Healing and Purifying my Past

I have been married for over 20 years. Before I married, I engaged in premarital sex. I was shy and didn’t know how to talk to guys, so I ended up drinking to get over that and that led to a lot of other troubles.  I mainly went to parties and nightclubs where drinking was common.  I would get drunk and end up going too far.

When I was 20 I had a baby that I placed for adoption. My boyfriend offered to marry me. He was a nice guy and wanted to do the right thing, but I did not think marriage was the answer. I found adoptive parents for my baby through someone that I worked for.  I met with the parents and we seemed to click.  When the baby, a boy, was born, they came to see me and the two families spent the evening together celebrating this new little life.  I was very sure that I had made the correct decision. My heart caught up with my head about 7 months after Eric was born. I mourned for a long time. A few years later I wrote to the adoptive mother through the adoption attorney. I simply wanted to know what Eric was like and if he was okay.  His mother wrote back and sent pictures. We continued to write and exchange pictures.

I was certainly not a great Catholic and I had no idea what the Church really taught about sex. But I did not like the idea of contraception. Outside of marriage, I did “dabble” in it. I was on the Pill for a month or so but I wasn’t comfortable with it and I learned that I had high cholesterol and that put me at risk for heart disease, so I stopped taking it. I also used barrier methods once in a while. My boyfriend(s) did not want a baby, so I went along with them. I wanted  to live a good life, but was easily swayed by the popular opinion of the time. I had a lot of ups and downs with attempting to live a chaste life, but I knew that it was what I should be doing. I longed to be a wife and mother. I didn’t understand how to live as a single woman.

When I met my husband, my life changed. My husband was not Catholic at the time, but he was open to life and wanted children. We got pregnant right away and were delighted. But because each of us had lived unchaste lives before marriage, there were some problems. I had always felt used by men, so that carried over into my marriage.  My husband could see nothing wrong with stripper bars, Playboy or racy movies. He no longer did any of these things, at my urging, but we argued about it anyway from time to time. One time he was expected to go to a bachelor party at a topless bar. It was the old argument that it was “one last time” for the groom,  my husband wasn’t interested but he was willing to do this for his friend. I think he had never been challenged to defend it before and when he tried to explain to me why it was OK, it changed him. HE was married. HE supposedly had said goodbye to those days. Lusting after women is a bad thing, especially in the case of a married man.  Wanting sex for its own pleasure is wrong.  It is not what God intended.  No one, other than me, had said to him that this was wrong.

Then I heard of Theology of the Body. I started reading about it and went to hear speakers explaining it. It made me think about things I learned in high school about contraception and why it was wrong. The Catholic teaching of marital love is so beautiful! It was what I had longed for but hadn’t understood.

My husband converted to the Catholic Church 15 years ago. What a blessing that was! My husband is my rock, steady and sure and once he makes a decision, he sticks with it. A few years back I read the book Every Man’s Battle aloud to my husband while we were driving on vacation. It was healing and tough. We talked about it at great length. I listened to the pain in his heart as he spoke about how men struggle with purity. I started praying in a new way. I asked Jesus to heal my past and my husband’s past. I asked Him to purify our memories. Our arguments about sexual issues ceased. We were on the same page. Slowly, my old memories stopped torturing me. My interest and desire for marital love increased. And it keeps on growing! I am thankful that God is the third person in our marriage.

We have grown so much in our marriage.  Thankfully, we were always open to life and now have 8 children! I know that God has blessed our union and continues to.  Being open to children has helped us be ready for the graces and healing that God sends us. We both would like more children, but time is no longer on our side. Having children, teaching them about the faith, going to daily Mass, reading books like Dressing with Dignity, meeting other Catholic women who were doing the same, all these things led me to a deeper understanding of how the Church views chastity.

We have no regrets about our fertility. We left it to God, trusting that He would send us as many children as He desired. God has blessed us with good health and steady jobs for my husband. We never found reasons to not be open. Many have asked us if we use NFP or assume we do. We don’t. We just trust in God. He has led us on a great adventure so far!

It Does Require Sacrifice

“Your vocation is to be a wife and a mother.”

I read and re-read my grand-aunt’s letter to me. She was a holy, elderly Carmelite nun who had given me a one-on-one retreat a couple of weeks before my wedding. I had just shared with her the great news that my husband and I were expecting our first child; she responded with joy and that simple statement reminding me of our talks.

I was a few months shy of graduating from my MBA program and both my husband and I were excited at the prospect of my working full-time and bringing in some much-needed income to augment his lowly salary. We were looking forward to vacations, new cars, and enjoying all the pleasures that money could buy. So when I read those words from my grand-aunt, I thought, “Is she crazy? Does she not realize how much we had to put in for me to finish my MBA? Is she asking me to abandon my education and become…of all things…a stay-at-home mom?!” I resisted the idea and put the letter away, but those words just kept gnawing at my heart. As my baby grew inside me and I felt every little movement of life inside my womb, I felt pangs of love and I couldn’t, for the life of me, imagine giving that baby to someone else to care for. Our families lived out of state and we didn’t have the emotional and family support that other couples may have had. As I grew closer and closer to my due date, I made the decision: I was going to stay home. My husband was disappointed with my choice but knew that it was the best for our family. I promised to start working once the baby got into school, but one baby followed and soon another and another. Before I knew it, 20 years had passed and I remained a stay-at-home mom. When people ask me if I regret that decision, I immediately tell them “No.”

Truly God is good! With my decision to stay at home, I was able to help support my husband’s career one hundred percent and we enjoyed a charmed life. With no career for me to worry about, I was able to follow my husband to Asia. We traveled around the country and vacationed for free. We saved enough money to get ourselves out of the debt that we incurred in the beginning of our marriage. We raised 4 beautiful children who are solid in their values and faith. Our marriage is stronger than ever, as we learned to prioritize our faith, marriage and family before anything else.

We may not enjoy the luxuries of a huge house, several cars, or fantasy vacations that would have been easily acquired if I had made a different career choice. But the blessings that came with that decision are immeasurable. A good and loving marriage, the joy of having children, and the peace that comes from submitting to the Father’s plan are truly treasures that money cannot buy! We were never in need of anything and even in the lean years and during the times when my husband lost his job, God always provided. Today, with my youngest in Kindergarten, I have finally started working full-time as a religion teacher. It is truly rewarding to be able to share the faith with other children, to be home when my own children are home, and to augment our income as expenses rise and college tuition is on the horizon. God is truly a generous Father and wishes to bestow on us all His blessings, but we just need to give Him a chance to do so. In all these years of walking in faith, I’ve learned that the more I say “Yes” to him, the more He blesses me. It’s not always easy and it does require sacrifice, but it has strengthened my hope and trust in His love and promises.