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The Failure Rate

September 6, AD 2012 13 Comments

I have been told more times than I can count that if I were truly against abortion I would have to be pro-contraception.  “Contraception prevents unwanted pregnancies,” the argument goes, “so putting women on reliable birth control would cut down on unwanted pregnancies and there would be fewer abortions.”

It’s an old argument, but always flung at me as if it were fresh and new and something I had never considered before this present moment.  I think they expect me to stand there with my mouth hanging open at the cleverness of this point of view.  This not being my first rodeo, I simply smile and ask “What about the failure rate?”

It’s a statistical anomaly, I’m told, if only people used contraceptives correctly there would virtually no unplanned pregnancies.  Education and free access are all that separate us from an abortion free world.

“What about the failure rates?” I press them again, only to be told that those are just statistics.  The number of those pregnancies is so small…..

I’d like to introduce myself: I am the Failure Rate.  My husband and I have “defeated” almost every form of birth control available.  Back in our pre-Catholic days, we did the “only sensible and responsible thing ” and tried to prevent babies from coming before we wanted them to come.  Look how well that worked out for us:

M was conceived while I was on the Pill.  It was 4 months before our wedding and we were not spectacularly thrilled.  (LOVE her now. Just wanted to get that in there.)

M was conceived while I was on the Pill

We couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong.  This failure was all on me.  Taking the Pill was my responsibility, and obviously I had messed it up, because I was pregnant. We decided to remove the possibility of error, so we opted for something stronger.  My OB gave me a Depo-Provera shot the day after M was born.  It was “fool-proof” we were told.

Baby Noah  conceived on Depo-Provera

M wasn’t even a year old when we found out that the baby we named Noah was on the way.  I won’t lie to you.  I was stunned.  I cried a lot.  My husband was decidedly not happy.  I apologized.  Often.  I was convinced that somehow I had messed up again.  We were poor college students who were struggling to feed the baby we already had.  What business did we have having another one?

We were devastated when Noah died at 11 weeks gestation.

In the midst of our devastation, we decided to have W.  He was to be our only “on purpose” baby.

We wised up to the idea that hormonal contraceptives might not be the best choice for us.  Since we had no desire to be celibate, we reluctantly decided that it would have to be condoms.  We were not happy.  What kind of married people used condoms?  The kind who could defeat the Pill, that’s who.

We learned that condoms and spermicide don’t work either the Christmas just after W’s first birthday.  He was a sick and unhappy baby, and I couldn’t imagine adding another baby to the mind numbing worry of my life.  It didn’t matter what I was thinking.  Stunned or not, L arrived the next August.

No barrier was going to stop us from having L

We were finished with artificial things which didn’t stop anything.  Not only were we frustrated, I was becoming more Catholic and couldn’t reconcile my actions with my beliefs.  We turned to our last hope, the Rhythm Method (no snickering, NFPers.)  It should surprise no one that E came along pretty quickly after that.

E – Proof her parents can’t count

We were pretty sure that we were done having children. We had 4!  We reverted back to condoms because they were cheap and didn’t require me to take contraceptives.  It was all on him, (Hah!) so it was him sinning and not me. (Okay, I know better now, but that was my reasoning.)

Within 18 months we were expecting our sweet Bernadette

Baby Bernadette – The last time we used contraceptives

We lost our sweet Bernadette halfway through pregnancy.  It completely devastated us, but convinced us of the beauty of life. It also led to the Computer Guy’s conversion.  He joined the Church in June of the next year…..just before C arrived.

When we realized that B was coming, we shook our heads and laughed a bit.  We were no longer trying to prevent their coming, but they were still arriving in the “every 2 years” pattern we had established.  We had decided that spacing was up to God, and He seems to think every 2 years is a good thing.

We were in the midst of moving and were watching my cycles and charts to avoid pregnancy in the middle of a move.  God laughed.  My midwife looked at my chart and exclaimed “There’s no way you got pregnant that month!” but we did.

J – The “you can’t possibly have gotten pregnant” baby

Once again we beat the odds.  We just laugh it off and love them all.

You can talk to me all you want about the statistical anomaly of the failure rate and how it’s only around 1%.  You can tell me that the number of babies from the failure rate would be too small of a number to make a difference.  You can say that all you want, but you’d be wrong.  I know because it has surely made a difference around here. You see, my whole house is bursting at the seams from that insignificant “Failure Rate.”

About the Author:

Rebecca Frech is a Cradle Catholic who came back to the Church in 2000, and thanks God for it every day. She lives just outside Dallas with her husband, the brilliant Computer Guy, their 7 not-quite-perfect children, and an ever-multiplying family of dust bunnies. When she’s not teaching math, neglecting housework, or reluctantly training for a marathon, she’s blogging at Shoved to Them.

  • I loved this post the first time I read it months ago and I love it now. 🙂

  • I am the result of the failure rate. My teenaged parents were contracepting and yet here I am. Twelve years later my much older and wiser but still contracepting parents had my brother arrive under similar circumstances. I’m pretty sure most of my cousins and most of my cousins children exist for similar reasons as well.

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  • their 7 not-quite-perfect children? What went wrong? Our six are perfect.

  • Briana

    Finally, someone that understands my failure rate! We have 6, and we were contracepting with each. We ALSO have a Depo baby (though it made me such a hormonal witch, we first thought that the crankiness WAS the contraception…). We, though, have two condom babies (clearly the first malfunctioned) AND diaphragm babies-one with without spermacide (which was obviously the reason?) And one WITH spermacide.

    I had a buy one get one free (twins) so only 5 pregnancies with my marriage. 😀

    See, I had one child previous to my husband (Pill) and I was sure the pill just didn’t work for me. 😉

    We just came into the church this past year.

    • You ladies are providing rich stuff which I appreciate. Just told my wife in the other room the buy-one-get-one-free concept. Will pass it on to our twin-delivered daughter.

    • Debbie

      Welcome Home! 🙂

  • Debbie

    God be praised for your sweet babies. 🙂

  • Diana

    Wow! What’s meant to be will find a way, I guess! Just wondering about the Depo. You didn’t specify, and I am somewhat confused. It says you got the shot the day after your son was born and then got pregnant before he turned one. Was that your only shot?

    • No, it wasn’t the only shot. I got them every three months and was pregnant a month after the 3rd one.

  • Kara H.

    Thanks for this! God seems to think that a baby every eighteen months is about right for us. We’ve never used contraception, but I will never deny the temptation has always been present and strong. Thanks for putting this out there and God bless your lovely family!

  • jeannine

    Thank you for your story. God works in mysterious and beautiful ways–Although, sometimes we do not understand it until years down the road. God Bless you and your family.

  • Amy

    This is the story of my life! Thank you for sharing so honestly. I’ve carried guilt around due to contracepting, both because I knew I was wrong and because I must be using it wrong because it SURELY doesn’t work. We gave up trying to space our children. There has been no rhyme or reason to when they come. The first two are nearly five years apart (oddly enough we were NOT using birth control during that time), then we had 6 births and 7 miscarriages in less than 10 years. We started with the depo shot after #2, switched to condoms, went in the pill, back to condoms, and finally decided after 4 kids and 5 miscarriages that God must have a plan for our family. #7 is now 4 years old and we miscarried a year ago. #8 is due two months before #7 turns 5, so I guess our pattern is starting over again!