Today marks the 45th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, an encyclical from which all our beautiful teaching on fertility and life issues flows. We’re also in the midst of NFP Awareness Week. There are many posts about this issue, so here is mine, which I think takes a very different approach.
Ladies, I am not brave enough to post this on my own Facebook, but please, please, post on yours, especially those of you whom have lots of young, secular friends. Maybe one day I will be brave enough to start sharing this aloud, person by person.
All too often the voices of women who support the creation and sustenance of new life and wish others would see the same beauty in it get drowned out or go unheard. We are told to go out and spread the Good News, but I am sorry to say we do not do so very well. We get snarky, defensive, screechy, preachy, or entirely religious or philosophical and impractical. Our intentions are good: we want others to discover hope. But sometimes our tone means we treat them as if they are hopeless: jumping to conclusions, proclaiming judgment, or outright doling condemnation.
I believe people need to hear “I believe” statements. Not the Church says, this document says, this study from 5 years ago says, this 67-year-old white man says…. I believe people need to hear positive-only messages. Not what’s negative about a product, behavior, or motivation. So here is me, speaking up, positively:
I believe that fertility is a gift. And what’s more–I like it.
After a childhood marked by pituitary issues and an early adulthood punctuated by digestive issues, I like that at least this particular system of my body is functioning correctly. I like that instead of deliberately overhauling it with a substance that has side effects, I can work with it to achieve a desired outcome (pregnancy or not).
I like that by working with it, my husband and I must engage in dialogue about our future and force the question: which is more important: a few-second rush of endorphins this particular week, or avoiding a baby. I like that it forces my husband and I to see each other as potential co-creators and not just as bodies of hormones and sources of orgasm.
I like that I have been born with a whole set of organs whose sole purpose is to support the creation and nurturing of a new human being. It’s kind of funny to think about, isn’t it, that as individuals, we do not need our reproductive systems to continue living, but yet we still have them. Why? I believe it’s because there is some grander design at work that intends to compel people to continue making more people, not fewer. I like that I belong to the one gender that supports the development of an entirely new human person who will mature and be in this world, hopefully after I am not.
I believe in the concept of a soul, that there is some part of me and you and children that distinguishes us from animals. I believe the soul is so integral to the person, that the soul is there from the moment the person starts, which I believe is when sperm meets egg, and that suddenly these two tiny facets of two individuals become one tiny being entirely distinct from the two. I like that in good health, the new little being is automatically human and could never be anything else—not canine, feline, lupine. I like that within weeks, entirely new biological systems are developing or finally developed. I like the fact that there’s a heartbeat in a uterus that is not the mother’s.
I believe that all of the above is so special it deserves respect. I believe society should change to accommodate the growth of itself, not change biological processes to accommodate society. I believe there are no hierarchy of rights when it comes to two individual human beings. I believe every life is worth living, however short or long or easy or complicated. I like what it says when we don’t end life in-utero because of a disease or condition—that “No mater what, we value your presence in this world and are worth being born, worth figuring out how to ease your pain or heal your body. We see you as worth being a part our family, just as we saw your healthy siblings as belonging to our family when they were growing.”
I like belonging to a community that believes and likes all of the above. I like that it affirms a society that promotes and cultivates new human life. I believe it’s not so much a matter of political or legislative solutions, but one of hearts and minds. I believe that seeing fertility and fecundity as a gift is one that supercedes creed, party affiliation, or philosophy. It is simply a very human vision of the human person. I believe if we all stop shouting at you and each other, we can work together to make a world where such beliefs are liked by everyone.