Sunday, July 24, 2016

#JoyfulMarriage

It’s NFP Awareness week!  A whole week devoted to talking about sex; that sounds fun right!  So I decided to write a little bloggy blog about NFP, what it has meant in my marriage, and address some of my “favorite” questions and comments I hear when I mention NFP.
“What’s an NFP?”
Natural Family Planning.
“Oh the rhythm method?” 
No.  There are many forms of NFP, but the rhythm method is not one of them.  This is not to say there is anything inherently wrong with the rhythm method if a couple chooses that they are comfortable with the unreliability because they are very open to having a baby.  But typically, when you hear someone mention NFP they are talking about using observable signs, which have been researched and compiled into very specific guidelines, to track a woman’s monthly fertility.
“So, Catholic Contraception”
Again, no.  I like to think of it more like chastity in marriage.  A lot of times people connect the word chastity to meaning virginity.  But the definition of chastity is “the state of refraining from all sexual intercourse”.  Contraception removes something from the marital embrace, while NFP involves discerning with your partner whether there is a valid reason to avoid having a child and therefore abstaining from the marital embrace as an act of love during peak fertility times, thus maintaining the complete gift of sex when you are not abstaining (see next answer for more on what I mean by “the complete gift of sex”, turns out it is more than just pleasure, though that is a nice perk).  It also still leaves you open to life, for God works in mysterious ways, and even the best NFP charter may have a surprise baby.  And this just means you can be confident that God has a great plan for this child and His timing is more perfect than yours.
“That’s why Catholics have so many babies right?  You have to agree to have big families to get married in the Church?”
Well…not exactly.  There is a part in the Catholic Nuptial Mass during which the couple agrees that we are and will remain open to life.  And yes, NFP supports this statement.  But why would the Church ask this of a couple other than to just pad their parishioner numbers?  Let me share what my brother-in-law, an NFP educator, said because this teaching is rooted in Theology: “When sacrificed, Jesus made a choice, based on knowledge, it was a self-gift, it was permanent, and was life giving. In marriage, we do the exact same. It is a choice, based on knowledge, it is a self-gift, it is permanent, and is life giving.” Marriage isn’t just two people who love each other wanting to spend the rest of their lives together. Yes, that is a nice bonus.  But the purpose of marriage is to be a reflection, an image, of God’s love for us here on earth.  Marriage is made to be glimpse into this free, total, faithful, and fruitful love of God.  It is one way of bringing, sharing, and showing Christ to others.  And if this is something, as Christians, that we are called to do, then shouldn’t we share and show the most complete image of God that we can? Not to mention, there is something to be said about fully trusting in God’s timing in all things, and that includes introducing a child into your family.
“That sounds hard, and complicated, and doesn’t it suck out the fun in sex?”
It can be hard, and for those of us with difficult to read signs and inconsistent cycles it can be quite complicated.  But, suck the fun out of sex, um, nope.  Though, yes, it may reduce the amount of time during a cycle you have sex or at times make you feel like you are on a sex schedule.  In fact, one of the first books I recommend to a couple interested in NFP is “A Sinner’s Guide to NFP” because it is real and honest that not everything about NFP is roses and rainbows.   But isn’t marriage hard, and complicated, and sometimes not fun?  Absolutely.  NFP teaches self restraint and involves learning to show love, attraction, and compassion to your partner in new ways.  NFP opens up communication between you and your partner. Learning about NFP really breaks down walls for difficult conversations.  Day 1 of NFP class for marriage prep: “Let’s talk about your fiancĂ©’s vaginal mucus pattern” Poof, all walls of avoiding awkward conversations have been torn down.  But seriously, communication and working together is so much more important for a long-lasting marriage than being able to have sex whenever I want because I have this urge.  Because there will be times when your wife just does not want to have sex (hello post-partum hormones) but you will not despair or hold it against her because you know other ways to show and receive love. At some point you may find someone, who isn't your spouse,  attractive, but you will not feel tempted to act on this because you have practiced over and over this self-restraint so that you can preserve that ultimate free, total faithful, fruitful gift for your spouse. 
“But I am not Catholic/Christian so it really means nothing to me, right?”
Wrong.  This is the best part.  NFP is relevant to you if you are a woman or a man who loves his wife and appreciates her body, all of it, even its fertility.  There is something great about understanding, in detail, my fertility.  Not just “this is my vagina, I have Fallopian tubes, once a month everything gets cleared out in a big bloody mess, but don’t talk about that part because it’s kind of gross.”  Instead, I can work with my body and have knowledge of my full cycle.  I can see how a change in diet and different nutrients or a change in stress levels can change my cycle and understand why. Going to an NFP only OBGYN means seeing a doctor who does not look for the quickest or easiest fix when I present with a concern, but means working with me to identify the root cause and find a solution.  It means being totally upfront and comfortable discussing everything with my doctor.  Again, once you start talking about vaginal mucus, it really means everything is up for discussion.
 In fact, I attribute this very thing to us conceiving Zilla.  When I first started out charting, I noticed my luteal phase was very short.  This is something often connected to difficulty with conceiving and miscarriage.  I was able to go through my materials and learn ways to change my diet and began taking a multivitamin to help me increase the length of this phase.  What do you know, a couple of months after starting this and BOOM Zilla came along. 
Also, it just really really frustrates me when a doctor just throws a pill at everything.  Charting your cycle can actually help you address the real issue rather than masking it with a hormone pill.  And they will throw the pill at you without really discussing what effects it may have.  Most recently, a friend of mine, new breastfeeding mother, was speaking to me about a loss in milk production.  After talking with her she mentioned she had recently started taking birth control again.  Her doctor should know that BCPs reduce milk production and should have told her this before prescribing them.  This doctor was aware she was breastfeeding, so why not provide full information to your patient?  That is informed choice, not just writing the script because that’s the easiest way for someone to avoid getting pregnant.  It made me so angry.  I immediately text my sister and hubskie to vent to them about the situation.  BCPs are not a coverall fix for everything with no consequences.  Like any medication, there are very real side effects and these should be discussed with the patient.  
Finally, I’m generally a naturalist when it comes to my body.  For me personally, I am uncomfortable pumping in artificial hormones that are technically stopping my body from working the way it was created to work.  I was designed to be fertile, and I don’t appreciate being told that this part of me causes hardship or inequality and therefore I should take a pill to resolve the issue.  No, our world’s general tendency towards misogynistic policies causes hardship and inequality.  
The more I have shared NFP with others, who have no interest in the theology behind the method, the more they have come to embrace it as well.  I have friends who stopped using BCPs and noticed an increase in their sexual drive, a reduction in anxiety, a reduction in their migraines, increased trust between them and their partner.  There are many possible things to be gained by simply giving it a try; children, for example.  I kid, but really, the openness to life and growing in my trust in God is what keeps me hooked, the rest of the perks are just the cherries on top.

And there you have it!  A little peak into our little NFP world!  Do you have more questions for me?  Please feel free to leave a comment and ask away.  If I don’t know the answer I may be able to direct you to someone who does. 


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Panini 8&9 Months

How Old?
8 Months!

9 Months!

Height/Weight
I don't know but he will be weighed in a few days.  Something more than 20 lbs though

Baby Clothes
He fits best in 9 and 12 month clothes.  But I think his chubby little thighs are so cute trying to squeeze into 6 month outfits. 

Milestones
Panini has changed so much the last couple of months.  From 7 to 8 months he started to become a proficient crawler and could pull up on some objects.  He also started to gain better fine motor control with his hands and developed somewhat of a pincer grasp with small objects.
From 8 to 9 months his babble has started sounding more and more like speech.  ALSO he started saying Mma MmA, and obviously I love this!  He is now excellent and pulling to stand on all surfaces and can stand up using one arm to pull while holding an object in his other hand.  He is also getting pretty good with cruising and transferring between surfaces.  He is so brave and will sometimes just let go of my hands to go for something, until he realizes he cannot walk by himself and then folds to the ground.  I can let go of his hands and for the briefest moment he can stand by himself.  I have also seen him take a tiny step up onto Zilla's stool while holding onto the kitchen cabinets.
Most recently he has started clapping his hands (rather than just toys) together. He has also started getting good at putting basic shapes into holes (mostly circles, because they are easy) when I point to where it should go. 
Socially, he is starting to enjoy group games where we all do something together like dancing.  His dancing is the most adorable thing too. 

Non-developmental Milestones
Panini now has two top teeth in addition to his bottom teeth. 
He went on his first airplane ride and did excellent!
He celebrated his first Father's Day with his Dada
Panini went for his first swim! 
More of a mommy milestone, but I accomplished my first back wrap and I was so excited about it!  Panini took sometime to enjoy back wrapping, but it really frees up my range of motion, which is nice for cooking. 


Baby's Routine
He is usually taking one or two naps at daycare and having milk about three times while he is there.  Then he takes a catnap in the afternoon and nurses nurses nurses in the evening.  We try solid food at dinner most nights.  He is getting better at eating solids, although I use the term eating very loosely.  He will at least bring food to his mouth now, I am not sure if he has swallowed any food yet.  Unfortunately he has a strong gag reflex, and many of our solid food attempts end in him throwing up all over me.    
And then comes nighttime.  We really have not improved much here.  Every now and then I will get a full night (6 hours) of sleep, but usually, I am up at least 2 times a night nursing him.


Favorite Food
If I had to pick a solid food he likes most, I would say melons.  But really, his favorite is still Mama's milk.  I am still outproducing how much he is eating by almost double, so I have donated about 630 ounces.
On the plus side of him being an excellent nurser, I have become pretty comfortable nursing him anywhere anytime. 

 Also, he has a super cute "milk drunk" face

Favorite Activity
Taking whatever toy his brother is playing with is his favorite. 
But other favorites include: Banging toys together, playing the piano, crawling after his shape sorting turtle, and he is starting to love bathing!

His less desirable favorites: Playing in the dogs water bowl (poor Boots is getting dehydrated because we have to leave his water up high), crawling into and playing in the bathroom (doors must be kept closed these days), biting (at least he has dropped the habit of biting right before latching, but he loves to bite shoulders), and playing with electrical outlets (AHHHH), and having a daily blowout (luckily this usually occurs while he is at daycare...so you know, I guess there are some pluses to working?).  

Favorite Toy:
Nothing really jumps out, but maybe the cat piano. 

Big Changes
Mobility is the biggest cvhange this month. This crawling thing is really new for us since Zilla went from rolling, to briefly scooting, and then started cruising and waling. Because of this, we kind of skipped a lot of the initial getting into everything phase and by the time he was getting around faster he wasn't interested in water bowls, bathrooms, and electric outlets. 

Zilla and Panini
These two are still besties.  Though the more mobile Panini becomes, the more Zilla starts to question how awesome he is.  We recently started watching Daniel Tiger, and I find myself singing "When a Baby makes things different, find a way to make things fuuuun" quite often.  But for the most part they still get a long great and Zilla is wonderful at policing Panini and letting me know when he might be doing or chewing on something he shouldn't while I am cooking or otherwise distracted.





 






And finally, a few more pictures because there just aren't ever enough!







 

  

Oh sweet 9 month old boy, we love you so much!  You are growing too fast, but I am enjoying every moment I get with you!

The Vrlyfries