Tag Archives: NFP

A Reflection on Extended Breastfeeding

I feel as if I am coming a bit “out of the closet” as I disclose that I am still breastfeeding my almost 3-year old daughter.

Of course, it is heartening to have at least one professional organization, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), encourage breastfeeding up to two years and beyond Breastfeedingwhenever possible. I also draw support from books such as these, which reaffirm me in the true physical, psychological, emotional, and economical benefits, and offer tips for certain situations. But when I take a personal inventory of acquaintances, I find I know not one other person who is currently breastfeeding a toddler as I am (unless they too are in the closet?), and knowing that there may be others like myself who desire community of this sort prompts me to share some encouraging thoughts.

Most moms of young children these days cease breastfeeding relationship early because they must return to work, sometimes by 6 weeks. As we prepared for marriage, Jeremy and I agreed to work towards the goal of my being able to stay home to raise our children when the time came. This has not happened easily. There have been many challenges, and it is something we pray for guidance to continue to do. When our daughter turns 3, we will have breastfed for 156 weeks! Not something I can put on her birthday cake I suppose, but I would like to celebrate it anyhow. Those 156 weeks will represent for me a mother-child relationship I never dreamed could be so close.

I could go on for hours (and have!) about all the benefits of breastfeeding we have experienced. Another post, another time. Simply, though, it has given our daughter a healthy start in life in those areas previously mentioned (emotionally, physically, etc.).

One humbling thought: no one will ever have this same relationship with her. No one will ever be able to experience the closeness we share, the snuggles, smiles, and caresses we have exchanged. I wonder how many hours, minutes it has been? A million indescribable moments remain fixed between us in a bond that will last forever.

We also co-sleep (there goes another closet!), and I wish I could describe for you the joy of waking up together. From the time she was a tiny baby, it was the most precious, magical 4427378_f520time of the day. Some may imagine that the rest of the household, the husband/father and/or other children, suffer from this consumption of the mother’s time and energy, but that is like imagining that parents have only so much love and that another child will take away from everyone else’s share. It simply does not happen, and is only imagined by those who do not know that it can be any other way. When the quality of any relationship increases, it benefits the entire family, and in the case of breastfeeding, the result is a joy-filled child and mother whose cups brim over and spill out to the whole household.

A bit too poetical? Not even close.

In the same breath I will attest to the many challenges of breastfeeding, but they seem entirely inconsequential when I hold this growing child close and realize it will not last forever. And I must add, it is all made possible and easier by a loving, supportive husband who is entirely a blessing to me.

And so we thank Our Lord for having this time together, for it is a blessing from Him. Those who doubt the existence or closeness of a loving God-Father may doubt my prayer, but I don’t. There is something of Truth and Beauty reflected in this love my child and I share. He is in every moment.

Awesome Resource: 1Flesh.org

Have you heard about 1Flesh yet? A new movement (circa 2012), their goal is to promote natural family planning (non-method-specific) through University chapters and media campaigns, such as the one below.

Their tagline, “Bring Sexy Back,” reminds me of the words of Bl. Pope John Paul II. Though speaking about pornography at the time, it translates well in regards to human sexuality in general (taken from Theology of the Body I believe):

“[…]The problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person,
but that it shows far too little”.

Taking it a step further: the problem with Society’s portrayal of sex is not that it shows too much, but far too little. When people learn the truth about sex, the full and beautiful truth instead of a twisted one, they are liberated. Therefore, I wish 1Flesh all the best in their endeavors!

On CCL’s blog, The Art of NFP, there is an article Christina Ries wrote about her interview with 1Flesh’s president, Marie-Claire Reer. You should check it out here.

Incidentally, there is a 1Flesh chapter at Truman State University. Go Bulldogs!

Our Mission & Evangelii Gaudium

pope-FrancisPope Francis challenges me. There is no way for me to listen or read his words without feeling he is speaking directly to me and calling me to action.

One of the things I really appreciate about being a volunteer with the Couple to Couple League is that it is truly a ministry. As a couple, my husband and I can minister to other couples and families with a message that is sorely missing today. Together we can help build stronger marriages and thus stronger families. We do this through our NFP apostolate.

My husband recently found the following paragraph in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which seems to summarize our position within the Church. I thought it would be interesting to share not only with the general public to elaborate on our mission, but also with other CCL volunteers as a reminder of where we fit in the greater scheme and how we serve our communities:

“Other Church institutions, basic communities and small communities, movements, and forms of association are a source of enrichment for the Church, raised up by the Spirit for evangelizing different areas and sectors. Frequently they bring a new evangelizing fervour and a new capacity for dialogue with the world whereby the Church is renewed. But it will prove beneficial for them not to lose contact with the rich reality of the local parish and to participate readily in the overall pastoral activity of the particular Church. This kind of integration will prevent them from concentrating only on part of the Gospel or the Church, or becoming nomads without roots.” (Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph 29).

Blessings!

 

Premenopause Transition Classes & 2014 Class Schedule

Source: photo.elsoar.com

Source: photo.elsoar.com

Wow, have you seen our 2014 class schedule? It is looking great! Two classes have already started and the year is just beginning.

And we have two – count ’em TWO! – Premenopause Transition courses scheduled as well: June 8th and August 9th.

The Transition classes are complementary to the Main Class Series. As the name implies, in the Main Class Series you learn all you need to know to practice the sympto-thermal method, but these two type of life events, postpartum and premenopause, can be a little tricky and have special rules in regards to interpreting the mucus patterns that are affected by the changing hormone levels. Amazingly, the rules for both are just about the same which is why CCL has combined the courses into one book simply called Transitions Student Guide. Though rules may overlap at times, the end result is different (return of fertility after childbirth vs. approaching the end of the fertile years), and so it is taught in two separate courses.

At this time, Postpartum classes are scheduled upon request, usually because the time when a woman is ready for that course depends upon her due date and so on. The Premenopause class, however, is something that a woman may take anytime, usually close to the time that she suspects the change is coming or that it will come in a year or two. Learning the materials ahead of time is always helping not only in successfully interpreting cycles but also to prepare, even emotionally, for the changes to come, and to learn ways to stay healthy during the changes.

For those with current membership to CCL, there is no additional cost to take any Transition course, or, for that matter, an Upgrade Class for those who would like a refresher to the Main Class Series. The only cost is that of the student guide books, which can be purchased when registering for a class. For those without current membership, there is simply a small fee in addition to the book.

So, check out our schedules, bookmark or pass them along! You never know who might be interested, and we can always use the extra help in spreading the word.

Peace!

Sharing the Journey: Miscarriage

Mourning from Pixaby.com

Miscarriage: what a loaded word! Technically, it means the spontaneous abortion of a fetus, but miscarriage is not a technical experience. It hits at the core of the person, and it happens more often than we realize. It is estimated that between 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, which means 1-2 out of every 10, though that number may be as high as 50% as many occur before a pregnancy is suspected. Regardless, miscarriage affects many, many families.

In this post we would like to share our story of miscarriage in hopes that it helps others in either dealing with their own loss or that of someone they know, and to pass along some of the things we learned along the way.

Our Story
It started one Friday afternoon when I began lightly spotting. We were about eight weeks along and already very excited about this new life. The bleeding wasn’t sufficient to warrant an emergency room visit, so it was not until Monday that I saw my doctor. We did an ultrasound and the doctor said the baby looked fine, though her development was off by two weeks and the heartbeat was slow. She kindly did not brush aside my worries, but she could not dispel them either, saying the spotting could be normal and the slow heart rate due to early gestational stage if we were off a couple of weeks calculating ovulation. Going home I felt a false sense of security, particularly because I knew I had calculated my ovulation correctly. I could have been off a day or two in my NFP charting, as any method can only pinpoint ovulation within a 24-48 hour period, but that did not account for two weeks lost in fetal development. If a miscarriage was occurring, nothing could be done. Maddeningly, all we could do was wait.

By the next Friday, only one week later, my pregnancy symptoms had almost entirely disappeared and the bleeding and cramping had increased. I was sure that the baby had died. I had been praying and preparing myself for that outcome, but that night it hit me and I wrestled with God for this baby. Though intense, it was short-lived, and by the grace of God I was able to pray for guidance and ultimately that God’s will be done. I knew what the following Monday’s ultrasound would find, but hearing the doctor confirm it that day made it all so final, and seeing the baby’s yet unformed body still in my womb brought my heart to my throat. Three pairs of hands were passing tissues, including our little two-year old daughter who was also stroking my face. Some moments are hard to relive, but somehow you need to remember them too.

That was a difficult week in many ways. While we felt a spiritual peace, it was also physically and emotionally painful, but that pain was necessary too. Pain can be redemptive, and this pain united us with our sweet deceased baby and allowed me to pray for her in a special way. We allowed some more time for me to pass the remaining tissue, but finally resorted to a D&C procedure the following Friday, just two short yet interminable weeks from the onset of bleeding. Surprisingly, by the afternoon of the D&C I had recovered so well that I felt physically better than I had before the pregnancy, which was almost harder than the being sick. It was another proof of separation from the baby we had already loved so much.

Though deeply personal, we do not mind sharing our story. Our tiny baby was just as much a person as one that had been born to live to an old age. A part of me wants to shout out to the entire world that she existed, that she was of inestimable value and dignity though her earthly existence was so short. Some would simply describe her as a fetus or tissue, but fetus describes her only as fully as corpus describes me. Though only two months along in the pregnancy, we loved her deeply, though we did not realize just how much until she was gone. When we knew she had died, we commended her to and named her after a patron saint, and are finding ways to remember her in our daily lives, for she will always be a part of our lives, and we hope to meet her in heaven one day.

Source: Pixaby.com.

Heavenly Ambiance from Pixaby.com.

Eternal Life & Baptism
Our baby’s heartbeat stopped a week before her body was expelled, and so she could not receive the sacrament of baptism. We found solace, however, in talking with a couple of priests about this, who assured us of God’s merciful love, as it says in the Catechism, “as regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1261). And so we know that we can trust God to be merciful and sweep up the souls of these little ones, Him who loves greater than we can ever know. (The Archdiocese of Boston’s webpage has a good question and answer section concerning baptism.)

Handling of the Remains & Burial
We do believe in the eternal life of the soul, but our human natures cry for some physical remembrance. The hardest part of all of this has been that we do not have a body to bless and bury. She is simply gone. While dealing with the bleeding and the trauma of miscarriage, one impossible question was how to handle our baby’s body when she passed. Typically I am not one to balk at tackling the difficult, but while in the thick of it I simply could not think about it. Both my husband and I were immobilized by shock and disbelief. By the time we found the voice to ask it was too late.

Since, we have learned that there are a few ways to give the remains their proper due. According to the Catholic Church’s Charter for Catholic Health Care Workers, “a dead aborted fetus [which, again, technical term for a miscarriage is spontaneous abortion] must be given the same respect as a human corpse. This means that it cannot be disposed of as just another item of rubbish. If at all possible it should be appropriately interred.” By the time we asked someone knowledgeable on the subject, it was too late to collect the remains, though I feel we should have had the common sense to do so. Our hearts, however, were in the right place, which ultimately is what matters most. We have been comforted by the priests we confessed to, whose kind, compassionate words mirror those of Father Peter West, quoted in a pamphlet on burial available through the Elizabeth Ministry website. He says that we should not blame ourselves for our ignorance: “Those who have disposed of their baby in a way other than burial should not feel guilty. They just didn’t know. But, in the future, we should try to show greater respect for the sanctity of life by our care for the child who has been miscarried and by making sure that they have a decent and proper burial.”

And so, we now know that a baby’s remains should be collected in some way in order to give him or her a proper burial on sacred ground. Burial kits are available through Elizabeth Ministry International and can be rush shipped. With or without remains, it is possible and recommended to have a funeral, burial or prayer service, which could be either public or private. Also, asking for Masses to be said can be done at any time. The Archdiocese of Boston’s webpage has made available possible prayer or funeral services.

Resources
When we first began sharing our story, we were surprised to learn just how many of those among our acquaintance have experienced it. There are undoubtedly more who are simply unable or unwilling to talk about it. It is one of the most common complications of pregnancy, but it is not talked about, and so there is a great lack of understanding among the general public, especially in regards to addressing this deep grief. It is often not recognized as a loss, which makes it all so much harder.

If you are looking for a way to help someone who has experienced the death of a child, or would like to know for future reference, it is always helpful to read up on the subject and know what resources are available. You never know when this kind of information will be wanted. The Elizabeth Ministry website has a lot of great information on a variety of topics, notwithstanding miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death. Below are other resources and websites, including one very well-written article that really spoke to me about our loss, The Hidden Face of Love: An Open Letter to Women (and Men) Who Have Lost Children, and Those Who Know Them, by Maria Grizzetti. I highly recommend anyone and everyone to read it. Most of all, understanding that the loss of a child at any age or stage is a deep grief, and acknowledging that pain and loss is always a helpful thing to do.

Links

Note: This post is the second in a series entitled Sharing the Journey, in which NFP families share life experiences about one of the many direct or indirect ways the use of NFP influences our lives. The views expressed in these posts are personal in nature and do not necessarily reflect those of the Couple to Couple League, Inc.

The Diocese (and the Pope) are asking for our input

Pope Francis met with media

Pope Francis met with media (Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales))

You might have heard a couple of weeks ago that Pope Francis asked Catholic lay people to share their experiences at the grassroots level on some of the most difficult issues we face as a Church in the modern world. Many dioceses are choosing to do this in a centralized fashion, coordinating with parish councils and pastors, but not with the laity.

Bishop Gaydos, however, has asked the faithful of the Jeff City diocese to weigh in directly. Please take time to do this! The diocesan staff has posted a 15-question questionnaire to their website. This is your chance to share what you wish the clergy (of all levels) knew about trying to live the faith in the real world, and the support needed by the faithful.

http://diojeffcity.org/index.php/component/k2/item/71-family-synod-survey

The deadline is Dec. 18th. Please take time to share your thoughts!

How much do we waste?

this trash wanted to go in a can, but the can ...

this trash wanted to go in a can, but the can was too full, so it’s waiting for the next one (Photo credit: purplepix)

When a new neighbor moved into my neighborhood a few years ago, his first reaction to my brood of four kids was: “Oh…my…when we were having kids, it was all about ‘zero population growth.'”

NFP and big families are linked in the minds of the public, and this is one of the major hurdles we face in promoting NFP. Whatever your opinions on environmental policy, you can’t argue that we are called to be good stewards of creation: not using more than we consume, protecting the earth for future generations to enjoy.

In fact, as NFP users, you could say we have an even greater responsibility to be careful of how we use the earth simply because we often do choose to have more children than the “norm,” and that lays us open to criticism about our use of resources.

Sometimes we defend our choices based on the principle that more immortal souls can never a bad thing. While that’s true, I don’t think it’s the most effective response.

This article caught my eye this morning: Humans on course to triple waste by 2100. I am constantly appalled by the amount of trash I see on the curb in my neighborhood every week. I don’t understand how people who are at home a quarter of the time we are can generate five times as much trash. I think our best defense is to show by the way we live our lives and the way we teach our children to live their lives that a family of six or eight can actually have a significantly lower carbon footprint than a family of three or four. Because once we live it, we demonstrate that “bigger” doesn’t necessarily equal “more.”

What about you? What do you do to reduce waste and consumption in your families?

Sharing the Journey: Natural Parenting

Note: The views expressed in this post are personal in nature and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Couple to Couple League, Inc.

This post marks the beginning of a new series, Sharing the Journey, in which I and fellow NFP families will occasionally share about our own life experiences. They may deal directly with the use of NFP in our spousal relationships and planning our families, but probably more often than not we’ll talk about the indirect ways our uses of NFP influence our lives.

I consider myself a spontaneous organizer. Yes, that is basically an oxymoron. I am a conflicted person. My living and working space HAS to be organized otherwise I grow increasingly anxious and eventually break down or blow up, as my dear husband can tell you. However, I also enjoy changing things up (hence my constant rearranging of furniture), or deciding to go somewhere or do something at the last minute. Sometimes one attribute overwhelms the other, like when I suddenly decide to go somewhere only to realize I forgot to look up the directions beforehand and thus have absolutely no idea how to get there. True story, multiple times over.

Knowing this about myself, particularly the driving-without-directions tendency, when we found out we were expecting I threw myself into organizing mode, like big time. The funny thing is that despite growing up around babies and children, babysitting, and STUDYING child and family development as a major in college, no less, I suddenly forgot every single thing I ever knew and felt sure I did not know enough to subsist outside of the hospital. I began grabbing every parenting book I could get my hands on and scheduled Jeremy and me up for the entire series of child preparation classes the hospital provided. Still, when the day came for our scheduled C-section (how can you get more organized than planning the actual birth day, I’d like to know, though that wasn’t the intention), I felt so inadequate. I kept praying and chose to trust that God would guide us. And He has.

Soon after bringing our daughter home, I finally got my hands on a copy of the Sears’ Attachment Parenting book. I am not exaggerating when I say it changed everything, our whole approach to parenting. There were two other books that were also pivotal (Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood and Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, both by Sheila Kippley), but for some reason the Sears’ book really hit home. I learned that by following a few basic guidelines and allowing my mothering instinct to guide me in responding to our baby’s cues, everything would fall into place and the result would be a healthy, happy baby and family. The continually unfolding story of our lives is telling me that this is happening.

So, we threw all those modern ideas I had been reading about out the window and began simply listening and responding to our baby’s cues instead. It could not have been simpler! For example, before reading the section about sleep, we had tried getting up for night feedings and laying her in the bassinet by herself to sleep. When I read about co-sleeping, however, it seemed to directly meet the communicated need to be closer to us, through the long, dark night, and it solved our sleep deprivation problem. Thus, I morphed from Zombie-Mom to Happily-Adjusting-Mother-of-a-Newborn, which is a more pleasant state of existence for all involved. Then also, reading the section about babywearing and all the benefits of keeping baby close was so insightful and made so much sense!  She seemed so much happier close to our hearts, and to the sound she had heard for nine months, and then as she grew it was apparent she was benefiting from all of the constant interacting with us. And of course there was breastfeeding. I had already decided to exclusively breastfeed, but it was so reassuring to be reaffirmed in the practice of pacifying her at the breast, breastfeeding when she indicated a desire and not according to a schedule, and that in fact it meets not only nutritional needs but also a very essential emotional one as well. These are just a few out of the many experiences we have had.

All of these things made sense to use because of our practice of NFP. By charting my body’s naturally-occurring physiological changes, I have come to believe and trust in my body. I understand how it works and appreciate its natural design, its intricate workings so delicately balanced and set in motion. I know that it is the way it is for a reason. All I have to do is pay attention and then respond to my natural cues, which is precisely what natural parenting is: paying attention to my child’s natural cues and responding appropriately and lovingly.

The more I learn about NFP, natural parenting, or just nature in general, I am reaffirmed in the belief that God created me and all creation with a plan and purpose. He not only made it so that the deepest, most intimate act of love, the marital embrace, is life-creating, resulting in a totally new and unique human being (love with a name), but He also gives us everything we need to care for our families. One “proof” for me of all this is our daughter. She not only is a pure gift to Jeremy and me, a fruit of our married love, but the efforts of natural parenting has been a happy, healthy, well-adjusted little girl.

Yes, she is this happy all the time!

Yes, she is this happy all the time!

When the time comes, I hope you find the key to the world of natural parenting and discover that you have all the tools and skills you need to build strong bonds with your spouse and children, and a strong, harmonious family life. May God bless you on your journey!