This installment of the Living Humanae Vitae series is near and dear to my own desperate-to-be-in-control heart, and it represents a beautiful surrender to an awareness of God’s faithfulness and the sometimes nonsensical economy of grace. I can relate to the “this makes no sense-ness” of a seemingly unwise or imprudent action in the eyes of the world, only to have it end up being one of the preeminent blessings in your life.
K is a medical student, a future doctor, a mother, and a faithful Catholic. This is her story:
I am third-year medical school student and many of my classmates think I’m a bit nutty for being open to life in this season of life.
My husband works full-time and I’m a full-time student. I had our second child between my first and second year. Our third child is coming early next year.
Medical school is full of many driven and intelligent people. It’s only by the Lord’s grace (and my husband’s gentle reminders) that my drive to achieve and compete is tempered by keeping priorities in line.
For me, this means having open hands and an open heart and trust in the Lord’s faithfulness when I choose not to contracept. As human beings, we are both body and soul. As such, I know that the decision to insert an IUD has spiritual ramifications. Decision to obliterate a man’s vas deferens or to sever a woman’s normal and healthy fallopian tubes echo deeply into our souls.
We shut ourselves off from the Lord when we say “I am the master of my own fertility.”
Many of my classmates cling to their IUDs as if those little devices held the key to salvation itself.
The Lord gave me the tremendous gift of good catechesis, and as such I choose to live according to the wisdom of the Church and trust in the Lord’s providence in regard to my fertility. And even then, the effectiveness statistics between artificial birth control and NFP aren’t much different.
Now, one can absolutely live in death-gripping fear while using NFP. I was there during the postpartum period after our first baby was born and we were heading off to Virginia for medical school in a few months. I knew that if I got pregnant by accident and then was due in the middle of school year, that was it, and I just wasn’t going to be able to finish. I’ve never been so tempted by contraception. It was knowledge and trust in Magisterium of the church and my husband’s strength that held me back.
But I’ve learned time and again that the Lord is faithful. I know He doesn’t want me to live in fear or distrust. But I have to choose not to live there, which took effort at first. I became pregnant with our second baby in September of my first year, just when we were hoping to. We were trying and praying for a perfectly-timed baby. The only summer you get off during medical school is the first one. The break was only 6 weeks. We had one single cycle to make that narrow window. We tried for it.
In any given cycle, if everything is perfect- the egg is good, the sperm is good, the mucus is good and the passageway is clear, there’s only a 20-25 percent chance that you’ll conceive. With a precise due date in mind there’s always the two-week window on either side of the goal that is variable just due to cycle variation.
Emma was conceived during that cycle, and was due the day of my last final. She was born a few days after that – with enough time for me to catch up on some errands and house cleaning before she arrived. My OB-GYN didn’t think I would make it. All of my other babies were born before their due dates. But Emma patiently waited for the semester’s end to make her debut into the world. That’s really the story of her personality: she was one of the most serene and patient people in our house when she was an infant. She even slept through the night starting at two months.
I know some people’s stories with NFP are different, that babies come unexpectedly and are untimed, even despite diligent effort. Our story is not that story. Baby number three was timed for February so that my husband could have a birthday month buddy, so that baby didn’t arrive during study time for step two, so I wouldn’t have to haul a newborn around for audition rotations 4th year, and so that I wouldn’t be so pregnant over Christmas that we couldn’t travel to Minnesota.
The Lord blessed me with beautifully obvious fertility signs, as if my body just screams at me each month “I’M FERTILE!”
I believe it’s because the Lord always gives us what we need. He called me to medical school, He’s getting me through it, and He knows we needed precise timing for children. Time and again I come back to the passage from Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, according to his purpose.”
I try to live every day as if “this is exactly what the Lord has given to me, and I have everything I need.” There have been many nights before exams where children were awake or sick and I had to stay up with them. Those ended up being some of my highest exam scores. There were weekends before Monday morning tests that everyone else seemed to be madly studying and I felt like the Lord wanted to me take a day off to be with my family. It didn’t make sense at the time, but my studying was enough and I did well.
When I’m faithful to the Lord, rather than making a little god out good grades and studying, I do better in school. He has been so faithful and merciful, and I thank Him and praise him daily for beautiful little souls He has given me the privilege of bringing into the world.