Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When NFP Sucks...

I know, not what you would expect from me huh? The NFP loving CrMS teaching practitioner is saying that NFP is a form of sacrifice and it sucks at times. All those posters and brochures about NFP are of happy smiling couples; so why is it so hard for some? Well it just is. Like anything in life, it's not something we want to have to do. Can't we just get what we want right away with out having to do any work? It's the American culture, right? 

All of my many CrMS charts which hold 6 months of charting so that is at least 5 years of my life right here! Not to mention the 3 STM charts I had previously before starting CrMS so that is another 3 years...

"Kat, I'll be honest; I feel complacent. Why am I doing this?" 

"Why can't I just go see the Dr. right away? Why do I have to chart two cycles with you and delay the process of seeing the Dr.?" 

"How did we conceive? That was suppose to be a dry/infertile day?" 

"What's going on in my chart? I am so frustrated!"  

"I am scared to get pregnant again! The last one had so many complications and my kids need me." 

"I don't want to do this but my priest is making me take these classes before I get married." 

"I feel so messed up and broken inside like my body knows what normal is and does the opposite." 

"Is today a 'safe' day?" 

"I just want to know when I can have sex with my wife again."

"This has been hard on our marriage!" 

"I thought this was suppose to be easy!" 

I have heard all of these platitudes from clients in the last 3 years of teaching CrMS. I have walked along side every difficulty with my clients as well as wrestling with my own NFP difficulty. The truth is that NFP, however you are using it, is not always easy. I have clients who find it very easy to do and have been able to postpone a pregnancy for a year and then get pregnant on their 1st cycle trying to conceive. I have people who love this and even want to teach it someday. I have people who get pregnant after 6 months of using CrMS after 2 years of prior infertility. 

I also have the tough cases. The ones we NFP teachers are afraid to talk about because we don't want to scare anyone away from NFP. The ones who are still infertile despite the best charting and normal looking cycles even with cooperative medical treatment, umm hello that's me! The ones that were seriously trying to avoid a pregnancy, followed instructions and still became pregnant. 

We got a call last night around 8:30pm, we usually don't answer calls at that time since JJ has to go to sleep by 9pm or so. JJ answered the phone before I could yell say "don't answer it!" It turns out it was a man inquiring about CrMS but he already had a practitioner. He wanted to see if there was another one closer to them. My husband told him we were the only ones around his area which isn't a far drive but its not convenient for them. Well after talking to him for about 20 minutes my husband realized this man just wanted encouragement to keep going with learning CrMS. He and his wife have 5 kids and he is motivated to stick with Church teaching and not use contraception but his wife is not. This man just needed someone to acknowledge his struggle and say he was doing a good job. I am so glad JJ answered the phone even though I initially was upset because he needed to wake up at 3am the next morning for work!

This man's story is no different from many I know where they have a love/hate relationship with NFP. They love the idea of it with the lower divorce rate, better communication with your spouse and knowledge about a woman's overall health and fertility. What is difficult is when we are met with challenges to something that seems so beautiful in its ideology and difficult in its practice. We want a magic wand to wave away the difficulties so we can go on with normal life and not have to analyze our cervical fluids everyday. 

Here is the thing y'all; NFP is just more difficult for some of us. There are various reasons it can be difficult which include, but are not limited to, the observations, charting, instructions, timed intercourse with your spouse or ,despite you following the method 100%, you are still not getting the desired results. I am here to encourage you to keep going if NFP is something you need to do. This is why the Church says that if you are going to avoid a pregnancy by periodic abstinence during the fertile days of a woman's cycle it must be for a serious reason. NFP makes you realize whether or not your reasons are serious because who among those with difficult cases and fertility signs would do this if they did not have to! For those who find NFP difficult because they have not been able to achieve a pregnancy or figure out why they keep losing babies, I am right there with you. You have a special place in my heart and God initially called me to teach CrMS because of you. 

Some of us may feel lied to because NFP was touted as an easy way to "plan our family" but that is not always the case. They never mentioned the struggle before. They never mentioned that not all of us get exactly what we want or what we think we want out of planning our family naturally. Not all of us have perfectly "normal" easy to read signs of fertility. Not all of us have predictable fertility. As someone who is not getting what she wants from NFP and teaches it, sometimes I feel like an impostor for teaching about NFP because it has not "worked" for me. I know I am a rare case and most people can use NFP with out too much trouble. NFP has not given me a living child but it has helped me to uncover some serious issues and get them treated appropriately. It has allowed me to know so much about my body and assist my doctor in treating me. Good things aside, it has not always been easy.  

I know this is a huge reason why I teach CrMS. Not just because I have a natural knack for understanding this subject, but for those of us that fall outside of the spectrum of the norm. The hardest part of NFP is trusting God with your family size. Trusting that His will is better than your will. Since I have experience in learning to trust God's will as well as still struggle with it, I can better understand those who are experiencing difficulty with NFP. Even though their situation may not be the same as mine I can understand wanting to rip your charts, burn your books and toss your thermometer in the trash. But for those of us where NFP is necessary at this time and are sticking with it despite the difficulties, I commend you. I pat you on the back, give you a standing ovation and high five you. I sometimes question right along with you; why can't it be easier? I am here with you, walking my journey too.           

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Why I Veil

Wow I am a blogging machine lately! Its really because I have about 15 draft posts that I would like to finish up. Before I get to talking about veiling, here is a craft I recently did for our door! 

There have been various articles on veiling that I have seen floating around on the web. There are some on the tradition of the veil, how a veil is attractive to a man and why some women choose to wear a veil at Mass. As I was talking to my friend about it all I told her my story with the veil. She said I should write about it so here it goes! I am not trying to convince any woman to wear a veil to Mass, although I think it would be lovely, I am just sharing my story and why I wear it. 

I have been wearing a veil to Mass since January 2009. I wore it to a wedding...well actually the first time I wore a veil to Mass was at my wedding in Dec. 2007. My connection to the veil was long before 2007 though. My great grandmother, Rafaela, was my first exposure to the veil. I can't remember an instance where she didn't wear it in church or at Mass. She wore one up until she couldn't physically go to Mass anymore. When I was a child and saw her wearing it I thought it was the most beautiful romantic action of hers because it reminded me of history, tradition and a wedding of course. She passed away in Nov. 2006 at 97 years old and my fondest memories are seeing her in Mass wearing her veil. The veil represented her commitment to God and His Church and I thought it was so cool that this holy woman was my great grandma. When I would see her at first Friday Masses in elementary school I would go up to her after Mass while she was doing her after Mass prayers and tell her "hi", even when I was in junior high. Yup, that's how proud I was that she was part of my family!

Fast forward to my time on N.E.T. and I remember one of my sisters from TX (shout out to TX!) was talking about how she wore the veil sometimes and I was so intrigued. I thought it was a beautiful tradition but wasn't sure if it was for me. I didn't want to hide my hair plus at the time I was a jeans and tshirts gal, even to Mass. I was having a really hard time with my femininity at the time too as I was in that "I am no longer a teenager but wouldn't consider myself a woman yet" I just wasn't quite sure what real femininity looked like. Who would I be as a woman and how did the veil fit in? The veil is also a symbol of chastity which is something I had always struggled with. Before I became a missionary I was in an unhealthy relationship with a man who was older than I was. Part of the reason I became a missionary was so that I could get away from the whole situation because I couldn't seem to stay away from that relationship, yet I was unhappy that it was driving me farther away from God. 

When I got home from N.E.T. I was seriously thinking about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart and if God was calling me to enter that order. I thought about being Christ's bride and His alone which would mean I would wear a veil all the time. This really made me plunge into reflection about my femininity. The veil would encourage me to uphold my dignity in and outside of Mass especially in regards to what I wore to Mass. I couldn't just wear a tshirt and jeans or a short dress/skirt to Mass with my veil now could I? I had to dress modestly, with style of course, but modest. Wearing the veil would also mean I would need to uphold my dignity in regards to purity which is something that was going to be a challenge for me. It was easy to be pure while I was a missionary because we weren't allowed to date. When I got home the dating scene was still there, this man was still there and the same temptations never left but something was different, I was different. I wanted something different and I was going to strive for it. I wanted to strive to be worthy of my wedding veil either as a sister or a wife.   

When I was on retreat with the Sisters I very clearly felt that God was not calling me to them which saddened me in part because I would not get to wear a veil. I remember thinking the only time I would get to wear one was on my wedding day. Little did I know that people can still wear a veil and be married or single! I was so naive. At the time I was still uncomfortable with the prospect of wearing a veil to Mass because I would stand out. I don't like attention on me so if I wore a veil people would see me and I wasn't ready to let that happen. A big part of that was pride! When we think of ourselves and our insecurities too much we aren't thinking about God and pleasing Him. I also thought about the whole "why do women have to cover their hair? What about men?! How sexist is that?!" Again, pride. But the veil is so much more than just covering your hair and men vs. women in the Church!  

You see, I like to be veiled or hidden at Mass not because I need to hide my getting more grey by the day gorgeous hair because it is a distraction. I veil because it is sign of my, here comes the word that makes everyone squirm, submission to God. It is a sign of my submission to Christ, His Church and the vocation he has given me as JJ's wife. As a woman I feel more attuned to being the bride of Christ than my husband does, he never got to wear a veil at his wedding or be called the bride. He is not the bride. I am and he is the bridegroom. This is why men find it harder to relate to being the bride of Christ because they don't get to be one in the natural world! They much more relate to being the bridegroom because that is who they are in the natural world.

In one of our conversations with each other JJ remembers me telling him that I would want my future husband to propose to me by giving me a veil. I wanted to be like my great grandmother who was a beautiful example of a woman and part of her beauty was her wearing her veil. She humbled herself before the Lord and I wanted to do the same, to humbly serve in my vocation. One of the traditions behind the veil is the symbolism of a woman being part of her husband's family, of being under his protection. So when JJ proposed, part of it was presenting me with a white mantilla veil and I knew he was going to ask me to be his bride at that point. The whole proposal was really beautiful but the fact that he gave me a lovely white mantilla veil was particularly meaningful. I knew this meant he wanted to guard my femininity and honor it with his own masculinity. It meant that he was taking me under his headship as my husband and my beauty is reserved for Jesus and him. I also love the fact that he remembered our conversation. How romantic! 

For practical reasons I like the veil because I can focus better at Mass and not look around or have people talk to me before or after Mass. I am not scrupulous about wearing my veil because I usually forget it for daily Mass. I used to be more scrupulous but found myself shaming myself when I forgot it or not going into adoration because I did not have my veil. As I have worked hard to overcome most of my scruples I don't feel so bad when I forget it. I do have a couple back ups in the car in case I forget my veil pouch but for the most part I usually wear it to Sunday and Holy Day Masses always. Also the veil is great way to hide a bad hair day!       

I feel very connected to the femininity of the veil with its delicate intricate detail yet sturdy enough to last for generations. It reminds me of the way our bodies are made as women. So delicately knit but strong and durable to be able to carry life and give birth. Every cycle women go on a hormonal roller coaster and there is so much going on in our bodies that prepares for ovulation and the possibility of life. One hormone being released has an effect on 3 different body parts at once. It is fascinating to me and it is a reason why I love being a CrMS practitioner! As women we, hopefully, get to shelter a child in our womb the way the veil shelters a woman in Mass. The veil is an outward sign of reverence and covering that which is holy. Even though I have not been able to carry life to full term and may never, I still feel very feminine and motherly because I am called to bear Christ to the world. When I wear my veil I am strongly reminded of who I am called to be and who God made me to be; holy. I feel beautiful when I wear my veil, even more beautiful than I felt on my wedding day.

So all this talk about why I veil, but now here is a little challenge for the Marian month of May ladies: wear a veil once in May to daily Mass or Sunday Mass. If it feels too weird to go to your parish where people know you then go to a different parish where no one knows you. Do you veil already? If you do please share why and how it makes you feel? If you are a blogger write about the challenge if you do it! I am interested to hear other women's perspectives on this topic. If you need help finding a veil try your local Catholic gift shop or Veils by Lily has some beautiful ones in all kinds of colors and styles. If you want more info. on veils in general this is a great resource from Fish Eaters


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Infertility 101

So this week it is National Infertility Awareness week. I have mixed emotions about this week because Catholics dealing with infertility are often put down for not doing treatments like IVF and other ART procedures. It can almost sound like we don't want children bad enough if we don't use ART which is so not the case. I am glad there is a dedicated week to raising awareness about how difficult infertility is, whether primary or secondary. I just don't like the promotion of ART that this week can have but what are you gonna do? To be quite honest I am annoyed with infertility and have been wanting to hide from all the face.book and blog posts about it this week. Infertility is annoying, it is obviously more than annoying but that is my feeling about it lately.

After 6 years of it I feel like we are barely settling into it. All this time we had tried to fight it (rightly so!) with Drs. appts, surgeries, blood draws, medications, ultrasounds, diet changes, charting and timed intercourse. Most recently we did another hormone profile blood draw series to make sure that my hormone levels were not contributing to LUFS. It turns out they are not so, that is some good news! It is also a bit frustrating since everything looks fine and normal except that I am not ovulating but I am producing a great looking follicle that is not releasing the egg. Its almost as if my body is trying to kill off its eggs. The only possible treatment is to inject myself with hcg or another medication each cycle in the hopes that it might work. After a lengthy discussion and praying about it JJ and I have decided not to do that. We are just not comfortable, although it is completely moral, with the long term effects this can have on my body.

Now that that is all behind us we are learning to live as a childless couple. I am letting JJ take the lead if we should try more medical treatment but for now I am trying to be being docile to JJ's lead. His answer has been a firm no for any more medical stuff and I am OK with that. I did not think when we first started this medical journey that it would be ending like this. No baby in our arms. We were so sure that we would have children by now. I do not think I will ever be able to convey the pain and hurt that infertility and losing a child can cause. You just really don't know unless you have been there. You can pray for us all you want but please for the love of all that is good and holy don't give us any advice and don't tell us stories of people who have adopted then gotten pregnant or who conceived after such and such treatment. It really is not helpful. Oh and don't tell us it will happen when we least expect it, for some of us we have not expected it for awhile now and its still has not happened.

Infertility is depressing and that is why for those of us who will likely be on this island for the rest of our lives often find ourselves dealing with people who are uncomfortable with our infertility. Our society thinks "there MUST be a solution to this so I will offer my advice and we need to get these infertile couples children so we feel comfortable being around them so we will bring up adoption or foster care. It is unnatural for married couples to not have children." It IS unnatural for married couples not to be able to have children which is why infertility stings so much but offering solutions that you know nothing about does not help heal the hurt it makes the wound bigger. The reason is because what an infertile couple hears is "you are not good enough on your own and you need to raise children or we see you as less than and pathetic." You may not be saying that exactly but when you offer a solution of trying to "fix" the problem you end up making the other person very aware of their brokenness.

The beautiful gifts of adoption and foster care are not cures for infertility. They take away childlessness which is HUGE but not infertility. As of recently JJ and I have decided to not pursue adoption or foster care at this time. Again I am being docile to his lead in this area. We had a big conversation about it a few weeks ago and I am at peace with our decision. Does it still hurt and would I love to be parenting and loving children of my own? Of course! The pain and frustration although tempered is still there. There are times I can see the very real pain in JJ's eyes and it is heart breaking. Men suffer from infertility too! A lot is focused on the pain of the woman but men most often suffer silently. They put on their strong face for the world but their heart break is just as real even though different from their wives.

One of the things that JJ said only a couple days ago is to take a step back and see where God is leading us. He also brought up a good point that we have so many religious orders, friends, family and readers praying for us that we need not worry when/if it will happen anymore. JJ is open to adoption and foster care just as much as I am but for some reason we are not pursuing it at this time. Adoption is just so expensive and I know we can fundraise and probably will when we do move toward it but I would not want to fundraise before we are home study approved. With foster care we are in the same boat of not moving forward for various reasons. You may not understand why we are not moving forward and some days I do not understand either but it is where we are at.

So here we are married and infertile. Is that good enough? Will you stop reading? Does my barren womb make you uncomfortable? I don't have a cute bump or baby pics to post and I won't have any announcements any time soon, if ever, on adoption or foster care. We may remain a childless couple, I can't believe I am writing these words because this was not our plans for our marriage. Infertility was not in our plans but apparently it was/is in the plans. The feelings of this realization are mixed with sorrow and peace knowing that we strive to remain in union with Christ and each other. That is all we can do and that is all we are capable of right now. I am not sure which direction this blog is heading. I know I like to write and will not be focusing so much on growing our family anymore so I have been discerning whether to keep up with blogging or not. So far I don't have an answer yet.