Right off the bat, I must confess that I am writing this at 37 weeks pregnant and racked in pain. I had every intention of writing an eloquent reflection on mothers, as we have just celebrated Mother’s Day, and add my knowledge to my experience and pull it together to witness to the great power that resonates from every mother.
However, I have no intellect left. I have no knowledge beyond the present; I am a wash of tiredness, pain and a feeling of a crumpled, unredeemable mess. Yet, as I pondered how to write an eloquent post on mothers in such a state, I realized that perhaps I am best fit for the task. No, it might not be eloquent, but it would be real, true, and utterly woman.
In addition to the pregnancy I have the joy of rheumatoid arthritis to throw into the mix. I cannot stand before you very long; nor can I sit for very long; in fact, I am not comfortable anywhere. I need to keep moving to avoid the extra pain and yet all I want to do is to stop and rest. I know I am not alone; I know that many other mothers have far more trying pregnancies and complications than I have ever experienced, but when you are in the moment it is real to you. When the baby settles down into your pelvis and you feel your hips are about to break in pieces, it is real to you. At that moment, you cannot think beyond it, reason out of it or look past it. Your pain permeates everything.
Some people look to this sacrifice and call it insane. (In fact, in those moments I might join them.) Yet, does it gain us anything to stay perfectly clean? What life can we live if we never stretch ourselves? We may remain unstretched, untouched, unblemished, but a far worse cruelty awaits the pristine. It is a lack of life, a lack of love, a lack of being emptied and renewed.
Human beings must be emptied before any new life or love can flow into their souls. They must lay it all down, go out on a limb, live life to the brim, take the chances, stretch until it hurts and then continue anyway and go the extra mile. No one gained extraordinary feats in life by playing it safe, staying secure, keeping themselves unbothered and pain free. It is in her greatest pain, that woman finds her greatest triumph.
When all intellect shuts down and one is merely breathing through the next pain, she can stretch with her heart. She can reach a place of comfort and understanding that is a connection of the heart not the head, which is often fogged and disoriented anyway. She can feel the presence of the eternal – the life that makes her belly shake and kick, endowed with a spirit, a soul that will now last for all eternity. She is mother nature housing the infinite nature of life; she is a co-creator connecting with the Divine; she is carrying of the future of humanity.
How dare we have anything but respect for her. If the mother did not empty herself, allow herself to be crumpled, demolished, stretched, torn, broken, there would be no more humanity.
Sometimes it seems there is nothing left to give and yet life keeps demanding more. Life demands sacrifice. Love demands sacrifice. Our humanity demands sacrifice and giving of yourself to others. We are not autonomous beings, but we are meant to be in relation with one another. Indeed, it is only in giving ourselves away that we truly find ourselves. Women find their greatest triumph, their most spectacular success of life, when they give over everything they have, everything they knew to be their reality, and take a chance on new life.
Thank God mothers have been willing to take that chance.
For further reading on the greatness of womanhood, please check out my book “Woman, How Great Thou Art.”
When I was in my second year of teaching, I had a co-worker come up to me in the hallway and inform me that she had had a dream that I was pregnant, that she was “usually pretty good about knowing these things,” and that I should probably take a test. I laughed, and told her that I actually was on day 32 or something of my cycle, which was usually a solid 28 days. Her face lit up, and she asked what on earth I was waiting for. Laughing again, I said it honestly hadn’t occurred to me, having only been married and doing NFP for three months, coupled with a busy beginning of the school year. Of course, I stopped by Target that very day and picked up a pregnancy test, which, to my shock, was positive. Despite our charting and having a pretty good grasp on what we were doing (read: there are no “taking chances” with NFP!), my husband was even more shocked. It was as though we were surprised that it had really worked.
After the initial shock had worn off, we were of course delighted and eagerly looked forward to my 12-week appointment, when we would get to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. My husband had just started a new job and wasn’t able to come with to that initial appointment. We weren’t overly concerned, knowing he’d be able to come to future ones and obviously, the 20-week ultrasound. So, on December 4th, I headed to the doctor’s office alone after school. After a few minutes of attempting to find the heartbeat, my doctor said they weren’t able to find it, and they were going to send me to the hospital by my house to have an ultrasound. In my naivety, I was delighted at the idea of getting an early sneak peek at our little baby.
My husband, who was home from work by this time, said he would meet me at the hospital. As the ultrasound tech ran the wand over my belly, we noticed a tiny little baby on the screen. She shut off the machine, told us our doctor would call us momentarily, and started to leave the room. For the first time, it occurred to me that something might be wrong. I asked her if there was indeed anything wrong with our sweet little baby, but she only repeated that she would be right back with our doctor on the line. Moments later, our doctor explained that the baby had stopped growing between eight and ten weeks and that there was no heartbeat. He went on to explain that I would likely miscarry naturally within the next week but to call the clinic if I didn’t. I can remember thinking he may as well have been speaking Russian- nothing he was saying made sense, and I was so dumbstruck I could hardly reply. As I hung up, the tech teared up and expressed how sorry she was for our loss. We made it as far as the hallway before the reality of what my doctor had said started to hit home. By the time we made it to our cars, I was inconsolable and near hysterical. We left one of our cars there for our friend to pick up later and headed home to grieve our sweet little one.
The week that followed was one of the longest of my life; telling people that we had lost the baby and worrying that we might not ever be able to have kids. My doctor assured us that it was not uncommon for a woman to lose her first baby, but we still wondered. I returned to school a few days later, which turned out to be incredibly therapeutic. Kids have a way of knowing just what to say or not to say, and my fifth graders were the most helpful during this time. I was also utterly amazed at the number of people who approached me or wrote cards with condolences, telling me that they too had lost a baby, often their first. Being one of the first in my circle of friends to start having kids, the very concept of miscarriage had honestly never even crossed my mind, let alone the idea that I myself might experience one. It was so reassuring to hear from so many people their own stories of loss. And equally as touching were the people who told us that they didn’t know what to say to express how sorry they were, but that they were praying for us.
Through prayer, we named our little one Aloysius John, and refer to him as Alex. We were able to bury him in a special area of our church’s cemetery for miscarried babies in a beautiful ceremony with our family priest, my parents, brother and future sister-in-law, and my grandmother, which was also a very healing experience.
Within two months, we were pregnant with our daughter, Mary, and today are days away from having our fourth child. However, it never ceases to amaze me how present Alex is in our family. Our kids all know about their brother, and we speak of him regularly, often bringing flowers to his gravesite. My husband and I have often commented that when we’re gathering up the kids or even just watching them play, we notice that someone is missing. His absence is tangible, and there isn’t a day that goes by without thinking of him.
Not coincidentally, the class I had that year was one of my favorites, and I know that their experiencing our loss with me added to the bond I had with them. It is always my hope that as they go through life, they’ll remember not only their fifth grade teacher, but also her sweet little boy, Alex. It is my hope that his life, which has impacted so many people despite its brevity, will remind them of just how precious life is.
The topic of Natural Family Planning is a complex one that is as unique as the couples who choose to use it. For some it’s very simple, straightforward, and easy. For others it’s a challenge, needing detailed counseling from a trained professional. Regardless, we support and value those who put the time in to educate and care for one another in the NFP world. Not only is it an option for tending to ones family size while upholding the value and dignity of each and every human life but it can be an immensely valuable tool in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of medical conditions. This includes users of all types and needs ranging from the single woman with painful, irregular cycles, to the couple struggling with infertility and/or loss.
If you’ve ever been curious about Natural Family Planning, Fertility Awareness, Natural Birth Control etc, there is an upcoming event we hope you’ll check out.
On April 17th at 7pm CST Love Naturally NFP (@learnnfponline), IuseNFP (@iusenfp) and Living The Sacrament (@lvgthesacrament) will team up to answer questions and chat about all things NFP. Join in this twitter conversation by tweeting with the hashtag #nfpFAQ
This is also a great opportunity to share with your friends about NFP!
Participants will range from the just curious to our seasoned pros! Are you skeptical of NFP? Confused about the different methods? Lovin’ every minute and wanting to share the good news? All are welcome!
If you have never participated in a twitter party before here’s a little “how to” for you!
And if you are not a twitter savvy individual, don’t despair! Post your questions in the combox below! We’ll share your comments or questions with the panel and report back!
The little alarm bells started tripping off for me at my first appointment to the doctor during this pregnancy. There was a rather large poster in the elevator and the same one in the waiting room of the women’s floor of the clinic. And yet, again, there was the same poster in the exam room. It was a picture of a pregnant woman dressed in white against a black background and it said “No one likes to be rushed, especially babies.” It had a list next to it of the top ten reasons to carry a baby to full term. Curious about the push to advertise carrying a baby to full term, I asked my pregnancy practitioner. (Can I just say for a moment how pleased I was to find that there was a certified nurse practitioner/ midwife who works at our clinic? No doctor necessary, thanks!) She told me they had decided to run this campaign to push full-term pregnancy because lately many, many women have been asking and expecting to be able to induce labor or have a c-section as soon as they hit 37 weeks, and in some cases, apparently, even sooner. She said she had a patient who “had heard” of a friend whose baby was born at 34 weeks and was just fine, so that’s what she wanted.
I was befuddled. But why? Wouldn’t women want the baby to be born when he or she is ready? “Apparently,” she told me, “women are more and more pulling away from wanting to take that last lap. Maybe it’s too uncomfortable? Who knows? But we realized women weren’t understanding the risks that would bring to the baby, so the posters were made!”
Uncomfortable? Was that really the answer? I mean, women have been uncomfortable in pregnancy since the dawn of man. It must be more than that. Then I remembered another time my little alarm bells started sounding (yes, they go off quite a bit, tricky little devils). Over the Christmas holidays, we were visiting my parents. After coming back from the maternity store rather deflated, I was explaining how nothing looked right and everything was so tight. These clothes were ridiculous; the slightest little lump was accentuated (and I don’t mean the cute bump in the belly!). I did manage to find a few items that made me feel attractive while pregnant, but even those still make me aware of every curve. My mother said something that has been playing over in my mind, “We never had tight clothes when I was pregnant. You could wear loose fitting things and the clothes just flowed. I always felt relaxed.”
I’m 28 weeks along now and I wish I could feel relaxed! (I’m only relaxed in my pjs! I so wish I could wear them all the time, but I digress…) In Italy, they have a phrase: “bella figura.” The culture tends itself to a display of the beautiful as almost an art form. Translated it literally means “beautiful figure” and it’s used to explain many of the customs of women (and men) in Italy. I see that same sentiment bleeding into US culture. It comes with the sexualization of the culture. As a woman, you have to be the “babe” – to be able to look good in skinny jeans and red heels. You have to look the part of the super model in order to be womanly… Well, that’s what they tell us anyway. I bought into it like many girls; eating less and less, trying to get that lean appearance that looked good no matter what I wore. Of course by “good” we must mean “sweet, but mainly sexy.”
Yet, we’ve grown now. The once teenagers with eating disorders and warped sense of self are now adults designing maternity apparel. As women we have demands on us all the time. If we are single, we are constantly being set up on dates or asked if we have a man yet. They want us to be bold and successful in careers yet stay soft and feminine enough to remain attractive. If we stay at home with our kids, we try to not stand out in the crowd of professional moms. We try to look presentable, but usually receive the snub looks and fake smiles anyway. If we are working moms, we know we must be professional and yet you would think you had a second head growing off your shoulder if there happens to be a messy little handprint that got you right as you were leaving the house. (Of course you didn’t even notice it until coworkers started staring at it like they had never seen the effects of a messy child before…)
So I stand in front of the mirror, with my belly protruding (yes, already feeling like a huffalump). I caught myself trying to smooth out my sides. Ack! What am I doing?! Am I so wrapped in this need for bella figura myself that I am trying to look sleek in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy? I’m not saying you can’t look fit, cute and even sexy pregnant, but the prominent word there should be pregnant! “Sure, we (culture) will accept you wanting to be a mother, but don’t you let your figure “go”! You must hold on to that “hottie” within in you … yes, even while pregnant.” I’m not talking about just being healthy – I’m talking about the need to be pregnant, but act like you’re not. This is the pressure that accepts your motherhood but only under the condition that you don’t fully embrace it. No wonder women are hesitant to go the “full 40″! That would definitely push the look of the bella figura.
Well, I’ve had it! I’m tired of not being relaxed and trying to still “suck it in” to look slender with a humongous belly! Will someone, please, Make. It. Stop. I am tired of the pressure even coming from within my own head that I need to fit a certain image. I want to scream out to the world, “guess what? I’m pregnant, and I love it. Get over it!” I raise my glass of water to all pregnant women around the globe. Here’s to wider hips and bursting bellies! Here’s to larger bras and stretch marks! Here’s to all the things that do not fit into the image of bella figura but very much encompass bella mama! Here’s to loose clothes and yummy, healthy foods! Here’s to swollen ankles and cramping calves! Here’s to fiery heartburn and dull back aches! Here’s to nausea and chubby sides! Here’s to baby flutters and kicks to the rib! Here’s to every curve, every bump and lump that makes your pregnant self you. Because YOU are beautiful. Baby bump, stretchy marks, lumpy sides, weepy emotions, and all – you are beautiful just as you are. Don’t you dare let anyone tell you differently. It doesn’t take a bella figura to bring a new human person into this world, it takes a mother. Shake off the world’s pressure with me and let us be truly proud of our motherhood!
For further reading on the greatness of womanhood, please check out my book “Woman, How Great Thou Art.”
We put up a few posts on our Facebook page a few months ago when it was announced that billionaire Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates, had led the effort to raise $4.6 billion (yes “B” as in BILLION!) to provide contraceptives to African nations. While we as New Feminists know this will ultimately destroy the confidence and health of these women by disconnecting them from their bodies and injecting them with devices and chemicals, we haven’t heard much about how the African women themselves feel about the attention Mrs. Gates is giving them. Are they grateful for this gift? Do they see it as a valuable contribution to their nation?
Below is a letter by a beautiful young woman named Obianuju Ekeocha to Melinda Gates. Obianuju serves as the “voice of the African women” and appeals for Gates to reconsider her legacy to Africa.
This letter has appeared on several websites but I am linking to it from Catholic.org, where it first appeared. Teresa Tomeo writes the forward.
This letter,offered below, was written by Obianuju Ekeocha, a 32-year-old Nigerian woman. For the past six years she has been living and working as a biomedical scientist in Canterbury, England. Most of her family and many friends still live in Nigeria.
She is active in her parish and says she is grateful to God for the graces she receives as she serves the Church.
She praises Catholic radio in America, specifically the programs of Teresa Tomeo and Al Kresta, for keeping her “informed and inspired in all the things that ‘matter most,’” and for providing her with a Catholic world view.
She said she was inspired to write an open letter to Melinda Gates after learning of Gates’ move to inject $4.6 billion worth of contraceptive drugs and devices into her homeland.
“The worst part is that no one in Africa (meaning the average African woman or man) knows that Melinda is about to bequeath us her ‘legacy’ which can and most probably will stifle love and life in our continent,” she said.
Growing up in a remote town in Africa, I have always known that a new life is welcomed with much mirth and joy. In fact we have a special “clarion” call (or song) in our village reserved for births and another special one for marriages.
The first day of every baby’s life is celebrated by the entire village with dancing (real dancing!) and clapping and singing – a sort of “Gloria in excelsis Deo.”
All I can say with certainty is that we, as a society, LOVE and welcome babies.
With all the challenges and difficulties of Africa, people complain and lament their problems openly. I have grown up in this environment and I have heard women (just as much as men) complain about all sorts of things. But I have NEVER heard a woman complain about her baby (born or unborn).
Even with substandard medical care in most places, women are valiant in pregnancy. And once the baby arrives, they gracefully and heroically rise into the maternal mode.
I trained and worked for almost five years in a medical setting in Africa, yet I never heard of the clinical term “postpartum depression” until I came to live in Europe. I never heard it because I never experienced or witnessed it, even with the relatively high birth rate around me. (I would estimate that I had at least one family member or close friend give birth every single month. So I saw at least 12 babies born in my life every year.)
Amidst all our African afflictions and difficulties, amidst all the socioeconomic and political instabilities, our babies are always a firm symbol of hope, a promise of life, a reason to strive for the legacy of a bright future.
So a few weeks ago I stumbled upon the plan and promise of Melinda Gates to implant the seeds of her “legacy” in 69 of the poorest countries in the world (most of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa).
Her pledge is to collect pledges for almost $5 billion in order to ensure that the African woman is less fertile, less encumbered and, yes, she says, more “liberated.” With her incredible wealth she wants to replace the legacy of an African woman (which is her child with the legacy of “child-free sex.”
Many of the 69 targeted countries are Catholic countries with millions of Catholic women of child-bearing age. These Catholic women have been rightly taught by the Church that the contraceptive drug and device is inherently divisive.
Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae.” For these African women, in all humility, have heard, understood and accepted the precious words of the prophetic pope. Funny how people with a much lower literacy level could clearly understand that which the average Vogue- and Cosmo-reading-high-class woman has refused to understand. I guess humility makes all the difference.
With most African women faithfully practicing and adhering to a faith (mainly Christian or in some cases Muslim), there is a high regard for sex in society, especially among the women. Sex is sacred and private.
The moment these huge amounts of contraceptive drugs and devices are injected into the roots of our society, they will undoubtedly start to erode and poison the moral sexual ethics that have been woven into our societal DNA by our faith, not unlike the erosion that befell the Western world after the 1930 Lambeth conference! In one fell swoop and one “clean” slice, the faithful could be severed from their professed faith.
Both the frontline healthcare worker dispensing Melinda’s legacy gift and the women fettered and shackled by this gift, would be separated from their religious beliefs. They would be put in a precarious position to defy their faith – all for “safe sex.”
Even at a glance, anyone could see that the unlimited and easy availability of contraceptives in Africa would surely increase infidelity and sexual promiscuity as sex is presented by this multi-billion dollar project as a casual pleasure sport that can indeed come with no strings – or babies – attached. Think of the exponential spread of HIV and other STDs as men and women with abundant access to contraceptives take up multiple, concurrent sex partners.
And of course there are bound to be inconsistencies and failures in the use of these drugs and devices, so health complications could result; one of which is unintended abortion. Add also other health risks such as cancer, blood clots, etc. Where Europe and America have their well-oiled health care system, a woman in Africa with a contraception-induced blood clot does not have access to 911 or an ambulance or a paramedic. No, she dies.
And what about disposal of the medical waste? Despite advanced sewage disposal in the First-world countries, we hear that aquatic life there is still adversely affected by drugs in the system. In Africa, be rest assured that both in the biggest cities and smaller rural villages, sewage constitutes a real problem. So as $4.6 billion worth of drugs, IUDs and condoms get used, they will need safe disposal. Can someone please show us how and where will that be? On our farm lands where we get all our food? In our streams and rivers from whence comes our drinking water?
I see this $4.6 billion buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of the innocent chatter of children. I see it buying us disease and untimely death. I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.
Please Melinda, listen to the heart-felt cry of an African woman and mercifully channel your funds to pay for what we REALLY need.
- Good healthcare systems (especially prenatal, neonatal and pediatric care).
Needless to say that postpartum and neonatal deaths are alarmingly high in many Sub-Saharan African countries. This is due to the paucity of specialized medical personnel, equipment and systems. Women are not dying because they are having “too many” babies but because they are not getting even the most basic postpartum care. A childbirth or labor complication can very easily be fatal, for both mother and baby. To alleviate this problem new, well-equipped and well-staffed birthing centers with neonatal units need to be built in easily accessible parts of the poorest communities. And if Melinda Gates really insists on reducing population, she can have highly trained Natural Family Planning (NFP) instructors strategically placed in these women’s healthcare facilities. At least then there would be a natural and holistic approach.
- Food programs for young children.
This would serve a two-fold purpose if it is incorporated into free or highly subsidized nursery school programs. It would nourish and strengthen the growth of these children, who are so, so vulnerable to malnutrition, and it would also serve to encourage parents to bring their youngsters, ages 3 or 4, to nursery school. In so many parts of Africa, children miss out on nursery school education because it is expensive and considered a luxury reserved for the rich and middle class. As a result, the children miss the first few crucial years when basic math and reading are easily learned. By the time they are considered “ready” for school, at age 7 or 8, they struggle academically. Many of them never quite catch up and so drop out after six or seven years. This is when a lot of young girls are married off as mid- to late-teenage wives who unfortunately would become the perfect recipient of the Melinda Gates comprehensive contraceptive care!
- Good higher education opportunities
Not just new school buildings or books, but carefully laid out educational programs that work – scholarships, internships at higher levels, etc. – are needed. Despite the problems and obstacles to primary and secondary education, a significant number of young girls make it into universities, polytechnics or colleges. The problem however is that, most of the schools and resources are substandard and outdated. As such, the quality of higher education is low and cannot compare to that of more privileged countries. Even though the teachers put in their very best and the students work hard, the system is inadequate and will always produce disadvantaged graduates who are not confident enough to stand with their counterparts who have studied in other parts of the world.
- Chastity programs
Such programs in secondary schools, universities and churches would create a solid support system to form, inform and reassure our young girls and women that real love is that which is healthy and holy. Many African girls are no longer sure about moral sexual ethics thanks to the widespread influence of Western media, movies and magazines. More support should be given to programs that encourage abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. This approach would go a long way to combating the spread of HIV and other STDs through the continent. And it would certainly lead to happier marriages!
- Support for micro-business opportunities for women
The average African women is incredibly happy, hard-working and resilient. Any support both economic and through training would most probably be used well and wisely.
- Fortify already established NGOs that are aimed at protecting women from sex-trafficking, prostitution, forced marriage, child labor, domestic violence, sex crimes, etc.
Many of these NGOs do not have much success because they are not well-funded. Though most of them have good intentions, they lack professional input from those such as psychologists, logisticians or medical personnel needed to tackle various problems.
$4.6 billion dollars can indeed be your legacy to Africa and other poor parts of the world. But let it be a legacy that leads life, love and laughter into the world in need.
UPDATE: Obianuju contacted us with the following message:
I just thought I should provide you with a few more links in case you want to have a bit more insight into the life and reality of the African woman and her Culture of Life .
I actually had an extensive online debate on a friend’s blog earlier this month:
Also on the 25th of September, I was on Teresa Tomeo’s radio show – Catholic Connection:
And to my total delight and amazement , The Pontifical council of the Laity(at the Vatican) published it on their website , in the women’s section:
I hope these will help to illuminate the topic for you . And please feel free to write me if you want to know more or discuss anything I’ve written.
God bless you.
If you have any questions you’d like to address to Ms. Ekeocha, please post them in the combox here and we’ll make sure she gets them!
Let me begin by saying that I find an amazing beauty and strength in every woman I meet. Whether she agrees with me or not, I appreciate her “feminine genius.” There is some unique and original aspect of her womanhood that just by being herself, it jumps out to the world around her as if to say, “Here I am! I am woman!”
Feminism, specifically in our country, is a heavily laden term. It usually is weighted down with connotations of liberalism, free sexual expression, contraception, abortion, disregard for gender identity, and a career-focused (vs family-focused) mindset. Indeed, that is quite a lot to pile on one word, but there it is. Yet, it wasn’t always that way and many women are fighting back so that it doesn’t have to continue that way.
It seems ironic that the thing “feminists” wish to destroy (temporarily or permanently) is the only thing that women can do that men are incapable of: her fertility. Our amazing bodies have the incredible potential of bearing the life of a new little human person within it! In our wombs, we hold the future of humanity. Every man or woman who is in power or cries the mantra of “contraception now! Abortion on demand!”, every single one of them, first came into being within their mothers’ wombs. Their hearts first began to form and beat there at only 5 weeks old.
They say that pregnancy is a burden; that having a child can hold us back. The real question is not “okay, how do we alleviate the burden”, but why? Why is it a considered a burden? Why would it ever hold us back – and from what? It is only a burden because our society has deemed it so! When we value career advancement over parenting, something is awry. I get so sickof hearing women say that unless we have contraception and abortion on demand, we are not truly equal. Who exactly was fighting for WOMEN’s rights?
We were on the brink of a new era, a new generation that was open to treating women with respect and elevating her dignity. And what did our feminist foremothers do for us? They looked at society, at the game of life and said, “we want to play too and we can be just like you!” No! We do NOT want to play the game as it has always been played! We want to change the rules! We want a society where motherhood and feminine genius is valued, dignified and supported. Why did they settle? Were they so giddy at a chance to be a player in society and government that they settled for scraps and missed their God-given right to something better? Perhaps, I shouldn’t be so critical. Being able to be a player in the game of our world was probably more than they ever imagined.
But now, we can see further. Perhaps, I should be thanking them. For we have been raised in a generation that allowed women full access to education and career, we can now see a greater distance from the hilltop. We see a world where parenthood and especially motherhood is praised, valued, a world where a baby is never seen as a burden. It is a world where a woman can express her opinion and is not belittled and dismissed if her thoughts are not congruent with the “feminists.” We see a world where a woman’s intuitive skill, ability to love and nurturing instincts are met with admiration and considered wisdom. We see a world where the responsibility and duties of parenthood are not left solely in the hands of a woman; it is a world where men step up to their great masculine role of fatherhood.
We are women, LET us roar! Let us stand as who we are, curving, flowing, life-giving and beautiful. Don’t define us into a category, but appreciate the beauty of each individual feminine genius. There is a world like this coming, and it has already begun. The era of a New Feminism is beginning.
This New Feminism movement is rising – like the sun on the morning horizon. It may begin with only a few colors, a few flickers, and the wait seems long. But have patience! Slow as it may seem at present, one thing is for sure: it will inevitably rise … persistent as the sun until the whole world is bathed in new light and no one remembers the darkness! So, when you lose hope or hear more negative feminism, look to the horizon! With the grace of God, the sun IS rising, and your new feminism warriors will be carrying the torch!
 John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 99.
It’s that time for me again. Just recently I started the third trimester of my fourth pregnancy. My family is used to what happens next, and this time around, I’m fully embracing the crazy lady that is starting to emerge. Like many woman who feel their bellies expanding daily, I become consumed body and soul with the thoughts of impending labor, delivery, and the transition of a child into this world.
Giving birth, for many women, is different every time. I’m no exception. I’ve had a hospital birth with interventions, a hospital birth with no intervention, and a homebirth in a birthing pool. Even though the preparation has been the same each time, the three births yielded very different experiences. At home raising sons leaves time for little else, but if I can be an advocate for women in any area, the love due a child by a mother, which for so many is an instinct so strong it changes lives, would be my cause.
One of the most tragic beliefs of women today is the belief that they are not enough, that more could be achieved by them, and that unless every societal expectation has been met, she has failed. Feminism has told woman that they are not enough, while new feminism tells woman they are incredibly made. Feminism ridicules women for their motherhood, while new feminism honors them for it.
Having several friends, and going through a similar experience, I see the after effects of feminism creeping its way even into the most joyous occasions—childbirth. While natural childbirth is an issue close to my heart, many women, through no fault of their own, haven’t been able to achieve this kind of birth. The saddest thing for me, when walking into a hospital room to visit a beaming mother and her beautiful new baby, is to have her share how she feels defeated by not achieving natural childbirth, either through interventions or cesarean. She is not so much disappointed, but nevertheless compelled to justify why and how it happened that she let her gender down.
Ladies, mothers, expectant mothers, regardless of the mechanics in which your pride and joy came into the world, it is never anything to apologize for! The after effects of feminism have convinced women that despite our nine months of carrying and loving our child within, that we are still not enough. New feminism embraces and congratulates you while helping to heal the scars that convinced you long ago of a false idea of womanhood. There is no question that natural childbirth is empowering, but as women, we cannot use natural childbirth as a tool to gauge the “womaness” of a mother and then judge her on the scales of female strength.
I’m not an expert, nor am I in the medical field, but if natural childbirth is a goal, then I would love to help you achieve your ideal birth. There are hundreds of books on childbirth, and many techniques to help manage labor, but I can only write of the ones I have had personal experience with. There are other resources women swear by, but I can’t put my name on them yet. If there is one unlisted that has helped any readers, please share it in the comments.
For those who desire a natural childbirth, but for whatever reason haven’t had one, I encourage you to put any feelings of defeat aside. No one should make a woman feel guilty for the outcome of her birth, nor be made to feel like her body is in some way inadequate. A child is a beautiful and perfect person, and the miracle motherhood rises far above any kind of delivery.
Natural Childbirth Resources
Husband Coached Childbirth, by Robert Bradley
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, by Susan McCutcheon-Rosegg
Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
As for those who share my present condition, the pages of the above books are getting turned again for the fourth time, perhaps we’re reading in solidarity. My body and mind are preparing for labor and delivery, which while the outcome is yet unknown, I insist on rejoicing in every birth, regardless of the method in which it is achieved. There is a new person. That is the real achievement.
Couple of links in this one…….check them all out and you’re sure to feel more passionate about the HHS contraception mandate.
Our friend Becky over at Reclaiming the Womb.com has given us permission to repost her article on things we’d rather see covered in the new healthcare mandate. We can think of a few more to add to her short list, as I’m sure you all could too, but this for sure will get you thinking on it a bit. Check out her original post here for a beautiful homebirth picture (Seriously, it’s gorgeous.) and a great Sigmund Freud quote on sexual perversion (It’s great too.)
And just in case you’re interested, I recently did a similar post over at Ignitum Today about why I oppose the HHS contraceptive mandate and even posted my very first YouTube video to go with it. If you’d like to hear my talking points about why this is just bad medicine, feel free to check it out.
Last year the following NFP doctor “how to” was published by our friend Jess over at NFPworksblog. Since then I have received numerous requests on our NFP forum from young women needing further assistance finding a doctor in their area. As a result our tips have been updated! If you are searching for an NFP doctor or know someone who is we hope the following can be of use! – Kristin, Foundress of Living The Sacrament- NFP forum
One of the most common issues NFP users face is finding a doctor who “gets it”. In fact most women don’t even expect that. When it comes down to it we really just desire a doctor who will respect our decision to use NFP when postponing a pregnancy rather than whatever artificial pill, patch, or barrier samples were left behind by the last pharmaceutical rep. to enter the building. This is no tall order. This should be easy but often is not.
If you are struggling to find an NFP friendly doctor don’t lose hope! Try the following and with any luck you will find some great options in your area! Generally speaking as you are going down the list, the fewer steps it takes you to find a doctor, the more likely they will be not only NFP friendly, but possibly even trained in a specialty such as NaProTechnology.
- Creighton Fertility Care: Check out the Fertility Care Website and use the left hand index to “Find a Medical Consultant” (if looking specifically for a NaPro Doctor please e-mail fcco[at]popepaulvi.com for the most up-to-date information on your area.)
- One More Soul’s NFP Directory: Run a search for your area (Helpful, but not always 100% upt to date. No luck? See#3)
Contact your closest Catholic NFP Diocesan Coordinator. Let them know you are looking for an NFP friendly doctor in the area.
Seek out and call your local NFP instructors! More than likely they go to the doctor from time to time so see who they use!
Search for a Pro-Life OB/GYNS (AAPLOG) . While not all physicians identified as Pro-Life are NFP friendly, many are.
Consider calling a few of the local Midwives if you have any in your area. Though not all are supportive of NFP, many are, and might know of a doctor in your area who is as well!
A few weeks ago we asked over on ourFacebook page and our friend site Living the Sacrament for you to share reasons why you choose to use natural methods of family planning versus the widely championed artificial birth control being mandated in the controversial Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate. We got some wonderfully insightful responses and wanted to share them here. If you want to add your own reasons, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
We also want to point out the WomenSpeakforThemselves.com campaign which is collecting signatures of women all across this country that oppose the HHS Mandate. Please share and sign the letter to make our voices heard in this debate.
I like having the knowledge and control of my body to make the decision to abstain/avoid pregnancy one month- if our hearts change the next month about pregnancy, we don’t have to wait for side effects to wear off and fertility to return, as if it were a disease to begin with. That’s one of MANY reasons we choose NFP! – Jaci
We use Natural Family Planning and monitor my changing fertility because we know it is better for my body and our relationship. The amount of communication needed and the basic level of respect he must have for my body prove we are together for more than the great sex. We’re in this together as a team, which is how I think sex is meant to be. It is not a solitary act and should not be dealt with in that way. I am grateful to have more than a sexual partner, but a partner outside the bedroom as well. I love the ability to recognize and appreciate my healthy body doing what it was naturally made to do. – L
Because it’s good for my marriage, and there are no side effects. I used hormonal BC until I knew better and the doctors kept switching it because of all the side-effects, finally they said you either deal with the side effects or take your chances. I hardly call NFP taking my chances. It makes me feel better, allows me to know what’s going on in my body, and it opens up communication between my husband and I. There are so many more great reasons. But that’s why we started – Patricia
I love NFP because it does keep communication open between us. I feel more respected by dh & more respectful of him. I feel like it creates a stronger bond between us. – M
I can monitor my body, what is going on with it, if there is something “going on”, how life/emotions/medications affect my body. I can tell my doctor more about my body/cycle than he can tell me. I don’t have to play guessing games about what phase of my cycle I am in. No drug interactions. No allergies to artificial birth control, or having to switch to make me feel “normal”. I love my body! It’s amazing how it works. – Celeste
To me healthcare should prevent, detect, or treat disease. Artificial birth control does none of those things. And in fact, contrary to the purpose of healthcare, can CAUSE disease. The most deadly form of breast cancer? No thanks. It can also mask other natural indicators of infertility thus making detection and actual treatment of those conditions impossible. In effect it is the *opposite* of healthcare and is a shameful indicator of the priorities of popular culture. – Dwija
I love NFP because it gets my husband and I to talk about us and our family goals most days. Definitely helps with our communication – K
I am more in tune to my body; it opens communication between me and my husband. It inspires more respect between us as spouses and respect for God as having all the control and it opens respect for the miracle of life. I LOVE neither paying nor placing my “trust” anyone/company, to be ‘able’ love free and naturally. I feel natural, healthy, and clean/”pure”. – Jacque
Being able to become pregnant is a sign of health. I do not want to poison or maim myself. As a woman my fertility is part of me, not something wrong with me. And I like babies. – Jessica
I love NFP because it indicates health or lack thereof, of SOOO many different aspects of my body. Yes fertility is the obvious one, but so many other issues can be “red flagged” by proper charting and symptom recording. Definitely empowering! – Kristin
IMO, NFP is *feminist* family planning. It is not feminist IMO to compromise your own health for the sake of a man’s pleasure. It is not feminist to outsource family planning to a Pharmaceutical company. If NFP didn’t exist, we would use condoms consistently & correctly. In women with non-monogamous relationships, Pharmaceutical contraception actively puts them @ risk for STDs. I had a natural birth, I choose natural family planning. It is a great use of my science degree. As an environmentalist, I enjoy keeping synthetic hormones out the water supply too. – Ellen
I love NFP because, not only does it open the communication about our family plans, it opens communication for other things. One thing leads to another and before you know it we are talking about other important things. It also keeps me tuned in to my body. I figured out I had a bladder infection ridiculously early because of my observations for NFP. I also have identified more mittelschmerz cramps because I know what is where in my body and what point in my cycle they do what they do. Rarely do I have any kind of a pain that I don’t know what or why it is. And I appreciate my husband’s self control. It amazes me and makes me fall more in love with him every time I think about it. – J
No more cancer risk. No more chemicals. No more possibility of aborting my own child. More natural, more in touch with my body, more open to children, more faith, more God. – Sonja
I love NFP because it leaves me 100% free of the health risks associated with contraceptive hormones. I really do love that freedom! Contraceptive hormones (Pill, patch, implant, Nuvaring, Mirena, Depo, etc) all seem like convenient solutions, but they come with price tags. Even if I wasn’t Catholic, I’d probably still be a nurse and I would not be comfortable with those risks at all! Things like blood clots, heart attack, stroke, cancer, depression, weight gain. And most of all, contraceptive hormones can all work as abortifacients. As much as I have needed to avoid pregnancy at times, I have never been OK with the idea of using a drug that could harm a new life inside me. It would feel like I was putting my sex life ahead of human life. Lovemaking is a gift from God and an important part of marriage, but I know deep down that putting it ahead of human life is not the right way to use that gift in marriage. So, I love that NFP allows me to avoid pregnancy effectively without having to worry about ANY of those things. I appreciate what NFP has shown me about my reproductive health. My charting revealed that I have poly cystic ovarian disease (PCOD). I would not have known that or been treated for it if I wasn’t doing NFP. My charting has also allowed me to monitor the treatments I’ve received for PCOD, to see if it’s improving things or not. I love how NFP forces us to have conversations that could have easily stayed dormant if we were using BC. NFP doesn’t cause problems in our marriage, but it sure shines a spotlight on problems that are already there. That can be painful, but it’s good for us. Without the spotlight, we could ignore those problems and then they would only grow in secret…slowly. NFP requires us to face them head on. To face the way we treat each other, the way we communicate, the way we co-operate or don’t co-operate with each other. NFP has taught us some difficult lessons and has challenged us as a couple. I would not trade those hard moments with NFP for anything. The growth in our marriage and our hearts has been worth it. – S
If you are interested in learning more about the different methods of natural fertility care and Natural Family Planning, watch for our next post sharing with you how you can go about finding a doctor or practitioner trained in the various methods.
Because we believe women deserve access to education about themselves, not more free birth control.