I was walking around the park the other day with my little hikers, picking up sticks and throwing rocks and here walks up another funny look. This woman keeps gets closer and when she is just close enough, she asks, "Ma'am, is this your beautiful family?" "Yes, ma'am. It is." I answered. "And your are expecting another one. Thank you so much for being open to having multiple children. That is so wonderful. What a beautiful gift you have been given." Under my sunglasses I started crying. (I'm pregnant, remember). I hadn't ever had anyone thank me for being open to these beautiful lives. I responded by saying something like, "We are so blessed to have been given them. We hope to have more." And she walked away with a huge smile, whispering, "Thank you so much."
I remember when I asked my great aunt how my cousin was a few years back when she was expecting #4. My aunt responded in a way I had never expected. She said, "She is just really happy." I knew for sure she was tired and worn down. And I knew for sure after writing to her that she surely struggled with all her little ones, but knew the joy in following God's plan and being open to his gift of life. It really opened my eyes seeing her live her life this way.
Now I am expecting my #3 (plus one in Heaven) and I am experiencing the challenges, but more than anything else, I feel as if I can be a testimony to the joy. I am realizing more and more each day how this life of mine really does not belong to me. I am realizing more and more how it's not about me at all and this is where I am finding joy. The less centered on myself I am, as crazy as it sounds, the more joy and peace I find. It seems that in following the Church teaching on contraception... at least at first, I thought I was just following another rule (because I NEVER break the rules), but 4 pregnancies later, I am realizing that there is more to it.
More than ever I have been thinking about this teaching because of all the craziness the government has thrown around with this moral teaching, which they are pretending to have authority over. It's really not about health care in the end... it's about contraception... evil always attacks the dignity of human life first, because it is most precious. I am realizing more than ever how important it is to stand up for this teaching... and to REALLY LIVE IT. There are too many cafeteria Catholics today picking and choosing what they like and don't like. This is the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. It's no joke. We are called to be open to the gift of life. As difficult as it sounds. As out of control as it makes us feel. It is our calling.
Because after surrendering this part of our life to Christ, we become totally dependent on Him. Many people are able to surrender so much, but they hold back on their fertility. We see it in studies... Janet Smith has been clear... contraception leads to "accidents," unwanted pregnancies when it fails, affairs because there are no consequences, and now almost all contraceptives harm women's bodies... leading to blood clots, cervical & breast cancer, and so much more.
I am trying to figure out how to respond lately to the weird looks, the awkward comments and the straight up rudeness I get because I will have 3 who will be 3 and under. I wish I could tell each of them the joy of my children and I wish I could tell each of them the joy of NFP. Let's look at the facts.
First, NFP works. We have conceived when we tried. We have not conceived when we have followed the rules. And we have conceived when we broke the rules. So simple. We learned how to do this from a nurse. It's medically based. It really works.
Second, we have found a freedom in leaving God in charge. It has challenged and increased our virtue of faith... that can't hurt. He is our Lord... so, let's leave him in charge. Do you know how many things have to go right for you to conceive? It's totally crazy. Look it up.
Third, practicing NFP has a less than 1% divorce rate. I'd say I would prefer to stay married. The world has a 50% divorce rate. Who would get on an airplane if they knew there was a 50% of failure? Not me.
Fourth, we have learned to communicate... every month the subject of a new life comes up... because abstinence is part of NFP, so EVERY month we talk about ALL the important things... the list is long, but such a good one... finances, health of both of us, our kids and how they are, the home we live in, Patrick's job, buying a home, etc, etc. It is a great conversation to have each month. It's a trick God has to get us to talk and get us to always be discerning his will. His will for us is every changing. Some people cut off their fertility because they feel in that moment it's not the plan of God for them to have more... but, what if two years later it is? So much can change in just a months time.
Fifth, NFP couples get a honeymoon each month when the abstinence is over... you may say you would like to have your favorite dessert every day, but the truth is, there is more awesomeness when you have to abstain for a time. We are learning this now during Lent. I can not wait to get a hold of some chocolate. YUMMO.
Last, we have learned to respect one another's bodies for what they are. I have to remember that Patrick is always fertile and he know understands and knows more now about a women's body... he claims.. more than most women know about their own bodies. It's pretty amazing how well he can pick up on everything about me just knowing where I am in my cycle... the sensitivity he has at certain times really helps. I also love that he won't allow me to put anything harmful in my body... as I said above, any artificial contraceptive you take has an incredible high health risk... you should read the labels, ladies. And lastly, when we renew our vows... he accepts ALL of me... no part of me (even my fertility) is left on the side. There are no barriers and no regrets. It's pretty awesome.
So, there you have it. I got it all out. I had to write about this because it is all over the news. And like I said before, it's really not about health care... we all know it's just another way that Satan is trying to creep in and destroy the dignity of human life.
I commend those of you who have been doing this for the long haul. Only five years of marriage and 3 kids later... seems easy enough, but I know the challenges are still ahead. But, I also have discovered that I am forever on a crazy roller coaster ride and this journey never gets old. I can already feel it. When they hand me my third little life, I am going to look right into their eyes and say, "Man, this never gets old." That eternal life will be worth every morning of sickness, every dizzy spell, every huge prenantal pill, all the back pain, all the heatburn, all the sleepless nights with cramped legs, all the discomfort of carrying another 20lbs, all the crazy looks, and oh yeah, labor and delivery. The suffering will be just a moment after I look into their little eyes. And every mother says the same.
To end, I will say that being the mother of 2 children and pregnant, I have gained quite a sense of humor... and I have decided to use my humor in the midst of the world and the way they look at me crazy. So, just to humor you, I will tell you my latest response to the comment, "Oh wow, they are SO cute... and you're having another? (weird look)"... "YES, we are having another. We are thrilled. And we have decided that we are just going to keep having them until we get an ugly one!" HAHA. People really have no idea what to say... but, it's really funny to watch their faces. People find so much joy in children.
Dear Jesus, even thought I am such a mess, thank you for your grace. Every moment is a moment of grace as a mother. Every moment is so hard. Thank you for pouring yourself out to me in the Eucharist, so I may better learn to pour myself out to you.