If you already saw this post and then the link didn’t work… sorry about that, this is the real one this time!
I am so grateful to you guys for being with me the past few months as I took the first stumbling steps towards being honest with my writing.
Sharing my fear-of-pregnancy story has been unbelievably empowering, healing, and inspiring. And your comments and re-tweets are at least 80% of that.
So, it’s time for the story to get it’s next step in evolution: I’m coming out! I’d like to invite you guys to visit my “real-life” blog, which I’ve been writing for several years, as I start to come out about my experience being afraid of pregnancy and aligning my life with the amazing Catholic teachings on sex and sexuality.
This isn’t just about pregnancy, though. I’m also coming out as a believing Catholic and conservative to my readers and real-life friends over there, so I’m pretty nervous. There’s not a lot of non-liberal information on the Internet, but I figure I can be one more blogger fighting the good fight with my real name and my real picture.
Here’s my first post in this topic, and I’d love it if you felt it was good enough to follow my journey on this new URL!
And I hope to continue the Twitter gabbing at my real handle, @LifeCommaEtc. I’ll be following you all shortly!
I feel like I’m taking crazy pills and living on Mars. I’ve ready my second article in so many days about a woman who “bravely” left the man she promised to love forever. Both hit home to me: the first is a celebrity with millions of people who consider who a role model (and gave 56K Facebook likes to her “brave” decision). The second is a fellow online entrepreneur who grew a large blog at the price of her 2-year marriage.
Abuse and annulments aside, I just can’t deal with this!
When did it become brave to be selfish?
When did it become brave to lift up the, “Me, Me, Me” banner and wave it over your entire life like a magic wand, undoing all of the promises you’ve ever made?
I can see a few roots. Liberalism, for one, that puts “you do you” on a pedestal. But also the damage we’ve all had done to us by others. In a world without boundaries, where no one stands up for the truth, standing up for something selfish starts to look an awful lot like “taking things into your own hands” and “finally living your real life.”
My heart breaks!
My skin crawls!
Can we turn the angle, friends? Let’s call out some of the #RealBravery we see day in and day out but don’t stop to appreciate.
I’d like to commend the bravery of my parents, for staying married 30+ years despite 6-month military deployments (with my mom alone with four kids at home), serious communication and compatibility issues, and computer addictions.
I’d like to commend the bravery of my husband’s parents, for staying married 30+ years despite infidelity and health and mental health issues.
I’d like to commend the bravery of my husband for staying with me and supporting me through 2 years of therapy and (it turns out) possibly self-imposed infertility even when he wanted children (and countless other flaws I have).
I’d like to commend the bravery of famous actors who put their career on pause to be supportive spouses and parents (Angela Landsbury’s 2nd marriage and Greg Kinnear’s marriage come to mind, but only because I looked them up on Wikipedia recently).
…That’s all I’ve got for now, but I really want to know:
Who do you want to commend for showing #RealBravery?
P.S. Before we get into this big Internet fight, please know one of my closest friends is divorced and going through the annulment process. I’m not saying it’s never okay to end a marriage (especially when it comes to situations of abuse and mental health issues). I’m saying it’s not brave to end a marriage because you aren’t willing to sacrifice your idea of what you want for your life for your spouse.
I am very happy to share that when I sit down to write about being pregnant now, only good things come up!
Connie Ann was right when she commented on my last post: it was a spiritual attack. It’d been going on for the first 9 weeks of being pregnant, and it continues to happen at 3AM when I am on one of my many bathroom breaks through the night.
But the rest of the time?
I can only assume that this is what being lifted up in prayer feels like.
The week we started sharing the news (with 1-2 people at a time, for a total of still a small group) I felt the excitement start to match the anxiety. Then slowly overcome it. Until now, I am so grateful to say, it’s a ratio of about 10% anxious to 90% grateful, excited, and suspiciously hopeful. I attribute it all to the prayers of our friends and family!
Thank you guys for bearing with me!
It’s so hard to struggle with doubts and anxieties when what you’re facing is 100% blessing and a miracle. After all, there’s no doubt in my mind that pregnancy is an amazing thing, a complete mystery, and something that is not guaranteed in anyone’s life. So feeling sad about it puts a massive cloud of guilt over the whole thing: shouldn’t I be grateful? Shouldn’t I be glowing?
But that’s the thing I keep learning and re-learning: everyone’s scars are different, and that’s why we can help each other so much when we’re compassionate.
The people who comment on the blog aren’t afraid of pregnancy (at least, they haven’t let me know they are!) so they can walk with me through this and provide this sense of abiding calm and clarity… that I was utterly incapable of giving myself.
What I hope that means is that I can take my lack of fear about other things in life (EMDR, re-configuring sexual morals, singlehood, among other things) and be strong for someone else.
So, I’ve got to run now, but expect something a little less dramatic/drastic next time I am able to write!
And thanks again!
This isn’t your typical dysfunctional family post (though I have plenty of those). Instead, this is a post dedicated to all of the hard-working, beautiful-but-you-don’t-see-it, self-sacrificing Catholic Moms out there. And I have just one message for you:
You are God’s gift to your children. Act like it.
I don’t mean this in a mean, scolding way. Because moms of all ages and of all family sizes need our support and encouragement over everything else.
I only mean this to help you see that no matter who you are or what your flaws are, God has decided that you are the absolute best parent possible for your children.
So no matter what you think you’re bad at or what you think you’ll regret later… it’s so, so worth it now to stop and reflect on whether or not what you’re teaching your children accurately reflects God’s plan for your life… and God’s definition of godly men and woman.
My mother is a beautiful and lively mother of four. But there’s just one thing — she grew up in a family that was cruel to her about her looks and in a city and state that is particularly superficial. As long as I can remember, she has been negative and critical about her body — even when she looked absolutely beautiful to me, my father, and my brothers.
I am 31, and this week I spent my EMDR counseling session processing a lot of the messages I received about my body through how my mom perceived her body.
Her small comments about how “Everything would look better on her if she were thinner,” and her exclamations that we delete every photo of her that she didn’t find flattering (and guess how many photos she found to be flattering?) were a few pieces of a million-part puzzle that taught me how to measure the worth and beauty of my own body.
Growing up, this quickly transitioned to a fear that her daughter might be fat, so she put a lot of emphasis on what it meant to be a lady and how ladies shouldn’t have too big an appetite (while my brothers were free to hork seconds and thirds at every meal).
And then, you know what, I got fat.
All I felt when I looked at my mom, my food, or my body was pressure. Everything I ate, said, and wore spoke to me about whether or not I was the ideal, normal woman. And as a girl child destined to be 6 foot tall, there wasn’t much I could do to avoid being bigger than most people (and being out-sized at all your normal clothes providers).
Body image aside, the real damage here (and the real power Catholic moms of the world have) is understanding what it means to be a woman. A biblical woman. A Catholic woman.
Because pant size somehow doesn’t come up in the bible. Neither does plastic surgery or height or the ability to have children. None of these things define our womanhood. You know what does (and what was a refreshing realization late last night?)? Our hearts.
Our hearts! A womanly heart. Not a womanly size 12, a womanly svelte-looking arm, or a perfectly crafted face of make-up. A woman is measured by her godliness, her desire to dress herself in good works, and her fear for the Lord.
… and so many families (including my own) didn’t pass that message along.
A woman’s husband has every right to take pleasure in her God-given good looks, but the rest of us (including her father and mother and family members) should be working hard to see what’s in her heart and cultivate a peaceable, tender nature in her soul.
And those are the very things we destroy when we exclusively focus on outward appearance, physical size, and attractiveness.
If the only message your daughter or son ever gets about womanhood is the best way to figure out if she’s hot or not, then you’re setting her up for her own bad decisions and counseling sessions 30 years from now and you’re depriving her of the peace and love that flows from our God.
There’s your message for today: before you consider yourself in the mirror (or look at your overweight or otherwise imperfect child), try to look beyond the surface to see what you see in your and your child’s heart.
PS If you want to figure out what it means to be a godly woman and how you can have an impact on how your children see their femininity in God, What Christians Want to Know has a great Top-10 post.
Are you ready for some Catholic hypocrisy?
I had sex with boyfriends before marriage (unfortunately). I also lived with my husband before we got married (before we converted).
And… it’s something I deeply regret.
Living together before marriage didn’t ruin our lives. In fact, it made some things easier.
We put off “the big day,” which was expensive, embarassing (for me), and stressful.
We put off questions about kids, because no one asks about that until after you’re married.
We also had a free pass to focus on our education and our careers. After all, you don’t have to “work on your marriage” if you don’t have one, right? You just get to spend time with the person you love. You’re two people who choose to be together every day you wake up, and there’s no pressure other than that. You’ve got all the benefits of marriage without the politics and statistics of broken homes or social stereotypes.
What’s not to love?
As it turns out, plenty of things.
Here’s my case against living together before you’re married, and if anyone has a time machine, let me know so I can go back to my 15-year-old self and read this aloud to her:
What’s the Big Problem?
Contrary to what my parents implied while I was growing up, living together before marriage wasn’t a guild-ridden and shameful experience. It felt really liberating and modern. It didn’t cause us to be shunned by everyone we knew because everyone we knew would give us the slow, understanding nod about how old fashioned it was to NOT live together.
But do you know what it did do? It caused major delays.
Looking back, I can see how damaging it was to go through the relationship steps without the grace of the sacrament of marriage.
As an unmarried couple living together before marraige, we were broken individuals trying to love each other how we had learned to love. For me, that meant relying on sexual behavior as a barometer of our relationship (which lead to a lot of miscommunication), and for my husband that meant doing his best and hoping it would work out (and being bewildered when it got uncomfortable).
We also kept secrets from each other, thought and acted selfishly, and experienced incredible stress anytime something went wrong in our relationship or in our lives (AKA “Things aren’t perfect right now but we have a right to things being perfect — ACK!”.
Unlike our marriage now, there was no third person, no Holy Spirit, no sense of grace to carry us through the inevitable tough times.
When you live together before marriage, you aren’t getting away with something; you’re missing out on something.
You aren’t avoiding a bad decision; you’re delaying the best decision you’ll ever make.
You’re also depriving yourself and your partner of an infinite source of love and support.
The sacrament of marriage is a gift straight from Jesus. That means that A) it’s important, so hey, maybe you need it even if you think you don’t? and B) Why would you pass up the opportunity to have that player on your team?
Why Is This Happening?
The heart of the epidemic of people living together is not:
- The old fashioned institution of marriage
- The sexual revolution, modern feminism, or social justice
- Religious hypocrites
The heart of the epidemic of people living together is due to each of our individual experiences of brokenness, shame, abuse, and selfishness.
When I considered living together with my husband, I was escaping a traditional patriarchal view of marriage in which I was to be saddled down with kids and used and abused as a mother for the rest of my life. I was taking love and sex (what society told me were “the best parts”) and leaving behind all the baggage.
When my friends live with their partners (and buy houses with them and go on vacations and join finances), they are taking as much good as they can and avoiding as much of the perceived downside as they can. They are leaving the baby and taking the bathwater, with no idea what joy that (poopy, smelly, screaming) baby can bring into their lives.
The List Goes On
My basic thoughts laid out, here’s a list of the common arguments I hear from cohabitating couples paired with what I’d like to say to them:
- “I don’t want someone to be forced to stay with me if they want to leave.” Will your partner leaving you now hurt any less 30 years from now? If anything I think it will hurt more. You can’t escape pain or betrayal by hiding your feelings. If anything, marriage is a way to clearly communicate the expectations you have for your relationship, thus establishing the boundaries that will help it succeed. You have to re-learn that it’s okay to trust someone and to expect things from someone. You have to learn to forgive and be forgiven within your relationships.
- “We’re already married in our life, so why get married just for the piece of paper?” Clearly if it was just a piece of paper, it wouldn’t be a big deal to you. In this case, it seems like people who don’t get married don’t do so “because they don’t think it’s important,” but because it’s important beyond belief and they don’t think they deserve it.
- “I just want to have fun.” Then you’re too immature to be a functioning member of society, let alone have sex with another human being. Go play laser tag.
- “Sex is about pleasure.” Look at your partner deep in the eyes. Is the purpose of their existence to give you physical pleasure? If someone else was dating your partner and they whispered that phrase to you in a bar, would you stand for it? Or would it sound like they were using your partner as a selfish tool for their own gain. Beyond that, do you ignore or otherwise not care for your partner when you’re not having sex? If you’re trying to make this argument, it’s more likely that you have some commitment and honesty issues than that you don’t think marriage is worthwhile.
- “We’re not ready for it.” You’re a wuss. You’re putting something off. You’re afraid of something in your future, and you don’t want to get started. Here’s a thought: whatever’s coming, wouldn’t you want to face it with this person legally, socially, and spiritually committed to you? And vice versa?
- “We want to make sure we’re compatible.” Ah, the most practical answer of all. How much sense this made to me 10 years ago! But all I can say to this is that if you love someone, if you want to sacrifice the rest of your life to their best health, if you would sleep in the hospital bed with them to tend them when they’re ill, and if you want to help them get into heaven… does it matter if it takes you a year to figure out who takes out the trash? Does it matter if you aren’t “good at sex” and you have to learn about it together? And would it really change everything to learn that they have a weird habit or preference that they need to go to counseling for? Looking back on my excuse, this is the same as “We’re not ready for it.” You’re just a wimp and there’s something you’re hiding from. Embrace it, grow, and make the plunge to either separate or get married!
I say these things as lovingly as possible (though I’m sure I’ll get some sass in the comments about being rigid or encouraging people to marry willy-nilly). I say these things as I wish someone had said to me when I signed my first lease with my now-husband and snuck around the adults in our lives. I say this with love and compassion for how much people are suffering (acknowledged or not) when they choose to live together before they get married.
Attention: Major Delays Ahead
As my husband is fond of saying, if we could go back in time we would never stop slapping ourselves for things we said, did, and thought during college and shortly after. Maturity has a way of replaying events in your life back to you and it’s frustrating to think of how right it felt to you at the time.
To all couples who are living together, I have to ask: if you aren’t ready to make this commitment… then why are you letting your body, finances, brain, and emotions make a commitment?
You’re setting yourself up for a lowercase-d “divorce” by not getting married, because eventually you will separate the family unit you have made and you never even gave it the support it deserved through the sacrament of marriage. Or, you’ll stay together in a perpetual twilight state of “two individuals who decide to have sex every now and then,” and that’s kind of like trying to behave like a toddler through your tweens.
While our culture (including myself at age 24 and many many of my friends now) are content to stop with “What feels right,” I think we all need to take a look at anything that comes to us easily. Today, it’s all too likely it comes straight from Screwtape under the label “modernity” and “getting with the times,” and it leads straight to a personal hell of your own making.
I’m rereading CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters and then this forehead-slap-worthy “Trend” came across the screen of my Twitter account:
And I just…. can’t even.
This is such obvious secular nonsense.
How in the world does it being 2016 mean that emotionally broken and damaged people should make up rules about how they treat other people and their own bodies?
Yeah, this is going to be a great year. For treating your body like it’s separate from your mind or your emotions? For pretending sex doesn’t mean anything and it’s fine to get off on other people? For getting drunk and ignoring all the warning signs in your life? ( & this is just according to the trailer I couldn’t look away from during the previews of another movie.)
Please tell me there is going to be a cultural whiplash against this movie… please tell me this is not the height of comedy, entertainment, or “women’s rights.” Please tell me that those who see this movie will be so turned off by it that it changes their life for the better!
I could cut it off here and leave this as a rant, but I’d rather make a tiny push toward making the world a better place. I’d like to take your “It’s 2016 — Make your own rules!” and replace it with these amazing lessons about sex from Simcha Fisher in her NC Register Post, “So What SHOULD We Tell Our Kids About Sex?”:
- Love is a gift of self.
- We speak with our bodies.
- Sex is about babies, among other things.
- The world lies to you.
- Sex forms bonds.
- Chastity is a positive.
- It’s possible to ruin sex for yourself.
- Sex is beautiful and mysterious.
- Premarital sex hurts you both, even if you marry the person you had it with.
- But all is never lost if you’ve gone too far.
I strongly encourage you to click over and read the full article. Like Fisher’s book, “The Sinner’s Guide to NFP” (which is about WAY MORE than NFP), it’s worth reading twice and sharing with everyone you know who has kids!
If everybody who disagreed with the Church about something in their lifetime stayed home, no one would ever be in church. There would be no Catholics. There might not even be any priests.
This is not to say the Church is wrong. It’s to say that we all experience emotional, psychological, ethical, moral, physical, you-name-it undulations throughout our lives. Our moods change. Our feelings change. Our lifestyles and interactions and personal experiences change. To cut yourself off from something wonderful, or to decide that an entire body of possibility is wrong based on fleeting thoughts, prejudices, and disagreements would be incredibly short-sighted.
Let me depart from my regularly scheduled sex-related posts to share this thoughtful quote from Matthew Kelly that perfectly dovetails this topic with the Theology of the Body book:
Catholic Digest: What advice would you give to a Catholic struggling with the Church today?
Matthew Kelly: Explore it. Most people don’t understand what it is. If there’s any issue that you massively disagree with, delve into that. There are answers there. Our personal biases and prejudices get in the way. Most of the time when we’re saying the Church is wrong, we’re just saying it’s inconvenient. That doesn’t mean it’s not true. (Catholic Digest Article)
Then, consider this:
“[When we ask for and receive grace from Christ,] we no longer need the law because we no longer desire to break it. What laws do you still need? What teachings of the Church feel like a burden or imposition to you? Perhaps the problem is not with the law or the Church, but with your own “hardness of heart.” Don’t throw away the law; surrender your disordered desires to Christ and let him transform them.” (Christopher West’s Introduction to the Theology of the Body)
I say this to my 15-year-old self that saw the Church as a hive of hypocrites, my college-aged self that saw the Church as a senior citizen home of shame and boring-ness, and to my present day self who loves the Church but struggles to feel in communion with other people.
(I also struggle with feeling merciful, avoiding anger, and judging others, classic symptoms of trying to follow all of the rules without the help of Christ’s grace***).
I also say this to you if you disagree about same-sex unions, contraception, Mary, premarital sex, or anything else controversial. Take a minute and google the Catholic side of the story. Read a book (just one book!) explaining why the Church sides the way it does. Consider how your life might have set you up to disagree with the Church’s truth and and how Screwtape benefits from the world’s view of the matter now. Consider the Catholic perspective of how it could change your life if you tried out another way.
There’s a world of possibility there that ends with everything working “for your good.”
***Christopher West’s Introduction to Theology of the Body: “Trying to follow all of the rules without seeking Christ’s grace is futile. Those who do will either become self-righteous hypocrites or they will abandon God’s law for a rationalized, watered-down version of the Gospel.”