When I was a new mama, I was going insane. I wish I was exaggerating. Olivia never slept and she cried and cried for hours and hours. I didn’t know any other stay-at-home mamas and only one of our friends had a baby. I was completely alone all day (other than the baby). No one to see or talk to until Brandon came through the door after work whereupon I would hand him the baby and dissolve into hysterics.
Then I found the land of mommy blogs. I wouldn’t say that my days were all rainbows after that, but the cloud of isolation drifted away a bit. These women wrote about the good and the bad of what I was going through. Women that understood. It was nice to relate to some of their experiences.
In those early days I was fishing around and somehow stumbled upon Simcha Fisher. I clicked on the first thing I saw and read this article. I immediately didn’t like her. I thought her a jaded and cynical mother that had let life wear her down.
When Kraft and I got married we were on fire with a love of all things NFP (Natural Family Planning). I think more than anything, we were so glad that this really important tenet of our faith was something that made sense to us. We were on board and super excited. We even floated ideas of starting a blog about NFP.
Ok, I’m so embarrassed about this next part. Please, please forgive me, my dear two readers. I completely repent for what my newlywed self did next but I feel like this makes my point. Being full of zeal I went straight to the person that I knew needed our help most – The Director of NFP at the USCCB.
In my email I informed the USCCB:
Being in my mid-twenties, [many] are getting engaged and married, and while most of them are faithful Catholic couples who are planning on using NFP, they still are using it or planning on using it with a contraception mentality. I believe that many well-meaning Catholic couples are informed too much by secular culture.
Blech. *hides face in hands* I’m going to try not to hate myself for writing those words. Let’s set aside my atrocious grammar and the fact that I didn’t even call it the right thing (it’s “contraceptiVE mentality”, not contraceptiON mentality. Also, don’t ever use that phrase). The USCCB person that wrote back to me was so so gracious and wonderful and politely told me:
Rather than accuse people of a contraceptive mentality (NFP is hard enough to use on its own),… most NFP couples follow a “growth cycle.” In other words, they may start out holding the same cultural contraceptive mentality that everyone else has, but as they “live” the NFP lifestyle, they grow together as a couple…it may take years before as a couple they are living their sacrament as God intended. The Lord God has patience to draw them along, and we who teach and promote NFP need to do likewise.
Brilliant, brilliant response and so kind. She could have easily written to me saying, “Shut it! Get off your high horse! You know nothing of the world and the trials and tribulations of marriage! You’re a baby!” Which would have been a fair and just response.
To bring it full circle, my issue with Simcha at the time was that I was that person she was describing:
…gung-ho and ablaze with the information that we should be open to life, an obnoxious twentysomething brandishing her NFP manual in its original wrapper may think she has something to say to a crowd of grizzled old matrons. She may think she’s stirring up a righteous flame in some old, moldering cinders by proclaiming the truth about what it means to be truly generous, truly compliant to the will of God. She may think she’s doing some good (and looking pretty swell in the process!). But more likely than not, she just doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Well played, Simcha. Hold that mirror up to my face.
But I kept reading Simcha’s stuff because she was the only one that I had found who wrote about real things. She didn’t portray herself as levitating in rapture while washing the dishes. She wrote about her failings and how things are hard, but she wrote about them with hope and with charity. It only took about two more posts before I loved her. I loved her humor, her snark, her humanness. She writes with a wisdom that only comes from living life with her eyes wide open.
Back in April, Kraft and I ran a marriage preparation retreat for engaged couples. We were on break when a young couple (not on retreat) waltzed into the room. They were about to move to the city and be married later that month so they were checking out the church to see if it was where they wanted to attend. I told them that if they chose to be parishioners here, we’d love to have them volunteer at the next retreat. It’s great to get newlyweds to share their story. The woman’s eyes lit up. “Are you telling them about NFP?? It is the most important thing we could do for engaged couples is tell them about NFP. It’s so great and fabulous and such a blessing to couples! It helps them get closer, you know.”
I stared at her, possibly with my mouth slightly open, for a second too long before I said anything. She was me 9 years ago. Now we have 5 children all born about 18 months apart. My cycle, while being very regular is regular in an abnormal way which makes charting difficult. Add that I just can’t seem to make the time to check what I need to check as often as I should. Thus, we are left with a very limited window of time that we can “use”. (I do want to be clear that our days aren’t limited because of NFP but rather my current inability to get my act together.)
All this to say, I more readily understood where Simcha was coming from that fated day I read that first post. This woman standing in front of me had yet to be drowning in the depths of postpartum depression while seeing a positive pregnancy test on the counter with a 8 month old screaming in the other room. She had yet to go into labor early resulting with 2 babies in the NICU. She had yet to see what happens to your relationship with your husband when you’re sleep deprived to the brink of insanity.
Not that this woman was wrong at all. NFP is such a blessing and is so good for couples in physical/emotional/spiritual ways but it is a long and winding road (as all things in marriage are) with some great stretches and some very rocky stretches. God gives us that zeal at the beginning because we need it. We need the momentum to carry us into uncharted waters. If we ever had any idea what we were getting into, we would all run away screaming.
And this is what I see in Simcha. She is a woman that has plunged into the waters holding fast to her faith. She is not jaded or bitter. She isn’t perfect. We don’t always agree. Her writing doesn’t always come in a pretty little box tied up with a bow. But her writing is real all the time and prophetic at the best of times. I am happy to be closer to Simcha’s experience now than my 20-something year old self back then. I’m thankful that I’ve had her writing to read along the way and I’m grateful to have the chance to continue reading here posts here.