Sunday, April 28, 2013

Contraceptive Culture Isn't Just About the Pill: Part Three

This is part three of my series on Contraceptive Culture. I've decided to write on a few topics that are of major concern to me. If you would like to guest post, please comment, and we can get in touch.


Before diving into the topic of today's post, I'd like to clarify what I mean by "Contraceptive Culture," and discuss its similarities to the term "Contraceptive Mentality." For the purposes of this series, I've been discussing contraceptive culture as a mode in which our society operates, its language and ideology produced by a contraceptive mentality. It is a mentality that fundamentally separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act, such that babies are no longer "natural" or necessary to the marital act. This mentality, has become so ubiquitous and pervasive since the widespread acceptance of artificial birth control (and even prior to it) that it has become a cultural way of thinking, and therefore has created a contraceptive culture. It has bled into every aspect of what are considered "cultural norms," even so that people who are staunchly against artificial birth control nevertheless have adopted the contraceptive mentality. The topics I've been discussing in this series are manifestations of the contraceptive mentality and its resulting culture in our society.

And now, on to our post for today. This one is especially interesting to me because it speaks to just how much we, as a Catholic culture, have allowed the contraceptive mentality to seep into our ways of thinking, even while we are consciously and deliberately opposing contraception.

Now that I have a girl, and will be having a boy, I've already received comments such as, "Oh good, now you can be done!" or "Oh, perfect. The perfect family!" or "Since you're not having another girl, can I have your baby girl clothes?" (seriously, someone asked me that.) As if I don't hope and pray that with PCOS and  a devastating loss in my past, I can still accept as many children as God will give me. And as if the "perfect family" has only to do with the number and gender of the children I have.

Yet comments like these betray the contraceptive mentality and the expectations it puts on our culture so poignantly. And even when we purposely oppose this mentality, we can still be made to feel as if we've failed at it.

Please read Dwija's post, "NFP doesn't work. You have so many kids!" if you haven't already. **Please note that I am aware that some parts of this post, and some of the comments, will strike those struggling with infertility and subfertility. I don't suggest this reading without being fully aware of that. I will say right up front, I obviously cannot relate to the problem of having what society deems as "too many children."  And those dealing with childlessness are dealing with the converse and simultaneously mixed message of a society that is telling them, "Um, you know how to have kids, right? You just stop using birth control/relax/pray harder/try IVF/all-the-other-asinine-advice-you've-ever-been-given-about-conceiving."

And this woman, struggling with infertility, must face other, more particular and scary demons in this contraceptive culture. And how twisted is that? The devil can twist the truth to points completely illogical and confounding. However, for the sake of discussion on the topic of contraceptive culture, I think reading it is really important.

Have you read it yet? Well, go read it. Then come back here for a quick follow up.

Dwija's post could easily stand alone, I think, without me having to repost it. Still, I think it is worth highlighting that the entire reason that Dwija had to write such a post (and a really good one in my opinion) is because the contraceptive mentality has invaded even our own thinking about having children. It is such that the inability or unwillingness to actively prevent and limit children in marriage with NFP is a social FAILURE. The contraceptive culture says, "Hello? Don't you know you can prevent having more than two children? You should really get a handle on that. Stop using NFP and use birth control instead. NFP doesn't work."

And, as Dwija says, what we should be saying to these people is, among other things, "Hello? NFP isn't meant to be a child prevention technique. It's a method that creates fertility awareness, and I'm not stupid. My goal isn't necessarily to prevent children."

But we don't. Instead, we tell ourselves and the world, "Oh, I have more than two children. I am a failure at child prevention." This is how penetrating the contraceptive mentality really is.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Happy Friday everyone! I'm really praising the Lord this morning for a Friday. I am ready for a weekend, ready to get moving. Also, so so glad Jen is back in the game. Praised be Jesus!

How to Quit Your Job
While I probably don't hate my job as much as this guy,
I am SUPER happy to be moving on with my life.
1. I'm giving my notice to my current job next week. I'm trying to give them three weeks or more, but even so, I feel nervous about the conversation I'll have to have with my boss. I'm just really hoping it is a positive end to the year I've spent there.

2. I am getting more and more excited about moving to our new state. This is going to be one CRAZY adventure--thank the Lord for his provision, because with out it, I'd be so much more anxious. Also, Hubby has promised to take me to the beach this summer! What's not to love about that?

3. I have so much to do in the next few weeks. I'm hoping I don't forget anything serious. I need to make lists, and actually check things off of them.

4. Last night little A says to me, "Mommy? The big bad wolf can't ride in my big pink truck (she is imagining the pink truck), but the Lord Jesus can. And He's gonna Loooooooove it!"

5. I need ideas for how to decorate our new apartment--where all the walls are white, and I am not allowed to paint. I am extremely bad at interior decoration, and have practically no patience for it. Pinterest overwhelms me. Anyone have any ideas??

6. Have you ever seen the movie Moonstruck, with Cher and Nicolas Cage? It's the best B movie evah! I once forced Hubby to watch it with me, and he teased me for months about the cheesiness of it. If you have seen it, you know about Cosmo's moon. (It's one of my favorite parts of the film.) Well, the moon has been full these past couple of days, and here in my area, it shines sooooo brightly.

Hubby called me last night from our new state, where he sleeps on an air mattress (which also serves as his only piece of furniture) and said to me, "Honey, I miss you. Are you looking at Cosmo's moon? I am. It makes me miss you."

7. Little A also noticed the moon last night. Except it was a painting of the moon, done by my sister for little A, when I was pregnant with her. When little A said, "Mommy! Do you see the moon??" I explained that the moon was a sign of Maria Luna, who reflects the Sun (Son--Jesus). She said, "Maria Loooooooona? Lord Jesus must be sooooo happy!"

I think it's the joy of my life that my little one knows the name of Jesus.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Contraceptive Culture Isn't Just About the Pill: Part Two

This is part two on a series on our Contraceptive Culture. You can find part one here. I've decided to write on a few topics that are of major concern to me. If you would like to write a guest post, please comment, and we can get in touch.


The Catholic blogs were alive with debate earlier this week on the topic of "screaming" babies at Mass. From what I can tell, the conversation began on Deacon Greg's blog, continued at Barefoot and Pregnant, was elaborated upon at Dr. Greg's blog, and then Leila chimed in too. Clearly, we all have strong opinions about this topic. Well. I can't help myself. I'm making today's installment on the Contraceptive Culture series my own commentary on this issue.

There were lots of good points shared on both sides of this debate, but I'm going to have to mostly agree with Calah (Barefoot and Pregnant). We have many many young children in our parish, and a lot of mothers who bring their children alone because husbands are doing something extremely sacrificial for their families and cannot attend (they are deployed, or like my husband, on a mission to secure a job and housing for his family before a move). If I didn't take my toddler, I wouldn't go to Mass. It's that simple.

The thing I'd like to add to this conversation is the notion that it's a contraceptive culture that encourages our desire to cut off people who are parents from the things parents do (such as bring young children to Mass and train them up in the faith). It's a contraceptive culture that tells us that humans do not have to be connected to what is good and natural for humans to do, such as train children--from their baptisms as infants into adulthood--to love, serve, and worship God in the Mass. It's a contraceptive culture that says children under a certain age are not to be brought into the house of God. My apologies for being blunt, but can't people see that arbitrarily separating a baptized Christian from Jesus in the Mass is an arbitrary separation of a human from what that human naturally does and is commanded by God to do? To me, it is essentially the same as separating the unitive and procreative elements of the marital act. And the same as separating the pregnant mother from the act of carrying out her pregnancy to term via abortion.

My analogies here may sound extreme, but the principle is the same between all of them. And the mentality put forth by our contraceptive culture regarding abortion and contraception has vast effects on the way we think about even the smallest things.

My two year old is not a perfect angel at Mass. She's just not. But, because I bring her to Mass, she knows the words "crucifix" and "monstrance," and the songs "O Salutaris" and "Immaculate Mary." She knows what she is supposed to do at Mass (whisper, sit nicely, read her books, make the sign of the Cross, cross her arms over her chest in the Communion line, genuflect, and pray). She knows that if she misbehaves, we go in timeout and then immediately back into Mass. If I didn't bring her to Mass until some arbitrary age when she was "ready," she wouldn't know any of these things, and we'd have to start training her at age five or whatever age I chose.

I can truly understand the desire for people to focus at Mass, and have some silence. I cantor at our parish regularly, and it is sometimes very difficult to do my job, and worship God, all while the various distractions are working to keep me from glorifying God in His Mass through leading the congregation in worship. And as a parent, I am extremely sensitive to my child's own behavior and how it could be distracting others. Yet, no matter how much I want to focus at Mass, I simply cannot justify requesting that young children not be there for the simple fact that the request would betray a contraceptive mentality.

For me it is simple: we are a pro-life people of Christ. It doesn't just mean that we protest the horror of abortion, or oppose hormonal contraceptives and sterilizations. It doesn't just mean that we remain open to life in our marriages.

It also means that when life happens around us, when we witness difficulty in the lives of others (including small children and their parents at Mass), or are displeased by events in the lives of others, or when the lives of others inconvenience us or even cause us physical pain, we forgive, we pray, we show compassion, and we love one another. We may not understand the lives of others, but we praise God that there is life to be witnessed. 

It is a contraceptive culture that says otherwise.

**See also: Haley's post: How My Kids Didn't Ruin Mass

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Contraceptive Culture Isn't Just About the Pill: Part One

This is part one of a forthcoming series on our Contraceptive Culture. I've decided to write on a few topics that are of major concern to me. If you would like to write a guest post, please comment, and we can get in touch.


Yesterday a friend of mine, who is currently nursing her three month old, was called to jury duty. She called to ask about whether she could be excused to pump during the trial days. They declined to allow her the time to pump. Instead of letting her know that they just couldn't accommodate nursing mothers during trials, they told her to simply fill out an "undue hardship" form, and dismissed her from duty.

This says something about our confused society, and its contraceptive culture. I understand why it would be difficult to excuse a juror to allow her to pump during a trial, but the language we, as a society, use to describe her reason for dismissal--undue hardship--is telling. It indicates that a mother, a woman, who is doing something completely natural to her essence (nursing a baby) is experiencing an undue hardship in general, not to mention one which prevents her from fulfilling her civic duty. The language is discriminatory, and inaccurate. I'm not asking the judicial system to allow breaks every three hours in a trial just so that women can nurse. I'm asking them to change the language they use for exceptions such as these.

Why am I so upset about language? Aren't I being a little fastidious? Am I just overly concerned with semantics?

I would argue that the way we speak, the language we use, shapes our thoughts and attitudes. Language is meant to express thoughts and attitudes, but because language is a limited expression, it also limits the way we think about things. This is why we, in the pro-life movement balk at being called "anti-choice" or "anti-women's rights." These terms are not only inaccurate (they don't describe what we actually stand for), they are offensive (they describe us, as a people, in negative terms).

Thus, when we describe nursing mothers as having an undue hardship, we introduce a multitude of complications into the matter of women and civic duty, women and motherhood, babies and children. The problem, for me, is that  the description for undue hardship, at least in my state, includes nursing mothers among other things that are actually undue hardships such as mental or physical incompetence. I just don't see why they couldn't have an exemption for nursing mothers, and just call it that. As it stands, designating nursing mothers with the term "hardship" indicates that nursing a child is "something that causes or entails suffering or privation" (Webster's). And this is where we come down to contraceptive culture.

A woman nursing a child does not actually entail a hardship. (Now, I know that for some women, nursing is difficult or impossible, and I do not mean to start the debate about nursing or formula feeding here. This isn't that discussion.) A nursing mother, one such as my friend, is not experiencing suffering or privation by nursing her baby; this makes the term "hardship" inaccurate.

Moreover, I argue that this term is also offensive, because it puts a negative connotation on nursing, and devalues the nursing mother's place in civic society. The use of "hardship" to describe the reason for excluding a nursing mother from her civic duty borders on discrimination, because it puts a value judgement on the act of nursing. It says, "nursing a baby is too hard on women" and by extension, "being a mother, doing something completely natural to (though not required of) a woman's essence, is a cause of suffering." (Of course being a mother does cause suffering and sacrifice, but as Catholics, we see these sufferings as redemptive. On the other hand, society views them as unnecessary, and therefore invalid.)

I understand the system must walk a fine line here. I know it is balancing the its inability (maybe even a justifiable inability) to accommodate nursing mothers, with their desire to accommodate women. Yet here is the cultural disconnect: Mothers are women. You cannot claim to accommodate women, and at the same time deem it a hardship to do what mothers do, such that they are excluded from the activity. Women who are mothers cannot be amputated from the actions of motherhood, or from their children, though our contraceptive culture would prefer it that way. 

You can legitimately disallow infants to enter a jury box. You can even legitimately say, "We cannot allow nursing jurors a 15 minute break every three hours (to pump) due to the nature of the trial proceedings."

Yet this system, and our culture, constantly engages in this game of separating the human person from what is good and natural for human beings, and then walking the fence-line of discrimination and value judgments based on these false premises. We wallow in mixed messages.

By all means, have sex, but don't have a baby! (That's what contraception and abortion are for!)

You can get married, but it doesn't matter if you're two men, two women, or one woman and one man!

We are feminists, but you can't call yourself a feminist unless you support free contraceptives and abortion on demand. 

You can be a mother, but don't do things that mothers do in public, such as nurse your baby or insist that your unborn child is actually a human.

You can be a woman and be pregnant, but don't ask for maternity leave, and especially don't ask for leave with pay!

We want women's rights, but not baby's rights.

We want women's rights in the workplace, but not pregnant women (they are disabled!), and not nursing mothers (they are under undue hardship!)

Instead of all of this confusion, why not use language that actually says what we mean? Why co-opt words to mean things that they don't (feminism, marriage, and "choice" are some of these)? Why not avoid the inaccurate and offensive connotations of words that aren't necessary to describe a situation, such as "hardship," and use language that makes sense for the situation?

You may still wonder why I am so upset about words. The practice of using inappropriate or inaccurate language for situations like this is a big deal because it betrays societal attitudes regarding mothers, motherhood, babies, and humans in general. They are attitudes that are not favorable, or even logical and accurate, regarding women and motherhood, babies and humanity. That is why I'm so worked up about words.

In part two, I'll discuss the contraceptive culture betrayed by people's attitudes toward "screaming babies" at Mass.

Friday, April 19, 2013

7QT: Ridiculously Random, but then that's the nature of Quick Takes

These belated quick takes brought to you by Grace over at Camp Patton, while Jen and the little one (and family) get settled at home.

1. Remember last week when I said things were going really fast regarding our move? Well within a week's time, my hubby has established a domicile (that is, I reluctantly gave up control of this task, and signed a lease agreement without even seeing the place first). Hubby is convinced it is the right place, so I must trust. It has all the necessities on my list, and a pool to boot. I'm sure we'll be blessed with his choice.

2. You know how you go through stages in life where you have less friends than you used to have? Maybe it's just me, but I'm there right now, and it is lonely. Most of my dearest friends I left in Seattle years ago, and a few others are scattered around the country. I've begun to really pray that the Lord will send me a best friend once I get to our new state. I mean the kind of best friend who knows me and loves me inside and out. I really need a friend like that right now. The older I get, the harder it seems to be to find that kind of friendship.

3. Right now, really loving this song. It seems to fit right into my emotions regarding this last year (May 2012 to May 2013. (The lead singer of this band was a coworker of mine at Seattle University. Small world!) It's been a year of attachment and detachment, of looking forward, and letting go. Of much joy and excitement, and much pain and sorrow.

4. I'm spending most of today cleaning because my landlord will be showing our place to potential renters tomorrow. Cleaning is not fun, but I'm liking having things be thoroughly cleaned. I even busted out the magic eraser and buffed the crayon off the walls.

5. I haven't been able to speak of all the horrible things coming to light over the past week, what with the Gosnell trial, the Boston bombings (and ensuing craziness), and the explosions in West, TX. It's been a very bad week for America, and it's been difficult not to be so horrified that I just want to crawl into a hole. However, it is still Easter, and we are still called to Hope.

6. This little one (to the left) gives me hope on a daily basis, even though parenting her by myself right now takes a lot of energy that I don't always have. Children are such a testament to the Cross, by the great sacrifice they sometimes require, and by the great Love to which they witness. Having lost RG, I know I am so so blessed. Praised be God, the Almighty.

7. Does anyone know some good recipes/websites regarding cooking for just yourself? With hubby gone, I'm suddenly having a really hard time being motivated to make healthy meals just for myself. I mean, Little A will eat some of whatever I make, but I'm really not going to make a big meal just for myself and her. I need some inspiration!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Linking up with Jen over at Conversion Diary today for 7QT. Please pray for Jen and her newest addition as they all recover! Hopefully they will both be sent home soon in good condition!
**Edited: The link up is over at Camp Patton.

1. Loving this song right now. Also, check out the artist's shoes.

2. Mr. L left for our new state on Wednesday. It's already been an interesting couple of days running solo with Little A and and little peanut inside. I realize now how important it can be to be able to bend over! (I'm 18.5 weeks along now, and it's getting more difficult all of a sudden!)

3. Regarding moving, things are going so so fast. And the Lord is seriously putting everything into place for us. In the last ten days, Mr. L was offered a job, bought a truck (for said job), and moved out. I had a birthday, said a temporary--but heart wrenching goodbye to my hubby, arranged walk-throughs of potential housing situations, attended a conference, and started looking into the daycare/nanny situation in our new city. The whirlwind has only just started, though, so I'm praying for the Lord's providence here. It's all under His control.

4. Little A was confused about the whole birthday thing. She wished herself a happy birthday yesterday morning, and then she wished her daddy one. Finally, by process of elimination, she got to me. Still, it was so sweet hearing "Happy Birdday, Momma!" come from her.

5. I don't think I formally announced it, though I've referred to it in passing here on the blog, but we are having a boy! I'd be so excited no matter what, considering this baby is thus far living and healthy, but we are very excited nonetheless.

6. With regard to No. 4, we're taking suggestions on names. We have some we like, but we need some variety in the mix to make sure we're making the right choice. Of course, we do like saint's names and otherwise traditional names.

7. I hope you all have a great weekend, filled with Christ's peace and joy in this Easter season.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It Never Goes Away

A few nights ago, little A, Mr. L, and I went to my mom and dad's house for our Sunday family dinner. We go to their house every Sunday for a family dinner, and this was no exception. When we pulled into the driveway, and got out of the car, it was freezing outside. The sky was spitting a rain and snow mixture, and the wind was gusting fiercely.


When I was a kid, growing up in that same house, we were never allowed to use the front door. We were to go through the garage, leaving the front door and its clean appearance for guests. Now that we are the guests, we get to use the front door. And so, ever since we started Sunday family dinner, we always make our way up the walk to the front door and let ourselves in. It's not very guest-ish to let yourself in, but I suppose we're hybrids that way. Guests and family.

And every time we walk up the walk to the front door, we walk past the place where Romeo Gerard is buried, and where a stone cross marks his grave. Every time, I look over at his resting place and think of him, briefly, but I rarely stop there. His burial place is not really where I am truly with him, and to tell you the truth, I can barely look at it without getting upset. So usually I glance over, and think of him, and walk past quite quickly.


On this cold, dreary afternoon, we walked up the walk, passed RG's grave, and I glanced at it as usual. But this time, I was literally struck by the rain and wind as I glanced over at his grave, such that I felt my breath escape me and couldn't breathe for a few seconds while I thought of him. I thought, "How cold, how freezing cold you must be, my sweet boy!" and I imagined, over the course of two or three seconds, how different things would be if I could have him wrapped in a blanket and snuggled to my chest, only three months old.

I know, intellectually, that his body has no need for warmth, and that the love of Christ is what keeps him out of the cold now, but I couldn't control this thought as the rain flew at my face, the wind causing each drop to sting.


The thing is, it never goes away. The love I have for him. The knowledge that he is real. The sadness over the fact that he is gone. The regret that I couldn't have saved him from dying. The realization that my life will never be as it was. That I will never have another day pass without thinking of my dead son. The reality that I must trust the Lord with this, forever.

Most days I do not cry. Most days, now, I can feel our new son kicking. Most days I rejoice in the blessings the Lord has given, including the absolute compulsion to trust Him which I could have only gained through losing RG. Most days I am happy.

But it will never really go away. Realizing that is hard.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter! (and some other mumble jumble)

First: He is risen! Alleluia!

That our Lord is risen is the greatest Hope!

Next: My lent did not go so well. It was so busy and full of decisions that  I just couldn't really put off. But more than this excuse, is the fact that I sometimes--many times--just forgot that it was Lent. I forgot to offer up my prayers for my husband, just a short two weeks in. I forgot to not eat meat sometimes (I can't believe this one--haven't I been Catholic my whole life? What is wrong with me?). And being exempt from the fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday did not lend well to my Lenten disposition. Still, the Lord reminded me that He is my One True Good, my Provider, my Salvation.

I've seen it written that the Lord allows you the Lent the He wants you to have, despite our best intentions. So maybe He just wanted my lent to be reminders of these attributes of His, because He knows I will need to cling to them as we enter into our next chapter of life. And that, if it is the Lord's doing, I will accept!

Lastly: My husband is moving to our new state next week in order to secure a job and housing. It's going to be a long six weeks without him. Please, if you have a prayer to spare, pray for him, and for everything to run smoothly with Little A and the little peanut while he's gone.

I hope you've all had a blessed Easter; my prayers are with you for each of your intentions!