During that time I read alot of books. I wanted to learn and read and soak up as much as I could about the Church. I wanted to know everything–and by “everything” I mean everything except anything that might ask me to throw away my birth control pills. That was a type of “holy roly” I wasn’t willing to swallow. I knew lots of Catholics but none that actually followed that (particularly crazy) rule.
When I finally stumbled across the Church’s teaching (and the whys behind that teaching) I was sad. I was sad because it all made so much sense. It wasn’t crazy holy reasoning (like I hoped it would be), it was actual logical reasoning. It made sense. It involved science. I was devastated.
(I’m not going to go into what the Church’s teaching is here. I bet most of you know, generally speaking, that contraception is a no no in the Catholic Church. There are nuances to the “rules,” but for the most part we aren’t supposed to do anything to eliminate the procreative aspect of sex–which means no pills, IUDs, condoms, withdrawal method, sterilization surgeries, etc. Married couples who prayerfully discern that they are in a season of avoiding pregnancy may abstain from sex during the woman’s fertile period –the time surrounding ovulation– but that’s about it.)
Anyway, I was sad. Pretty much every human being I knew prior to my conversion did something to avoid pregnancy. It seemed weird and extremist to all of a sudden make such a big change. Who just doesn’t do anything? People like the Duggars, that’s who! People who are okay with having a million kids. Crazy people! I was scared and pissed off that I had taken time to fill my brain with the facts because now that I knew the facts I could not ignore them. Once you know the truth you cannot unknow it, unfortunately. (Trust me, I have tried.)
When Dane was about 10 months old I made an appointment to get my IUD removed. I cried. I was scared. I was mad. Marvin thought I was slightly crazy, but what else is new? I taught myself the sympto thermal method of Natural Family Planning. NFP works. It really, really works. And, in case you didn’t know, NFP is not the rhythm method. There are different NFP methods but they all use actual science and all of them work. I got pregnant with Juliet. How? Because Marvin and I really suck at following the rules (and, on a related note, we really like each other). So, you see, the “problem” with NFP is that it involves people following rules and people are not always in the mood to follow rules.
When I was younger and I thought about how many kids I wanted, I never really had a set number, but I can tell you that if I had that number would not have been 4. Four kids is a-freaking-lot of kids in my opinion. I was not that person. Four kids just sounded chaotic and I need organization to live a happy life.
So, the other morning I was packing Elaina’s lunch. Dane and Juliet were playing loudly and Elaina was reading me her homework (the homework we forgot to do the night before). Elaina said she couldn’t find her shoes and Dane decided to push Juliet down for fun. The house was really loud and there was alot of crying and we were late for school and I just stopped and looked up from the ham sandwich I was making and it hit me: this is my why. That exact moment was my why.
The old Diana (the one-kid mom Diana) would’ve been completely overwhelmed and annoyed. I would’ve yelled at someone and rushed kids along and been in a bad mood for the rest of the day. And here I was, the Diana that I am now, completely calm. I looked around and laughed. God knew. He knew I was wound way, way too tightly. He knew that I needed to chill out. He knew that the only way I would ever chill was by forcing me. And, maaaan, kids force you to chill out. You can either chill or die. Those are your options. Chill or die.
When I look at the person (and mother and wife) I was 5 years ago (with only one small baby to parent) and compare it to the person I am now (with three crazy, loud and fun kids running around and one kicking me in the bladder) there is no comparison. None. I am a different person. I am a better person. I am a better mother. I am a better wife. I am a better friend. I am someone my friends actually describe as chill. Chill. Relaxed. Laid back. That’s what they say about me as a mother. Chill is lightyears away from who I used to be.
So, yeah, maybe Elaina would’ve gotten more attention as an only child (or as one of two children), but she would’ve had an uptight mama. She would’ve spent day in and day out with a woman who had unrealistic expectations, who was selfish, who was self righteous. She would’ve known what a mother with a tremendous amount of anxiety looked (and felt) like.
Having these kids has made me a better person. Had I been in charge, had I popped a little pill every morning and been in complete control, I would’ve robbed my children of the mother that God wanted me to be. NFP has made me a better mother–it’s made me a better person.
Don’t get me wrong, I still hate NFP. I still sometimes daydream that my husband will run off and get a vasectomy without telling me (too real?). I still think NFP is stupid (in the same way that I think it’s stupid that eating junk food makes you fat), but I’m also thankful for NFP. I’m thankful that it’s given me 4 beautiful Vallette kids and it’s pushed me to change in a way I couldn’t have changed without it. Maybe God knew what He was doing afterall, who knew?