My battle with “natural”

I may be a secret hippie at heart.

I use many ‘natural’ products. I’ve made my own laundry soap, shampoo and conditioner.  I don’t shave my legs nearly as much as is appropriate – and not at all in winter (does it still count as winter?).  I use reusable feminine products.  I avoid buying unnecessarily packaged food.  I prefer the idea of using less over buying more.  I want to knit my own everything.  I dream of having a garden and a compost when we ever have a house together again.    I’m learning more about the truth behind what foods I eat and I’m trying to change my decisions daily (although old cravings die very, very hard).  I’m not over the top on this by any means and I try not to talk about these things, but I do try to make those small changes if its possible and more importantly, I enjoy doing these things.  I like to feel as self-sufficient as possible.

As a Catholic, I think natural law is the coolest thing ever.  As should be obvious by now, I am a big proponent of naturally spacing children and avoiding hormones to control healthy, naturally occurring reproductive processes.  I love the idea of having a natural birth and breastfeeding.  You know, doing what your body is supposed to do and feeding your child as it would happen, naturally.

Are you sick of that word yet?

I am.

Because the problem is I’m staring down the barrel of an ideological crisis.  I’m realizing what I would really want more than anything is a natural conception.

And if that’s the most important thing for me, then at this rate it may mean never conceiving at all.

Yes, if I do ever conceive it will be the ‘old-fashioned’ way with an act between my husband and I (as a Catholic, what I consider ‘natural’ and ‘moral’ are separate ideas – the latter being a non-negotiable, the former being, well, what I’m trying to figure out) but ideally I’d want it even more natural than that.  I’d love nothing more than the truly natural ‘Hey look honey we didn’t abstain this month and weren’t pumped full of fertility drugs and no doctor was monitoring my blood and look just what happened naturally, we’re pregnant!”

Oh, how hard it is to let go of that dream.

Equally hard is accepting that while for some couples, it is as simple as that, for others it isn’t.

I realize that so many of you are so far beyond this that you’re probably rolling your eyes right now and thinking “Natural or not, I just want a conception. Period!” Maybe there are others saying “Maybe if it doesn’t come naturally, you’re just not meant to have children.”

I’m stuck somewhere in the middle.

I imagine this is similar to those women trying to decide what matters to them in the delivery room.  There’s so much thought and preparation that goes into how to deliver a baby and its a very important decision.  Keyword:  decision.  It appears it is a choice.

I know that not all women want to have a natural birth.  That is their decision.   Some women do and they fight tooth and nail to get it.  More power to them. I know that many women do want one and end up for one reason or another (usually life threatening) having medical reasons and needing help either through pain medication or a cesarean.  Other women get pushed into it by their doctors for less serious reasons.  I’ve talked to several friends who associate such trauma with birth precisely because when it came down to it, they had no choice in the matter.  What happened had to happen because lives were at risk.

At the end of the day you’ll say “All that matters is that the baby is healthy” anyway, right?

If I thought I was that woman who would fight for a natural birth, doesn’t that mean I’m that woman who would fight for a natural conception?

I don’t know if ‘deciding’ on a natural conception is the same because it does not seem to be an even choice.  It’s not that I have a fair choice between having a ‘natural’ or an ‘aided’ (is that the opposite?) conception in the first place.  That decision seems to be taken away from me already.  The choice is rather between, ‘aided’ or potentially, none and really, let’s admit that that’s not even a choice I get to make either since pursuing fertility treatments doesn’t guarantee anything.  But the choice I do get to make is if I go down that path at all.  It is a choice to wait indefinitely.

And it’s not really a life or death situation,  so I don’t know if it’s the same ‘non-choice’ that a woman in a life threatening situation in the delivery room has.  Unless we consider it as a life or death situation for our future biological non-existent children (which I don’t believe in a pre-existence so, I can’t).  Or the life or death of my biological motherhood which at the end of the day isn’t the death of an actual person – I am still alive, it’s just the death of an idea or a dream (as painful as it is).

I don’t write this to upset people but because I’m truly trying to figure out why I have this attachment to the “natural”.  I know that regardless of my moral beliefs, it would be impossible to allow myself to do IUI or IVF on this idea alone: that we were being stripped of such a naturally occurring process of our love literally making a baby.  I think many fertile couples take for granted how spectacular that is.  I couldn’t and wouldn’t let anyone take away from me that most intimate detail of the miracle of conception even if I had no religious guidance on the matter.

Ultimately, infertility in most cases is what is unnatural.  I guess I say most cases because I feel like in my case, what has given all illusions to be unexplained infertility, this just may very well be our natural state.  If you’re using modern medicine to help you conceive and overcome a disease or a known problem, then that would be restoring health.   But if all those processes are already happening and you just can’t conceive?  I don’t know what I would do next.  Could I just give up and accept that?  If I decide that natural conception isn’t important, well then natural birth or breastfeeding wouldn’t be either.  Can I have it both ways?  I know despite my efforts, there are many things I do in my life that aren’t natural so I find it curious that I seem to have drawn the rules at reproduction.

So this is my battle with the “natural”.  It’s horribly inconvenient given my situation.

But I don’t know if I can bring myself to believe that convenience is what matters.

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42 thoughts on “My battle with “natural”

  1. Can I just say for the tenth time that I love your posts? You have such an insight and a beautiful way of explaining it.

    I’m responding to your thoughts as someone who had a natural birth and is exclusively breastfeeding but conceived on clomid and with ultrasound monitoring.

    I can understand where these thoughts are coming from for you. It makes sense at first glance, but I think your conclusions of breastfeeding and natural childbirth not mattering if you didn’t conceive naturally are skewed. Why would you not choose to give your child the best (no drugs during birth and breastmilk) just because you had to take a drug to conceive them? (I realize you wouldn’t actually do this.)

    I think it’s best to make the best possible decision for each individual choice. I have a friend who cannot breastfeed because a medical condition requires her to take a drug immediately after her children are born that passes through breastmilk. But-she has had a natural birth with all her kids. Just because they have to take formula, doesn’t mean it’s ok to also give them drugs during their birth. She’s making the best out of the situation.

    The main difference, in my head, of why we chose to pursue medical treatment to conceive but went “all natural” with everything else is this: The benefits outweighed the risks when it came to the drugs. We wanted a baby. We would only do this the moral way. We knew the drugs were not natural, but they were necessary to our conceiving. They didn’t harm our BABY in any way. But the benefits of drugs during childbirth don’t outweigh the risks (in most cases) and the benefits of breastfeeding are a no-brainer.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as an argument. I’m trying to respond to help you understand that it still makes sense to do everything as natural as possible, while realizing you may need assistance from “un-natural” drugs to get the process started in the first place. I hope this post produces some good conversation on a topic I hadn’t thought much about before.

    Prayers for you and hubby as you discern your next move with subfertility.

    • Thanks for your comment! I think it isn’t that I would ever deem natural birth or breastfeeding bad – I couldn’t, the benefits are obvious. But that if I subscribe to the same thoughts that make it so clear that drugs during birth are bad, then why would I be so quick to use fertility drugs to conceive. I think ultimately I need to do a bunch more research on this to feel comfortable…like you said at some point you have to weight the pros and cons. I’ve just been reading too much about the link of any type of hormone usage during pre-menopause to increased cancer and fertility drugs to autism (or like Wheelbarrow Rider posted recently – estrogen and death), not to mention the increase risk of multiples that I’ll admit, sounds fun, but ultimately carries with it a lot of risks. And not just for me. I guess its not that I’m scared to take these particular risks or that I wouldn’t deem it “worth it”, like I said a healthy baby is a healthy baby, but I’m just trying to figure out how these decisions fit into my worldview.
      Mostly I’m thinking about this in terms of “how long do I wait.” Perhaps similar to a woman thinking “at what point do I know this is life threatening?”

  2. This is soooooo interesting. You know, I’ve really started to think about things in terms of “ordered and disordered” rather than in any other way. Medications can make things ordered. So, that’s how I see it as far as conception. As long as you don’t cross into disordered moral acts, you are fine. :)

    But, I know there’s more to your thinking than that. I guess I’m just stuck on the order/disorder thing because I’m planning to blog on it and I think the idea fits into what you are saying.

    • I think disordered/ordered is a good way to look at it.
      Perhaps I am trying to prep myself for the end game before I’ve even entered the race. What’s also confusing me is that I seem to be ‘ordered’. That is clearly a bold statement considering I don’t even have all my blood tests back but I think it would be much easier a decision for the doctor’s to find something wrong so that I knew what I needed to fix. Still, like JoAnn said later, there is much the doctor’s don’t know and will never know. I guess that doesn’t mean there’s not still something wrong. I think this issue is coming up for me during this reproductive topic because there is such a tendency to say it is all “God’s will” or in “God’s time” and not to look at it solely like a disease. I clearly haven’t quite found the balance either because you cannot deny the hand of God at creating a life.

    • I think medications can force “order” for a brief time, but can’t necessarily teach the body to heal itself and regain it’s own natural order. If that makes sense. For example – taking natural progesterone over several months can help the body produce more progesterone long-term, even after you’ve stopped taking it, but taking synthetic progesterone can’t do this. Once you stop taking it, it’s effect on the body is gone – it doesn’t build over time.
      Things like acupuncture and herbs and other natural, “alternative treatments” again, work with the body to teach it to heal itself and provide health over the long-term, whereas fertility treatments (even those deemed moral by the Church) don’t really have the same effect. Excepting maybe surgery – as that corrects (hopefully anyway) physical impairments of the reproductive system.
      I’m not judging people who take one path over the other (and obviously you can do both). Just wanted to point out a little difference in the “natural” vs. medical.

  3. So, I totally KNOW this is NOT the point of your post – BUT, have you heard of “The Better World Shopping Guide?” (http://www.newsociety.com/bookid/4077) I think you would love it!

    And now, on topic, I have wondered this very same thing as I’ve read so many blogs about sub/infertility. I don’t think the answer is an easy one (not helpful, I know), but I will pray for you – for peace in the path that you decide to take.

    • Ha, I will have to look into that book! I know I am the type of person to jump into something full throttle so I’ll definitely need to take my time…ha!
      As always, thanks for your prayers :)

  4. Kaitlin- I was thinking, Kaitlin should see this, but I see you already did! :)

    What an awesome and thought-provoking post. The first paragraph had me cracking up, saying “YEP” and “interesting- I don’t know about THAT yet!” :) I don’t know when I got so “granola”, but boy oh boy I’m embracing it more every day! I’m curious about your reusable feminine products and wondering what books you’ve been reading about food. I’m in the middle of Nourishing Traditions and it is VERY eye opening. And in researching baby food for Abigail, I came across an article on reproductive help and they gave grave warnings on clomid and such. Great, I though, I’ve only had 12 doses of that.

    I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits all answer for this. As Kaitlin said, the benefits may outweigh the risks and it doesn’t harm the baby at all. For us personally, we’re putting our time, energy and money into adoption at this point in our lives rather than move forward with more surgeries. Though I wouldn’t completely rule out anything in the future. The Lord will lead us! Of that, I am confident!

    • As far as feminine products go, I heard about the Diva Cup a few years back and started using it once I got married. I also use the Lunapads on that site. I’ve watched all those major movies throughout the years on food production, but more recently I’ve read The Fertility Diet and Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’ll have to check out that book you mentioned! And yes, while I think there’s a lot of good about fertility drugs and they create miracles, I have to wonder what havoc they’re wreaking that we don’t know about yet. I guess I just want to make that decision knowing all of the consequences, which at this point I’m not sure is possible!

  5. you know, i struggle too with the whole natural thing. how things were supposed to work is best, especially as Catholics when we recognize God designed things a certain way. Ie you have babies, no drugs, no epidurals. Yet we have to realize the world is a disordered place, a fallen place, so it’s not the way it was meant to be. So some people, as a result, will have to use drugs, b/c their body has a medical problem or something, perhaps caused by human creations of pollution or crazy chemicals, that were not what God intended. So for that person, they need some extra help and it’s not “natural.” I think as long as we are not doing something immoral, we have to recognize that our bodies are not perfect and hence won’t be able to do everything naturally, or the way God intended. I have to take certain pills in order to maintain condition X. Taking the pills ins’t natural, but it’s not immoral. I don’t know if any of this makes sense, just my thinking. Because I have had to come to terms with not being able to do things naturally, sans drugs or chemicals, and this is just how I think about it…

    • Yes, thanks for the reminder that unnatural is not immoral. I’m definitely not trying to claim a theological reason for my quirky ‘natural’ fixation, so it is definitely more ideological. I don’t think there is a black and white answer for this and I definitely don’t want to claim there is!

  6. I am crunchy too. I eat whole foods and use a menstrual cup and make my own deodorant.

    Unfortunately, some women are UNABLE to birth without drugs. I labored long and hard for two days, contractions a minute or two apart and hard as hell, but guess what? My cervix wouldn’t dilate due to cryosurgery scarring from 20 years ago.
    My midwives tried EVERYTHING for two days, including (finally, after DAYS) Pit and epidural to achieve dilation. So I suppose I “gave him drugs” in utero. There ya go.

    I took my pregnancy very seriously after 7 years of IF. I studied Hypnobabies every day from 3 months on, I drank Nettle and Red Raspberry leaf tea for all 42 weeks of pregnancy (uhhhh yup), I exercised. I squatted, walked, hands and knees. I had acupuncture from 38 weeks on two and three times a week.

    When I finally DID dilate, my baby’s heartrate dropped to dangerous levels (60ish bpm) and not just for a few seconds. He was sunnyside up, stuck behind my pubic bone, and in danger of dying. There is no doubt in my mind that I had a 10%-of-women, necessary C Section.

    Having given you the background, I can say that I learned more about myself than I ever would have had everything gone as planned. I learned that God is in charge and no matter how much tea you drink or how much you squat or how awesome your midwife team is (uh, the most awesome in the world, but I digress), you are ultimately not in charge. Meconium happens.

    Yes, you can stack the deck in your favor, but you cannot control some things.

    So I learned to let it go. (And quickly. It was an emergency.)

    I was devastated for about 10 seconds (I don’t even LIKE red raspberry leaf, for crying out loud! Hypnobabies was like, $200!), and then I was out of my mind with fear that my child would die.
    He was fine, after about 15 minutes of being worked on.

    A friend of mine is pregnant, so I’m giving her all my crunchy stuff and forcing her to watch “Business of Being Born” and being a general nuisance to her.

    But along with all the squats and red raspberry leaf lectures, I also hope to convey to her that she needn’t fret if things get hairy. OR if she wants an epidural. OR if she needs Pit. OR if the baby’s sideways. OR whatever.

    It CAN happen, and women needn’t feel less than whatever when it does. Not even women who have been subjected to Unnecessareans.
    Which is a blog I read and studied faithfully for all 10 months, BTW. LOL.

    • Oh geez, your labor story sounds awful! Please know that while I was attempting to make the analogy between choosing a birth plan and a ‘conception’ plan, I tried to maintain that its not a perfect analogy because when it comes down to it, birth is going to happen whether or not we perfectly ‘plan’ it and it can become a life or death situation, unlike conception. Worst that happens is, well, we never conceive. We will still live. Please don’t think that I am judging your decision! I should have made that more clear in my post.

  7. Hmm… I never thought of it that way. I DO understand your attachment to having a natural conception. Now let me just argue the other side. I’m not always good at saying things tactfully so please forgive me. :)
    But ok… so I know that having an “unnatural” conception is a hard thing to do. But think about this love you have for your future children and how badly you want to conceive them out of love. Well, if you use modern science to help you conceive, you could tell your kids you loved them so much and wanted them so badly that you were willing to go through all that (physically, emotionally, financially) just to conceive them. That is love too! That is just a different way of showing it.
    Also I personally think that some of the advancements in science (IUI or IVF for example) are a blessing from God. In the past if you couldn’t conceive, that was it. No other options. Now there is more hope! As with other physical issues, I am grateful for the knowledge we now have to help us cure what was once incurable.
    I do understand that doing things naturally is better for the mom and baby (birth, breastfeeding). However, I don’t see why if you are having a hard time conceiving naturally, it is any better for the baby to conceive naturally vs. if you need a little help. I know that many of the modern solutions can be hard on the mom physically, but it’s all the same to the baby.
    I hope you can at least see where I am coming from.

    • Natalie, I totally understand what you’re trying to say and I appreciate your comment. I know that people who use those technologies have much love for their children, I just have a very different view from how its best to show it. I was trying to stray away from a moral/theology debate, but just point out that I could still completely see myself coming to the same conclusions without using any moral reasoning (and understand how other non-Catholics have chosen to do the same, despite not having theological reasons against IUI/IVF). While I do agree that IUI and IVF are amazing technologies (in the sense of wow, how is it possible they can do that) I don’t see it as a cure for anything other than satisfying dreams of having a child of my DNA. It doesn’t ‘cure’ the non-reproductive aspect of our martial embrace, it just creates a human baby through another means entirely. We will remain ‘broken’. And we are fortunate to now have those other options because you’re right! Not everyone has had that chance for true ‘cures’ in the past.

      I just really hope that the fact that I choose not to pursue those treatments isn’t seen as my loving my children less, since it is only out of love and respect for our future children, my husband, and our Creator that I choose to not do that. You’re familiar with the IVF process I’m guessing? I guess its my belief that any extra love my future children would feel were I to tell them the extent I went to co-create them (assuming I used IVF) would be negated when they discovered how many brothers and sisters died in the process. I don’t know how I could teach them true, selfless love with that as the lesson.

  8. How have I not been here before? I loved your post on NFP on Leila’s blog.

    We had two surgeries and 3 months of Lupron in between to conceive the first time. Not sure if that is considered Natural but it sure was necessary to get my body healthy. I thank GOD for modern medicine sometimes.

    • ha, I don’t know but thanks for stopping by!
      I think I need to reevaluate what I consider healthy because unhealthy is by no means natural. I’m working with fluid definitions here and that’s usually not best… :/

  9. I think you should imagine what you might regret the most someday. I wanted natural conceptions too – and we didn’t know Dr. Hilgers and Napro even existed when we were looking for help. In the end, I guess I would want to know that I did everything I could to achieve a pregnancy within moral confines and w/o damaging my self-esteem or my marriage. I regret the fact that ART was our only aid and we couldn’t/wouldn’t use it. You are so blessed to have access to “ordered” help as Leila put it – I guess I wouldn’t turn that down too lightly….blessings on your contemplation.

    • Its a conversation we’ve started, I just don’t know how far it goes. And I can’t help but be afraid that we may be so focused on getting a child out of my womb we may not realize that our children were actually elsewhere all along. At this point I’m hoping it is a path that will unfold as we travel it.

  10. What a thought-provoking post.

    I think a lot of the commenters made some great points.

    You and your husband will discern what you are willing to put your efforts into. With God’s help you will figure out what you should do and what is not for you (within the confines of what the Church has already said is permissable, I mean). I think it’s a good point that just because the Church says x, y, and z are allowed, doesn’t mean that an individual or a couple necessarily should go down that route.

    One commenter made a great point about not having regrets. You may not want to skip a type of allowed treatment if you know you will always deeply regret not trying.

    Also, I have been thinking a lot lately about how I think sometimes God wants to include other people in our lives to carry out certain outcomes. For example, maybe God would really like to use a certain doctor to help you or someone else to conceive (using the approved methods). Sometimes in this culture, we want to do (or feel that we are doing) everything by ourselves–it hurts our pride to rely on others. But I think sometimes God reminds us that we are not islands…and we do sometimes need to reach out to others for help–even when it is extremely uncomfortable. I don’t think that’s what you were discussing, but your post got me to thinking about that…

    • You last paragraph made me think too! I know that already I’ve seen a lot of good come out of this (even though its been painful) and I’ve definitely had to reach out to others so, I know first hand I’m not an island!

  11. Well…unfortunately modern and natural medicine doesn’t know the underlying cause of IF yet. So, sometimes help is needed and in order. I agree with what Danya said in terms of looking at the blessing and not wanting to miss it. For me, having a messed up thyroid I needed to correct my hormonal system or else the hormones would have destroyed my bodies natural ability to hold a pregnancy and I ain’t got 1 regret that their is medication out there that can help one to do that. No, not one regret.

    Hormones are unruly, uncaring, little monsters. And, they sometimes have to be rebooted and retrained!

    I would say don’t let your thinking about what is natural get in your way of having a baby in your arms. For me, surgery was too much. But, I found another doctor that helped me defeat IF long enough to have a baby.

    I am not sure what you have tried but you could be dealing with simple thing like taking progesterone for 6 months.

    • Ha, I’m not a Christian Scientist or anything so I definitely believe in the healing power of medicine! I’m just wondering how that comes into play if my levels all come back normal? These are probably silly questions to think about before I know the results of my own tests but maybe I doubt my own fortitude and I’m trying to decide before I know the results, so that I’ll have considered all the angles (I told my husband, look at me, I don’t cry for one cycle and I think I’m superwoman! I’m sure this next cycle will come to bite me in the back).
      That and I’m realizing that perhaps my previous way of looking at the world wasn’t really what I thought it was after all.

  12. Hi!

    On my path with IF I have become far more concious of what is good for the body, natural, etc. Actually IF has made me more “granola”, but at the same time more receptive to science when it seeks to bring balance. Not science that takes over the body and does things that the body cannot, but science that brings the body into balance.

    I am not sure I will be able to explain myself, but I find Napro and the natural approach the very best combination possible.

    Science that seeks to cooperate with the body, to cure, to heal. I think that this is what Nparo has done to me. Brought my body back to health using science. Actually curing my endo, bringing my thyroid hormones to order, making my body create the hormones it really needs (via HCG my body is creating its own progesterone and estrogen), etc. Maybe this is why I think Napro is a different kind of science.

    Then comes my part. Eating healthy, supplementing with what is necessary, having a healthy environment using natural products.

    I do not know if this makes sense, but I have been able to reach a healthy balance.

    • I really like this way of looking at it. I think a big part of it is, like you said, doing what I can to help through my food intake and environment. At least I know that I’m doing what I can and that the rest is truly for healing purposes, whether or not a baby is the result.

  13. I agree with Eloisa–I think it’s about balance. Doing what is moral and using medical science to help with conception as long as it’s within the Catholic teachings. I don’t think I ever would have conceived without Clomiphene, Metformin, and Prometrium, which means that after I deliver this baby, we probably won’t have to actively practice NFP to conceive or avoid. Not saying that I wouldn’t welcome a miracle baby, I just don’t think it’s likely to happen naturally for me.

    • I think its about end game and vision for me too…I want to get my body healthy and a healthy conception should be the result of a healthy body, but not the end all be all. I know if someone told me that I could conceive if I just swallowed a gallon of motor oil a day, I’m pretty sure that that wouldn’t be OK from a moral perspective, considering the damage it would do to my body. Of course, I know that’s an extreme example (and probably stupid!), but I do want to be aware of what the risks are of the drugs I’m taking.

      • Definitely! I had to pray about taking those drugs for a long time and had many conversations with DH and researching the drugs before we decided that we would try it. For example, you’re not supposed to take Clomiphene for more than 6 cycles, but I conceived with it on the third try. If we hadn’t conceived by the end of the 6 cycles, I definitely would’ve stopped taking it and looked at alternative routes (this is the point where I probably would have gone to Dr. H if my doc couldn’t offer anything else).

  14. Good for you for thinking this through even though you’re probably sometimes tempted to do whatever. I think that Kaitlin made very good practical points, and I want to toss in a few more philosophical things to add to your consideration stew. ;-)

    All of this is general, not implying that any particular issue is actually relevant to your situation.

    Also, I’m under the impression that you’re talking about medical interventions specifically geared toward achieving pregnancy rather than toward helping your body achieve optimum health (something which naturally enhances fertility as a side-effect).

    1. Natural law is not the same as being green or crunchy or whatever. Natural law dictates that children should be welcomed into the marriage of a man and a woman. But it does not dictate that a baby must be fed from his/her mother’s breast.

    Catholics are obliged to follow natural law, but we’re not obliged to “be natural” even though there is a good case for why we should for many, many reasons.

    2. Do you *really* want a natural childbirth? I suspect that you have been trained to think of something highly unnatural as satisfactorily meeting your standards. I don’t see much of a difference between having your blood monitored during a fertility cycle and having your baby’s heart-rate monitored while giving birth.

    It is against natural law to have IVF just like it is against natural law to have birth taken care of for you by a surrogate mother. But it is against the “natural” way of doing things to take drugs to stimulate ovulation in the same way that it is against the “natural” way to allow your doctor to give you pitocin to deliver the placenta.

    Are you okay with giving birth in a hospital where strangers come in and out of one of the most important sexual experiences of your life? Are you okay with having an IV hooked up to give you antibiotics during birth? Are you okay with having your labor interrupted by internal exams? Are you okay with having your membranes stripped or your water broken?

    If the answer to those is “NO!” and you’re like my parents on the extreme Catholic view of the dignity of women and the unity of the couple, then it probably can’t make sense for you to be okay with medical intervention to allow conception. But if you are okay with those very unnatural things and have been taught to accept them as natural, then perhaps you could consider why X is allowed in a “natural” birth, but Y isn’t allowed in a “natural” conception.

    I think this is the flip-side of the criticism of secular women for being on the pill while eating organic food. Only in this case it is the desire to achieve pregnancy rather than to avoid it that causes women to take on greater health risks and unnatural means of getting what they want.

    • Ahh, I’m so glad you commented, I knew you would have some great insight into this subject :)
      And yes, you assumption is correct (talking about pregnancy-geared treatment vs. general health).
      I didn’t mean to equate natural law to being ‘green’. I stuck it in there at the last minute and it was probably confusing because of that, but I just meant that understanding natural law made sense to me as a non-Catholic, more in context of the natural order of things and sexual processes (relating to proper acts and homosexuality, etc.) I understand this to be a discussion not really related to anything Catholic or ‘morality’ but something different and not as clear-cut as theology (as if theology is clear cut?).
      You’re right, I take for granted what “natural birth” means for to me. That’s precisely the question I’m trying to answer – is it congruent to have hangups about natural conception? Does it mean I’m a hypocrite if I tout the idealism/superiority of drug-free labor if I ignore those facts when it comes to conception? Part of me is undecided, otherwise I wouldn’t have written this, but I totally understand that my thoughts on what is natural is totally relative, as you point out. Many things I already take for granted, or I would deem acceptable for a woman going through labor for the first time at the very least. I honestly haven’t allowed myself to think through all those questions as man, I can’t even get pregnant.
      I think too its important to remember the difference between ideals and reality. Can’t I still have those ideals even if I choose a different option? I guess that negates the point of ideals.
      Part of me can’t help but feel like I would be folding just because I want a baby that badly if I just decide that those things don’t matter. I need to decide what I think before I can decide what’s important.

  15. Great post, Alison! I can’t wait to go through and read the comments as well. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the whole “natural” thing and its boundaries, so this is excellent food for thought.

  16. I’m torn here. I think we all want to control it and have these preconceived notions about how things will go. But to be 100% set on something I think is never good. In parenthood, you think it’s just easy as doing one two three, but you need to have so much flexibility. All the “I nevers” go out the window. You can’t control everything. And the same for what happens in the delivery room … and the same for breastfeeding. How many women set out wanting to do it and CANNOT, something as basic as feeding their child so it lives/survives/grows? Wouldn’t that come second nature? Not always. Milk never comes in enough or at all. I’ve seen those moms beat themselves up about it. But thank goodness, we have science that invented formula to help those premature babies or babies who can’t nurse. And the same for conception. Something as simple as a medical hormone imbalance could be corrected. I just don’t think you should draw a line and set specific restrictions on yourself or back yourself into a corner. I realize that as soon as I say “I never…” I usually break that! Granted, it’s usually silly simple cases. I do agree that all of those things are IDEAL natural. But it’s ok to ask for help. There are a lot of sweet babies out there I can think of, whether created by IVF or a little pill that helped regulate cycles, who are still God’s gift.

    PS I would like to compare our leghair length right now because I think I could win that one! LOL

    • I think a lot of people do want to control things, but I see the idea of ‘natural’ as trying not to control things, but just going with what would happen. Going ‘natural’ would be to give up all ideas I had of children and if we didn’t conceive, well that would be it. It seems that many of my in-real life friends experiencing infertility are going this route. I don’t know if I entirely think that just because you haven’t conceived doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. There is a line between pursuing every treatment (even unhealthy, immoral ones JUST to conceive) and trying make your body healthy and balanced. I would love love love to not try to control it and jump into treating anything (which is why I haven’t), but I’m just trying to reevaluate why I lean towards that idea. I think a lot of it is because of the unnecessary medical complications that arise from medication, that many times we take unnecessarily because we’re trying to ‘control’ the situation. However, many times this is necessary and the benefits outweigh the bad. Since I’m not deciding between life or death and my non-existent children are not starving – it makes that decision to undergo risky treatments that much more complicated. The only thing pushing me is my impatience and desire for children. And is it that strong? Yes its strong. But I don’t know if that still balances the equation. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

      And I hadn’t shaved since Mexico…so…did I ‘win’? And by winning of course I mean losing. Ha!

  17. I very much wanted a spontaneous pregnancy. I wanted some romantic story to tell my child, or some precious secret of when it happened. I got what I wanted, and enjoyed it, but I’m already forgetting the details. The story of our son’s adoption is still cooler:-). To me, the desire for a natural conception (no drugs) was knowing without a doubt that it was God’s will. Fertility drugs felt so forced, even clomid. I wanted a natural childbirth, too, but for a different reason. I wanted to feel some sense of control. I didn’t want to be just some patient lying there. Looking back, though, after only six months, I just don’t think of the day she was born. The labor was natural, but I didn’t really feel less like a patient or more in control. It was an amazing day anyway.

    • You are right on. For us it is about knowing without a doubt that its God’s will as well. I’m not saying that fertility drugs are not God’s will, but you don’t have any doubt whatsoever when it just happens. With everything else there is a murkiness about it, which is probably why I need to pray more. Even then, God rarely comes down and says YES, TAKE THIS CLOMID. Haha.

  18. You are a great writer. I always enjoy your posts. Forgive me if I repeat what others have said, I didn’t read all of the comments. You bring up such an interesting point. I have thought about it as well. I totally understand the idea of improving health to improve fertility and that for some that may be as far as they go. I also understand the idea of the body being given the opportunity to heal itself. Sometimes, I like to put an idea into a totally different context to see if I can draw something new from it. I will try this now: a broken leg. If left to be- with time, rest, etc. the fracture will heal. However, it may not heal correctly if left to its own devices. Additionally, pain or ROM difficulties (or negative effects on other body parts as they try to compensate for the injury) may result even though the body was allowed to heal itself without any intervention. With the introduction of an x-ray and a doctor’s intervention the leg can be set, will heal and probably resume if not total, almost premorbid functioning. As much as I might desire a natural healing process for my leg, it would be better for my overall health to submit to the intervention.

    For us, my body was SO broken that even with a lot of health changes- it couldn’t fix itself. Medication improved some things, but didn’t fix it all together. My body was doing a whole lot of unnatural stuff. After we were able to conceive (with help- morally acceptable help), I still needed help keeping my body working so that the healthy baby would have a shot (I took progesterone for the majority of the pregnancy). When approaching childbirth- I wanted to deliver med-free, but realistically I knew that there are a lot of things you can’t control (IF taught me that lesson). I could do my best, but I ultimately would have to surrender. Thankfully, I was able to deliver med-free (almost a home birth!). I was devastated when the baby had trouble nursing and my milk was late coming in. Having to put formula in his little body (baby’s gotta eat) after he lost almost 10% of his weight was harder for me to deal with than the medications/surgery/blood draws/etc. that I put myself through to have a chance to meet this little boy. I guess my desire for “naturalness” is always in a checks and balance system with surrendering control. Yes, I want to be as natural as possible with many things. However, trying to pursue things “naturally” is sometimes another example of me trying to exert control. Yes, I realize that some may say that I am not consistent. All I can do is try my best and surrender the rest to the Lord.

    Glory was given to God through PPVI’s work in our miracle aided pregnancy. Glory was given to God in my med-free (I am not sure I can call it natural now, since they did monitor the baby during the 45 minutes I was there, the pitocin to control bleeding and the epidural to complete the repair) birth. Glory was given to God in the struggle (and eventual success) in nursing even though the little guy had a few days of formula. Glory was given to God in all of this when I was able to surrender control- not to other people, but to the Lord.

    I realize I am rambling and will stop now. This may be the world’s longest comment that doesn’t actually say anything. Sorry!

    • Great points! I like the broken leg analogy, that helps me understand that the time-line and how long do we wait to let it heal itself really are part of the equation. I do want to clarify that what I consider “natural” and “moral” aren’t the same…in fact they are quite different.
      I think one thing that’s interesting is that now we have choices that we didn’t always have before. Suddenly what used to be the norm is now being “picky” or wanting to exert control. I wholeheartedly appreciate the consequence of lower infant and maternal mortality that these advancements have brought us, but I’m not sure it follows that should always be the new ‘normal’, or that just because you want an unaided birth that it means you’re stubborn or able to ‘surrender control’ better. I see a lot of non-Catholic/secular people using that same logic to point fault at our rejection of ART.

  19. Interesting post and comments.

    I am not catholic but DO struggle with infertility. My son Judah was conceived using IUI. I realize that most catholics do not approve of this technology for reasons that I still have a hard time understanding, even after reading several explanations.

    The day we did our IUI was an amazing day – it was stressful, but still amazing and an incredible time of togetherness. I do not regret it for one single minute. Especially when I look into my baby’s deep blue eyes and he grins at me.

    Just because something is “natural” doesn’t always mean it is good. It is “natural” for people to suffer from diabetes and die from heart disease. We fight those things with medicines. “Natural” childbirth is mostly an amazing thing – except when it isn’t. I have a dear friend who was in the midst of a “natural” childbirth in her native nigeria and she was progressing slowly and then suddenly her baby was dead. I can’t say for sure if this would have been avoided here in the US. But I’d like to think that there is a good chance that with increased monitoring, she would still have her son.

    Infertility for some couples (like with my husband and I) seems to be more “natural,” but I am thankful that God has given us certain medicines to fight against it. That is what, in my mind, is so great about modern medicine – we are fighting to restore things to the way they were before the fall.

  20. I love your posts!! I just discovered your blog through another Catholic mom blog and just love it! Your candor is refreshing. You are a total philosopher at heart and are able to say things the rest of us are thinking but in a coherent and descriptive way!

    I have noticed a return to the “natural” from a lot of my fellow Catholic friends. A lot of my friends seem to be dumping food/chemical/drug out the window for a return to what God gave us in nature. It’s kind of cool to see and a lot of fun to discover what we can do ourselves without the contant assistance from pesticides, doctors, pre-packaged foods, etc. I’m digging it. My husband and I plant a garden, I make as much of our food from scratch as possible, we buy our meat from local farmers and I had a natural birth with my son and an epidural with my daughter. I feel like the word “hippie” has been completely ruined by the 70s but I consider myself a hippie. I don’t buy things I don’t need. I have had the same box of disposable razors for 3 years and I still haven’t run out of them. I proudly shop for clothes at Goodwill but wear my best to Mass on Sundays. I make homemade bread and noodles. But I don’t run away from processed foods – I am just slowly eliminating our NEED for them. If we don’t rely on them as much, we are freeing ourselves from our dependence on anything but God.

    My husband is reading a book about the influence of technology. Before technology, we relied on God and had a certain awe and wonder of all of Gods creation. Now, we focus on ourselves and how technology can help us achieve what we want at any point in time. It’s been weighing on my mind the last couple days and your post reminds me of it even more!

  21. Pingback: How to make yourself sick on “health food” « Matching Moonheads

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