Betty Duffy

(Amateur)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

When the womb is empty...

I went to Mass this morning, and stuck around afterwards for the Rosary. There’s a group of old ladies who pray it together, and they add about a thousand additional prayers onto the end of each decade which takes forever, so I decided to say it on my own on the other side of the Sanctuary. The last time I did say it with the ladies, however, I was pregnant, and one of the ladies, who had just returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands, brought some Nard to Mass and offered to anoint anyone who might have reason for anointing.

I didn’t consider myself in need of anointing, and yet, due to my condition, she insisted, and made the sign of the cross on each of my hands with the Nard. We stood under the statue of Our Lady, and I couldn’t tell if it was the woman’s attentions to me, the oil on my hands, or an act of God that filled me with an exquisite warmth. This morning, as I looked over by the statue where the ladies made their slow, steady recitations, I felt some longing to be there again, “great” with child, anointed.

I’m not pregnant. The baby, who is nearly two, just voluntarily went twenty-four hours without nursing. My husband and I have determined that another pregnancy is not prudent for me right now. Nevertheless, as far as I know, I still can get pregnant, and should that happen, we, of course, would welcome it.

I have been rather shocked, during these two years in which we have used NFP to avoid pregnancy, at how much the body and soul want to be pregnant, even when reason says it’s not the greatest time for that. Avoiding pregnancy, even naturally, sets the body and soul against its natural currents, and I have felt, deep down, always, this undercurrent of conflict.

NFP is a gift. It’s tempting to think that the future will be a big woo-hoo of freedom if I can abstain from another pregnancy. But every true gift comes with a Cross, and practicing NFP is its own peculiar kind of suffering.

Maintaining a referendum not to procreate, in the midst of the perennial optimism and propensity for recklessness that attend the fertile period, requires drawing on thought reinforcements—thoughts that have been framed around the architecture of the word “No.” Not tonight. We can’t. I’m sorry.

Each month, revisiting this negative vocabulary can make it difficult to maintain a hospitable environment in the soul for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Every mother knows that there is a point when saying no becomes the default setting. “Can I have a popsicle?”—no. “Can I go to the neighbor’s?”—no. “Can I watch TV?”—no. Pretty soon we stop listening to what we’re being asked, saying no to perfectly reasonable inquiries. Jesus could ask me to dinner, and I might say no because that’s just what I say.

Consequently, I haven’t been to the daily Mass much lately—part of having an almost two year old, and now a homeschooler, and a four-year-old who goes to preschool right in the middle of the eight o’clock celebration. It’s just not possible, right? (negative vocabulary, default setting).

Except when it is possible, and my husband doesn’t have to leave home until 8:30, and I’m tempted to use his presence as an opportunity to sleep in rather than to get up, shower early, and be with Jesus. Going to Mass is the only way to overcome the interior emptiness.

Pregnancy is often an irritable and uncomfortable experience for me, but it’s also a time when spiritually, I am at rest. I am never more at ease with my purpose, having complete confidence that THIS is what I’m supposed to be doing. As a woman, I am predisposed not just to create a home, but to BE a dwelling place. And when the womb is empty, what’s a woman to do?

This morning when I said my Rosary in front of the tabernacle, I thought, “This is great. I wish I could pray in front of the tabernacle more often. My prayers are always so much better here.” And then it struck me that having just received the Eucharist, I AM a tabernacle. Lord, I am not worthy that you should come into my house, but only say the word and I shall be healed. If he wishes, he will dwell in me. I just have to say yes.




More NFP travails...

21 comments:

Karyn said...

I remember how special it was to receive First Communion while I was eight months pregnant. What a wonderful feeling to think of my daughter "receiving" the Lord with me.

Nearly all of my friends, including Catholics, have "fixed" husbands. How odd it must be to give away the baby stuff knowing you won't need it again. Or knowing you will never have that thrill of telling your husband you're expecting. I can see the comfort such feelings of "control" must bring to those couples, but I love that God is still involved in our family through NFP.

bearing said...

This is a truly awesome post that I really needed to read right now.

I had a moment while reading it that ought to have an acronym. Not LOL, or ROTFLLMAO, but LSMUTH (literally smacking myself upside the head).

eaucoin said...

I laughed when I read about the thousand additional prayers old ladies say. I'm 52, and those prayers get longer in direct proportion to how little control I have in my children's lives. Also the list of people I'm praying for gets longer too. If those ladies are slow and steady in their recitation, they are prayer warriors for sure (if you have a special petition, let them in on it). Most of the older ladies I have met through church have suffered difficulties that one would not imagine by looking at them and no doubt there are some saints there already. I like praying the rosary with them because I feel it gains power exponentially by the faith they bring to it (they carry me along).

Anne said...

I love this! It is a beautiful and lovely essay! I like the comparison about being the Tabernacle and being in front of the Tabernacle. The line about going to Mass being the only way to overcome interior emptiness resonated with me in a unique way as I am at a point in my life where I am able to attend daily Mass, and truly, my life would be empty without it, just as my life would be empty without my children who have filled my womb for a time, but filled my heart forever.

Young Mom said...

Since I've gotten married, my womb hasn't been empty for long. I also love being pregnant, even though I am always very very sick for the first half or so. After our next baby, I think it will be time to delay a little while, I want to be able to take care of the children I have well. But I dread avoiding, I would miss it, it would be on my mind alot. It is a sacrifice.

some guy on the street said...

I suspect this has been read by most of you... it's funny... (and quite irrelevant to single N(?)CB me just now, but hey)

Um Abdullah said...

MashaAllah, what a great post. I am 7.5 months pregnant now and loving it. ha ha. I mean, I complain all the time, yes. My husband says I think I must be the only pregnant woman on earth, yes. But deep down, I feel all the things you discussed. Only, rather than the rosary and communion, I feel so excited when the call to prayer happens in the mosque and I know my daughter is hearing Quran, the very words of God. and she gets so excited and bounces around extra hard then. ha ha

Since converting to Islam, I have come to understand and respect and totally value my body as a woman, and to see the role as mother and keeper of the house in such a new light. I totally get what you are talking about when 1 year or 2 years or 3, I would have been totally confused (even after being pregnant with my son, I didn't appreciate the gift of pregnancy like I do now).

In fact, just to make the point, I told my husband the other day (and who knows if this was the right choice...) that if he promised me I would never have to clean or cook ever again (mostly clean), I would not have a single qualm with giving him baby after baby until my womb is finished. lmao. Let me say....telling an arab you will give him as many babies as he wants is like promising a baby candy. lol.

Carrie said...

Beautiful post. I am one of those Catholic women with a "fixed" husband. It was done before we came back to the Church and it is my biggest regret. I thought it was the responsible thing to do at the time. We have 3 children and our oldest has a severe disability. I thought there was not enough of me to care for another baby and I was right. There was not enough "me" but there was always enough God.

Marie said...

Very good.

Lana said...

" in the midst of the perennial optimism and propensity for recklessness that attend the fertile period". tee hee.

Gail said...

Yes! This post is so exactly what I've been feeling lately, but didn't know it. I've been thinking about the future and how it seems like we should try to avoid future pregnancies, but should we really, and how hard should we try, and do I really want to avoid it or not? And even if I do I know there will still be some sort of longing there deep inside. Well you know, you said it much better than I could. Thanks for this!

Joe said...

This was a great post, and I really needed it. We have five children, plus two in heaven because of miscarriages. All this in our first 10 years of marriage. And as our youngest approaches two years old this is when we'd typically be ready for another. But we're afraid. Mostly, I'm afraid. My wife would jump off a cliff if I told her it was safe. But she's had difficult pregnancies and I'm afraid it'd be too hard for her. She is always exhausted, trying to homeschool three children, care for a toddler, and constantly nurse a 20 month old. Also, money is REALLY a problem right now. Of course, money is always tight, but we barely have enough for the basics. All but the most devout Catholics would advise postponing pregnancy...perhaps indefinately. But I don't want that. I know what is right and good, but I am just afraid of it. I'm glad we're not alone. I'll say a prayer for you all; please do the same for us. God bless.

MoiraElizabeth said...

Betty -
This is so accurate; you describe my feelings about NFP exactly!
Also, I agree with you - when I am pregnant, I feel complete in a very deep way!
Thank you Betty!

Dawn Farias said...

I feel the same as you described on all counts and am in the same life season as you described. Thank you for this post.

JMB said...

I used to joke around during our baby making days that I loved NFP. Obviously, because we weren't doing it all. Then one day you realize that every mom has a youngest child. That eventually the baby days end. To say that we didn't struggle with the decision to have another child after our fourth was born is a complete understatement. I was almost 36 when she was born and really tired. We also had to face some unexpected and serious health issues with two of our children. (They are fine now). We prayed and talked about it a lot. We kind of did a half assed NFP and figured if we get pregnant, it's God's will. But nothing ever happened. And now we are 46 and 44. Every now and then I think about the "what ifs" if we had had another baby after our last. But I'm not sad. I'm actually enjoying this stage of my life - with teenagers more than I ever thought I would.

karyn said...

You said in one of your other NFP posts that you were going to write about the environmental movement's call to limit population growth versus us procreating Catholics. I would love to read your thoughts!

Peter and Nancy said...

My womb has been empty after only two children, due to some significant back problems. After grieving (and thinking about never nursing a baby again), we have moved on to adopt a child, and are adopting again next year. So, though my womb is empty, our house is full!
Nancy

BettyDuffy said...

Hi all. Having a busy day, but I wanted to say that I'm reading your comments and appreciating the mutual experiences. And Thanks to those of you who linked to this post.

Ashley said...

This is my first time on your blog, and I have only read this post, but I already wish I could reach out into cyberspace and give you a hug. You're a great writer, and this post rings loud and clear! Thank you!

sachikosays said...

Yes, yes, that's it exactly. That's how I feel about being pregnant too, and the NFP. You put it all perfectly.

We're eagerly hoping, praying, awaiting, trying not to fear loss for our next baby, after 10 pregnancies and 5 living children in 10 years of marriage.

I can't wait until I again have that same heavy clarity of spirit pregnancy brings. Any month now, God willing.

Grace Marie said...

One of my favorite NFP posts on the wcubed.

It is rare to read that avoiding pregnancy is prudent but not necessarily what the mom desires -- love your honesty.