with an immeasurable intrinsic value. In addition to that, the Church believes that marriage is most fully expressed in the way God intended when it is a marriage lived open to the possibility of creating life. We have found that openness to life to be transformative in our own marriage. When you live like that, the perspective necessarily shifts away from what we get out of our marriage, to what we give, and then, ultimately, what we receive from God as a result of our own self-giving.

I think there is a possibility that one might decide to have fewer children than originally thought, in order to pursue one’s life goals more quickly… but then decades later wonder “what if…” Whereas, I don’t think it’s likely that many people, deciding to allow for the blessing of children in their lives at God’s timing, would,decades later, wish that they hadn’t had one or more of their children. Or that they would regret delaying a “life’s goal” in exchange for the existence of their child.

Why is that? Because, while we have plans for our “life,” in the sense of what we want to accomplish, children actually are life. Period. And actual life, God-imaged life, is one of the most precious gifts our Creator has given us. Children are the beautiful life-filled result of the loving, giving union between a husband and a wife. And there are few things more beautiful in this world than that.

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