Thursday, May 29, 2014

Serious Reason

As a (infertile) FertilityCare Practitioner, it's only natural I should spend a lot of my time contemplating the very obvious but also very subtle differences between "TTC" (trying to conceive) and "TTA" (trying to avoid), as it relates to a couple's intention in using Natural Family Planning.  (For more on how I feel about NFP, see Unnatural Family Planning.)  Call it an occupational hazard, but it truly is fascinating to continually find new ways in which the two sides of the NFP coin are more similar than they are different.

In pondering this idea recently, I began to think about two groups of which I am a member.  One is a Catholic NFP group, overwhelmingly made up of married women who are currently using NFP to avoid pregnancy - and succeeding.  The other is a Catholic Infertility group, overwhelmingly made up of married women who are currently using NFP to achieve pregnancy - and failing.

It's no surprise that my own infertility and that of my clients and friends has drastically changed my perspective on things, not least notably my thoughts on "TTA" or trying to avoid pregnancy.  It has done so by showing me the true gift of fertility and of children, even in situations previously thought to be "poorly timed" by the parents.  We are not in control.  We never were.  We never will be.  This truth, knocked into me over the past 12 years or so, has above all else affected my thoughts and feelings regarding trying to avoid, and trying to conceive, alike.

The one similarity I'd like to draw upon today is a term used very frequently in NFP:  the term "serious reason to avoid."  Briefly, I'll quote what is meant by the term serious reason:

            "If, then, there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from 
             the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from 
             external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into 
             account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions…" 
             [Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae 16] 

            "For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. 
             It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by 
             selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to 
             responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior 
             to the objective criteria of morality." 
             [Catechism of the Catholic Church 2368]

These serious reasons, when applied to using NFP to avoid pregnancy, are meant to be discerned by the couple and is a very personal spiritual application, one that cannot be judged from outside of the marriage trinity of husband, wife, and God.

But interestingly, the term "serious reason" is never used in connection with the flip-side of the NFP coin.  Which leads me to question, are there serious reasons to conceive?

If you were to ask this of anyone currently trying to conceive, I'm sure you would be met with quick answers to the affirmative, and not just from those with infertility.  Those reasons, juxtaposed side-by-side with the serious reasons to avoid, may look something like this:

"My husband is going away on deployment in the Fall."  (TTA serious reason:  "My husband is going away on deployment in the Fall.")

"I just got accepted to grad school."  (TTA serious reason:  "I just got accepted to grad school.")

"DH just got laid off."  (TTA serious reason:  "DH just got laid off.")

The list can go on and on, and there may be minor differences here and there, such as TTC:  "My parents' health is failing and they may not live much longer," vs. TTA:  "My health may be severely compromised in pregnancy," but at the root of all of these serious reasons to either conceive or to avoid is one fundamental similarity:


If I were to continue making a list of the serious reasons to conceive, I could (I guarantee you) develop a list lengthier than any list of reasons to avoid, having experienced what I believe to be some of the MOST serious reasons to conceive known to most couples.  But, guess what?  Despite all of the most serious reasons that I absolutely, 100%, no doubt about it NEEDED to conceive?... I still did not.

And guess what else?  The world did not come crashing down.

It may seem laughable to those who are seriously trying to avoid to think that there could be serious reasons to conceive, for several reasons.  First, there are no guarantees of conception when one *does* have a serious reason to conceive, even in a couple of healthy and normal fertility.  Second, children are not commodities, so the state of pregnancy, which would be the desired end result of the serious reasons to conceive, should be seen as a gift, not a right.  Third, no on has ever heard of a woman or a couple suffering so incredibly much, for years and years on end, because they weren't able to achieve a pregnancy.

Oh... wait.

So, that third reason - perhaps that third reason takes the comical aspect out of this idea of "serious reasons to conceive," after all.  On the flip-side, we have all heard of the women and couples who conceived EVEN THOUGH they had serious reasons to avoid pregnancy... and their suffering does appear to be much more finite than the couple who has not conceived with serious reason.

But, getting back to the first two reasons, it is worth arguing that those points are valid - as they should be - but they can also be applied to the couple who believes they have serious reasons to avoid pregnancy.

How?  Because first, there are no guarantees that the plan we envision for our life is the one that will come to fruition - we may believe that our desired outcome (not achieving pregnancy, or achieving pregnancy) will be THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING we can do for ourselves, our future, and our family.  Second, children are not commodities, and should be seen as a gift, not a punishment.

It all comes back to fear.  Fear of the unknown (How will we afford another baby?  What if my C-Section scar ruptures my uterus?  I'll never be able to make it through another 9 months of debilitating sickness.) is what drives our serious reasons for avoiding, just as fear of the unknown gives us our serious reasons for achieving pregnancy.  They are, in essence, exactly the same.  Fear is what unites us all, whether we believe we have serious reason to avoid pregnancy, or serious reason to achieve pregnancy.

In the case of those two groups of women, it is no wonder we do not hear the term "serious reason" applied to trying to conceive.  Clearly the reasons to conceive cannot be so serious if our plans so often do not match our intention, and yet still the world does not implode.  But when it comes to serious reason to avoid, the opposite is nearly always true:  the plans so often do match the intention (of not achieving pregnancy), with the occasional *surprises* and *oops* always proving otherwise (that God's plan IS better than ours).

I suppose what I'm getting at here is not that there are no serious reasons to avoid (again, these reasons are not for anyone outside the marriage to judge), or even to argue that there ARE serious reasons to achieve (which, I do believe there are, and to the same end, cannot be judged from without), as much as to say that our reasoning in general is more similar than we may have realized.  And I do believe so much of our reasoning, as humans, is dictated by our fears.

Rather than throw all caution to the wind, I would advocate that we make informed decisions for our family using the wisdom of the Holy Spirit - while not allowing fear to be a factor.  Whether we believe we have serious reasons to either avoid or achieve a pregnancy, let us look to the here and now, let us remember that no trial is so great that God cannot overcome it in our lives, and most of all, let us reflect on these words of Our Lady of Guadalupe:

"Do not fear... Am I not here with you, who is your mother?"


Rebecca said...

Fear. Yep.

In the 3rd NFP class we teach, we ask the question, regardless of fertility, do you trust God with your family?

That's what it boils down to - do we believe He is trustworthy and that His plan is better than ours? For most of us, myself included, we don't.

For even in those decisions of TTA or TTC, done prayerfully in the presence of God, we place ourselves in His hands and fully trust Him to guide us. It's the only way The Man and I were able to TTA the last two months, it was clear it was what He was calling us to. My lack of trust and my fear of "but what about my tubes" is what stood in the way.

Thank-you for this beautiful reflection.

prayerfuljourney said...

My dh and I are not "TTCing" or TTA ing even though we now have a serious reason to "TTA" since we have begun another adoption journey were a pg would push that back further. My dh discussed TTA but since we never ever got pg...I questioned what we were avoiding? You did write a nice reflection.

All in His Perfect Timing said...

More brilliant thoughts you have uncovered and shared! Brilliant post!!!

Stephanie @ Blessed to Be said...

A great post, indeed! I like the way you think. :)