Raising a Culture of Life

CL38 - hbratton notxt

©Heidi Bratton Photography

As I pulled the minivan into our garage late one night my 14-year-old son came out to help me carry in the bins and boxes of materials I had used at a talk I gave that evening at church.  I knew the real reason he was being so helpful:  I had promised to bring home the leftover cookies I had made for the event.  Jimmy was good enough to help unload everything before searching for the cookies.

He found the plate of cookies and while he ate he picked up one of the brochures that was laying on top of a bin.  Looking it over he asked, “What was your talk on tonight?”

“I spoke to a group of engaged and married couples about Natural Family Planning.”  I answered, waiting to see if he was still curious.

He nodded, looking over the brochure.  “What is NFP again?”

Part of the BIG talk in our family is having that talk within the context of married love and God’s design for marriage and family.  Jimmy had gotten part of that talk but not in as much detail… yet.

“Well, NFP allows a couple to decide, each month, whether or not to conceive a child.  A woman can only get pregnant a certain number of days — if the couple prayerfully discerns not to conceive then they do not come together on those days.  If they decide to try and conceive then they would be together on those days and, God willing, nine months later that act of love gets to be named.”

Shoot!  Did I say too much?  Did I not say enough?  Did I just blow one of those “teachable moments” by not saying the right thing at the right time?  Will my son now end up on an afternoon talk show because of me?

Jimmy stood there continuing to eat the cookies and appearing to think over what I had said.

“So, you are telling me that you know exactly when you can and cannot get pregnant?”  He asked in a somewhat amazed tone.

“Yep, that is exactly what I am telling you.”  I replied matter-of-factly.

 Swallowing quickly he burst out, “So what’s the hold up?  You two need to get busy, Mom.  You’re already 41… time’s a-ticking.”

So much for teenagers being horrified at the prospect of their mother having another baby!

It is my humble opinion that our children learn more from what we do than what we say.  Participating in Life Chain, praying peacefully in front of abortion clinics, welcoming the Crossroads college students at our parish, attending our local (or national) March for Life, helping with Respect Life Month events, meeting nationally known speakers in the area of chastity education and Theology of the Body teachings are wonderful benefits to being the son or daughter of the Respect Life Lady at church.  But what will really stick with my own children is what my husband and I practice within our own walls.

Being always open to new life is not without challenges — but it can be funny, too.  A couple years back our (then) six year old daughter was so frustrated at our not producing a sister for her that she decided to ask our pastor why God did not answer her prayer.  After Mass she approached him, “Father, can you get my mom pregnant?  I want a baby sister really bad.”

Any mother reading can imagine my horror at her wording.  I was stunned as I waited for Father’s response.  He handled it like a pro.  Stooping down to her height he said, “MaryKate, I will pray that your mother and father are always open to having a new baby and that if it is God’s will that He gives you a baby sister.  Is that OK?”  She was happy with his reply.   I, on the other hand, have had a hard time looking him in the eye ever since!

We have a 16-year old-who is ready to drive me to the hospital should Dad not be able to make it in time for delivery, we have a 14-year-old who was praying for me to have quadruplets (so each kid could have their own baby) until he realized he would certainly get diaper duty if that happened — he is now praying for twins. We have an 8-year-old daughter who prays for me to have a baby every single morning and night (at this point she does not care if the baby is a boy or girl – she is desperate).  If I so much as tell them I am tired it can cause waves of delirium at the thought that I must now be pregnant.  Our 5-year-old son just wants a dog.

As of this writing I am not expecting.  I do, however, have 3 (maybe 4) kids who are expecting.  And that is what being open to new life is about: hope and joy.  I can do all kinds of things as the head of a parish respect life ministry but the most important thing I will ever do is attempt to build a Culture of Life at home. 

My mother gave birth to me at age 40; I was her last — number nine.  Watching her start the first Right to Life in our Colorado town and participate in pro-life conventions, March for Life events, and give talks to various groups regarding the dignity of all human life, one would assume she had done “enough” to build a Culture of Life within me as I grew up.  But the most important thing she ever did, in my eyes, was never saying no when I begged over and over again for another baby.

As her hair grayed and she began to appear older, I did not stop asking and she always said the same thing, “You keep praying.  God will answer you one of three ways: No, Not yet, or Yes.  All He asks is that you accept His answer.” 

I now repeat her wise words to my daughter and I smile when she replies, “Well, it better be YES!”


About Author

Graduated in 1992 from the Franciscan University of Steubenville with a degree in Mental Health and Human Services and a minor in Theology.

  • I delighted to read this article. Thank you for a beautiful portrait of family life.