Saturday, December 3, 2011

Catholic and Gay

Homosexuality. It's something most of the Catholics I know don't want to talk about because they tend to fall in one of two camps:

1)They feel like the Church is harsh in her teaching that homosexuals should live a celibate lifestyle. Some of their gay friends are some of the most loving people they know. Don't they deserve to love people the way they choose?

2) They understand the Church calls us to be loving towards those struggling with homosexuality, but have bought into society's negative reaction towards homosexuality that it's a disease or something to be feared. They make jokes about it and shy away from interacting with those who are gay because they feel uncomfortable.

I keep trying to write my thoughts on this, for I have many. I think that the following blog post from a young, Catholic, gay man struggling with homosexuality says volumes more than I ever could. I hope it sparks a discussion.

I have heard a lot about how mean the Church is, and how bigoted, because she opposes gay marriage. How badly she misunderstands gay people, and how hostile she is towards us. My gut reaction to such things is: Are you freaking kidding me? Are we even talking about the same church?

When I go to Confession, I sometimes mention the fact that I'm gay, to give the priest some context. (And to spare him some confusion: Did you say 'locker room'? What were you doing in the women's...oh.) I've always gotten one of two responses: either compassion, encouragement, and admiration, because the celibate life is difficult and profoundly counter-cultural; or nothing at all, not even a ripple, as if I had confessed eating too much on Thanksgiving.

Of the two responses, my ego prefers the first -- who doesn't like thinking of themselves as some kind of hero? -- but the second might make more sense. Being gay doesn't mean I'm special or extraordinary. It just means that my life is not always easy. (Surprise!) And as my friend J. said when I told him recently about my homosexuality, "I guess if it wasn't that, it would have been something else." Meaning that nobody lives without a burden of one kind or another. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel said: "The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?"

Where are all these bigoted Catholics I keep hearing about? When I told my family a year ago, not one of them responded with anything but love and understanding. Nobody acted like I had a disease. Nobody started treating me differently or looking at me funny. The same is true of every one of the Catholic friends that I've told. They love me for who I am.

Actually, the only time I get shock or disgust or disbelief, the only time I've noticed people treating me differently after I tell them, is when I tell someone who supports the gay lifestyle. Celibacy?? You must be some kind of freak.

Hooray for tolerance of different viewpoints. I'm grateful to gay activists for some things -- making people people more aware of the prevalence of homosexuality, making homophobia less socially acceptable -- but they also make it more difficult for me to be understood, to be accepted for who I am and what I believe. If I want open-mindedness, acceptance, and understanding, I look to Catholics.

Is it hard to be gay and Catholic? Yes, because like everybody, I sometimes want things that are not good for me. The Church doesn't let me have those things, not because she's mean, but because she's a good mother. If my son or daughter wanted to eat sand I'd tell them: that's not what eating is for; it won't nourish you; it will hurt you. Maybe my daughter has some kind of condition that makes her like sand better than food, but I still wouldn't let her eat it. Actually, if she was young or stubborn enough, I might not be able to reason with her -- I might just have to make a rule against eating sand. Even if she thought I was mean.

So the Church doesn't oppose gay marriage because it's wrong; she opposes it because it's impossible, just as impossible as living on sand. The Church believes, and I believe, in a universe that means something, and in a God who made the universe -- made men and women, designed sex and marriage from the ground up. In that universe, gay marriage doesn't make sense. It doesn't fit with the rest of the picture, and we're not about to throw out the rest of the picture.

If you don't believe in these things, if you believe that men and women and sex and marriage are pretty much whatever we say they are, then okay: we don't have much left to talk about. That's not the world I live in.

So, yes, it's hard to be gay and Catholic -- it's hard to be anything and Catholic -- because I don't always get to do what I want. Show me a religion where you always get to do what you want and I'll show you a pretty shabby, lazy religion. Something not worth living or dying for, or even getting up in the morning for. That might be the kind of world John Lennon wanted, but John Lennon was kind of an idiot.

Would I trade in my Catholicism for a worldview where I get to marry a man? Would I trade in the Eucharist and the Mass and the rest of it? Being a Catholic means believing in a God who literally waits in the chapel for me, hoping I'll stop by just for ten minutes so he can pour out love and healing on my heart. Which is worth more -- all this, or getting to have sex with who I want? I wish everybody, straight or gay, had as beautiful a life as I have.

I know this isn't a satisfactory answer. I don't think any words could be. I try to make my life a satisfactory answer, to this question and to others: What are people for? What is love, and what does it look like? How do we get past our own selfishness so we can love God and our neighbors and ourselves?

It's a work in progress.

(reposted from Little Catholic Bubble)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Do babies belong in Mass?

It was only a few short months ago that my baby girl would sleep peacefully in my arms during Mass, the background noise comprised of sung Alleluias and dutiful Amens keeping her in a blissful state of sweet sleep. My arms ached after Mass from holding that 13 lb baby for an hour straight. My goodness, it's hard having a baby in Mass, I thought.

Let's fast forward to present day, shall we?

Evie is 9 months + 7 lbs heavier with more baby man power than thought possible. Instead of lulling her to sleep, the choir's song beckons her to sing along. Which she does- with one loud, continuous note that she carries on a full minute after the song is over. I manage to keep her quiet during the Gospel, although I'm not sure it counts since she is crawling up my shoulder while holding onto my face with her baby talons. When I hold her tighter, she flings her body backwards into a stiff arch while simultaneously trying to wriggle down to the floor.

My husband and I try and use the "crying room" as a training tool and take her only when she's really loud and stay until she settles down enough to join everyone in the main church. This tactic backfires when there's a family in there who uses the crying room as a playroom; Evie seems to gain energy from watching the little boy who is crashing his trucks into one another and running around the tiny room.

A few weeks ago she threw a board book that tumbled down the pew and smacked the man kneeling in front of us in the derriere. We gave her some laminated holy cards to hold and she tossed them like boomerangs at the faces of the people behind us. Our pastor has made reference to the newest choir member who shouldn't sing during his homilies.

I initially was inclined to feel frustrated or embarrassed. I know some people think babies don't belong in the congregation and I know I feel strongly the opposite. I know Christ says, Let the little children come to me.  What could I give Evie during Mass that could help her participate in her own way (without that object becoming a projectile)?

One day, Evie and I were banished to the vestibule after she tried to sing her version of "Amazing Grace" during the homily. I brought her over to the stained glass and told her about the colors. As she ran her chubby little hands over the brightly colored glass, suddenly the answer struck me. How do baby's learn? Through the senses.

The design of a church, the format of the Mass and the gestures we make during are not arbitrary. The body affects the mind (and vice-versa). Most people don't have perfect concentration during Mass. It's not an accident that the whole Mass is a sensory learning experience. The stained glass, statues, holy water, incense, ringing bells, singing genuflection, sign of the cross. Visual. Tactile. Auditory. Kinesthetic. Everything draws you back to Christ, to the purpose of being there.

Now when Evie needs a little break from the rest of the congregation, we walk around the back of the church. I let her dip her fingers in the cool holy water and teach her how to bless herself and then to give me a blessing.I've always been a shy singer who stared dumbly into space during the half of the Mass that is sung. I now open my hymnal and participate in my own off- key way while Evie strokes the pages and smiles sweetly at her singing Mama.

This doesn't prevent tantrums or the harmonizing with the choir. But this realization has made me more patient, more focused during Mass. I realize that the biggest cause of my frustration is that I forget the essential thing: She is learning. This is her first time in this world. She doesn't know how things work. It's up to me to teach her. I know that the best way to teach my child anything is to be a good model and to practice, practice, practice (with a big dose a patience!).

When she stretches her neck up to see where the little bell noise is coming from during the Consecration, I whisper in her ear about Jesus and His Body and Blood and His love.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A glimpse into our morning

A glimpse into our morning:

-I bravely reject my usual cup of coffee and vow to get tons accomplished.

-Evie is very interested in petting the cat now and the cat willing comes toward her flailing hand. The cat regrets it as soon as Evie pulls a baby-sized handful of fur out of her back. The walk cats away in pain, only to come back again 2 minutes later for more punishment.

-We started Baby-Led Weaning a few weeks ago. Evie has already tried peaches, bananas (which she loves), avocado (which she likes to use as body paint) and today - cucumber sticks. This is how the cucumber introduction went:
1) I chopped up cucumber into sticks and placed on baby's tray. Baby ignored cucumber for 20 minutes while she smiled at me sweetly.
2) Baby decides to "sing" at the top of her lungs for 10 minutes.
3) Baby finally picks up cucumber. She holds it below her mouth and gingerly takes a lick. Makes a funny face.
4) Baby holds cucumber like a microphone below her mouth and continues to sing.
5) Baby throws cucumber onto kitchen floor.

Obviously, BLW is a process.

-I put down baby so I can use the bathroom. Baby swats at my legs until I pick her up.

-It's 10:12 am. I'd like some coffee please.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Six months.

Today I made garlic bread with a spread that had partially hydrogenated soybean oil in it. I'm sad that it was so tasty.
Yesterday I ate at Texas Roadhouse. Don't ask me how many times I've been there this month.
And the day before that my little girl turned six months. SIX. MONTHS.

How did this:

turn into this:
She's already driving, for Pete's sake.

I hope you know that I'm joking. I hope you also know those are my husband's hands and not a massive growth on her thighs.

I'm getting a little sad as I order her convertible car seat. It's just another reminder of how quickly she's growing. Plus, I was building awesome arm muscles carrying her in and out of the car in the infant one.

Just look at how tall she is!

I've loved every stage. I loved her as a little bitty helpless infant who ate every 45 minutes. I loved her as a 3 month old learning how to giggle and who ate every 2.5 hours. I love her as a 6 month old who has decided she would like to relive her youth by, again, eating every 45 minutes (seriously, is there a 6 month growth spurt?)

I feel so honored to take care of this amazing little girl who already can light up a room with her smile and has a seriously great sense of humor. I look at her and I feel so lucky. I'm not going to lament for her newborn days or wish she would grow up faster and get past this "stage". I'm just enjoying the ride.

My only hope is that her life is incredibly full and that she is deliriously joyful.

And that she stays in footie pajamas a little longer.

No one can be upset when the little person who wakes them up 95 times a night is wearing footie pajamas.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

...and we're back!

In the famous words of Ricky Ricardo, I suppose I have some "'splainin'" to do about my posting absence.

In brief: I got a bad case of "I don't want people to read my stuff and misinterpret me" itis.

Which is about as silly as saying "I don't want to speak ever again because I don't want people to misinterpret me."

It's a rather acute case, but I'm taking medication in the form of humility and long bike rides and am on the road to recovery.

That's why this blog is called "the business of becoming" and not "the business of perfection".

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Since the baby is sleeping on her daddy and I have the opportunity to shower, I'll be brief

Baby is sleeping not in my arms for more than 20 minutes. I thought it was time for a quick update:

-Some cutie got baptized this week. A family friend made her gown out of my wedding dress. She looked like a princess.

-Our herb garden is absolutely exploding. I can make enough pesto for a year with our enormous basil plant. And I can make enough of something else for a year with whatever you make out of cilantro and fennel.

-Celebrity Apprentice is phenomenal.

-Can someone please teach me how to have a clean house, healthy home-cooked meals, a hobby of my own, folded laundry and maybe work from home while taking care of a baby who only wants to snuggle, eat and issue heart-melting smiles? Or maybe just to have two hands so I can sweep my kitchen and write long overdue thank you cards...

Not that I'm complaining about the great job I have. I just want to know how to do it better. How do you strike balance as a mom? Comment away!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

life of the party

This was taken at our friends' engagement party last Friday. She screamed on the way there and the way home but, of course, slept peacefully the whole time we were there :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Then and now.

E made 5 weeks yesterday. And it's crazy, because it feels like she is a different baby! She has grown so much I almost can't remember what it was like when she was first born.

I never posted a pregnancy picture - so here it is.
 Yes, I know. It's...alarming. People were starting to double take in public, shamelessly stare at my belly and in the last week or two, even approach me to tell me how "ready" I looked. Don't get me wrong, I loved the remarks on my general hugeness... This picture was taken right before we left for the hospital, so it's probably my absolute biggest. Although I probably gained weight in the car on the way there.
 Super excited (and a little weepy) in anticipation of meeting our little girl. I can't even believe this was only 5 weeks ago.
 Hello, world! I just remember staring at her for hours on end. She may look like a typical sleepy newborn but she came out with her eyes open and manically rooting for milk.

Taken yesterday in The Beloved Swing :) Five weeks is so long when you're a baby...she already looks so grown up!

I'm treasuring every moment. Initially I felt pressure (self-induced, of course) to have a Perfect House while I'm at home with E. One day when she was a couple of weeks old, I was sitting in the rocker with the baby staring at the unmade bed and letting it drive me crazy. I started to stand up to go put her in the bassinet so I could make the bed - but then I immediately sat down and held E a little tighter. I'm not going to have regrets. Who cares if the bed is made at this second? I let the dishes linger a little longer so I can hold her while she sleeps. I could be more on top of the laundry, but then I would miss all of those little smiles that are becoming so frequent.

My family deserves a nice house, but they also deserve me to be fully present.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

the business of becoming a mother

FINALLY a new post! But first, a word from our sponsor...

This post is brought to you by The Baby Swing. My sister-in-law lent me her baby swing while she doesn't have any kids currently in the swing stage. Let me tell you - this post would not be possible without it. A shower would not be possible without it.

I was going to write a big, long, detailed birth story. I actually wrote a good bit of it already. In the weeks following E's birth, a few of my friends without children asked me to detail my birth experience. At first I was a little nervous to share because it hadn't gone how I wanted it to go. I didn't get my 100% natural birth. As I told the story and watched their faces, I realized that hearing about just the physical side of labor and delivery can be, well, horrifying. This is not what I wanted to convey to my friends about childbirth. While the nitty gritty of birth should be something that women getting ready to have children should be aware of, telling only this side does not at all reflect the deep emotions of the birthing experience.  I realized the most important parts to share weren't about the drugs I did or didn't receive and the pain I did or didn't experience. I've read tons of birth stories like that on other mom blogs. While I am definitely willing to share details of the physical side of my labor and delivery to those who ask, what I want to share today is how giving birth to my daughter instantly the transformed my heart.

Like I said earlier, various circumstances made a completely natural childbirth unfeasible. During the early part of my labor, I mourned this. I probably had more tears because of this than because of pain. Lots of people kept telling me that all that mattered was that everyone was safe and healthy. Maybe that was the most important thing, but it definitely wasn't all that mattered. I didn't seek a natural childbirth because I'm a masochist. I wanted to actively give birth and not passively lay there while having a baby just...happened.

My labor progressed very quickly and intensely. Although I couldn't completely physically engage in labor the way I wanted to, I wasn't expecting how mental laboring would be. I mean this in a really, really good way. I couldn't control everything about the physical side of my labor, but I could control my mind. Once I was able to set aside my disappointment about how the labor started, the whole experience became so incredibly positive.

I had a choice with each contraction. I could let it completely overwhelm me, or I could dig deep within myself and pull out a strength I had no idea I had. It took awhile, but I think I finally got past the overwhelming feeling. I wanted my labor to be more than something just to "get through". I wanted it to be something beautiful. I had read about using labor as a time to pray and offer up our deepest intentions. Once I emptied myself enough, I was finally able to offer up intentions. What a peaceful experience!

The other amazing part of the labor was Chris. I wish every woman had a husband this supportive during her labor and delivery. This man prepared as much for labor as I did. He coached me, stroked my hair, held my hand. He was my rock during the part of labor where I really was emotionally wavering and doubting everything - my ability as a mother, my ability to even be able to push this baby out. I could not have made it through without him. It helped me to see how simultaneously strong and tender he can be. It improved and deepened our marriage to go through this whole experience together. And don't even get me started on what a phenomenal father he is :)

Another big part of my labor being a great experience were the two positive and encouraging women I had as my resident and nurse. They tried their best to follow my birth plan, making my birth as natural as possible. They were joyful and encouraging. While I knew I needed Chris in the room with me, I had underestimated how having another woman in the room would enrich my experience. The nurse shared her birth experience and was encouraging in a different (but complementary) way to Chris' encouragement. If I ever become a nurse, I know I will forever think back to the women who took care of me while I was in the hospital.

I had been nervous at how much birth would expose me - both my body and my heart. I was afraid I would feel scared and immodest, that being in that much discomfort would bring something ugly in my heart. Birth did expose me, but in the opposite way. My friend Erin and I were talking recently about this phenomenon of birth. I would have thought before that there could be nothing worse than laying there naked, exposed, in pain. In other words, completely vulnerable. Instead, I felt strong, assured, confident. It turns out that giving birth and being a mother has given so much more healing to my heart than years of therapy could ever give it.

My body has always been a source of shame for me at any size. I've been overweight for many years now, but even at my ideal weight, I felt a disgust about my body. Pregnancy, birth and motherhood have helped me feel - dare I say - a beauty about myself. With pregnancy, I loved that my body grew round because it meant that my little girl was growing within me. During birth, I felt strong and powerful and such a sense of purpose about my life. While nursing my newborn baby, I had a WOW moment. Look at what a woman's body can do! Create, support, deliver and sustain life! I firmly believe that this is the vocation of every woman, whether she does this spiritually or physically. I am so grateful that becoming a mother has given me the gift of this realization. I just wish it hadn't taken me so many wasted years to realize it. Sometimes when I'm holding Evie, I whisper all of the things I want for her. I don't want her to be any particular profession. I want her to have a pure, strong heart and a confident spirit. I want her to know that her vocation as a woman has so much beauty and purpose.

Looking back, I can't believe I was ever nervous about whether it was the "right time" to have a baby. There have been a million confirmations that E was supposed to come into the world precisely when she did. I'll share one huge one with you. A couple of months before we found out about E, my Dad shared with our family some earth shattering news. He has cancer. For the third time. And it looks serious. News like this has a way of overshadowing a family. It taints every conversation, every family gathering whether it's spoken about out loud or hanging damply in the air. The news of a baby balanced everything out - it gave us something positive to talk about and to look forward. Her name had been a favorite of both Chris and mine months before we were pregnant. When we found out we were having a girl, we took a few days to pray and consider whether this was the right name for this baby. I cried when I looked up the name and found out it meant "bearer of good news." I needed no more confirmation.

If I talked incessantly on my blog or bent your ears in person about my pregnancy, it's because the only thing I've ever been sure I wanted is to be a mother. When I gave birth to that little girl, a dormant part of my soul lit up in a way I never thought was possible.

God bless this beautiful little girl.

And God bless the baby swing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A quick diversion

I keep trying to write my birth story, but my attempts are continually foiled by the cutest (and hungriest!) baby ever. I have so many posts written in my head...too bad you can't just read them there ;) Here's a little something to hold you over.

E loves snuggling...
...a blankie will do...
...but Daddy is better.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The most beautiful thing I have ever seen

 8lbs 9 oz. Born on February 10. Her father and I are completely, ridiculously in love with her. :)

I obviously will have SO much more to say. I've been writing a million blog posts in my head the past ten days. When I had the option of writing a blog post or staring into my daughter's eyes for 20 minutes, it was no contest.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The last of the navel-gazing series

My two month abandonment of this blog was due to an effort to avoid talking about a, frankly, very frustrating third trimester. I'm sure some of you are sick of my navel-gazing, but hey, that's my life right now so that's what I'm going to blog about. I've processed a little more recently, so I feel like I can write about the Three Things That Have Made Me A Mess in The Past Month:

-Major circulation issues have caused massive swelling in my hands and feet (and arms and legs). The swelling has caused carpal tunnel, which has caused numbness and pain, which means sleeping is a dream of the past. I have no signs of preeclampsia or toxemia. My doctor is calling this just pregnancy edema which he says will only be cured by giving birth. (The edema is probably caused by the fact that our daughter is huge and is putting an enormous strain on my circulatory system - the last ultrasound put her in 93rd percentile weight-wise!) Since the only ways my doc and I have found to manage the swelling is staying off my feet as much as possible and drinking close to a gallon and a half of water a day, I can also only indulge in my nesting urges in short spurts. I feel like the laziest, most water-logged person alive.

-(Out of the ordinary) pain issues: Lots of women have round ligament pain. I keep telling my OB that I have "really, really severe round ligament pain." And he just looks at me and continues to review my chart.
Although I'm not Superwoman, I'm not a complete wuss either. I know something is wrong. From all of my preparation for natural childbirth, I've learned the pregnancy and birth can have lots of uncomfortable sensations and even be downright painful - but when the pain is chronic and unmanageable, the body is sending a signal that something is NOT RIGHT. I wish I wouldn't have spent the past nine months thinking I was a weakling who couldn't handle round ligament pain and realized I probably have a pregnancy condition similar to SPD.

Speaking of natural childbirth, I have a hard time dealing with the people who openly doubt and even patronize my decision to attempt a natural childbirth.

Chris and I have spent countless hours preparing for childbirth. We've decided that for us, natural childbirth is the best option. It was a decision that came from hours of research and examination of our particular situation;  it was not made on a whim. We also understand that things happen. Our birth plan is realistic and well-rounded and also includes specific points about an epidural and c-section in case it comes to that.

However, I feel like women should have a chance to have their ideal birth experience. Since labor is so mental, this chance gets slimmer when everyone they encounter mocks, doubts and belittles their well-educated decisions about their labor and delivery. (This goes for both sides. I had someone I barely know call me in my second trimester to make sure I knew about the Bradley Method and proceeded to talk at length about this being the only acceptable way to give childbirth.) I have a friend who knows she has a very low tolerance for pain. She made the decision early in her pregnancy to have an epidural. It was not a decision she made because she didn't want to participate fully in her L&D experience - in fact, it was exactly the opposite. She researched, knew the risks and knew herself well enough to know this was the best decision for her and her baby.

If my pre-existing pain problems get unmanageable during labor to the point that it is harmful for my baby or myself, of course I will consider an epidural. I will not consider this a "failure" of my birth plan, but just one of the many circumstances my husband and I have prepared for.

The only voice that family, friends and acquaintances should have in a couple's birth experience is a supportive one. Pregnancy, labor, delivery and child-rearing is difficult enough.

That being said, this isn't a perfect world - people are going to say dumb things. A huge reason we didn't share our baby's name is because I can't just shrug off people's comments (especially people close to me) about my life choices. I didn't want to waver on her name that we feel so called to name her (we also really like the idea of presenting her all of our family and friends when she's born!) I know I would run those comments over and over in my head later at home and allow it to:
A) influence my decision or
B) really, really get under my skin

A goal for my next pregnancy (haha...I can't even believe I'm saying that right now) is to be more balanced. I don't think telling off people who say inappropriate things about our baby's name, our birth decisions, etc. is the right way to handle the situation - but neither is the extreme opposite reaction of letting every comment come through my skin and pierce my heart.

On a lighter note, some (comically) frustrating comments that I've gotten are as follows:
-"I think you're going to have your baby on _____ date."
-"Did you have your baby yet?" (Yes, and we didn't tell you...)
-"Whoa! You've gotten huge!"
-"Are you sure you're having a girl? I heard this story where a couple bought all pink stuff and then they had a boy." (Three ultrasounds have confirmed that she is a girl. If she's miraculously a boy, we'll be super excited too!)

I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow for an almost 39 week checkup and to address the supposed hugeness of the baby. I'm worried that the "I" word is going to come up (induction) because of the baby's size. Please say some prayers that Chris and I make the right decision for our baby...or maybe just that we go into labor ASAP.

Hopefully this will be the end of pregnancy blogging and I will have more interesting things to blog about than my in utero activity. Beware that it may be the beginning of the more-than-occasional post about the guaranteed Cutest Baby To Ever Be Born blog...