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Marriage

Why NFP Awareness Week Gets Under My Skin

July 24, 2014

You may be thinking, “How can anyone get annoyed by NFP Awareness Week? It’s like the most harmless topic ever, right?” (NFP= Natural Family Planning)

Well I am here to tell you why.

You might be tempted to think I am just a crazy infertile lady getting on a soap box…which may partially be true. And I am taking progesterone currently, which could be making me ranty.

BUT I honestly think that even if I was a little fertile-myrtle, I would still be annoyed by some attitudes surround NFP today. No, not ALL NFP Awareness posts are annoying. There are definitely good ones. Just some attitudes that come through a few posts out there are what grate my nerves.

Sit back, relax, and let’s take a stroll into my thoughts…in numerical order.

{one}

Sts. Joachim and Anne’s Feast Day

It’s been said that this particular week was chosen for NFP Awareness Week since it ends on the Feast Day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary. I guess they could be chosen as patrons for the week since there definitely wasn’t any other method of family planning besides natural methods, if any, back in their day.

An attitude I’ve noticed around NFP, even in faithful Catholc circles (gasp!), is that it allows women to get pregnant when they want to and to avoid a pregnancy when they want to…which is more or less opposite of Sts. Joachim and Anne’s story.

Sts. Joachim and Anne battled bareness. “Tradition holds that these saints struggled with infertility and were childless for decades. Like other barren couples in Scripture (eg. Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah), sterility was a great burden to Joachim and Anne and even a hindrance to their participation in community life. A story told of St. Joachim relates that he wanted to offer sacrifice in the temple but was turned away because of his childlessness. He retreated into the mountains to air his grievance with God, and during this time both he and his wife received an angelic prophecy of Anne’s pregnancy.”

They are now patrons for couples longing to have the blessing of children in their marriage which means a great deal to me. Not only since we have infertility, but because I was born on their Feast Day – July 26th. They are my personal patron saints and have been all my lifelong since birth…so in many ways I feel like they have my back in this whole infertility thing and they are powerful intercessors for Jonathan and I.

I just can’t help but feel like they would sort of cringe at the general NFP attitudes of today…that using NFP to conceive always works out and that using NFP to avoid pregnancy always works out. They know to their core that it simply doesn’t always work out and would want more couples to simply surrender their fertility to the Lord no matter the outcome which is at the heart of NFP anyway.

They are happy to intercede for anything so I am sure they aren’t mad about being NFP Awareness Week patrons. I just want to steal them for Infertility Awareness instead. 🙂

{two}

“Because my body is a gift and that gift includes Motherhood” emphasis added

Oh really?

I don’t want to be too hard on the girl who said this, since MOST women’s vocation to marriage will include motherhood. But this phrase oozes with entitlement and the attitude that children are a right and not a gift. They are assumed to be had…and I guess most women can assume motherhood but even if those desires come to fruition this attitude is still dangerous since it lacks abandonment to God or an openness to a different plan.

{three}

“Because the ability to create life is a superpower that I’m proud to have.”

Spiderman represents all women who want to act like no one has any reproductive issues and that we are all just fertile superheros. I am The Hulk.

 

This phrase makes me, an infertile woman, feel like a nobody. I am a loser. I didn’t get the superpower. God forgot to give that one to me…or at least he allowed the brokeness in our world to shut my superpowers off and NFP doesn’t work for me like it does for you. Ouch.

The ability to create life lies in GOD’S hands alone, lady. We can be co-creators, yes, but its still 100% dependent on His will for our fertility. It’s not 50/50. If anyone is the superhero in reproduction, it’s God, the author of life.

Sure, it’s OK to be proud to have conceived. I think the better response would be humility…to be so humbled that God would bestow this gift within you that you simply overflow with gratitude like Our Lady.

Lastly, yes, the ability to co-create life is AMAZING and its part of our “feminine genius.” But not all women will bear children either by nature or vocation…so I think our REAL superpowers should be drawn from the fact that we are daughters of the Almighty King of Heaven and Earth. That Jesus Christ came and died for our sins and we are redeemed by His sacrifice…and we can GIVE LIFE to others by sharing that truth with them. That’s the only “superpower” that will last our whole lifelong and for eternity…and it’s not even our doing, it’s God’s!

{four}

 “I use NFP because I’m proud to be a fertile healthy woman!”

This statement, although I get where she’s coming from, make those women who are NOT fertile and healthy feel like they don’t deserve to use NFP. It’s as if it was only  created for these fertile healthy gals and not the broken ones, which just isn’t true.

Insert Hulk punch one more time.

{five}

Because we can’t PLAN our life and I dislike false claims that NFP (Natural Family Planning) provides this type of control.

I’m not the only one who’s thought about this.

This is what my life looks like when I try to control it.

 

There probably are women out there who end up planning every pregnancy and perfectly space their kiddos just right. I honestly don’t know many of them though. Verrrry little women have the luxury of planning all their kiddos precisely, fertile or infertile. I read this article recently and found it refreshing. Here’s a couple of her points:

“But here’s the thing. It’s actually pretty unlikely that you were ever going to have as many kids as I do. What I observe is that it’s MUCH more likely that you won’t have as many children as you’d like to have.”

“When I was a newlywed, it never would have occurred to me that I wouldn’t have just as many kids as I could possibly want. And I have. But I know enough now to not take it for granted. I’ve brought hundreds of prayer requests from readers along with us on our pilgrimages, and almost HALF of them have been prayers for a child, or another child.”

“But just know, from me, that if you turn up pregnant despite your best efforts, it’s likely to be the best thing that ever happens to you. Every single time. And if you don’t turn up pregnant, despite your best efforts, it’s likely to be the biggest cross of your life. “They” won’t tell you that. But you should know. So you won’t be worried about the wrong things.”

I know a LOT of women who have children. A few here and there are those “lucky ones” who have picturesque fertility and get to plan out every child and experience healthy pregnancy. A majority of the others either have experienced infertility (primary or secondary), miscarriage, high risk pregnancies, pre-term labor, unplanned pregnancies, extended delay of fertility returning while breastfeeding, and even continual pregnancy one after another despite adhering to NFP rules. Every one of those is a challenge that nobody plans.

My Senior year of High School yearbook quote has come back to haunt me time and again. “We plan, God laughs.” I have NO CLUE why I chose it then. What plans had I really seen altered at age seventeen? That superficial relationship with some boy that didn’t pan out and was unhealthy anyway? The point of that quote though is that being “in control” is typically an illusion and we can’t plan our lives…or our fertility a vast majority of the time. We can make informed choices about our sexuality and the rest is up to the guy upstairs.

I’m gonna stop there even thought I could keep on going. Five points are enough and I have likely scandalized a majority of you anyhow…because how could I not *LOOOVE* NFP like a good Catholic wife?

Moral of The Story

NFP in and of itself does not make me angry. Neither does the fact that it has an Awareness Week.

Jonathan and I use the Creighton Model of NFP to try to achieve pregnancy (for nearly three years) and will continue to do so. It also happens to be a form of NFP that allows doctors to see what is wrong with my cycle so we can get closer to possibly achieving a pregnancy. Very cool indeed.

What I dislike are potential attitudes I’ve absolutely seen in some articles during NFP Awareness Week and even in conversations about NFP in gerenal. Attitudes of entitlement, power, control, and manipulation.

At the end of the day, NFP is healthier for women than artificial contraception. Duh. It’s a really cool way to understand a woman’s biological makeup and cycle. It’s a method that allows women to get a peak into their reproductive health and identify problems that may exist. It’s in line with Church teaching at it’s core since it doesn’t disrupt the sexual act or manipulate fertility in any way. It’s truly unique and hands down the safest, healthiest, and best method of making informed reproductive decisions out there.

BUT…

Motives matter. Using NFP like contraception can be dangerous. What I would like to see during NFP Awareness Week is not secular reasons why women should replace contraception with NFP. Or articles that attempt to defy similar pro contraception posts. That misses the point entirely.

I want to see the heart of the matter explored – That God is ultimately in control…of our lives and that includes our fertility. That human life is not something to fear but to embrace. That the sexual act is sacred and is filled with potential to co-create with God when He chooses.

I want more articles about THAT. Less articles that try to sell the Church’s teachings as a replacement for contraception and more about WHY the Church elevates sexuality to such heights so as to protect it with something as simple and natural like NFP.

Intentional Living, Marriage

Want to Cook Healthy Meals and Save Money?

January 23, 2013

Have I got a treat for YOU!

A year ago when I got married, I knew how to cook like three things. One of them being a grilled cheese sandwhich. Trust me, it was delicious. I  quickly learned that although I was content eating the same meal all the time for years on end, my husband was not as thrilled. But the reasons I cooked the same thing all the time were good ones!

1) Lack of Knowledge. I didn’t know how to cook and didn’t own a cook book.

2) Economics. I thought it was economical to eat the same cheap things all the time and food never got wasted.

3) It was easy! I was super busy and honestly didn’t have time to cook gourmet meals everyday of the week let alone shop for a variety of ingredients to make those meals.

All my reasons, though good, seemed lame after a while. Most people knew how to cook SOMETHING. There ought to be some program out there that will work for me….right? I tried Allrecipes.com, which was nice but I felt pressure to look up and organize 10 recipes for the week, compile a grocery list, and then head to the store after being wiped out by my prep work. Plus half the recipes get changed and don’t turn out all that consistently anyway. I tried Food Network’s website and was making Emeril dishes…that cost an arm and a leg to make plus 4 hours of my night to cook. We tried frozen bag meals for a week, which was easy, but I didn’t feel great about all the processed food and sodium. I tried cookbooks but I ended up destroying them quickly with flour, wine, oil, butter, water, garlic, you name it…somehow every ingredient ended up getting on the pages and warping them.

Then I was listening to my favorite financial guru, Dave Ramsey, one afternoon and found eMeals.com and my entire life was all better! Not really my whole life, but it did take care of my kitchen, cooking, and budget woes with food though!

Look at what this FABULOUS website pulls together for you!

how it works

So this website would allow me to pick my healthy eating habits, sync up with local sales in my area, plan my meals and organize my shopping list by aisle, save me money, prevent waste, provide me with preparation and cooking instructions and all I had to do was PRINT? Yes please! Check out the plans!

the meal plans

Jonathan and I have been using eMeals for a few months now. We’ve experimented with the Paleo and Clean Eating plans. They have been phenomenal for us! I have found the recipes to be incredibly user friendly but also QUICK. I spend maybe 20-30 minutes cooking at the max, which is all I can really afford working full-time right now. God-willing I am a mother some day and stay home with my kiddos, I doubt I will have much more time to cook anyway!

I have cooked things I would NEVER have even purchased before, like parsnips, beets, quinoa, and salmon among so many other ingredients I was afraid of. There are plenty of “normal” ingredients included too but some plans are more exotic than others! Now I shop with confidence, knowing that eMeals will help me prepare delicious meals. I receive my meal plan in my inbox once a week. I click print, head to the store, and pick up my items that are organized by “produce” or “dairy” so I am not running from one side of the store to another and then back chasing forgotten items. I love how smart eMeals are. Ex: If I need half a cabbage in some recipe, it will automatically give me another recipe to use the other half so I don’t have any food go to waste!

It’s less than $5 a month to use eMeals but for that what do I save?????

1) Time – I never have to menu plan anymore or write up a grocery list. I also shop more efficiently. Hello 2-3 extra hours a week! 🙂

2) Money – I am not wasting food anymore. With a few eMeals plans it actually syncs up with local SALES in your area! I also have found that when Jonathan and I aimlessly bought food for the week, we spent about $75/week for the two of us. Using eMeals it’s been more like $60/week for groceries. That’s significant for us.

3) Health – Since being on the Paleo and Clean Eating plans, we have felt awesome! We’ve eaten so many veggies and since unhealthy items aren’t even on the shopping list, they aren’t in our house!

4) Energy – I am actually enjoying cooking more but still like keeping it to a minimum. eMeals thinks for me and all I have to do is follow the recipe, which is typically very simple and easy. I get a meal on the table in no time these days and it gives me more time to focus on activities that bring me energy, like reading or exercising. I am not trapped in the kitchen for 2 hours every night.

I don’t even know how to put a price tag all of those things but I am 100% sure it’s more than $5 a month. Below are sample photos of my weekly grocery list and menu.

sample ingredient

sample plan

When I love things, I feel the need to share them. So that is why I have written this post. I hope it will come as a blessing to all who read it! Happy Cooking!Click on the picture below to visit eMeals!

Just as we are affiliates with Amazon.com, we are also with eMeals, so if you end up wanting to use them, be sure to come back to this post and access their website by clicking on our links!


Intentional Living

How to make your New Year’s resolution last

December 31, 2012

Some of you may remember my New Year’s Day post one year ago about going sugar free.

How can I say no?

Remember these?

 

I strategically titled it “Sugar-Free Start to 2012,” since it was a start…at least that wasn’t a lie! 🙂

The intention was to actually carry that out as a lifestyle from that point forward…but even in writing it I knew that I may not be totally ready or even able to cut sugar from my life 100% since we don’t live in a perfect world. Dang. I am happy to say that Jonathan and I made a LOT of progress over the past year and a majority of the time when we are in the “swing of things” and a normal routine, we eat  paleo/gluten-free/sugar-free and are exercising 5-6 days per week. We don’t even buy groceries anymore that aren’t in the “no sugar” category unless it’s for a special occasion or day. We juice frequently and love how eating the right things gives us energy and tastes delicious. Who knew Brussel sprouts were so yummy???

Now when we travel or end up in a foreign situation…it’s a whole different story. We haven’t mastered that yet. It’s tough being at the mercy of flights, other people’s food choices, holiday cookies we have emotional connections with, and lack of a schedule. I am sure a year from now we will be even better in handling those scenarios but I am pleased with the progress we’ve made. Not perfect but definitely reasonable and several steps forward.

So, what have I learned in this past year that I want to pass on to all of you doing your New Year’s Resolutions? Some tid-bits that will help you understand how to move through the processes of change and what to anticipate as you travel from the varying stages successfully. Knowing how most people experience change will but you ahead of the game so you can keep plugging along when resistance hits.

Five Stages of Change

change

 

Stage One: Pre-Contemplation

thoughts_homer

If you are in this stage you aren’t even considering a change in your life. This is a comfortable place. You don’t know what you don’t know and ignorance can be bliss at times. People in this stage aren’t seeking new things out and certainly don’t care to know about any bad lifestyle choices they are making…you are in denial that there is any other way to live than the current way things are. Can’t do a whole lot other than wait for something to spark you in this stage to begin contemplating a different life.

Stage Two: Contemplation

research2

I hate this stage. The bomb of truth has been dropped on you(exercise is actually good for you, smoking kills you, a daily prayer life is essential etc.) and there is no going back. Now you know that you know what’s right but you become keenly aware of the cost of change (time, money, no more Hot N Ready pizzas, less sleep so they can make it to the gym or chapel, etc.) This is the stage where you have to grapple with your own humanity and struggle to accept the benefits of change while weighing them against perceived or even actual losses.

Do a LOT of research during this stage. Seek truth out and find people who are nailing what you want to be doing and ask them how they created that certain habit in their life. Read books at the library, watch documentaries, find reasons that support why change is a good thing. Dream about what your life would be like if you made this change…a year from now? five years from now? How would your life be better? Search your heart and write down your own reasons for why this change is desirable.

Stage Three: Preparation

change ahead

This is a stage of low commitment but definite flirting with change is going on (buying a Stevia sweetener, going on a run once to see how it goes, reading a chapter in a book without a plan to finish, etc.) The decision that change is a good thing is made but now it’s a matter of getting around to it and this stage allows a “slow” start-up as the person starts checking things out and firm up how specific they desire to change.

You have a lot of freedom in this stage since you aren’t technically locked into anything yet. Enjoy this stage and don’t rush it. Experiment with things and continue to research but start trying your new activity on occasion. For example, if you desire to get in shape, before signing up for that half-marathon, go for a run or two…figure out if you even like running. Maybe you end up being into swimming instead but unless you prepare well and look around, you may be missing something.

Stage Four: Action

action

Change has been decided upon. Ideas have been tossed around. Now it’s time to get a SMART goal drawn up. Many New Year’s Resolutions fail because the steps leading up to this stage are glossed over. People don’t need to become experts in their area of change/growth but they at least need to have a basic foundation and have put in the “prep” work getting familiar with the sacrifices the change will bring. Jumping straight into action is a set-up for failure and disillusionment once a hard day hits. Without having internalized the reasons for change…there won’t be enough energy to keep it going.

The first week or two in the action stage will likely be a bit painful…you are doing something new and it’s going to feel awkward. It’s not a habit and some changes will actually bring some suffering to a certain degree. Maybe you are getting a little less sleep with the new workout/prayer schedule. Or everyone at work is going out for pizza but you have to say “no” and eat your lettuce wraps instead. That’s tough. Journaling about the difficulties can help and also reviewing your reasons you wrote down when you were getting started will give you motivation to keep putting in the hard work.

Stage Five: Maintenance

Female hand wiping dining table

I’ve heard it said that it takes 30 days to create a habit. This is the goal of any New Year’s resolution. I think it takes a bit longer in all reality though – more like 3 months. That way you have a holiday, a birthday, a season/weather change, and other variables to work the kinks out of the schedule. You are  progressively but surely beginning to see this foreign activity as a day in and day out activity. You are creating a habit!

There have been good days and bad days but you have been triumphant in carrying out the new routine. Reward yourself during this stage as you are hitting your goals continuously. This will create increased incentive to keep with it, strengthening your habit.

Stage Six: Relapse

1133804_sign_success_and_failure

In the relapse stage it’s easy to become discouraged. Often this occurs when you breach your normal routine (traveling, sickness, holidays, busy season at work, babies are born, that “time of the month” arrives, etc.) These events will occur, so just be prepared for them. You will likely derail on the first few encounters. That’s OK. That is where I see myself at with giving up sugar…I’ve derailed for various seasons over the past year for good and bad reasons. I’ve learned my lessons and see myself getting stronger and my desires are internally changing to reflect the strength in my will. I am becoming harder to derail. There may always be an occasional relapse (at least for me with sugar) and I’m OK with that, knowing that internally I am beginning to prefer NOT eating it compared to eating it. Eventually it won’t really be a big deal for me anymore, so having some cookies at Christmas will “breach” my plan but won’t cause a total derail in my health.

Now if you aren’t feeling the internal change and breaching your plan will actually cause a total derail…it’s time to go back to earlier stages (do some research, remind yourself why you are changing, etc.) and fight to stick to the plan. Remember, if you stray from your change too early on before it becomes a habit, you are at risk for abandonment since your committment is still very new.

Now you know what to expect in the different stages as you embark on your New Year’s resolution changes!! Work your way through the stages one by one and be patient with yourself…no one is perfect!

What changes do you plan to make in 2013?