Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Volume 5 – Birth Control and NFP

First of all, let me note that this Natural Family Planning (NFP) post is NOT a how-to. I don’t really even know much about the practice of NFP. I’m just going to write about my understanding of why the teachings of the Catholic Church prohibit the use of artificial birth control, but encourage using NFP for child-spacing. Second, let me give a little heads up:

***Warning: Though this post will not be at all graphic, I suspect I may use the S-E-X word once or twice. I’m just saying because my Mother-in-law reads this. And my Grandma. And my Dad. Sooo, yeah. Here we go.

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I remember going to a Catholic wedding many years ago (even pre-atheism!), in which the priest actually had the bride and groom vow to use natural family planning. When I heard that, my eyes bugged out, and my jaw dropped, and I just could not believe that they were supposed to do that. And that he said that during their wedding ceremony!

In my understanding at the time, NFP was the same thing as the rhythm method. And I really couldn’t wrap my mind around why in the world the Catholic Church would prohibit birth control anyway. I was pro-choice back then, but I could still at least grasp why religious groups might argue against abortion. Saying that people shouldn’t use birth control seemed barbaric and archaic and kind of ridiculous.

Fast forward about 12-ish years. I now know that NFP is not the same as the rhythm method. I’m now firmly pro-life. I now understand why the Catholic Church does not support the use of artificial birth control. It’s actually pretty cool. Check it out:

It all started when Super Friend told me about this post by Jennifer Fulwiler. I think it was the first or second post of hers that I ever read. Jennifer has a blood-clotting disorder that is exacerbated by pregnancy. After her sixth baby was born, she had multiple blood clots in her lungs. In the post I linked, she talks about how she probably ought not have any more children. And yet, she is not willing to use artificial birth control or sterilization to prevent pregnancy. That was a pretty powerful story for me to read, and led me to want to learn more about NFP.

As I said, I never did really learn much more about how NFP is practiced. But I did learn about how effective it can be when done right. I did learn that it can be used both to help achieve pregnancy and to avoid it or to space pregnancies. And, most importantly, I learned why the Catholic Church endorses this method of child spacing or pregnancy prevention but not the use of artificial birth control.

As I see it, it all boils down to this one thing: Openness to Life.

The Catholic Church teaches that new life is a gift from God. That all life is precious. And that the main purpose of marriage and sex is bringing new life into the world. Now, before you get all freaked out and start saying, “Yup! I knew those Catholics were all a bunch of twisted puritans! Sex is only for creating babies?!?!” or something like that, let me add that the Church teaches that the primary purpose of sex is making babies. NOT that that is its only purpose. The Church does not teach that it is wrong to enjoy sex or that every single time you have sex you need to be trying to have a baby. The Church does teach that, by engaging in the act that creates life, you should be open to the possibility of creating life.

The Church does not approve of the use of artificial birth control or sterilization because these separate the act of creating babies from the possibility of creating babies. They sever the life-giving act from the opportunity to give life. According to the Church, if there is a reason that you should not have a baby right now, then instead of changing the way your body works so you most likely cannot get pregnant, you abstain from sex so you most definitely do not get pregnant. And yes, the Church does explicitly teach abstinence before marriage.

And though there are plenty of reasons for concern about the lack of absolute effectiveness of artificial birth control methods and the introduction of unnatural hormones into one’s body, I don’t think that actually has anything to do with the Church’s position on the issue. The Church says that if we should not get pregnant, we should not have sex, so NFP is a sacrifice-based system, involving both partners. And, as an aside, I’m pretty sure that most of the big Catholic families you see around are not big because NFP doesn’t work, but because the Catholic teaching leads them to be open to life such that they don’t often use NFP for preventing pregnancy.

The Church does not shame people about sex. It actually holds sex as sacred. It values the God-given function of the sexual act, to create life. And in doing so, it celebrates the other functions of sex, to give pleasure and bring two people closer together. The Church holds that, by separating sex from its main purpose of creating life, we change it.

I gotta tell you, when I first read about this stuff, I was stunned. I was completely taken aback by how beautiful this concept was. I could not believe that what I had always assumed to be misogynistic and sententious was really based in openness and reverence. It rang so true to me, as has almost every element of the Catholic teaching that I once thought was so backwards.

So, there you have it. The reason for using NFP and not using artificial birth control, according to the Catholic Church, as best I understand it, in a reeeeally overly-simplified nutshell. Blythe wrote more (better) about it here.

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This post was based on a question from my friend Liz (again). I love that she asks me such  great questions about Catholicism, and that she answers my questions about being Mormon. You should check out her blog.

So, what do you want to ask about?

Posted in Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Other Great Blogs, Religion | 3 Comments

7 Quick Takes – Evidence of Summer Fun and a Couple of Other Random Thoughts

Linking up with Jen.

1. I have been a little off the past few weeks. I’ve wanted to write more, but nothing I’ve come up with has been right. I’m starting to feel like getting back in the swing, so I thought I’d start by sharing that, though I have had some rough days, we’ve still been having a fun summer. Presenting, five Quick Takes with photographic evidence of summer fun:

2. Last week we went raspberry picking.

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Miss was all about getting as many raspberries as possible so we could make fresh raspberry smoothies for breakfast the following morning (which were awful, by the way). The other two were not super motivated, but I think they still had fun. Either way, they got a special treat afterwards.

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I let them have just ice cream for lunch. They were thrilled and thought I was the best mom ever. I didn’t have to make them anything to eat. Win, win.

3. We went shopping for soccer shoes over the weekend. I realized how infrequently (i.e. never) I take the girls to a mall. They were ooh-ing and aah-ing over everything they saw, from kiosks with funky paper light fixtures to the mannequin displays in all of the store front windows. They even had a lot of fun with some president statues outside the mall entrance.

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It might have been a tad over the top, how proud I was that they could identify George Washington and Abraham Lincoln by themselves.

4. We’ve had a few cookouts with friends. I already mentioned our first one on the 4th of July. We had another with homemade grilled pizza, s’mores, and movie night (and some trampolining in pajamas):

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^^ The chef with his delicious pizzas ^^

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and another time with my husband’s grilled ribs, baked beans, and fritters (all homemade), an airshow overhead, homemade ice cream (my sole contribution), and a movie night:

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^^ We set the kids’ tables in the yard so they could see the Thunderbirds overhead ^^

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My husband loves to grill, especially for company. I love to let him. Win, win.

5. We had a picnic in the downtown square. We listened to live music and danced in the grass.

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We played in the fountain.

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Summer fun, right there ^^

6. This week we are at the Farm. Always a lot of summer fun to be had here. Yesterday my husband caught a bunch of shad and let the girls play with some on the beach. They were entertained for hours. It was sort of odd and quite fun to watch.

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7. And in news not related to summer shenanigans, I finally updated my “About Me” page. I am not entirely sure that it’s finished, but it has been changed quite a bit and I like it so far. What do you think?

For more Quick Takes, see Conversion Diary.

Posted in 7 Quick Takes Friday, Adventure, Outings, Summer, The Farm | 1 Comment

I’m in a Blogging Slump, BUT – Iowa State Fair!

Oh, the Iowa State Fair. I have such a love for something that is only mine through marriage. I grew up in Michigan and never once went to the state fair. The only thing I even knew about the Michigan State Fair was that there was a Hog-Calling Contest there, and only that because my cousin won it at least once.

And as much as I love living in Wisconsin, I wasn’t terribly impressed by our fair, which I went to only once, the first year we lived there (I say “there,” because I’m currently typing in Missouri). I had no real understanding of the wonders of the state fair until the summer of 2009, when I went to the Iowa State Fair for the first time when Miss was about six months old.

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Even then, I didn’t quite grasp the Fair fabulousness until taking my kids when they got a little older. We’ve gone for the past three years now, and I so love walking the streets of the fairgrounds, taking in all the sights and smells, and hearing all the stories from my husband and in-laws of fairs gone by. It makes me feel like I have a bit of claim to such a wonderful tradition, even though I’m a true city girl who has always been quite in awe of the fact that people grow vegetables and animals in order to show them and be judged on them at the Fair. It’s bizarre. And I love it.

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So, this year was much the same as always. We have a few Fair things that are must-sees and must-dos and must-eats. By the time we get done with those, we’re about ready to be done for the day. This year was no exception. As usual, we started in the baby animals barn.

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^^ No, we weren’t at the Creepy Perv Fair. The sign on the cage got cut off when I snapped this pic. The top line said, “For My Health, Don’t”

The girls got to see newborn piglets nursing from their momma, and some cute baby ostriches, and a calf being born on the overhead screens. This is always one of our favorite parts of the Fair.

Naturally, the next thing we did was to eat something yummy on a stick.

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And then find something homegrown and absurdly large to pose with for a photo

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^^ That’s an 1,131 pound pumpkin.

We went to the Avenue of Breeds barn and saw the Big Boar, along with lots of other types of animals.

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^^ NOT the Big Boar, but for some reason I only have photos of medium-sized pigs from that barn.

The city girl in me was so tickled to see this guy:

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It’s not every day you turn around to see a big pink pig sauntering toward you like he hasn’t a care in the world. There is something funny to me about the way pigs walk too. I kind of wanted to take him home.

After the Avenue of Breeds we walked over to the cattle barn to see the the Big Bull.

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His name is “Big Daddy” and he weighs over 3000 pounds.

After an unmemorable-but-belly-filling-without-long-lines lunch, we finally made it to the Big Yellow Slide, which Miss in particular had been begging to go on all morning. The older girls went down the slide with their aunt, and Sis went down with my husband. They loved it, and each went twice.

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At least they said they loved it after they got to the bottom. Their faces during the sliding sort of suggested otherwise:

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^^ That last picture makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Somehow, I have yet to see the famous butter cow sculpture in person (not sure how I always miss this), but this year I did see, um, extra large American Gothic:

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One of the coolest parts of the day came after the slide. We walked over to the antique tractors, where my Father-in-law located a model just like the one he had driven as a boy on the farm where he grew up. He was not much older than Miss when he started working in the fields driving that tractor.

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I’ve heard about him driving a tractor as a little boy, but somehow seeing that tractor close up, the same kind that he rode on back then, and seeing my small-but-not-much-smaller-than-he-was-then daughters standing next to it made it so much more amazing to me.

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My favorite part of the day, as it has been every year, was taking the girls to the Department of Natural Resources building. They run around and look at the fish in the tanks, guess at which animals the various pelts belong to, and check out many other cool (and educational) exhibits.

DSC_0343 DSC_0344^^ I asked Lass (my animal lover) about the birds in that display case ^^ She said, in a bored voice, “It’s a peregrine falcon. I already know that.” I had to check the card on the glass to make sure, but she was right!

Behind the DNR building, there is a pond with turtles and ducks and geese and swans. We always spend a lot of time there, searching under the surface of the water to spot the turtles, laughing at the antics of the ducks, and admiring the swans.

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This year, we got startled by one of the swans who climbed out of the pond, stretched her wings up and flapped around frantically for a few seconds, right in front of us.

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Perhaps I’m a big dork, bit this shady little pond, and the excitement my girls displayed over seeing turtles trying to climb onto rocks and swans flapping their wings, was the highlight of my day.

It was also fun that afterwards we enjoyed another dessert on a stick, deep-fried this time, as the perfect ending to a lovely day.

Posted in Adventure, Family, Outings, Summer, Traditions | 4 Comments

Theme Thursday – Panic, New Homeschool Mom Style

Kindergarten. Very soon, our first real year of homeschooling will begin. I’m terrified. And disorganized. And terrified.

Cari’s theme for Theme Thursday this week is “Panic” and her post yesterday showed that even veteran homeschooling moms can be in a state of disarray and panic at this time of the year, leading to hands thrown up and spontaneous avoidance-baking. I don’t like to bake, so I haven’t gotten to that point yet. But I did nearly decide that I would rather my daughters be illiterate than to spend absurd amounts of time peeling and sticking magnetic squares to letter tiles and tearing apart perforated cards (pages and pages of cards!!!) for our reading and spelling curricula. All About Reading didn’t include that part in the description of their product!

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^^ Look at all those tiles! That’s only half of them. Peel and stick. Peel and stick.

I am nearly ready, as far as my product preparation goes. 1000-ish Cards have been torn apart. I just have about 700 more to do for the spelling curriculum, and I’ll be done with that. I’ve mostly finished figuring out what we are going to do each day. Sort of. I’ve tallied the total number of hours we have to do school (the only state requirement of homeschooling here) and the number of days we’re doing school and used my math skills to determine the number of hours we need to work each day. I’m already exhausted. Math is hard.

Miss is going to the local Catholic school for 1.5 days per week. She’ll go to Mass, get religious education, music class, gym class, and a few other things. I’m going to send her for the first three full days of school, so she can get to know her teacher and classmates and the routine. Then we’ll start our part-time deal. They start school on August 26th. I am starting our at-home schedule the week before that, with the idea being that I’ll sort of cement “we-mostly-do-school-at-home” in her mind before she goes off to the big world of Catholic school kindergarten for three whole days.

So that means (gulp) we’re starting on August 18th. And we’re going out of town on Friday (tomorrow!) for a week. WHAT?

Panic, you see.

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Yes, I have been sitting at the tiny kids’ table to do all the prep work on the materials.

I still need to figure out my first lessons and get some stuff on the schedule of what we’re actually going to do.

I have to figure out a way to organize all this stuff.

I have to clean out our craft and supply cabinets.

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I have to figure out what I’m going to do with Sis, to keep her from running off with the fruits of my magnet-sticking labor every time I turn my back, and perhaps help her to learn a little something as well.

I have to actually read our first Five In a Row book and decide what activities I’m going to do to go along with it.

And because I’m crazy and my child is also attending a non-home-school part time, I have to get all of the required supplies for that school, and label each item individually (yes, each crayon, each marker, etc.), and make an appointment for her to have a physical (oops!), and get all of her uniform clothing de-wrinkled. . .

Yikes. Writing this post is only making me more panicked. I gotta go do some stuff. Wish me luck!

Posted in Homeschool, Other Great Blogs | 4 Comments

Sharing Crosses

Many years ago, I took a girlfriend to a psychic as a birthday present. It was a goofy thing to do, and we both took our “readings” with several grains of salt. I don’t remember much of anything that the psychic told me, except that at one point she gravely looked at me and told me that I am extremely fertile and should use caution (at the time I was not in a position of wanting to have kids) to avoid having a huge number of children. I chuckled, a little nervously at that, and thought, “Well, I don’t want kids now, but someday that will be awesome to have lots and lots, since I’m so fertile!” (lots and lots back then would have meant about four). And then I laughed and went back to real life.

The psychic’s words kind of stuck with me, though. I don’t think I ever really took her predictions to be true, but I remember thinking about that fertility comment a few times in the early years of my marriage, when my husband and I were getting pregnant almost as easily as we were breathing. We had our three girls closely together, by design, and I was feeling pretty smug in my hyper-fertility.

At one point I even offered to give all of my winter maternity clothes to Super Friend when she was pregnant with her fourth baby, thinking that, if I followed my typical pattern of having babies on an 18-months-apart schedule (and I had no reason to believe that I wouldn’t!) then I would not need winter maternity clothes again.

I would laugh at the absurdity of my over-confidence if it wasn’t so painful to look back on my stupidity.

Saturday I nervously clicked “publish” on a post that shared some of my no-longer-hyper-fertile struggles and attempted to shed some light on the “taboo-ness” of infertility. I have never liked to talk about infertility or miscarriage for two reasons. One is that I don’t want to make people feel bad or awkward. The other is that I feel bad to complain about infertility when I am blessed to have three beautiful children.

But the idea behind the post was to put forth some support for others who are quietly suffering from infertility or secondary infertility or sub fertility and similarly feel unable to talk about it. To give a virtual hug to other moms who have experienced miscarriages.

In the process of doing so, I mentioned that sometimes it is hard to be around pregnant women or those who have wonderful, big Catholic families. I mentioned that some might think me a jerk if I said, “It can be hard to be around pregnant ladies” to someone who has not experienced infertility or miscarriage.

It didn’t occur to me when writing that other post that some things might be hard for the pregnant ladies too. Or that other moms there, even if they haven’t directly experienced infertility or miscarriage may be very familiar with loss or other motherly struggles (as Bonnie kindly pointed out to me in the combox). I didn’t really think about the fact that it would be highly unlikely for anyone to think I was a jerk for feeling the way I felt, because every mother has her own crosses to bear, and in that place at least, for that time, I don’t think most of them were focused on judging the crosses of others.

And then Jenny commented about being on the opposite side of the fertility continuum. She mentioned having a bit of a hard time identifying with the pain of infertility, because for her (and others I’ve since seen comments from), what I would see as the blessing of strong fertility can at times feel like its own cross.

While I am sitting here wishing for what Jenny and so many other Catholic families have – lots and lots of kids – some of those families are at times feeling overwhelmed with their very blessings. I can think of women who struggle with health problems exacerbated by pregnancy, repeatedly getting pregnant. Or just those mamas in the trenches with lots of babies, in quick succession, struggling to keep it all together, and likewise feeling unable to speak of it for fear of seeming ungrateful.

We all have crosses to bear. And we all seem to be, at least sometimes, afraid to share our crosses with other moms because we don’t want to seem like ungrateful jerks. But as Jen said in her speech at Edel (I’m paraphrasing), “Can’t we all just admit that what we do is hard?” Because it is sometimes. And instead of pretending that it’s not, or trying to not ever mention a hardship because it could be worse, I think we ought to just all do our best to listen and help other moms with whatever in whatever way we are able.

IMG_3333Sharing our crosses with each other doesn’t mean we are ungrateful for our blessings. It just means we can have more hands to help us carry them.

Posted in Motherhood, Other Great Blogs | 2 Comments

Edel – A Different View

I wrote on Monday about how wonderful last weekend at the Edel Gathering was. And it was. It really was.

But what I didn’t write about was the parts of it that were hard. I mean, I wrote about how it was kind of hard to talk to other people because of being an introvert. But that was just uncomfortable hard. There were a few other parts that were more like painful hard.

I didn’t write about those parts because: 1) I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer about something that was so great. And 2) because I was trying to keep my painful stuff private. And 3) because I didn’t quite even know how the story I had to tell was going to end yet.

Then I realized, through reading this post and the comments after it, that 1) lots of other women had similar experiences of Edel: GREAT, but kind of painful, and that some women even decided against attending Edel in order to avoid the painful part, so maybe it would be good to write about it. And 2) I thought about how keeping painful stuff private can be fine, but it never really seems to help me in any way to do so. And sometimes keeping painful stuff private just contributes to the idea that those things should be unseen and never talked about and taboo, which makes them harder in some ways. And then 3) Wednesday, I learned how this story would end, at least for now. So I decided I wanted to write about this other part of my experience at Edel.

I realize that most readers have no idea what I’m rambling about here, so I’ll back up. If you’ve read much here you know that for about a year and a half we have been struggling with secondary infertility (you can read about it here if you’re so inclined). In early June, I learned that finally, I was pregnant again, with a due date in late February. Naturally, I was ecstatic.

I was nervous because of my first miscarriage, but I was hopeful and absolutely thrilled. I couldn’t wait to see my baby (or possibly babies since I took fertility medications) on ultrasound. Each night when my kids prayed for “Mama to have another baby,” my husband and I secretly smiled together, eagerly anticipating the day when we could tell them our news.

I’m sure you can guess that the pregnancy didn’t turn out as we had hoped. About three weeks ago I had my first ultrasound, and the doctor said the pregnancy wasn’t viable. I won’t get into all the details, but for various reasons my husband and I were still hopeful that maybe there was a mistake, maybe everything would be okay, maybe we would experience a miracle. I had another ultrasound a week before Edel, and my final ultrasound was Wednesday. We now know definitively that the pregnancy is not viable. There’s actually no baby, just a “blighted ovum.”

In the midst of this process of waiting and ultrasounds, I went to Edel. It was a lovely break. In some ways it helped to take my mind off my concerns. But in some ways it kept my problems front and center in my mind. There were babies and pregnant ladies everywhere. Which was just awesome. But it was also hard. It was hard to be, at times, assumed to be one of the pregnant ladies.

I still have high enough levels of pregnancy hormones that I feel pregnant. And I look pregnant. And so lots of people seem to assume that I am pregnant. A few people have asked me directly. Many have just made comments suggestive of their assumption. I can’t blame them. Here’s what I looked like at the big Edel party last Saturday night (what I still look like): IMG951826 That’s me in the white shirt, in case you’re not sure. Super Friend (in the purple) actually is pregnant, and obviously so (to my knowledge, Jennifer Fulwiler is not pregnant, nor does she appear to be). Super Friend and I got quite a few pregnancy-related comments and questions directed at both of us. It was kind of fortunate actually that she was with me, because then she could just answer the question, and I’d look away or down or something and avoid answering myself. I heard a few comments about “is this space just for pregnant ladies?” when standing in a group of other women who were pregnant. A homeless man even catcalled at us regarding our bellies when we were walking to Starbucks, “Congratulations ladies!!! Pregnant women are so beautiful!”

It was such a strange situation to be in. Technically I was (and am) pregnant, but not in the most important sense of the word. I’m not going to be holding a baby in eight months.

It’s hard to admit, because I feel selfish to do it, but it was painful in many ways to be around so many pregnant women during the weekend. To repeatedly answer the question, “How many kids do you have?” To hear about so many other big wonderful families with five or six or eight or even 10 kids! These were all practicing Catholic ladies, after all. It was hard to feel like I’ll probably never be part of that big-family club. It was so bittersweet to hear Haley describe the moment when she first took a pregnancy test, and how she suddenly realized that, more than anything, she wanted it to be positive. She was talking about an unexpected pregnancy in a totally different type of situation than mine. But still. I know that feeling. Every month for a year and a half, I know that feeling.

Don’t get me wrong. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Edel Conference. The conference was perfect. It was me that was not quite right. My heart is just hyper-sensitive to pregnancy talk and pregnant people and tiny babies and feeling pregnant when I’m actually not.

I think the reason I’m writing this is that, after reading Cari’s post and the comments in the Combox, I couldn’t help but feel that so many people are struggling with infertility, or sub fertility and/or miscarriage without ever talking about it. It’s a big taboo. I know that I didn’t talk to anyone about it at Edel, except for Super Friend. I don’t talk to my friends here about it. I don’t talk to most of my family about it, except my Mom a little bit and of course my husband. And by not talking about it, I feel alone in it. I read Cari’s post and the comments and I thought, “I wish I had met these ladies over the weekend. I wish I could have talked to them and given them hugs.” I think it would have been so refreshing to share these types of feelings and experiences with others going through similar struggles.

Because other people might look at you like you’re a big jerk if you say, “Geez, it’s kind of hard to be around all these pregnant ladies sometimes.” Or even if they don’t, I’d feel like a jerk if I said something like that. And in that room, so much of the talk was centered around due dates and how many children a mom has and it just got to feel overwhelming at times. I was worrying about when the direct question was going to come without Super Friend there to deflect it. I felt a little bit of jarring sadness every time someone addressed me inclusively with the pregnant crowd. “I wish.”

To be clear, not one time did I experience a single woman at Edel being mean or catty or gossipy. No one said anything hurtful to me. No one said, “Oh, only three kids?? When are you going to get going on the next one??” or anything insensitive like that. It wasn’t that kind of group. Everyone was so kind and supportive and accepting. It was just me, and no one had any idea. No one else had any reason to know that I felt like there was a big pink elephant in the room and it was my ambiguously pregnant belly with no baby in it. And even when I don’t have the belly, it still feels like there’s this huge part of my life that I’m not allowed to talk about. It’s a little bit like I’m walking around as an open wound, but no one can see it.

So that’s why I wanted to write this. So maybe the next time I’m in a group of moms, whether it’s the next Edel or something on a smaller scale, if a mom is struggling with infertility or sub fertility or miscarriage or whatever else, she will feel like she can talk about it if she wants to. Maybe writing about it will allow me to feel like I can talk about it sometimes if I want to, too.

Posted in Other Great Blogs, Pregnancy | 15 Comments

Five Things I Learned About Myself at the Edel Conference. And Then Some.

1. I am really and truly and introvert.

Sometimes I have wondered about this. Before this weekend, if you had asked me whether I am an introvert or an extrovert, I would have been uncertain how to answer. I love to get out of the house, I love to be with other people, I enjoy going to my husband’s work parties and evenings out with friends. Public speaking has never been a problem for me. I can get up in front of a room full of people and sing karaoke with only minimal anxiety.

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But now I know, for real and for certain and forevermore, I am an introvert. I do not do mingling in a large group of strangers well. I am terrible at small talk. In such a situation, I am much more likely to stand in a corner and hope someone will come and introduce herself to me than to walk up to someone I don’t know and start up a conversation. I was so glad Super Friend was with me this weekend.

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Yay! Super Friend!

There were many times I did introduce myself to someone new, but every time I felt awkward and scared and shy and stupid about it. I asked and answered the same questions over and over again. “Where are you from?” “How many kids do you have?”

I did have some wonderful conversations, mostly because the people I was talking to were much better at generating an interesting discussion than I am, and once it gets started I can roll with it.

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Jen Fulwiler is good at conversation. And she’s tall!

I had a blast at Edel, but it really brought out the introvert in me. And I’ve realized, by looking at tweets and blog posts about the weekend, that lots of other women there were experiencing the same anxieties and discomfort I was (a great example here). There were a lot of introverts in that huge room full of mamas!

2. I am not good at Twitter.

There was a streaming Twitter feed up all day Saturday. I’m always sort of amazed and befuddled by Twitter. I don’t really understand it, and have never before felt much of a desire to figure it out, but as I was watching all the tweets on Saturday (some with photos even!!) I couldn’t help but think, “I really need to learn how to do that!” I’m so Twitter-impaired that when I wrote my “Anticipating Edel” post last Thursday, I used the wrong Twitter hashtag for #edel14 (I used #edelgathering, duh). Anyone have some Twitter tips to offer?

3. As much as I loathe taking selfies, there are some events that just cry out for the selfie, and I am not immune to that cry.

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4. Speaking of “cry,” I am apparently quite prone to getting all teary and choked up when listening to wonderful speakers say beautiful things about motherhood, and Catholicism, and friendship.

Oh my goodness, there were four people who spoke on Saturday. Every single one of them had me blinking rapidly and rolling my eyes to the ceiling, in an attempt to keep the welled-up tears from spilling over and making a mess of my mascara. Hallie and Marion and Haley and Jen made such amazing, funny, uplifting, and inspiring speeches. They really made me think about faith and motherhood and community in some new ways. I feel like I should expound upon this more, but right now I’m still processing it myself, so I’ll just say it. was. awesome.

5. I am sentimental.

Okay, I didn’t really just learn this over the weekend. But I did experience a great example of it.

Each Edel attendee got a card at the dinner table on Saturday night. It was a letter written by a Dominican Sister, Sister Elizabeth Ann, and it was just, well, indescribable really (see below for a bit I quoted from it to give you an idea). It (also) brought me to tears, and was so lovely, I really wanted to be sure to bring it home to keep it and read it again and put it in my box of cards to save.

But I forgot it in the Ballroom when I went to bed (kind of early because I had to get up at 4:30am to make our flight home). I got all ready to go to sleep and climbed into bed, only to remember that I had left the card on the table. I was really bummed, and thought about going down to get it. Then I thought that would be silly. It was 11:00. And I could just get one from someone in the morning or copy Super Friend’s. But I wasn’t sure if Super had remembered to grab hers, and she was already asleep so I couldn’t ask her, and we had to leave before anyone else would be up that I could ask for another copy, and I really wanted to have one! And what if Super Friend did forget hers and she wanted one too?? I had to go get it.

So. In order to enable myself to go to sleep and stop thinking about it, I got out of bed, put on clothing (sort of) suitable for appearing in public, and went back down to the Ballroom, where most of the moms were still dancing and whooping it up like mad (I was kind of jealous). I grabbed my card from my table, explained to the few people who stopped to chat why I was wearing PJs, watched for just a minute, and then I went back to bed. Mission completed. Here is just a portion of the letter from Sister Elizabeth Ann, so you can see why I wanted to be sure to have it:

Thank you for the daily, hourly, minute-by-minute gift of self you offer to your husbands, children, and all your loved ones.

Thank you especially for the gift of self you give that no one sees, no one appreciates, no one recognizes, and no one seems to care about. Thank you for making the effort. Thank you for trying. . . .

God sees. God Knows. God cares. He does. He really does! . . .

For those women bearing the heavy cross of infertility, I want to especially take a moment to recognize and offer encouragement to you. In our Catholic culture that embraces motherhood and big families, you may feel especially isolated and alone in your struggles and fears. Don’t lose hope. I want you to know that God sees and knows and cares about you too. . . .

Obviously, I needed to bring it home. I kind of wished I could have brought Sister Elizabeth Ann home too!

And now for a few other things about the weekend.

If you’re wondering about the shoes my girls created for me:

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We did not win a prize. The shoe competition was fierce!! And as I told my girls, of course, the shoes they made were just “too beautiful.”

Overall, Edel was such an amazing experience. Several times during the weekend, Super Friend and I looked at each other and marveled at the women around us.

“Look at all these people,” we’d say. “Can you believe all of these women are faithful Catholic moms? This is so cool. These ladies are so diverse!”

And it was. And they were. They were diverse and wonderful. And kind of crazy.

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I have never seen so many moms dancing and singing and partying hard. Pregnant moms, moms with babies in carriers, young moms, older moms. So. many. fabulous. moms.

And that pretty much sums it up.

It was good that we were there.

 

Posted in Adventure, Friends, Other Great Blogs, Reflections | 10 Comments

Five Favorites – Anticipating Edel

Tomorrow morning I’m getting on a plane and heading to the Edel Gathering for the weekend. This will be the first time since having children that I’ve taken a vacation by myself. I’m excited and nervous, and I kind of miss my girls already. Whatever. Here are five favorite things in anticipation of a fun and relaxing weekend:

1. I’m going to be meeting lots of women whose blogs I enjoy reading. Of course Jen and Hallie are the hostesses of the event, but Kelly, Haley, Heather, Kate, Dwija, Bonnie, Kathryn, Jenny, and Cari will also be there, along with other bloggers I’m sure I’m forgetting and many, many other lovely Catholic moms, and I know it’s going to be fabulous. I’m kind of excited.

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2. I will be flying without children. I will have only carry-on baggage. I will not have a stroller or car seats or sippy cups to manage. I will get to check in online and print my boarding pass before I get to the airport. I kind of don’t remember what it’s like to get on a plane and have it be a sort of relaxing experience.

(My husband is laughing at the idea of flying with me being a relaxing experience, even before kids, because he is remembering all the times I forgot my wallet and/or driver’s license and realized it while pulling into the parking structure at the airport, 45 minutes from our house. But tomorrow? Tomorrow will be relaxing).

3. My two older girls helped me create my shoes for the “crazy shoes” competition tomorrow night.

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Miss: “Mom, are you wearing these for a contest?”

Me: “Yes, Honey. It’s a contest for who can wear the craziest shoes.”

Miss: (doubtful) “I don’t know if these shoes are the craziest.” (adoring) “These shoes are beautiful.”

I won’t share a photo of the finished product until after the contest, but I already have a built-in response for her if I don’t win. I’ll tell her the shoes they made were just too beautiful.

4. I have a traveling companion. Super Friend is coming with me!!!!!

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My husband is a little afraid I may not come back. Which brings me to number five, and my very most favorite favorite:

5. My hubby is watching our girls so that this trip is possible for me. And he’s doing it cheerfully and with a big, “You-deserve-it-Honey” kind of attitude. I love him.

DSC_0107If you’re going to Edel, I can’t wait to meet you!

Posted in Daddy, Five Favorites, Friends, Other Great Blogs | 1 Comment

Answer Me This – Bonus Husband Edition

This week I’m doing Kendra’s Answer Me This, and as a special treat, my husband is answering the questions as well.

1. What’s something you’ve won, and how did you win it?

Me: I won my school’s spelling bee when I was in fifth grade. The word that clinched my victory over a sixth grade boy named Darren was “juvenile.” I have a weird love for spelling (and sentence diagramming) and it’s always been something I’m good at.

I went on to the regional spelling bee, where I placed fourth. The word that knocked me out was “nemesis.” I had never heard the word before, and I spelled it N-E-M-I-S-I-S. At the district-wide spelling bee I was the runner up. I missed the word “exhaust.” Forgot the H, and realized my mistake as soon as I saw the look on my Mom’s face in the audience.

Is it disturbing that I have such a vivid memory of this? I swear, I do not feel that my life is lacking because I never won the regional or district spelling bee. . . I do still have the dictionary they gave me for winning my school bee though.

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Husband: I won a State Wrestling Championship by kicking ass.

2. Do you save old greeting cards and letters, or throw them all away? Why?

Me: I save things from my husband and children, and some extra special things from other people. I have letters my husband wrote to me during our first year of dating when we had a long-distance relationship. I also printed out all the emails he sent me during that time. Those are all tied up in a ribbon and saved in a box in my closet. I also have birthday and anniversary cards from him, cards from my daughters, some letters and cards from my Grandma, and a thank you card from Super Friend. I also saved all the cards and notes I got during and after my conversion. I throw away most other things after saving them for a bit.

Why do I save them? I’m sentimental. I like them. They make me smile, and I want to be able to look at them when I’m old. I’ve read over the letters from my husband and some of the other notes and cards on occasion. In a world where everything is electronic and sentiments are rarely lasting, I want to be able to hold on to some expressions of love and support and friendship that have meant a lot to me at various times.

Husband: I throw them away. Next. (Note, I pointed out to him that he has a bunch of cards and artwork by our girls on his desk right now that he has not thrown away, to which he responded, “Yeah, but that’s like 1% of all the cards I’ve gotten. . .”)

Don’t let him fool you into thinking he isn’t sentimental. Here’s the upper shelf of his desk:

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3. When you’re at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?

Me: Socks in winter, barefoot otherwise.

Husband: Barefoot. And socks in winter.

4. Who’s the most famous person you have ever met? 

Me: Depends who is more famous, Tom Arnold or Joey Lawrence.

Husband: Bill Clinton. Or Al Gore.

5. What has been your best work of art?

Me: My blog. It’s my way of being creative.

I also once cooked a coq au vin that was a masterpiece. (see #6 below)

Husband: Honestly, I don’t do art.

6. What is your strongest sense?

Me: Taste. I love me some tasty food. Example: Recently Super Friend and I went out to brunch at a local bar. On the way out, we were both rubbernecking a table of guys. We got outside and started laughing, because we had each noticed the other’s ogling, and both knew that the ogling had nothing to do with the guys at the table, but rather with their huge plate of yummy-looking nachos. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. . .

Husband: (laughs) Hmm. My common sense.

Check out more answers at Kendra’s link up. Also, check out her great post from today about family planning and having babies and not having babies.

Posted in Answer Me This, Miscellany | 1 Comment

Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Volume 4 – Confession

I think it’s a fairly common belief of people who are not Catholic (and also some who are) that the sacrament of Reconciliation, or confession, is totally unnecessary. I know that I used to think, “Why do I need to confess my sins to a priest? I can just confess directly to God and ask forgiveness.” I also kind of thought it was creepy and weird that priests would encourage people to tell all of their deepest, darkest, secrets (says the woman who used to be a clinical psychologist) and then give them a penance to complete afterwards.

Of course there is Biblical support for the practice of confessing one’s sins to God.

Blessed is the one whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit. Because I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength withered as in dry summer heat. Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, “I confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you took away the guilt of my sin. – Psalm 32:1-7

The Catholic Church does not dismiss the value of making a regular confession of one’s sins directly to God. I do this every day during my daily prayers, and I know a lot of Catholics go through the examination of conscience each day for this same purpose. The examination of conscience is something Catholics (ideally) go over before going to reconciliation, to assist in making a good confession, but many also use it for confessing directly to God in prayer. You can see an example here.

So sure, confessing directly to God is important, and valid, and necessary. But the sacrament of Reconciliation is a whole different ballgame.

Let’s start with the Biblical basis for the practice. In the book of John, when Jesus appears to the apostles in the locked room after His resurrection:

[Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” – John 20:21-23

So, in the Bible, Jesus gave the apostles, the first priests of His Church, the authority to forgive sins. They do this by acting in persona Christi, or in the person of Christ. I mentioned in my post about the priesthood that there are two types of situations in which priests are given the special authority to act in the person of Christ: 1. during the act of transubstantiation in the Mass, or when the priest turns the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and 2. during the sacrament of Reconciliation. So really, priests don’t personally have the authority to forgive sins, but they have the authority to act as Christ during the sacrament of Reconciliation, and as such, forgive sins.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, ‘The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ and exercises this divine power: ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.” (1441)

The sacrament of Reconciliation has been practiced in various forms throughout the centuries, with the very early Church instituting penances that were public and sometimes severe and lengthy in nature. It was during the seventh century that Irish missionaries took the practice of private confession and penance to continental Europe, and the sacrament has been performed in private ever since.

As the Church practices it currently, it goes pretty much like this: Parishioner goes into the confessional (which in our parish is just a little room with comfy chairs to sit on), sits down and says, “Bless me father, for I have sinned. It has been (however long) since my last confession.” Ideally, parishioner will have gone through an examination of conscience beforehand and will then be able to proceed to provide a pretty comprehensive list of sins for the priest. After this is done, the parishioner says the Act of Contrition:

Image credit Prayer Button

Then the priest, acting in persona Christi, gives a penance to the parishioner (perhaps a number of prayers to say or an act of restitution to perform), may say a blessing, and ends with something like, “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

So, now that I’ve given you a little bit of the history of confession and how it works, I’ll tell you about my very limited but powerful experience with the sacrament.

I have only been to confession once, the Wednesday before Holy Saturday. All of my praying life, pre- and post-atheism, I have included confession of my sins to God in my daily prayers (okay, pre-atheism they were rarely daily. . .). So I thought it would be pretty straightforward to do an examination of conscience and go in and confess my sins to our priest. Yes, I was nervous, because I was confessing a whole lifetime of sins, face to face with the man who stands in front of our church pretty much every Sunday. I had a lot of stuff to confess from my whole life. But again, I had confessed most of it directly to God in prayer after my conversion, so it wouldn’t be too hard, right?

Well, first of all, the examination of conscience had me questioning myself about many behaviors, thoughts, and omissions that I never would have thought to confess or even think of as true sins before preparing for confession. So I had to face up to lots of things I had done or failed to do that I hadn’t even realized I needed to confess.

Then I went into the confession room with our priest. I was very nervous, and as I began my confession, I was kind of shocked by how much harder it was to speak my sins out loud to another person than to say them in my head during my prayers. I do truly try to focus on being repentant when I pray about my sins, but somehow saying them out loud to anther person made me so much more so.

I got through all of my fairly distant sins of the past and the more recent ones during my atheist years, and that was hard. But the hardest part by far was confessing my current day to day transgressions. The “smaller” sins that I grapple with in my everyday life, like using an unkind voice with my husband, feeling anger toward my children, being impatient, snapping at my kids, acting selfishly, and so on. I was struggling not to cry when I began telling my priest about some of my ugly behaviors and thoughts, things that I do now, not in the distant past.

When I got to the Act of Contrition, I could barely get the words out. “But most of all because they offend thee my God, who art all-good and deserving of all my love” was nearly impossible to say through the lump in my throat and over the sobs threatening to escape from my mouth. I suddenly felt the full impact of my sins, and how offensive they are to God, and I was appalled.

After I got through the whole prayer and the priest said, “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” it was a really amazing moment. I truly felt a sense of relief and joy after my time in the confessional, and even more so after completing my penance.

So many people seem to associate the idea of confession with negative emotions, beliefs, and experiences. But here’s what I believe about it: Confession isn’t something the Church created for the purpose of controlling and manipulating people. It is a gift that Jesus gave to us to help us experience His forgiveness more fully. 

And it works.

I haven’t decided on the next topic yet. If you have a question, let me know. 

Posted in Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Religion | 1 Comment