It is National Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week (July 23-July 29, 2017)
What is Natural Family Planning or NFP? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains on their website that “NFP is the general title for the scientific, natural and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples either achieve or postpone pregnancies.” They go on to explain that methods used in NFP “are based on the observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy.”
The theme for National NFP Awareness Week 2017 is “It's Time! Say "Yes" to God's Plan for Married Love.” This theme is especially fitting for me and my husband as we had said “No” to God’s plan and struggled with trusting Him. Full disclosure: my husband and I have only recently started learning about and practicing NFP.
Prior to NFP, we had relied on birth control pills, condoms and then abstinence. When I was on birth control, I experienced many symptoms that I did not correlate to being on the pill. I would have severe and debilitating migraines several times a week. At times, the migraines were so strong that I would have to lay in a dark room and sleep for the rest of the day. Nothing alleviated the migraines and I sought every remedy that my doctor and I could think of. It was only after I came off the birth control pills several months before my husband and I were ready to try to conceive that the migraines “magically” went away. I also lost about ten pounds after coming off the birth control pills. After having our baby, our birth control method consisted of long periods of abstinence and condoms.
Why Did We Choose NFP?
I knew that I would never want to go back on birth control, not only because of the effects that it had on my body, but because we also felt that it was not right. We also did not feel right using condoms. We eventually realized that, for us, using birth control meant we were not trusting in God. This mistrust stemmed from our fears after receiving troubling news while I was pregnant, coupled with postpartum anxiety that I endured. Both had a powerful effect on our marriage and family.
As we began to heal from these struggles and anxieties (and after going to confession!) we began to consider natural birth control and it was then that we really learned about NFP. It was then that we realized if we trusted God to grant us the miracle of our baby (which He did!), we needed to continue to trust Him when it comes to having or not having more blessings (children). For us, the true meaning of living the faith and carrying out our vocation as husband and wife means that we need to be open to creating new life.
It was the following paragraph that resonated with us and called us to say “Yes!” to God, just as our Blessed Virgin Mary did:
NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of the child. Standards for Diocesan Natural Family Planning Ministry
With NFP, we understand that each time we engage in the marital act, God could bless us with a child. While we are currently using NFP to delay pregnancy, we are still open to life. We have found comfort knowing that if God wants us to have a child, there is nothing that he did not make which is stopping it from happening.
NFP finally has made us feel right. We are actually growing closer as a married couple by doing the following things together: learning more about NFP, working to figure our fertile and infertile phases and abstaining when we need to.
For us, NFP doesn’t mean that we throw caution to the wind and have a multitude of children that we may not be able to care for spiritually, emotionally or financially. Instead, we have found we are being more responsible than if we were to use artificial birth control methods. We believe that God trusts us now more than ever. “Making decisions therefore, about when and how many children to have in marriage is a sacred responsibility that God has entrusted to husband and wife. This is the foundation of what the Church calls, "Responsible Parenthood"--the call to discern God's will for your marriage while respecting His design for life and love,” The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains.
NFP has allowed us to take what was once a selfish act and turn it into what it was intended to be by God. “By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife. Standards for Diocesan Natural Family Planning Ministry
To us, NFP means that we will cultivate an openness to life in our marriage; work together to either achieve or avoid pregnancy, instead of relying on artificial birth control which we feel has and will only draw us apart; foster a more selfless relationship with each other with regards to the actual marital act, which is intended to serve rather than take; and most important than all, have complete trust in God.
For more information about Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, please click here.
Date night is not the same as it was before we had our child. In fact, I think every night before having our child was “date night” compared to now. While this is not to say that we don’t love our sweet, spirited, hysterical toddler, many parents understand the difficulty in finding the time and energy to plan a successful “date night” out of the house, even if it is just for a few hours. So, one of the ways that my husband and I spend quality time together is by watching new and favorite movies, television programs and documentaries. We call it our “Date Night In.”
While scrolling through my Instagram feed a few weeks ago, I came across the documentary called Footprints: The Path of Your Life which was highly recommended by ChurchPop. Since my late grandfather always used to read the Footprints in the Sand poem to me while I was growing up, the name of the documentary spoke to me. Plus, my husband’s name is James, so I figured it would be something that he would like to watch as well. I took ChurchPop’s advice and added it to our watch list. Without spoiling the documentary for you or giving anything away, let’s just say that I am glad we watched it!
Footprints: The Path of Your Life is a documentary film based on the “story of 11 men who walked the Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James to reach Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of St. James the Greater lie.” The men faced "a 500-mile, 40-day trek that will challenge their strength and faith." This walk, or camino in Spanish, is “a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James north-west Spain,” Santiago Compostela, the official website for the walk explains on their website.
Each year, hundreds of people flock to walk the Camino de Santiago. However, this is no ordinary walk or hike. The men from the Footprints: The Path of Your Life documentary and hundreds of other walkers face an almost 500-mile hike, walking for hours and hours each day, sometimes without rest, carrying a backpack of their food, water, supplies, clothing, etc…while exposed to the elements. Phew!
Prior to watching the film, I had the basic understanding that Saint James the Greater was one of the first disciples of Jesus Christ. He was the brother of John the Apostle and they were both fishermen. John was with him at the Sea of Galilee when Jesus instructed them to “dip their nets in the water” after they had been unable to catch any fish that day. When they pulled the nets up from the water, it was full of fish, so much so that the boat that they were in nearly sank. It was also Saint James, his brother John and another disciple, Peter, who were on the mountain with Jesus to witness His Transfiguration.
After watching Footprints: The Path of Your Life, I not only learned so much more about Saint James but also found myself reflecting on many parallels from what the walkers faced to my life and the struggles, triumphs and blessings that I have encountered, not only in the past few years as a wife and then mother, but even years ago.
One of the more poignant facts that I learned after watching the film is that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Saint James and asked that he build a church, which he did and this Church remains to this day. It made me realize that while I pray the Rosary each day as a devotion to our Blessed Virgin Mary, sometimes I need to be quieter to listen to see what she needs from me.
It was a pleasure watching these men as they faced this daunting yet life-changing journey and I highly recommend everyone watch Footprints: The Path of Your Life to not only learn more about Saint James but to hopefully find some inspiration as well.
I especially recommend watching the Footprints documentary today, in celebration of Saint James’s feast day, which is July 25th!
Did you watch the Footprints documentary? Let us know what you think on Facebook.
As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
Do you have the desire to pray the Holy Rosary each day but feel as if you don’t have enough time or perhaps you aren’t quite sure when you could devote time to do so? While some may believe that praying the Rosary will take a significant amount of time, not only does it not but it is a powerful tool that every Catholic should keep in their “spiritual toolbox.”
Pope Leo XIII said, “the Rosary is the most excellent form of prayer and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.”
My grandmother, who was particularly devoted to our Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, prayed the Rosary regularly. While I had never prayed the Rosary with my grandmother (something I wish I could turn back the clock to do!), I was very much aware of that the Rosary was a method of prayer. I always had a Rosary by my bedside and the moment I started driving, I carried another one in my car. It was not until shortly after we received a screening test that indicated our son had an increased risk of Down Syndrome (read more about that here) that I began to pray the Rosary each day.
In fact, it was a Facebook post shared by a friend that inspired me to do so. The website, One Peter Five shares, “the most amazing thing about the Rosary is that Mary made 15 promises to those who recite it daily. These aren’t insignificant promises, but rather enormously helpful graces provided to those who are trying to live a good and faithful Catholic life.”
It has now been over two years that I have been praying the Rosary each day. For me, praying the Holy Rosary has become a part of my daily routine and is a standard for me just like showering each day. Similar to if I miss a shower one day, if for some reason I am not able to pray the Rosary, I just don’t feel right. And unlike showering, there is no dry shampoo to substitute the Rosary.
My preferred method of praying the Rosary is sitting in a quiet room or at Church when I have ample time to focus and meditate on the mysteries. However, as a mom to a rambunctious, loving and energetic toddler with a to-do list for both personal and professional duties which is continuously overflowing, I am not often granted a time to pray the Rosary quietly. Being a fan of ‘feeding two birds with one seed’ I have found that there are many times in my day that I am able to pray the Rosary while engaging in other tasks.
Here are several occurrences in a daily routine that could allow time to also pray the Rosary:
While many of these methods of praying the Rosary do not allow for holding the Rosary beads, as I mentioned earlier, you can use your fingers to keep count or a “Finger Rosary” as shown here.
Another way to keep track of the Hail Mary prayers is to say the number you are on after each Hail Mary. For instance,
“Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.. One.”
“Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Amen.. Two.”
…and so on.
Whichever method you choose, praying the Rosary can and will change your life. It would be selfish of me not to invite everyone, men, women and children, to incorporate praying the Holy Rosary of our Blessed Virgin Mary in their daily lives.
St. Josemaria Escriva said “the holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”
Do you pray the Rosary during any other time in your day? Please share with us on Facebook.
As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
I will never forget the feeling of holding our baby for the first time. As a first-time mom, I had read a multitude of books to try and prepare us for parenthood. While many of them expressed the joy that comes with holding your child for the first time, I was not prepared for the euphoric happiness that flowed through me. We were mesmerized with this precious miracle (quite so! Read the last journal post to learn more about that!) and delighted to finally have him join our family.
Something else that I was not prepared for was overwhelming and inconspicuous anxiety. I have dealt with anxiety my entire life. My mother has anxiety, her mother did, her mother did and I am almost certain that if you went down the line it is something that we all inherited. We are very much accustomed to anxiety in our family. In fact, when my mother was a young girl growing up with parents that spoke Italian as their first language and older brothers who primarily spoke English, she made up a brand new word, “scapauro”, which is a mixture of the Italian and English word for “scared.” (Scared in Italian is Paura.) She did this so that everyone would know in an instant that she was afraid and needed some assistance. How incredibly adorable!
Reflecting on the struggles that we endured during my pregnancy, it should have come as no surprise that I would be prone to anxiety after having our baby, especially since it is something that I had always dealt with. Unfortunately, as a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom facing struggles of having a newborn and not paying enough attention to my own health I was under the misconception that if I didn’t have postpartum depression, I was in the clear. Even at the six-week check-up with my OBGYN, I was screened and cleared as having absolutely no factors for postpartum depression.
PostPartumprogress.com is a website dedicated to maternal mental illness. On their website they write that a study “published in the journal Pediatrics took a look at postpartum anxiety symptoms, noting that moms may be screened for postpartum depression but are not usually screened specifically for anxiety. The researchers from Penn State screened more than 1,000 moms using both the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory. They found 17% had anxiety and 6% had depression symptoms in the first few weeks postpartum, and that anxiety remained more common than depression even at 6 months postpartum. Their conclusion is, in part, that postpartum anxiety may be more common than PPD.”
While I know these facts now, I didn’t for almost the first full year of our son’s life. I unknowingly struggled. For the first three months postpartum, I was afraid of bringing my baby down the stairs of our home to the first floor. That meant that while he napped in the bassinet, I would rush downstairs to clean my pumps (I was an exclusive pumper- which is a journal entry for the future!), get something to eat and drink, prepare bottles of breastmilk or formula and rush back upstairs to try and fit in a shower or some work before he woke up. While it was exhausting, the fear of bringing him down the stairs fueled me to continue this routine. I remember the first time that I gathered the courage to bring him downstairs by myself, I cried and then laughed thinking of how awesome it felt. Of course, I lasted about an hour before we went back upstairs for the remainder of the day.
I was also fearful that someone would break into our home and harm or take the baby. With most irrational fears which stem from anxiety, there was absolutely no reason for me to feel this way. We have locks, alarms, more locks and a dog that would bark and alert me if anything was amiss.
With my husband at work during the day, the anxiety essentially rendered us home-bound. I was afraid of taking him anywhere- outside in the yard, a drive in the car, a walk around the neighborhood. My son was almost 9 months old when I took him for a drive in the car alone. Even then, it was just a quick drive to the drive-through at the bank and then right back home.
While my husband and family surely suspected that I was suffering from severe anxiety, it wasn’t something that I was even aware of or something that I thought I needed help with. Supporting me as best as they could, these struggles are something that I very much faced alone. While I now know that these things are not “normal,” before it did not even occur to me that there was anything wrong—it was my “new normal.”
In the past, I have always been very in tune to my health- mind, body and soul. But, with my focus on our baby, while running a charity and ensuring that household tasks were also attended to left me little time and energy to analyze my state of mind.
One of the only comforts I relied on was to pray the Rosary each day as I was accustomed to doing while pregnant. While I did not ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede for my health, I believe that our Mother never left my side and as much as I was taking care of my baby, she was taking care of and sustaining me.
Today, my mental health has improved dramatically with the help of prayer, proper nutrition, regular exercise, therapy sessions and supplements. However, as I write this journal entry, I feel sad for my postpartum self and wish I had noticed these postpartum anxiety symptoms earlier. Thinking of how long and unknowingly I struggled, I take comfort in a quote from Padre Pio: “the longer the trial to which God subjects you, the greater the goodness in comforting you during the time of the trial and in the exaltation after the combat.”
I pray my story inspires other moms who are experiencing similar struggles to notice the symptoms of postpartum anxiety or depression. Talk to your OBGYN, primary care doctor, husband, parents, friends, Priest, co-workers…anyone to help get the ball rolling.
Remember that while we are mothers, we still need to take care of ourselves- mind, body and soul, so that we can take even better care of our loved ones.
Most importantly, know that these feelings are common, you are not alone and prayer, especially the Rosary, does help. Heed the advice of Saint John Paul II, “To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and His mother.”
As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
On Monday, June 13, 2015, I was entering my 15th week of pregnancy. I felt wonderful and excited just thinking of our baby growing in my womb. The week prior, my mother and I started to take short walks around the neighborhood before work in the morning. It helped to soothe my morning sickness—which lasted most of the day, ironically and was something we both looked forward to. On this particular Monday morning, I left my phone at home, which I never do, figuring that since my mom had her phone and my husband was home that day, I wouldn’t need mine.
When we got home, I checked my phone and saw that I had a missed call and voicemail from my OB/GYN’s office. Three weeks earlier, I took a prenatal screening test that checks for chromosomal abnormalities in the baby. As I hit “play” on the voicemail, I was reminded that my doctor said she would only call if there were any problems. While I tried to remain calm, I became slightly alarmed when it was my actual doctor who had left the brief message asking me to call her back as soon as possible. Still with my spirits high from our morning walk, I calmed my nerves and called the doctor back. My doctor came to the phone right away, on my first call- which is highly unusual, given she usually very busy.
My doctor told me that our results from the prenatal test were in and that it showed an increased risk of Trisomy 21, associated with Down Syndrome. At first, I was in denial. I grabbed my water bottle- taking a sip and just said “Okay,”, as if she hadn’t just told me this life altering news. My doctor repeated herself again, possibly thinking that I hadn’t understood her correctly and told me that the risk of our baby having Trisomy 21 Down Syndrome was 9 in 10. Coming out of my denial and straight into shock, I sat down and my heart started to pound faster than it ever had. Once she asked me if I was alone, I started to sob uncontrollably.
The prenatal screening test that we took was part of a study at Women and Infants Hospital. We decided to be a part of the test since it would tell us the gender of the baby earlier than usual and it was free. The test is a cell-free fetal DNA (ccffDNA), Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), which works “by analyzing the DNA fragments present in the maternal plasma during pregnancy. Cell-free fetal DNA (cffDNA) comes from the placenta.” When a mother becomes pregnant, the cells from the baby and placenta start to “mix in” or “float” around in the mother’s blood stream.
After reassuring my doctor that my husband and mother were both with me, I sat down and began to explain to my husband and mother what the doctor had told me. We sat on the couch and discussed and cried, in between speaking with the staff at my OB/GYN’s office, who were setting up an appointment for me with a genetic counselor for that day.
That day went by so slow. It was as if I was in slow motion. It seemed like days before our appointment with the genetic counselor that afternoon. I held out hope that the counselor would somehow give us different news than what we were told earlier. After sitting down with the genetic counselor, she told us that we had “options.” Knowing she meant an abortion and where I am usually quiet, respectful and reserved, I all but yelled at the poor woman and said “NO! The only option ever is to have this baby.” We declined an amniocentesis test, as it has a miscarriage risk and agreed to and scheduled a Level II ultrasound at 20 weeks, which is a noninvasive test that checks for “soft-markers” for Down Syndrome in the baby. The genetic counselor gave us information on Down Syndrome and other educational packets for us to review.
I felt hopeless, afraid and distraught that my baby might have serious medical challenges ahead and guilty for not “terminating” the pregnancy if the baby did have serious health problems. "People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer's disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions." (ndss.org)
Gripping my husband’s hand as tight as if I were falling out of the sixth floor window that I was sitting next to, I turned to my mother, who came with us to the meeting and asked her, “Mom, what do we do?” She said in between tears “Pray, we just start praying.”
And pray we did. We spent the rest of the day praying and begging God to give our baby a miracle. While we are not deserving, this beautiful baby that was snuggling in my womb, unaware of what we were experiencing, deserved a miracle.
The genetic counselor assured us that she would be offering her prayers for our baby, too. We left the office and decided to shop for some baby clothes. We did this because we wanted to celebrate the fact that no matter what, we’d be holding our bundle of joy in our arms in a little over five short months. The test also told us the gender of the baby. We’d be holding our baby BOY in our arms, our Joseph, named after my husband’s grandfather and St. Joseph, protector of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
That Monday, July 13, 2015, brought a roller coaster of emotions. Excitement and joy at the thought that we were having a boy and fear and sadness that he may have to face some serious health problems. I alternated between crying and praying for most of the day, mostly crying while praying. That night, I basically passed out in bed while talking with my husband.
Shortly after, my husband, mother and I began to pray the Rosary each day together. We also sent our prayer request to any and all channels that would accept them. I began wearing the Miraculous Medal every day. We asked as many saints as possible for their intercession and I begged God to give my son this great miracle. I remember feeling the strong need to fall to my knees and pray for the majority of my pregnancy. In fact, I still feel that need to this day.
Today, I felt the same urge. But today, as I fell to my knees and prayed in front of my most treasured item—the Blessed Virgin Mary holding Jesus in the portrait titled “Madonna of the Streets”, which belonged to my Nonna—I prayed and thanked God, Jesus and our Blessed Virgin Mary for our beautiful, rambunctious toddler who was napping in his room, recharging for more play and fun when he wakes from his nap. This beautiful boy was born without Down Syndrome.
The miracle is not that our son does not have Down Syndrome, it is that he is alive and healthy.
Today also marks the start of my Consecration to Jesus through Mary, according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort. The Consecration takes 33 days. When I first decided to make the Consecration, I only thought about the date of my actual Consecration, August 15, which is The Feast of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A few days ago, I realized that the start date was July 13, which until now was stained as a date of sadness and fear. Now, it will be forever remembered as a day of faith, hope and love.
Totus Tuus "I am all yours, and all that is mine is yours, O Virgin, blessed above all."
As always, thank you for taking the time to read about our story and the miracle our baby received.
God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
Thank you for visiting the journal section of Catholic Mom Rhode Island. This community was founded after I, a mom that is Catholic, from Rhode Island, was unable to find a community group for mothers that is based around the Roman Catholic faith. After becoming pregnant, I received some devastating news about our baby at just 15 weeks. Feeling hopeless, my family and I turned to our Lord and His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, for help. We began to religiously (pun intended) pray the Rosary, among other prayers and devotions each day. Then in the third trimester we received more distressing news. With our faith being tested once again, we made our prayers even stronger. Thanks be to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the Lord for answering our prayers as our baby was born completely healthy!
I was a delighted first-time mom that soaked in each moment with our new baby, marveling at the tiny hands, obsessed with the cute feet and was overall, giddy with joy. Still, I struggled with post-partum anxiety, breast-feeding challenges, insecurities about almost every choice I made, among other difficulties. My faith deepened further as I, once again, prayed my way through these struggles and continued to lean on and ask for help from the Blessed Virgin Mary. To this day, I pray the Rosary each day and try my best to put my trust entirely in the Lord.
During this time, I sought out a group for new and seasoned moms that were also Catholic and based in Rhode Island. Unlike a Google search for a chocolate chip cookie recipe (yum!), my search yielded no results. A little over a year and a half after my son was born, I felt empowered by our Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit to create this community for me and for other moms.
Catholic Mom Rhode Island is a community for Roman Catholic mothers in Rhode Island to nurture, grow and support families and themselves through faith, hope and love. This community is Inspired by the original Catholic Mom: the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
Our mission is to bring together Catholic mothers who are seeking a community of friendship and support and to also share valuable resources that will empower each other to strengthen our faith and family through the Roman Catholic Church.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to visit our website and read about my story and this community. Remember, a successful and thriving community is only as strong as the support, dedication and commitment it receives from its members. Catholic Mom Rhode Island invites you to participate and join the community. Please contact us for more information.
God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.