Category Archives: pro-life

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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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.

 

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? 

Reclaiming Womanhood: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Birth Control Plan Part 1 of 6

The Virgins by Gustav Klimt 1913
 It’s happening again, article after article appearing in my news feed. The theme is the same, although each has a slightly different slant to offer. Just as last year, I pour over each one, nodding all the while as my eyes scan the screen. The topic is birth control and each post does a good job at lifting the veil and sparking interest. However, I’m usually left thinking that there are a few more dots to be connected if the author’s aim is to cast a wide net.
What I mean is, there is so (SO) much more to this subject than simply deciding whether or not to swallow a pill or allow a doctor to insert some device inside of you. Yes, yes we need to shout from the rooftops the truth about the indisputable physical harms being perpetrated against our sisters, but that’s not where we need to start.
Here’s my intention, I want to begin a conversation and continue it for a while. I want to offer a few thoughts/facts for you to ponder and then let you walk away to digest it. I hope you’ll come back with questions because I’m going to try to cover a few more bases (than I’ve seen covered recently) by the end of this blog post series.
Now, before we even consider birth control, we must identify what makes a woman truly unique and reflect on why that matters.
Recall that God created woman because He said that it was not good for man to be alone. Understand that. God is complete all by Himself, but this man Adam (that He made in His image) was INcomplete by himself. Therefore, God goes about creating all manner of creatures to keep Adam company, but not one can fill his aching. Only when God forms woman does Adam finally rejoice, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Let that sink in, I mean really try to picture that in your mind. There was Adam milling around, feeling alone. He had everything it would seem, except no good thing or living creature was enough to banish his longing (not even man’s best friend). Then the day dawned when he woke up to find Eve and in that instant he found his missing piece.
Of course, while equals, male and female are far from the same. Woman, in all of her fullness and beauty, possessesthe power to accept, nurture and grow life. From youth, her bodyknows the steps to the mysterious dance that will carry her through the cycles of a lifetime. Only the female body builds up fertile ground each month in anticipation of fostering a wholly new life. She can contain her offspring like a tiny bud holds tight its treasure until the appointed time.
Her strength allows her to endure torments, discomforts, pains and deprivations just as the soldier valiantly sacrifices to protect his innocent charges. And when her hidden vessel breaks open, moving her to push forth the person she has cradled within, woman has a storehouse of reserves at her fingertips: vigor, focus, endurance, power, vulnerability, clarity and intuition. Delicate and fragile or just as readily jagged and rough, she’s an intricate weave of contradictions and complements.
She doesn’t stop there either. Woman’s breasts sustain her child, providing nutrition and immunity. She’ll read her child’s cues and anticipate his desires before he ever utters a word. Her presence forever imprinted on his heart, it will affect all of his future relationships.
Woman’s motherhood isn’t restricted by her ability to give birth. Her feminine genius, as St. John Paul II coined it, shines through no matter what her vocation. Woman is always the life-bearer. Whether or not she is able to nestle another person inside of her womb, she always contains “room for another.” A reader of people, with an instinctual ability to recognize the unspoken needs of others, she inclines toward the roles of teacher, caregiver, confidant and counselor.
All that man will ever know about life-giving, he must learn from woman. However, no matter how much he might study her role, man is forever relegated to the “outside” on this matter. I’ve been blessed to have birthed all but one of my children with the support of midwives. While there are some perfectly good male obstetricians out there, ask any women who has birthed with a midwife and she can confirm that men can never truly relate to mothering in the same way that another woman can. For that matter, ask any mother and she’ll concur that a husband can never truly grasp the connection between a mother and her child.
Our culture has, thankfully, come a long way toward recognizing the role of women in the world, but it’s still got a long way to go. It took me three decades to grasp who I was because I’d conformed my self-image to society’s ill-shaped mold of womanhood. The modern view fractures females into a collection of disjointed parts. We’ve got good hair, sweet temperaments, smooth skin, perky breasts and tight thighs or unmanageable kink, bitchy moods, oily pores, sagging boobs and fat legs.
Woman” has disappeared and in her place stands an airbrushed, photo-shopped, lighting enhanced caricature of pseudo femininity. For this reason, before we can hope to enlighten a woman about the care and keeping of her fertility, she must rediscover and reclaim her genius.
My favorite part about teaching couples Natural Family Planning is the epiphany moment. Not every woman makes it there, but most do. I see it in her glassy eyes or hear it in her eager questions. Sometimes a woman will take me aside and share her story about a doctor who pressured her to make choices she wanted to refuse or her frustration over having felt inadequate for so long. However it manifests, it is the moment from which point all else will extend, her tipping point. Her broken pieces, like the images of a shattering mirror on rewind, begin to fuse back together. Once her eyes have opened to her own inherent dignity and wholeness, then she’s disposed to digest truth and eager to stake her claim over her own body.
So before this conversation continues, I invite you, dear reader, to reflect on the role of womanas designed by God, undistorted by worldliness. Focus, not the phony, self-aggrandizing mottoes of roaring, bra-burners or booty shaking celebrities, but on the feminine genius (the life-bearing mission) that characterizes womanhood.
Next time, let’s consider the 
(2) Demystified: How the Female Cycle ReallyWorks;

On Saturday’s Chore List: Telling Lies; Exposing the Truth About the Anti-life Protesters

Imagine you are a scared teenager who has just discovered you are pregnant by a boyfriend who adamantly tells you he’s not interested in raising his child. Maybe you’re a single woman whose married boyfriend finally admits he has no intention of leaving his wife and helping raise his child. Perhaps, you are too poor to take care of the kids you already have and you feel overwhelmed by the thought of having another. Or you trusted your contraceptives to make your sex life sterile and now you’re shocked to find out they didn’t work.

You have cried, begged, bartered, and agonized. Your situation feels hopeless and all that you can think of is wanting it all to go away.
Someone offers you a solution. Maybe it’s the parents who threatened to kick you out or the boyfriend who wants to keep his options open or perhaps the guy who raped you; someone advises you to have an abortion. You know, just some out-patient surgery to dilate your cervix and rip/vacuum out the “contents” or some magic pills to force your body to dispel the little body growing inside of you. It’s just that easy; a bit of cash, some anesthetic or pills and your problems will disappear (at least that’s what they tell you).

Maybe you’ve always been okay with the idea of abortion or maybe you weren’t until now. Either way, this is a big deal for you. You are the one who has to go through it. You are the one who has to live with your decision forever.
You can do this, you decide. You can have an abortion. Lots of women have had them, so it’s no big deal, right? So, you make the hard decision and you secure a ride to the appointment. On the day of your abortion, you wake up early with your head spinning. Maybe you can’t eat anything because you’ll be under-going anesthesia or maybe your appetite is gone because all those pregnancy hormones have already kicked in leaving you with morning sickness. But you’ve made up your mind or at least it has been made up for you, so you are going to go through with this.
Just as your boyfriend cruises closer to the clinic, you see a commotion that looks something like a circus. Then you realize it’s all happening right in front of the place you need to be. There’s some lady with bright orange and crayon red hair standing next to the driveway. Next to her is a woman dancing around with a sign that reads “Everybody poops.” Then, you do a double-take because there are police officers and another woman holding a sign that declares, “Too bad I’m a vegetarian” right next to a picture of a dismembered baby. Is this some kind of macabre party that is being busted by the cops?
No, those “creative” people (the girl in her bathrobe and the hippie with his pants falling off) are here to help you in your worst hour. They want to comfort you and tell you that you have options. They want to share the truth with you and offer you a free ultrasound. NO, that is not their intention. That group of anti-lifers are enjoying the limelight by making a mockery of your horrible day.
This group that dubs itself Saturday Chores (SC) is full of contradictions and self-aggrandizement. Just read some of the coverage in online interviews and it doesn’t take very many lines into the articles to uncover the lies.
My family and I have prayed quite a number of times in front of the old abortion mill that closed (and is now a tubal reversal facility) on the other side of town, but this past Saturday was our first at the clinic next to Cary, NC. A notice of intent is required for groups of 10 more persons to gather for vigils/protests in this city and that means there are boundaries to abide by.* The police were required this weekend because the SC group found it repeatedly necessary to violate their boundaries. Two individuals crossed the street in order to intimidate one pro-lifer. They stood less than 3 feet from her and shifted positions every time she did. I suppose when they say, “We do our best to not talk to the pro-lifers” we should assume that that kind of taunting behavior isn’t expected to incite a conversation.
Already, they’ve taken to putting their signs down when we show up, which we consider an important if brief victory,” their spokesperson says. Ummm, what can I say other than that is a blatant lie. If you want proof, look at SC’s own pictures wherein they photograph pro-lifers holding signs.
They made claims that they planned to show up early and take over the curb so that “they’ll (pro-lifers) have to squeeze into our ranks, as we normally do with theirs.” I guess they forgot about the permits when they said this. No worries, the police officers reminded them to step back to their assigned place this Saturday.
While it’s true that we’re mocking people, we consider the chief value of what we’re doing the solidarity that we demonstrate for the individuals or families that need to use the clinic’s services for whatever reasons they may have,” stated the groups organizer. So back to that frightened woman in the car who feels like she has nowhere else to turn, is this circus helping her? Do the antics make her feel loved and empowered? Does she appreciate the cameras and attention called to the driveway as she enters? Maybe she hasn’t even told her family and now SC has pictures on the internet that show her silver car parked in the lot (oh, yeah and those pictures of her car aren’t only on the group’s webpage, they are also showing up on other sites like The Daily Dot). I suppose that’s solidarity, using a woman’s traumatic situation to drive-up hits on their tumblr page.
In all of my times praying at abortion mills, I have never once encountered the hate they mentioned. That would be completely contrary to the mission of pro-lifers. Sidewalk counselors have to abide by permit regulations so they can’t even legally prevent a woman from entering the facility. They can, however, present her with the facts and offer her options. There is a pro-life organization in Raleigh that does free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. Pro-lifers offer this kind of information to scared and reluctant mothers. On the other side of town, the free pregnancy help center is proudly boasting two or more saves a week. That means at least a few mothers were shown the options and offered help and they chose to mother their babies rather than kill them. Clearly, not every woman walking into these abortion facilities wants an abortion.
Anti-lifers, as of late, don’t have such a clean track record when it comes to being civil to their opposition (see HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE– caution on these last ones). Perhaps, they might also crunch their numbers and ask themselves why minority children are more often aborted than their non-minority counter-parts. A little research on Planned Parenthood’s founding mother (Margaret Sanger -her quotes are found here) will clue you in on that (hateful) agenda.
I will offer one disclaimer. There is a so-called religious group that is attempting to shout their judgments, scriptural counsel and advice at confused women and that is always wrong. That is not charity. Angry tones and condemnation will not save children or their mothers in most cases.

this is a baby at 8 weeks gestation (sure doesn’t look like a blob of tissue)

Lastly, the SC group needs to go back to school and bone up on their science lessons. Apparently, these creative people have decided that they know when life begins and it isn’t anytime prior to when a woman wants to abort. Maybe they should offer to drive one of the reluctant moms over for a free ultrasound and see for themselves what a baby looks like before it’s shredded or dumped. Or they could just listen to an abortionist admit it for himself (HERE). Or read about it (HERE and HERE).

Abortion is no laughing matter. Not for those who value life in all its stages and not for the women who feel like it is their only option. Abortion has real risks, in the present (perforated uterus, uterine infection,hemorrhage, in addition to the dead baby) and in the future (prematurity in subsequent pregnancies, infertility, post-traumatic stress disorder). Women deserve all of that information. They deserve to know that people do care about their welfare and the welfare of their child. They deserve to know there are couples who would joyfully adopt their child. They deserve to know there are free services and aid to help them through their pregnancies as well as continuing help beyond the birth.
I am praying for the day when abortion isn’t legal. Really, I’m praying for the day when no woman wants to kill her own; the day when we all see human life for the gift that it is. The day when we recognize no one can be truly free when we are willing to deny the rights of the least among us and call it a “progressive view.”
*In the city of Raleigh, NC individuals may legally gather for prayer vigils or protests. This is considered “picketing” and only groups of 10 or more people need to be covered by a notice of intent which is filed with the city. A current notice was on file as of the writing of this post and individuals do not need to carry a copy with them. I urge others to answer the call to defend the sacredness of all life by volunteering a bit of your time to pray in front of your local abortion clinic. See your local ordinances for requirements.
** all quotes attributed to the SC group and photos referenced appear in an interview posted on The Daily Dot (dated July 23, 2014) 

My Morning At the Abortion Clinic

Hilarious” that’s the adjective used to describe the pro-aborts’ signs in front of a local abortion mill. A couple has made it their weekend chore to mock Christian pro-lifers and chronicle their efforts on a blog. Their dedication to confrontation merited them some viral exposure from a writer who found the couple’s signs (that state things like “I like turtles” and ‘Hail Santa”) to be side-achingly hysterical. The coverage inspired a fellow parishioner to post the article on facebook along with a call to offer a counter-balance to the situation.

Having been a while since the kids and I stood in defense of life and with the calendar providentially clear, I heeded the call and arranged the details to transport my crew bright and early this Saturday morning.
Our big, white, pro-life-stickered van rolled into a parking spot around 10:15am just in time to meet a fellow parishioner. Together we rounded the corner and took up our positions in the prayer line next to a dozen or so other advocates for the unborn. We stood shoulder to shoulder across the busy road from the clinic and immediately jumped into the rosary.
Noise from the constant flow of traffic competed against the gentle voices reciting those well-known words of Hail Marys, Our Fathers and Glory Be’s. I was thankfully to have that familiar pattern to follow so that my mind and heart were never far from the source of true peace. Indeed standing there, with so many rosary beads dangling, my mind continually beckoned me with the words, “Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing steal away your peace.” Vigilantly we held our positions in that prayer formation for the next hour.
On the opposing side of the street the scene was something quite different. A group of twenty-something pro-aborts jockeyed for attention (at times working hard to stir up a disturbance). Intermittently they cranked up the volume on a radio and busted a few moves while flipping from one nonsensical sign to the next. From the young woman clothed in her bath robe and pj’s to the low-pants donning male, those on the opposite side shifted positions like preschoolers after they’ve suckled a bottle of Mountain Dew.
Life versus death. Good versus evil. Light versus darkness. The stark contrast between our missions on either side of the road this Saturday morning was palpable. You could quite literally feel the contrast in your bones.
Our group managed all 20 mysteries before the permit time ran short. By that time, I’d stepped back behind my crew because I was swaying my toddler and monitoring a couple of little warriors who’d found some dirt to kick. Our priest, who was wearing his traditional full-length cassock (as always), had stepped into the center of the line when my attention was momentarily adverted. Turning my focus back again, I was awestruck. Father seemed (to my eyes) to have grown bigger than life. Inexplicably, he appeared to physically tower over the young men who flanked him and his black draped shoulders seemed broader than I’d ever noticed them to be before that moment. As he led us in the chaplet of Divine Mercy, I couldn’t shake this curious vision and I wondered if he’d always been this size.
After completing the chaplet, Father spun around and gave us his final blessings and then he quickly departed. Watching him leave, I calculated that while he is indeed tall, my brief perception of him was something truly supernatural.
Following in Father’s footsteps, the rest of our group disbanded. Across the street things were still lively as another church group had arrived to take up the pro-life torch and the opposition was still rambling about. I considered staying longer because it felt like there was more to do. I wanted to drop to my knees and beg some more intercession, to show that I was still in the fight. Instead I listened to that still, small voice that told me it was enough.
On the way back to the van, we circle-chatted with those friends who’d inspired our participation. They, too, were battling the internal struggle to stay longer, to outlast our sign-wielding contenders. It was pride, my wise friend noted, that was egging us on. Another friend reminded us that we weren’t engaged in a competition here. God hadn’t called us each here on this clear Saturday morning to outdo one another in some show of bravado. No, He called us here to witness to Truth and to pray for peace for the babies whose lives were being lost inside that building as well as for mercy for their misguided parents.
Real power resided in the prayers we’d prayed. No one could see it, but God. And no one, but God, needed to.
For the remainder of my afternoon, I ruminated on the morning’s event, on that internal whisper to remain undisturbed, on Father’s temporarily unnatural stature and on that prompting to trust that my meager offering was enough. Turning to God’s Word, I searched out the daily reading and here’s what it told me:
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. After he placed his hands on them, he went away (Matthew 19: 13-15).
Christ asked us on this day to bring the children to Him. Our prayers were the channels through which they were delivered from the horrors taking place yards in front of us. Jesus wanted us to be docile vehicles for the Holy Spirit, so that He may work through us. Our pride sought to be in control like the disciples wanted todirect the crowd. Surely, I wanted to rebuke a few people this morning, but that was not my job.
I think my vision of Father was a gift that was meant to remind me that I must follow his example of persevering peace, constant striving for holiness, and docility. Virtues, I fail to achieve often. My priest is not a demanding man (of others, although I think he is of himself). He doesn’t spit out hell-fire and brimstone nor does he cater doctrine to garner money in the coffers. He is a shepherd who, no doubt, carries a great deal of weight on those arching shoulders without much complaint. Even more so, I think that vision was meant to represent the Church and my role within Her.
The gospel said that after Jesus had placed His hands on them, he went away. He didn’t stay longer than was necessary. He gave the blessing and moved on, just like Father did today. To have stayed and continued on would have been about my will in this situation.
The Battle of Lepanto also came to mind today. I imagined the maritime warriors were well trained in the art of war, but they ultimately recognized that the power of victory was wrapped around their fingers. How utterly absurd it would seem to the non-believer that a fight could be won by surrendering their human strategies and taking up the arms of the rosary. However, history is proof that the docility of those men to faith was rewarded with victory.
I realized, my coming before God with child-like abandon and following His gentle directives is what will ultimately win the struggle. Some day, that abortion mill will close down just like the other one across town did (of that I am confident). Some day, every abortion facility will be remade or left as an empty shell. The win won’t be because of any clever signs or showy protests. Because the real fight isn’t between pro-lifers and pro-aborts, it is within each of us, you and me. When we first learn to lay down our selves and adopt a spirit of docility, then God will claim His victory person by person, heart by heart until eventually the whole world will experience unending peace.

This Is The Building That Cried Out To God

This is the building.
This is the building we used to drive a half an hour to get to.
This is the building that we used to park our big, pro-life stickered van in front of.
This is the building that drew us down to our knees.
This is the building which beckoned us to pray.
This is the building where I encountered my first real taste of venomous words (shouted at my children and me).
This is the building that reduced me to tears.
This is the building where babies were slaughtered, ripped, suctioned and incinerated.
This is the building where women went in whole and came out broken.
This is the building that cried out to God.
God heard the cries.
This is the building now.
This is now the building that people will travel hours if not days to reach.
This is now the building where couples will proudly walk hand in hand through the front door.
This is now the building that will call people off of their knees.
This is now the building in which prayers will begin to be answered.
This is now the building in which words of encouragement are spoken.
This is now the building which will inspire tears of joy.
This is now the building in which the hope of babies will be restored.
This is now the building where women will go in broken and come out whole again.
This is now the building that glorifies the Lord. 
 
Formerly this building bore the duplicitous name of Raleigh Women’s Health Organization. It was an abortion facility. Several years ago it became a focal point for the 40 Days for Life campaign in Raleigh, NC and that is when my family and I first became aware of its existence. Participating in the 40 Days for Life, my brood of then seven children, my husband and I stood more than a couple of hours before this edifice praying for the souls lost inside.
A worker, angered by our silent praying one bright afternoon, stopped her car at the end of the driveway and let me know how stupid I was. My prayers, she advised were useless.
Another day, one of my little ones was full of questions which inspired me to paint him a visual picture. “Consider the angels,” I said. “Think of them, they must be surrounding this place. The angels are here with us praying for an end to abortion and they’re escorting all those precious, unborn souls back to heaven with them and interceding for their hurt mamas.”
A friend emailed me this picture of the building as it stands today and I couldn’t help but consider those angels again. I imagine they are still there, but now their mission is changed. Now they must be singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving, offering petitions for patients’ healing so that new souls can be planted.
 
The address now houses Chapel Hill Tubal Reversal Center and its two extraordinary physicians, who are making it their life’s work to restore women’s reproductive health through tubal ligation reversal and corrective tubal surgery. Drs. Monteith and Berger claim that, 
 “Together they have performed more successful tubal ligation reversals and tubal surgeries for blocked tubes resulting in the birth of more babies than any other doctors in the world.” 
 
We know Who triumphs in the end, but it is always a blessing to see the Hand of God so overtly at work.

They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Psalm20:8

Misty, The Girl I Never Met: Never Judge a Book by Its Cover or a Person by Their Abilities

special needs children need special love
Gabriel Max (Artist)

Her name was Misty. It was printed in chalk on the nurses’ station board along with a list of other first names. We would never actually meet, but I caught a glimpse of her one day as I walked passed her room. The mental picture I’d developed before that sighting was of course all wrong.

Just days into our month long stay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, we met Misty’s family: aunts, an uncle, a grandmother, father and cousins. Now, almost nineteen years later, I’ve lost count, but there were enough of them to fill the room around us. Doubtful our paths would have ever crossed if not for the circumstances that forced us all into that tiny waiting room.


Naive, overwhelmed newbies we were, but Misty’s family were well-seasoned veterans in this system of corridors, white coats and ever-changingprognoses. They took to us and us to them in a fast friendship that felt like it would last a lifetime.

In bits and pieces, through conversations and encounters over the next weeks, Misty’s life story unfolded. Born to young, unwed parents, her mother died sometime before the baby would finish toddlerhood. Knowing she would never see her daughter grow up, Misty’s mother had one dying wish; she made her sister swear to raise the child as her own. That little sister bore that promise with unswerving faithfulness and along with the rest of the extended family she committed the next fourteen years to caring for her sister’s only offspring.
Sometime after losing the mother, it became apparent that Misty suffered from serious medical conditions which were the result of an under-developed brain. Her life would include many PICU stays and she would never know the freedom of spinning to “Ring Around the Rosie” or the joy of singing her ABCs. By the time we met her family, she was relegated to a bed, unable to speak or provide her own basic needs.
Surely some outsiders questioned her “quality of life”. To a culture that equates physical fitness and mental capacity with the measure of a person’s worth, Misty might have appeared a hopeless case.
Her family knew her better.
She loved it when her aunts and grandma fed her, they proudly boasted. At mealtimes, she rewarded them with smiles and eyes that spoke the words her mouth could not. And though the doctors and nurses insisted she was forever silent, Misty cooed for those who loved her. Rather than flowers and teddy bears, family members shopped for new, lace-trimmed nightgowns to make her not infrequent hospital trips more pleasant. Every day it was someone’s job to brush out her long, flowing hair and wash her pretty face. True to her promise, Misty’s aunt insured that someone always remained nearby.
Words like burden, trouble, or unwanted never entered our conversations.
As though it were yesterday, I recall the upset in their voices on the day they discussed the doctor’s recommendation for a feeding tube. Considering the infrequency with which doctors actually bothered to speak directly to family members, I assume the news was delivered via the shift nurse. The tube was being ordered to better facilitate her nutritional needs. On a floor full of kids dependent on breathing tubes, drainage tubes and electronic monitors, a feeding tube was the next logical step. But to Misty’s family, that step was leading in the wrong direction.
To the doctor, who probably spent five minutes reading her chart, this fourteen year old was a case study in medical interventions. To the busy nurse, Misty was another terminal patient with machines to monitor, levels to record and notes to take. The act of feeding her was just another necessary procedure to follow, but to her aunts and grandmother meals were so much more.
At the time I thought I understood their desire to retain this autonomy for Misty, the ability to taste flavors and feel textures across her tongue. But now that I’ve experienced the excitement of spooning first bites into my own little ones’ open mouths, I can relate all the more to their desperate attempts to protect her mealtimes. Three times a day, Misty’s family had the privilege to lovingly nourish her with food and she had the opportunity to feed their hopes and dreams. With my own not-yet-verbal children, I have to watch for their bodily cues to tell me if the food I offer is pleasing to their palate and when they’ve reached their fill. Feeding a child means moving in close, making eye contact and connecting (physically and mentally).
A feeding tube meant more than simply relinquishing a chore, it meant stripping Misty of one more “normal” function. When you expect your child to grow-up, to advance through life’s milestones, it’s easy to take such little tasks for granted, but Misty’s family didn’t have that luxury.
On that day, walking passed her room, I peered in expecting to see the girl my mind had formed. Instead, the young girl of about fourteen appeared so tiny and fragile in her hospital bed. Her legs barely reaching beyond the midway point, she was no longer than a child of five or six. And that long hair flowed nearly the full length of her stunted body it seemed. I was startled by the reality.
The image I’d created was based on my idea of “normal” because that’s how Misty’s family portrayed her. The obvious love they had for her communicated a different picture, while my eyes sized her with a worldly measure. No one ever knew my surprise and for that I am glad because I am ashamed of it. My false vision betrayed my ignorance and bias.
Those few weeks, nearly two decades ago, changed my life. I lost touch with her family, so I never did learn whether or not they managed to protect her from the feeding tube directive, but I’ve never taken for granted the real importance of “feeding” my children.
Misty was truly everything that her family saw her to be. Beautiful. Worthy. Special. Perfect. And in my mind, she will forever remain larger than life not because of her stature, but because she personified Christ (the hungry Christ, the naked Christ, the imprisoned Christ) to those who took the time to see.