Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Baby Update!

I'm now 21 weeks along and the pregnancy is going well! We had our 20-week ultrasound last week and got some great pictures of "Baby Snitch." Best news of all -- s/he looks 100% healthy! No clubfoot (!!!), and no other issues or abnormalities detected. 

sweet little profile

We caught a smile!

Look at that face!!
S/he likes having his/her arms up by his/her face, just like Peter.

Full-body shot in 3-D

Saturday, August 13, 2016

It's Been A While!

I've been a pretty poor blogger lately, both here and at Catholic Working Mother. I'm hoping to change that, though. Not that I necessarily have any more time, but I do miss blogging. I've been doing some creative fiction writing as an outlet, which helps, it's not the same.

Brief update for those of you who don't follow me on social media:

- The kids started school on August 3rd. I now have a 6th grader, a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and a PRESCHOOLER! (See next bullet.)

- I had Peter tested by AZ Early Intervention for a speech delay last year, and he's been receiving therapy for several months, with little progress. (He hasn't had as many sessions as I'd hoped, due to illness and other factors.) Well, once he's three he "graduates" from Early Intervention and needs to receive services from the public school system, so this summer we went through the process of getting him tested again.

He was diagnosed with a moderate speech and language delay, and as such he qualifies for preschool through the public school system. He receives speech therapy while there. So he rides the school bus every day (we had to set up the bus rides due to my work schedule) and attends school from 8:15-10:45. So far he seems to enjoy it very much!

Poor Gabriel is the odd man out this year, but he'll start kindergarten next year.

- Our vacation this summer was an epic road trip to and from North Dakota to attend a family reunion for my mother's side of the family. We took four days to drive from AZ to ND, and three days to drive back, with about a week between in ND. Amazingly, we had no major mishaps. It was exhausting, but we had a lot of fun and made some great memories, and it was great to spend some time with my family. I met a few relatives I hadn't yet had the chance to meet, and saw many that I hadn't seen since we left ND.

- I'm becoming the employee of a new company, but my job is still exactly the same, as is my office. Long story short, my parent company decided to "divest" the division I work for, and it was sold to a private equity firm. It's not altogether dissimilar to the acquisition we went through in 2012.

Thanks to that firm's investment, our division is incorporating as a new company effective September 1 (the new name isn't public knowledge yet - although the divestiture itself is - so I can't blog it quite yet). Good news is that my benefits don't seem to be changing much, I still get to keep all my service years and, so far, I get to keep my flexible schedule and telecommute most of the time. Here's hoping it stays that way.

- And the biggest news of all:

Our newest son or daughter, due to arrive sometime in January 2017 
Meet Baby #10, a.k.a. Baby Snitch (so nicknamed by a FB friend at 10 weeks, after the babysizer.com observation that our baby was as big as a Golden Snitch). 

For obvious reasons, this pregnancy has been fraught with anxiety. I had repeated pregnancy loss testing back in December, and it yielded no abnormal results, with one exception -- I am heterozygous for the MTHFR A1298C gene mutation. It's not certain if this particular mutation causes the inability to process folic acid that the other MTHFR mutations do (there was no evidence of that from other tests), but just to be safe I started taking a prenatal vitamin (this one) with methylated folate instead of folic acid. I also called my doctor's office and had bloodwork done right away. 

My first two HCG results were a little lower than they like to see (doubling time was 62 hours) and my progesterone was a tad low (20), so my midwife started me on progesterone supplements immediately. Both numbers markedly improved, and at the suggestion of my midwife I went in for weekly ultrasounds from weeks 8-11 (with the exception of week 11 -- the ultrasound machine was in use that day so my midwife tried the doppler instead, and found the baby's heartbeat immediately). Each time, baby looked great - strong heartbeat and appropriate growth.

I elected to do the NT test at 12 weeks. Normally we eschew most prenatal testing, but this time around I wanted it -- maybe the test would give us some clue about what went wrong in the event that we had another loss. We went into the test with some trepidation, as it was at our last two 12 week appointments with Francis and Jude wherein their deaths were diagnosed. 

However, as you can see from the above picture, Baby Snitch looked wonderful. S/he was moving around, waving his/her arms, and had a nice strong heartbeat. Even better, all measurements looked great and there's no evidence of any chromosomal abnormalities from either the ultrasound or the blood test.

I'm 16 weeks now (almost 17) and everything seems to be going well so far. We've heard his/her heartbeat via Doppler several times, which has been reassuring. I have his/her anatomy ultrasound on September 8. It'll be a Level II ultrasound because I'm technically AMA (advanced maternal age), and also because of the prior history of birth defects (Peter's clubfoot). As is our custom, we won't be finding out his/her sex, but I'm eager to see him/her again. 

I'm hoping for a healthy baby -- we have a 96% chance that this baby won't have clubfoot, which is pretty good, but there's always that 4% chance that he or she will. It won't be the end of the world if he or she does have clubfoot, and we'll be much more prepared to deal with it this time around, but I'm really hoping for a newborn period that doesn't involve weekly casting appointments and surgery at 8 weeks old. It made Peter's newborn period rather stressful. 

I'm praying that there won't be any other birth defects (although I'm thinking anything major would have been seen at the NT test). But if there are, s/he will still be welcomed joyfully, of course, but I think all mothers hope for a healthy baby. 

The kids are very excited about their new sibling, although Ellie is apprehensive about the possibility of having to share her birthday (January 13). My EDD is January 23, so Baby could very well decide to come on her birthday, but I think we're both hoping s/he will choose a different day. Still, Collin and his youngest brother have the same birthday (December 24) so we know from experience that it's not the end of the world if they do end up sharing. 

Even though my pregnancy has gone very well so far, we're not out of the woods yet, and my pregnancy loss support groups have taught me that late losses can still occur. I'm striving to stay hopeful and to enjoy every moment of this baby's life, no matter how short it may be. Your prayers are appreciated! 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Yes, there are lots of missing people if a zygote is really a person

It took some research, but I think I tracked down the correct e-mail address for the author of the editorial referenced in the first paragraph of my letter, below. I sent this letter to him today, but I am publishing it here as well. 

Dear Dr. Nash,

I'm hoping you're the same Dr. David A. Nash who wrote the following editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader ("Lots of missing people if a zygote is really a person"), found here: http://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article72132087.html.

If not, feel free to ignore this e-mail. If so, however, I wanted to share my experiences with you.

First of all, I absolutely agree that there are a lot of missing people if a zygote is really a person. Death has always been a part of life. In years past the death rate, especially for infants, was much higher than it is now. For example, in 1850, the mortality rate for infants was 216.8 per 1,000 babies born. (Source: https://eh.net/encyclopedia/fertility-and-mortality-in-the-united-states/) Do you think that infants weren't people back in 1850 since so many of them died of natural causes in their first year of life? 

Secondly, in your editorial you said the following, "We do not designate the results of such spontaneous abortions as 'persons' nor grant them the respect routinely given 'persons,' by naming them, providing a respectful burial or including them in our population and mortality statistics."

It's interesting that you say they are not including in mortality statistics after quoting pregnancy loss statistics! Those seem to be mortality statistics. However, the fact that they are not included in infant loss statistics does not mean that unborn children are not actually persons -- it only means that they are not (yet) considered persons by our government. That was also the case with slaves in 1835 (they were only considered 3/5ths of a person for tax purposes), but I think you would agree that they were, objectively, persons even if the government did not legally regard them as such at that time.

I have had one spontaneous abortion and three missed abortions (or, as I prefer to call them, miscarriages). All of my deceased children have names, Dr. Nash. They are Noel, Chris, Francis and Jude. Noel, Francis, and Jude died at 12 weeks gestation. Chris died at 5w6d. Three of them (Noel, Francis, and Jude) we saw via ultrasound. Two of them (Francis and Jude) had strong heartbeats at 8 weeks gestation, but had inexplicably died at 12 weeks.

Three of my children are buried in cemeteries, with grave markers. Noel is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fargo, North Dakota. Francis and Jude are both buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Avondale, AZ. We had funeral services for all three. We weren't able to bury Chris, as my miscarriage happened late at night in the emergency room and my husband and I were too shocked and overwhelmed to attempt to save his or her remains (that miscarriage remains my only "natural" one  -- I've had D&Cs for the other 3, as their deaths were diagnosed via ultrasound). But we had a memorial service for him or her, anyway. I've uploaded several pictures of the graves and funerals we've had for our miscarried children so you can see that they were, indeed, mourned and buried: 

Noel's grave, Holy Cross Cemetery, Fargo, ND
Francis' burial, June 2015
Jude's burial, October 2015
Francis' gravestone
(added 5/9/16) Jude's gravestone, next to Francis'
Also, miscarried children are provided a respectful burial. At the time of my most recent loss, my husband and I were given a paper stating that we had three options when it came to the disposition of Jude's remains. We could let the hospital handle the disposition and choose to have the remains cremated and interred either at the local Catholic cemetery – in fact, in the exact same section in which we had buried Francis – or scattered in the Superstition Mountains. The paper stated that this would be done in 30 days’ time. We could also choose to have the remains released to a local funeral home, or we could choose to have the remains released to us (we chose the latter option so that we could have private services).  

It's not true at all that miscarried children aren't given proper burials or funerals. Many are, and many parents wish they could bury their children but don't know how. However, a proper burial isn't what determines whether or not humans are persons. Even genocide victims thrown into unmarked mass graves were persons, even if their oppressors did not believe so (and even if the oppressive government did not legally consider them persons). 

There's objective criteria for personhood (see here, for example), and unborn children meet that criteria even if our legal system hasn't quite caught up to that fact yet. 

My lost children were people, Dr. Nash, just as much as my five living children are people. I mourned their deaths when they happened, and I still mourn them every day of my life. They were human beings by all scientific criteria, and they were persons by all subjective philosophical criteria. The fact that they were unborn and not born doesn't change that fact. 

If you'd like to engage on this topic further, I'm more than willing to do so. I think it's an important discussion to have. But if not, that's all right too. I just wanted to set the record straight regarding some of your comments.


JoAnna Wahlund

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Positive Facebook Discussion with a Pro-Choice Person

Dusting off the blog because I had an amazing conversation on Facebook the other day, and I just had to share it. I think this is the first time I've had a conversation with a pro-choice person on Facebook where the person actually considered my points and my evidence, and freely admitted when her assertions were wrong. It's a Year of Mercy miracle!

 This happened on a friend's wall, not my own, so I've blacked out the pro-choice person's comments in black and the comments of all other participants in red. The very last comment comes from the friend on whose wall this conversation took place.

This conversation is long (twenty-four screenshots!), but I think it's worth reading.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Another Saint in Heaven

I hate to break my blog fast with bad news, but it's 2:30 in the morning and I ate too much Halloween candy before bed. That's not the bad news, that's just the reason I'm blogging at this hour. Also, I apologize for the stream of consciousness blogging that will follow, I just need to get all of this out but I don't think it will be very coherent.

We have another Saint in heaven. Ironically, looking back, I believe I tested positive exactly 2 months before I miscarried. I conceived around August 15, tested positive around August 28, and on October 28 we found out our sweet baby had died.

It is such a baffling loss. I had two prior ultrasounds this pregnancy, one at eight weeks and one at ten weeks. Both times, the baby was measuring right on target and had a beautiful heartbeat. I could even see him or her wiggling around. 

Our ultrasound at eight weeks

Our ultrasound at 10 weeks
Then, at what was supposed to be a routine prenatal appointment at 12 weeks, my midwife could not find the baby's heartbeat on Doppler. She wheeled in a portable ultrasound machine and did a belly ultrasound, which showed a baby about the right size but too still, and no flicker of a heartbeat.

Even so, we held out a thin shred of hope. The portable ultrasound machine was old and fuzzy, so she sent me to a nearby radiology practice for a better quality ultrasound (the practice I go to does have an in-house, high-quality 3-D ultrasound machine, but the tech only works Mondays and Fridays, and this was a Wednesday). 

But our hope was extinguished. Although the baby was measuring exactly the right size for his or her gestational age, there was no heartbeat. Our baby had died.

Baby Jude, 12w4d... too still
I had a D&C the following day. I briefly thought about taking pills to induce labor instead, and delivering naturally, but I couldn't bear the thought of going through all that pain knowing it would end in heartbreak. Or miscarrying at home with the children around. Or having to deal with the baby's body myself. Also my doctor usually recommends a D&C if the pregnancy has progressed past 10 weeks, as he has observed a higher rate of complications with miscarrying naturally past that point. 

Once again, I went in for surgery. Many of the same nurses were working in the surgical department and remembered us from June. They were shocked and sad to see us return. 

And once again, we have had to bury another baby. The same section of the same cemetery, the same deacon performed the service, and we even had several of the same friends present. The same tiny casket, with the same little blanket covering it. 

We named the baby Jude, since we found out about his or her death on the feast day of Saint Jude, patron of impossible causes. I had just finished a novena to him on the day of my appointment. In the time between my first and second ultrasounds, I begged St. Jude for a miracle, but it was not to be.

I am having a much harder time with the aftermath of Jude's loss than I did with Francis'. With Francis, I was able to accept his or her loss as a fluke. Granted, I had had two prior miscarriages before Francis, but they hadn't been consecutive. I've brought five healthy babies to term (Peter's birth defect notwithstanding). I thought, surely, my "pattern" would hold and my miscarriage would be followed by a full-term pregnancy. I even began making plans as a portent of hope - discussing names, hiring my doula, planning for maternity leave, even unpacking my maternity clothes. I had started wearing some, as my regular clothes were starting to get tight.

But my hopes were dashed, and it was made even more inexplicable by the fact that by all accounts the baby was healthy and thriving throughout most of the first trimester. I had much less nausea than usual, but I attributed that to the fact that I was taking some additional vitamin supplements. Plus, I had had terrible nausea and vomiting with Francis, so I knew that bad nausea did not necessarily equate to a healthy pregnancy.

And now I just feel at a loss. Is there something wrong with me? Did I do something to cause this? Do I have low progesterone, or a blood clotting disorder, or is it because I'm approaching advanced maternal age (I turn 35 on November 3) and my egg quality is declining?

Or is there another reason altogether? Does God think I'm a such a terrible mother that I don't deserve to be blessed with another living child? Intellectually I know that's not true, but in my darkest moments I still wonder. I wake up in the middle of the night and start crying when I remember that I'm not pregnant anymore.

I spoke to my OB about having genetic testing done on Jude, but it would cost us $2500 out-of-pocket and that is just not an expense we can bear right now. In addition, my OB pointed out that if the tests did show something wrong genetically, it's not really something we could act upon, and he prefers to perform tests that yield an actionable outcome. 

He is going to refer me to a reproductive endocrinologist, though, for more extensive testing on me. Maybe I do have some sort of blood clotting disorder or genetic mutation that has caused my four losses, and I've just been amazingly fortunate to bring five healthy children to term. Maybe there's something we can do next time, if there is a next time. Assuming we ever get pregnant again, I know I am definitely going to get my progesterone tested first thing, just in case. But my OB doesn't think progesterone deficiency was a factor in my loss, since the placenta takes over progesterone production at 10 weeks and it's unlikely to have a late miscarriage caused by progesterone issues (usually that kind of deficiency will cause an early miscarriage). Plus my progesterone has been tested with other successful pregnancies, and was always at an optimal number. Still, I don't think he would object if I asked to be tested, and it may prove to be one more piece of the puzzle.

I feel guilty for taking this loss so hard when I do have five beautiful, healthy children. But they are grieving as well. My oldest daughter is especially devastated; she has longed for another  baby sibling now that Peter is a toddler and not a baby. She especially wants a little sister, but she understands that the baby's gender is beyond our control. Telling her that Jude had died was one of the hardest things we've ever done.

And as a consequence I'm terrified of getting pregnant again. Obviously it's too soon - both logistically and in terms of the grieving process - to make any decisions in that regard, but I know that if we do choose to get pregnant again, my first trimester is going to be a time of constant fear and trepidation, not joy. And even having successful ultrasounds that show a a living baby won't help take away the fear. 

I think that miscarriage definitely robs you of your pregnancy innocence, but multiple consecutive miscarriages, especially after what seemed like positive signs, completely robs you of your joy. A positive pregnancy test seems like a harbinger of doom instead of a gift of new life.

And yet I know I shouldn't feel that way either. God has given, and God has taken away. My babies are with God now, and they will never know pain, will never know sin, will never know heartbreak or loss. They are perhaps the most fortunate of all my children in that regard. But it hurts that I will not know them this side of heaven. 

It feels so strange to not be pregnant anymore. I can't quite seem to wrap my mind around it. One day I was pregnant, the next I was not - but there is no baby in my arms to help me acclimate to the change. Part of me wants to give away all of my maternity clothes, baby clothes, and baby gear, just to get the constant reminders out of the house. Part of me feels that's foolish because… What if? I don't know. Something to think about later, I guess.

I've been writing for about an hour now and it's about time I shut things down and try to get more sleep. If you've made it this far, thanks for "listening."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Planned Parenthood and the Two Bobs

Remember that scene from Office Space with the two Bobs? (If not, you can watch it on YouTube here.)  I like to imagine it would be that same way with Planned Parenthood.*

I can see the two Bobs sitting across the table from a PP representative:

BOB: So what you do is you make referrals and you send the women down to real healthcare providers?

PP: That -- that's right.

BOB: Well, then I gotta ask, then why can't women just go directly to the healthcare providers, huh?

PP: Well, uh, uh, uh, because, uh, doctors are not good at dealing with women.

BOB: You physically take the mammograms from the women?

PP: Well, no, my, my preferred clinic does that, or, or the hospital.

BOB: Ah.
BOB: Then you must physically bring them to the clinic.

PP: Well...no. Yeah, I mean, sometimes.

Bob: Well, what would you say… you do here?

PP: Well, look, I already told you. I deal with the goddamn women so the healthcare professionals don't have to!! I have people skills!! I am good at dealing with women!!! Can't you understand that?!? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!!!!!!!

*This dialogue was authored by my friend Robert S. and submitted as a comment to one of my Facebook posts. I asked him if I could blog it, and he gave me permission. Thanks, Robert!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why Are We Pushing NFP? Because Sometimes It's Needed.

Emerging from my blogging hiatus to address a particularly tiresome article from the "holier-than-thou" Church brigade.

This time it's Michael Voris hosting an article by Dr. Jay Boyd, claiming that the Church is wrong in "pushing" NFP.

Note that Boyd claims NFP is licit, but claims that those using it to avoid pregnancy aren't adequately discerning grave reasons to do so. She implies that there are very few grave reasons in which it is necessary for a Catholic couple to avoid pregnancy, and it's far better to simply have has many babies as physically possible and leave the rest up to God. (Which is kind of like throwing yourself off a cliff and trusting God to save you.)

This is the comment I left in reply, in its entirety:
From Gaudiem et Spes, by Pope Paul VI:
"Let [parents] thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else [not Jay Boyd, and not Michael Voris] should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel. That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of conjugal love, and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment. Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice,(12) married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the duty to procreate."
I've heard Jay Boyd make the claim before that use of NFP is not virtuous. However, she has never been able to back up that claim with actual Church teaching.
The Church, contrary to what Jay Boyd and Michael Voris claim, does not teach that every couple MUST use NFP. She teaches that the parents themselves, and no one else, should make decisions regarding family size in the sight of God (see quote from Gaudiem et Spes above). Sometimes that means using NFP to avoid. Sometimes that means using NFP to acheive. Sometimes that means not using NFP at all. A Catholic couple can do all three in the course of their married life, depending on their circumstances.
It makes no sense, as Jay Boyd is trying to claim, that the Church says NFP is licit but that it should not be used. If it is licit, then Catholics can freely discern whether or not they should use it, and if their reasons are just. Those reasons, however, are subjective, not objective, and only the couple themselves, in the sight of God, can decide if their reasons are just.
It seems Dr. Boyd and Michael Voris are practicing Matthew 23:4: "For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men's shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them."
Michael Voris is not married. Dr. Boyd had a tubal ligation after two children because she was unaware of Church teaching re: sterilization. They have never had to shoulder the burden of a large family in tandem with the financial difficulties of a subpar economy, mental stress and/or illness, physical illness, etc. (Please note that large families are WONDERFUL and joyful, and those who have large families are to be commended for their great generosity. However, the blessing of a large family also comes with great responsibility, especially financially, unless one is blessed to be independently wealthy.) So it is easy for them to say that couples "overuse" NFP. But thankfully the Church does not teach what they claim it does.
Edit: And because I'm sure I'll be asked - my husband and I have been married since 2001 and Catholic since 2003. We have 5 children on earth, and 3 in heaven. My most recent miscarriage was in June 2015. My doctor has recommended that we avoid pregnancy for 3 months in order to give my body a chance to heal. I'm sure Jay Boyd and Michael Voris would think this reason is not sufficient, but my husband and I have discerned through prayer and reflection that it is, and thus we are using the Marquette Method of NFP to avoid pregnancy. Thankfully we, not them, have the final say in the sight of God. We reevaluate our reasons for avoiding at the start of every cycle to determine of they are indeed just reasons to avoid.
Not surprisingly - although hilariously - Mr. Voris redacted my comment, claiming it was an "ad hominem" attack, and that the details of his and Dr. Boyd's personal lives were irrelevant. [Note: since that time, a moderator for Church Militant contacted me to let me know that he, not Mr. Voris personally, redacted my comment. I have since been banned from commenting at Voris' blog. I guess he just can't handle the truth.]

On the contrary, I think it is very relevant. It's simple truth that those facts are VERY pertinent given the scope of their arguments against NFP. They've never been "in the trenches," so to speak, yet they claim authority on this topic. Neither of them have never had any experience whatsoever with needing to discern their family size in the context of Catholic moral teaching, yet they claim that those of us who are obligated to make this discernment are somehow not being generous enough (despite Church teaching that says no one else can make that judgement except the couple themselves in the sight of God).

Have you heard the conservative argument that it's very easy for liberals to be generous with someone else's money? In the same vein, it's easy for the unmarried (Voris) or sterilized (Boyd) to be generous with someone else's fertility. It's no trouble at all to claim that others can and should have 10+ children when you don't have to bear the burden of feeding, clothing, educating, cleaning up after, and spiritually tending those children.

It's easy for them to tell another couple they aren't being generous enough with their family size when they don't have to pay that couple's mortgage, grocery bills, utilities, car payment(s), student loan and/or medical debt, and other expenses.

It's easy for them to tell another couple they aren't being generous enough with their family size when they don't suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, or other illnesses.

But for those of us struggling to raise a larger-then-average family in the midst of financial hardship, mental or physical illness, and other serious concerns, we recognize the Church's wisdom in encouraging us to know and learn a method of natural family planning so we can use it if and when we discern it is prudent to do so (and remember, the Church calls us to responsible parenthood, which encompasses generosity and prudence - not just generosity).

Why does the Church "push" NFP? Because it's better to learn NFP in the months leading up to your wedding when you are (presumably) not having sex, so you can chart your cycles and learn your body without having to factor in intercourse. After the wedding, you and your spouse can discern what to do - avoid, achieve, or just ignore NFP completely if that's what you feel God is calling you to do. And if there comes a time where you discern that avoiding pregnancy is needed, you already have the knowledge at your fingertips and don't have the added stress of trying to learn a method from scratch in the midst of stressful conditions (new baby, health difficulties, financial woes, etc.).

The Church also "pushes" NFP because so few Catholics use it. That's what baffles me about Voris, Boyd, and others who discourage NFP. Talk about straining at gnats while swallowing camels! Any Catholic couple who chooses to avoid pregnancy and elects to use NFP instead of contraception should be commended, not condemned. Even if their motives aren't 100% pure (which is impossible for anyone but the couple themselves to discern), at least they are trying to act morally, which is a good first step toward a complete conversion of heart regarding their family size.

After all, NFP can be hard. It’s almost like it was designed to persuade couples who do have allegedly selfish motives that the reasons they have to avoid pregnancy aren’t really that serious. Who voluntarily abstains from sex with their spouse if they don't have a really good reason for doing so?

If Catholics are inclined to be selfish, they aren’t going to use a method like NFP, which requires one to be selfless. As blogger John Gerardi says, “When Catholics want to be selfish, they don’t use a method of fertility planning that involves enormous amounts of self control and long periods of continence.  They just use contraception, something naturally tailored for people who are trying to be selfish.”

How does it make sense to attack Catholics who are trying to do the right thing? How does it make sense to take a situation than you have never been in, yourself, and presume to make judgement about it? I don't mind when my priest gives me advice about discerning family size - in fact I welcome his advice, because he knows, thanks to the confessional, the intimate details of my life, my marriage, and my struggles. He's heard the confessions of other couples in my position. He's studied for years, as part of his vocation, to counsel couples in these situations. He is the one of the shepherds the Church has appointed to help me make spiritual decisions.

Neither Voris nor Boyd have been appointed by the Church as the shepherds of other Catholics' fertility - they have taken that responsibility unto themselves and it is most emphatically not needed.

But I will extend an offer to them. They can come and live in my home, among my family, and help my husband and I raise our children and pay our bills. Then, perhaps, we will consult them when discerning our family size.

Otherwise, they should butt out.