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 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!
When I look back on the changes in my life in the past two months, it feels like it’s a different person writing. That’s only a testament to the amazing change that can be wrought in your heart when God, the Holy Spirit, and counseling work together.
I’ve worked a lot, traveled a bit, and been in counseling almost every week. Here are some themes that are playing out in my life and bringing me closer to God:
“You are more than what you do”
I have a tendency toward false idols (I think we all do). Work is a big one. Because I’m good at it and it rewards me with money, I tend to pour all of my time, thought, and energy into it in order to avoid harder things like being present to my husband, putting myself out there for my friends (new and old), and being available to God.
Right now, my business is in a slow growth state, which gives me a lot of time to reflect and feel fear. More than ever before, though, I’ve been trying to stick with mantras like, “It’s all in God’s hands,” and “What happens will happen.” I’m still very afraid, but I also feel a bit of anesthesia from a fear that would usually be wringing my guts out. I’ve prayed for peace from God (and the ability to stop seeing money as security) and I can feel God working in me.
Sex as mutual self-giving
At the time of this writing, the past two times we’ve made love has been to completion. It feels so weird and amazing (and TMI) to write that, but it’s an important part of my story. It’s also one that I want people to know about. When or if I get pregnant, it is because of years and years of work tearing down this ego Satan has built inside of me.
I want to be clear it’s all by the grace of God and that the only way forward was to get out of my own way and give everything to Him. Which, ironically, sounds a lot like what I was afraid of in the first place (giving everything up). So it’s all an amazingly intertwined spiritual pretzel.
I still worry I’m not having sex enough or that I won’t be able to have it to completion enough (or each time), but part of the work I’m doing has been to turn off my brain. I am enough. What I’m doing is enough. And I should never dwell on not being enough, just as I should never stop trying to improve myself and my spiritual condition… the beauty of the Both/And Catholicism!
I still wonder if other women go through this. It’s not something people bring up in polite company too often, so it’s hard to get a sense of how normal this is, but if I keep chugging away with my story I hope I can find others or help someone dealing with the same thing.
What does “OK” mean?
So many things affect how I think I’m doing. My health, my bank account, my mood, how much I’ve accomplished in a given day. But God tells us only one thing matters: I’ve had to keep reminding myself that I will be the best-version-of-myself no matter how the future finds me based on my spiritual health, not my physical health, possessions, or mind.
What does OK mean to you? Getting into a certain college? Getting a certain salary? Dating a certain person? Imagine how much stress would fall away from us if we focused on the only thing that matters: how quickly and easily we express our love for God. When that’s all that matters to us, we stop fighting those great things because they don’t look the way they think they should, and we leave room for God to do great things in our lives.
There’s so much more, but that’s enough of a check-in for now (and I hope to be back more regularly starting now). I’d love to hear how you all are doing and what you’re reading!
I’ve never had a photographic memory.
That said, I have two degrees (one a Master’s), I work for myself, and I’ve been known to give some thoughtful advice.
But lately… yeah, lately I feel that kind of going down the tube as my chronic health issues flare into some kind of psychological snowstorm that leaves me feeling a bit less like this:
And a bit more like this:
This all came out in counseling yesterday, and it was really intense. I went down a path of feeling fear for my decline in health.
Not because I’m tired a lot of the time and on a careful meal plan (which I am and have been for a long time). But because after a lifetime on counting on my brain, my mind, and my intellect…. I kind of feel that going, too.
I still feel pretty “with it.” But it’s little things like not being able to remember what I want to say in conversation, or having a tough time rephrasing what I’ve read recently.
Over the years, I’ve always been able to rely on my brain. No matter what was happening, at some point, some how, I would think of a solution and everything would be okay. The idea that my brain might not be there for me, that I might not be able to think my way out of a problem is uncomfortable.
So once I tried to dig a little deeper into that idea, I realized (of course) that it’s a deeper spiritual problem: my rational mind has always been on my team since the beginning. And the rest of “me” has always failed me.
- My emotions failed me when they lead me to endure an abusive sexual relationship for 3 years and then into sexual relationships with the men I dated after that.
- My body failed me 1st when I was overweight as a child, 2nd when I developed autoimmunity, causing me to gain 100+ lbs and struggle with fertility, food intolerances, and chronic fatigue, and 3rd when I panic at the thought of semen entering my body, which, you know, makes it kind of hard to get pregnant.
Yesterday was my 4th EDMR session. While it feels weird to jump right into the results (rather than lay the foundation over several blog posts), that can’t be helped. The story takes too long to tell.
Here’s the short version: in 2014, my husband and I started learning about Natural Family Planning (NFP) and the Creighton Method (CM). At the time, we were married, practicing Catholics using condoms. We made it about six months through the NFP practice before our conversations about and understanding of sex radically shifted. We weren’t “trying to conceive,” but it quickly became clear that a healthy, happy marriage does not stand on birth control.
Then we started having sex all the time without a condom. Easy peasy, right? Not so fast.
Fear of Sperm
The first few times we tried to have sex without a condom in 2014, I freaked out. I couldn’t pinpoint the issue, but when the moment arrived for us to follow through with the whole sexual act, something inside of me spazzed and I couldn’t do it (no pun intended).
Starting-a-family anxiety? Parenting issues? That’s what I assumed at first. I googled everything I could think of, starting with “Sperm is gross” and “Fear of sperm,” hoping to find camaraderie in a pregnancy forum. But I only found one comment about it and it was pretty innocuous (“Does anyone else think sperm is pretty gross?” “Yeah, ew! But whatcha gonna do?”)
However, when I started talking about it with a counselor it quickly became clear that I had an awful lot of negative associations with the sexual act and sperm in particular. And in January of 2015 (this year) I realized that what I thought was just a crappy first relationship at 15 years old was actually sexual abuse.
A Bad First Impression
I never thought I’d be someone who suddenly “remembered” being abused, but that’s exactly how it happened. In the course of one 60-minute counseling session I went from “Yeah, I dated a jerk,” to “Oh, I remember X and X, and it was consensual, but looking back I would never do that and I would be disgusted by anyone who asked me to do that.”
I’ll leave the details for another post, but my first introduction to sex was as far from Catholic as possible. It was secretive (I snuck around my strict parents to make it happen), it was selfish (on behalf of the guy), it was not loving, and it was as far from respectful of of a woman as it is possible to get without getting into forced rape territory.
It was also calculated, inspired by his desire to experiment and act out scenes he enjoyed from pornography, and inappropriate based on our ages (he was 19, I was 15, a senior when I was a freshman).
Forgiveness & Recovery
I won’t get into the guy too much — looking back, what he shared about his sexual compulsiveness indicates to me that he was sexually abused as a child. And no matter how inappropriate, misguided, or uninformed I was, it was also always “up to me” what we did.
Instead, I’m drawn to how this story impacts my understanding of femininity, my ability to be open to life within my marriage now, and how my husband and I will approach pregnancy staring down this less obvious form of psychological infertility.
The more I unravel this situation in the EDMR sessions, the more clearly this becomes a far-reaching theme into the secular history of my body, including the following:
- The respect/love my body didn’t get from my mother (because of the respect/love she did not give her own body for being overweight, abused, and prone to overeating)
- The teasing I received in middle school because I was overweight
- The abusive relationship I entered into in high school
- The dramatic and sexually-active relationships I maintained through high school and college (even with my current husband until we were married and then entered the Catholic Church)
- The chronic illness that became active in college and after college
- The current sense of “invasion” at the thought of completing the sexual act (a million sperm verses just me)
In each of these segments of my history, my body was the enemy. I was not a spiritual being working with a physical body, as CS Lewis says. I was a spiritual being burdened by a crappy body that didn’t work properly (it was too fat, too sick, too abused by someone else).
It wasn’t mine. It wasn’t me. The me I held on to and cultivated was the me of the mind and the intellect. I was me in spite of my body not because of it. The two were separate, and the one (the mind) was preferable to the other (the body).
Beyond Plugging the Hole
This is where I hope the abuse ends. Using the Church’s teaching and sacraments, I want to get to the bottom of this and merge the two again. I want to find away to accept my sick, broken, and abused body, and love it again. Because, honestly, I don’t think I do.
Reading Women, Food, and God helped me stop hating my body. But it mainly just plugged up the abuse. I didn’t take the next step to actively love or accept my body. I just moved on to other things, grateful to ditch my body issues once and for all. Cue the phrase, “The opposite of hate is not love, it’s apathy.”
But as anyone who moved to one town to escape relationships in another, you know that ditching the issues is just the first step. There’s also a lot of work to be done with digging out the rotten roots and filling it with something that will let your body heal. If you don’t, you’re just building your emotional house on sand over and over again.
How the Church Saves
I think that something that can fill me and let my body heal is Jesus Christ. Someone who came to us with a perfect body, a perfect intellect, and a perfect spirit… and submitted to God to watch it all be broken and torn apart in full confidence that it was for the best.
I might think I am suffering and I might be afraid of the sacrifice I would have to make as a pregnant woman (the overshadowing, the submission, the loss of control), but I would not be the first, the last, or even the most notable.
Jesus already showed me how. Mary already showed me how. But no one can do it for me. I have my own cross, my own trial, and my own issues to overcome (because yeah, I haven’t met anyone else with a fear of sperm yet!). It won’t be easy, but at least now I can see the path laid out before me instead of wandering alone.
Step one: I ordered an introduction to Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. I’ll be reading it and writing about it in hopes that I can unravel these complicated emotions and embrace the simple heart of the Catholic Church: a respectful, loving, life-giving marriage.
“Every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will ‘turn the necessity to glorious gain.”
CS Lewis, The Letters of CS Lewis
I’ve been struggling with this concept lately, because it seems like the equations should be really simple:
Health = Good
Sickness = Bad
Work = Good
Sloth = Bad
So when my chronic illness causes me to work less, or feel sick, it seems pretty obvious it’s a bad thing. So how could this disability lead me to something good, let alone a spiritual vocation?
The minute I write the question, I start to see the answer. This illness breaks me regularly, pulling me out of my desire to achieve, earn, and work and forcing me to sit with myself in rest.
There’s simply no escaping what God wants to teach you, and no amount of hard work and noise can drown out the clear message I need to hear: we’re more than what we accomplish, we’re filled with worth even when we don’t work, and no amount of running can carry you away from the reality that God is all you need.
Not a new doctor.
Not having a child.
None of these things that I think I need will ever solve my problem or give me stability because my problems and the ultimate source of stability is not of this world. It’s God. And he’s already here.