August 14, 2013

Ready for Baby #2?

I've been debating for quite some time whether or not I wanted to share this part of myself with the world.  It is so personal.  So private.  So much a decision that is just between David, myself and God.

I have thought of a few angles in which I could write about this.  I could share with you the beautiful process that is Natural Family Planning.  Alternatively, I could give you the status of my "baby-time" clock.  Or, I could tell you about the journey since Samuel died, pondering, imagining, preparing for the possibility of having baby #2.

What?!  Think about having another baby so SOON after your first diiiiied?!?!  Yes.  Yes, I am.  But it hasn't been, and isn't always a "yes, let's have another baby!"  For example:

June 26, 2013 (7.5 weeks after Samuel died)

I'm so afraid.  Not to be pregnant again.  Not of the possibility of complications with a second pregnancy or baby.  But I'm afraid that I won't ever reach the point of "being ready" to welcome a second baby into my life with total openness, total fullness of heart.  I am not sure I will be able to love a second baby with the same capacity that I love(d) Samuel.  It would not be fair to a second baby for me not to love him/her as much as I love Samuel.  I don't want to constantly be thinking of Samuel, day dreaming of what he'd be doing at a certain moment with my second baby...I want to be present with my next baby.

But there's something my mom said, and I reheard it while I was sleeping last night: just as it would be a challenge to balance my love between two living children, it will be a challenge to balance my love between my child in Heaven and my child on Earth. 

With that in mind I know I can and will love a second baby with total fullness of heart.  I was very unsure about loving Samuel before I met him, worried through most of my third trimester.  But I had SO much love. I surprised myself.  I am sure this will be the same with baby #2.

That was almost two months ago.  Since then, I've had days where I feel like we could try again now. There are other days that I feel less sure.  But either way, that's where Natural Family Planning comes into play.

**Bam! You see where I decided to take this post?  Yeah, total hook, line and sink.**

Oh, I know.  NFP has its stigmas.  i.e. NFP obviously doesn't really "work" since you see all these Catholic families parading through the grocery store, tarnishing the planet with their large eco-footprint. I mean, c'mon.  Really?  NFP is just a load of crap.  Besides what a draaaaaag to have to abstain from sex for 9+ days every month (and really, it's waaaay more than that because who really wants to have sex while she's on her period!  EEEEEEWWWWWW).  Talk about a wet blanket for the libido.  And honestly, who can really control him/herself for that long?!  Oh, and don't get me started on how avoiding having sex completely goes against human nature.    

Am I right?

But those stigmas are SO. WRONG!

I'll start with the parade of children tarnishing the planet.  There are two points I have on this.

Number 1!) not every family is called to have 19 children. One of the beautiful aspects to NFP is that it opens the door for the couple to discern if they are called to welcome a new soul, a baby, into their family each and every month.  After all, God created woman to be fertile for a (roughly) short 24 hours once a month.  A couple must discern together and with God how to approach that fertility. If they feel moved to welcome a child into their family, the couple may choose to pinpoint the day that they try (generally, the date of ovulation) or simple acknowledge the green light and let go of all precautions. This aspect of NFP is identified as "Responsible Parenthood."  David's and my NFP teachers, Chris & Christine, have been shining examples to us.  We felt so blessed to have God place them in our lives to show us what "Responsible Parenthood" truly means.  Their story, Are We Done?, is beautiful--one of conversion, heartache and steadfast faith.  I won't give anything away about their story, but I will say that we witnessed how practicing NFP truly keeps the heart open to God's love, as seen through Chris & Christine, and in our own experience.

Point #2) large families do not necessarily have a larger footprint than a family of four.  For example, a family of four may have a large 3,000 sq. ft. 4 bed/3.5 bath house.  They have to have a guest suite, you know!  Meanwhile, the family down the street also has a 3,000 sq. ft. 4 bed/3.5 bath house.  But this family has 6 kids.  The oldest two share a room, as do the next two.  Number 5 has his/her own room (for now) while the baby is in with mom and dad.  Are there more mouths to feed?  Yes. And I do understand that this can be an issue for the world, namely contributing to the demand of more beef/pork/chicken/lamb farms and therefore increasing the amount of methane released into the atmosphere; soon all the forests will be gone to make way for more fields 'cause you'll need more corn fields to feed those animals... oy vey.  I did not mean to go there.  So sorry.  Let me just reiterate my point: having many children does not necessarily indicate environmental irresponsibility.  

Okay.  The second stigma, which I think is a little more taboo to discuss, is the idea that practicing NFP leads to a lame and stifled sex life.  Ahem.  Yes, just typing that sentence for the world to read makes me squirm a little in my seat.  Heart beating pretty fast with trepidation.  But seriously!  Let's talk about it. Throughout my reading (of various articles, books, blogs) and conversations (with Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mormons, agnostics, and even a few atheists) I have learned that many people believe:

1) those who practice NFP don't have sex unless they want to get pregnant, and

2) those who practice NFP are--how shall I put this?--unadventurous.

Yes, my mother is probably reading this whole thing.  I know.  Scandalous. For for goodness' sake, it's true that people think this about devout Catholics practicing NFP!  In fact, Catholics think this about practicing NFP!  Not that I need to prove whether or not my sex life is fantastic, I just want to share that NFP is not the cause for a boring sex life.  So let me try and elaborate.

Consider this.  If you have decided that postponing pregnancy is best for your family this month, you have decided to abstain from fully giving of yourselves (as opposed to using contraception) out of respect for each others' bodies and personhood while she is considered fertile.  While abstaining for 9+ days (more likely a full two weeks), the wait is intense.  Hormones are raging.  Her body says, make a baby now!  Together you desire to connect in the most intimate way possible.  It's tough.  But through mutual respect for each other, out of your mutual love for God's creation, you somehow find a way to be patient (and yes, this takes time to figure out.  That's part of the art of NFP).  And then...then the butterflies start fluttering deep in your belly as the green light draws nearer and nearer.  Remember what it was like as you grew closer and closer to your wedding day and/or honeymoon?  Ok, there were probably quite a few nerves, but excitement too!  Imagine having a honeymoon once a month. Yeah, once a month! Pretty cool right?  Furthermore, imagine the intimacy you would experience as you give yourself 100% to your spouse, fertility and all because you can.

The real kicker about practicing NFP is that it starts to mold our minds, so that we end up offering ourselves more fully to our spouses.  Oh yeah.  It's sneaky alright.  See, by remembering that the possibility of life is a very real outcome of two people having sex--an act so sincere, so vulnerable, so intentional that is it reserved only for those within a marital bond--that the couple's entire mindset could change.  The reason married persons have sex changes. Hearts are opened. The married couple becomes more and more intimate with each other as they focus on why they are abstaining, and therefore focusing on other ways to be intimate.  Hearts are freed outside of the bedroom, and therefore within the bedroom (this in no way is meant to suggest sex must happen within the bedroom. ;-) Its all metaphorical, folks).  Now, I can't possibly share alllll the wonderful benefits of NFP for your sex life, but you know who has done a pretty fantastic job?  Dr. Gregory Popkak.  Yep, he's the awesome Catholic psychologist who wrote Holy Sex: A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving.

And guess what?  After that study came out announcing that devout Catholics have the best sex out of anyone on July 17, Popkak's book climbed to #8 on Amazon's Best Seller list.

Quick little review: it is a fantastic--though in depth--read for you and your spouse. In fact, it is meant to be read together.  Well, separately then you can come together and discuss.  Like a book club. Only better because what you then put into practice...well.  Use your imagination ;)  You may discover some things about yourself that are tough to come to grips with, some things about your spouse that may be disappointing, and some things that may very well shock the socks off your feet.  I felt that Dr. Popkak explained sex as it is intended to be in a simple, yet thorough manner.  All with a slice of humor.  One last little note: may I also suggest pairing it with some light reading on Theology of the Body?

Perhaps Christopher West's Good News about Sex and Marriage?  There are a few sections of Holy Sex that could use more background information from Theology of the Body, and this is the most straightforward book I have found regarding the matter.  


Well, that was quite the digression, wasn't it?  :)  Glad we could have that talk.

What I'm really trying to say is why NFP has truly been a blessing within our marriage.  For me, well for both David and me, our mindsets about sex, about marriage, about personhood, about the creation of life as introduced to us through NFP has made our ability to find healing in the loss of Samuel so much more peaceful.  It taught to me incorporate God into my decision making process regarding our family. By design, it encourages me be open with David about how I'm feeling in regards to welcoming another child into our family, to be honestly discerning every month.  It encourages David to do the same.  Together we are being responsible parents.  

Photo courtesy of Aaron Barna Photography

NOTE: There are several resources to further educate yourself on the ins and outs of Natural Family Planning:

I am in no way sponsored by any of these organizations.  I will disclose that we were trained through Couple to Couples League and had a great experience. 

N.B. For another great read on NFP or Theology of the Body check out Real Catholic Love and Sex, written by a couple of fantastically educated people.  Kate is a wife and mom to several kiddos.  James is a Catholic revert and NFP revert, married and no kids.  They offer great answers to tough questions.

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