Let’s just get something straight right off the bat. I have never been one of those women who have a joyous pregnancy. You will never hear me say “I just love being pregnant”. I have always had terrible morning sickness, which for me should be called “all day” sickness. My offering it up sounds a little bit like this “Help me to whine and complain less”. In my struggles with vanity, I find myself focusing on how my body is changed from a size 7 to around 170 pounds on a 5’2″ frame. In addition to which I loose my wardrobe and feel like my days are spent rolling my underwear back up my belly and wearing tents.
So given all of that, how is it that I am pregnant with our eighth child? Well, oddly enough it began with me going on a health kick. I heard about Natural Family Planning or NFP from a friend and my desire to get off of the pill and use a more “natural” way to prevent pregnancy was my primary motivation to give it a try. It would be awhile before I learned of the Church’s teachings on birth control and it would be years later before I would discover how I would be called to “serve” God in a unique way through motherhood.
I have to say that one of the worst things about my pregnancies is that I become very emotional. Being a person who grew up with childhood abuse I am very private about crying in front of others. I have always disliked how weak and vulnerable I feel. During my pregnancies I find myself crying over the littlest of things and sometimes for no reason at all.
As far as support we really have none. We do not have family to support us — my husband family is Jehovah’s Witness (another article!) and my parents divorced when I was a baby. In fact they have offered my husband money to get “fixed”. The same offers come from extended family as well.
Whenever we go anywhere it seems strangers have their comments as well. We hear “Are these all yours?” “Your not going to have any more are you?” My two favorites are “What’s wrong with you two, is your television broken?” or “Did you birth them all?” These persecutions combined with my own selfishness have made the sacrifices required of me difficult to bear at times. The point I am making is that being open to God’s will has really been a trial for me.
Last night my husband and I were discussing the uncertainty of the economy, our family and lack of work at his firm and how this new baby was going to make our financial situation more stressful. We started talking about how so many people we know have the great cars, house, boat, Disney World Vacation every year etc. On the outside looking in it seems like they have so much more than us. How nice it must be to travel or just to drive a car that does not break down every other month. It’s easy to start pondering how if we would have had fewer kids we could have afforded private piano lessons. Then I recalled a man at my husband’s firm. They had everything. 3 figures a year, gorgeous house, great car, vacations, private dance and piano for the kids. He killed himself last year.
Last week my husband was at a business meeting with a new client. The men were introducing themselves and talking about their families. One of the men from my husband’s firm began to introduce my husband for him and made several derogatory comments about what number child we were on. At the lunch break one of the new clients approached my husband and showed him pictures of his children, all of which had died. One was killed in car accident, another drowned and a third died from cancer. He told my husband he would give anything to go back and have more children. He and his wife always thought that one day they would be surrounded by grandchildren. Now, they do not even have children. He told my husband to be proud of his family because he would be.
So why are so many people who did things “right” (according to our culture) so miserable? Why are their marriages failing? In fact, all of the friends we have that are open to life have strong marriages. Well it seems the abortion and birth control mentality have brought about a materialistic society that has taken our focus off of the true reason God created us. The messages of our world and this culture definitely conflicts with family sizes larger than 2.5 kids.
Pope John Paul II called our times the “Culture of Death”. In the Baltimore Catechism one of the basic questions are “Why did God create you?” The answer is to know God, to love God and to serve God so we can be with Him forever in Heaven. It is important to know that in the beginning God created us male and female. His first commandment was to go forth and be fruitful. They key to understanding how to love and serve God is to know how we as women are called to give our own yes in a uniquely different way than men. We are equal in dignity but complimentary in nature for a reason.
Pope John Paul 11’s teachings on “Theology of the Body” make the point that stamped right into woman’s body is receptivity. For example, how do we know we are a woman? It is not our elbows right? Okay, so the very parts of our body that convey our femininity are meant to receive man. Conversely man’s body shows us he is called to give. (He is also called to receive the gospel but for sake of this discussion we are talking about physical differences conveying or pointing to a spiritual truth).
So we see that stamped into a woman’s body is the unique ability to conceive life in our wombs and bear life into the world. As Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand writes in “The Privilege of Being a Woman” the finger of God touches woman not just at her own conception but reaches into her womb and touches her again and again each time she conceives life inside of her. As spiritual mothers our receptivity allows us to receive the word of God, conceive it in our hearts and bear it forth into the world just as Blessed Mother Teresa did.
So I have learned through the years that all women are called to either spiritual motherhood or physical motherhood – sometimes it is both. Right now I am living my fiat, my yes to God through physical motherhood. I am still learning about the beauty of exactly what my yes means. It was through the teachings of Theology of the Body that I began to understand that love must be freely given, it must be totally given, it must be faithful and fruitful.
I began practicing NFP because was following the law if you will. I was doing it because I had to. It was church teaching. I like Christopher West’s analogy that goes like this: If it was not illegal to kill your husband would you? No, because we love him. So we are freed from the law and we live our yes out of love. This is how God is calling us to love one another.
We most visibly accomplish this in the marital embrace. It is in the consummation of the marital embrace where we are called to freely give ourselves as a gift to our spouse . When we are open to life we are not only becoming a total gift of ourselves but we have now allowed the fire of the love between us to become a fruitful love. St. Thomas Aquinas writes in his Summa that during the marital embrace the sacramental vows of our faithful commitment are made flesh and that when husband and wife are free from mortal sin the act itself conveys grace into our souls (sacraments are an outward visible sign of the grace that is pouring into our souls which is unseen). Wow! We can actually grow in grace and holiness through the martial embrace as described in Pope John Paul’s teachings!
There is no denying that living my yes has changed my life in a profound way but I never expected it to change me as a person or for it to transform my marriage. It is clear now that it has. I am confident that my husband and I have learned to love one another on a deeper and more intimate level because of our yes. We truly are in love and I am amazed on a daily basis how he could still see me as so beautiful (after 10 pregnancies my body looks a lot different than when we met). Yet in his eyes, I see that he looks at me. The person I am, not an object for pleasure or for use. I am being loved for the first time in my entire life and I would not trade it for any amount of money in the world.
My yes saved my marriage but I believe it has become the catalyst to saving my soul as well.
Copyright 2009 Christina King