R is for “R” you done yet?

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Some of my crew at our friend's baptism on Easter.

Some of my crew at our friend’s baptism on Easter.

“You’re done now, right?”

It feels like I get asked this every time I leave my house.

I know a guy who has 10 children. He said that his response to curious folks is this: “If you had 10 million dollars and someone wanted to give you another million, wouldn’t you want it?”

That’s a cute answer.

Even though I’ve been asked hundreds of time, I never know what to say. I just smile and sheepishly say something along the lines of, “Oh, I don’t know. Guess we’ll have to wait and see…”

People always seem puzzled by my response. But it’s the truth.

When I was in high school, I used to say I wanted 5 kids. Once I had two, I decided that was crazy talk and I didn’t want any more. I obviously changed my mind at some point and had baby number 3. After my third child, I decided it might not be so bad to be completely open to whatever happened indefinitely, even if that meant we ended up with a small army. After my fourth, I was heartbroken because I thought I might like to have more kids, but could never see myself going through labor and delivery again. Now, here I am holding my precious baby number 5.

I love my family. We are perfect just the way we are. If we never had another baby, I’d be ok with that. Our home is full of love and laughter and chaos.

But every new baby multiples that. And, as they grow, they bring a new personality and a new perspective into the mix. Each child is a completely unique and unrepeatable person that we wouldn’t have the joy of knowing if we hadn’t brought them into our family.  That’s why it seems crazy to me to say I’d never want to have another child.

So, now I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell the strangers in the checkout line: I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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To Love Somebody

coke-parenting-hed-2013You know you’re pregnant when Coke commercials from other countries make you cry. Nevertheless, I love this commercial. It almost makes me want to go buy a Coke…despite the fact that I don’t really like Coke. Maybe I’ll like the new Coke Life if we ever get it here.

(Unrelated sidebar: I’m super impressed that Coke made a diet drink without aspartame. I truly know nothing about stevia, other than it exists, but I’m glad to see a move away from the former.)

Go ahead. Watch it. It’s a commercial. It’s short.

Feel free to nod in agreement, pull your hair out in frustration, and weep with joy at the succinct, true, and beautiful message this commercial sends.

I think I’ve watched it 300 times in the 48 hours I’ve been aware of it’s existence…and, yes, I tear up every time. (I’m going to blame it on the hormones, but I really think it’s just seeing this great reflection of the chaos and the beauty that I lovingly refer to as parenting.)

NFP Top 10 List

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I love this top 10 list! I stumbled across it on Facebook and it’s so true. The author discusses the top 10 reasons she and her husband have chosen to use natural family planning. I can totally relate to all she says! Here are her top 10 reasons for choosing NFP over artificial birth control.

  1. NFP is good for the environment.
  2. NFP is good for my body.
  3. NFP is good for my marriage.
  4. Artificial hormones didn’t mess with my attraction to my husband when I decided to marry him.
  5. NFP is effective.
  6. I’m not always worried that there’s a chance I could be pregnant.
  7. NFP is empowering.
  8. It’s free!
  9. We have more sex.
  10. We have really good sex.

Read her blog for her support of each point. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Natural Family Planning IS NOT The Rhythm Method

Having written some of my recent posts has opened me up to slew of criticism, which happens to be, for the most part, nasty and uneducated. While I don’t intend to address most of it publicly, this is the one point that absolutely has to be cleared up. NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING IS NOT THE RHYTHM METHOD. I’ve even had nurses at former OB/GYN’s offices smugly make comments about my choice to use the “rhythm method.” I suppose the Rhythm Method is a form of Natural Family Planning, albeit a very bad one, but saying one uses NFP DOES NOT mean she uses the Rhythm Method. For those of you wondering what I could possibly be talking about, let me explain.

The Rhythm Method is when a women tracks her periods and basically guesses at when she might be ovulating based on the standard of a 28 day menstrual cycle. The huge problem with this is only something like 12% of women have a “normal 28 day cycle” every month. Attempting to achieve or postpone pregnancy based on an “average” is just foolish. People who oppose NFP are quick to cite statistics regarding the regular failure of the Rhythm Method and apply it to NFP in general. This is neither fair nor accurate.

True, reliable NFP comes under several names (the Sympto-Thermal Method,  the Billings Ovulation Method, and the Creighton Model, just to name a few) but all methods involve charting when you, as an individual, in that particular month, ovulate. When taking an NFP class, you learn the science behind ovulation and the menstrual cycle. You learn how to observe your body to know when you are ovulating. Whether you’re trying to achieve or prevent pregnancy or even just be proactive about your health, this is invaluable information. NFP works no matter what. If you’re early, if you’re late, if you’re stressed, if your fertile cycle begins before your period ends, if you’re breastfeeding, if you only have a few periods a year, if you’re illiterate, if you’re blind, whatever your unique circumstance is, NFP will let you know when you’re ovulating.

Common scientific sense tells you that if you have sex when you’re ovulating it is very likely you will get pregnant. If you don’t, you can’t. You absolutely can not get pregnant if you are not fertile. It’s not possible. (If you’re ever bored look up the case studies in India and China where NFP was implemented with a practically non-existent pregnancy rate. You most definitely can’t say the same for handing out artificial contraceptives.) For couples desiring to postpone pregnancy, they simply abstain from sex during the brief window of fertility. That’s why people freak out. Something about brief period of abstinence completely baffles and overwhelms our culture.

All things considered, (click here to read a transcript of a fabulous talk by Dr. Janet Smith where she discusses the relationship between contraception, divorce, abortion, poverty, and other social ills) I would much rather abstain a handful of days each month during the times I feel we are unable to accept another child than pollute my body and marriage with artificial birth control. I think if more people did a little research before popping that pill, getting that shot or inserting that ring, they would feel the same way.

In this day and age of it being so trendy to “go green,” eat organic foods, and be environmentally responsible, I find it laughable that so many people mindlessly choose artificial contraception over natural methods. (For information on how birth control is harming our environment, click here or just google “birth control and fish”) While my motives in choosing NFP aren’t necessarily “green,” I’m glad I’m not contributing to this problem.

I do want to point out, if you are interested in NFP it’s crucial you take a class or order an at home study kit, so you can learn what you’re doing. If you just read an article and attempt to implement it, you will likely be unsuccessful. However, with very little time, effort, or expense, you can learn NFP and say goodbye to artificial contraception and all its unpleasant and harmful side effects for good.

Lastly, my family size should not be used as an indicator of how well NFP works. Josh and I have never had a “surprise” pregnancy since beginning NFP. (The same can not be said for when we were using artificial contraception. I wouldn’t give Andy back for anything in the world, but he definitely wasn’t “planned.”) We know full well when we “risk” becoming pregnant. Believe it or not, we love our family and we don’t consider our children or family size to be a burden. Despite the negativity we receive from our peers, friends, strangers, and family, we adore our children and are open to more if that’s what the Lord has planned for us. At the same time, we know that we can also rely on NFP to postpone pregnancy if the need arises and have effectively done so in the past.

And just for good measure, I want to share these questions from FertilityCare Centers of America. If your answer to any of the following questions is “yes,” they highly recommend (and, of course, I agree) looking into a natural family planning method.

1. Do you want to know more about how your menstrual cycle works?

2. Are you tired of taking birth control pills, using condoms, using gels or diaphragms?

3. Are you looking for something to manage your fertility that is entirely natural?

4. Are you tired of having the birth control pill recommended for the treatment of nearly every woman’s health problem?

5. Are you interested in a family planning system that also allows you to monitor and maintain your health?

6. Are you looking for a family planning system that is completely safe and has no medical side effects?

7. Are you looking for a family planning method where surveys have shown a high level of couple satisfaction?

8. Are you looking for a solution to a reproductive problem? Infertility? Miscarriage? Stillbirth? Prematurity?

9. Are you looking for a solution to premenstrual syndrome? Recurrent Ovarian Cysts? Abnormal bleeding?

10. Would you like a family planning system that actually helps bond your marriage? Where both the the man and the woman work together?

11. Are you looking for a system of family planning that is morally acceptable to you and your spouse?

If your answer was “YES!” to any of the above questions, then you should seriously consider contacting an affiliated center of FertilityCare™ Centers of America.

To locate a FertilityCare™ Center in your area, please go to http://www.fertilitycare.org for a complete listing of Centers located in the United States and Canada or write to:

FertilityCare™ Center of Omaha

6901 Mercy Road

Omaha, Nebraska 68106

fcco@popepaulvi.com

Celebrate Family. Celebrate Life.

Andy and Jack. Summer 2009

Andy and Jack. Summer 2009

I spent a lot of time yesterday discussing the Tebow Superbowl Ad. Maybe it was the hormones. Maybe it was because Josh was working OT again. Maybe it was because I had a long day and didn’t have the energy to do much else besides sit with the computer. Maybe someone will benefit from what I had to say. Whatever the reason, I stand behind what I said. The thing that bothers me is I spent too much time reacting in frustration instead of talking about what’s really important. I spent too much time feeding into the drama and not enough time elaborating on the intended theme of the ad, Celebrate family. Celebrate life.

Both children and family are huge blessings and most definitely huge reason for celebration. Ask any woman who is desperately trying to conceive a child. Children are not burdens and I don’t know when they became such in the eyes of our society. Children are a gift. Children may mean you take one less vacation or you make decisions regarding your career or you closet that you wouldn’t have made before having them, but since when are we afraid to sacrifice for something worthwhile? Unlike what Ms. Gettelman said, this is not “losing your future.”

Children bless and enhance your life in the way that no career, vacation or shopping spree ever could. Having a family is the most fulfilling decision you can ever make. Yes, you will have hard days…a lot of them. There used to be a time when we understood that anything worth having was worth fighting for. What happened to us? Now, we want everything handed to us in the most convenient fashion as quickly as possible. I don’t know who set us up to expect that, but they did us a great disservice. As Dacia Wiegandt often says,

“The reason most people fail instead of succeed is that they trade what they want most for what they want at the moment.”

What do you want most in life? If children and family is on your list, I highly recommend you stop putting it off until you reach a certain point in your career, until your bank account reaches a certain balance, or until whatever else you’re waiting for. First of all, even when you reach those goals, something new will pop up. Like Joanne Bertalan always reminds me, “there’s a new devil at every level.” Looking into the future, you can’t truly comprehend or predict what your life will be like when you reach goal x, y or z. Secondly, once you have a child, your priorities will probably shift anyway. Why waste so much time building a life that you may or may not want once you are fortunate enough to have a family of your own? Again, this is not “loosing your future.” This is maturing and seeing the world from a whole new perspective.

I speak from experience when I tell you that when you openly and lovingly accept a child or children, you will be provided for. It may not be in the fashion you initially expect, but you and your family will have every need met. See what we are told in Matthew 6: 25-34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.

But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’

All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Andy's Birth Day. December 2005.

Andy’s Birth Day. December 2005.

I can tell you, God is faithful to His word. One could say I found myself in a “crisis pregnancy.” At the very least it was unexpected, unplanned and inconvenient. And believe me, more than one person suggested I “terminate” it. I am so grateful that I was raised to know better and received enough emotional support from those around me to keep from feeling forced into that decision. Let me note, when I say support, I don’t mean the people around me were thrilled or even happy. I lost a lot of “friends” over the decision to carry my child to term and raise him myself. But let me tell you, neither he nor I wanted for anything during that pregnancy or even now. God provided us with everything we needed.

People I’ve never met sent me hand-me-downs. My grandmother bought us a stroller. Some friends threw me a shower. A woman at church made me this awesome basket of stuff she knew I would have never thought to buy in advance like a thermometer, diaper rash cream and gas drops. Josh was offered a new job, albeit not the job we “wanted” nor one he liked, but the one that provided us with enough income to support our little family. I had everything I needed to take care of that baby because I trusted in the Lord. Actually, that is a huge overstatement. At that point in my life the best I could do was say “Ok, I’m having this baby. Please help us.” My definition of trusting in the Lord has definitely matured since then, but God provided for us anyway.

I can assure you no other “accomplishment” in this life compares with being handed your child for the first time in the delivery room. No other “success” compares with watching your child achieve a new skill or make a good decision on his own. No other “recognition” feels as good as little arms around your neck and a little voice telling you “Mama, I love you so much!” Children are a great gift, the most rewarding “job” that has ever existed. It’s so sad to see the way our country throws them away and devalues them to nothing more than a burden.

Pseudo-Tolerance

peace-love-and-tolerance-ellen-paulsonApparently, part of being pregnant in modern times is opening yourself up to constant critique from anyone you come into contact with. This disgusts me. Especially when it’s the self-proclaimed “tolerant” people passing the judgments. The very same people who claim to be open and accepting to any system of beliefs are often the quickest to share their criticisms about me. I’m not passing judgment on tolerant people. I think a lot of the world problems could be solved with a little more tolerance and respect. However, there’s a difference between being truly tolerant and calling yourself tolerant when what you really mean is, “I’m only open to ideas or customs that are modern or liberal or stem from religions found elsewhere in the world.” Present these pseudo-tolerant people with an idea or custom that is either traditional or conservative or Christian and watch their heads spin. They can’t being to fathom why anyone would embrace such values and they’re quick to tell you so. It seems to me if you’re “tolerant” you should respect what I believe and act on, whether it’s left or right or anywhere in between.

One particular situation that really irks me is when pro-choice people comment on my pregnancies. These people believe that I have a right to choose to allow the child growing in my womb to be born or choose to “terminate” him/her instead. Yet, somehow, they feel that they have a right to comment on my right to choose whether or not to conceive a child in the first place. Explain to me how an individual would find it perfectly acceptable to go with me to a clinic to end this child’s life, but the same individual finds it perfectly acceptable to ridicule my “choice” to conceive a child in the first place. Where exactly does my “right to choose” begin and end? If you’re moral stance is “it’s my body and my choice” who are you to tell me otherwise when I choose life?

It further baffles me that the same people who would welcome me with open arms if I were involved in a bisexual polygamous relationship (obviously a little dramatic, but you get the point) are so quick to shake their heads at my heterosexual procreative relationship. Why is it that some people are only willing to extend their tolerance in one direction? People have been involved in heterosexual procreative relationships since the beginning of time. More than likely, its how the very person who stands in judgment of me came to exist. Yet, as of late, that’s no longer the trendy thing to do. In fact, if I insist on being heterosexual, it’s unthinkable that I should also be willing to procreate. At least not more than 1 or 2 times. Which brings me to another favorite that I’ve heard several times lately.

“How can you possibly consider bringing another child into this world when there are so many starving children in it already?” Explain to me how this logic works? The child in my womb is not currently starving, nor will he/she be after he/she is born. Yes, many people in this world are impoverished and hungry. May I ask what you are doing to help with this problem? Does your choice to contracept somehow help feed, clothe or shelter them? I do contribute to causes that help feed, clothe, and shelter these people, but that has nothing to do with my willingness to reproduce. Those are two very separate issues. Or perhaps you’re implying that instead of having my own children, I should adopt those children? Did you ask me if I was open to adoption or did you just assume that I’m somehow too selfish to consider that? It’s funny that I’m the one who regularly passes up nights out or vacations to anywhere in favor of having and supporting a family, while you choose to do everything in your power to avoid having to sacrifice growing your shoe collection in favor of having a child. Yet, I’m the one you somehow assume is selfish. It’s been a while since my clinical psyc class, but I’m pretty sure that’s called projection. The funnier thing is I didn’t randomly walk up to you and ask why you would consider wearing a designer outfit when there are so many starving children in the world. That, however, would have been a much more logical question.

Baby on board!

baby-on-board

Not that it’s really news at this point, but we’re expecting our third child in June! I am just so excited and am so very blessed to have been given these three glorious gifts from God. So for those of you who know us, or even those of you who don’t, (You would be astonished by what strangers feel they have a right to say to you when you’re pregnant and/or a mom.) let me go ahead and give you the answers to some of our FAQs.

1. Yes, we know where babies come from.

2. No, we are not “trying” for a girl.

3. In fact, we don’t have cable. However, I neither feel that is the cause of our pregnancies, nor would I want to trade the “time” time I “spend” with my husband to spend time watching 30 Rock. (Totally not knocking 30 Rock – I LOVE 30 Rock!)

4. Yes, this baby was planned…by Someone much wiser than we are.

5. Andy is 4, Jack is 2.

5b. No, we are not systematically spacing our children.

6. Yes, I’m a little concerned about the expenses we are going to incur considering we have a 2 bedroom apartment and there is no room for another passenger in either of our cars.

6b. No, I do not feel that those concerns were sufficient reason not to have another child right now.

6c. The Lord will provide.

7. I don’t know whether we are “done” having children. We are both open to the possibility of more. We are both immensely satisfied with the amazing little family we already have. See #4 re: a wiser Individual.

8. No, I am not bored at home.

8b. Yes, my boys already keep me incredibly busy and I can’t imagine having more to handle in one day. Laughably, I felt the same way when transitioning from one to two kids. I think it’s hard to imagine what you’re capable of until you see yourself doing it.

9. Yes, I have heard that the transition from 2 to 3 kids is the harder than 1 to 2 or even 3 to 4.

9b. No, I’m not going to spend the next 6 months worrying about that.

10. Yes, I do occasionally doubt my parental abilities.

10b. The Lord won’t give me anything I can’t handle.

If your question remains unanswered, feel free to chime in. I assure you, it probably isn’t anything some random person hasn’t already asked me in the grocery store.

I went to the doctor yesterday and everything looks great. I heard his or her little heartbeat and got to do another ultrasound! Eventually, I’ll get around to scanning the pictures. In the meantime, you’ll just have to wait until you run into me to see our little peanut. We should find out if we’re having a boy or a girl in February!

Right now, I’m a little more than 13 weeks, and, just in case you’re curious, this is what our baby looks like.

This isn’t actually our baby, and this baby is only 12 weeks, but I just love this picture.

This baby is 10 weeks. That means our little peanut is about this size, but actually a little bigger. What a miracle!!