Monday, 13 February 2012

Freedom from Contraception

This is a great guest-blog posting on one of the blogs I regularly follow. I hope to write more of my own personal views, and experience, on contraception sometime in the future, but I found this to be just a beautifully written piece: Does Contraception Bring Freedom?

Saturday, 11 February 2012


In the fall of last year I took a trip to BC. I had a wonderful time visiting friends and family, especially once the stress of waiting for my visa was alleviated. What struck me the most about my visit, however, was how I never truly felt that I was ‘back home’ until I began the journey to Port Alberni.
Autumn at Sproat Lake
Home. It is a curious word for me, full of so many different meanings. It means Cambridge, East Anglia, and England. It also means Canada, Vancouver Island, and Sproat Lake. The restful, comforting feeling of being back where I belong begins when I see the mountains meeting the ocean from the plane window, increases with the first whiff of the fresh sea breeze, and then overwhelms me on the drive from Nanaimo to Port Alberni. This drive is usually made at night through the quiet mountain highway, with deepening darkness as we leave the towns behind and head out towards the lake. There is a chill in the air when we finally open the car doors, an instant of pure silence, then a rush of animals and humans converging on the car. Now I am truly home.

In the early morning, grey mist obscures the evergreens, dances in ghostly wisps along the river, and the scent of wood smoke lies heavy in the air. You breathe in, deep, and can sense the weather, snow or rain, in the purity of the air. The rain strikes the roof with a patter, runs through the evergreen branches like a waterfall, and drowns the view from the windows. Every day but Sunday I wake in the chill of a west coast autumn. The house feels damp, but not as damp as my flat in Cambridge. I’m awake just long enough to let a cat in, or out, and take a sip of water. I roll over. Some time later the furnace roars to life, the heating ducts release their peculiar morning scent, and the room begins to warm. That is when it’s time to get up. And, since I am in part a visitor, there is little that I need to do. I may offer to cook, may help with some light house or yard work, but mostly I curl up and read novels, watch television shows, or root out the various edibles that mum always has and that I never stock in my other life. On certain days I break this pattern and leave with mum when she goes to her office, so that I can run errands “in town” and visit with people. I see dear friends, I spend a lot of time with my Grandma, and if I am lucky I have time to drive by a few of my favourite places, time maybe even to stop for a minute.

Back at the lake, the fruit hangs thick on the branches. On a rare dry day the plums are ripe for picking, with enough to spare that even the bees have their fill. The success of the harvest is measured in the number of ice-cream buckets filled with fruit. After counting comes a careful division of bounty: some for the home, some for family, some for friends. The air carries the musky, plummy smell of fresh-picked fruit resting in cardboard crates. Near the garden, the green apples, which no one but dad likes, litter the ground and weigh down the branches. We make a mess of sorting them by picking the ground apples first, because we do not account for the ones that fall to the ground when the branches are cleared and thus have to sort the ground apples twice. The apples give no scent, but the garden emits the rich smell of the earth, and the grass breathes out its dew, and the air comes clean down the mountains and across the lake.  As I relieve the trees of their burden I thank them, and understand a little of St Francis’ ideas of our siblinghood with nature.

Slowly the sky darkens against the pine trees. The nights are cool and most days there is rain, so lighting the fires is not excessive. The stamp of booted feet, the thud of wood being thrown into a box, and the rattle of grating and stove lid—these are the sounds of my childhood. This wood heat is different from any other. It does not mask the damp, it burns it away and leaves you warm to your very core. The night’s chill seeps in around the windows and the scent of the cool air mingles with that of the warm fire. Evenings are a time of easy companionship until, one-by-one, we make our way to cool beds and the thick darkness of a country night.

As I pass my days on this visit home I keep smiling to myself, because I am thinking of my other home, the home waiting for me back in England. The life I led growing up in this small town is so very different, at least on the surface, from the life I lead now. I think of my husband, shaking hands with the Prince of Wales. I think of balls and formals, evening gowns and ever-flowing champagne, buildings older than the nation I hail from. I think of museums, plays, operas, symphonies, galleries.  Yet this return to the place of my birth, to the trees and the water and the mountains that are etched in my deepest being, is what grounds me back in myself. This return is what allows me to understand the person I am at now, because at every turn I meet the person I was. I walk through ghosts upon ghosts of myself, and that is why I smile, because I have gone farther than I ever dreamed, and then I have come back to appreciate all the more what I have left behind, have come back to temporarily alleviate the burden of this peculiar sacrifice. 

Monday, 6 February 2012

thoughts on deciding to have a baby

I realise I really should put some sort of update on here about our baby news. I keep being unsure of what to write. It’s hard to strike a balance between personal news and personal detail I’m willing to share. Like anything ‘big’ that happens to me, I don’t really like to talk about it like normal people seem to. It feels like getting engaged all over again—exciting, thrilling, terrifying, and something I feel is intensely private. However, just like my wedding, I know that as time progresses I will be glad that I didn’t keep everything completely to myself, because there is joy in sharing the good things of life with friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.

So how does the former self-proclaimed ‘child hater’ decide to have a baby? Well, for one, it is a matter of simple psychology. To the contrary of what I told anyone who knew me in high school, or in various situations since, I never actually ‘hated’ children or babies (I was also never actually evil, and kind of annoyed that some of you gloried a bit too much in that tag for me because it showed you really didn’t get my sense of humour). What I hated, or at least strongly disliked, was being expected to care and enjoy the infants and children of the people around me; to pretend that I enjoyed dealing with someone else’s squalling and vomit-covered baby, or pretentious little monster-child, just because I was female. Try explaining that and people refuse to understand you. Say, “no thanks, I hate kids” and they immediately start ferrying the little darlings away from you. Works a treat.

For another, marrying a man who is everything you have ever wanted in a companion for life really makes having a child with him the next logical step. A lot of times you hear sappy things like “we wanted to create an expression of our love”. Those aren’t words I’d use. I would say that my husband and I are completely enamoured with each other, best friends, etc. We’re both really creative, we have similar interests, we lead a fairly abnormal & adventurous life, and we know a lot of great & eccentric people. It seems like a total waste of being alive to not share all this with another being who shares our crazy mixture of genes. If we can raise our children to be as eccentric (and awesome) as we are, then I think we’ll have done a good thing. Some of the well wishes from friends have said as much.

Until we knew whether or not we’d achieve this blessing without a lot of pain and sacrifice, we felt it wise to keep up the ‘no, no baby plans yet’ line. When you’re newly married, Catholic, and rather vocal (at least off the internet) about how you totally agree with the Church’s position on contraception (and that you’ve always felt that contraception is wrong, even before you converted), people tend to think you’ll get pregnant before you get back from your honeymoon. And until you’ve tried natural family planning from both angles, you can never be sure if it’s working because it’s working, or if it’s working because something’s not working. I knew that the road of fertility challenges would be painful enough to walk without having everyone constantly asking about our plans for having a baby or thinking I was pregnant every time I had a stomach bug.

Success happened a lot faster than I’d dared to hope. In fact, I was so certain that I wasn’t pregnant that I spent an anxious ten days thinking I had suddenly developed Type II Diabetes or something worse. After yet another day of feeling utterly exhausted, crampy, tearful, and needing to use the bathroom every hour, I decided to buy a pregnancy test so that I could confirm I wasn’t pregnant so that I could just relax for another fun round of female complaint. I had barely even had time to “lay the stick on a flat surface” before the two lines appeared confirming what I thought was impossible. My mind flashed back to my mum’s tales of how when she found out she was pregnant with me she ended up crying (with joy) on the bathroom floor. Here I was clutching the sink, grinning like an idiot, with tears rolling down my cheeks. Genetics.