One Part of the Whole Body

Welcome to any visitors from Em’s Estuary!  I hope you enjoy what you read here.  Feel free to browse the archives, follow me, or come back again.  And welcome back to my regular readers!  Emily shared my post on Veiling here.  Feel free to click on over to Em’s blog and her Veiling project.  Now back to our main programming . . .

As women living in the 21st century we often take for granted our choices and freedoms.  Both my mother and mother-in-law were told that they could not go to college.  They were to get married and raise children and leave the higher education to the men.  Both of these women are highly intelligent and both went on to work full-time jobs to help to support their families.  Hours could be spent dwelling on the injustice of their limited choices; but dwelling on the past rarely moves us forward.  Reflecting on the past, however, can teach us many lessons.  I admire both my mother and mother-in-law for the lives they live, the lives they raised and the countless ways in which they continue to touch all of our lives today.  When you look at the tapestry of their lives, when you reflect back on the past, you can see God’s handiwork throughout.

I was raised with the mindset that I could do or be anything I wanted to be.  I was the first girl in my family to graduate from college and I am proud that I achieved that goal with honors.  I was determined not to be a stay-at-home mother:  I would have a career and a family.  Shortly after graduation I began to work in the buying office at Dillard’s.  I was an assistant to the Juniors’ buyer for swimwear, dresses, and knits.  It was part of the Management Training Program, an elite position where only fourteen were chosen from over 300 applicants.  After six to ten months in the buying office, helping with merchandising in the stores, and lots of grunt labor which included everything from gift wrapping and cashiering to loading trucks at store closings, we were given management positions in the stores complete with salaries and full benefits.  I learned quickly that “salary” meant much more than a 40-hour work week and “retail” meant nights, weekends and holidays at work.  Patrick and I were already engaged when I was promoted to Area Sales Manager in Odessa, Texas.  Needless to say, that job position didn’t work out.  Six hours away from my fiancé and soon-to-be-daughter was not a good arrangement.  When my requests for a transfer were denied, I resigned and found another management position closer to home.  By the time our wedding day arrived, I realized that retail would not be a good match for family life.  Patrick hired me for part-time work with his company for a morning shift, while I apprenticed with a seamstress in the afternoons, hoping to eventually start my own line of children’s clothing.  This also enabled me to pick Missy up from school instead of leaving her with a sitter.  Within six months I wanted nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mother and wife.  I would spend the next twenty years trying to prove that it was a worthy venture.

 All these years I felt like I had to account for my time and every.single.accomplishment.  Read a book– What could I have been doing that was more productive?  Take the kids to the park—not until the house is clean, the laundry done, and the refrigerator stocked with groceries.    In the quest to be equal, I tried to keep up with my husband.  If he was doing physical labor 8-10 hours a day, then I should be as well.  If he didn’t have time for a nap, why should I get one?  I invalidated all the stay-at-home mothers in America, by not validating myself.  Even after adding homeschooling to our daily regimen, I didn’t cut myself any slack.  We started homeschooling in 2001 and from 2003-2011 we added a child into the mix at an average of every 17 months!  The snowball was heading downhill and the sewing, reading, and any semblance of free-time went straight out the window.  And I actually wondered why my health was failing. 

I am finally beginning to understand that God is the one, and the only one that I have to please.  It was Him calling me to stay at home in the first place, to home school the children, and to help Patrick in his business ventures.  Providing a loving and stable environment for our children is in itself validation enough for any mother.  Anything we add to that to encourage and support our husbands, to build a stronger marriage, or to raise up our children to be good stewards will bring glory to the Lord.  Working ourselves to the bone, neglecting ourselves at the sake of our well being, and pushing ourselves so much that it leaves little energy for our relationships only fuels the myth of the worthless, misused and maltreated stay-at-home wife.  It was me all along.  I didn’t acknowledge my own dignity and worth in the vocation that God had called me to.  How did I think that others would see what I could not?

I see it all so clearly now.  I see my loving and supportive husband beside me the entire time: cheering me on, helping me out and lifting me up.   I see our nine beautiful, independent and happy children and realize that they are confident and secure.  I see our grown daughter and son-in-law raising beautiful, confident and secure children of their own.  I see our college girl spreading her wings and finding her footing.  I see my husband and I working together to build an even stronger and healthier marriage.  And I see myself acknowledging the good I have achieved by cooperating with God’s plan.  These are the things that bring glory to the Lord.  It is only through His grace, love and mercy that we have accomplished them.  Our dignity lies in following the will of God.  It is a calling that is unique to each of us.  St. Paul actually said it pretty well:

 

*12As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.g13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.h

14Now the body is not a single part, but many.15If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.16Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?18But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.19If they were all one part, where would the body be?20But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.”22Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary,23and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,24whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,25so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.26If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)

 

Maybe I would do well to read my Bible a little more frequently, and then maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t take me twenty years to realize that I am exactly where God wants me to be.  I am taking my role in His body and I am going to try hard to just be the finger: and not the whole hand, the head, the feet and the right ankle.

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Less is More

I had a rare opportunity tonight to go visit my mom with only three of my children and one grandchild as companions. My husband had taken the older boys camping and my teen was on retreat. My father was also out of town on business, so that gave my mother and I some bonding time while the kids watched movies and ate popcorn and pizza in the adjacent room. My mom surprised me with a gift that she had stored for over 20 years. It was a VHS movie with one-half of a handkerchief that had the words “Jill More Is Less Love Mom” embroidered on it. I didn’t recall ever seeing the movie. Mom told me that she didn’t remember it much, but I had gone with her and Dad to see it at the theatre and we both cried so much that my father tore his handkerchief in half to give to us.

So we popped the movie in and watched intently, each of us expecting some great epiphany or deep meaning to come flooding back to us. In the end the movie was a disappointment and my mom put it into her trashcan. It wasn’t a bad movie, it just had a frustrating ending that didn’t jive with either of us on moral grounds. Mom apologized to me and her demeanor seemed to express disappointment that it didn’t mean more. But, the more I think about it, the more the gift means to me.

First of all, it means that my mother and I shared a common bonding and experience watching that movie together over twenty years ago—a moment that meant a great deal to her to have purchased the movie, embroidered the hankie and waited all this time before giving it to me. It says that I am special to her: now, then and always. That is a powerful message for any daughter.

As I contemplate the words “less is more” I think of how those words played out in the movie. A young woman leaves her job to care for her dying mother. She has spent her life trying to imitate her father and rebel against all that is her mother: the domesticity, the servitude, the humility. In the end she sees each of her parents for who they are and accepts them. Her father is not the perfect man that she had idolized him to be; and her mother is so much more exceptional because of her humbleness. So, I think of the woman I was twenty-some years ago and compare her to the woman I am today. I can very much identify with the character in the movie. I, too, tried to rebel against becoming my mother. Call it nature or nurture or genetics, but I am very much like my mother today and I thank God for it. I can’t help but think it was my mother’s intuition or a signal grace that prompted her to buy that movie and hold it all these years. “Less is more” could simply mean be happy with what you have in front of you, with who God made you to be. Don’t try to be something more than who you are because you are the perfect you. A message she wanted to tell me then, but that I had to learn on my own.

And then I have the handkerchief torn into two pieces. Dad loves us both and this hankie reminds me of that love. His devoted love to my mother for over 50 years of marriage and his devoted love to his children and grand children can never be called into question. My dad always kissed me on the cheek when he left for trips and he wasn’t shy about saying “I love you” either. I have never doubted either of my parents’ love for me or their pride in the woman I am today. That is a gift I will always treasure, and one I will be sure to pass on to my own children.

Thanks, Mom for the movie. Thanks, Dad for the hankie. You were right, less IS more.

If You Give a Mom a Project

Okay, Moms (and Dads), you know how you start to do one thing and it leads to something else, and then that leads to something else, and then pretty soon you realize that you are knee-deep into a project that you had no intention of starting? Kind of like the book series If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? So, today seems to be that kind of day for me; but, I’m not complaining. I enjoy the surprises that these experiences seem to afford.

Since January, we have had full-time help with the kids and household chores from 9am to 2pm on Monday through Friday. I cannot even begin to tell you what a huge blessing this has been for my family. Well, today our beloved Fidencia (Fifi) had another obligation and we are on our own. My energy has improved and I woke up mentally prepared to face the day without the extra help. By the time I was dragged out of bed by my adorable four-year old Sophia it was already 9am. The kids had made breakfast, eaten, cleared the table and were working on their school work. Patrick was back in his office preparing to leave for the day’s appointments. Daniel and Sophia wanted to do school with me, so while I ate my breakfast and enjoyed a cup of coffee we did Math and some preschool workbook pages. Benjamin joined us at the table and did his own coloring work. Since it has been months since I did school with the kids I realized how unorganized their books had become. The general reading books were mixed with the school books and coloring books. In addition some random toys, crayons and pencils had been thrown into the “school bin.” One of the books mixed in was an A,B,C Book that I had made with Joshua when he was a preschooler. I decided that I better put it in his baby box before it was completely destroyed.

A similar book made by Sophia

A similar book made by Sophia recently

After finishing up the school work, I took Sophia and Ben to the living room and gave them each an ipad to do their “school” turn, which means “educational apps only”. I turned my attention to the space above the television where the baby boxes are stored, which immediately set off the Kid Alarm. The Kid Alarm is that alarm that all children are born with which immediately alerts them to a parent who is on the phone, needing privacy, or working on a project best done alone and without the assistance of her offspring. So, before I knew it I had all seven children begging to look through their baby boxes. School came to a screeching halt and a trip down memory road commenced.

It is dangerous for me to look through their baby boxes or flip through the photo albums. A deep longing wells up within me to recapture those moments when they were younger and more innocent. The newborn pictures affect me the most. Those sweet, soft infant heads with a tuft of baby-fine hair and that new baby smell all come flooding back to me and make me wish with all my heart that I had those babies back to hold, or another one on the way.

Who couldn't love those chubby cheeks and that soft, fuzzy head?

Who couldn’t love those chubby cheeks and that soft, fuzzy head?

But, they grow so quickly and sweetness of those moments are always mixed with the exhaustion of caring for that new baby, the recovery of a body that has carried and nourished yet another life and given birth to it, and all the responsibility that come with adding another family member. It is bitter sweet indeed. The consolation is in the present. I looked around the room at my seven children present with me in the moment and then back at the photo in my hand . “Look at that sweet baby! And then they grow into sweet, little kids,” I exclaimed as I cupped my daughter’s face in my hand. “And, then,” I said with pride, “they become these awesome teenagers” and I held my soon-to-be-sixteen-already’s face in my hand. “And then,” I continued with enthusiasm as I skimmed through pictures to find our eldest child’s face, “they become awesome grownups, who get married and make more cute little babies!”  I quickly grabbed my phone and texted my daughter to invite her and the grandkids over for a visit later today. I am thankful for the quick response in the affirmative and look forward to enjoying the moments I have today because tomorrow may not afford the same opportunities.

I may never have the privilege to nourish another child within me or experience the bittersweet moments in those few weeks after its birth; but, I do have the children of the present. I have the toddler and the preschoolers with their endless energy and never-ending source of love and affection. I have the early years where the world is an open book and the mind and body are growing more capable of complex ideas and projects. I have the teenage years, where independence is on the horizon and the new wings are being tested and strengthened. I have the young adult whose wings are strong and the world is just waiting to be conquered. And I have a friend and a daughter who shares the similar struggles and joys of raising young children and building a strong marriage. Yes, the present is a wonderful place to be!

Our recent family pic taken by the talented Rachael McCoy at www.rachaelmccoyphotography.com

Our recent family pic taken by the talented Rachael McCoy at http://www.rachaelmccoyphotography.com

Now, back to organizing those books.

Advice To Mothers

After 20 years of marriage and motherhood, as I was blessed to marry a man who already had a daughter, I feel somewhat prepared to offer advice to my colleagues in our mutual endeavor of raising children. I will also add to my resume’ the fact that I have been mother to a preschooler for 18 of the last 20 years– not the same one mind you, but at least one preschooler. This is impressive as the preschooler is a most fascinating creature almost always on the move with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. It is one of my favorite stages of child development, but it also the most physically and emotionally demanding roles of parenting and can take its toll on even the strongest and most experienced caretaker. It is for this reason that I offer the following advice.

Oh, you have probably heard some of it before: take care of yourself, go on dates with your husband, get up before the children so you have time alone or in prayer, blah, blah, blah. I am not going to give you the same advice, although some of it is great advice and works really well for some people. No, I am going to tell you how to take care of yourself. Please don’t take my advice for granted. It came at a great cost to me. I had to learn it the hard way by trial and error and ultimately, falling flat on my butt before learning what they meant when they said, “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first.” “ Yeah, yeah. I know,” I thought to my prideful self, “but I want to be a saint and saints aren’t selfish. I’ve read Horton Hatches an Egg, and I’m no Mazy the lazy bird who leaves her hatching to someone else. No, I’m Horton.” And then God in his goodness gave me the gift of humility and my body won’t do what my mind wills it to do and wants it to do. Every time I push myself my body screams at me a day or two later. It throws a temper tantrum worse than any toddler and refuses to do much more than eat and sleep, and so I’ve learned that for my body and I to get along, I have to treat her gently. I’ve learned that there is a middle ground between old, faithful Horton and Mazy the lazy bird; and I’ve learned that saints didn’t become saints overnight, but that there is a proper order in becoming saints. We don’t get to just skip over steps because, well, we are in a hurry to achieve said perfection and declare ourselves martyrs. So, here it goes.

1. No Fair Comparing. Just like you didn’t or shouldn’t have looked at your friend’s test to compare answers before turning it in, you cannot and should not compare your life to anyone else’s. Ever. Oh, this is ever so difficult for me. It feels so good to think I’m doing better than Sally who doesn’t even do a, b or c for her family. It also feels so horribly despairing that I could never do x, y or z for mine even though Suzy does it with a smile on her face, six kids under foot and two hands tied behind her back. It produces no good fruits and serves no purpose. Also, it is impossible for us to compare. We cannot see all the factors going into another’s life and we are each unique individuals with a separate God-given purpose.

Case in point:  my seven children still at home are all assigned tasks to help get the evening meal on the table. If everyone does his or her task the table is set, the meal is prepared and served, and we are all able to eat a hot meal in joy and peace. But, normally, at least one child is distracted and the helpful siblings are quick to point out this slack in duty.

Angela: Mom, Sam is watching t.v. and not setting the plates.
Samuel: I’m only watching t.v. because Josh won’t get the plates for me.
Josh: I told him I’d get the plates after Angela unloads the dishwasher.
Angela: I’m waiting for Sam to turn off the t.v. because it’s time to set the table.

 

And so it goes until I get frustrated and exclaim, “If everyone would just do their job things could go really smoothly around here! What kind of a home do we want: a peaceful one or one where we all get upset with each other for not doing our jobs?” And the reality of it hits me hard. If we would just live our life the way God asks us to, we could have a peaceful world as well. If we concerned ourselves with doing His will everything would go smoothly. So, don’t compare and don’t concern yourself with other’s lives unless God has sent you on a specific mission to do so.

2. Listen to Your Inner Voice. Know yourself. This journey of self trust began with Natural Family Planning for me. I learned how to pay attention to my body’s natural rhythm and cycles. I became empowered by knowing that I knew my body better than anyone else ever could. It came full circle for me on the day I left the hospital in labor with my seventh child. The doctor had violated me and in a peace-filled, empowered state of mind I was able to stand up for myself. I had no fear in going home and having my baby in a loving environment where her dignity and mine would be respected (I had arranged for my midwife to meet us before leaving the hospital). It’s a story to be told at another time, but I mention here to demonstrate that there is power within each of us. God fills us with the grace and wisdom we need to live out His will. We have to work on our relationship with Christ through prayer and discernment and as that relationship grows stronger, our inner voice becomes louder and more clear. With my body’s failure to comply with all of my demands and wishes, I have really learned to rely on God’s will. It seems that I have to discern the smallest of tasks before carrying them out. Each day goes much smoother by doing so, but the cross is still just as heavy.

3. Be Humble. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. This ties in closely with listening to that inner voice and not comparing. Often, I was in a state of exhaustion where I knew I couldn’t care for myself much less my children. It was difficult to pick up the phone and call friends for help. I would worry that they would see my weakness, or think that I really didn’t need help and was just being selfish in asking for it. After all, Suzy never asks . . .Oh, yeah, I’m not supposed to compare. So, if you need help, ask for it. The worst is that everyone says “no” and then you turn to God and cry your heart out, pray and wait for the grace. Everything works out. Maybe not how you thought it would or should, but it works out in the end. You survive. You grow. I survived. I grew.

I will also add that we are called to live in unity. Women need to support women. Reach out and build those friendships. Be the kind of friend you want and wish for.  Don’t be afraid to accept the help in carrying your cross. Even Jesus had Simon of Cyrene.

4. Sleep. Whenever you are able, sleep. If you are an early riser and enjoy that time before the kids wake up and the earth is still dormant then by all means, get up and enjoy it. Go to bed early if you need to. Find your rhythm and go with it. But, if you are not a morning person and the kids are safe watching television while you get some much needed rest, then do it. Now, you have to be prayerful in discerning this advice. I am not saying to stay up until the wee hours of the morning playing computer games and then sleep until 11am while the kids veg out on PBS or Netflix. I am saying that if you are exhausted and need sleep, don’t feel a bit guilty about making changes to ensure that you are getting some rest. As a homeschooling mom this is my favorite perk. I struggle with severe adrenal fatigue and it is imperative that my body gets sleep. Some days that means going to bed at 9pm and some mornings it means I stay in bed until 9am. It has taken years for me to figure this out and make the changes to our schedule to make it work. Only you know what you need in this area. You have to work with your husband and make the necessary changes for your health. Don’t be fooled. Sleep or lack thereof is almost always the main culprit in a lack of patience and charity. It serves our family when we get the rest we need and can serve them with love and patience.

5. Eat well. If you are surviving each day by coffee, cold drinks, alcohol and/or junk food you owe it to yourself to look more deeply into demands of your daily life and make some serious changes. I know of which I speak. It all ties together. If you are not getting sleep then a cup of coffee or a Dr. Pepper are a quick fix to getting that extra boost of energy to survive until bedtime. I did this for years. Dr. Pepper was this Texan’s vice of choice. It gave me the energy boost to make it through dinner and then I was wired when bedtime rolled around. It would take me hours to fall asleep and then I had to get up with the baby and the next day demanded another D.P. for survival. This coupled with the need to eat and the lack of energy to prepare anything nutritious. Fast Food is a demon. It satisfies that urge to be fed, but has no nutrition and even robs us of what little nutrition we have in store. I still struggle with this one.

6. Do What You Enjoy. Make sure in all the busyness of life and kids that you continue to take some time each day or week to do something that you enjoy. It is your time to recharge your batteries and connect with who you were made to be. What are your unique gifts and talents and how can you use them in your station of life? Boy, is this advice I wish I had adhered to over the past ten years. As the babies came one after the other (six in seven years) my “hobbies” were the first thing to go. My husband is just as guilty in this department and it is really hard for us to reclaim our individual moments of joy. I enjoy sewing, but have decided that the energy to set up the machine and carve out time for a project is more than I can muster right now. Reading is also a huge source of entertainment and nourishment for me. So, I am fine tuning my Feedly app and finding great resources on the internet in the form of blogs and Catholic websites to give me small and easy-to-digest bits of brain fuel. Thirdly, I have rediscovered my love for writing. I wrote all the time as a teen and my husband was actually surprised by my writing after about six years into our marriage. He has been so supportive and encouraging of me. Writing actually serves a dual purpose. I love to talk and share my thoughts, but am at home with the kids and have little time to visit with friends these days. Writing allows me to get my thoughts out of my heart and mind and share them with others. It has also been amazingly therapeutic for me and I don’t feel so ‘”trapped” inside of myself.

Well, that is it. This is all the advice I have to offer. Of course, this is assuming that you are taking time for prayer each day. Whatever advice I have to give is entirely fruitless if you don’t have a relationship with Christ. You cannot possibly know what God’s will is for you if you don’t ever talk to Him! May God continue to bless you on your journey. Thank you for taking the time to share in mine. And if you have any advice for me, I’m ready to listen.

Amazing Grace (part 1)

“I was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” –Amazing Grace by John Newton (1725-1807)

I am a stubborn child, strong willed and strong minded. I have learned to depend on myself and thus I learned how weak I am. In His goodness and mercy and gentleness God has guided me to this place and now I share it with you.

I have been struggling with my health, as you know. Finally, I was forced to my knees in prayer when my body protested and I was too exhausted to even leave my bed. At times my anxiety was so much that I had to stop eating with the family and take meals in my room. Humiliated I had to call several friends and ask for help with childcare during the day while my husband worked. With seven children to care for, rest and a stress-free environment was nearly impossible. My husband was maxed out as well. We had a vacation planned to Mexico for our twentieth wedding anniversary, but we knew that even that would not be enough to get us through. In tears I left the house and called a friend. After sharing my worries with her through sobs and sniffles, she suggested I go on a sabbatical, or to a place where all my needs would be met and I could just heal. I immediately thought of the Sisters.

The Sisters are The Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence, Missouri. I have visited the Sisters on a number of occasions over the last twenty years. My father has worked for them since I was in college and I have taken groups of girls on Vocation Awareness trips where we stay, work, eat and pray alongside the Sisters for several days at a time. After one phone call my stay was arranged and a few clicks on the computer locked in my flights.

Then fear set in. How could I leave my children and my husband for eleven days? What would people think? Who could I get to watch them? What will happen if I get homesick? All these questions presented themselves, but I still had a great sense of peace that this was what I needed to do if I was going to ever be healthy again. I took one step at a time and trusted that God would provide if this was truly his will and provide He did. Friends stepped up to offer childcare, my neighbors offered to prepare meals while I was away, and my family was very supportive and encouraging.

A last-minute change in plans came about as we packed the kids to go to three different places during our Mexico vacation. My nephew and his wife were in town from Nebraska visiting with their three young children. We didn’t see them on Thanksgiving because we were visiting with different family members that day, but Patrick and I were able to squeeze in a quick visit at Chik Fil A to see their beautiful faces and give them the update on my health. An hour later I received a text asking if they could take some of the kids home with them for three weeks until they returned for Christmas. Angela (8) and Daniel (5) were disappointed to miss the visit with their friend, but jumped at the chance to go to Nebraska—especially if it included the possibility of snow. We repacked their bags and sent them off to Nebraska minutes before heading to the airport ourselves. We were actually going to make the trip! Six days alone in Mexico was a dream come true and we intended to make the most of our time together without children—complete with uninterrupted thoughts and sentences–and with sleep, and food that we don’t have to prepare, and sleep, and no work to accomplish, no deadlines to meet, and did I mention sleep?

Haiku Birth Stories

This is my most fun and easiest post so far. Thanks for the inspiration, Jennifer Fulwiler! The following are haiku of my birth stories.

Met her at age four
Loved her from the first moment
My child by marriage

Three false labor trips
Pit drip and epidural
My first baby girl

Four false labor trips
Pit drip and epidural
Second baby girl

Infertility
Five years and first baby boy
Yay! NaPro Technology

Four false labor trips
Pit drip and epidural
My third baby girl

Fifteen months and boom!
Second baby boy is born
Induced and epidural

An easier way?
Hypnobabies we will try
Baby boy at home!

Back to hospital
Doctor abusive to me
Born in daddy’s hands

Benjamin he is
Now placenta Previa
Emergency C

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.