Imagine vibrant hues dancing off placid waters while sand squeezes between your toes and water laps upon your bare feet as rest in your dearly beloved’s arms watching the sunset. But before he and I ride off into the sunset, real, potentially life changing conversations must take place.
Pregnancy, and delivering babies are beautiful, self-sacrificial, and life-giving moments in a woman’s life, but what about those of us who peer into the possibility of marriage and family knowing great love comes with great risks. During navigating her high-risk pregnancy, my friend quoted her fetal medicine doctor, “Every woman takes a risk being pregnant and having children. We just know more upfront about your risks.” Amen.
Well intended Catholics respond to my anxiety and concern with probing questions: “Are you sure you shouldn’t become a nun?” “Consecrated virgin?” or “I knew this lady who had three kids and was a high-risk pregnancy.” Part of me wishes I felt called to those vocations (would have made my life “easier.”) On the latter comment, I’m grateful for this woman, but life experience has taught me to plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Baring a miracle healing multiple chronic and confounding conditions, my high risk pregnancy reality won’t change. After years of hoping, praying, and exploring, I closed the door to religious life or consecrated virginity. And now an unlikely, surprise of a man in my life challenges me to own who I am, wrestle with the risks of marital intimacy, and have the courage to discuss the real topics with a potential spouse:
1.) Tell Him:
Discuss the reality of marriage and family. Be honest and direct. Convey your feelings and emotions. Ask open ended questions.
2.) Don’t Apologize for Your Limitations:
You are Beautiful. You are Enough. You are Made in His Image.
3.) If His Response Leaves You Feeling Used, Confused, Anxious or Unloved, End the Relationship:
This won’t get better with time.
4.) Get Comfortable Discussing Intimacy:
Become comfortable discussing intimacy in a respectful and honest manner in order to set realistic expectations and boundaries regarding all types of intimacy in your dating relationship and within marriage. Watch & listen for red flags and warning signs.
5.) Discuss How You Will Grow A Family:
Will you attempt having a biological child? Explore adoption and/or fostering? Discuss expectations or the lack-there-of. Better to know now rather than learning too late. Your life could depend on it.
6.) Discuss How You Will Express Intimacy in Marriage:
If you are making love, babies could be in your future. God, two people, and the marital embrace create babies. The only 100% effective way not to conceive a child is not to engage in intercourse. For a woman dealing with the reality of a high risk pregnancy, this could involve refraining for significant amounts of time depending on the complexity of her cycle. A future spouse should not only respect this but advocate for this and cherish his wife for this. Discuss, learn, and utilize Natural Family Planning (NFP.)
7.) Ask the Tough Questions. Be Specific:
Let’s say a woman has a complex cycle or serious reasons for avoiding pregnancy are present, how will intimacy be expressed during extended periods of refraining from the marital embrace? Will those three days per month or every couple of months not only suffice BUT build deeper intimacy between spouses? Will he turn to masturbation, sexting, pornography, or adultery (or other counterfeits of love) when his sexual “needs” aren’t met? Will you? Will you love the other person not for what you can get from each other, but for who each other is ‘til death do you part?