Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pro-Life in Theory

You want an honest post?  Here goes....

I am a die hard pro-life Catholic.  I oppose abortion, the death penalty, and euthanasia.  I support pregnancy centers that help mothers choose life for their babies, and pray outside abortion clinics for an end to the evil of abortion.  Phil and I have never used contraception in our marriage, and we use NFP to space our children using God's design of a woman's cycles.

When I hear of a couple struggling with infertility, my heart breaks for them, I can't even imagine how hard it would be to carry that cross.  When I hear news of a pregnancy, under any circumstances, I rejoice for that new little baby!  Seriously, people love to tell me about their baby news because I squeal with excitement.  I can't even contain my joy.

But (you knew there was a but coming, didn't you?) sometimes I fear another pregnancy like the plague.  In all my pro-life proclamations, I struggle with actually being pro-life in my own family.  Would I ever have an abortion or start using contraception?  No, of course not. But does contraception seem tempting - an easy fix to solve my problems?  Yes.  Do I sometimes get a little angry and feel like I will be producing babies for the rest of my fertile years?  Yes.

Yesterday an older co-worker of mine was talking about finances and looked at me and said "I have no idea how you are going to put all your kids through college."  Then he put his face in his hands in shock of the sheer prospect.  He wasn't trying to be rude, it just hit him all of a sudden.  He has one child in college and struggles to afford it.  He can't even imagine how we are going to do it with our Catholic school salaries.  I laughed and said something like "Oh they'll do it just like we did it - financial aid and scholarships!"  Then I walked away, trying to hide my tears.  It's not like I never thought about college expense times five children before.  But it was his genuine concern for how we were going to manage it that made it seem all the more impossible.  

I also heard from a friend yesterday who had to have a hysterectomy (after having lots of children) and I thought "Must be nice".  It must be nice to not have to worry about using NFP and discerning if our reasons are grave or selfish.  It must be nice to be able to plan for the future knowing how many children figure into that equation.  It must be nice to be spontaneous with your husband and not plan your life around charts and fear of user error.

And then I instantly felt terrible about myself because while so many women would do anything to have a baby, a blessing from God, here I am complaining about my super-fertility.  I wish I could go back in time to before I was married when I would tell everybody that I wanted 12 kids, and actually mean it.  But back then I didn't realize what our future salaries would be, or that I would even have to work outside the home at all.  I couldn't fathom that we would still be paying off our student loan debt when our oldest was in college.  I didn't know how it felt to be pregnant four times in 5 years and how tiring and frustrating that could be.

I know all of my fears are the result of not trusting enough in the Lord's plans.  I am a planner myself, and type A, and I like to know what's going to happen.  I find it funny that I am struggling with this right now, and my saint for the year is St. Gianna.  I need to pray that I can have the courage and grace she had as a mother.  The other funny thing is that we are doing fine in so many ways.  We have a house, two cars, jobs we like that pay for everything we need, 5 healthy and pretty amazing kids, so why do I worry so much?
Maggie on her Baptism Day

I have to remember that God has ALWAYS provided for our needs (easy to do, because I have proof) and He always will in the future (hard to do because I lack trust).  I need to find that balance between being open to life and being prudent with what we've already been given. I'm *hoping* this is something that many of you can relate to.  Prayers and advice welcomed.


  1. Well, if it makes you feel any better I feel the exact same way.

  2. It's like you just took the words right out of my mouth! I know I only have 2 kiddos, but I am only 26. Sometimes when I look at all my fertile years ahead of me I kinda just want to cry. Then I feel horrible. I want to be thankful and I am. I feel like I constantly have to remind myself that in reality the things of this world are not what is important and when we let God take control that is when we are the happiest and the most provided for. Even if it doesn't feel that way. It just feels like a constant struggle! Praying for you and thanks for your honesty. I'm sure there are many who feel like this!

  3. I can totally relate to some of this, but for different reasons. I am totally pro-life as you explained you are, etc, but is after this loooooong year with pumping and baby surgeries, and 6 c-sections, I'm old now (43)and each pregnancy has been riskier and riskier, towards the end, both of the last 2 babies I had such low fluid that I had to have at least 3 ultrasounds per week,(along with my type 1 diabetes) and they took both babies early because of low fluid. I am afraid. I am afraid of having another year like the last. What if I have another special needs baby? How will my family suffer? Can I handle it? Can my marriage handle it?

    We, of course use NFP but, I feel guilty using it to "not achieve". Right now, we need the break, for the reasons listed. I feel guilty, because we tried for almost 3 years to achieve our first baby--a total miracle and the result of a priest's blessing. So who am I to question our fertility now?

    Our consciences tell us to "trust" because that is what God tells us. That "trust" is something that can be used in every scenario, our children's colleges, having another baby, how the heck will we pay for the amount of yogurt we buy each week? (OK, not so much on that last one)

    It's harder to trust because of people like the guy at your work, who put his hands in his face, I feel people doing that all around us. I have to keep telling myself that LIFE is so much more important than paying for their college (or yogurt for that matter) and I guarantee, that if your fertility, or mine were taken away today we would be devastated, over the loss of the babies we'd never have for sure. That hope would be gone. Even though there are fears, there is still that hope. That hope of another life, another personality, another baby to see how different they are compared to the others.

    I also have to tell myself, fear is not from God, it's from the evil one and then I pray the St Michael prayer.

    I'll pray for you. Will you pray for me?

  4. I so needed this post. I've been worrying about money and when to plan our next child now that I am in school and will soon have to find a job after I graduate. We might have to wait three years... which is too long for me!

  5. I will pray! I was just talking with my woman's group last night about to trust more and giving it over to him.

  6. Oh, Colleen, I hear you. The idea of another pregnancy right now is frightening and I HATE feeling like that. Hate it. But in some way I feel like avoiding another pregnancy IS the pro-life answer for our family right now. I need to take care of the children He's already blessed us with.

    As far as college? Ha. I don't even worry about that. I figure IF they are meant to go then God will somehow provide. I really think being responsible for your own college costs is a huge training in life and responsibility. At least, that's what I tell myself since we're still working on ours :) Besides by the time our kids are ready to go, I have a feeling like a lot of things are going to be different anyway.


  7. We too are pro-life and do not use contraception. We have been married 4 years and in a few months we will be blessed with our fourth baby, and at that time our oldest will be 3 1/2.

    My husband works three different part time jobs and is going to school. It's really hard sometimes. I walk into the grocery store with my three babies and one in the womb and people make faces and say such ugly comments. I mean not every single person does that, but the majority do. It's really nice when someone reaches out to me in offering help for the moment or just a kind word.

    My husband is always reminding me that we live in a culture where having children, especially more than one or two is not the normality. I try to be forgiving and pray for them, but it still hurts and I worry about when my children understand what others are saying.

    For now, I try to take one day at a time. Praying and trusting in God that we are fulfilling his plan for our lives. I'm praying for you. Please pray for me too. God Bless!

  8. You can add me to the "I feel the same way" crowd. So, even if it doesn't make this cross go away, at least we all know the burden we're carrying.

  9. Know that you are not alone in these struggles. Every month is a struggle to know what is right to do (you know we use NFP, but that is still a struggle). I think that we need to pray for each other. These are such hard times.

  10. On one level I cannot relate AT ALL and on another, I can totally relate. We are deifinetly the family that "brings down the curve" in our area. I was at a homeschooling event once, talking to a mom pregnant with #9 and another mom came up (who has 9) and told her "Welcome to the club." They then proceeded to talk about how 9 is the magic number and the term "the club" was used often .. . . want to talk about feeling awkward and alone and that you do not belong. Anyways, that is totally off the topic.

    I cannot relate to having a large family, but I can relate to wondering if your motives for NFP are pure, etc. Since our last was born, I have had many health issues relating to the c-sections. I have had lots of scar tissue build up and Drs say it would not be a good idea to have anymore children. But, we have never had anyone say ABSOLUTELY NO. Now, we have prayed about it tons and feel God is also saying no, but there are times, when I really want another child and the adoption thing seems hard and so expensive, that I just wonder if we are wrong. And then there are times that I wonder if I am being selfish for not "taking the risk". It can be so hard and complicated. Now, I just continually lift it up in prayer to Him. Even with the expenses of adoption, I know that if we are following HIS will, somehow we will be able to handle it on my hubby's church salary.

  11. I've been going through this same struggle. I have birth 6 weeks ago to our 5th child. Honestly I'm done and I feel I can't even handle the 5 I have now. My husband and I have used NFP our whole marriage. Now I want to get my tubes tied and he is completely against it. The world says do it and don't feel guilty but this little voice says trust. I cry about it a lot. My mother and friends are telling me you can't have more (I've had the last 2 preterm with problems).

    We have our first entering college in 2 years. It's stressful but I agree student loans and financial aid. She will be going to junior college first.

    God definately directed me today to read this post. I haven't been on the computer in days and this was the first post on my blogger updates.

  12. Colleen, read "Why Enough is Never Enough - Overcoming Worries about Money - A Catholic Perspective" by Gregory S. Jeffrey.

  13. Well on Tuesday I was talking to Robby about having another baby (and no unfortunately I'm not pregnant) and he said he'd like to have 3brothers and 3 sisters just like Maggie does. I corrected him that Maggie has 4 brothers-but I think the point was good that he saw your family as big and fun and he wants one too.

    He also said Maggie is his valentine an that she needs a sister.

  14. I think all of us who use NFP can relate to this. I only have one (albeit very rambunctious one) toddler and I still get scared of having another. I don't admit this, but so scared that we actually abstained for a year. We were living with my MIL and NO WAY was I going to bring another baby into that situation so we just waited.

    Having abstained for so long, I can definitely see why sex (yes, I'll use the word) is so important in a marriage. I see the effects of what happens when you don't do that how you're meant to in a marriage. Things are much better now. But, we're still doing the most to avoid. Only sticking to Phase 3 using the Marquette Method with my fertility monitor. I really enjoy using the monitor, it's easy to know when Phase 3 is here.

    We will have another (and hopefully more than just one more) but I have needed this break. A break to get over my fear of another traumatic birth, and a break to try to get a handle on mothering a very head strong child.

    Like you I think how easy it would be to be able to choose when we have another child and choose when you're done. But I do think there are blessings of doing it this way, and like anything regarding trusting in God, you don't see those blessings right away.

    As far as the college thing goes, honestly, I think much of America is wrong in their thinking that parents HAVE to pay for their child's college tuition. By the time you go to college you are 18, and personally I think should be somewhat responsible for your college expenses. Sure, it's nice to get help from parents, I did for some of my college, but you learn financial responsibility when you have to take out loans and have to apply for your own financial aid.

    My MIL basically paid for all of my SIL's college tuition and I see that as a huge downfall for her. She has been dependent on my my MIL up until now and she's 26 like I am. She hasn't ever had her own credit card and doesn't understand how money works. It's really sad, I don't think this coddling does anyone good.

  15. oh honey I can totally relate. I love this post, actually brought tears to my eyes. Having children is a ton of work and very expensive. My husband and I are frightened about how many kids we are going to have. . . but we keep trucking along one day at a time and loving each other and our kids like crazy. Being Catholic is not easy, that is for sure!

  16. Colleen, {{{}}} It is hard, harder than we think it will be sometimes, and as one of your commenter's said, 'trust' oh that is hard!

  17. This is such a tough struggle. Fertility is, at times, both a positive and negative thing. God has blessed us with fertility and it is so.not.easy.
    When I can trust and see how God's plans work I am in awe...but that mean it isn't hard to afford, manage, and meet the needs of all these little(and not so little) people we are responsible for! I am extremely blessed to stay home with the kids, but it still means a ton of sacrifices.
    Coming to terms with having a child who will be a young adult officially in a few short weeks, and a toddler and a 1 yo at home is not easy. (We got quite the stares nursing a baby while doing college visits!)
    After having a uti last week and reading up on how they often happen with a pregnancy...even though I'm still nursing and haven't gotten my cycle back...I have had nightmares about being pregnant and delivering bavies ever since. I am so.not.ready! I feel like I have more than I can handle right now...but that doesn't mean that's what God thinks!
    With the college thing...its really hard! Andrew would love to go to PC, but we can't help at all...we made it through Stang and with Sarah going in next yr there's just ne extra. Hopefully he will get financial aid that makes sense....but we have always talked to the kids about making good decisions about school....sometimes local with less loans is more important so that they won't graduate with debt that's the same as a mortgage! We figure that if they are meant to be somewhere, then God will provide.
    He has a plan for each one of our children...He loves them more than we ever could! We just need to cooperate! (hugs:)

  18. Whoa. Whoa. The post was alone was a BRAVE admission, but then I read the comments and there was even more. A perfect read as this is really something on my mind and my heart lately.

    While we've practiced NFP all of our married life for both achieving and avoiding, it comes to this time of feeling 'full' and our house overflowing with blessing that makes me a little more concerned. It's tough to be completely open to life when I am feeling anxious about our future and wondering how we maintain our Catholicity when feeling a little less open sometimes.

    Practicing NFP and being openly honest about that in the early years wasn't tough. We were still expanding our family and making a family from the two of us. When our hearts ached for more children and even NFP charting couldn't reveal what the true issue was with my body, it was easy to say we were open to life. When God gave us our miracle Gianna, a gift long awaited and prayed for, it was still a bit easy to say 'perhaps one day' for another. When God smacked us with a surprise pregnancy that I reeled from in disbelief, but eventual jubilation, reality hit. While we agree that we could never say we are "done" and completely close the door on our fertility and more children, we more cautiously leave the door open just a crack.

    I think God is even in those moments/days/years of uncertainty and I keep hoping and praying that He continues to guide and lead us. While sometimes NFP feels difficult and hard to follow, in these times I'm also grateful for a Church who does have strong demands of its people. I'm glad that the Church has a line and that there is a black and white. While not always easy to be a good Catholic and follow that teaching, I'm still very grateful for it.

    It's good to know that we're not alone and we have a lot to pray for one another.

  19. like others have said we are not responsible for college. Some kids may not be college "material", they could go to the army, they could get loans, scholarships, get a job many possibilities. But at 18,they are responsible for their own future. I have read many books and asked priests and they all say the same...I think Sheen wrote about it, I forget who but if you look it up you'll find reassurance. ironically though, my husband just mentioned the college thing this morning. Ha!

    I spent many years of my marriage fearing another pregnancy mostly because I felt it was emotionally too much or because I had so many health issues...but I look back and laugh at myself. I should have trusted that everything would be ok. And it this point,I actually want another one. The fear is gone...

    what is the worst thing that could happen if you have another one... or 2?? What is the worst thing that could happen if they don't go to college??

    I do understand though...its so scary to be prolife to this extent. I never knew trusting god would be so hard.
    it is very hard to have the faith of a saint.

  20. I am practically in tears because I can not relate, but I want to relate. I always thought when my husband and I got married that our cross would be the cross you described. Worrying about how fertile I am, but somehow that cross seemed right up my alley. Sure money will be tight and things will be crazy but we'll have a crazy joy-filled house full of kids. Now I'm awaiting my 3rd miscarriage in a row. (We do have 3 beautiful kids, but it appears that for some reason or another that fertility isn't here anymore.) I have a different fear of being open to life. Now for us as practicing Catholics being open to life means being open to death. I think it'd be one thing to just not get pregnant again, but continually miscarrying is heart breaking and physically draining. I've read all the comments and there are a few people who are worried about all the years of fertility they have ahead of them. I used to do the math, "if I have a kid every 2 years for twenty years, I'll have 10 kids..." You cannot think like that. You just don't know what is going to happen. You just have to take it month by month, child by child.

    I hear you that openness to life is hard. I appreciate your honesty. It's just weird to be on the other side, wishing I could have more kids, when more kids is the very thing worrying so many others. Each persons crosses and struggles are so unique.

  21. We are looking at colleges soon. He will work and take out loans. Get ready for the real world kid. It is also not my goal in life that they are the "best educated" people on this planet. I look and listen to some of these smart people and I just shake my head.
    MY worries are not with college or will be who they marry. AND their faith of course. All that other stuff will work itself out.

    I hope you have more babies Colleen. You and your husband are great parents.

  22. I notice my comment wasn't put up. Im sorry if I didnt articulate my point well. I just wanted to say that everyone has different crosses. Those with lots of fertility feel the burden in a different way then those who suffer from infertility or secondary infertility. Prayers to all You faithful moms out there.

  23. Just wrote a post about all of this! Nice to know I'm not alone in my worries with NFP.

  24. So, I just want to add, that reading the comments has been really refreshing. One thing I find difficult is that the 'world', in a secular sense, thinks you are crazy for having babies. On the other hand, often, it seems like Catholics speak of things with rose colored glasses, instead of being realistic.
    My sister Theresa, has been blessed with a 2 year old, 1 year old and just had twin baby girls. Both her/her husband work full time (through necessity). I have had two in two years and am currently facing the possibility of 3 in three years (all c sections). The thing is, we need to constantly remind ourselves that fertility is a gift, but I assure you, MANY tears have been shed. And then, much peace has been found.
    Glad to know, through these comments, that many people at least struggle with the fear of fertility, as we continue to pray for those that struggle with infertility. Sigh...we will understand it all one day I suppose. In the meantime, the word for the day is, trust.

  25. You are such an inspiration Colleen! It always seems that you know just what to say when I really need to hear it! You helped me to get started on my NFP journey. It has been a blessing but I feel ashamed for feeling sad sometimes about how hard it is. I love babies and want more but I want everything on my schedule. It is so hard to put your trust in God when the world makes you feel crazy.
    btw...I came from a small family and my parents could never have put me through school. I did it myself with student loans and it taught me character!


  26. I could have written this post. Thank you for saying what I have always been afraid to acknowledge, save in a whispered moment with my husband.
    "That must be nice" moment happens to me all the time. The guilt I feel after is crushing.

  27. I haven't read all the comments but I use to feel the same way. We had our fist 4 in 5 years, 5 in 8 years, 6 in 9 years, 7 in 14 years and 8 in 18 years. Fortunately, we got better at spacing. I guess when we had 5 and I was pregnant with number 6, I thought gosh we are going to have another 6 at least if we keep this up. Now though since we are probably watching our last baby grow up and that our fertility is pretty low, I actually feel a great sadness that there will be no more babies between Steve and I.

  28. Giiiirl . . . you KNOW I feel you! In fact, I read this yesterday, but I couldn't comment then because #7 was on my lap, chowing down and then crying, crying, and crying some more.

    I think this kind of post is just as fortifying as the other kind of post where we talk about how wonderful motherhood is. Both are equally true. I don't think any of us is saying, "Boy, these little jerks I live with are really more a of a nuisance than anything else." We are just saying, it's hard. Hard to remain open in a closed world.

    We are with you!

  29. and on a practical note about college, if you really do feel drawn to pay for it...with you skills you could get a job at a university in accounting. Usually, one of the perks of college workers is that their kids and spouse get to go to college for free. I know lots of people that went to college free like this. My sil works at a college and my brother goes for free...look in to it :)But, I tend to agee with Christine's thoughts on college.

    but i second what everyone else says. There are so many crosses associated with fetility and infertility. But it all boils down to trust.

    and I agree with Therese, once you feel yourself passing toward the other side of fertility you actually feel sad that its passing. Which is why I want another one now before its gone.

  30. Being pro-life doesn't mean that you can't acknowledge that life is hard, and suffering exists. Being pro-life acknowledges that despite life being hard, and despite the existence of suffering, the answer to either is not to eliminate the child. One of my favorite pro-life quotes is, "In a crisis pregnancy, the solution is to eliminate the crisis, not the pregnancy."

    Being open to life also doesn't mean being open to having as many children as is physically possible regardless of any other considerations. It means being open to God's plan for your reproductive life whatever that may be -- even if that plan includes infertility, or multiple miscarriages, or 4 kids in 5 years. It means working with our fertility, and the cycle that God designed, to prayerfully discern His will for us, whatever that may be.

    And it's not that you don't want another child -- it's that you don't want the stress and extra work and financial worry that a new child always brings with him/her. And that's okay. Don't beat yourself up about it. The important thing is that you're prayerfully discerning God's will for your life and acting accordingly. And if you discern that you should avoid pregnancy but God has a different plan, then you're called to be open to His will, and accept it for your life -- but He never says we have to like it right away. :) Job didn't complain or curse God, but on the other hand he wasn't exactly happy about everything that was happening to him, and God didn't require that he act that way, either.

    Thanks for putting your honest feelings out there. I think it's important to have these sorts of discussions.

    1. Joanna, if this was facebook, I would be liking this reply.

  31. Hi Colleen,
    This was such a nice post. I can completely relate as I'm pregnant with my fifth baby in six years. It is difficult, and I think we should acknowledge it so that we can at least share the burden of this struggle because I think it can only help other faithful women feel at least like they're not alone in experiencing difficult feelings while trying to follow God's will. I think these discussions will build up our Catholic culture in ways that just haven't existed before. At least this is what I'm hoping! It's really hard when you're right in the middle of it all!
    Hope you have a good weekend!

  32. "Grave" reasons is not what Humanae Vitae states. It says "serious reasons" but the internet and repeated rumor has a way of increasing strictness way past the Church's wording just as Jansenists did long ago on other matters. Here is the Vatican version of Humanae Vitae/ section 2/ article 10/ 4th paragraph:

    " With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time."

  33. Popping over here from Let Love Be Sincere (she linked to you today). Thank you for this post. I am going to save it.

    We are pregnant right now, and I also "suffer" (in my own head-in reality, it's a blessing) from super-fertility.

    Every time I get pregnant, I am terrified, but God always provides.

    It's just calming to read this and know I'm not alone in my feelings.

    Thank you.

  34. Oh you touched my heart so perfectly as I just came across this. Thank you so much for your honesty! I'm only on my first child and I still have the fleeting thoughts of 12 children. But when I realized the other day that if I space my next baby out as my husband and I discussed, I would be pregnant in about 6 months. I'm not ready. I'm scared. Heck, I'm not even fertile yet I don't think (talk about a time to get frustrated with NFP). Of course when I think of having a newborn around I get excited, but dangit I don't want to be pregnant again yet. So I feel you... even though I know I really haven't experienced what you're going through quite yet. At the end of the day, I just have to remind myself that things will work and my heart will change if I keep trusting.


Talk to me...