By Juliana Davis
My husband Alton and I married in the Catholic Church in July of 1969. During our marriage instruction, the priest told us that it was uncertain whether the Church might be changing regarding birth control, but we didn't want to take any chances, so we read a book on the rhythm method which my mother used when she got married in 1947.
I became pregnant after about a month, and we had our first son. My doctor encouraged me to use the Pill, and I wanted to be "hip" and progressive anyway, not too Catholic and so I did. I lost interest in sex, (a common side-effect of the Pill) and the doctor assured me it was just an overly scrupulous conscience due to my Catholic upbringing and that I should be grateful to have such a good husband. I stopped taking the Pill after awhile, being something of a hypochondriac and worried about side-effects and we conceived and had our second son.
My husband complained that I wasn't very motherly and I wondered why I felt more like a sister to my own children than their mother. We wanted six children, so to feel so disconnected seemed out of character. I've since learned such aloofness can be another side effect of hormonal tampering via the pill.
After our second child, I used the IUD, still wanting to be progressive-minded and not too Catholic. Then, one day, out of nowhere, I went to my mailbox to find a copy of an ALL magazine with an article by Fr. Paul Marx, OSB, in which he explained how the IUD was an abortifacient.
Though I believed it, I didn't know anything about natural family planning and didn't want to conceive again so soon, so I continued to use it for a few months, until one month, my period was "different."
I had a very scary, sick feeling inside and I went immediately to have the IUD removed in 1974, though my doctor assured me I would conceive without it. I didn't care.
We ordered a book by John Kippley and began using the symptom-thermal method of natural family planning. We conceived and had our third son, but with complications of a partial placenta previa, though he was normal and healthy.
We practiced natural family planning for the next six years before our fourth son was born. However, in about 1978, I began having panic anxiety attacks. My heart would beat rapidly, and I would feel like I was going to faint or die. I was also frequently depressed and nervous, especially about having a close personal relationship with the Lord.
Eventually, by God's grace, I did experience a deep personal conversion to Jesus and to the Catholic faith (though I was already a baptized, practicing Catholic), and I thought everything was fine, except that I continued to have a nagging, reoccurring depression about mid-week every week. Every time I read abortion stories, I would so feel deeply grieved, so I thought it was because I was called to work for pro-life. I had psychological therapy several times to try to get to the root of the persisting symptoms without success.
Eventually, we had our fifth child, a daughter. By that time, we were extremely happy with each other due to co-operating with God in natural family planning, growing in our love each other and for the Church and wanting to give something back.
In June of 1987, we began an apostolate called The Leaven, which we felt the Lord had asked us to name it, to honor those who honor Him by accepting the teachings of the Church in Humanae Vitae. We thought we would do family retreats to help others understand how wonderful marriage could be, as we had found it to be once we knew and accepted the truth.
We didn't have any idea how to trust God enough to do a full time apostolate and we suffered very heavy material losses, even though we had gone through the proper channels to get approval from our bishop and had a spiritual director.
We were perplexed, and for many years we decided that we couldn't trust our inspirations, so we tried to resume a more superficial prayer life and less intense Church involvement, worrying that maybe we had been presumptuous after all. I continued going to daily Mass and Communion and frequent confession, but I stayed away from deep prayer.
Eventually, I couldn't stand the "arm's distance" I had set up for myself spiritually and I began to seek seriously to deepen my prayer life with the help of a spiritual director.
One day, while I was bored, I "Googled" a favorite saint, Edith Stein and I stumbled upon a site that would change my life. I read articles by founder physician Dr. Dominic Pedulla that accounted for the troubling symptoms of depression and other emotional distress that had continued to plague me despite my conversion. 
As my prayer life deepened, old inspirations to renew my commitment to The Leaven began to be intense once again. Encouraged by my priest-director, I sought approval and received permission to co-sponsor an event to promote modesty with the diocese where we currently live. As I began to publicize the event, I began to get requests to do my personal testimony.
As I began reflecting on my personal story, I also began to allow into my consciousness the "funny period" that I had back in the mid '70's. I began to face that I have probably had an abortion and my impression is that she was our first daughter, that we had actually had the six children that we hoped for when we married. It has begun to dawn on me that my story is going to include that I have had a so-called silent abortion (another lie of contraception: no abortion is silent!)
I sought inner healing and I confessed my negligence in willfully opting not to read the copy of Humanae Vitae that my Catholic father laid wordlessly on my dining table on his first visit to our home after our honeymoon. I also confessed all the Communions I received during the time we contracepted. The result was amazingly freeing and I am awed that God would be so merciful to provide us with an apostolate to reach out to others out of our own failure, to be an instrument of healing out of gratitude for my own healing. In fact, it was the very week that I made my Confession that a new door opened to begin The Leaven anew!!!
I know that I will talk about contraception and abortion from an entirely more personal perspective than I ever imagined in 1987, and I see the reason that The Leaven couldn't come to full fruition was the unfinished business buried deep within my psyche. I am ever-grateful for the work of courageous men like Fr. Paul Marx and Dr. Pedulla.
Contraception hurts women, but our God is a healing Father who forgives and gives the living water of new life as we become able to receive it. Whereas the Blessed Mother was created without sin, it is by faith in Christ and repentance that we are cleansed and renewed to be made pure in Him.
 For more information on Dr. Pedulla's organization, please visit http://www.the-edith-stein-foundation.com/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Juliana Davis and her husband co-founded a group to promote Natural Family Planning in Nebraska. For more information about her group, The Leaven, please see http://www.theleaven.org/. Contact her at email@example.com.