Author Archives: Tara K. E. Brelinsky

holy innocents

14 Pro-Life Resolutions to Make This Year

The feast of The Holy Innocents, celebrated on December 28th, really pricks my heart. Therefore, I find it rather disappointing that it seems to pass by each year without much attention. Certainly the Church calendar is dotted with the memorials of so many great martyrs, but the Holy Innocents offer us a particular model for our current culture.

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body christ

Why I Kneel For Jesus

Receiving on the hand had long been part of my routine, before it finally came to my attention that there was another, more preferable way. I suppose I just hadn’t given it all that much thought, sadly. In grade school we’d been taught the proper hand positioning, but my generation missed out on the altar rails and their purpose.

Yes, intellectually, I knew that the Body and Blood of Jesus is truly made manifest in the Eucharist, but I’d adopted a “casual” reverence. Hands crossed I quietly waited my turn in the communion line, until reaching the Extraordinary Minister at which point I accepted the Blessed Sacrament in my palm.

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12 Strategies for the 12 Days of Christmas

This Advent season has been full: full of planning, full of preparing, full of hoping. However, I’ve made a concerted effort to keep “Christmas” at bay. It’s not that I’m a grinch, no, quite the contrary. Our annual Christmas letter was sent out, we’ve been faithfully praying the Christmas novena, and I’ve been wishing all those helpful store cashiers a “Merry Christmas,” but the focus in our house has been on the anticipation. My plan is to celebrate Christmas and to celebrate it to the fullest (all 12 days of it) when it actually arrives on December 25th.

Here are our 12 strategies for making the most of the 12 Days of Christmas:

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Sick of Healthcare Premiums? Samaritan Ministries Has a Better Plan for You

I am not a paid advertiser for Samaritan Ministries and the opinions/experience I put forth here are my own. If you choose to become a SM member and you offer my name as a referral, my family will receive a credit that reduces one month’s share on our account.

About three years ago I was working hard to save my unborn baby. Part of that work required me to have a couple of ultrasounds performed during the first trimester. Since we had standard medical insurance at that time, I simply agreed to use the doctors’ referred sonographers.

The first exam was a great experience. The technician spent thirty minutes or more exploring my womb and the surrounding organs. She explained, as well as showed us, everything. The cost for that ultrasound rang in at just about $350. Continue reading

Pulling Back the Veil and Exposing Your Genuine Fears

facing your fear

As far back as I can remember, heights have posed an unwelcomed challenge. I was the kid who scaled the jungle-gym only to become paralyzed at the summit and tearfully beg for rescue. Ferris wheels are totally off-limits and even today escalators require a mental strategy.

So, I never dreamed of spending my days balancing atop an extension ladder, but the chipped and peeling exterior of our house begged for my attention.

After repainting the easy-to-reach portions, my three-step ladder quickly became insufficient. Lacking the superhero trait of Mr. Fantastic, I had to engage some problem solving skills and a ladder seemed my next best option.

Some Self-Hypnosis

It took a little self-hypnosis of sorts to talk myself up that first ladder, but work awaited and time was fleeting. I let go a little and convinced myself that a fall from a standard ladder couldn’t inflict too much damage.

Now our lovely home was built on a downgrade, so while the front door was a mere three steps from the solid ground, the rear was two-stories above stable earth. That standard ladder only raised my stature to the lower heights of the our home’s backside and painting only half of the house didn’t appear sensible. An extension ladder became unavoidable.

climbing ladder  paint house

Step by step, paint supplies balanced in my right hand as my left hand secured its death grip on the metal side rail, I inched ever higher toward the firmament.

Positioned at the ladder’s apex, I briefly dared to look down, a long, long way down. My previous risk estimations made from atop the standard ladder somehow didn’t ease my mind because from this height surely parts could break that might not be mendable.

Let Go of the Fear

Surrender and prayer were my last and best resorts. “Let go,” I persuaded, “let go of the fear.” Fear constrained me to the ground, but surrender could loose its hold. Reciting a prayer, I offered up my terror and released myself to the care and keeping of my guardian angel.

It’s amazing how fear has the potential to overpower in some cases or to protect in others.

Years ago I read a book by Gavin DeBecker called The Gift of Fear. In it Mr. DeBecker gave real life examples of how people’s natural-born fear mechanism or intuition set off red flags and sirens in the presence of serious dangers.

Those who listened to their internal sense typically avoided entering the danger zone or quickly fled before a perpetrator could inflict harm. Those who over-rationalized away their instinct generally paid a painful price. In those cases, fear was a gift bestowed on the individual, a signal by which they could gauge a circumstance or assess a stranger’s unspoken intent.

Fear Needs to Be Addressed

While teaching Natural Family Planning (NFP), I realized that fear really needs to be addressed.

Often we have lovely, young couples register for our course to fulfill a marriage preparation requirement. Or sometimes they’ve attempted to self-study and feel the need for more instruction.

Patiently they sit through our witness talk and intently they follow along with the training, but sometimes I can detect it in their hesitations and read it in their body language. Some fear that they are not smart enough or vigilant enough to learn and apply the method so as to postpone a pregnancy.

Beneath that is the deeper fear of their procreative powers.

women fear fertility

Outside Forces Are In Control

Quite often the women have been controlling their cycles with hormonal birth control or contraceptive devices. These “outside forces” have led to the perception that fertility, or at least its suppression, is the responsibility of some “thing” not the individual woman.

She may feel relieved of her role in family planning beyond the routine exam and prescription refill. If an unexpected blessing comes along, she can “blame” the little one on a contraceptive failure.

Up to 99% Effective

Truly, the effectiveness rate of NFP methods (also known as Fertility Awareness or FAM) are equal to (up to 99% effective) the best contraceptive rates (though that doesn’t mean they are morally or ethically equal).

A woman has the same chance of conceiving on the pill as she does practicing NFP/FAM. But the couple must practice self-mastery over their sexual desires if their goal is to postpone a pregnancy with a natural method.

Our modern culture has duped couples into believing that sex has only one purpose when in truth it is meant to be both unitive and procreative.

Sometimes people question why birth control is unethical if naturally spacing children is not. Rightly, couples can deem themselves not in a position to welcome a child at a given time, but their plan to avoid the fertile time doesn’t directly frustrate that procreative end.

God designed woman with fertile and infertile phases in her cycles and in choosing to abstain during the fertile time, the couple is simply working within the system God designed.

Ends Don’t Justify Means

A well used analogy goes like this: Two men have families to support. One man gets a legitimate job, works hard and provides his family’s needs. The other man sells illegal drugs, makes fast cash and pays his bills. Both men have fulfilled their role as provider, but clearly their methods are not equal.

The ends don’t make the means ethical.

The culture also pushes the notion that children are a burden to the marriage/family, so fear stems from that thinking. We’re suppose to worry about college tuition, braces and trips to Disney World even before the baby is born. It’s no wonder newlyweds are frightened at the prospect of enlarging their family circle.

Far from true, children bring countless gifts to a family. They create an environment that invites their parents to move beyond their small, self-serving circle. Additionally, when marital trials come (as they always do) parents have a vested interest in working out their differences in order to preserve stability for their children.

Unexpected Pregnancy

Let’s think about the term unexpected pregnancy. If a couple is engaging in the sexual embrace, they risk a pregnancy. It doesn’t matter if they are contracepting or not, sex between a fertile man and a fertile woman (during the fertile time) can result in a child (that’s why the only 100% effective means of avoiding pregnancy is 100% abstinence).

So the term is illogical. Sex produces babies at least some of the time. Couples who practice NFP/FAM understand that and take responsibility for it.

Fear, in the case of our students, isn’t a helpful natural instinct, but an emotion fueled by man-made distortions. Couples need to identify their fear, face its source and than work together to overcome that which is erroneous or misplaced.

Once they manage that task, they are better prepared to ascend the ladder of faith together. In time, some will even learn to surrender their man-made plans, allowing God to expand their limited view of happiness.

 

Follow along with the whole 6 part discussion on rethinking your family planning on www.blessingsinbrelinskyville.com

2015 March for Life: Why I Hate Marching But I Must

March for Life Washington DC 2015

Thursday morning started out way too early. By the faint light of the moon, we rose at 4am and began the task of getting ten people woken up, bundled up, filled up and buckled up.

Spirits were high, though still a bit groggy, when our big van rounded the driveway in route for a long journey. After completing an internal inventory of gloves, lunches, coats and kids, I tuned in the radio.

Like a wild fire doused with buckets of water, my heart was temporarily depressed as the newscaster reported that the Unborn Pain Capable Act had just been shelved by the Republicans. An insult to the injury that marked this day, I considered the timing of that decision a direct hit meant to snuff out the hopes of so many faithful who, for the 42nd time, were planning to put boots on the ground in the capitol city.

The Tiny Person in My Lap

Just less than thirty minutes later, we dashed onto the buses that pointed north. Sometime after roll-call, a blessing and breakfast, the baby on my lap relented and let sleep carry him away.

Sitting there admiring that little person, remembering the prayers I’d prayed to get him and the trials I’d endured to keep him, my heart felt heavy as salty tears tried to form in the corners of my eyes.

At that same time, the bus captain pressed the play button on a pro-life video in which a cast of players detailed the horrible history and statistics of abortion. A worthwhile film and one I’d watched last year, my mind went into overdrive in an attempt to ignore the movie.

My avoidance wasn’t connected to boredom, but to a self-preserving strategy that meant to guard my already fractured heart.

Thoughts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus burned in me. My stomach hurt thinking about the wounds He bore for such an ungrateful humanity.

Unborn Pain Capable Act

That Unborn Pain Capable Act my representatives cast aside would have given legal protection to a child at 20 weeks gestation and beyond. Thinking of not so very long ago when the body on my lap was wriggling inside of it, anger stirred in me as I thought about how easily another mother could execute her child even up to his/her date of delivery.

At its inception, proponents of Roe vs. Wade focused their arguments on the false debate that abortion didn’t end a life; it simply ended a pregnancy (as though pregnancy, when unwanted, doesn’t actually involve a baby).

Now with the advent of ultrasound, that argument fails. Common sense should dictate that good medicine would focus on truth and well-being thus eradicating the tragedy of abortion; but instead, the blood thirty Planned Parenthood-minded puppeteers simply rewrote their talking points.

Today, a woman’s right to comfort and ease trumps a baby’s right to life (end of story).

Taking Evil to a Deeper Level

This shift in debate takes the evil of abortion to a deeper level. While once young and frightened mothers could mask their deed behind the shield of ignorance, today they see clearly that the appointment at the clinic is nothing less than a date with an executioner.

And who can sanitize the job of the abortionist who wholeheartedly forces not only the peanut-sized child from his mother’s womb, but today is free to kill her full-term child as well.

My husband asked me just last week how it is that I can still maintain a sense of shock and naivete whenever events like the Republicans’ refusal to stand by their public convictions occurs. I pointed out that hope causes me to invest in goodness, to believe that every sinner is only a step away from repentance.

Four hours later, the bus deposited our group in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for a diocesan Mass celebrated by our bishop.

basilica national shrine immaculate conception

Taking our pew, my eyes spied an image overhead of Christ pouring out His graces. With saints caught up beside Him, I remembered Who we are all called to serve at every moment (most especially in the most difficult ones). I drew strength from the picture, encouraged by the holy men, women and children who persevered throughout the ages.

My Marching Orders

Then as the responsorial psalm was sung, I couldn’t help but whisper a prayer of thanksgiving as God reminded me of my orders that day.  (Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17)

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
praying basilica national shrine“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
May all who seek you
exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, “The LORD be glorified.”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will

Gone to Do His Will

We were there for the Lord on Thursday, January 22nd, gone to do His will. Not matter if our representatives failed Him again, the opposition mocked us or our culture railed against His laws, we had to stay the course with ears open in obedience.

Later from our marching path, we caught sight of the dome of the US Capitol Building. Wrapped in scaffolding, I couldn’t help but find it a fitting visual for the day.

That majestic dome which invites the eyes upward has become weathered, cracked and eroded, like our government itself. Its beauty now shrouded under construction; it distracts the onlookers attention, keeping us earth-bound.

No matter what the appearance on the outside, the same structure exists inside, a structure erected under and to the Creator’s precepts.

42 Years

For 42 years, this pro-life march has been tread down the streets of our capitol and the halls of our legislatures.

For 42 years, unborn citizens have suffered the injustice of being discounted from the rally cry that ‘every life matters.’

For 42 years, the blind and deaf have stood in our governmental assembly whimpering a cowardly refrain and abandoning their convictions when the winds of self interest blow in their direction.

In juxtaposition, for 42 years, faithful men, women and children have come forth to speak with unrestrained lips, giving testimony with footsteps, to the glory of God and His creations, born and unborn.

Though we may tire of the task, feel un-welcomed, discouraged or overwhelmed we must and will continue to carry our signs, hold fast to our convictions and march forward until the day when every life matters according to the law and in every heart.

2015 DC March for Unborn

 

Your Food Is Organic, Your Family Planning Should Be Too

 birth control comparison

We no longer drink diet soda, eat a growing variety of sweets or chew gum because of artificial sweeteners. My husband switched us to tooth polish without fluoride and soap without antibacterial agents.

Our eggs come free-ranged, our bread whole grain, and our produce organic. Attending home school functions nowadays, we have to be mindful of gluten, nuts and food dyes in whatever we bring to share.

From sensitivities to allergies and everything in between, there’s an increased awareness of how what we put into our bodies affects our well-being. Labels contain ingredient lists, product packaging includes warnings and restaurants highlight low calorie menu items to aid consumers.

Cigarettes and Peanut Buttercigarette-110849_640

Once upon a time, airplanes and eateries had smoking sections and school lunches consisted of peanut butter and jelly on white bread. Today you’d be hard pressed to find even an outdoor event that welcomes tobacco users and whole school buildings are designated as nut-free.

Time and science have taught us a few lessons about toxins and disease, allergies and life threatening reactions. In fact, the government felt so compelled to protect the citizenry from harm that it now regulates sales and distribution of tobacco products (among a host of other things).

With this increased personal awareness and national concern over what is safe and what is not, you have to ask yourself why the Pill, a class 1 carcinogen (in the same category as tobacco, arsenic, and asbestos), would be routinely sold to a substantial percentage of the population without sufficient (if any) warning.

Even more curious is why adolescents, who can’t legally purchase tobacco, are often prescribed the Pill for off-label uses (especially considering there are safer alternatives).

If We’re Gonna Compare Labels

If we’re going to read labels and make educated choices about food, cleaning supplies and beverages, then let’s compare methods of family planning.

barrier birth control

  • Withdrawal is an age-old practice which has a lower effectiveness rate because it is not only difficult to practice, but sperm can be transmitted before full ejaculation. It is generally less physically satisfying to both partners.
  • Barrier methods that include the condom, sponge, cervical cap, diaphragm and spermicide range in effectiveness from 80-88%. Each requires a foreign body/substance to be inserted in the woman’s vagina increasing her risk of allergy or urinary tract infections. Spermicides can increase a woman’s risk of HIV infection. They can also be noisy, messy, costly and some require an initial physician’s visit.
  • Hormonal injections are said to be 97-99% effective, but require a physician’s assistance every 3 months. Studies show women had a more than three-fold risk increase of acquiring chlamydia and gonorrhea. Weight gain, decreased bone density, bleeding and injection site infection are all possible side effects. Injectable hormones have been known to continue effecting a woman’s fertility cycles for months to a year after stopping usage (possibly inhibiting conception in couples who were hoping to achieve a pregnancy).
  • Hormonal Implants are surgically placed under the skin for long term usage and are 99% effectiveness. Known side effects include irregular periods, depression, nervousness, hair loss, weight gain, and infection at the implantation site.
  • Pill claims 92-99% effectiveness. As stated in #3 of the post series, there are two types of the Pill and both are abortifacient. The combination (estrogen/progestin) Pill has three functions: to suppress ovulation, to slow sperm motility through thickened cervical mucus and to prevent implantation of a newly conceived child by depleting the endometrium of glycogen (this last function is abortifacient). Side effects include nausea, increased appetite, headaches, lowered libido, blood clots, death and increased risk of premenopausal birth cancer. Yazmin (Yaz) has been linked to 23 deaths in Canada.
  • IUDs claim 99% effectiveness, but (as I stated in #3 of this post series) it has been a continual source of litigation for its various makers. The non-hormonal variety is abortifacient and the hormonally imbedded IUD is sometimes abortifacient. Problems include bleeding, perforation of the uterus, migration of the device, increase of ectopic pregnancies, cramping, heavier/longer periods, spotting, infection, death and pelvic inflammatory disease leading to infertility. Dalcon Shield, the 1970’s IUD maker, went bankrupt because of law suits and Bayer, the maker of the current, popular Mirena IUD is currently being sued. FDA reports document more than 45,000 adverse events reported, including device expulsion/dislocation and vaginal hemorrhage.
  • Non-hormonal Tubal Blockage Device (aka Essure) claims 99% effectiveness. This device is really interesting because it claims to be non-surgically implanted, but I’m not sure how they reach a woman’s Fallopian tubes and call it non-surgical when lesser invasive, in-office procedures can be billed as surgical. Essure is permanent. Online anecdotes document a numerous problems with the device and its insertion and side effects include rash, bleeding, bloating, the need for hysterectomy and death. Since 2004, 850 Adverse Event Reports have been filed with the FDA.

Collateral Damage

Drop-sided cribs were outlawed after the deaths of a few dozen children, but tens of thousands of documented adverse events and the deaths of (at least) dozens of women (not to mention more than 55 million aborted babies) seem to be acceptable collateral damage.

  • Sterilization (male and female) is 99% effective and meant to be permanent (although there are some successful reversals). Men may experience a granuloma, long term testicular pain and decreased desire. Women are known to suffer regret, cramping, bleeding, increased risk of cervical cancer and Post Tubal Ligation Syndrome.

Total abstinence being the only 100% effective means of avoiding pregnancy, we need to realize that if a couple believes sex doesn’t equate to babies, they’ll want a back-up plan for the times their contraceptives fail. Abortion is that back-up.

While I found plenty of stats claiming that greater access to contraceptives leads to less abortion, it’s hard to square that claim with the more than 55 million abortions (not including those lives terminated by abortifacients) that have been performed since 1973.

Considering the above list of options, one would think that abortion should be rare, but more than 55 million is hardly a miniscule number.

  • Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is 98% effective, if the user follows proper guidelines. This method is highly effective for women who have given birth in the last 6 months, have not had a menstrual period or noticed the return of fertile cervical mucus and who are feeding from the breast only. Some women practicing LAM have experienced up to 24 months or more of delayed fertility (after birth). There are no side effects caused by the method.
  • Natural Family Planning Methods are 95-99% effective. Sometimes referred to as Fertility Awareness Methods, they range from methods that read only one bodily sign (temperature only or mucus only) to the Symptom-Thermal Method which reads two to three signs (temperature, mucus and cervix). Modern methods of NFP that exhibit the highest rates of effectiveness require couples to abstain from sexual relations during the fertile time of the cycle. There are no side effects caused by the method.

Connecting the Dots

Conversely, when couples connect sex with its procreative potential, the want for abortion declines if not disappears.

Natural methods reveal the power of the female fertility cycle, respect the wholeness of a woman and cause the lovers to become aware of the days when pregnancy is possible.

Why should one partner shoulder the sole burden of responsibility? When both are involved in the decision making and practice, they understand that their mutual actions have direct consequences.women's health

We’ve come to demand honest labeling, safety recalls and regulatory measures for everything from cigarette packs and alcohol to car seats and strollers, so why aren’t we demanding the same in women’s healthcare?

 

Follow along with the whole 6 part discussion on rethinking your family planning on www.blessingsinbrelinskyville.com.

 

Pope Francis Said What? On Rabbits and Responsible Parenthood

I’m taking a brief detour from my post series on birth control to address the recent comments made by our Holy Father.
Drifting down the aisle at Sam’s Club, my brood and I were busy absorbing all the sights as we awaited our pizza. Having just persuaded the seven of them (the baby was in the cart) to leave the books behind, we were absent-mindedly milling about when a man halted our parade. The stranger (an apparent nursery rhyme aficionado) began reciting, “There was an old lady who lived in a shoe, had so many children she didn’t know what to do” Seeing as my children were quite well-behaved (thankfully they generally are in public), I was baffled as to the reason for this unwarranted serenade.



Pope Francis’ recent rabbit comment has been splashed across the headlines. There are accusations, questions, criticisms and explanations. Admittedly, as a mama of a big brood who has endured more than a couple of comments (plus the aforementioned serenade) and as a teacher of Natural Family Planning with boots on the ground in the ministry, his comments touched a nerve. I cannot claim to know his motivations on the matter, but I am going to offer some balance to the statements he made.


On his trip home from Manila, Pope Francis stated,
“Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this.”

Certainly, his choice of the term rabbit must have been a simple oversight, but it still was one that could be called unsettling. Although it is probably more disturbing to families who’ve already experienced the judgment and ridicule of a society that equates a child to a burden or an environmental hazard. He is correct that not all couples are obliged to produce as many children as they are physically able to; however, that also does not mean that God is not calling some couples to total surrender.


Consider Pope Francis’ prior comments shared on the Feast of the Holy Family. “In a world often marked by egoism, a large family is a school of solidarity and of mission that’s of benefit to the entire society. Every family is a cell of society, but large families are richer and more vital cells.” These words seem to provide a counterbalance to the notion that responsible parenthood means simply that less children should be received.


Pope Francis also pointed the faithful toward the guidance of “experts” in this matter which reminded me of an instruction I’d come across during adoration some months ago. At the time I sprawled the comments in the back of my pocket calendar because they seemed necessary for me to keep close at hand. The book was Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and here’s his expert opinion: 
“If you are the father or mother of a family, you ought to conform your will to God’s with regard to the number or sex of the children He pleases to give you. When men were animated by the spirit of faith they regarded a large family as a gift of God and a blessing from heaven and considered God more than themselves as the father of their children.” He went on to say, “Never be afraid of relying too much on Him, but rather seek always to increase your trust more and more, for this is the most pleasing homage you can pay Him and it will be the measure of the graces you will receive. Little or much will be given you according as you have expected little or much.”

If Pope Francis issues us in the direction of our pastors as experts in the matter, there could be a difference in the direction we receive. The pope warned a mother, who was expecting her eighth child to be delivered by cesearean section, that she was tempting God, but Fr. Saint-Jure seems to instruct that we should never be afraid to rely too much on God. That leaves room for one to wonder what exactly makes someone an expert in guiding a couple in their family planning.
As an NFP teacher, I concur that there are licit means of postponing a child, but we must be clear that licit does not mean required. When we began teaching NFP a decade ago, we encouraged couples to prayerfully discern each cycle whether or not they had a serious reason to postpone a pregnancy. Later, the word serious was changed to a just reason (the change being attributed to a better translation) and now we have discarded both of those terms and replaced them with responsible parenthood.
I think the argument could be made in either direction as to whether in our age/culture the words (serious, just, responsible parenthood) bear the same weight and express the same meaning. But the more important point is that couples need to ask God (continually) to align their will with His, not the other way around. Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure says,
“He (God) promises solemnly to give them not only life everlasting but a hundredfold all things they deny themselves to please Him in this life (Matt 19:24). He further promises to ease the burden of His cross so as to lighten it; for He not only says that His yoke is sweet but adds that His burden is light (Matt 11:30). If then we do not experience the sweetness of Christ’s yoke not the lightness of the burden of the cross, it must be because we have not yet made the denial of our will and completely given up own human outlook so as to consider things in the light of faith.
Interestingly, Pope Francis said, “Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say ‘God knows how to help me’ and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.” He seems to acknowledge that some, but clearly not all, recognize a child as a treasure and he mentions the generosity of parents who see children as a treasure.
Of course, we should acknowledge the audiences he was considering when these comments were made. Because an impoverished, third world parent, who has no means of providing for a child’s basic needs, is not at all the same as the parent, who lives in a modern subdivision and eats five meals a day. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to use a broad brush in applying this idea of what exactly is responsible parenthood. Additionally, there is a real danger in one group discerning what is best for another (thinking of China’s one-child policy).
Clearly, his comments could use a bit more clarification, but I suppose it is a good that he has once again spurred a conversation about what the Church actually teaches. The large family is not by default more faithful, but neither is the small family automatically more responsible. There are licit means for planning a family, but there can be illicit intentions for doing so. We must all learn to listen. Not to the noisy banter of the media or even of those who might wish to serenade us with their opinions, we must listen to the small voice Who knows what is truly best for us, His children.

“It is very different from the serenity of spirit to be found in parents who are surrounded by a rich abundance of young lives. The joy that comes from the plentiful blessings of God breaks out in a thousand different ways and there is no fear that it will end. The brows of these fathers and mothers may be burdened with cares, but there is never a trace of that inner shadow that betrays anxiety of conscience or fear of an irreparable return to loneliness, Their youth never seems to fade away, as long as the sweet fragrance of a crib remains in the home, as long as the walls of the house echo to the silvery voices of children and grandchildren.

“Their heavy labors multiplied many times over, their redoubled sacrifices and their renunciation of costly amusements are generously rewarded even here below by the inexhaustible treasury of affection and tender hopes that dwell in their hearts without ever tiring them or bothering them.” Pope Pius XII

Knowledge Is Power: How Doctors and Big Pharma Profit From Ignorance Part 3 of 6


Cramming the pillow I’d brought from home a little more to my left, I attempted to placate the cramp that was forming in my back. After years of slumbering on a waterbed, this rock hard hospital bed felt like a torture rack. There I was trying to create a bit of comfort and counting down the minutes until I could scoop up my newest bundle and check-out when my midwife slid a chair beside me.
Having just given birth to my fourth child several hours prior, I figured she was stopping in to assess my rate of recovery since I’d made it clear that I wouldn’t stay a minute longer than the required twenty-four hours. She made a bit of small talk and then she looked me straight in the eyes and asked what kind of birth control prescription I wanted to take home with me so, “I wouldn’t have to do this again in nine months.”

Huh? was my first thought. Sure, I’d taken the pill for the first two years of my marriage (and suffered the daily nausea and monthly weep-fest), but in the previous eight years (prior to the baby I’d literally just delivered) I had only practiced Fertility Awareness (and successfully so, I might add). Clearly, this fact was documented in my chart and seeing as she and only one other midwife were my primary caregivers it seemed unlikely she was clueless to my choice. Mind you, she hadn’t saddled up to my bedside to chat about my thoughts/desires on family planning options. No, she was there to hawk a prescription and she was using fear to get the job done.
Looking back now it seems easy enough, I should have told her to go bugger off, but something was happening behind the scenes to which she was not privy. My faith was still in its elementary stage and my marriage was undergoing an intense trial (we were actually in counseling at the time), but I hadn’t shared that fact with my caregivers. It was like she was my temptress in the desert, come to offer me promises during my weakest hour if only I’d bow down to her plans. There I lie, sore from having just pushed a 7pound-something human out of a normally tiny space, thoughts swirling with the knowledge of the current state of my marriage and suddenly, illogically terrified that before there was time for mama-birth-amnesia to set-in I’d be back in this very hospital grunting and groaning baby number five into the world.
Planning to breastfeed, I suggested that the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM) had certainly worked well for me in the past (extending my postpartum infertility for more than six months each time). I also inquired how this drug might affect my newborn. No worries she told me, staying the course on her mission to get me contracepting, she’d just write a low level prescription for a progestin only pill. I stammered and stuttered and ultimately caved under the pressure.
Rolling my van up to the drug store drive-through a week later, everything inside of me was screaming NO, but I stuffed those thoughts and handed the sheet of paper to the girl behind the counter. During what seemed like an extra long wait time, I ran over the options in my head again. Then in what I can only chalk up to the grace of God, the pharmacist returned to tell me that they were out of those pills. She returned the white sheet of paper and informed me I’d have to try back in a few days. I never returned.
Comparatively speaking, I should count myself as lucky because a number of my girlfriends faced more egregious treatment during their postpartum visits. One friend’s doctor found it hard to take no for an answer, so he tried five times in the course of one conversation to strong-arm persuade her to allow him to insert an IUD. But the prize for un-professionalism goes to the doctor who upon being told no, threw the woman’s chart in her lap and said, “I’ll see you back here in nine months” as he stormed out of the exam room. I guess the free lunches and pharmaceutical kick backs must be pretty awesome for these obstetricians to want to dissuade a repeat customer?
“Knowledge is Power” was a theme song lyric in one of my favorite childhood programs. Indeed, knowledge is a powerful tool and with it we can make right choices. Unfortunately, there’s not much education going on in the gynecologist’s office. And I’d even boldly assert that women are intentional misinformed just as I was on the day my midwife undermined my beliefs and used fear-mongering to pass off a prescription.
Let’s do a little fact checking. 
The Pill utilizes synthetic estrogen/progestins to trick the pituitary gland into producing less Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Luteinizing Hormone in an to attempt to suppress ovulation. However, studies show there is a 2-8% chance of breakthrough ovulation in any given cycle while on the Pill, so it has two other built-in functions. The back-up measures of the Pill cause a thickening of the cervical mucus (to slow sperm motility) and a depletion of glycogen in the endometrium or lining of the uterus. This last mode of operation is abortifacient because it prevents a fertilized egg from being able to implant, thus forcing an early abortion.
The mini-pill, or progestin only pill, that my midwife was offering relies predominantly on the abortifacient mechanism of creating an inhospitable environment for implantation should a new life have been formed after a breakthrough ovulation. Sadly, I didn’t know this fact at the time and it wasn’t advertised to me. Additionally, the package inserts for the Pill offer a laundry list of possible side effects- from weight gain and decrease libido to blood clots and heart disease.
The IUD, an abortifacient device, that my friend’s doc was so eager to implant in her just vacated uterus has a high rate of effectiveness, so long as you don’t mind the possibility of headaches, acne, breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, mood changes, weight gain, ovarian cysts, cramping, pelvic infection, inflammation of the endometrium, perforation of the uterus, endometrial or cervical cancer  and high blood pressure.
A popular form of birth control in the 1970’s, Dalcon Shieldwas forced to remove its IUD from the market and declare bankruptcy after paying out millions of dollars in malpractice suits. You might assume the new Paraguard and Mirena IUDS are an improvement, but lawsuits filed against Bayer,  Mirena’s maker, tell a different story (well it’s really the same old story of harm done to women).
That LAM plan that I mentioned to my midwife has no negative side effects on the body and it is completely free. She may have snubbed her nose at my suggestion, but over the course of my mothering years it (along with the Sympto-thermal method of Natural Family Planning) has proven successful again and again. In fact, with my last three children I enjoyed a delay in my fertility (meaning no periods) for twelve to fourteen months beyond childbirth!
I suppose to be fair, I have to admit that I am not a reader of hearts so I do not know for certain the motives of these physicians. However, if their pledge is to first do no harm than their actions don’t support that position. In each of the three anecdotes I relayed (and I have LOTS more), my friends and I had not been contracepting before our pregnancies, we were not seeking birth control and we all expressed a hesitancy toward if not an out-right refusal of the unsolicited prescriptions.
Considering that birth control carries mild to serious risks and unpleasant side effects, women who opt in will require at least an annual (if not biannual) visit to their doctor. And if she suffers from depression, infection, cysts, etc. as a result of the birth control than she’ll need even more trips to the doc. Clearly, there is money to be made by both the birth control manufacturers and the doctors.
So what’s a woman to do? Well, like I said, knowledge is power and an informed woman has the power to make better choices. There are safe, effective means of postponing pregnancy. They require
education and little more. In fact, poor women in India, trained by sisters in Mother Teresa’s religious order, enjoy a 99.4% effectiveness rate in practicing a method of NFP according the World Health Organization. That should make you wonder why the Gates Foundation and our government are so persistent in their desire to export birth control drugs/devices to poor nations if the same end could be achieved through simple education alone.
In parts 1 and 2 of this post series, I discussed the necessity for women to reclaim their wholeness and  recognize their inherent feminine genius. We considered the intricate and readable dance of the female fertility cycle and now we see how mis-education/no education leaves women vulnerable to a healthcare system which too often places financial gain above all else. But good news lies ahead because once we unmask deceptions, review the science and evaluate the options, we women are then truly free to make wise decisions that respect our whole selves: body, mind and spirit.

Follow along with the whole 6 part discussion on rethinking your family planning. 
(1)Reclaiming Womanhood: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Birth Control Plan
(2)Demystified: How the Female Fertility Cycle Works;    
(4)If Your Food Is Organic Your Family Planning Should Be Too: The Nitty Gritty of Birth Control
(5)Pulling Back the Veil and Exposing Your Genuine Fears
(6)Now That You Know the Facts on Birth Control, What’s the Next Step? 
 

Demystified: How the Female Fertility Cycle Works Part 2 of 6

Springtime in my fourth grade year, they lined us up, boys on one side, girls on the other. The boys got shuffled off into one classroom, while we girls got ushered into another. Giddy and curious, we whispered and fidgeted while the teacher set-up her materials. That was the day I first heard about periods. By the end of the lesson, I knew enough to utilize a maxi-pad and understood the general gist of the fact that my body could one day grow a baby.
Over the years, my knowledge pool would grow (I’d graduate to tampons, discover Motrin for cramps and get myself put on contraceptives). But aside from the basic facts of menstruation and the understanding that I was fertile, the extent of my education hadn’t increased far beyond that fourth grade lesson. No worries though, my annual trips to the gynecologist were enough to leave me feeling confident that I had it all under control.

Married young, I suffered through our first few years together with daily bouts of nausea and monthly crying jags (okay, my poor hubby suffered too, having to contend with my nauseated, weeping self). We were in our early twenties and unready for children, so I swallowed my daily pill and accepted the unpleasant consequences. Finally, my husband had watched enough of my misery, so he suggested that I stop the pill. Eagerly, I abandoned that plastic wheel of synthetic hormones and secretly I hoped for a pregnancy.
Erratic, sporadic cycles of varying lengths followed my choice to ditch birth control. Clueless, I made an appointment with a doctor. In her office, I explained my reasons for coming off of the pill, shared that I was now only menstruating every few months and begged her help. She explained the pill could regulate my cycle problems, but I said I wasn’t interested in going back on birth control. So, she handed me a blank temperature chart with the simple instructions to take my temperature by mouth every morning, record the data and return in a few months. That was it. I left scratching my head.
Unfortunately, too many woman are left with the same rudimentary education that I had when it comes to their fertility and more often than not they, too, are receiving inadequate (if not downright erroneous) instruction from their doctor. For part 2 of this post series, we need to be educated about the female fertility cycle.
To define the term, a cycle begins on the first day of a woman’s menstruation and it ends on the day before the next menstruation starts. It consists of three phases. Phase I begins with menstruation and ends with the onset of signs of fertility. This phase is generally infertile, meaning it is unlikely that intercourse in this phase will result in a pregnancy. Phase II begins with the onset of the fertile signs and is thus fertile so intercourse during this phase can result in conception. Phase III is again infertile and it is determined to begin after measured bodily signs confirm that ovulation has completed.
Note that an ovulated egg is only fertile for approximately 24 hours, but Phase II generally ranges from seven to ten days. The reason for the discrepancy is because the female body produces fluids that aim to extend the life of sperm. Simply, those fluids allow the female body to store and nurture her partner’s sperm for up to five days after they have engaged in intercourse.
Fascinating really when you consider that under a microscope cervical mucus either displays a block pattern or a channel pattern. The block pattern (which is produced by infertile mucus) looks a bit like a brick wall and it creates a barrier against incoming sperm. In opposition, fertile mucus looks like open channels which corral the sperm (the channels actually filter out abnormally shaped-ones) and allow them unfettered passage toward the fallopian tubes.
Every women experiences the three phases in any given cycle, but the length of those phases is not necessarily static therefore individual women have individual cycle lengths. Hormones drive the dance of the female fertile cycle and in doing so those hormones cause readable changes in the woman’s body. I now know that the chart that doctor handed me was meant to record my basal body temperature, my temperature upon waking (at the same time each day and before eating, drinking or exercising).
Woman can assess their state of fertile/non-fertile by watching for progression in their cervical mucus, becoming familiar with the changes in position and firmness of their cervix and by confirming a sustained shift in their basal body temperature. With this information, a woman can determine, with a high rate of effectiveness (99%*), where she is in her cycle on any given day and apply that information to either achieve or postpone pregnancy.
To give an analogy and illustrate the changes, a woman’s cervical mucus follows a pattern similar to the pattern you see when you have a cold. Just as nasal mucus changes from not there to dry and sticky to wet and runny, so too cervical mucus morphs from state to state as its role changes from prohibiting the migration of sperm to facilitating the migration (although unlike nasal fluids, normal cervical mucus is a sign of health). And like a new flower bud starts out firm and tight, so is the cervical o’s hard and closed during the infertile phases. Then continuing like the bud, the cervix softens and widens in the hopes of allowing sperm to enter during the fertile time.
If she is seeking to avoid a conception, then the couple simply do not engage in sexual relations during the fertile phase. There’s no need for third party input, devices or prescription drugs, the couple need only choose to shelf or redirect their sexual desires for a time. Practicing periodic abstinence does nothing to harm or control the cycle. On the contrary, the ultimate green family planning, couples who work with the cycle never introduce chemicals into the body or the environment (because the woman on hormonal birth control deposits chemicals into the environment each time she flushes the toilet.) And then there’s the advantage of the “honeymoon effect” which we’ll talk about later in this post series.
When that doctor told me that the pill would fix my cycle irregularities, she was being dishonest. Hormonal birth control doesn’t correct the cycle, it only creates a bogus cycle. My problems would have been masked, not fixed. Sadly, many women buy this logic and unknowingly cover up a health problem. Unfortunately, once the pill taker finally decides she wants to conceive she may find that the timing wasn’t what she’d hoped for because there’s an underlying issue that she must now correct. That was my story, it took us more than a year each time when we were trying (in earnest) to conceive our oldest two children.
In part 1, I covered how woman needs to reclaim her wholeness. Society has fractured woman into a collection of parts and in doing so it has allowed men to say in effect, I want you darling, but not your fill-in-the-blank. From hair dye and false lashes to Botox and boob jobs, whole industries cater to our obsession to be something more or less or different than what nature would have us to be. I had a friend whose husband preferred blondes, so she spent years coloring her brunette locks to suit his taste. Finally, the day dawned when she realized she wasn’t a blonde and she didn’t necessarily care to be anymore. She informed her husband his blonde days were over. Thankfully, his love for her was more than “root” deep.
If a woman has to suppress her natural hormones and thwart her essence as a life-bearer in order to satisfy her partner than he is not honoring her dignity. He is picking and choosing among her attributes, saying, “I’ll take you, minus your fertility.” Whether consciously or not, he is rejecting a part of her.
Often women in our Natural Family Planning (NFP) classes come to this epiphany and it can be painful. We taught a doctor and his wife in one of our classes. I remember her turning to him midway through and asking if he’d known that the hormonal patch she’d been on had serious risks. He answered yes and she wanted to know why he allowed her to jeopardize her health when clearly there was no reason for it. He shrugged.
When women learn to read their cycles, they often report a renewed sense of self-worth. They see themselves as not only whole, but purposeful and they feel rightly entitled to be treated that way.
A healthy function of the female body, fertility can’t be separated out while still maintaining the balance of the whole. If you amputated your foot, some part of you would always be missing. You might learn to compensate for the absent appendage, but the fact would remain that some part of you was gone. Women often can’t place their finger on it, but they sense this. Not surprisingly, couples who practice a method of NFP have only a 5% rate of divorce by comparison to the 50% rate in the population at large. Clearly, when couples treat one another with dignity and respect, honoring the wholeness of each person, their relationship is positively effected.
*A 2007 German study which focused on a form of the Symptom-Thermal Method confirmed a method effectiveness rate (rate based on perfect use of the method) of 99.6% and a user effectiveness rate (rate which includes incorrect and correct application of the method and its rules during the study period) of 98.2%.

Dr. Joseph Roetzer wrote in his book, National Conception Regulation,that among the thousands of patients he worked with he found a method effectiveness of 99.8% and a user effectiveness of 99.2%.
There are several methods of Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM) and you can learn more about them through home study or by attending classes. There are also a number of reliable apps and devices on the market that make the recording and charting of your fertility signs as easy as the push of a button. But ultimately, the greatest success of any NFP/FAM method comes from proper and adequate education.

Follow along with the whole 6 part discussion on rethinking your family planning. 
(1)Reclaiming Womanhood: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Birth Control Plan
(3)Knowledge Is Power: How Doctors and Big Pharma Profit from Ignorance;  
(4)If Your Food Is Organic Your Family Planning Should Be Too: The Nitty Gritty of Birth Control
(5)Pulling Back the Veil and Exposing Your Genuine Fears
 
(6)Now That You Know the Facts on Birth Control, What’s the Next Step?