Walking the walk

One of the things that I sometimes forget when blogging is the number of people who actually read this blog, which is something of a hybrid, being a bizarre mixture of the personal, polemical and political all heavily influenced by Catholic social teaching.

One lesson this week has taught me is not to write or blog in haste and I think that my previous entry may have been a little irresponsible and irrational in tone, no doubt influenced by the conflicting hormones and emotions.

This weekend was very cathartic for me for a number of reasons, not least in terms of affording plenty of precious time for spiritual reflection. Juggling motherhood, family life and undergraduate studies can sometimes mean that my prayer life is neglected. Eucharistic Adoration is nigh on impossible with a baby and toddler and so the hour I spent in the chapel at the retreat centre yesterday afternoon was a source of much needed spiritual refreshment.

This morning’s Gospel had particular resonance, “let it be done unto me according to thy will”, a reminder that all of us have to realise that the Lord’s plans for us, do not always tally with our own. Although still terrified about the prospect of giving birth and dreading the prospect of another protracted difficult pregnancy (here we go again), I am grateful for this pregnancy in a way that perhaps was lacking in my previous pregnancies. Those who are Christian will understand that I feel that it is a sign of God’s compassion and mercy not to mention an exercise in trust. Despite my best efforts, things have not gone the way that I wanted or planned them – I think the Lord is definitely trying to tell me something. I also realised that perhaps, with the most honourable of intentions, I had something of a contraceptive attitude, in that we were definitely attempting to avoid pregnancy. With that in mind however, it can’t be said that we were closed to life, in that both of us are prepared and happy to welcome a new life. I am walking the walk and thus attempting to live a life of witness.  Although I need to be careful to avoid superstition or fatalism, I am more than a little struck to discover that the day that this baby is due is the Feast of the Assumption, which is incidentally, also the day that I discovered that I was expecting Felicity, our other unplanned baby. Furthermore the day that I discovered the positive pregnancy test was the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patron of the Unborn and the pro-life movement.

Though the next months will undoubtedly prove testing, I am keeping my eye on the prize – another beautiful baby and a house full of children, who are a source of joy, happiness and the embodiment of God’s love. A baby is always a blessing. As I have always accepted the philosophical and moral argument that life begins at conception, I have never previously really taken that much notice of  how the baby is developing on either a daily, weekly or monthly basis. As I have previously admitted, I do suffer ante-natal depression, not helped by the fact that pregnancy thus far has proved such a physical strain. With 3 young children including a toddler and a baby, it is vital for me to stay both physically, psychologically and spiritually healthy, so I am resolved to make a real effort to stay strong and take comfort in any suffering.

One of the things that I think is going to help me in this, is to keep a pregnancy diary, which I think may be of interest and help to others, but I shall set up a separate page, so that those who have no interest in being put off their Weetabix with my hormonal and gynecological musings are not subjected to an irrational stream of consciousness. I think I will find it helpful to log my journey and the stages of development of the baby – others will find it interminably tedious.

Given that my last post was rather rash – it’s probably worth clarifying a few points.

  • Terrified was probably too strong a word to use for Robin’s reaction. He was infinitely more joyful and serene than I was, although he did go rather pale initially.
  • NFP or Creighton. It does work. It is 99% effective. I really don’t know what happened in my case – perhaps the baby who has occupied my womb really is the 1%, but I suspect that what has happened is some sort of user error. The whole family succumbed to a dreadful bout of gastroenteritis, so it is more than feasible that I missed just one crucial observation, or that being so ill, completely threw my system out. So many people have testified to the fact that it really has worked for them – if you look at this secular website and the advice of the NHS, you’ll see that most people who adhere to extended breastfeeding principles, do naturally manage to space their children by at least two years. It would seem that I am blessed with hyper-fertility, other women have been incredulous to discover that my fertility returns so quickly after giving birth and have questioned whether or not I really have exercised ecological or extended breast-feeding principles. The answer is yes.  I wish the baby would take a bottle, it would make my life infinitely easier. Unlike my other children, she does not go through the night yet either. I have no idea quite how I have managed to conceive, but I am going to talk through my charts with an expert who is confident that she can spot what happened, which is what we need for closure, and in order to start putting something into place to ensure that I can have a break from endless pregnancy. Most women who follow the principles I used do not have a return to fertility until 14 months postpartum. Mine returned after 3, after which point we were scrupulous.
  • As stated above, I think I am rather unusual and certainly lucky to be so fertile, many women of my age are struggling to conceive their first child, to be able to conceive so easily particularly when measures were being taken to avoid pregnancy, is unusual. I was being unfair and rather rash.
  • Nothing is 100%. No matter how careful or “safe” one thinks one is being, there is always a margin of error, no matter how tiny. I am walking the walk and dealing with the physical, emotional, practical and logistical challenges of this pregnancy which are not easy. I have no close family or friends nearby, it’s going to be tough, I mentioned my mother who, out of well-intentioned concern will have a different preferred course of action, but I am fortunate to have the support of my husband, who, on the day I discovered the pregnancy, returned home with flowers and champagne as I tweeted at the time. It will be tough, but the tumult and uncertainty of the last few years has been the absolute making of us – along with the grace of the Sacrament of marriage. This time three years ago we were excitedly making the final preparations for our wedding on December 29. Little did we think that in 3 years time, child number 4 would be on its way and that he would no longer be in ministry.

Finally, I just like to ask for the continued prayers of the Catholic and Christian blogosphere. Part of the training course I attended this weekend included a session upon how living a public life of Christian witness, can leave one open to spiritual attacks. I think one such attack has been happening recently and has been as a result of some of the online abuse, under which I would like to draw a line.

Over the past few weeks, some of the unpleasant activity has escalated. Someone set up a blog, the purpose of which seemed to be to state what a dreadful person I am, ugly on the inside and out. Someone else set up an anonymous twitter account devoted to stalking, trolling and attacking my tweets. My thanks to the Vernacular Vicar for his gallant defence and excellent post. Those who have been long-term readers might remember a post from last September,That man in a frock in Romein which I outlined why I was leaving a particular forum. Well over a year later, my blog stats have informed me that these same people still find me the source of abject fascination, as they are linking various posts to their private, password-only forum for discussion. Coincidentally, the unpleasant comments intensify on those days that my blog is linked.

The answer is of course to ignore it but it is nonetheless disconcerting to know that a group of women who dislike me intensely, because of my perceived sanctimonious nature or alleged insanity are unable to engage directly in a civilised fashion and continue to snipe behind my back. They are now well aware that when they link to this blog I can clearly see it and yet when I express my disquiet the response is that I am obviously attention-seeking, insane and thus deserving of their pity, but continue to repeatedly link to here, regardless. There can be no doubt that it is a form of bullying, from a group of women, who count schoolteachers among their number and therefore should know better. For a blogger, I am a sensitive soul and I’m still finding this very difficult to respond to and finding my feet in terms of the correct response.

It is a tiny proportion of my overall readership and is far outweighed by the overwhelmingly positive response I receive from blogging which has led to being published in print and online elsewhere and most recently to an invitation to speak at the Oxford University Catholic Society, on the subject of Catholicism and Feminism, all of which are great fruits of the Spirit.

Writing seems to be my charism. I am aware that not only do I need to use it wisely, but also that it does leave me vulnerable. I was introduced to the concept of scapegoating earlier today, which seems to be the only way I can make sense of this. The inevitable result is that little nagging voice of doubt starts telling me that I must stop writing, I must get out of the public square and leave it to other Catholics who are so much more talented than me, as evidenced by that little group who seem to have taken such exception and my reaction to them.

Satan’s clever like that. He uses our weaknesses against us. I wouldn’t be surprised if this intensifies over the next few months, so I am going  to regularly receive the sacrament of reconciliation and the power of prayer. I hold everyone who reads in prayer and give thanks for staying in theirs.

See – I knew I’d get there eventually. I just needed a little time.

10 thoughts on “Walking the walk

  1. Caroline, ]

    A few comments, of a fairly random nature…

    Dates and their significance: I do not think there is any such thing as coincidence in Catholic theology;

    Negative comments: a psychologist friend of mine always says, on such occasions, that all feedback is projection. That is to say, the person launching the attack is really talking about himself far more than you. It feels very personal because it is: but the person under attack is really the writer of the negative comment. Something you have written causes a moment of pain because of dissatisfaction with some aspect of his own life, and that pain is then projected onto you. (My intuition is that this is often an accurate diagnosis: the things that really irritate me about others tend to mirror my own habits of sin…) NB as an unreconstructed linguist, when I write ‘he’ it includes ‘she’.

    In terms of resilience, the stress workshop I attended recently suggested four areas to pay attention to: your wellbeing in the physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual arenas. Developing a strategy to cultivate each, gently but regularly, can be very valuable.

    Be assured of our prayers – and admiration for what it’s worth;

    Ben

  2. We have a 2 year old and a 5 year old. Very recently we too have decided to use NFP to help us to (amoungst other things) ‘witness’ with integrity.
    This was a step that required all my courage after 2 years of batteling with myself regarding the issue of contraception. I read and agree wholeheartedly with ‘The Theology of the body’.
    I too have horrific pregnancies and suffer terrible post natal depression – so i think we have a lot in common. I would be very interested to follow your pregnancy blog as it will help me a lot if we are blessed with number 3!
    I have found that being in a postion where i am ‘open to life’ has made me cut out so much of the ‘junk’ that occupied my time and took me away from my exsisting family. It has also (i don’t know how?!!) returned the romance to our marriage!
    It really has affected our relationship and our family life in a really posotive way that i never expected It has given me the chance to see the beauty and glory the femal body and of womanhood as it is ment to be. It is such a shame that people who rubbish NFP never understand the amazing benefits it brings – i really think you have to try it to understand it.

  3. The continuing ‘hate group’ must be unnerving. In some ways, it’s not surprising: all of us annoy people and public Catholicism is guaranteed to annoy more. But still vile.

    Don’t worry about blogging in haste! One of the things I like about your blogging is its combination of the well thought through commentary and the raw personal experience. One of the problems with secularism is that it keeps pretending that life could be easy if we just tinkered a little more. The heart of Christianity is about facing up to the reality of suffering and letting God transform it. You’re allowing us to glimpse something of your own struggles and that, quite apart from all the other good stuff you write, is a worthwhile Catholic witness.

  4. Caroline, I wouldn’t worry what people think of you. It’s hard, but there are people you will never be able to convince, so live your life and relax! I wish you all the best with your pregnancy, and remember: they grow up fast, enjoy it now so you have memories later!

  5. Wow, a link! Thank you!

    (But I can’t take the credit for anything interesting on our blog – the other Catholic woman on it, Notburga, and the Catholic man, Aelianus, do the quality content. I just do the random recipes and shoe and Morbid Piety posts!)

  6. The feelings you describe in the previous post are common to all people when they find out they are pregnant. I have friends who were desperate to start a family and planned everything carefully. When, as they had hoped the test came out positive straight way, they were thrown into a complete tail spin of “What have we done? Are we capable of bringing up a new human being?” When I was pregnant with my first, the midwife told me that almost half pregnancies are “unplanned” which suggests that the myth of having control over own fertility is just that.

    You seem to want to stress that your experience shouldn’t undermine NPF. I don’t know whether me saying this helps but it doesn’t. Your experience after what sounds like a horrendous sickness bug doesn’t undermine anything.

    Also you seem at the end of this piece to have come to or be coming to a place where you are coming out of the initial shock to see something of God in all this. I love the Ignatian phrase “God in all things.” Whatever experiences you have, God can use them to draw you closer to his heart. For St Ignatius, his spiritual journey started in earnest when he has his leg shattered by a cannon ball at the Battle of Pamplona and he had months of bed rest. With God nothing is wasted. (not that I am suggesting this is like battle!)

    It sounds as if you need to take care of yourself over the next few weeks and months. A lot has gone on for you over the last few years and you need to be aware of when God is asking you to rest in him. Time of retreat are wonderful as you have shown and will be important, in whatever form they take.

    Looking forward to the pregnancy blog!

  7. Congratulations to you both. I’ll be thinking of you and praying for you. There are some lovely comments here which I hope are helpful. Your blog is great and I look forward to reading your pregnancy diary. I’ll be praying that it’s easier this time round. Please make sure you have a doctor that supports you and gives you confidence.

  8. Hi. I’m a little late responding to this post, bu I want you to know that I find you really inspirational and I shall keep your family in my thoughts and prayers.

    Two pieces of advice (from a young, inexperienced person who should probably shut up.) Pray the Magnificat, again and again. Secondly, (this one’s a bit random) if you find time, watch the Doctor Who Christmas special. Partly because it’s brilliant, but mostly because its about how wonderful mothers are. *hugs*

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