(Today’s guest post comes from my blogging friend, Laura, who has a great site called Catholic Cravings. Laura describes herself as “a baby Catholic… also a desperate Romantic, a crazy Royalist/Socialist, a delusional Medievalist and a bit of goody-two-shoes.” Which means, naturally, that she and I get along quite well, other than the goody-two-shoes part… enjoy this great post, and go visit her blog, ex post haste!)
Contraception and the Catholic Convert
My hugest congratulations to Ryan on the birth of his little girl, Máire. Ryan very kindly asked me to do a guest post and being from Down Under, I was naturally thrilled to be invited to The Back of the World.
In that tupsy-turvy vein, can I talk about contraception? Will that be weird? Probably. Am I going to talk about it anyway? YES.
The “ban” on contraception is one of the most notable – and most widely ridiculed – doctrines of the Catholic Church. When I was weighing up the merits of Catholicism though, I didn’t give a thought. I figured that if the Church is who She says She is, then She’s right about all matters of faith and morals, including contraception. And if She wasn’t, then it didn’t really matter, did it?
Besides, I’m a single Christian woman. I’ve had enough sermons on “saving yourself for marriage” to get a PhD in purity. Since I wasn’t about to have sex, why bother even thinking about contraception?
Then I became Catholic.
And I kid you not, my first thought was “Oh my goodness, I’m going to have a gazillion kids… I WILL HAVE NO LIFE. I will be constantly pregnant, constantly working, constantly at my wit’s end. There will be an endless supply of babies and they will get their sticky fingers all over my precious hopes and dreams and I WILL HAVE NO LIFE.”
Yeah… And this coming from a girl who would love to be a mum and wants to have a big family.
Since then, I’ve done a little thinking and I suspect I may have overreacted .. a little. So I have a little advice for me-from-a-year-ago on how to deal with the whole “contraception thing” as a Catholic convert.
1. Your family is your family. Being open to life emphatically doesn’t mean squeezing yourself into someone else’s definition of the “perfect” family. You don’t have to wear polar fleece jackets, denim skirts or lace mantillas – but hey, you can if you want! And you don’t have name your sons Joseph or Francis or Eusebius Willibrord, nor your daughters Mary T, Mary B, Mary E and especially Mary Marie. (Not that there is anything wrong with the name Mary, for instance, I hear the uber-Irish-Catholic form of Mary is one of the prettiest names around.) The point is that your family will be yours and ergo, it will be awesome.
2. Size doesn’t matter. Contrary to every amusing stereotype about faithful Catholics (“Every sperm is sac-red, every sperm is gooood!”), there is no perfect number of kids. You don’t have to get to a certain number and you don’t have to stop at a certain number. You just have to be open to whatever God brings, whether that’s 10 children, 1 child or none. Remember, the Holy Family was a single-child family… and no one’s doubting their Catholic cred. Also, there’s this thing called NFP. You should really see what that’s about before imagining your future as The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe.
3. Kids aren’t things, they are people. It’s so easy for you to think of kids the way you do about a career or house – another piece of the puzzle to build your perfect Labrador owning, yoga-going, middle-class idyll. But children aren’t things to be got, they are unique, unrepeatable souls with their own joys and dreams and fingerprints. What a privilege! As a woman, you have the unrivaled privilege of nurturing and bearing human life. Rejoice in that, revel in it. It rocks.
4. Your mum will hate this. Ok, so maybe that’s a bad reason but who doesn’t love a bit of spicy rebellion? Sure, some people – ok, most people – will think you’re cray-cray but if our hedonistic, individualistic, pornifed world (the sort of world that would invent the word “cray-cray”) thinks you’re doing something stupid… you might just be onto something good. Chesterton was right. These days virtue has all the exhilaration of a vice. I’m getting giddy just thinking about it!
5. Be a real feminist. It’s well accepted that the pill paved the way for the Sexual Revolution of the 60s – and the breakdown of societal and familial structures that went with it. Contraception was supposed to liberate women but let’s be honest, it’s also done a lot of “liberating” men from accepting the consequences of their decisions. Since the Great Divorce between sex and making babies, sex began seeping out of marriages – and now, there’s a flood of sex, sex, sex. Because if it’s just for pleasure – and wasn’t “ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name” (as the Book of Common Prayer puts it), then why not do it whenever and however it gives me pleasure? And get porn and abortion along for the ride! So be a real feminist and ask yourself, is this sexually promiscuous culture really better for women?
6. Keep asking questions. This is a big change of perspective for you, me-from-a-year-ago. You’re not going to figure it out overnight, or in a month and even when you sound like you have it together a year from now, you totally won’t. That’s ok, take it slow, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’m told it’s good practice for raising kids anyway.
7. You trust God with everything else, trust Him with this. When you became Catholic, you didn’t switch gods. Jesus Christ is still Lord and God. You trust him with your finances, your health, your friendships, your career… trust Him with your family. Believe His promise that He has a good plan for you. Believe that He works all things, whether you plan them or not, for your good. And know that the only way to real freedom isn’t control; it’s faith in One Who Loves You – and your future children. He loves you. He loves them.
“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Mark 10:14)