NFP Raw & Unscripted: An Encounter with Popes & Saints

Rome, Italy- Fall 2018

When I envisioned Rome and the Vatican, shedding dewy tears in the Tomb of the Popes beneath St. Peter’s Basilica kneeling before the Tomb of now St. Pope Paul VI wasn’t my first vision or any vision for that matter. My Italy trip, generously bequeathed by my parents, coincided with the preparations for the canonization for Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero along with the beginning of the Synod on Youth. I’m a private person (so sayeth the Catholic blogger.) What drove a private, composed girl like me to shed private, composed tears in Rome? Of human life.

For those familiar with Compline or Night prayer you encounter: “When I called out, he heard me, the God of my righteousness. When I was in trouble, you gave me freedom: now, take pity on me and listen to my prayer.” (Psalm 4) My NFP (Natural Family Planning) Story mirrors this Psalm. This verse professes staunch faith and hope in the Lord, proclaims His loving plan, embraces the freedom of His plan, but still pleads and cries out in prayer and supplication for His mercy and grace. My NFP journey is strewn with seemingly insurmountable obstacles coupled with immeasurable healing sometimes physical but even more so spiritual and emotional.

Three years ago, I “knew” learning, practicing, and utilizing Creighton NFP (a method inspired by St. Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae) as a single, unmarried young adult as a diagnostic tool for my reproductive health would be a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stretch. The method did not disappoint in that regards and exceeded my expectations in providing a plethora of opportunities for personal growth and maturation. What surprised me and rattled me to my core would be the profound revelation of my femininity through the eyes of my Creator. A glimpse that many women and men in our modern times never experience for various reasons or willfully reject.

The liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands.” – Saint John Paul II. When I passed by the sarcophagus of then Bl. Paul VI now Saint Paul VI, I felt little happiness or liberation in that precise moment. The weight of physical, emotional strain coupled with the confusion of international travel and the stress of unknown outcomes wore heavily on me topped with mind-altering migraine medications. I wasn’t prepared for my encounter with the remains of a man who championed the truth and suffered for it decades before my earthly existence. The precise truth I choose to suffer with and for today.

After celebrating early morning Mass in St. Peter’s a few days later, after a few days of reflection and improved sleep, I chose to encounter St. Pope Paul VI. I bee-lined across the vast expanse of St. Peter’s Basilica towards the entrance into the Tomb of the Popes. My deft footsteps echoed softly on the marble floors. I slid silently onto a massive, glossy wooden kneeler placed before his tomb for the devout onlooker to stop and pray in preparation for his impending canonization. I knelt before the remains of a Saint- a Saint of my century.

My eyes glazed over staring at St. Paul VI’s sarcophagus as a flood of memories, experiences, pain, sadness, confusion, desperation, hope, joy, gratitude, and awe flooded before me. My mind raced as emotions and feelings frantically jumped in a thousand directions. I buried my head into my hands as the tears threatened to tumble down my cheeks. The din of tourists’ footsteps floated around me but left me untouched. St. Paul VI and I had our moment.

In our own ways, we both made a life-altering choice by choosing a lasting but unpopular truth. Amid the cultural clamoring and storms of confusion, we anchored ourselves to the firm foundation of God’s design for mankind in His deliberate and intelligent design for man and woman for family, intimacy, and reproduction. We both paid an earthly price for that choice. We both suffered. We both loved.

Kneeling there in tears, I recognized many of the female and male tourists admiring their surroundings rejected the teachings of Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae. We all live with the repercussions. I verged towards angry. Then a young adult man about my age knelt down beside me. Two young adults one man and one woman both products of the St. John Paul II era and the new evangelization knelt before the tomb of St. Paul VI champion for Human Life and Father of Truth in humble supplication. In that moment, I felt hope.

There is more to my story with my encounter with St. Paul VI (more that I’m still processing and accepting) but this gives you a glimpse at how God works in surprising and mysterious ways. “For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. – Humanae Vitae

May God bless and keep you all in 2019!

Monthly NFP Update: Lessons in Drug Reactions

PSALM 73 (1)

August- a month of opposites. The Creighton Method and Naprotechnology treatment requires a huge helping of patience and humility with a hefty sprinkling of courage and trust. In these moments of increased suffering and confusion, my relationship with God shifts into a more pristine focus- better aligned and less muddled by my pride and control.

For a moment, I thought my body and reproductive track considered cooperating. Somewhere between the travel adventures and joyous occasions my body found enough time and energy to protest my Napro treatment for PMDD. About 6 months ago my PMS diagnosis was revised to a PMDD diagnosis. For those who may not be familiar with PMDD or Post-Dysphoric Menstrual Disorder in the most simplistic definition PMDD is a more severe and volatile version of PMS. After I passed with flying colors the screening for PMDD, my local napro doctor prescribed a medication which used in minute dosages can help your body reset the bio-chemical endocrine processes surrounding the transition from one cycle into the next. But it’s a medication to be respected.

Medical need finally tipped the scale outweighing my reservations, and I successfully took the medication for 5 months before the final hurrah. Looking back at my chart, a few positive affects can be noted. ***And I should disclaim this medication has been beneficial for many women undergoing Napro treatment without or with minimal side-effects.***

This month I only made it through 3 days of my 10 day course before having cardiac and neurological symptoms. I ignored the fluttering heart rate and palpitations the first 3 nights before the neurological symptoms hit which were harder to ignore. On night three, I felt a sudden decline in my mental acuity and a heavy mental fog descend, my rate of exhaustion skyrocket, followed by slowed speech and thought, catapulting into decreased balance and increased dizziness. This led to falls, topples, and bashed knees (and a rather scared and confused Hannah.) Two weeks later I regained my mental acuity and the fog dissipated. It took one week to regain my balance in full. My darkened mood hasn’t rebounded yet. I discontinued my med, consulted with my doctor, and spent time recovering. My doctor and I will need to re-evaluate and discern the next steps.

In many ways, I know I am blessed that nothing more severe or life-threatening happened. In other ways, I recognize my medical de-sensitivity played into my ignorance of the severity of my drug reaction. A hard lessen to learn but an important lessen to know when and what your limitations are and when you should seek professional medical help.

I am frustrated by this set-back in my treatment. I am concerned what the next step will be or if there is a next step. I am worried what the ripple affect will be. Already my cycle has changed without the drug treatment. The brokenness is coming back more recognizable and distinct in my charting. The weakness if pouring into where the healing was. I offer up my cup of brokenness and weakness to God. He makes all things good. Everyday He keeps repeating, “Hannah, you are good.” And to that light of love I cling.

“Though my flesh and my heart fail, God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.” – Psalm 73: 26

 

 

 

 

Come What May- The Tears Behind My NFP Story

Compline 2

“I stretch out my arms to you, I stretch out my soul, like a land without water.” Psalm 142-143 is recited during Compline or Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours every few rotations. This verse always sticks with me. Sometimes this verse lingers for days. I figured after rejecting writing this post for years, the holy Spirit finally granted me enough courage and wisdom to proceed.

I hope when people read my blog posts involving my personal journey of seeking reproductive health and wellness through Natural Family Planning’s Creighton Method and Naptrotechnology they feel encouraged or dare I say empowered to seek their own health, wellness, and healing too. In my experience, health comes after a journey. A journey which mostly consists of striving, seeking, failing, falling, and struggle with brilliant moments of awe, splendor, joy, healing, and beauty.

On occasion I make fleeting references to “deep spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical pain.” My disposition and cultural upbringing upholds privacy in high regards followed by sucking it up maybe even higher. Before I continue. I disclaim that Creighton NFP and Naprotechnolgy is 100% worthwhile and 100% character and virtue building.

Over the past three years I have practiced Creighton NFP and undergone Naprotechnology treatment, I’ve suffered in ways I never thought imaginable. Even with all my years of chronic illness, pain, and struggles there were moments I didn’t know you could feel so poorly and still be alive. During the height of my precipitous hormonal spikes and plummets coupled with mind-boggling pain, I felt myself slowly slipping into emotional and mental decline fraying at the seams. There were moments I felt out-of-control and one worse moment away from the shreds of sanity I clung onto slipping through my fingers. It was the first time in my life I prayed to God, “even if I loose my mind, you will take care of me and love me.” To this day, those darker moments of my NFP journey taught me a richer humility and gratitude.

The first Valentine’s Day I spent with the dear man I’m courting involved watching the movie “La Vita E Bella” or “Life Is Beautiful” and ended with me crippled over sobbing and shaking in severe pain which would eventually be diagnosed a year and half later as endometriosis. My life became moments between varying degrees of pain, discomfort, bloating, and swelling. I approached my family, work, social, and spiritual life as a calculated measure of energy and health with the possibility of rapid changes. I remember a specific incident at a Diocesan Young Adult Adoration when I laid curled up in the pew wheezing between painful stabs. I have countless similar memories.

Somehow only a being like Our Heavenly Father could have brought so much good into so much pain, suffering, confusion, and hopelessness. Yes, I cooperated with His grace and offered up my suffering gladly. Only a current of grace kept me from drowning. There was a wind beneath my faltering wings that shouldn’t have existed but did. Somewhere in the bleakness I discovered my God-given worth and dignity. There were moments I faltered. Somehow I found God in the darkness shining out His soft, warm, and merciful glow. A light that not only saved me but permeated my being and illuminated how God saw me- BEAUTIFULLY and WONDERFULLY Made. This rocked me to my core. Creighton NFP didn’t just give me a chance at health, wellness, healing, and fertility but saved my view of womanhood and femininity. NFP taught me my dignity as a woman come what may.

The whole learning, practicing, and utilizing Creighton NFP is NOT easy. There rarely is a quick fix, a magic pill or device, or a happy phrase or witty expression to make it all go away. Your vision will eventually blur from trying to decide how to categorize your cervical mucous. Your chart might look like a Christmas display with colors and corrections. You may feel scared, frustrated, angry, concerned, confused, exasperated, exhausted, isolated, etc.  You may even “give up” or “take a break.” You may forget when to start your hormone therapy or pull out your hair trying to decide when to have your P+7 labs drawn. It’s okay to mess up and fail. It’s not about practicing to perfection. It’s simply about practicing, learning, and growing. Take it all one day at a time. Learn how to brush yourself off when you fall down and learn how to move forward in a healthier and kinder manner. Practicing NFP is about trying and not giving up on the method, yourself, God, or you loved ones.

Don’t give up on yourself even when you’re broken- beautifully broken- and feel unlovable and lost. God sees you whole, beautiful, and worthy of love- ALWAYS.

Catholic 365 Article: NaProTECHNOLOGY for the Unmarried Woman

NFPA couple months ago, I submitted an article to Catholic 365 which was published. This article is a follow-up to an article I wrote a couple years ago. The article is a personal witness and testimony to health and healing beyond hope.

http://www.catholic365.com/article/6864/naprotechnology-for-the-unmarried-woman.html

Natural Family Planning (NFP) for the Unmarried

NFPI am writing about Natural Family Planning (NFP,) right? Yes! Over the past few months, I’ve joined a new wave of Catholic women who are exploring NFP for their own personal knowledge, health, and well-being without a fiancee or spouse by our side. Why should single, unmarried Catholic women learn NFP? Because, designed by God, our female bodies are amazing and intricate while our natural cycles should be monitored and understood.

1.) Types of NFP:
There are multiple NFP methods researched, studied, and accepted by the Catholic Church. Each method charts fertility bio-markers. I learned the Creighton Method. Why? Because the Creighton Method is the MOST comprehensive and scientific system for diagnosing and treating Women’s Reproductive Health issues, i.e., Naprotechnology.

2.) Creighton NFP: No Chemicals Added
Creighton uses the most comprehensive bio-markers to chart fertility and infertility while tracking changes in a woman’s cycle that could indicate reproductive health or fertility issues. With the knowledge gleaned from charting, I could consult a Naprotechnology specialist and potentially treat and heal concerns. Another benefit of NFP is that there are no harmful side effects, chemicals, or synthetic hormones. Charting is inexpensive too, especially once the system is learned

3.) Learning NFP Lingo
Welcome to NFP, where women and men’s natural bodily function is not a bad, dirty phenomenon. But, yes, you, your trainer, and your significant other must learn to discuss and identity the amazing phenomena of mucus (it’s pretty amazing,) and how it plays into fertility, infertility, and health issues. Yep. I turned red a few times, but I felt an immense sense of peace knowing that God designed my body and called it “good.”

4.) Owning my Cycles
During the course of a women’s cycle, she is mostly INFERTILE; whereas, a man is considered FERTILE. Women can’t conceive any day of the month. Nothing prepared me for the day, I placed the white baby sticker on my Peak day and counted 3 Days Post Peak. For the first time, it hit me. I’m woman. If I was sexually active, I could have a baby. The realization excited and frightened me, but then I realized how few women experience that moment. And how even fewer women experience that moment with their spouse.

5.) Learning Another Love Language
NFP teaches the “multidimensional nature of sexual interaction.” NFP encourages couples to S.P. I.C.E. things up and develop equally important expressions of love. NFP challenges me to be a more loving person.

  • S = Spiritual expressed through praying together or meditation.
  • P = Physical closeness without genital contact.
  • I = Intellectual expressed though sharing a project, book, etc.
  • C = Communicative/Creative expressed through increased written or verbal communication or shared activities.
  • E = Emotional expressed though shared feelings, desires, humor, etc.

6.) Doesn’t Mean . . .
My future spouse is off-the-hook from learning NFP. Having the mutual knowledge, support, and discipline of NFP allows a couple to respect their God-given dignity as man and woman, appreciate their natural reproductive differences, and make prayerful decisions together about family planning. If not, NFP turns into another form of non-hormonal contraception.

7.) Joining a Greater Conversation
I’m no longer a woman on the sidelines waiting for NFP to apply to me, I’m in the middle of the greater conversation about NFP. I have a voice.

To all my single ladies, please, consider exploring NFP for your own knowledge, health, and wellbeing. You are a Daughter of the King!