Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ignited by Truth 2014

So I got a chance to attend this really wonderful conference again this year, this time with my wonderful husband.  Ignited by Truth is an annual conference that seeks to bring to light the teachings of the Catholic Church and ignite in the hearts of the attendees a love of their faith.  Here is a little bit of background on IBT:

I was so excited about the conference for a few reasons....the first is that I hadn't been since 2009 when we were in the very midst of finding out about Mary Grace.  The second is that it had an amazing list of speakers including Dr. Patrick Fagan, Dr. Scott Hahn, Kimberly Hahn and Jennifer Fulwiler, among others. 

Personally, I could have listened to Jennifer Fulwiler and both the Hahns give talks for days!!  They were such captivating and engaging speakers. 

The third reason I was excited about IBT is that I got to attend with my husband!  We were originally planning on just going together for a "date night" on the free Friday evening part of the conference, but God worked it out that Rob was able to attend all day Saturday with me as well!  As an aside, it is funny how far we have come with date nights!  I remember, pre-children when date nights consisted of meeting friends at the pool hall and having a ridiculous number of drinks and then feeling miserable the next morning when it was time to head into work.  That didn't last long once children entered our world, and now I'd have to say that I enjoyed this date night to hear these speakers talk about their faith in God with such joy and love far more than some of the crazy nights out we had a decade ago.  Ahhhh how time changes things ;)

There were 50 people at any given time in line for confession during the 2nd half of Saturday.  It was just beautiful to see so many people living their faith, excited about loving Jesus, and appreciating the fullness of truth that we have as a Catholic community.

I do have to say that I felt a little bit guilty.  Attending IBT this year was very different than attending in 2009.  I knew many people there this year!  Whereas in 2009, even though we had been in the Raleigh area for almost 6 years, I recognized no one that I knew at the conference.  But this year, we have become so entwined with the homeschooling community....and guess what?  They were all there.  And they were all volunteers!  And that is where my guilt comes in, because other than praying for the conference, I did not volunteer this  year!  My other bit of guilt came from getting to sit in the very front row on Friday night and in the second row on Saturday....I mean, the seats were empty, it just seemed like it was too good to be true to get a seat in the second row of 2000 people just 10 minutes before the conference began!

And my really exciting news was that Kimberly Hahn came and sat down next to me on Friday night since I was right there in the front row while her husband gave the 2nd talk of the evening.  How neat is that???  I had the thought to ask if we could take a selfie together, and then I quickly had the second thought that that would be pretty of course I just sat there and internally diaglogued with myself about asking her if she was really Mrs. Hahn....but then that of course would mean she would know that I knew who she was...and maybe she liked just sitting next to someone who she thought didn't know who she was....oh yeah.  Total awkwardness in my head, so I just sat there and pretended like I didn't know her from Adam.  In the end we had a brief conversation and she recommended two of her husband's books to me. ;)

In addition to hearing blogger Jennifer Fulwiler speak, I also met Tracy from A Slice of Smith Life, and saw my friend Tara from Blessings in Brelinskyville. 

But the conference was so encouraging and uplifting.  It is just great to be inspired by others who are so in love with Jesus and trying to live that life of faith daily. 

April starts our busy month!  I have my weekly HCG draw tomorrow (I'm expecting it to be about 15)....still trying to get it down to less than 5.  The end of the week brings both Caroline's First Birthday and Ian's 3rd Birthday....just cannot believe a year has gone by since Caroline joined our family!  It's too fast, and at the same time it seems she's been a part of our family forever.  And please send up a prayer for seems we have turned a corner, but she has had a fever all weekend which has been very difficult to break even with motrin and Tylenol.  Thank you!  Anyway, then there is something every week, and the end of April brings Isabel's 8th Birthday, and then a week later her First Holy Communion!  What a beautiful time in our lives, just as spring is really starting to pop here in the Carolinas.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Birth Control After Baby?

We use Natural Family Planning during the times that we need to abstain from having a baby.  I have talked about why we use the Sympto-Thermal Method in this post from way back in the day.  Once we understood what our church taught about God's design and purpose for the sexual union within the context of marriage, it made perfect sense to us and we have been happy to use NFP.

So it came as a huge shock to myself (and to Rob) when I started questioning whether we should use birth control after Francis Marie.  I was at the hospital and I had already read up on molar and partial molar pregnancies and knew that the doctors would recommend a long wait before we could try to conceive again.  This is because the doctors monitor HCG levels after you have a molar pregnancy and if they start to rise or stop declining, it is because the tissue is re-growing and you are at risk of a type of cancer called choriocarcinoma.  If you get pregnant while they are monitoring your HCG levels, your levels will also rise due to the pregnancy, so the problem is that they do not know if your HCG levels are rising because of cancer or because of a new pregnancy.  Choriocarcinoma from what I understand is a quick-growing cancer, so if I were to become pregnant it would not be so great to have to "wait around to see if this is a new pregnancy". 

The one doctor (the one who I feel was concerned for my health, but was pushing for me to have a D&C early on) came in to talk to me right before my D&C to let me know that I would need to be on some form of birth control and that she could easily place a nuva ring or something else (my mind started spinning trying to think of what I would say to her) after she did the D&C.  The only thing I could sputter out of my mouth was, "No, no nuva ring...I would rather do pills."  Thinking full well at that moment that this was not what I would do either....I would simply go back to NFP as we had always done. 

But after that conversation, I just felt like there was so much pressure not to get pregnant.  Every doctor was reiterating the seriousness of not getting pregnant.  I started doubting myself, doubting NFP, doubting whether God really understands the seriousness of our situation.

I took all this to confession the following weekend, and the priest so simply said, "You know what the church teaches, you must do this.  And you need the support of your husband."  Luckily, I already had my husband's full support with NFP.  And when I came out of confession it was totally clear that of course I couldn't use birth control...not even along with NFP.   It was just such a strange situation that I had had this time of doubting whether NFP would really be effective enough, and of doubting whether I could stand up to the pressure of the doctors who want me to use birth control.  I remember the priest in confession said point blank...."It is your body.  Not the doctors'."   Yeah, it is.  They can't tell me what to do.  They can make recommendations and counsel me on my health choices...that's it.

So I came out of confession with this renewed trust in God's design.  In fact, it seemed absolutely ludicrous and unthinkable to me that I had had that period of could I doubt using something to which I had already been committed (using NFP)?  How could I have fought hard in the hospital for my values, for what was right, for the dignity and sacredness of life and then turn around and reject my values and use contraception?  It was like I had been overcome by this massive fog and everything became cloudy....lines became gray and blurred.  And then after confession the fog just cleared and I realized what was true and right again.

Then I got this confirmation from the 2/16 Laudate app's reflection on the Mass are some of the excerpts:

"Jesus teaches that righteousness involves responding to every situation in life in a way that fulfill's God's law, not just externally but internally as well."

"Jesus sets the high ideal of the married state before those who are willing to accept his commands. Jesus gives the grace and power of his Holy Spirit to those who seek to follow his way of holiness in their state of life – whether married or single."

"Reverence and respect for God’s commandments teach us the way of love – love of God and love of neighbor. What is impossible to men and women is possible to God and those who have faith in God."

Doctors think that NFP is impossible.  Not good enough.

 It is possible with God's help.

I say all this not to open up a debate on birth control, but just to mesh out all the back and forth feelings I was recognize that spiritual fog can roll in when you are least expecting it, and that sacramental grace can give you renewed clarity.  That God does pour out consolations and confirmations of His plans for you and for me.