One of those Big Catholic Families

I don’t know when it was that my family became one of those Big Catholic Families. I only remember realizing that other women might be looking at me the way I looked at those other mothers of Big Catholic Families, and could they see what a fraud I was? I am simply not like those other women, who all seem so prayerful, content, proud of their lives, really devout models of motherhood for all of us, right?

Then I realized, maybe they aren’t like that either. They seem like models of perfected motherhood, but maybe their kids drive them crazy, or maybe they try not to regret that they can’t do more in that career that they loved, or they also are frightened each time they find themselves pregnant again.

Several babies ago I was done, as we hear so many moms say. I was dealing with postpartum depression, a houseful of toddlers, family difficulties, and a vision of the future as years of the same chaos. I thought I made it clear to God that I had done more than my share in His procreation thing. But when He brought the next pregnancies – and as many miscarriages as deliveries – I understood that I might have been done, but God wasn’t, and I let Him take over for me. He got me through those struggles, even turning the struggles into joys, or at least helping me see the joy after the struggle.

My husband and I aren’t the best example of a modern understanding of the Church’s teaching on natural family planning, if you consider NFP a way to prevent pregnancies. But if you consider that the purpose of God’s plan for your body and your marriage is to share in His plan, and that NFP helps in that sharing, it has been a gift for me and my husband. We don’t do very well with sympto-thermal stuff, it’s true, but we’ve been forced to cling to each other through the struggles, finding joy in what we didn’t plan but God gave us anyway.

So I’m not one of those holy mothers of Big Catholic Families, because the mother who is constantly and consistently holy – well, there was only one, and her only child was God. I find comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who actually has to work to reach peace in my life. I’ve had to struggle to accept God’s will and I continue to struggle to become closer to Him, just like every other woman out there. If we as women can look at each other and remember that we each have different challenges and choices, that this isn’t easy for anyone, no matter how easy it looks for some, maybe we can help each other more in our journeys to Christ.

Submitted from Virginia

A Journey of Faith

My story is a journey of faith.  Not  to the point that God knew what was best, but that He knew what was best FOR ME.  There are lots of reasons – legitimate ones in my book – that led me down the path of artificial birth control.  A self-worth almost non-existent, a mom who projected her fear of just about everything onto me, a young marriage that really did not know how to communicate on these kinds of issues, and a broken heart over the loss of 2 pregnancies. But mostly it was my fear of failing that kept me from trusting in God completely, kept me from trusting my husband, myself. So it was about control and power and I was the one in charge.

After a few years of married life on the pill, we decided it was time to start a family.  Five or so years later we still were not pregnant.   We started investigating possible reasons this might not be working.  Around the same time, I began spending time with women who embraced God’s love and plan for marriage and family and I began surrounding myself with families who loved Christ so much, you could see it in everything they did.  This, my friends, began to rub off.  And one day a week or so before we were heading to Dominion Fertility to see what was what, I had a reversion.  I told God “Thy Will Be Done” and meant it for the first time in my life. Turns out I got pregnant three or so days later and never needed to return to the “fertility specialist.;” I had already had my appointment with the best – God Himself!

And so began my journey of faith with NFP.  It was bumpy and not consistent.  I wish I had been more educated on how NFP works, because not having the full instruction, if you will, I believe we missed out on a  lot.  I think having this as a part of our marriage would have truly strengthened us as a couple much earlier in our life together. And I will tell you that once we stopped using artificial birth control our intimate time together became so much more. And though we have come through some fire together stronger for sure, there are times when we struggle with topics or issues that I suspect had we been more open to life and GOD’S plan from the beginning, not ours, we’d find ourselves resolving things differently.

Now, I have three incredible earthly daughters (and three blessed heavenly children) and am here to tell about it.  That is a great gift that I do not take for granted.  I heard a priest say the other day, “You have to have a few cracks here and there so the light can come through and shine, right?”  I truly believe that my brokenness led to God’s light being able to shine right on in.  Now I hope to offer witness to you.

Submitted from Virginia

We Contracepted – I Was Ignorant

I am a cradle Catholic, from a large family in the mid-west.  I grew up going to church on Sundays, CCD classes once a week, and confession once in a blue moon.   We were one of the only big families that I knew of, and it seemed to me that like dinosaurs, big Catholic families had become extinct.  Neither my parents nor my parish were teaching the faith.  At my parish they talked about Jesus and God and love, but not about doctrine.  At home we said grace before meals and that was it.  On some level I knew that our large family had something to do with church doctrine, but I never learned about that doctrine at church or at home and I just never thought about it.

I stopped going to church when I entered college for a couple of reasons.  For one, there was no one there to make me go. The other reason was that I didn’t know the truths that would compel me to go.  The truth is very compelling, but I was ignorant.

I met my husband on campus, he was also a cradle Catholic.  After college we sought to be married in the Catholic church out of respect for tradition, ritual, and a desire to not rock the boat.  I don’t think either of us really understood what we were choosing.  Getting married in a Catholic church was just what you did in our families.  We went through pre-canna counseling during which the priest told us “the church asks that you be open to children to keep you from being selfish.  My married friends tell me that children have a way of doing that…keeping you from being selfish.” That was it.  I perceived this comment as a “oh by the way the rules are that I have to say this” comment.  Had I been better catechized I might have perceived it as an invitation to ask about church doctrine, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.

We contracepted.  Fifteen years into marriage we had 3 wonderful children, but something was wrong.  I was miserable and my husband and I were often fighting.   For Lent I decided that I would start attending my parish mom’s group meeting.  At one of these meetings a couple of moms started talking about NFP.  I was shocked.  By this time we had moved to Virginia and I knew that the church was against contraception but I didn’t know why and certainly didn’t realize that anyone was actually living this teaching.  I was so ignorant.  I really thought that no one could possibly be living this teaching in today’s world so I was floored that these women were living it and talking about it.

The next meeting I went to, a friend of mine was passing out Janet Smith’s CD entitled “Contraception Why Not?”  I was not interested.  I thought that even if the church was teaching it and some people were living it, it would still be impossible for me.   I ended up taking the CD and agreeing to listen to it, just to please my friend.  I thought to myself “there is no way that anything on this CD could change my mind and it would really please my friend if I listened to it, so I’ll do it to please her”.

A funny thing happened that day.  I listened to the CD and completely changed my mind about contraception.  For the first time I heard the church’s teaching and reasoning on contraception and I was blessed with the grace to recognize it as true, good, and beautiful.  I was done contracepting.

The next few years were a little bumpy as I began making significant changes in my life.  My refusal to contracept required my husband’s cooperation and it was a few years before he was on board.  Those years were difficult for me, having embraced the truth but not being able to fully live it yet.  I spent much time in those years praying and offering up my suffering in reparation for the years that I had lived in deliberate ignorance.  I began going to confession frequently and starting learning about my faith in earnest.  What I found is that at first glance church doctrine looks difficult if not impossible to live in today’s secular world.  However, as I began learning what the church taught and then living it, my life and my marriage kept getting better and better.

Living my Catholic faith can be a struggle at times but it is a joyful struggle.  I’d choose this joyful struggle over my previous ignorant misery any day and every day!

Submitted from Virginia