Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and then take a stab at answering it. Today’s is a toughie: what do you do when you don’t want to get pregnant, but your husband doesn’t want birth control?
I miscarried in the fall and I don’t feel ready to get pregnant again. My husband agrees and we’ve decided to wait until 2015 to try again. The issue is that he refuses to wear a condom and doesn’t want me on hormonal birth control or to use an IUD. He wants to use the” pull and pray” method and doesn’t want to use spermicide or anything. As a result I avoid sex. I deny him. Or when we do have sex I’m an emotional wreck afterwards. I don’t want to anxiously wait to see if my cycle actually arrives every month. It is just too much. Our relationship is suffering for it. I don’t know what to do.
That’s a tough one, and my answer isn’t going to focus on whether or not birth control is right or wrong. I know there are couples, both Protestant and Catholic, who feel that birth control is morally wrong. I wrote a round-up on birth control previously, and I do think that certain methods are okay. But regardless of where you fall in this debate, I think these answers will apply to all of us.
Here are some general thoughts, in no particular order:
1. Get to Know When Your Fertile Times Are
Honestly, you just can’t get pregnant at all times during the month. It doesn’t work like that. You can only get pregnant when the egg is viable, and that’s roughly 3-7 days a month. Now, that may sound like a lot, because if you don’t make love during your period (and most women don’t), then that’s two weeks a month that are off limits if you don’t want to get pregnant and don’t want to use any birth control. But the fact is that’s also two weeks a month that are NOT off limits!
So get used to tracking your cycle. You can do this by taking your temperature every morning at the same time, using a digital thermometer. Get some free printable charts to track your cycle here. Now many of these sites are trying to help you get pregnant, but the principle is the same. When you know when your fertile times are, you also know when your infertile times are.
Track yourself for two months, and you’ll get a sense of about how many days after your period starts that you ovulate. Most people are within 11-16 days. Then you just stop sex for two days before that and up to 5 after, although many sites will tell you that you really don’t have to stop for more than 3-4 days. Just read up as much on the subject as you can until you’re comfortable.
What if you don’t ovulate at the same time every month? There are other ways to check–like checking your cervical mucous.
Remember: it is physically impossible to get pregnant when there is no egg present. So relax! Honestly! Get to know your body and trust your body.
In that first week after your period, you’re absolutely good to go! And many of us can FEEL when we ovulate (I hurt for about 12 hours), so three days later I’d be good to go, too.
The key to feeling relaxed about it is to get as much information as you can and then start charting. Even ask your husband to help you with this! When you know that it’s safe, you’ll feel better about making love on those times.
2. What Do We Do During the Fertile Times?
That’s all well and good, but what if, in the middle of the fertile days, the urge strikes? After all, hormonally we’re most likely to be “in the mood” in those fertile days, and it seems kind of counterproductive to say that you can’t make love in the fertile times.
If you’re both just opposed to hormonal birth control and don’t like condoms, one solution is to use nothing for most of the month, and then use condoms only on your fertile days.
If condoms are out of the question, too, then you have a decision to make. You can say to your husband:
Honey, I do want to have an active sex life with you and I do want to enjoy our intimacy. But I just am not prepared to be pregnant right now, and so I’m going to have say no on these days.
And then maybe you can do other things. After all, not all sex needs to be intercourse. You can bring each other to climax another way, and still enjoy each other’s bodies.
By the way, the “pull and pray” method is very dangerous. You can get pregnant with sperm that is released before ejaculation. And I think the “pray” part has rather sketchy doctrine. What you’re really saying is,
“God, I want you to do something for me, but I’m not prepared to do anything myself to achieve that goal. I don’t want to be pregnant, but I also don’t want to have to exercise any self-control or bear any consequences of my actions.”
That’s testing God, and I don’t think that’s right. To ask God to do something that you’re not also willing to participate in is immature.
3. Talk About Family Size and Timing
You really need to sit down and talk about family size and timing. This is a matter of mutual respect. If you have agreed that you don’t want any more children, then both of you need to be responsible with that, however that may look in your marriage. You can’t say, “we won’t have any more kids”, but simultaneously say “but I’m not willing to do anything about it.” That’s a cop out. If this is the case in your marriage, then having some discussions with him is in order, and if that isn’t getting anywhere, talking to a third party to help you work this out is likely in order, too.
4. You Husband Doesn’t Want Birth Control, But Regardless–Ultimately It’s Up to God
No matter what you do, though, remember that you are in God’s hands. Whatever happens, He will see you through it. I do understand not thinking it’s responsible to have more kids, especially if you already have a bunch, if your health is at risk, if you have special needs kids already that need attention, or if there’s military deployments coming up. There certainly are legitimate reasons to want to limit your family.
But remember that if you do get pregnant, God will carry you. He will give you the strength and the resources. You are never alone.
All of us need to be content with that, because I don’t think we were ever meant to live with 100% certainty that pregnancy wouldn’t happen.
If you’ve recently had a miscarriage, I am so sorry. I do know how that feels, and I wrote this column a few years ago called “A Prayer Through Tears” that you may appreciate.
Now I’d love to know your take on this. Have you ever had this situation? Or perhaps for you it’s the opposite: your husband wants more kids and you don’t. How did you handle that? Let me know in the comments!