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 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.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Being on the Other Side of the Desk: Practitioner Diary (Vol. 3)

As a practitioner I walk with my clients through them learning CrMS and support them in whatever way I can. Most often my clients are learning CrMS to see a NaPro Dr. for fertility issues. Often times they are dealing with infertility,  miscarriages or crazy cycles. Being on the other side of the desk as the practitioner is much different than being the one learning. I remember our first few appointments with our practitioner and how lost we felt from not knowing why we could not get pregnant and why I was in so much pain. I remember wanting to shed so many tears and holding back so our practitioner didn't think I was nuts. I remember trying to understand my cycle and learn how to chart correctly all while trying to fix what was wrong. I remember how sad we were in having to switch our intention to postponing a pregnancy after Cecilia because I was at such high risk for another miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. I remember the feeling of spiraling down emotionally and physically and feeling like there was no one I could really talk to about it besides JJ. I remember it all.

Going through our own fertility issues is one thing but now I walk with my clients through their's. It really is surreal sometimes when a client is pouring their heart out about how difficult it all is. I can truly say, I know. I know the pain well. I know the feeling of your world falling apart and realizing you have no control of circumstances, just how you react to them. I remember that battle between jealousy and trying to be a good friend. Oh I remember it well because I still go through it from time to time. It has been an interesting transition though as I have moved toward peace and am crawling toward acceptance that I need to remember to have compassion for those just starting the journey or starting their NaPro journey after years of infertility. To be on the other side of the table teaching them correctly and sensing if this is all getting to be too much for them is a delicate balance.

Most recently one client took a whole cycle off of charting even though she is trying to get her hormone profile blood draws done. If you are a new user and are looking for NaPro treatment it is NOT a good idea to stop charting for an entire cycle. It slows down the process of your treatment. Well instead of lecturing her and questioning why she stopped charting I just said something like "oh ok we will just go over what we can then." After that she opened up and told me how hard this has all been on her: the charting, the Drs. appts., the diet changes, etc. So we talked about that for the first 1/2 hour or so of the appt. It was good to share my experience with her and assure her that she needs to do what is best for her sanity. I also learned that she was not doing as bad as she thought and she was being too hard on herself. I can't help but think that if I had gone the traditional practitioner route I would have missed an opportunity with her. I am pretty sure she left the appt. feeling less alone and encouraged to keep going. She even told me to write a book!

Another scenario was that I got an email from a client saying they wanted to discontinue follow ups and NaPro treatment. I was shocked when I got the email because they have been so good about charting and using the system. They were really wanting answers for their infertility when they started this journey. I had spoken with her over the phone about her upcoming surgery and answered all her questions to the best of my ability. So when I got the email I let her know I thought that she should look for answers to the pain she was experiencing. that was all of about two sentences and then the rest of the email was letting her know that I am walking with her through this. I let her know I respect her decision and that her marriage is valid whether they pursue treatment or not. I let her know she needed to do what her and her husband felt was best for their family.

I am not trying to say I am the best because I am not. I am just a toddler in the practitioner world. I just want to give an insight on what it is like to walk with these couples. I know there are some practitioners who are more stick to the script kind of people but I just can't, NOT when I know the pain they are going through. I don't just teach CrMS, I live it too. This is more than just a job for me, it is my way to give of myself and nurture women and couples. I hope my clients know I don't take their trust for granted. I hope they know I don't brush off their struggle, however they may be using the system. I hope my couples who are trying to space out their children know I care about their well being too. It is not my place to tell them how they should be using the system. That decision lies between God, them and hopefully their confessor/spiritual director.

As I sit behind the desk correcting charting, teaching about double peak, reviewing bio-markers and asking about SPICE in their marriage I am continually humbled. I learn so much from my clients and their life experiences. I get to see the good in people's marriages or future marriages if they are engaged. I also see the difficult things that come up between couples. I see when they don't talk about those difficult conversations about charting and how to use the system or if they do not agree. I accept those clients who are only coming as a marriage prep. requirement and the ones for whatever reason decide to discontinue using CrMS. I don't know everything and how to help everyone because I am not an expert. I only encourage and challenge them where I can and leave the rest to God. I have learned that I need to leave each and every client at the foot of The Cross where my expertise fails and His prevails. That is where Christ's Love will make us all whole.