The Cross of Infertility

What would a mother of nine know about infertility? Well, before you scoff and discount my viewpoint, I will answer, “A lot.” While we had little trouble conceiving our first daughter, our second only came after a miscarriage and 2 years of trial. This was followed by a second miscarriage and five more years of infertility and female troubles. I was plagued with chronic and painful ovarian cysts and modern medicine’s only answer was the pill.

I am no stranger to this medicine. We had chosen it as birth control early on in our marriage. It was so simple and easy and seemed like everyone but the Church was behind its use. I’m not sure what broke through to my hardened heart and stubborn pride, but my heart was changed and suddenly I could no longer use contraception and be at peace. My husband was fully supportive and we self-taught the Billings method of Natural Family Planning (NFP). Used it to allow the chemicals to clear my system and then to achieve my first pregnancy. We would never look back. And over time and through obedience, God gave us the gift of understanding and knowledge and we truly embrace the beautiful and deep teachings of the Catholic Church.

Fast forward past two healthy pregnancies and babies and two miscarriages and once again the doctors want to prescribe birth control. I was at a loss. Since I was using NaPro Technology to chart my cycles and knew my problems were related to progesterone deficiencies, I couldn’t understand why the doctors wouldn’t look at natural alternatives. My questions fell on deaf ears. I cried and I prayed. I remember distinctly asking God what it was that I should do as we were trying to live according to His will. Within a month a NaPro/NFP-only doctor started practicing 20 minutes away from our home. It would be two more years, but we had a baby boy and then five more babies in the following six years.

But it is those five years that we carried the cross that I will never forget. It was five years of riding the roller coaster of emotions: hope, anticipation, disappointment, and hope again. Five years of wondering if it was punishment for past sins, of loneliness and of empty arms. Five years of trying to enjoy the children we already had while grieving the ones we lost and those that may never be. I worried about causing scandal–that others may think we were closed to life. Finally, I prayed for peace. I asked God to bless me with children if it were His will and if it would bring glory to Him, but if more children did not come I promised to still be faithful and begged him to please show me His way, The way.

God answered us by blessing us with six more children. I am often asked if we are done. How could I tell God “No?” To be done would mean that we would make steps in a permanent way to ensure being done. I won’t go back to that place of ignorance and darkness. God has shown me the light. We will always be open to new life, but are grateful NaPro Technology for the ability to know our bodies so well that we can space our children and use discernment and prayer to decide our family size.

I teach my daughters this method as well as a tool to learn their bodies and to become empowered. Too many girls and women are diagnosed with gynecological issues that doctors solve by prescribing birth control pills. We need to spread the word that these issues can be resolved at their source instead of using a bandaid treatment that will cause more problems. Increase in cervical cancer, breast cancer, infertility, depression, and blood clots are just some of the side effects. It makes my heart hurt to hear these stories when I know there is a better way.

The same is true for couples carrying the cross of infertility. Most doctors are quick to suggest IVF with high costs, low success rates and controversial techniques that involve highly immoral procedures, which include: fertilizing embryos outside of the marriage act, freezing embryos, destroying embryos and selective reduction (code for abortion) of multiple pregnancies. Meanwhile, NaPro Technology has a 99% success rate in avoiding pregnancy and an 81.8% success rate in achieving pregnancy. And I’m living proof that it works.

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Let’s Talk About Sex

marriage act
I know we barely know each other–this is only my 17th post and all; but, it is time to have a frank discussion about sex and our culture, and most importantly, our children. I am not ashamed to say that my views on sex are shaped very much by my Catholic faith. Shake your head if you will, but the Catholic Church has 2000 years of consistent teachings on this topic and she is not too prude to discuss her experience with us if we would only listen. It took me a long time before I listened to my wise mother and what she had to say about sex. And once I started reading from her treasure trove of knowledge (aka Catechism of the Catholic Church) there were no questions left unanswered and she proved herself to be a very consistent, loving and challenging teacher. Just as parents have rules and boundaries to keep their children safe and guide them to becoming independent and stable adults, the Church gives us rules and guidelines to help us love God, neighbor and ourselves and to attain happiness with Him in heaven.

There are two articles that I recently read that have prompted this article. These combined with the full-on assault on our sexuality through the media, music and secular culture have me deeply concerned about our children’s well-being and their future. You see, I want my kids to have great sex if they are called to marriage; but, more than that I want my children to master chastity because that is the tool that is needed in every walk of life: married or single, homosexual or heterosexual, child or adult, male or female, no matter race or creed. For all the talk of sex in our world there is little talk of chastity. Abstinence is mentioned from time to time, but it is either in a condescending tone that we cannot possible abstain and control our impulses; or it is trivialized to the point that all single people should practice abstinence or they will be ruined and used and made filthy for life. Somewhere in the middle is reality and that is where you will find the Catholic Church. She asks us to strive for perfection and remain pure. The graces to do so are given in abundance if one only asks God for them. At the same time, if we fall the Church has provided us with the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we can wipe our souls clean and be filled with grace to avoid the same pitfalls in the future. Sadly, the world (and many Catholics) do not know the good news and the ways of the world are very seductive.

Let’s break down the first article “Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex.” The father is reacting against the premise of owning his daughter. He doesn’t want to treat his daughter like an object that he owns and controls. Let’s give him points for this! Indeed, no person owns or controls any other person. That would be slavery. Yet, what he fails to realize is that a father should be the protector of his children, most especially his daughters. What?! Daughters and sons should be treated the same! No. Women and men are different and have very different needs. Both girls and boys should be taught virtue and self-control. Both should be taught to respect other people. But, daughters are more vulnerable. Rape is a very real crime. It is the worst crime that can be perpetuated on a woman. When a girl is out on a date the role of protection is passed from the father to the man. His duty is to respect and guard her dignity. Now, here is the point of contention. The author is saying that he hopes his daughter has great consensual sex and urges her to follow her instincts. The underlying message assumes that she will use “protection” to have “safe” sex, so STD’s and pregnancy will not be issues. This father does not take into account that ALL contraceptives have failure rates. So, he is giving his daughter permission to play roulette with her body. Let us set aside all the negative side effects of the contraceptive choices and just look at what happens when they fail. Now, your daughter has an increase risk of cervical cancer, contracting a sexually transmitted disease (which are growing at astronomical rates and are becoming increasingly antibiotic resistant) and has a high risk of becoming pregnant (because we know she is not going to just have great sex one time and then stop). I just want to scream, “What are you thinking?!” And after all of this his daughter becomes an object to be used for sex, or she is using and objectifying someone else, or both. This completely negates his original intention of treating his daughter with dignity and as her own person. We haven’t even covered the emotional damage done by the hook-up mentality. Women are emotionally aroused beings where men are physically aroused. Studies prove that women attach to the men they are having sex with. They actually produce hormones during sex that bonds them to their mate. So the promotion of sex outside of marriage is a recipe for disaster and most of the world just continues to ignore the ramifications and tries to treat the symptoms because the alternative of teaching, learning and practicing chastity is just too hard and, well, we are too spoiled to want to try.

The next article, “HuffPo Blog Encourages Teen Sex Sleepovers to Parents” was not a surprise either. I had a few friends in high school that were allowed to have their girlfriends or boyfriends sleep over. It totally shocked me then although it was relatively rare. I would never have mentioned it to my parents because it was so taboo. Now, it is apparently being promoted as healthy and normal and parents that don’t allow it must be some kind of extremist Christians or prudes. There are so many logical errors with this type of thinking I hardly know where to begin. In the second and third paragraphs, a Huffington Post blogger is arguing that parents should teach the children how to have sex well and questions why “unless they ‘just like porn . . . would you create a situation where your children are forced to hide, sneak around, be dishonest, be uncomfortable, take unnecessary risks and make uninformed decisions about their physical and emotional health?'” Well, let us unpack that thought process, shall we? First, why the assumption that our children are looking at porn or having sex behind our backs? It is presented like an either/or situation. We have so saturated our culture that sex is necessary to survive and function normally that we have become enslaved to it. In reality sex is an optional activity. And the premise to “teach children to have sex well” is just plain creepy. Who needs to be taught how to have sex? What we need to teach our children is the purpose of our bodies. May I suggest books based on the Theology of the Body? The Theology of the Body is a compilation of 129 of Pope John Paul II’s weekly audiences given between 1979 and 1984 where he delves into the beauty and “integrated vision of the human person” (www.theologyofthebody.net) Lastly, why do we expect that our children are incapable of living chaste lives? Because we couldn’t? The generations raised since the so-called sexual revolution are so brainwashed into thinking that sex is the be-all and end-all, and that we should do whatever feels good, we have fooled ourselves into believing that there are no consequences for those actions. Do we really think that our children cannot go on dates without having sex because we failed to remain chaste? I apologize for speaking in broad-sweeping generalizations. I do realize that many of us remained virgins until marriage, but many of us did not and we are fighting a culture that portrays the normal family to look more like that of “Rosanne” and less like “Leave it to Beaver”. In any case, I have a news flash: your children can remain chaste and if you haven’t mastered it yet, you can also learn to live a chaste life, nay, you must!

Later in the article we are given another either/or scenario. As parents we are either “responsible-sex-is-good” parents or “scare-them-silly” parents. Really? And what constitutes responsible sex? The Pill, condoms, abortion and the morning-after emergency contraceptives all come with extremely dangerous and ugly side-effects. Is the promotion of these methods responsible? Is it responsible to promote and expose our children to STD’s, out-of-wedlock pregnancies and emotional wounds that will take a lifetime to heal? The article claims that its approach to sex does not lead to “licentiousness, STDs, abortions and despair” but studies and life experience show us otherwise. And what happens when a girl does end up pregnant? Either we force abortion on her to cover up and rid her of the mistake, or she faces her peers and she is the “failed experiment” in the equation quickly shunned by her friends who do not want to face the reality of what results when people have sex–babies. In our complete split with reality we have actually managed to separate sex from babies and babies from sex.

Let us be clear on this, people. Abortion is a billion dollar industry that feeds on the blood of innocent babies. It is fueled by the culture of “do what feels good now and worry about the consequences later.” Your children are the target market. You can sit idly by continue to allow them to be shaped by the television shows, music and culture; or you can discover and share the Truth with them and change how they view the world. Sex is a very beautiful and good thing. God gave us this awesome gift, but it comes with boundaries to keep us all safe. Learn about and teach your children chastity. Work on mastering it yourself. The CCC is a great place to start, but the “Theology of the Body for Teens” by Jason Everett is a great way to break it down and begin living it. Whatever you do, please don’t fall for the crap that is being fed to us as “responsible parenting.” And, by the way, I’m really tired of being pegged as a prude because I expect chaste living from my children which includes abstinence outside of marriage. I have nine children here on earth and two in heaven–proof that I am hardly a prude. And for further validation check out this recent study that shows Catholics have better sex!

Bullied Into Silence

Bullying is a hot topic these days. Anti-bullying campaigns are found in almost every school; teachers, parents and kids are all fed anti-bullying pamphlets and information; and it seems as though the nightly news carries at least one story about a child being bullied at school. This is not a new phenomenon. I imagine that there have been bullies for as long as there have been people–think Cane and Abel. I am skeptical, however, that the strategies being used to curb bullying these days will have any effect. As a parent it did not take me long to realize that if I wanted my child to behave a certain way I needed to model that behavior myself. Any bad habits that I display are mimicked and mirrored back to me by my children. It is a great lesson in humility if we choose to learn from it.

No, the problem with bullying today is that it is not limited to the school yard and the adults of the world are not being very good role models. As much as I enjoy Facebook and other digital media resources, the ability for anyone and everyone to give their opinion on any and all topics has not really improved human relationships. It takes only a few moments of scanning the comments of any hot-button issue before being assaulted by personal attacks and slander uttered by people with differing opinions. Witnessing this vitriol has made me much more hesitant about expressing my opinions in circles where I am uncertain how the majority feels. I don’t like confrontation of any kind and I am a pleaser by nature. However, we are in the midst of a culture that challenges everything. Relativism is rampant and logic has been replaced by emotion. No matter the trend of the times, truth is still truth and Natural Law cannot be changed to fit our whims. But I digress.

The bullying extends even farther beyond comment boxes. Anyone who followed the happenings in Austin, TX over the abortion law vote and the proceedings leading up to it, witnessed mob mentality and bullying tactics. I am all for freedom of speech, but spreading out across the Capitol grounds and raising a raucous in an effort to disrupt the vote (after the filibuster failed) is not democracy in action; it is anarchy. Chaining yourself to the railings in a Senate hearing, trying to sneak in jars of feces, urine and used tampons to throw at those who oppose you is not freedom of speech; it is disrespect for the democratic process and bullying to try to get your way because you know the vote is against you. Many don’t even realize that the Capitol was on lockdown the night of the final vote and that Prolifers were whisked into Senate offices guarded by DPS because of threats to their lives. This is bullying, people.

But let’s not stop there. The current Administration of our federal government has implemented bullying tactics of their own. The main stream media does nothing to help stand for the people. It did not report the extreme circumstances in Austin and it will not report the whole truth on the Obama Administration either. We cannot have civil discussions about the Martin-Zimmerman case because it has been so exploited by the media and the President for political gain and distraction. We have hundreds if not thousands of cases similar to Martin’s death, but the President did not comment on those cases; nor should he. It is not his place to comment on case under investigation. We have a judicial system in place to handle it. And again President Obama commented on the vote in Texas when he tweeted that he stands with Texas women. Not his place. It was a vote at the state level for Texans to decide and the majority of Texans think that a baby that feels pain should not be ripped apart and forced from its mother’s womb with forceps crushing its tiny skull. Sorry to be so blunt here, but I’m really tired of being silenced by the bullies. Silenced by the media when 600,000 people march for life at Washington, DC and not one television station reports it with any accuracy. But, wait there’s more. What happened in Benghazi and why is there silence about it? Why were we lied to during the elections and then the topic avoided to this day? What is happening with the NSA recording our emails and phone calls and we hear nothing? How about the fact that IRS was specifically targeting conservatives and Tea Party people? This is all bullying. It is wrong and it needs to stop. I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

I’m not trying to pick a fight here. Really. I like it when everyone gets along and plays nice. But, just like dealing with the bullies in the school yard, I’m not going to just sit back and keep taking it. I’m not going to sit idly by and watch them bully people into silence. I’m going to stand up and speak up. Marriage is for one man and one woman. Sex is for marriage and within that bond, unity and procreation. Once created, babies have a right to live. Pregnant women have the right to medical care and to be treated with dignity, their birth choices respected and honored. Children have a right to a mother and a father who take active roles in their upbringing. I know that there are thousands of situations that are not ideal out in the world. I get that. We are humans and terribly flawed, but we have to aim high to achieve greatness. We can do so much better than we are doing if we could start by having logical and honest discussions about the issues at hand. Quit with the personal attacks. Quit with the emotional arguments. Let’s talk through it one logical step at a time and work towards rebuilding trust and respect in our country.

I’m an idealist, I know–an Illusioned Perfectionist, I admit it. I don’t want to be bullied into not trusting my fellow countrymen. I don’t want to think differently about the woman next to me because she is wearing orange, or the person who posts on Facebook with an equal sign as their profile picture. I don’t want to feel nervous that someone might target me because I have a sticker of my family of 10 on the back window of my Suburban, or because I am wearing a blue shirt, or am holding a rosary in my hand. But, if we can’t discuss things logically and in a civil manner, if we fail to respect Natural Law, and if we stop following the Constitutional Law of our country then the bullying will turn our country into chaos and all the anti-bullying, feel-good, zero-tolerance without common sense policies still won’t be worth a darn thing to our kids.

One Perspective

After a long weekend of trying to talk myself out of it, I finally answered God’s call to go to Austin on Tuesday and be a prayerful and peaceful witness for life. I sent out some prayer requests and on Tuesday morning set off for Austin with two adult friends and three teens. I felt a protective presence the entire time we were gone. From the moment we left the house until my head hit my pillow at 12:45 am on Wednesday it could not have gone more smoothly. There are many accounts of disgusting protestors and chanting, but I did not personally encounter any of that. I witnessed lots of orange-clad pro-choice protestors, even some that looked very intimidating, but I did not have any unnerving encounters.

We arrived at the Capitol at noon and meandered our way to the kiosks to register “For” the Bill and for Emily to register to give her testimony. We then walked towards the room where the hearings would take place and came upon a large group of Blues (pro life) standing and singing praise and worship songs. We joined in for a few minutes, but felt like that wasn’t our purpose. It was beginning to get crowded and I looked up to the next floor. Just overhead was an open area with railings and no people. We could still watch what was going on, but be in a more open and much cooler space. The testimonies wouldn’t begin until 3:30 pm, so we found comfortable spots along the railing and just quietly took in all that was going on. I began to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary silently and a few others were praying silently as well. More people began to gather around the railing and most were wearing orange. A woman had come and stood next to me to look at what was going on below. “That’s just creepy,” she blurted out at she looked at the crowd of blue singing praise and worship music. As I turned to look at who was talking, she turned to me and noticing my blue shirt put her hand to her mouth and said, “Oh, I’m sorry!” “It’s okay. I’m not offended,” I replied with a smile, “We live in America and you have a right to state your opinion.” She smiled back and we shook hands. She said, “I like you.” and we both returned to our own business at hand. I went on to pray the Glorious Mysteries. Once, when I looked up a woman smiled at mouthed the words “Keep praying” to me. We stayed here until 3pm shifting from standing to sitting and munching on our snacks and water. I was able to post to Facebook with the wifi connection, but it was draining my battery too quickly and we still had a long day ahead of us.

The hearings began at 3:30 and the crowd below shifted to the outside where they were streaming live coverage of testimonies to the internet. Shelly took the teens, and Emily and I stayed behind to make sure we didn’t miss her call to testify. Emily and I went back downstairs and visited with some other Blues. We met a Deacon in the Anglican church who referred to himself as a ‘reformed Catholic’ and soon discovered that he will be ordained a priest in a little over a year. Interestingly enough, most of our conversation with him was about our beloved popes: John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. We met a GOP reporter from Houston who was interested to hear how Wendy Davis blocked her pro-life constituents from her Facebook page and had removed their comments; thus silencing about half of those she represents. We met a Catholic mother and her small children who had just come from Mass and prayers at the Cathedral. Our next encounter was with a pleasant lady clad in an orange shirt. About 60 years old, she was looking for a kiosk on which she could register. We gave her directions and another Blue stepped in to tell her that there was an open kiosk just down the hall. I asked her if she was a religious when I noticed a cross and collar. She replied that she was a deacon in the Episcopal church. The Blue lady next to me questioned if she was also pro-choice? “Yes,” came the reply and she proceeded to tell us that her daughter was saved by Planned Parenthood 44 years ago. Emily and the Blue lady both shared their own stories of how they had been both physically and emotionally wounded by their choices 30 years ago, but it didn’t seem to have an impact. The exchange was a friendly one and the deacon thanked us for the helpful directions and went on her way. The Blue lady turned and looked at me with a look of utter defeat. I held her for several minutes and told her that all we could do was to share the truth with those willing to listen and then I repeated the story Fr. Jim had told in his homily on Sunday:

In a dream God told a man to go to a boulder at the bottom of a hill and push the boulder. The next day the man got up and walked until he came to the boulder. He pushed with all of his might on the boulder and continued to do so every day. After several weeks the man became frustrated. He had been pusing the boulder, but it hadn’t moved so much as a centimeter. That night he had another dream. He asked God, “Why am I pushing on this boulder? It hasn’t even moved? I’m not having any success and my efforts are futile.” God replied, “My faithful servant, your efforts are not futile. I only asked you to push the boulder, it is my job to move it. Look at how strong you have become. Your arms, your back, your legs and even your heart are all stronger from your pushing.”

I asked her if she would please try to see each person in orange as an individual–after all we do not know their stories or their hearts. She smiled and agreed with me and then we moved on. After this, Emily and I waited to get into the overflow rooms. She got in first and shortly thereafter I was able to join her. The testimonies were varied and interesting. Some lacked logic, like the pro choice woman who was born to teen parents. She claimed that it was unfair to force her parents to marry and give her up for adoption. Her argument was that they should have had the choice to abort. But, doesn’t that mean that she would have been killed in utero and thus, deprived her life and the very opportunity to stand before us that very moment? We heard from a pro-choice doctor that was against the bill and when questioned at length about fetal development and the ability to feel pain he responded by comparing the pain of being torn apart in an abortion to the pain of childbirth. At this point I witnessed 3 young orange-clad girls in their late teens or early twenties squirm in their seats and look at each other questioningly. I’m not sure what the older Blue lady told them, but they were listening intently to her. I believe she was explaining how an actual late-term abortion takes place. This was something that the doctor on the stand was unable to explain since he “personally does not perform abortions.” And so it went for hours. Many women testifying how abortion had hurt them and their regrets; other pro-life doctors standing for life and countering the arguments that abortion doctors would not be able to get admitting privileges; and even a mother with her 20-year-old daughter (who had been born at 22 weeks) testified to the fact that her daughter was viable and felt pain. Shelly and the teens had gone into another overflow room and texted for us to join them. We stayed until 7:45 pm when they called the next group of witnesses. As Emily’s name was not called, we headed out in order to meet our own 8:00 pm deadline for the 3.5 hour drive home. Emily was at peace since other women had shared similar testimonies and we all felt like we did exactly what we had gone to do: be peaceful witnesses for the unborn.

We saw the posts and pictures of the sea of orange outside the building. We could hear the chants whenever someone would come or go from the overflow room, but we did not witness the cry to ‘Hail Satan’ or the ugly posters that children were carrying (hopefully oblivious to what it really meant). We are pushing the boulder. It is up to God to move it.

Be Not Afraid

I look especially tired today after staying up until past midnight watching a live feed of the Texas Senate. Senator Wendy Davis filibustered all day long trying to defeat a bill that would essentially shut down the majority of abortion facilities in the state. Her filibuster was ended after a third strike against filibustering rules. Democratic senators were quick to appeal the ruling and politics and parliamentary procedure were hard at work. I witnessed dirty politics on both sides with the Republicans appearing to be pushing through to get the vote in and Democrats questioning procedure and wasting precious time to thwart the vote. Then the crowd began to riot and roar and all was chaos. It was very unnerving. The leaders didn’t appear to be leading, or at least leading with integrity; and the opposition just did whatever it could to throw a wrench in the system. To add insult to injury, all pro-lifers appeared to be blocked from commenting on Wendy Davis’ Facebook page concerning the filibuster. As a constituent I found the fact that my speech was silenced to be especially frustrating and unjustified.

I am an idealist I know. I feel like issues should be debated, a vote taken, and the majority rules. Then we will all go on with our lives and work to change the rules or happily live within them. This is not reality. Politics is ugly. I am tired and busy and have a life to live, but then I feel so compelled to stand up for what is right and true and just. Then I think, “Who am I to say what is right, true or just?” I am no one. This is very true. I am just a wife, just a mother, just a daughter, a mere human being with most likely half of my life already spent on this earth. But, it is not I that say what is true, just or right. It is God. I am a mere instrument of His works. He created me. He created everything and everybody. When I stand (or post on Facebook) and speak it should be to glorify God and my words should only be those that speak Truth. I fall short. I post hasty responses with more emotion than discernment from time to time. I am not a perfect representative of Christ, but then none of us are. Our imperfections should not keep us from speaking or acting in a right fashion, but they should be continually acknowledged and weeded out as we continue to strive for perfection. See, it’s my Illusioned Perfectionism theory all over again. I think the simple problem is that Christians have stopped acknowledging their sins in a concrete way. If we can’t see and name our faults then we cannot cast them out. And if we are not working on casting out and naming our own faults, then what business do we have in pointing out the faults in others?

Judgement and criticism are two of my biggest faults. So, I started to say a “Hail Mary” every time a critical thought comes to my mind. I figure that this helps me become aware that I am doing it and then turn it into a positive. It also is helping me to admit that I am not going to change ANYBODY else. I am not going to change hearts or minds whether the debate is over which end of the toothpaste to squeeze or whether marriage should be one man and one woman or something completely different. In all honesty I don’t even have the power on my own to change myself. I have to rely on the grace of God and his infinite love and mercy. It is up to God to change hearts. He asks us to be open to him and to pray. To know him, to love him and to serve him in this world so that we may be with him in Heaven. It is the first formal lesson I teach my children about their purpose in life. I would do well to remember it myself. In the meantime, I will not be afraid. Even if all my freedoms are stripped from me, I still have my will and may God take it and make it totally His!