I have an amazing story I want to share with everyone, especially with those are interested in Natural Family Planning.
A friend of mine, Dr. Elizabeth Cox, who is an OB/GYN doctor, recently embraced Natural Family Planning into her practice and marriage and decided to stop prescribing artificial contraception or perform elective sterilizations.
Sadly, as a result, she was terminated from her practice and is now discerning what the next step is.
Until then, she would like to share her story of how she came to realize the damaging effects of contraception and the benefits of Natural Family Planning so that other medical professionals and women may be inspired by her story.
Dr. Elizabeth Cox has a newfound message of love in her vocation as a medical provider for women’s health.
“What inspires me every day is when I reach out to women and can minister to them about the beauty of who they are,” she says of her role as a Natural Family Planning Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OBGYN).
Elizabeth lives in Wichita, Kansas, and has been a practicing OBGYN since 2007. She recently completed the education consultant segment as a medical consultant for the Creighton Model Fertility Care System and NaPro Technology (Natural Procreative Technology).
Until this past year, Elizabeth had what she calls a “contraceptive mentality.” It wasn’t until she experienced the harmful effects of this mentality on her own life and the lives of her patients that she began to question and ultimately understand what the Catholic Church teaches. This search for truth led to a beautiful and inspiring conversion sparking major changes in her vocation as women’s health provider.
“We all have signs,” Elizabeth says. “Until you choose to take that different road, or are open to that, you will miss them all.” She likens this to taking the “blue pill” in the Matrix movies. She does not recall hearing about the consequences of contraception use growing up or in college.
For me, this was all on my own. I never had a friend, colleague, family member [tell me this]- I don’t ever remember hearing a homily or reading a book about this. It was all something that slowly evolved for me in my life and in my vocation as a doctor and as a mother.
The third child of hard-working Latino immigrant parents, Elizabeth grew up a ‘C and E Catholic’ (Christmas and Easter) and was poorly catechized. However, the Church was always a place where she found “peace and solace.”
While attending college at the University of Kansas, she did attend Mass more frequently at the St. Lawrence Campus Catholic Church because she sang in the church choir. Singing was “the only way I knew how to pray,” she says with tears in her voice, “the only way where God knew my sufferings.” Some of her suffering involved the pain of past dating relationships she’d had.
Looking back, Elizabeth now realizes that her dating relationships up to that point failed because she entered them with the long-held unspoken promise to herself that she would never become dependent on any man. Elizabeth says that, although she didn’t know what feminism, was, “if you wrote a book on feminism, my face would have been on the cover.”
After medical school, Elizabeth met her now spouse, Michael, on a blind date, and they eventually married. The effects of her feministic attitude had an impact on her marriage. Elizabeth admits to holding onto a deep-seated subconscious mindset of ‘I’ instead of ‘we.’ This caused stress on their union and prompted Elizabeth to search for a change.
At the same time, she was also experiencing a low point in her work. She saw many instances of the pain women were experiencing due to, what she knows now, the harm caused by the subconscious contraceptive mentality in their relationships. “I could feel the pain and confusion women had,” she explains.
Patients who were married were asking for STD checks, or patients were telling her they were getting divorced. Some shared they had lost their desire for their spouse. “I started questioning things. I started to ask, ‘Am I truly helping these women?’”
Elizabeth knew that God was the answer. She delved into a wealth of information about marriage, love, and intimacy. She stayed up late many nights reading books and any information she could find on the Internet.
The more she read, communication in her marriage began to improve. “We were learning how to see the integrity [and dignity]that each other had,” she says.
This spilled over into her work. She began to speak more with her patients about love, faith, and forgiveness in their own relationships and marriages. At this point, she began to “see the signs,” but she had yet to fully realize the snowball effects of a contraceptive mentality on women, marriages, family, and society.
After months of continued research and reading, a catalyst occurred when she saw a video of a pro-life priest explaining Ephesians 5. He was able to clarify and put into words why marriage is a sacrament and what sacramental love is.
Hearing him explain how a husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church was deeply moving. Combined with many other poignant readings by authors like Jason Everett, Christopher West, and Janet Smith, Elizabeth’s mind slowly opened to the truth.
Elizabeth had come to a turning point, and she needed to share what she had learned and was thinking with her husband. Late one night, she opened up to him about everything.
The truth was, she wasn’t sure she could be an OBGYN anymore. Michael was surprised, and he suggested they move somewhere where people would understand her and she could practice without prescribing contraception. Elizabeth was afraid of losing everything, including losing everything they had built and established. She knew she didn’t want to leave Wichita.
I remember saying, ‘I don’t want to leave. I love where we are. I love our community. Our friends. My patients. Our church.’
It was yet another intense evening researching how she could continue to be an OBGYN when Elizabeth found the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska. “I thought it was in Rome,” she recalls laughing. She found a conference she could attend on the science of NaPro Technology.
Elizabeth decided to attend the Love and Life Conference in November (2014) and her heart became fully converted. She was able to put the pain and suffering she was seeing in her patients into words. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humane Vitae, perfectly explained what she was witnessing. “Everything that I had been feeling and seeing and trying to understand – I finally learned what it was and how to reason and explain it.”
At that moment, the Fiat of Mary’s total yes to God’s Will became very personally meaningful for her. “I had just learned what Fiat was, and I experienced my own moment of total surrender to God.”
After listening to the Institute’s director, Dr. Hilgers, as well as priests and theologians, Elizabeth understood St. Pope John Paul’s teachings on the Theology of the Body. She left the conference certain that she could never prescribe contraception again.
The conference had a huge impact on Elizabeth’s mission as an OBGYN. She began to promote the dignity of women while upholding them body and soul.
[When] women come in, I think lots of times they just want answers, ‘What’s going on with my fertility?’ You can forget about your soul and become just pure body. Take the soul out, and you’ve now become just an object – an object of desire. You’ve objectified yourself. You lose the beauty of how you’re made in the image of God and how we are all part of that mystical body of the Church.
Elizabeth began telling her patients that she would no longer prescribe birth control for them. “I planted a lot of seeds, changed many hearts in ten minute conversations.” Some women would cry. Some weren’t ready for the message. But everyday someone was. Often she referred women to Becky Knapp at the Wichita Diocesan Marriage and Family Life Office for more information.
Some patients were curious if this was a ‘religious thing’.
I try and tell patients, for me, it’s a philosophy…I now understand why the Catholic Church says what it says. And it’s beautiful. I had to understand it from my personal experience before I understood what the Catholic Church said. Then I also sometimes tell them, it’s also about the good morals behind it. It was never just a ‘Catholic thing’. Prior to the 1930s, all Christians preached against contraception.
This spring, Elizabeth was ready to go back to the Pope Paul VI’s Institute and continue her training. There are two separate week-long training courses certified as continuing medical education credits through Creighton University. They involved intense lectures and training, discussing and debating ethical questions, and comprehensive examinations.
Elizabeth often tells people she “entered this world that she didn’t know existed.” And it’s so beautiful.
Because of different things happening at her OBGYN office, Elizabeth had been able to make these changes without much opposition from her colleagues. However, days after returning from completing her second training as a Medical Consultant in NaPro Technology, the partners at her practice requested a meeting to discuss Natural Family Planning and NaPro Technology.
If you would like to know more about Dr. Elizabeth Cox or stay up-to-date with her story, you can follow the Fiat Women’s Health blog which was set up to share her story of hope, healing, and love. You can also follow her through the Dr. Elizabeth Cox Facebook page that was also set up to share her story.
Copyright 2015 Erika Marie
Image used by permission of Dr. Elizabeth Cox. All rights reserved.