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Posts Tagged ‘Babies’


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When Catholics talk about NFP, someone always asks rather plaintively why the Church doesn’t just clear up all the confusion about what does and does not constitute a legitimate reason to avoid a pregnancy.  Why not just make a list:  on the right, good reasons for postponing a pregnancy; on the left, bad reasons?

Obviously we should still pray and try to discern God’s will for us — but why does it have to be so vague?  Why doesn’t the Church just give us a break and spell it out already?

Most of those who want more clarity are genuine seekers after God’s will, looking for more guidance as they discern the best path for their marriage.  Others are looking for a definitive document to prove that their neighbors are abusing NFP, using it with a “contraceptive mentality.”

The Church does, of course, give us guidelines (I’m shamelessly cribbing these citations from an excellent article my sister, Abigail Tardiff, wrote several years ago, addressing this same question much more pithily):

If therefore there are reasonable grounds for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that then marries people may take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and use their marriage at precisely those times that are infertile, and in this way control birth… (Humanae Vitae, n. 16).

and:

For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2368).

My sister also reminds us:

Pope Pius XII says that serious motives, such as “medical, eugenic, economic, and social” reasons, can exempt a couple from the obligation of bearing children (“Address to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives”).

But why doesn’t the Church give some specific examples of what qualifies as a just reason?  Well, one problem is that my just reason is not necessarily the same as your just reason.

For instance, we could say, “Severe economic instability is a good reason to postpone pregnancy.” But …

  • Woman A grew up deathly poor, and fully expected to die before she hit age 40.  Her husband is disabled and often out of work, and sometimes they have to scramble for the rent on their tiny house — but this is routine and tolerable for them, and causes no turmoil.  With help from friends and government programs, they are raising happy, healthy children on $25,000 a year.
  • Woman B grew up wealthy, has always generously endowed Crisis Pregnancy Centers in her town, and always hoped to have a large family of her own.  But a catastrophe struck, she went bankrupt, and has to sell everything and move into a tiny house and live on $25,000 a year.  They’re still reeling from the shock of what their life has become, and are trying to learn how to accept help, rather than giving it.
  • Woman C lives a tiny house and live on $25,000 a year, which her husband manages thriftily, so no one is deprived.  But she makes him sleep on the couch until he agrees to quit his job at the library  so he can make more money and they can catch up with their fancy friends next door, who go to Rio every March.
  • Woman D recently quit her high-paying job so she can stay home and have babies.  They now live on her husband’s salary of $25,ooo a year and can hardly wait to fill their tiny new house with children.

You see?  Objectively, the circumstances are the same, and “severe economic instability” describes all four.  But their attitude toward having another baby right then would be entirely different.  It’s not enough to say, “Lilies of the field and so on.  We must trust God.”  That’s not asking much from women A, but it’s asking heroism from woman B.

Or you could say, “You shouldn’t postpone a pregnancy just so you can lose a little weight.”

  • Woman A is healthy and beautiful, but is married to a man who berates her nightly for not fitting into the jeans she wore in high school, even though that was twenty years and five babies ago.  He has taught her to hate herself, and will torture her emotionally if she makes a charting mistake and gets pregnant.
  • Woman B preaches radical openness to life, but in her most honest moments will admit to herself that having lots of babies happens to be a fabulous excuse for never having to deal with her lifelong gluttony.  After all, she can’t diet, because she’s pregnant (or postpartum, or nursing…)
  • Woman C used to be anorexic, and with years of therapy and hard work has achieved a healthy weight.  But being even five pounds over that healthy weight puts her in danger of a relapse, and the idea of another pregnancy gives her panic attacks.
  • Woman D  is just a petty twit who wants to make her fatter friends feel bad when they see her hot new body.  No baby this year, not after all the money she put into lipo!

All four women are faced with Losing Weight vs. Having Another Baby; but the details couldn’t be more different.

Or you could say, “Just trust God with your fertility!  We’re not in control of our lives; God is.”

  • Woman A is fearful, anxious, rigid and domineering.  Her husband is a little bit afraid of her, and her confessor always urges her to trust God more.
  • Woman B is childish and weak, and tends to leave all the heavy thinking to her husband — and then feels sorry for herself when they suffer the consequences of his choices.  Their marriage is miserable, and her confessor always tells her to be more of an adult.
  • Woman C is careless and selfish and lacks self-control, and her confessor always tells her to use more prudence, take more responsibility.
  • Woman D tries with all her might to be as holy as the other women around  her, and she keeps having more babies to prove her trust in God, even though her household is out of control and her children are neglected.  Her confessor always tells her that God asks different things of different people, and to keep her eyes on her own work.

“Trusting God” is wonderful, but means something entirely different in each of these cases.

Or you could say, “A large family is a sign of God’s blessing.  You’ll never regret having another baby!”

  • Woman A always wanted a big family, and happily gives birth three times in the first three years of her marriage.  She looks forward to many more years of fertility.
  • Woman B always wanted a big family, but now that she has six children, and a few of them turned out to have special needs, she figures it would be a good thing to take a break.   She also wants to work out a few problems in her marriage that have been brewing unresolved under the chaos for a few years.
  • Woman C  always wanted a big family, and now has nine children.  She probably has another decade of fertility to go, and while she loves her kids dearly, she is just plain tired.  She and her husband are actually much more financially and emotionally stable than they were when they started their family — and yet the idea of another pregnancy fills her with dread.
  • Woman D always wanted a big family and is on the verge of menopause — and suddenly feels a deep yearning for just one more baby, for reasons that have nothing to do with the reasons she had twenty-five years ago on her honeymoon.

These women are, of course, all the same woman, at different stages in her life.  She has always trusted God, and God has blessed her in different ways at different times.  You see, you can’t even apply a specific, inflexible, objective rule to one woman:  there are still just too many variables.  For any specific, objective rule you laid down, you could find exceptions which are within the realm of normal human circumstances.

Can we ever say that we have an indisputably good reason, or an indisputably bad reason, for postponing a pregnancy?  Of course.  It’s just that I can’t think of anything more personal and private than these reasons.  I believe that if the Church ever did give a specific, objective list of legitimate reasons for avoiding or achieving pregnancy, it would cause more confusion, not less.  People with good reasons to postpone a pregnancy would doubt themselves, and people with no good reason would find loopholes. People would judge each other even more than they already do (which is a shameful amount), and it would distract from the soul’s conversation with God.

Yes, worldly, modernized couples need to hear someone say, “Marriage is for making children, and children are a privilege, not a burden.  Don’t squander the gift of your fertility, but seek the gifts that God is offering.” But I grow more and more skeptical of the charge that, among the tiny fraction of Catholics who use NFP, most use it with a “contraceptive mentality.”  How about this:  men who have seven or more children are probably raping their wives every  night.  What’s that you say?  It’s not like that at all?  Well, that’s how it looked from the outside.  It cuts both ways:  if you can read the hearts of couples with only a few children, then I can read the hearts of couples with many.  See how ugly that gets?  Only one Person knows what’s in another man’s heart, and that person ain’t you or me.

And for people who aren’t out to judge anyone else, but just want more clarity and guidance in their own lives, here’s a cheering quote from my sister’s article:

The Church’s moral teachings are a great gift, because they save us from the bad effects of innocent wrong-doings; they can stop us from unknowingly messing up our lives, if we’re humble enough to listen. But they don’t replace a tryst with the Creator — and who would want them to?

So if the Church seems distressingly vague, it’s because she doesn’t want to get in the way of the conversation you could be having with God.  He doesn’t want to talk to The Church as a whole:  He wants to talk to you.

And that’s why the Church doesn’t just make a list.

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My kids are pretty, pretty smart.  But not quite as smart as I think they are.

One time, for instance, we were listening to a Danny Kaye song about “they’ll never outfox the fox!”  It goes on to marvel over the exploits of a dashing young scoundrel:

Whenever they try to find me
They find me where I am not
I’m hither and yon, I’m there and gone, I’m Johnny-not-on-the spot!
(He whistles as he jump to a low tree branch)
I’m out on a limb they think!
(He whistles again, jumping down)
I’m down on the ground in a wink
My enemies say “Gadzooks! It’s spooks!”
Shivering in their socks
They know that they’ll never, I’m far to clever
They’ll never outfox the Fox!

The toddler at the time said something like, “He singin’ ’bout Wobbin Hood.”  OH MY STARS! I thought.  What an intelligent child!  She extrapolated from the mention of all this clever, limb-jumping derring-do, and made the assumption that this song was about Robin Hood — when it’s actually about a very Robin Hood-like character, The Fox.

Then I suddenly recalled that we had just watched Disney’s Robin Hood, in which the main character is . . . a fox.  All that was going on was that when the kid heard Danny Kaye sing, “The Fox!  The Fox!” she figured he was talking about “the fox, the fox.”  Not a bad assumption, but not especially brilliant, either.

I never learn.  Today, my dear baby, who is the smartiest-whartiest baby in the whole wide world,  oh yes she is, came up to me and said, “Doggie have nursies!”

What an intelligent child!  I marvelled all over again.  We don’t even have a dog, but somehow she divined that they are mammals!  I wonder what slight clue was enough for her agile little mind, so that she understood that female dogs nourish their young with, as she so preciously calls them, “nursies.”

Then I saw the picture of the doggie she had in mind:

Yep.  To those with nursies on the brain, it sure do have nursies.

Bet you never look at Clifford the same way again.

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A Massachusetts antiabortion group has unveiled a bill that would let individual taxpayers opt out of paying for publicly funded abortions. Under the measure, a taxpayer could choose to have whatever portion of their state taxes pays for abortion coverage directed instead to the Baby Safe Haven Law. That law allows parents to leave unwanted newborns at fire stations and other designated locations.
I LOVE this idea.  Puts those Planned Parenthood ghouls in the position of saying,  “We don’t want desperate mothers to have a way to unburden themselves of a baby they don’t want or can’t care for.  Women should not have the choice to go to a safe location — they should be forced to do what their government and big corporations want them to do.”
Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said the bill, one of several filed by the group for the new legislative session, would give residents who oppose abortion a way of exercising their conscience. The head of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, Andrea Miller, said she had not seen the bill but argued that tax dollars routinely go toward many things that a given taxpayer might not agree with. (AP)
Let me translate for you:  “But that’s ourrrrrrrrrr money!  It’s not fai-i-i-i-ir that someone was clever and enterprising enough to push for laws that a majority of citizens want!  We are, and always have been, opposed to choice for Americans!”
This is the way to do it.  Prayer, huge, peaceful protest, the brilliant Lila Rose with her exposés, and defund, defund, defund.  Some abortionists are just plain evil, and some, I’m sure, sincerely believe they are helping women.  But most of them are in it for the money, pure and simple — and they are making plenty of it.  Time to cut them off.
Oh, and I love how the Globe and other media think it’s some kind of stinging insult to say “antiabortion” instead of “prolife.”    Call me “antiabortion” all day long, folks.  Abortion is the kind of thing that the prefix “anti” was invented for.
(cross-posted on Inside Catholic)

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Here in Topeka

Sorry for the silence, folks.  I’m suffering from 80% disease:  I have about six posts 80% written, and then I say, “Yeah, that’s pretty much it — I’ll just go back and finish it up tonight.”  And then I dye my hair, change my social security number, and move to Canada so I don’t have to deal with it.

In the mean time, I offer you this Loretta Lynn song that my mother sent me.  I’ve never heard it before, but I love it!  It’s actually named “One’s On the Way,” but I didn’t want to title the post that, because then you would think I’m pregnant, and I’m not.

It seems like a pretty good follow-up to the March for Life, doesn’t it?  You know, that day when hundreds of thousands of ninjas march to show their support of women and babies.  I say “ninjas” because they somehow slip by the attention of the media — amazing!  It’s like they were never there.  And yet they get the job done.

Not everyone marched, but many hundreds of thousands stayed at home and helped the cause in their own way:

Here are the lyrics:

They say to have her hair done Liz flies all the way to France,
And Jackie’s seen in a discotheque doin’ a brand new dance,
And the White House social season should be glittering and gay

But here in Topeka the rain is a fallin’
The faucet is a drippin’ and the kids are a bawlin’
One of them is toddlin’ and one is a crawlin’ and one’s on the way.

I’m glad that Raquel Welch just signed a million dollar pact
And Debbie’s out in Vegas workin’ up a brand new act
And the TV’s showin’ Newlyweds, a real fun game to play

But here in Topeka the screen door’s a bangin’
The coffee’s boilin’ over and the warsh needs a hangin’
One wants a cookie and one wants a changin’ and one’s on the way.

Now what was I doin’ – Jimmy get away from there  – darn there goes the phone
Hello honey. What’s that you say – you’re bringin’ a few ole Army buddies home
You’re callin’ from a bar? Get away from there
No, not you, honey, I was talkin’ to the baby- Wait a minute honey, the door bell
Honey could you stop at the market and –hello? hello? well I’ll be.

The girls in New York City they all march for women’s lib,
And Better Homes and Gardens shows the modern way to live,
And the pill may change the world tomorrow but meanwhile today

Here in Topeka the flies are a buzzin’
The dog is a barkin’ and the floor needs a scrubbin’
One needs a spankin’ and one needs a huggin’ – Lord, one’s on the way.

Oh gee I hope it ain’t twins again

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So I was sitting there, refusing to get up.  My six-year-old wanted a glass instead of a cup, the eight-year-old kept doing his evil laugh even though it makes him throw up, and the four-year-old wanted to tell me a story about how first, see, she forgot to flush, but then she suddenly remembered to flush, but then. . .

And remember, I have five other kids, too.

My husband is back at work after eight months of unemployment (and may I say:  heckova job, Barry), and I miss him.  It’s not just that suddenly, everything that needs to be done, said, investigated, cleaned up, controlled, and decided by an adult has to be done by me, me, all me.  I just miss having him around.  And I’m back to being surrounded by kids in a way that I wasn’t surrounded when there were two parents around.  The days are so long!

So despite my relief that he’s working again, I was feeling pretty mopey and despondent.  The kids were eating their stupid supper (in the fridge, waiting for husband, was ziti with chicken sautéed in olive oil with fresh garlic and basil.   The kids were eating naked noodles and poached chicken chunks.  That is a stupid supper) and I just wanted to sit down and feel sorry for myself, because I cut my toe on one of the plates the baby smashed while I was sautéing.

While I was fending off the needy ones, I read this little article from The Daily Beast (via Slate’s XX Factor blog):  I Refuse to Freeze My Eggs! (UPDATE:  Ooh, looks like Zoe beat me to it, and she chose the same quotes, too!)

The author is single and childless at 35–the age when, as she says, “all the petals fall off [your] vagina and dozens of cats suddenly park themselves in a circle around [your] cobwebby old hope chest.”  She’s enduring a gynecological exam, and her doctor starts harassing her to start freezing her eggs, just in case.

It’s super easy, she said. All you have to do is inject yourself with hormones a couple of times a day for about fourteen days, then you go to the doctor, and they scrape your eggs out of your body! Hopefully a few will be ripe enough to make a baby. They put those in the freezer. The rest are thrown into the river. I think that’s what she said. Something like that.

My doctor, who I adore, asked if I wanted to take home some “literature” about the procedure. (I never understand why these medical pamphlets are called literature, as if Faulkner was up all night feverishly writing about NuvaRing.) And in that moment, I made a decision. A decision about how I’m going to handle the fact that I’m thirty five (today!) and I don’t have kids and a kid-making partner isn’t currently on the scene. I decided I didn’t want the literature. And I don’t ever want the literature about anything related to the world of Fertility. It’s my big thirty-fifth birthday present to myself.

I’m sharing this story with you for two reasons:  first, because it’s refreshing to hear a (presumably) secular woman say what she says:

[W]hen I think about my uterus (which is rare) I don’t have any desire to bully it into doing something it may not naturally feel like doing. In vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, egg transplants, surrogacy, fallopian Xeroxing—I have no interest.

Hear, hear!

The second reason is to share with you my delight at an unexpected benefit of having all these little kids around.  I mean, I’m used to all the regular blessings:  always surrounded by love, the peace and serenity of being open to God’s precious gift of life, the constant howling, and so on.

But it never occurred to me that there’s something else:  even though I, too am 35 years old, no doctor ever, ever tries to push me into freezing my eggs.  I think I have my twenty-seven  children to thank for that.

Also, around about the time you have your fifth baby, the doctor stops trying to sneak a plain cardboard box of condoms into your hospital bag.  They’ve given up.  They think you’re an idiot; you know you’re an idiot.  Everyone’s happy, and no one tries to talk you into anything when you already have your feet up in stirrups and can’t fight back.

See what I mean?  Children are a blessing, and the blessings keep rolling in.

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Many mothers of big families are at a loss for words when strangers make personal comments about their family size.  Other women are able to use their conspicuous presence in public as a chance to witness to the joy of this lifestyle.   Still others see it as an opportunity to ditch one or two of the slower kids in the crowd.

No matter which description fits you, there will come a day when you are urging an unruly string of children down the narrow hall of the hospital, where you are late for an appointment to have the blood of several of them painfully tested for something you know perfectly well they don’t have.   Some of them will be licking the walls, one will be wailing about losing her vending machine puppy in the parking lot, and two will merely be going silently boneless.

It is at moments like these when some sweaty bozo in an AC/DC T-shirt will appear, plaster himself comically to the wall to let you pass, and remark, “Haw haw haw, looks like someone don’t have a TV!”

(photo source)

So the following guide is for you, mom.  If one of your damn wiener kids hasn’t shoved a fig newton into the printer, feel free to make a copy, laminate it, and keep it in your ludicrously enormous purse.  It will help you respond to people who see your presence as a challenge, when really all you want to do is mail a letter, buy some diapers and few pregnancy tests, or pay the librarian for the books you ruined this week, and go home.

7 Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions About Your Big Family


–1–

Boy, you’ve got your hands full, don’t you?

Congratulations!  As the ten billionth person to make this clever remark, you are a winner!  As your prize, please accept this delicious baby.

–2–

Don’t you know what causes that?

Yes, it’s brought on by being in the presence of morons.  Every time I leave the house, I feel the urge to rush home to my husband and, for the sake of future generations, try to outnumber people like you.  Whoopee!

–3–

Are those all your kids?

Quiet, you fool, my husband’s listening!

–4–

How many kids do you have, anyway?

I dunno.    [I don't know if it qualifies as snappy, but it's often true, and it shuts people up.]

–5–

You’re stopping now, right?

Of course!  Lots of people have eight kids.   Eight kids is nothing.  Of course, our van is longer than most people’s driveways.  We own two milch cows just to supplement breakfast.  And with the money from our Additional Child Tax Credit, we bought a Learjet.  That’s life with eight kids.

But to consider having nine kids?  That would be cuh-razy.

–6–

[This next one is for kids who are members of big families.  It's a direct quote from lunch recess at Disnard Elementary School, and partially explains why no one liked me in sixth grade.]

Hey, huh huh huh, you have seven brothers and sisters?  Boy, huh huh huh, your parents must really like to dooo it!

Yeah, boy, I guess that proves they had sex eight times.  And you’re an only child, so I guess your parents just don’t love each other very much.  Ha ha!  Now, who wants to be my lunch buddy?

–7–

Don’t you have a TV?

If you think TV is better than sex, then you are doing it wrong.

————————————————————————————————

So long until Monday, folks! Don’t forget to check out Conversion Diary for links to everyone else’s Seven Quick Takes.  And don’t forget the most basic rule of appearing in public with lots of children:  it’s everyone else’s job to get out of your way.

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As our old pastor Fr. Stan used to say, “And now, my dear friends, I am over on page six.”

By which I mean that today, my dear friends, I am over on Faith and Family Live, where I have a feature called “The Case for Siblings:  How to Shut Up Jerks In Supermarkets Who Are Yapping About Your Pregnant Belly.”

Or possibly they’ve edited the title.  Yeah, they probably have.  Which is why Danielle Bean has an empire, and I have my blog.

My blog!  My blog!!!!!  Anyway, please go check it out, and see why I argue that having a new baby is not bad for your current baby.  But first watch this:

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