Turning to Mary and Trusting When It’s Hard

Trust is constantly on my mind these days. My husband and I found out that I am pregnant. Anyone who has read my previous work for Catholic Exchange knows that I have had three miscarriages and spent 3.5 years afflicted with post-partum depression and anxiety. The doctors know why I had miscarriages and my Catholic NaPro doctor told me three years ago that she could possibly help us have another successful pregnancy. In the meantime, she was able to begin treating my severe hormone deficiencies.

At that time, I had just suffered my third and most traumatic loss which resulted in emergency surgery. The post-partum that had developed 10 weeks after I gave birth to my daughter, deepened after each loss. That was not the time for another child. My husband and I knew that God wanted us to heal and walk the Cross of post-partum depression. My body also needed major healing after all it had been through. We didn’t know when the post-partum would lift and we knew the risk of me getting it after another pregnancy was high. Thankfully, NaPro offers a post-partum depression progesterone treatment that has helped a lot of women.

After that difficult time, we didn’t know or think we would have any more children, but God’s ways are not our own. It would have been imprudent to try and I wrote about the need for prudence in such decisions. God calls each one of our families to a different path to holiness and we cannot compare our situation to the person sitting next to us in the pew because we have no idea what they are going through, can handle, or what God is asking of them. Being judgmental is a sin for a reason and it stems from the destructive sin of pride. But, God is also not done with any of us. Crosses lift, evolve, or take a new shape. Old Crosses disappear and new ones take their place. In all of these we are called to trust.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Some Honesty About NFP

Okay, I am just going to  be honest here, sometimes having to use NFP sucks.  I don’t mean because I want to use contraception.  Quite the opposite.  I know how contraception has hurt marriages, our culture, women, pretty much everybody.  Our culture just cannot see it, but the Church has predicted the disastrous results we see before us, for decades.  My husband and I do not want any part in the contraceptive culture.  So don’t misunderstanding my venting.

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This year we have had to use Creighton Method of Natural Family Planning (NFP) because I have had 3 miscarriages, and some pretty serious periods of post-partum depression and anxiety.  Using Creighton helped my NaPro doctor (Natural Procreative Technologies see Pope Paul VI Institute for more info) figure out that I have serious estrogen and progesterone deficiencies, which has led to me giving myself 4 shots of HCG each month.  NFP was essential, and has been a God send for us, as has my doctor, a fellow (soon-to-be for me) Lay Dominican.
We have had to use NFP for 7 months.  I know, there are some couples who have to do it for years, but this is my experience.  There are times when NFP is just plain hard.  My husband and I went through the NFP classes with the videos of the smiling couples telling us how great their marriages were thanks to NFP.  I know intellectually how NFP works within God’s plan for human sexuality.  It keeps us from using our partner as an object (which is what contraception does), and it forces couples to communicate about the possibility of children, struggles they are having, especially medical or financial, and to be open to God’s plan in their marriage.  It keeps the marital act free from barriers, but also follows the natural cycle of a woman’s body to decide if a married couple has discerned trying to have a child on a month-to-month basis.  Non-Catholics you must keep in mind that marriage vows in a Catholic wedding (the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony) promise to be open to children.
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My husband and I always planned to just be open to however many children God gave us.  Well, that was before I lost 3 babies and discovered some serious hormone issues.  NFP came into our marriage because of those medical issues and it has been a blessing to be sure.  To be honest, though, it gets tiresome to be denied the unitive act with one’s spouse, except for a week out of the month.  Some women’s cycles allow for more time, but mine don’t.  The gift of human sexuality is both unitive and procreative.  They cannot be separated, hence the Church’s position on contraception.   NFP does not deny either, but it is sacrifice.
Having to abstain while married is a sacrifice and that is a part of the spiritual dimension of NFP.  We sacrifice for the greater good of our family or spouse’s health.  It’s kind of like fasting.  Given what we have been through in the last 3 years, I just wanted to say that NFP is a gift, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that it is always great.  I know that the Church is fighting a battle against a culture that has swallowed, quite literally, the contraception lie, but can we at least be honest with people.  NFP strengthens marriage because of the selfless sacrifices that are required, but it is a struggle and sometimes you will say the heck with it and decide to be open to whatever happens.  No one is required to ever use NFP anyway.  So there really are no mistakes.  And if people say that NFP does not work, or that you are bad at NFP, tell them that you are good at it, but you decided to trust in God’s will this month and be with your spouse.  Perhaps you need that unitive act to bring you closer together during difficult times, or you just want to be with your spouse.  Come on!  Sex is holy.  It is a gift.  It is meant to be enjoyed with our spouse.  So, we are not bad at NFP, we just got tired of using NFP this month…lol.
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I saw a great article by a man describing his experiences with NFP.  For half the month the wife is telling her husband to keep away, and then all of a sudden she is open, and then she isn’t.  Now to our culture this sounds absurd, but the Christian life is full of sacrifice.  It is in that sacrifice that we are made selfless, as Christ was selfless.  We are to love our spouse as Christ loves us.  A very tall order that we will all fail at daily.
How about the woman’s perspective?  Well, I can only give you mine.  I have to battle my own hormones and love of my husband for half of the month, repeatedly tell him “no”, and then finally after I am completely sure based on my Creighton chart, I can say “yes”, after my body has gotten done saying “yes” for two weeks and is now in its default apathy because ovulation has occurred.  So I get to be open when my body couldn’t care less because there is no risk of pregnancy.
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Non-Catholics may be reading this wondering what I am talking about, but Catholics who have been through this will get it.  I think it is time that we are honest.  NFP is great because it allows us to naturally space children, it also helps couples conceive, and it helps women learn about their bodies.  And I would tell every single woman to throw out her pills, IUD (especially since these can cause abortions), shot, or whatever else you are doing to yourself and embrace Natural Family Planning.  Really learn about the gift that is your body and femininity.  Let’s just keep in mind that couples who love one another in marriage do not want to have to schedule out the times they come together every month.  It is okay to admit that it is hard.  That is a part of the Christian journey.  We are not breaking some rule by admitting to people that NFP is great, but hard.
I know Simcha Fisher wrote a new book on NFP that I want to read.  You can find it here.  Jennifer Fulwiler has also written about NFP.  And here is the article from a man’s perspective on NFP.
*Say a prayer for me.  I have had to add estrogen to my hormone treatments because while the HCG has fixed my progesterone deficiency, it has not fixed the estrogen deficiency.

No Quick Fixes

I have gone through my first series of HCG shots.  I am getting better at giving myself the shot, which I usually choose to do in my stomach.  If I pay attention it does not hurt, but if I do it in a hurry, I bruise myself.  The first few days I was feeling a bit better mentally and physically.  It’s the pregnancy hormone and I usually feel more balanced when I am pregnant, minus the projectile vomiting. The problem is, that it has not lasted, not that I expected immediate results (that doesn’t mean that some small part of me wasn’t hoping…lol).

I am still struggling with the same severe PMS symptoms: severe anxiety, fatigue, cravings, depression.  The HCG has had no impact on these symptoms even though my progesterone levels have risen to “awesome” levels and my estrogen is rising, it just still is not at the goal.  My estrogen levels were really low.  As my husband explained it to some of our friends, “here is average, here is one step below average, and here is my wife, way down here”.

Here’s the thing, there are no quick fixes, and I was not expecting any.  So if you decide to see a NaPro doctor, keep in mind that it will take a while to figure it all out.  Body chemistry, especially hormones, are extremely complicated.  It is amazing how much they impact our bodies.  It can be discouraging, but like me, you have to remember to be patient and not lose hope.

When you have days like today, like the day that I am having, where I am anxious, tired, and depressed, listen to your Guardian Angel and pray.  I keep hearing over and over again, “pray, Constance”.  Am I doing a very good job of listening? No, but I do know that it is all that I can do and it is the right thing to do.  I have been through these kinds of days hundreds of times, so I know that in time, things get better.  I also need to learn to cling to the Cross.  The Cross is the only thing that will set me free and my Guardian Angel is trying to smack me upside the head.  Have you seen this image on Catholic Memes:

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Keep up the good fight and remember to fall on Christ.  Have a blessed day!

Results Day

Today is the day that I find out the results of my month long hormone panel.  I am working with a Catholic NaPro doctor whom I met through the Lady Dominicans.  My husband and I are about to make the 2.25 hour drive to her office.  I have to admit that I am nervous.  I think that I am more nervous of her saying to me that she could not find anything wrong with me.  That would mean we would know nothing more than we did when we started this process four months ago with me learning Creighton NFP.  That would mean that I would have no answer to why I have lost three babies.

I am trying to write as I go through this process.  I will write a post on Natural Procreative Technologies (NaPro), which are a form of Catholic Church approved medical interventions for repeated miscarriage, post-partum depression, severe PMS, hormone issues, endometriosis, etc.  The most common treatment method from what I understand is natural progesterone given during the second half of a woman’s cycle when she is not pregnant and injections when she is pregnant.  That is if a progesterone deficiency is found, which is really what we are looking for in me.

While the process is stressful because of all the unknowns, it was when I was introduced to this option that I began to have hope again.  After this last loss, I was starting to accept that I would not have the option of more children whether it be because of my physical or emotional health.  Each pregnancy was taking its toll on me.  Rough pregnancies, that resulted in loss, and then periods of post-partum depression and anxiety.  The last three years have been a roller coaster.

So today I find out if I have a hormone issue.  I have had every blood test possible this year.  All of which came back normal.  While this is not the last step, it is the last step in the easier options.  The next options would be genetic testing and structural testing.  I have to admit that there is a big part of me that is hoping she will tell me I have a progesterone deficiency.  So much of what I have been through in the last 20 years will make so much more sense if that is the case.  Miscarriage was just the catalyst to start looking for issues.  I have struggled with severe PMS for decades.  Most OB/GYNs just throw birth control at women, rather than looking for the actual medical issue.  I have never gone on the Pill for medical reasons and never intend to.  Some women have to, but I think that these women need to look into NaPro.