It’s happening again, article after article appearing in my news feed. The theme is the same, although each has a slightly different slant to offer. Just as last year, I pour over each one, nodding all the while as my eyes scan the screen. The topic is birth control and each post does a good job at lifting the veil and sparking interest. However, I’m usually left thinking that there are a few more dots to be connected if the author’s aim is to cast a wide net.
What I mean is that there is so much more to this subject than simply deciding whether or not to swallow a pill or allow a doctor to insert some device inside of you. Yes, yes we need to shout from the rooftops the truth about the indisputable physical harms being perpetrated against our sisters, but that’s not where we need to start.
Here’s my intention, I want to begin a conversation and continue it for a while. I want to offer a few thoughts/facts for you to ponder and then let you walk away to digest it. I hope you’ll come back with questions because I’m going to try to cover a few more bases (than I’ve seen covered recently) by the end of this blog post series.
Now, before we even consider birth control, we must identify what makes a woman truly unique and reflect on why that matters.
Recall that God created woman because He said that it was not good for man to be alone. Understand that. God is complete all by Himself, but this man Adam (that He made in His image) was INcomplete by himself. Therefore, God goes about creating all manner of creatures to keep Adam company, but not one can fill his aching. Only when God forms woman does Adam finally rejoice, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Let that sink in, I mean really try to picture that in your mind. There was Adam milling around, feeling alone. He had everything it would seem, except no good thing or living creature was enough to banish his longing (not even man’s best friend). Then the day dawned when he woke up to find Eve and in that instant he found his missing piece.
Of course, while equals, male and female are far from the same. Woman, in all of her fullness and beauty, possesses the power to accept, nurture and grow life. From youth, her body knows the steps to the mysterious dance that will carry her through the cycles of a lifetime. Only the female body builds up fertile ground each month in anticipation of fostering a wholly new life. She can contain her offspring like a tiny bud holds tight its treasure until the appointed time.
Her strength allows her to endure torments, discomforts, pains and deprivations just as the soldier valiantly sacrifices to protect his innocent charges. And when her hidden vessel breaks open, moving her to push forth the person she has cradled within, woman has a storehouse of reserves at her fingertips: vigor, focus, endurance, power, vulnerability, clarity and intuition. Delicate and fragile or just as readily jagged and rough, she’s an intricate weave of contradictions and complements.
She doesn’t stop there either. Woman’s breasts sustain her child, providing nutrition and immunity. She’ll read her child’s cues and anticipate his desires before he ever utters a word. Her presence forever imprinted on his heart, it will affect all of his future relationships.
And as St. John Paul II pointed out, woman’s motherhood isn’t restricted by her ability to give birth. Her feminine genius, as he coined it, shines through no matter what her vocation. Woman is always the life-bearer. Whether or not she is able to nestle another person inside of her womb, she always contains “room for another.” A reader of people, with an instinctual ability to recognize the unspoken needs of others, she inclines toward the roles of teacher, caregiver, confidant and counselor.
All that man will ever know about life-giving, he must learn from woman. However, no matter how much he might study her role, man is forever relegated to the “outside” on this matter. I’ve been blessed to have birthed all but one of my children with the support of midwives. While there are some perfectly good male obstetricians out there, ask any women who has birthed with a midwife and she can confirm that men can never truly relate to mothering in the same way that another woman can.
Our culture has, thankfully, come a long way toward recognizing the role of women in the world, but it’s still got a long way to go. It took me three decades to grasp who I was because I conformed my self-image to society’s ill-shaped mold of womanhood. The modern view fractures females into a collection of disjointed parts. We’ve got good hair, sweet temperaments, smooth skin, perky breasts and tight thighs or unmanageable kink, bitchy moods, oily pores, sagging boobs and fat legs.
“Woman” has disappeared and in her place stands an airbrushed, photo-shopped, lighting enhanced caricature of pseudo femininity. For this reason, before we can hope to enlighten a woman about the care and keeping of her fertility, she must rediscover and reclaim her genius.
My favorite part about teaching couples Natural Family Planning is the epiphany moment. Not every woman makes it there, but most do. I see it in her glassy eyes or hear it in her eager questions. Sometimes a woman will take me aside and share her story about a doctor who pressured her to make choices she wanted to refuse or her frustration over having felt inadequate for so long. However it manifests, it is the moment from which point all else will extend, her tipping point. Her broken pieces, like the images of a shattering mirror on rewind, begin to fuse back together. Once her eyes have opened to her own inherent dignity and wholeness, then she’s disposed to digest truth and eager to stake her claim over her own body.
So before this conversation continues, I invite you, dear reader, to reflect on the role of woman as designed by God, undistorted by worldliness. Focus, not the phony, self-aggrandizing mottoes of roaring, bra-burners or booty shaking celebrities, but on the feminine genius (the life-bearing mission) that characterizes womanhood.
[editor’s note: this article is part of a series on birth control. Read the entire series here.]