NCRegister Blog: Our Open Hands Can Open the Hearts and Arms of Mothers

There is a growing feeling among pro-life Catholic Millennials that those segments of the pro-life movement that focus just on law have failed to see and do what will really save lives. Having all been born since Roe v. Wade, we have lived all our lives with the reality of legal abortion. Many of us spent countless hours of our youth praying outside abortion clinics, being yelled at by passing drivers, being scorned by the media, but not afraid to be persecuted for our defense of life. We have heard from our earliest days that Pope Saint John Paul II told us, “Do not be afraid!” So we have been brave in our defense of truth and life issues, and we are not afraid to continue to face persecution.

Read more at the NCRegister…

Trying Not to Lose Hope and the Planned Parenthood Videos

That baby is my two month old T when he was 9 weeks gestation.

I have a confession to make: I have not watched any of the Planned Parenthood sting operation videos. I read the contents in detail of the first video and I went cold all over. I did not want to watch that. And each video gets worse. They say there are 8 more, and I wonder, can it get worse than it has?

But I also have another confession. I am guilty of losing hope that peoples’ hearts will change, that our country will stop the slaughtering of its unborn.

We made it to the early daily Mass yesterday morning, and the first reading from Numbers struck me. God told the Israelites that He was giving them a land flowing with milk and honey. So, they go and scout it out. The scouts come back and are completely without hope. There are giants living in this promised land. There is no way that they can ever live there. They will probably die before defeating those giants.

The abortion industry and Planned Parenthood have been giants in my life, big bad, unbeatable giants. Sure, we can get a mother to change her mind on occasion, but it is always going to be on the sly, outside the yellow painted line on the sidewalk. Since I was a child I have been praying for the end of abortion, outside clinics and everyday in my list of intentions.

 When the Israelites gave up hope in God’s promises, they were given 40 years exile.

We have been wandering in the legal desert for over 40 years, and babies are still dying and it is easy to give up hope. (And to clarify, I do not think that we legal abortion is punishment for our lack of hope; I think that it is easy to lose hope when evil is going on for so long.)

So, when these videos first started coming out, I have not been at all surprised by their content. But I have not been able to watch them. Merely the images of the murdered babies that accompany them have been horrific to view, making me feel sick and sorrowful. The written out descriptions of the content have been enough for me to know of the evil that I have known about since I was a little girl.

But I realized when I heard the doubts and hopelessness of the Israelites that by giving up on things ever changing, by losing hope, I am being just like them. So, I decided to try hoping again. It is okay to hope for good, even when the odds of things changing are slim. And I have never stopped praying for change. But maybe it is time to become more active again. Maybe it is time to take my family to pray outside the place where they slaughter babies again.

And when I decided this, I read my friend Rachel Lu’s article about how she believes that the Planned Parenthood videos are making a real change in the culture. And her reasons gave me even more hope. (Thanks, Rachel!)

Maybe these videos really will make a difference. Maybe I should watch them. But I am not sure I want to; it is never nice to watch evil. But I do hope that curiosity will get the best of others, and they will watch and their hearts will change.

My Ridiculous Fears About Having More Children

So, I have been thinking a lot lately about when our next baby might come into existence, and what it will be like to have four children. I am not taking it for granted that we will have another child, but given our ages and health, it makes sense that a fourth child will be on the way at some point. And the idea of four children makes me a little nervous. It makes me quite a bit nervous. Because first of all we have a good routine. The baby (now 16 months, but still “the baby”) sleeps well in her own room, takes a good long nap in the afternoon, and I am used to having three now. The older two play well most of the day, succeed in their preschool tasks, and give me a nice quiet time in the afternoon. It is comfortable; it feels easy. I am not a big fan of changing a good thing, but there is the call to be more open and the hope of more children.

Honestly, I really am not a fan of the newborn phase. Sleep is always at a minimum. The older kids are cranky about change. I do like sitting around all day, eating whatever I want, and not having to exercise for six weeks. Plus, there is the cute baby to hold and smell. But when I think about having another newborn, it just makes me a little tired. I always deal with engorgement and mastitis when my babies are young, and I long for the age of predictable naptimes and bedtimes. Alright, I made that confession. Moving on…

I have been blessed with a husband who is very helpful when he has the time. So, I have maybe had to go shopping with three kids by myself about ten times since F was born 16 months ago. I used to shop with the older two during the week when M had a day he did not teach. I would leave the baby during her nap. Then L and G started the phase where they don’t want to ride in the cart, never listen to my instructions when we are walking up and down the aisles, get in people’s way all the time, and climb anything that looks climbable. So, I gave up on shopping during the week. Now I shop on Saturday mornings alone or sometimes with one kid. When I have one kid, I am always listened to.

A few weeks ago I took G (5) with me to Aldi, and then we went to Target. At Target, she decided that her legs were tired of walking, so I indulged her and let her ride in the monster cart with two forward facing seats attached to the cart. As she rode along on her perch, I noticed that people kept on smiling at her. They saw a cute girl out shopping with her cute mom. I never get smiles like that if I have two or three kids with me.

Our family’s normal destinations are church, play groups, and more church. That is where we go with all three kids together; we are seeing people who know us or are used to seeing us. Last Friday we went to a delicious Lebanese food fish fry at the local Maronite Church. We walked in, and the lady selling tickets told us that it was $10 per adult and kids under five were free. We got lucky, because G was not turning five until the next day. As M and I were going through the food line, he herded the older two, and I held the baby. When the ladies dishing out the food realized that we were all together, they started saying sympathizing things about how busy I am and how it must be to have three little kids. It felt like they felt bad for me, and that bothered me a little bit. I feel like I should be able to go out with my kids without people thinking I am a crazy busy person in need of sympathy. Actually, M and I chose to have kids. We made conscious decisions which led to having three beautiful sweet children, and we are happy. I know that if I took all three kids shopping with me more often, I would get more looks and comments than I expose myself to now.  I actually am savoring a little bit the time when I appear to have only one or two. I am a little bit cowardly about moving outside my Catholic circle of friends with all my kids.

I went to a Mom’s group at my parish today. We decided afterwards, when we were in the car, that we were going to stop by Trader Joe’s and find something “fun” for lunch in honor of the Solemnity of St. Joseph. My kids love Trader Joe’s. I got there with the three kids, parked in the “under parking” underneath the store, unloaded all three, and made a chain across the garage to the elevator doors. The kids love the under parking and the elevators. When we arrived to the level of the store, I put F in a cart and asked the other girls to stay close. So, of course, they walked kind of close, but not close enough to not take over the whole aisle of the small store. We walked over to the free samples, and it is crackers and cheese. The older two split a sample and I shared mine with F. Then G did something to make L upset, so L started to scream (because that is how she has always cried). I helped her calm down in a hushed tone, and started feeling a little flustered. We left the samples and headed toward the frozen foods to find our fun lunch.

A man stopped me, said something about me being a mother, and handed me a white envelope. He had about ten more in his other hand. I wondered what he had given me, and felt a little bit weird about it. I hurried to get the rest of the items we needed, feeling anxious that my kids were getting in the way of other carts or inching along in front of mine so that I can’t move at all. Finally, we got to the checkout, and I stood in a long line. The girls were then on their best behavior in anticipation of greeting the cashier. The employees always hide two stuffed rabbits in the store, and if children can find them and then tell the cashier where the bunnies are, they get a treat or stickers. G was very polite to the cashier and explained that she had found the bunnies and where they were. He was then so kind to them, giving them each a sucker and a cereal bar to F. As we were about to walk away he stuck a bunch of stickers into our bag. But I was still feeling flustered, as I reminded my children to keep walking.

I got them in the car, thinking about that envelope and the strange encounter with the man. What was it that he handed me? I opened it up and discovered that it was an adaption of this poem, but I give it to you as he gave it to me:

“When you thought I wasn’t looking”

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.

I saw you feed a stray cat,
and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

I saw you make my favorite cake for me,
and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn’t listening,
I heard you say a prayer,
and knew that there is a God I could always talk to,
and I learned to trust in Him.

I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

I saw you take care of the house and everyone in it,
and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw how you handled your responsibilities,
even when you didn’t feel good,
and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.

I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but it’s alright to cry.

I saw that you cared,
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I looked at you and wanted to say….
thanks for all the things
I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.

I was not expecting this from an elderly man in Trader Joe’s, but there it was. He had a stack of envelopes, and he must have been handing them out to parents since 2010. For some reason, I expect people to be negative about me having more than two kids, but I have forgotten that most people like kids and want to see them around. Kids are a sign of hope, and everyone knows that raising them is not easy. I am called to be more than just open to having more children, but to not be afraid to share them with the world. Every child that M and I have is not for us, but for the perfection of the universe, for the completion of God’s plan for His creation. I need to learn to just enjoy my children, and when we are out and about, it will be a joy for others as well. Further, if I show my children that I am flustered by them, they will see…

There is Nothing Wrong with Weddings or Baby Showers

Photo by our lovely photographer, Jen Pagano.

I came across this article today. The author, Valerie Anderson, has an interesting point that marriage is more important than weddings and raising a child is more important than having a huge party with expensive gifts, which she makes at the end of the article. The rest of the article she spends complaining about the thousands of dollars she spent on being in seven weddings, only two of which the couple are still married. Then she talks about how people throw huge baby showers and emphasize having a baby, instead of graduation from school or a promotion. I agree with her that way too much money is spent on unnecessary things, but I disagree with the idea that the celebrations are a problem.

I was married right out of college, and my husband and I had very little in savings. We asked out parents to help us fund our wedding. Between both sides of the family we had a budget of $8000 (Anderson spent $15,000 on a wedding reception for 125 people). We had nearly 200 guests (we both have large extended families) and the $8000 covered everything: the church, the hall, the musicians, our photographer and printed pictures, the caterer, the two-buck chuck we served to drink, my $99 clearance rack dress, the tux rental, the flowers, and more. We did everything for a little as possible and still worked to make it nice. We used my parents minivan instead of a limo. I picked a reasonably priced dress for the bridesmaids, and my husband and I picked the lowest tux we could find for the groomsmen. Our friend guests carpooled and roomed together, saving as much money as they could. It was simple, it was maybe a little bit cheap, but I think that it was a beautiful and wonderful day for everyone who came.

For me, my wedding was not about “being a princess,” it was about entering into the Sacrament of Matrimony with my dearest love and best friend. It was about starting a life together, and hoping for children. It was about helping each other become saints. If that is not something to have a huge celebration for, I am not sure what is. We wanted our family and friends to celebrate with us, to pray for us, and to know that we wanted to share our life with them. That is what a wedding is about. Further, since we were fresh out of college, the wedding and the bridal showers provided us with the necessary material foundation for our life together. If it were not for my parent’s generosity, we would have slept on a $99 futon for many years before we bought a mattress for ourselves. A wedding celebration is the community’s way of supporting a young couple and helping them start their life together, and the great feast is the couple’s and their parents’ way of thanking everyone for their support. It is all very beautiful, if that is the way it is approached. As a potential bride, I was very skeptical of the over-commercialization of the wedding “industry”, and I think my husband and I navigated it very well for a beautiful and affordable celebration.

Six months after my wedding, my family threw me a baby shower. We were bringing a new human into the world, and that is something to celebrate! A new human life to add to the perfection of the universe! It is a bit hard for a post-partum mother to have a huge party right after delivery, so during pregnancy when the baby is nicely cared for in the womb is a great time. Plus, while there are a lot of unnecessary baby items in the world, new parents really do appreciate the support of friends and family in purchasing all the necessities of baby care. One of my showers was a cloth diaper shower. My third baby is wearing those very same diapers I received as a shower gift three years ago. That shower was not a waste. And, while I did not receive gifts for getting a job after college (which I left to be a mom) or throw a huge party when a blog post gets lots of hits, I am pretty sure that these things are not as major as the existence of a new human being.

The new life of a human has the same value, even when the mom is a teen mom. She might even need more support and aid than a married mom does. This paragraph from the article is probably the worst:

“I’ve been to a handful of these showers, and the unmistakable fact is that the guest list is mostly other teenage girls, all cooing and fawning over their corpulent friend or cousin, shrieking excitedly as they present her with the beautiful bassinet that they all pitched in for, ignoring the fact that the endeavor she is embarking on will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and stunt her career opportunities for the rest of her life, not to mention the devastating impact on her social life.”

Where are the adults in the life of the teenage girl, who needs their help more than ever? It is a great good that she is having a baby, even though it will “have devastating impact on her social life.” And there is nothing wrong with her friends supporting her in this; I would rather that than them take her to a clinic to have her child murdered. I am not sure really how this complaint about teenage baby showers fits into the marriage article to begin with, but clearly Anderson is seeing children as a burden and not a blessing.  I think the movie Juno, where she gives her baby up for adoption, is a great example of how to act in the case of a teenage pregnancy, but, for those who are able, keeping and raising the child is beautiful as well.

I think that the complaint that Anderson makes should be about the over-commericalization of weddings and baby showers, not the things in themselves, but then that is easy for me to grasp since the value of thrift has been instilled in me my whole life.