Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Being Fruitful

There is an apple tree in my parents backyard.  It's rather large, some would even say overgrown.  It's pretty old, but is still producing apples most years.  It's strange having such a large reminder looming over head of the idea of being "fruitful" during this time of my life.  I feel anything but fruitful right now; in fact, most days I feel like fruit leather.

I've had to do a lot of thinking and a lot of research about family size over the last few years.  I definitely knew the answer I thought I was going to get, and boy was I wrong.

I'm going to come out and say here and now, for all eternity on the interwebs;  

A good Catholic family can prayerfully discern to have a small family, even an only child.

As I've gone through my struggles getting pregnant and my multiple, in a row, miscarriages I've dug around on this topic more than a little bit.  I can, essentially, throw in the towel.  I can say I've had enough and I've been through the wringer.  I can stop trying.  I can never get the blood work and the genetic tests. As long as I don't get in the way, via birth control and contraception, of my bodies natural abilities I can call it good here and now and still hold my head up high in Mass on Sunday.

It's hard being a small family around very traditional, and usually large families.  We can get loaded with assumptions on our personal life; sometimes these assumption come from a well meaning place and many times they don't.  Even the most innocent question about wanting more children is ridiculously complicated for someone who has difficulties conceiving or carrying to term.  Most of the time on Sundays or at church events you feel like you need a sign on your back "My other kids are in heaven".

One thing I've learned through all of this is that, according to Catholic teaching, I'm not required to have ALL the babies.  I'm not required to pump out the most human lives from my body in a set amount of time.  The only thing that is expected of me is that I remain open to what God wants from my life and take no action, in the form of birth control or contraception, to get in the way of those designs.  I'm not required to only have relations on my most fertile days and it's not expected to never use the days that are not.  I'm merely supposed to be responsible for my actions.  It is the acceptance that it is not only my "plan" that counts and the number of children I have when I reach menopause is not a faithfulness tally where the highest score wins.

There are a hundred, thousand ways a person can be called to be "open to life".  For some this means the sacrifices that come from providing for their own children.  For others this means using the time and resources available to them from having fewer children to help support and love children who are not their own.  It is not inherently sinful to decide that fewer children is what's best for you due to your unique health, finances or situation.  It is not sinful to find joy in being able to focus on your fewer or only child or provide for them in ways a larger family cannot.

Nothing about family size is a given.  An only child is not doomed to be a selfish heathen and a twelve child family is guaranteed to produce only selfless saints.  Family size is not an indicator of freedom from contraception or openness to life.  The number of children in your home will not guarantee dedicated spans attention or feelings of love.  No matter the family size you work with what you have and give what you can.

That apple tree in my parents backyard fills up with apple blossoms every year.  The tree is loaded with them in the spring and those blossoms are never an indicator of the number of apples we'll have at the end of the season.  Early frost, a strong storm, bugs and other wild life can all wreak havoc on that tree, yet it is still fruitful.  It does it's duty every year filling itself with blossoms that may or may not become apples and at the end of the year whether we have one apple or hundreds it is still an apple tree. 

It is not what is produced that makes you fruitful, it is the possibility, the opportunity.  It is blooming where you are planted.  It is opening the most fragile part of you and saying "Nature, do what you will."  It is about understanding that blessings don't only come in baby shape.

To avoid too much drama in the comments I am not saying that all motives for having only children or small families are right.  I still maintain that using methods outside of your natural reproductive abilities to attain an only or a small family is not ideal, though many people (my friends here included) use these things with good intentions.  That is not a judgement on those who use them either, I still love and respect you though we disagree on this particular subject.  It's just that a small family or only children should not be an automatic sign to Catholic families that there is something wrong or that someone is behaving in a way contrary to God's plan for them.

To all the big families in my life - you know I love you.  Your dedication and sacrifice are an inspiration and I know you're trying your best with what you've been given and I know that it is hard.

To all the small or intentionally or unintentional only child families in my life - I see what you're doing and what you may be going through and I respect it.  If your family is not what you thought it would be due to any number of unforeseen circumstances you have my sympathy; what you are doing still matters.  If your family is exactly what you feel God wants it be and have thrown yourself into one of other thousands of ways to support a loving, life affirming community I salute you.  It takes guts not only to face the Catholic community and say "This is what God wants and that's okay." and the secular community saying "This is what God wants.  It's not about me."

That apple tree isn't producing too much this year.  What apples it has are too high to pick, but there are still apples.  A few years ago we thought the tree was at it's end.  No one could remember it producing fruit for a while.  Honestly, we hadn't paid that much attention to it for a long time.   Then one day I was out in the backyard and there hanging just at my eye line was a perfect red apple.  There was no reason why that apple should have been there.  The rest of the tree was basically bare and the deer should have picked off weeks ago.

I plucked that apple and bit in preparing myself for a bitter, mealy experience.

It was the best apple I've ever tasted.

That year there wasn't much in the way of bounty, but the single apple that tree put forth just by producing blossoms and leaves, roots and shade made more of an impression on me than a dozen years of fruitfulness.

**I know this may be a touchy subject for many people.  I welcome thoughtful, calm discussion even if we disagree, but will freely delete anything hurtful or accusatory.  I'm not claiming to be an expert on Catholic teaching either, if you can accurately point out a flaw in my logic with evidence to support it, I will not stubbornly oppose it.**

Edit:  Thank you to everyone for being so gracious and civil when we disagree.  There's some great questions, reasoning and clarification in the comments that I won't repost here - but please read through the comments for more discussion.  I do just want to clarify that when I talk about a family prayerfully discerning their family size that "discerning" in this case is an understanding of God's plan and desire for their particular family and circumstances.  It is not someone making a decision ala their family size and then expect God to work with them; particularly when this is justified by illicit means.  It is us working with whatever God gives us.  The best example I can give is my own experience via my one child here on earth and his 3 heavenly siblings; we have "discerned" for the moment not to actively pursue growing our family via the licit measures we can take (via adoption, fostering, medical resources) at the moment.  We do not, currently (though this may change in the future) and after much discussion and prayer, feel drawn to using these methods just to grow our family - therefore we've "prayerfully discerned" that it may currently be part of God's plan for our family to remain small because we do not feel called toward these other methods.  However, we remain open to whatever the real plan might be in the end.  Any more clarification I can give, don't hesitate to ask.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Just a few quick pictures as I'm supposed to be running off to work this morning.  I hope you had a wonderful feast day!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Still Hurting

Last week I cleaned out my sons clothes.

Not just the regular seasonal clean-out, but THE clean out.  All those things I was saving to be that intelligent, frugal mama are gone.  I went from 5 totes and two piles of our recent out-growns to two and half totes of things I just couldn't see go yet.  This included one tote, the newborn to six month clothes, that I couldn't even face opening.

Instead of thoughtfully organized, cleaned and stored clothes in my closet for "the next time" I have two totes by my door for the consignment store and bags of clothes being sent off for their next round of hand me downs.  They are the pants, shirts and shoes that will NEVER be worn by another Walter baby.  It is not easy to write that, not at all.

It had to be done.  Things don't last in storage for 5+ years; elastic wears out and benevolent stains eventually do their damage.  Those clothes weren't doing anyone any good in those boxes and now they will.  They're going to families who need them, to babies who are actually here and who will actually wear them.  It was both a liberating and draining decision.

So here we are, about a month and a half away from my last D&C and where does that leave me?

In a sort of limbo.  I've made decisions about the medical side of things - "yes" to blood clotting tests, but "no" to genetic tests.  If there's nothing I can do about it, I don't want to know right now.  I still desperately want more children, but the thought of my fourth first trimester in a year and a half physically turns my stomach in flips.  I just can't do it.  Physically and emotionally I'm drained and I need a break.

I'm doing my best to enjoy the happiness I get everyday from my son and not let the ghosts of my babies detract from enjoying what I have.  I'm throwing myself into other activities with abandon, but realizing that I'm probably just distracting myself all the anniversaries I still have to live through before next spring.

I need to get back to where I was last spring before I can try again.  There are practical aspects - finances, sick leave, etc. that have been sapped from so many doctors visits, sudden procedures and even just retail therapy and there are the deeper aspects and I have a feeling those will take longer.  You can never be prepared for something like this happen, but I can prepare myself for our future.  I can use this experience and understand how much more I'm willing to give to this.

I feel like Cathy in the beginning of "The Last Five Years" in her first song, unable to see how she got there and what she did to deserve her heart break.  " ...and where can I turn? Covered with scars I did nothing to earn Maybe there's somewhere a lesson to learn..."  I'm coming up on five years of trying to be a mother - that page will turn right around the last babies due date in March and I don't know what I've done to deserve all of this.  But as Cathy says "...but that wouldn't change the fact, that wouldn't speed time.  Once the foundations cracked and I'm.... still hurting."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Preparing for the Feast


Been preparing for Michaelmas over the last few days.  Put the finishing touches on the autumn trees and brought out the pinecone hedgehogs.  Switched out our "Waldorf" picture.  Made a Michaelmas Candle.  I modged-podged cut out tissue paper on a glass pillar candle based on this transparency I love.  I have seen other "dragon candles" out there, but I wanted to make sure that we were focusing on the dragon aspect too much and forgetting that this is a celebration of the angels.

I think if I do this next year the background and angel will need to be a different color to make him stand out, but we know he's there.  Was planning on lighting the candle each night to do a basic St. Michael "novena" - just praying the St. Michael Protection Prayer - to teach Henry, but our first two nights were a bust thanks to a melt down and then an unplanned sleepover at Grandmas.  Oh well, there's always next year.

I think we'll be doing our feast on Saturday since the husBen works Sunday and Monday evenings and I can't wait for the blackberry deserts I only make once a year!  I'm planning on using up some chicken breasts and drumsticks that are in the freezer instead of a whole chicken, so if you have a recommendation for a good spicy drumstick recipe shoot it my way.  My husband loves hot and spicy food and this is a good opportunity for me to make him something (while the rest of us can eat more temperately flavored chicken breasts).