Monday, November 30, 2009

Intentionally NFP

Well there has been a big to do in some places about how to use NFP in a morally licit manner. Many comments say go to your spiritual director, pastor or priest. Well I know that the Catholic Church teaches NFP is the only acceptable approach to spacing children, but not all priests adhere to that. I for one was shocked when I went to the priest who was presiding over our marriage ceremony said not all couples are "mature" enough for this method. He knew we were planning on learning NFP and he still wasn't encouraging it? How can I go to that person and ask to use the method correctly?

Needless to say, my husband and I were feeling a bit lost and confused in the beginning of our marriage (mostly me - he had more confidence in our discernment process). Were are reasons just? Who could help us out if not our NFP instructors or priest? And then you read some NFP dialogue and they say "being newlyweds" is not a good enough excuse...well I'm pretty sure I used that one for a couple months. In my defense, I had never shared a bed (at least as long as I can remember) and it took me a couple months to have a full night's sleep. Plus there are so many other adjustments that correlate with "being newlywed" so in my head that just summed up all the parts.

Moving on, I thought I would write a post on my take in this debate. First of all, I think any couple mature enough to get married is mature enough to use this method. Marriage is about communication and mutual self-giving. NFP enhances both. Secondly, I agree that "just reasons" need to be discerned by the couple and will be unique to their situation. With that being said, I can't judge if any particular couple is using the method correctly but I have found myself asking a few questions as a guide.

Is my reason selfish? I say this to remind myself that I should be making the decision based on what is best for my family and future children. If it is just because I want something or don't want something, then I am not thinking about family.

Am I truly open to life? NFP is all about being open to life in that you don't artificially avoid conception but there is a difference between physically being open to life and mentally being open to life. Would I be happy if I had a baby in 9 months? This question I ask without all the qualifiers of the next and most standard question...

Can I support a new life physically, financially, spiritually and emotionally? This is the only question where I find it appropriate at times to say no. Yes I am married and my husband and I would love to have kids, but right now is not the time for us based on all the needs this new life would have. We are working toward better meeting those needs so I know I am not being selfish and I would lovingly accept a child if God gave us that gift right now. However, lovingly accepting the Church's teaching on NFP does not mean we all have to race to see how many children we can have as soon as possible.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Spiritual Direction

First of all, this is a title of a great book by Henri Nouwen. That is also one of the first references I ever paid attention to about the topic. The book was "optional" reading for a class but I didn't see the optional part and bought it. Instead of returning the book, I decided to read it...

A couple years later I got a real life spiritual director. I have enjoyed the process of meeting with someone who is trained in spiritual direction and has a similar life story in many of the concerning areas I have brought up in conversations.

One tip she has given me: know thyself. It is important to know who I am and what I stand for. I've always had that philosophy but I haven't prayed about it much until now. It has been comforting to know NFP has helped me find the hormonal connection to my fatigue and mood. Throughout all the craziness of surgery and pain I am thankful that I know myself. I know how my body works and the pain and fatigue is not a mystery. So while it is hard for me to talk about how NFP can help diagnose/treat problems when mine seem to hang around, it truly is a blessing that I can understand what is happening. I don't have to blindly trust doctors which would be so much easier but much less informative.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Good News... without the lawsuit

This weekend I went to South Bend to visit a friend and her two month old baby girl. The new family was so precious and the two days went by so quickly! I learned a lot about parenting and will treasure that weekend, but that wasn't the good news I wanted to announce....

I started a new chart a while ago and it is the first one in a while where I did not ask my husband to write down "pain" in the disturbances box. No migraine and only mild cramps that went away with the medicine which I only took for 2 days and not the usual 3 or 4.

While the treatments (healthy diet and progesterone cream) have not worked overnight I seem to be getting generally better over time. Hopefully I will stay on track over the upcoming holidays... In any case, I know I am getting healthier and I'm doing so without the lawsuit of Yasmin, Yaz, etc. I saw the commercial advertising the class action suit a day or two ago and realized that I have been getting "shorter, lighter cycles" with the treatment I'm on...and hopefully continually less pain... without being on a pill that had side effects which brought on a law suit.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Blood Money Trailer

I was sent an email today about a new documentary coming out on Planned Parenthood. It looks interesting- check it out here

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Change of Heart

Six years ago I started working at a bookstore. I read My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult in about 2 days. I liked the way she was able to write about something controversial (designer babies) and make it relatable to an entertaining and though-provoking story. Every once in a while, when I'm ready to think and read about something else controversial, I will pick up one of her books.

The book I'm reading right now, Change of Heart, is about a death row prisoner that does not act like a typical death row prisoner. I won't go into the details of the story -it's worth reading - but I will say it has made me feel like I should actually say something about the death penalty.

When a certain friend of mine found out I was part of a pro-life group, the first question he asked was "What do you think about the death penalty?" My answer was that I don't support it, but I know many who consider themselves pro-life are on the opposite side of that situation. I can easily see how they can argue one life has done nothing wrong, and one chose to do something awful.

On the other hand, pro-life means much more than the political term meaning anti-abortion. My involvement in the pro-life movement has more to do with honoring the sanctity of all life than it does with disliking abortion. Obviously, I wish abortion would stop, but that is only one small part of the problem. If we can't value a life that is already living alongside us and breathing the same air we do how are we going to value a life we have not met yet? If God created us in his image, who are we to judge that the image created is not good enough to live? A touchy topic I'm glad someone wrote about in a non-judgemental way. She gave me the push to mention it here despite my wonderings if I'm going to upset readers with the different, althougth related, topic.

Monday, November 16, 2009

busy week

Last week I worked four days and on the fifth (actually Wed) I:

1. attended Mass w/my mom :-)
2. went to Staples to replace the ink in my printer
3. worked out
4. installed ink and printed many documents for pro-life meeting
5. made lunch (and dinner while waiting for lunch to finish)
6. met with spiritual director
7. ate the prepared dinner while making agenda for meeting
8. led meeting

I know I don't have a full time job - but this week sure felt booked! The meeting went great and I felt like God opened our eyes a bit to the direction He wants the group to take. What a highlight of the week right?

Too bad that is not how I felt. Everyone I talked to has tried to reassure me, but a nagging feeling remains. It is hard to describe it. If I had to do so, it would be self-doubt but that is incomplete. It feels like an out-of-body self-doubt because I don't really believe it and I can let it pass over me. I feel at peace with my direction in life, but I also feel a black cloud following me, hoping to catch up on a bad day and consume my thoughts. It is the weirdest kind of spiritual warfare I have ever experienced, maybe because it is one of the first times I can see it for what it truly is. It is truly draining and makes me appreciate great spiritual lives like Padre Pio's all the more. The book I read about him dealt with really serious stuff - supernatural and from his own community. He went through so much and I am having difficulty keeping up with life because of a vague "feeling" - I have so much to learn....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Changes in Society

I was reading a blog and comments that talked about conforming law to things that happen in society. Many people want to do "x" so we should push to legalize it. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes it takes a long time - Women's suffrage took decades. There are a number of items like that in the news right now: legalizing marijuana, same-sex unions/marriages, universal health care....

Now that I have become broadly controversial in this post I think I'll narrow it down and get more controversial. A popular argument against teaching NFP in the Catholic Church is that most couples don't use it anyway; therefore, let us conform religion to society. Religion should be more binding than laws anyway. Religion is defined as pertaining to the supernatural. That does not change because society changes. I don't think it is possible that all the ancient religions and all the contemporary religions are 100% true. It just does not seem logical that the way the world was created and how it works changes when people's ideas change. So it is interesting that the stance on contraception has changed in that way. Most Christian denominations used to be against it quite recently, well after the modern dating practices started in this country.

What is my response to the argument? I love being Catholic - the church stands up for its beliefs against controversy and has been around long enough with enough theologians to research the topics just a bit. Some may see it as oppressive - I see it as an informed, conscientious decision that has withstood the test of time and opposition. If you look closely, the reasoning behind the position is at the very least respectable and in my eyes awe-inspiring.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Small Pro-Life Victory

I don't know if anyone was watching the news this weekend, but I was. I hosted an officers meeting and, once the meeting had concluded, we turned on CNN. We watched Nancy Pelosi talk about the Stupak-Pitts amendment and claim she wanted this to come to a vote although most of us have been "misinformed" on that. Watching politicians on TV is not something I enjoy so we soon turned off the broadcast once we found out the vote would not happen until at least 2:30. Well, I'm a couple days late in presenting this story, but I wanted to do so and include part of an email I received from the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC):

The House adopted the NRLC-backed Stupak-Pitts Amendment, 240-194. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment removed two major pro-abortion components from H.R. 3962. Specifically: (1) the amendment would permanently prohibit the new federal government insurance program, the "public option," from paying for abortion, except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest; and (2) the amendment would permanently prohibit the use of the new federal premium subsidies ("affordability credits") to purchase private insurance plans that cover abortion (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest). The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mi.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.). It was supported by 176 Republicans and 64 Democrats. It was opposed by 194 Democrats. One Republican withheld his support by voting "present."

I know it is hard to stay on top of what is happening with health care so I thought I would post an update. Unfortunately, even with this victory, a lot could still happen that would make a loop hole around the Amendment. Hopefully that will not happen and this country will have health care reform that we can all support - at least on moral grounds. The financing is a different story for someone else to tell.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Truth and Consequences

Recently I was a substitute in one of my former teacher's classrooms. When I walked into his classroom I was flooded with dreadful memories of my teen health class. Thankfully, I was only teaching English that day. Even so, it was quite an interesting experience for many reasons.

I don't remember much about my teen health class. I remember that the standard - don't do drugs, sleep is good for you, first aid - messages were present, but I have no idea how they were taught or any specifics. I do remember some specifics of the reproductive section. I remember some girls walking around the class with the pregnancy belly, though that did not deter one of the girls who became pregnant before finishing high school. I also remember the serious warning that a girl can become pregnant at any time in her cycle and that there is no way to know what time that is going to be. Was this a scare tactic or an actual fact? We went over statistical success rates of different methods. We also were taught multiple times that just because the Trojan brand is "most trusted" does not mean it is the "most trustworthy" - obviously this wasn't an abstinence only program.

Why do I still have issue with this 8 years later? Because it was a lie and there are consequences to lies. If one oddball teacher said this, no big deal - most people listened to him just enough to pass the class. The problem is, most of society says the same thing and it hurts me to know women I care about are being misinformed throughout their whole lives, starting with teen health class. My previous post on "Who is man for woman..." talks about lying with our bodies when using contraception. Lying is bad and can result in consequences. 13% of women face fertility issues and studies show that artificial contraception and abortion increase those rates. NFP charts back this up with infertile patterns seen when stopping hormonal contraceptives.

Quick story to put my anger and passion on this topic into perspective. I know someone who has been married for a couple years. She started the pill in high school for abdominal pain. She stayed on it for 8 years until she wanted to conceive. Since that time she has been unsuccessful, been diagnosed with PCOS, gone through major surgery, and had to change her diet and start taking Clomid. She is the one that brought this up and how she was upset her doctors didn't take the time to diagnose PCOS in the first place to treat her symptoms instead of just covering them up. When are doctors going to stop lying and saying this is a miracle pill and start taking a genuine interest in helping/treating their patient's individual needs?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Who is Man for Woman? Part 2

Amazing to know I have more to say on this right? I apologize for my last post (I guess I should have split this into 3 parts), but it is so hard to shorten these profound and completely relevant points that Fr. Loya has made. This post will be more concise and will contain two points: honesty and language.

First to address honesty. Most people would agree that honesty is part of what makes a person good, but Fr. Loya took that one step further. His argument is one of alliteration: Being honest will help make you holy, what is holy will bring happiness and also lead you to heaven if you are dishonest it will go in the opposite direction and result in harm of some kind.

Second point - language - is something more than just words. Fr. Loya talks about the language of the body. The language of the body can either honestly reflect the words you say or not. If two people become one in marriage, that means you are completely unified. You give the total gift of yourself. If you "speak" honestly with your body that includes everything, including your fertility. After all, God did make it possible to postpone pregnancy while still telling the truth with your body.

His conclusion: The Church is against contraception, not because they want lots of children to ease the shortage of priest, because it is a way for you to lie with your body.

Friday, November 6, 2009


So I wrote a long post about the rain (pain), now I want to talk about a rainbow.

Right now the rainbow is my husband. The days and nights I have been in pain he has most definitely filled his role as provider/protector/supporter. Anything I ask for - I get! How nice is that? Now I'm sure if I asked for anything crazy he might stop this practice. Since my requests are limited to things like mint water (a natural relaxer/pain reliever), heating pad, etc, my wish is his command. One of my biggest requests for him lately is to help me relax. I jokingly mentioned the Bradly Method in my last post since we are not pregnant right now, but its philosophy of relaxing the body is relevant. My husband has practiced relaxation techniques and is really good at leading me through them. It is amazing how he can help me relax the rest of my body and in doing so, ease the burden of the pain (even though it doesn't go away). Hopefully this means we'll be in a good position if we do have children and choose to go through a natural birth.

Hopefully another rainbow in my future will be children. The possibility of future children is one of the things I keep in mind while I am going through the pain. Yes, it is painful now but what a great gift God has given women to receive love in such a way that lets us carry life within us and give birth. I can wait and make it through to that special day.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

rain before the rainbow

Maybe I am bringing this up now because I am quite frankly in a bad mood. I'm not a fan of the subcaller in our district who called me and said I want you to work job A and when I call back her back she just says no, I don't need you anymore - good bye great 4 day job. Even without that, this topic is something that has been on my mind for a while.

So I am unofficially done with my NFP training. I have one more Saturday scheduled but that is more of a tie-up loose ends and distribute materials day so I don't expect much instruction. The whole time I was going through training it was very difficult to talk about some aspects of NFP. I am blessed with an NFP-only doctor which I have been seeing for around 4 years now, but that doesn't make everything perfect. He is a great doctor and truly believes in the Catholic Church and all of its teachings on fertility etc. so I know I am in great hands and I don't have to try to explain/justify my reasons for not going on the pill.

I guess it is not his fault that I chose to do things the hard way. I chose to have surgery (which discovered and removed endometriosis) and I thought that way I would be "cured" of all the pain I have experienced over the years. Well that most certainly has not happened. I can remember at least three instances, since the surgery in August, when my husband was so concerned for my well-being that he wanted to take me to the emergency room. I said no because I knew this pain and that, besides giving me large amounts of pain medicine, the doctors were going to say "it's just cramps" and there's really nothing we can do. What makes this worse? I have painful ovulations as well and I'm pretty sure I tend to have cysts that burst. Yesterday I woke up in ovulation pain but it went away pretty easily so I don't think anything burst this time.

So why am I writing this post? It's not to get pity, it is that I am completely frustrated and wondering if anyone has heard about different ways to reduce pain? I have called my doctor and he said that can happen and it's just how your body works. Well the whole reason I had the surgery was to diagnose and get rid of pain! I got a second opinion from a holistic doctor who wants to put me on a progesterone cream. He used to have me on a really high dose for most of my cycle (it is natural progesterone, not progesten so the time you can use it is extended). But that messed with my charts - some incredibly early peaks that were not predicted from my signs and could have meant I would be blessed with motherhood a bit earlier than expected. It also left me sleepy and I just don't like the idea of being on hormones. I don't know what to do next besides get pregnant which is probably not too far off (Lord willing) but not in the next couple cycles either.

Back to the beginning, it was incredibly hard to talk about all the "health benefits" of NFP while in training. Yes it helped me diagnose that I had endometriosis, but sometimes I feel like my health is worse and I would have felt better on the pill. Anyone have another idea I can try? I'm already working out and watching what I eat but it just seems to get worse. It is to the point that all I can do is lay down and have my husband coach me through relaxation techniques while I have a heating pad on my stomach - maybe this is my introduction to using the Bradley method of natural delivery.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Girl Power

So I tried to keep yesterday's post short and failed. I'll do better today. One point that Fr. Loya highlights from Pope John Paul II's TOB and repeats quite often just needed to be on its own to make a full impact. Ready?

Woman is the archetype of the human race. He didn't say this as a joke claiming Adam was the rough draft, he explained it as our gift of receptivity. The human race was created as something that God could pour His love into. Woman's body reflects that, so we are the archetype. I teased my fiance, now husband, when I heard him say this. I repeatedly asked him to answer who was the archetype because you don't hear the answer of "woman" very often to that; after all, Adam was created first. In reality, we aren't better or worse than men, just different.

I just had to point this out and put extra emphasis on woman. It is so easy to look at the practices of the Church (only men can be priests etc.) and forget how much admiration is found for women. A pope declared woman to be the archetype and truly respected all that we were created to be. I find it sad that most people can't understand that and think I am part of a religion that is oppressive to women when I feel the exact opposite.

Who is Man for Woman? Part 1

I commented here on the topic of marriage and brought up the name Fr. Loya. Fr. Loya was blessed with the opportunity to study in Rome and here Pope John Paul II speak on Theology of the Body. One of the Pope's most memorable quotes for him was:

Humanity, its dignity and its balance will depend at every moment and on every place on the globe on who man is for woman and who woman is for man. - Pope John Paul II
I believe the thesis of this talk is: To understand marriage, love and sexuality you need a total vision of man. If you can't fully answer the question "Who is man for woman and who is woman for man" you cannot understand Church teaching on this topic. I think that is 100% true. I hesitate to write the post because when narrowed down to a blog it may sound like it just plays on stereotypes and is insensitive to people who don't fit the norm. That is not my goal in any way. The goal in this post is to touch on something I feel to be true - God made man and He also made woman. We were both designed to be perfect and I would say equal. However, something else I have found true in many ways over the years - equal does not mean the same. Please read with an open mind.

I am not a theologian so if you want all his biblical references that support his point you should definitely get this cd. Instead, I will mention a few "real world" examples that he mentions that I find helpful in conversations on this topic -

His first point that is made involves compliments (different things that go together). Many compliments can be found in the world - night and day, man and woman, work and play. In those examples, each is more appreciated and life is more balanced when they go together. More than all the artificial, immoral and emotional arguments for and against marriage, biology can prove to be a strong resource when explaining why there is a "natural order" found in the marriage between one man and one woman and all pro-life and NFP ideals.

Women are internal and men are external. Women like to bring things to themselves and men like to act outwardly which is mirrored in our anatomy. This comes down to how young children play with toys. Boys like to test toys and bang them against things (car crashes) and girls like to play house or play with dolls and create connected stories. This phenomenon continues through life. Women are internal and connected. We like to talk with each other, we like to console others and not worry about solving a problem. Men are made for separateness and external acts. They want that "man cave" to withdraw after a long day of problem-solving. They usually do not want to talk just to talk - they want to solve something. They withdraw and re-energize so they can come back and solve all the "problems" you bring up when you talk about your day.

When I first heard this talk, before I was married, I did not realize how true that was. One of the adjustments when my husband moved in after the honeymoon, was giving him some time to "withdraw" after a hard day. There is nothing that I can do to help him because that is not how he was made. I was also amazed at how many times I would clarify that I was not talking about a "problem" and was not looking for a solution.

Going back to the complimentary aspect. Women are internal: they want to help other feel loved, accepted, build community, etc. Men are external: they want to solve problems. Both have a hugely important role in our lives, but they need balance. It sounds stereotypical, but it is true in my life. The procreation difference (obviously same-sex partners to do that differently) is losing ground with contraception and IVF among other things - but our biology has stayed the same. We were created differently but equal.

The way I understand it in my life comes down to this scenario
When someone has had a hard day
Me to my husband: how can I help you relax/feel better?
My ideas: back massage, relax, have time alone while I clean up dinner
My husband to me: how can I fix the problem
His ideas: create a to do list, find a way to make x problem not occur again, if that is not possible find way to adjust routines etc. so problem is not so upsetting

Now, I am not saying that is the only thing my husband and I do. I want to help him fix problems and he wants to help me relax, but our first instincts are different and we learn from each other how to do that which does not come naturally.

Truly Revolutionary

I originally posted this back in May. I thought I would post it today in response to some blogs I read over the weekend on defending marriage. I thought the quote would be truly fitting for the situation - we are revolutionaries! Let's get the information out and start a revolution.

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act

- George Orwell

This quote (that I saw in an English class on Tuesday) has spoken to me a lot this week. I feel like I am part of two revolutionary groups when really the ideas that they support are not new. I came across a website called "Catholics for Choice" the same day I saw the quote. It is a website that claims since the majority of Catholics support birth control (among other things) our religious belief should change to reflect that. I wish more people took the time to look at or, better yet, were told the beautiful message of the Church on marriage and love. In any case, just because most people don't like it - doesn't mean the truth changes. That logic is easy to follow when we talk about things that have been proved incorrect. Everyone now knows that the earth is not the center of the universe and never was (even when the majority of people believed it to be true). Same goes with religion - either it is true or it is not true. It can't stop being true because public opinion has changed.