We are not the same as atheists.

So, its NFP awareness week.  Yay!

Now, what does that mean for you?  Well, (un)fortunately for you, I’ve had a major deadline, my laptop blue-screened on me, my in-laws were in town, and I’m now out of state at a conference, so I don’t really have time for a long post.  But I did just get sent this amazing article about how all Christians (not just Catholics) are examining the morality of birth control. Its a great article, so you should please, please read it.

Some great quotes:

“People are no longer … thinking about it,” says Hodge…

“People don’t even ask if there is anything possibly morally wrong about it.”

For more than 19 centuries, every Christian church opposed contraception.

and

To separate the two functions of marital intimacy–the life-transmitting from the bonding–is to reject God’s design, Paul VI wrote.

Janet Smith, a Catholic seminary professor whose writing and talks have been influential for two decades, puts it this way: “God himself is love, and it’s the very nature of love to overflow into new life. Take the baby-making power out of sex, and it doesn’t express love. All it expresses is physical attraction.”

and the best yet…

Rather than heeding Christian theology to be “agents of life in the world,” Christians have largely adopted culture’s philosophic naturalism, which considers sex an itch to be scratched, Hodge said.

They have the same view of conception that atheists have.”

I am so, so grateful to be part of that 10%.  It has made all the difference in my little life thus far.

Advertisements

Praying for Others

This is long overdue but I’m posting it anyway.  I’m doing a little prayer buddy thing these days that lasts until August 15th.  Basically the assignment is simple. I’ve been given a fellow blogger via the IF circle of bloggers that have so warmly welcomed me and its my duty to pray for that person.  Come August 15th, I’ll reveal myself to that person and let them know I’ve been praying for them.  Since I’m relatively new to this group, I feel like I’m going to reveal myself to that person and there going to respond, “Who??”

But hopefully I’ll make a new friend!  Because I’ve been praying for this person and the struggles they’ve been going through as well as for their husband, and seriously, how could you not want to be friends with someone who’s been praying for you? That’s what I thought :)

So the other half of this prayer buddy thing is having a person out there that I don’t even know praying for me for these few weeks.  And, wow.  That’s humbling.  Its really hard for me to pray for myself (I feel way more comfortable praying for others), so I really, really appreciate this prayer buddy thing.

But I’m starting to realize I really need to ask for help.  Part of the interesting dichotomy of having fertility issues is that you “just need to relax” but then you’re focusing too much on yourself if you want to talk about it and examine all your feelings of frustration that comes with this with anyone.  I try not to unload on anyone because let’s face it, no one likes a Debbie Downer (actually, that one’s pretty funny – and ironically enough, she even makes a joke about not ever having children!).  I try to deal with this healthily, but I’m just realizing that very, very few people in my life want to or have the time to be there to listen.  So I grow closer to my husband.  And fellow bloggers.

Thanks to those of you who have listened.  I needed that.

So if my prayer buddy is reading this, can I get some particular help with a special request?  I have an impossible-feeling deadline coming up at work (Friday) and I need some concentration and focus.  There’s only one thing I can change in my life right now and that’s the outcome of this project.  I just need the strength to do it.  I also need a little less procrastinating on blogs in order to make this happen.  Thank you in advance:)

Take 7 (16)

1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

The title of this post is also the date.  How cool is that?!

222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222

I got this little pot with flower seeds at a baby shower I went to the other week, so I came home and planted them and stuck them on our kitchen counter.  The only light in the room is from the sun from the window facing north, until I turn on the light when I get home at night.  I found it hilarious to watch this little plant change directions with the sun orientation.  Check it out:

Yes, this is my entertainment.

333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333

I turned down the wrong way on the one way street the other day driving home.  Soooo glad there was only one car on the road at the time…

444444444444444444444444444444444444444444444444

I’m in a really gnarly discussion about same sex marriage on Facebook right now.  I think that means I’m officially ready to post about it on this blog.  So seriously this time, it’ll be coming within the next two weeks.

5555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555

I finished INSANITY this week!  So if nothing else this summer, I’m happy I completed that program.  Usually I quit my workouts halfway through!

666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666

The hubby and I are giving a witness talk on NFP tomorrow.  I’m super excited because I haven’t given this talk to a general population before, only people who are interested in learning.  Pray for hearts to hear our words, if you can.  Also, pray for HopePrayTrust as she enters the Church on Sunday!  Hallelujah!

777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777

I got a blog award!

Not entirely sure what I did to deserve it but I thought I’d play along anyway :)  Apparently I’m supposed to share 7 things no one knows about me…so here we go.

  1. I hate milk in my cereal.  Its a texture thing.  Soggy anything incites a very strong gag reflex.
  2. The one exception to the aforementioned rule is that if there is enough cinnamon sugar, I will eat it, no matter how soggy it is.  I LOVE cinnamon.  Examples include:  bread pudding and french toast.  Yummy.
  3. I sneeze in the sun.
  4. I’ve donated my hair before.
  5. I’ve lived in Europe.
  6. I speak Chinese (not fluently) but now I’m moving to Mexico and need to learn Spanish.  Seriously, why could I have not been like everyone else in college?
  7. I’m 3rd of 4 children.

I’m supposed to pass this on to 15 other bloggers!  Eessh!  I’m lazy and while I’m appreciative of this award, I’m all for voluntary participation, so I’m going to pull a That Married Couple and say read the blogs of my commenters or click on my side bar.  Thanks again!

And please go to Jen at Conversion Diary for more quick takes!

Happy Birthday, Matching Moonheads!

My blog is year old this week!

Happy Birthdayweek,

Matching Moonheads!

For some reason I thought it was the 15th, but now that I look at my archive, it was actually on the 10th of July.  Whoops.  Totally forgot, so let’s make this birthday week then!  That’s quite a feat, because that means I kept up with something for a year!

Check out my first post ever.

We’ve come a long way, baby.  And there’s plenty more where that came from.

Another reason I write

I have a love/hate relationship with those last few days of the month.  There’s so much possibility in those days.  It feels like the world is my oyster, I’m free of my burdens, and I can do anything!  I wish I could just freeze time and keep that feeling.  Having hope is so much easier when you can feel it.  And while I remind myself  that a baby isn’t promised at the end of those days, the world still seems to be brimming with possibilities and they all seem so good.

And then that next first day of the month comes.  And it all comes crashing down.

It was all in my head.  Yes, there was possibility, but I wasn’t pregnant. The possibility that I will get pregnant is still out there, just a few more days away than I thought.  Its so much harder to feel, to remember its there.

A few months ago (during those good days, of course) I realized that its pretty  funny how I go through this roller coaster inside when to the casual observer, nothing actually ever changed.  I am so content and full of hope one day, even though the (likely) possibility existed that that hope wasn’t based in reality, only to be upset the next when I discover reality. Naturally I thought “Wouldn’t it be so nice if the whole month could be like this?  Why does it have to come crashing down?”

So I try to write on those good days, so that on those bad days (like today) that it feels like all hope is lost I can look back and see that, between today and yesterday, what really changed?  I didn’t lose anything physical.  Only ideas, possibilities.  And it sucks loosing those, when those possibilities are dreams of your future.   But knowing that yesterday I felt so good and so full of hope helps me remember that this too shall pass.

I just don’t find it as funny as I did yesterday.

Just Cause

A contentious topic that seems to re-emerge in NFP discussions in cycles is the necessity of using NFP and how to tell if you have “just cause” to use NFP to postpone child-rearing.  Contrary to popular belief (at least the circles I run in), the Catholic Church does not want you to have as many children as possible in order to fill the pews.  On the other hand, marriage is for children and faithful married Catholic couples are not necessarily given free reign to postpone children for their entire marriage either using NFP (incidentally, the same for Protestants).  The Church promotes responsible parenthood while still acknowledging the intrinsic goodness of having children.

[For those of you struggling to have children and living through the very real part of your marriage vows “Do you promise to accept children lovingly from God?” – not demand, I had a hard time reading this at first since all I could imagine was, “What if there was a way I could formulate a ‘just cause’ letter to God to know that we have ‘just reasons’ for wanting a child?” If only!]

Nevertheless, this might be a good resource for someone.  While I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be on the journey I’m on (judging by the fact I’m leaving everything up to God at this point), I can imagine how hard it must be to feel like you were in control with normal fertility and still have the need to discern family size.  There are many more things to consider, many more outside pressures, and I would personally be constantly wondering if I was doing the right thing.  I love how the Church provides help in forming our consciences appropriately, but acknowledges how only a couple in the situation can evaluate their situation appropriately.  There is no cookie-cutter solution, although there are important points to consider!  Hopefully this article will help someone.

WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a question on bioethics asked by a ZENIT reader and answered by the fellows of the Culture of Life Foundation.

Q: Are there any conditions to follow Natural Family Planning (NFP) by a married couple, or is there blanket approval by Catholic Church? Wouldn’t NFP be against life if the intention of the couple involved in sexual act is just pleasure and not life, provided they don’t have any valid reason to postpone pregnancy? In this case, can NFP be also considered similar to using condoms? Thanks and Regards — D.R.P, Bangalore, India

E. Christian Brugger offers the following response.

A: This is an excellent question, and one that I have been asked many times over the years by devout Catholic spouses. The answer is “no,” NFP is not unqualifiedly good and can be used wrongly. The reason for this is subtle and needs to be stated carefully, because there is a popular, although erroneous, belief among some Catholic couples that NFP is “second best,” and that if a couple is seriously Catholic, they will not self-consciously plan the children they conceive, but simply “let God send them.” I do not mean to offend anyone’s practices, but this “come what may” attitude is found nowhere in Catholic teaching on procreation in the last 150 years. There is no decision more serious to a Catholic couple than whether or not to participate with God in bringing a new human person into existence. The more serious a decision, the more it is due prayer, discussion and discernment. I teach my seminarians in Denver that God has a plan for every married couple; that the plan includes how many children they should have; and therefore if a couple is concerned about doing Jesus’ will, they should try to discover whether Jesus wishes them to have more children. They should have all the children that Jesus wants them to have, no less, and no more. Therefore, whenever they are conscious that they might become pregnant, they should discuss and pray over the question: “Does Jesus want us to have another child?” The idea that this question is intrinsically tainted with selfish motives is rigoristic and should be rejected. Every potentially fertile couple, as well as infertile couples capable of adopting, has the responsibility to ask it.

At the same time, NFP can be chosen wrongly. Pope John Paul II summarized the Church’s teaching in this regard during an audience at Castel Gondolfo in 1994; (note the seriousness with which he says couples should take the decision to have a child); he writes: “In deciding whether or not to have a child, [spouses] must not be motivated by selfishness or carelessness, but by a prudent, conscious generosity that weighs the possibilities and circumstances, and especially gives priority to the welfare of the unborn child. Therefore, when there is a reason not to procreate, this choice is permissible and may even be necessary. However, there remains the duty of carrying it out with criteria and methods that respect the total truth of the marital act in its unitive and procreative dimension, as wisely regulated by nature itself in its biological rhythms. One can comply with them and use them to advantage, but they cannot be ‘violated’ by artificial interference.”[1]

Principle of “iusta causa”

John Paul II says the choice whether or not to have more children “must not be motivated by selfishness or carelessness;” and then states: “When there is a reason not to procreate, this choice is permissible and may even be necessary.” What kind of “reason” renders permissible the choice not to procreate and hence to use NFP to avoid pregnancy? Pope Paul VI helps us answer this question. In “Humanae Vitae” (No. 16) he teaches: “If therefore there are ‘iusta causae’ for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile.”

The Latin term “iustae causae” is sometimes translated “well grounded reasons,” sometimes “serious motives”, and sometimes “grave reasons.” But the term is simply the plural of “iusta causa,” which literally translates “just cause.” According to the encyclical, a couple may space births, and do so through a deliberate recourse to the woman’s natural fertility cycle [i.e., they may choose a form of NFP], if there are “just causes.” This implies that if there are not just causes, then spacing births, and spacing them in this way, is not legitimate; in other words, that a couple ought not to space births, even through recourse to natural fertility cycles.

The Catholic Church first taught on intentional recourse to a woman’s cycle in 1853. The Roman Sacred Penitentiary was replying to a request for an official clarification (a “dubium”) submitted by the Bishop of Amiens in France, which asked: “Should those spouses be reprehended who make use of marriage only on those days when (in the opinion of some doctors) conception is impossible?” Rome replied: “After mature examination, we have decided that such spouses should not be disturbed [or disquieted], provided they do nothing that impedes generation.” The quote implies that choosing intercourse to avoid procreation can be different morally from choices to “impede procreation”; the latter are never legitimate; the former are (at least sometimes) legitimate.  One hundred years later Pope Pius XII spoke at length on periodic abstinence for purposes of spacing births in his well-known “Address to Midwives” (1951). He uses several terms as synonyms for Paul VI’s “iustae causae”: “serious reasons,” “serious motives” and “grave reasons.” The Pope says that such reasons “can exempt for a long time, perhaps even the whole duration of the marriage, from the positive and obligatory carrying out” of the marital duty to procreate.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the teaching when it says: “For just reasons (de iustis causis), spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality” (No. 2368). That objective criterion excludes as legitimate the alternative to impede procreation through choosing to contracept.  What constitutes a just cause?

Neither the Sacred Penitentiary, Pius XII, Paul VI, nor John Paul II specify concretely what constitutes a “iusta causa.” “Humanae Vitae” gets nearest. It teaches that “with regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time” (No. 10; see also No. 16).

The text itemizes four areas of life from which such reasons might arise: physical and mental health, and economic and social conditions. This is still very general, but together with the prior statements, it provides us with enough information to formulate the following moral norm (note: this is my formulation): “If a couple has serious reasons, arising from the physical or mental condition of themselves, their children, or another for whom they have responsibility, or from the family’s economic or wider social situation, they may defer having children temporarily, or, if the situation is serious enough, indefinitely, providing they use morally legitimate means. Recourse to natural fertility cycles to space births (NFP) under such circumstances is an example of a morally legitimate means. Contraception is not.”

If there is any further interest, I would be happy in a future piece to discuss concrete situations that might rightly be judged to be “serious reasons.”

One final important point to note. If NFP is chosen wrongly, the wrongness lies in the fact that it is chosen without “good reason” and therefore usually selfishly. The sin here (presuming a person knows what he is doing and freely does it) is the sin of selfishness. (For a Catholic, it can also be the sin of disobedience to authoritative Church teaching.) But choosing NFP selfishly is not the same as contracepting. Strictly speaking, persons can only contracept if they also choose intercourse: a contraceptive act renders sterile an act of intercourse (recall the famous definition from “Humana Vitae,” No. 14: “Any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means.”); a contraceptive act always relates to some act of sexual intercourse; it is an act contrary to conception (literally contra-conception).

If there is no act of intercourse between a potentially fertile heterosexual couple, there is no potential conception to act contrary toward. Those who choose not to have intercourse, that is, choose abstinence (as NFP practitioners do when they want to avoid pregnancy), cannot act contrary to any conceptive-type of act, since they are specifically avoiding such acts. Therefore, those who choose NFP wrongly, although they do wrong, they do not do the same thing as those who contracept. Strictly speaking, they do not, indeed cannot, have a “contraceptive intention,” although their frame of mind might be characterized by what John Paul II called a “contraceptive mentality” (by which I take him to mean, a mentality that sees the coming to be of new life as a threat, something rightly to take measures against). [Note: some moral theologians would disagree with me here; they believe that NFP can be chosen with a ‘contraceptive intention’ and therefore constitute for some couples a form of contraception.]

Note

[1] available at: http://ccli.org/oldnfp/b2010morality/churchteaching.php

* * *

E. Christian Brugger is a Senior Fellow of Ethics at the Culture of Life Foundation and is an associate professor moral theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado. He received his Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford in 2000.

And here’s the follow-up response here.

Did that help, or had you heard it before?

Not cursed!

Just in case you were wondering, I came across a nice little verse in the Bible the other day that helped confirm what I was wondering the other week, that no, us subfertile/infertile women are not cursed.  I know I’m not a Biblical scholar, but this verse was enough for me.  It was from the final reading in a two week-plan on healing.

John 9: 1-4

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

Jesus might as well have said “Nothing made him that way, its just the way is.”  I thought it random that I even chose the two-week plan on healing, but this verse gave me such hope.  I struggle with seeing my fertility issues as something that needs to be “healed” in the medical sense because that seems that takes God out of it all.  I don’t think it helps that all the testing we’ve done so far indicates mostly normal fertility.  Ultimately I started reading the plan because many other aspects of my life need healing, including my attitude, my heart, my patience, gossiping, etc.

I remember right after we got married my husband and I did a “busy person’s retreat”, which included meeting with a religious every day for one hour for a week.  I was really sick during that time (yay food poisoning on the honeymoon!) and the Sister asked me if I had prayed for healing.  Well, no.  Why do I need to be healed?  I just need to get over this virus caused by uncooked chicken from a certain street restaurant with no other people at that my husband really wanted to eat at (ahem)!  Regardless, I did pray for my health to return.  And eventually it did.  But was it because of my prayer necessarily?

Getting pregnant is different.  No science can explain infusing a soul and a life into my womb, that could only be the result of God’s work.  Science can explain viruses, yet miracle cures still happen. Whether we want it or not.

I don’t know what that has to do with anything, and this post wasn’t supposed to be about prayer but opportunity.  The opportunity to turn a seemingly bad situation into a good one.  To claim that us not having a child is an accident or that I or anyone else with fertility issues  earned this somehow is to deny the power and goodness of God.  He is all powerful and yet nothing is too small for Him.  I really wish that the above verse just ended after “so that God’s work might be revealed in Him” because the rest of it makes it sound like there is always a happy ending with the obvious choice (didn’t post it, you can look it up at home).  Blind man can see, so then….barren woman should have baby right?

But what if that’s not the ending?  Didn’t we still have a unideal situation with room for God’s work to be revealed?  What if God’s work is for her to find a cure for cancer?  Promote NFP?  Become a mentor to those in need?  Just get through the day with her marriage intact?  Those are great things too.

Anyway, sorry if that didn’t make sense.  Feeling a little under the weather here.

Maybe I’ll go pray for healing…

*Just a little note to clarify…I do pray for a baby if that’s God’s will and I pray to find God’s plan in my life. This post was more in reference to praying for healing my body so that I may have a baby.  I understand that most women with sub/infertility have medical issues to why they don’t have children and maybe we do too (that I don’t know about yet, which is why we’re doing Creighton), but I haven’t felt like our case is pure a medical issue, especially since having a baby involves a soul and everything.  I understand that I may feel like this because of a lack of anywhere to place blame right now, but its where I’m at.

Take 7 (16)

1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

I’ve been having a hard time sitting down to write this week.  I have a billion ideas in my head and not one of them seems to have gotten itself down on paper.  Or I started it and it has, but I don’t like it so I end up deleting it all.

Also, I’ve had limited time this week because I’ve been doing more lab work.  Guess that’s a good thing!

222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222

Fourth of July was pretty tame, no California party like last year.  (And that picture still melts my heart.  But I digress…)  Bought some bratwurst to celebrate (because what screams ‘Yay America!’ like a German hotdog?), made them for my husband before I kissed him goodbye to give him some peace to work on the “thesis baby.”  Went out to the park with my friends/in-laws to watch the fireworks.  It was nice :)

33333333333333333333333333333333333333333333

Related note, thesis baby is in the process of being approved today!  Hopefully we’ll find out its due date today as well (if the adviser permits).  All this talk of graduating and being married to a Dr. soon is really exciting.  It has been a long time coming.

Husband recounted how 5 years ago he remembers staying up all night to finish a project that first summer he was in grad school.  He told me he literally remembers thinking “Hmm, I think there will be a lot more of this where that came from…” and sure enough, all-nighters are still happening 5 years later!  But soon they will be over!  Maybe we’ll look back on this one and say, “WOW, we worked hard!  But it was worth it!”

We better!

444444444444444444444444444444444444444444

Watching my husband go through this final labor push is making me wish my thesis baby was developing as quickly.  Hopefully we’ll have two little thesis babies by May!

555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555

Ok, I get that the thesis-baby analogy is getting old.  Its just that sometimes feel like this is the only thing I’m capable of producing (if I even am) and I’m trying to stay positive.  Its also been an emotional week of watching babies born that were conceived after we started trying.  Reality is sinking in and I must not feel sorry for myself.  That’s just a downward spiral I can’t get stuck in.  So I resort to dreams about thesis babies, because I have more control over that :)

666666666666666666666666666666666666666666

I had cool pictures to show but I just realized my camera cord is at home :(

777777777777777777777777777777777777777777

The “Moonhead Great North American Tour 2010” just got another stop:  Canada!  Anyone know any great things to do in Toronoto?  I imagine August will be the perfect time to visit!

Ok, that’s it.  Go on over to Jen’s to see more where this came from.

One more reason…

…why I love my husband :)

He sent this video to me yesterday.  I can’t embed it here, but you should really saunter on over and give it a look!  Its a little intro video about the purpose of marriage.  Its 12 minutes long and its kind of cheezy in the begining, but I thought it was well done, relaxing to watch, and especially pertinent to those of us struggling with fertility issues.

I love that my husband sent this to me.  It was like a little hug of encouragement :)

Its nice to be reminded of what marriage is all about.