Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NFP is at the Heart of New Feminism!

It’s NFP Awareness Week!

Did you know it was NFP Awareness Week?  Well, you do now!  I just wanted to create a short post here to connect you with all the things that are going in the NFP world!

Living The Sacrament

What is NFP?  I’m so glad you asked!  NFP (natural family planning) is a natural way for a woman to chart her fertility cycles.  Through this method, she is able to know when she is fertile and when she is infertile.  She is also able to see right away if any problems arise and actually can go to NFP knowledgeable doctors to care for and solve the problem.  (Many doctors use the “pill” or oral contraceptives to “solve” menstrual problems; however, in reality, it is only masking over the problem.  This is why some refer to it as the “bandaid effect” of the pill.)

This is also great for spacing children!  My husband and I have 4 wild little boys, but we actually waited four years after we were married before having children.  (We discerned that living as starving grad students in Italy was not the best environment for a baby!)  And we only used NFP all that time – it really DOES WORK!

What a better sign of the New Feminism than to celebrate, become knowledgeable of, and embrace a woman’s fertility and femininity!  Her body is beautiful!  Her fertility is not a disease! 

NFP is cheap, drug/ hormone free & marriage building, but don’t just take my word for it! 

Great Sites and Resources – to build YOUR AWARENESS of this amazing New Feminist tool:
For AWESOME, edgy pics to use on your social media pages: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.265098176924496.42543.210800962354218&type=3

For Info about “What IS going on in the NFP World?”
http://www.osv.com/tabid/7621/itemid/9651/Top-5-NFP-Happenings.aspx (this article has lots of sub articles too!  So be sure to click all around and learn!!)

For basic, easy to understand info on the science of NFP:

For more in depth info 
(AND if you have OB/GYN health concerns! Paul VI Institute uses nfp to care for and HEAL the woman’s actual problems.  They call it FertilityCare and have invented NaProTechnology – amazing miracles happening for women here!)

LOOK at this chart which shows how much MORE effective NaPro is than any of the IVF procedures!!

A BRAND NEW Book for non-medical people (like us!) – Can’t wait to get this one!!
“The NaProTechnology Revolution: Unleashing the POWER in a woman’s cycle” – What every woman has a right to know about her body...her health...her future!

Another SASSY NFP site that is edgy and true (and LOADS of FUN!): 
1Flesh – Bring Sexy Back.

Here are 6 Incentives to Choose NFP:

And with all this INFO going around – HOW ABOUT A PRIZE DRAWING?!!
The IuseNFP site just launched a NEW site and are having a “Grand Opening Give-away”!  Check it out!

Every woman deserves to know how and why her body does what it does.  Because I chart my cycles, I was able to see a huge shift after being on my new ETL food plan!  My cycles have always been irregular, but after this plant-based diet for 6 months, they normalized!  From waking temps, to fertile signs, to length of the cycle – it all changed!  I would NEVER have known that if I had been taking oral contraceptives.  Plus, we eat everything as organic as possible – why would I want to then pump ME full of hormones?!  Just two more stats to leave you with as you celebrate NFP and help others grow in awareness too:

1. The divorce rate of NFP practicing couples is LESS than 2%!  (The national average divorce rate is above 50%.)
2. Couples using NFP report having sex more frequently than their contracepting peers (Some are concerned about the time of abstinence from sex during the fertile phase if you discern to postpone pregnancy at this time.  But the communication NFP cultivates, builds your love and intimacy, and you have a honeymoon stage every month!)

MORE Resource Sites!
Edith Stein Foundation: http://www.edithsteinfoundation.org/
The Guiding Star Project:
Living The Sacrament: http://livingthesacrament.com/
New Feminism Movement: www.facebook.com/NewFeminism 

Well, that’s my view of it and I welcome yours!  (Please comment below!  And please use initials or first name or even pseudonym instead of simply “anonymous” so we can have some way to distinguish each person in the discussion.  Thank You!)

Please SHARE!
follow me on Twitter!! @newfeminism

And simply because I can’t resist here’s one more photo! (sorry for the language, but I think a little spunk every now and then is a good thing!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

30 Ways to Inspire Your Marriage

30 Ways To Inspire Your Marriage!
(note: this is written from a Catholic/Christian perspective, but most of it is valid for any marriage!)

In the beautiful relationship of marriage, a couple has a unique ability to build up or tear down their beloved in a profound way.  The ones who we love can touch us most deeply.  This is why it is important to be reminded of the hundred little ways we can love and enrich the life of our spouse: if we take our eyes off the ball, even without a real negative action, just the lack of a loving one can cause hurt in our loved one.
Unity is the key to having a happy, fulfilling marriage.  When a husband and wife are truly united, they can face anything, overcome any obstacle and keep a joyful control in their family (despite the unending mutiny attempts by their children!).  Unity hinges on love, which is bound to communication.  One cannot be unified to another if they feel rejected, depressed or distant from their beloved.  What you will see in these little “ways” are examples of communication, expressing love (which must be communicated – verbally, physically or emotionally – to be felt), and fun ideas to bring your level of unity and intimacy even deeper. 
Our marital unity comes from the joining of two individuals, whose individual needs must be cared for or there can be no unity.  One more thought before the list, there are five levels of communication & with each level, comes more vulnerability (revealing more about oneself) and therefore a deeper intimacy:  1) cliché or small talk, 2) sharing of facts, 3) sharing of opinions, 4) sharing of feelings, & 5) sharing of needs.  The deeper the level of communication is, the more intimate the relationship will be.  A married couple should practice communicating in the last two levels (at least once a day).  This is especially true since we will only feel truly loved if our deepest needs are met
Our needs can only been met when we learn what they are, how to articulate them and how to respond to our spouse articulating his or her needs.

So, without further ado, 30 Ways To Inspire Your Marriage!

1.  Have a sense of humor and be able to laugh at yourself.  Make jokes (though avoid negative humor that can tear each other down); having inside jokes that are you & your spouse’s secret laughter is so fun and unifying!

2.  Flirt.  Be playful!  Think about what you said/ did when you were first dating.  (It might be worth it to have a fun redo of the very first date you ever went on!  Try to remember what you said, what you did – it will make you laugh for sure!)

3.  Schedule a “date night” once a week.  Come hell or high water, you’ve GOT to have it.  (Because THIS is where the communicating happens and begins to blossom despite our busy life!) Can’t afford to go out?  Not a problem!  Just plan one night a week when after the kids are in bed, you don’t do anything else, but sit and talk (well, maybe have a glass of wine too!).

4.  Food.  Do you know your wife’s or husband’s favorite thing to eat?  It goes a long way to show the care and appreciation of knowing their favorite thing and making it for him or her. (Or buying it! ;-)

5.  Pray.  Pray together and on your own.  (A Christian marriage calls both husband and wife to “be subject to one another out of reference for Christ.”[i]  No spouse is boss of the other, they are servants and lovers of each other and let Christ be the boss.  But how can He be the boss of your marriage if you don’t know Him?)

6.  Forgive readily.  (Sometimes it’s important to say the words “I forgive you.”  Saying, “it’s okay” could allow the possibility of bringing back this discussion at another time when you’re ticked at him or her again.  But saying “I forgive you” relinquishes the right to bring it back, and that’s why it is so healing for a relationship.  It gives the security that your wife or your husband is loved – unconditionally.) 

7.  Eliminate hurtful criticism.  (There is so much good that your spouse does for you!  If something does need to be pointed out, sandwich any criticism in between praise.  But most of the time, he or she already knows what they’ve done wrong and are just looking for forgiveness, acceptance and love…)

8.  Text away!  (texting can be a way to keep you laughing, keep you flirting, keep you united even while apart without it having to be a formal phone call or even email.)

9-13.  Do one small thing working towards fulfilling your spouse’s deepest emotional need.   
Seems like a loaded one right?  Ah, but here’s the thing: “Most conflicts are caused by spouses feeling that their primary emotional needs are not being met.  The primary emotional need for a woman is security – not necessarily financial security but a sense of security that stems from knowing that she is truly first in her husband’s thoughts, priorities and affections.  The primary emotional need for a man is a sense of adequacy – a feeling adequate to the task of being a good husband, father, provider, lover or whatever other role is important to him.
“When a wife senses she is no longer first in her husband’s life, she tends to criticize and attack those activities or persons who are usurping her place.  Faced with such criticism, many husbands respond by feeling very inadequate and either erupt in anger or withdraw emotionally from the relationship which effectively fans the flames of the wife’s feelings of insecurity. The wife’s pursuit of her sense of security and a husband’s need to assert his adequacy can create a downward spiral that explodes in bitter conflict. 
“Understanding this pattern and being able to verbalize our unmet needs can help to douse the flames of a raging conflict and lead to a deeper understanding.”[ii]

[so, let’s unpack what that would look like!]

9.  When your husband gets home from work (or when you get home – the first time you see him after a day’s work let’s say), let concern for how he is doing, affection and appreciation be the first thing he receives from you.  (When was the last time you told your husband you appreciated his work?  Or is your first thought when he gets home, “here take a kid” or “how could you forget ____!” ?  Do you look to get your break first or to find out about his day?)

10.  Pray for God’s eyes.  God sees only goodness and beauty.  Ask God for His vision of your husband’s goodness and great qualities.

11.  Tell him!  We know you appreciate your man’s style of being a husband and all the little things he does around the house to make it better for you and your family, does he know it?  Tell him!

12.   Whether voicing it out loud, writing notes, or scribbling with lipstick on your mirror, let him know you still find him attractive and sexy!  (Let him know he is well “up to the task”.  Because men do more initiating sexually, women can take it for granted that they feel adequate in the area of sex.  They think “well, we made love didn’t we?  That affirms him!”  But not always.  Just the simplest comments go a long way to building up your man.)

13.  When you see him struggle, affirm his efforts and encourage him.  (Be careful not to give advice, unless asked for, because this can feel like you don’t think he’s doing a good job.)

9.  When you are involved in one of the activities that keeps you separate from your wife, maintain contact!  Text her in the middle of the day (ex. “I love you! just sayin’ ;-)” or “miss you! this is so boring!”), send her an email, call her – just to check in and affirm in her mind she IS numero uno in your life.

10.  When you get home at the end of the day, let kissing your wife be the VERY first thing you do!  (Yep, that’s right.  Before taking care of the yard, the dog, the house, the kids, changing your clothes, even putting your things away…let HER be #1!)

11.  Respond, don’t react.  (When she is nagging you, which yes – she should work to avoid, but when she is, work hard to see beyond it.  She is really missing your attention and feeling insecure in her position in your life.  Resist the urge to retaliate; let her know how much you love her.)

12.  Before planning a night with the guys or a guy get-away, check with her.  (This lets her know that her concerns are first in your life, even above your best guy friends.)

13.  Remember, plan, and prepare for Date Night.  (When you work at putting your wife and your marriage first, both will be filled with joy!)


14.  Use “I” statements when communicating with each other.  (Avoid “you” statements.  Avoid, “why do you waste so much time watching tv?” say instead, “I feel pushed aside like I’m not first in your life when you spend so much of your free time watching tv.”)

15 – 20: Ideas for Date Nights! (IDN)  [caution! The Date Night atmosphere should be a “safe zone”.  Where you or your spouse can share whatever and be met only with love, acceptance & forgiveness if needed…and maybe flirtatious laughter.  This will come a little easier to the ladies than to the men, but it is really important for unity in your marriage.  It’s also important for the wife’s level of security, if she knows that she can bring things up in Date Night she doesn’t feel a pending doom over her relationship whenever something is not quite right.  She is at peace, knowing she will be able to share her thoughts and feelings; she feels cared for.]

15.  IDN: Dream together.  Share ideas of what you want your life together to look like in 10, 20, 30 years from now.  (Jotting them down would be fun too!  You could even add doodling of little hearts and such…wait, no…that’s just for me. ;-)

16.  IDN: From your dreams, which are truly dreams you yearn for – that you would be sad if it never happened?  Share those and ways you could together take steps now to make them a reality.

17. IDN:  “Ten Statement Autobiography”.  (If someone wanted to know you, what are the ten most essential things he/she would have to know about you?  In these statements please don’t include obvious external facts that anyone would know.   Rather they should reveal the person you are hiding behind the masks and cover-ups.  What is your deepest reality?  Let these statements reveal fears, hopes, trials, joys, circumstances and perceptions which make you the unique person you are.  To READ them: exchange statements.  Read it TWICE.  Once with your head, once with your heart.  And dialogue about them.  You take one at a time. Ex) husband talks about the wife’s statements.  Not to discuss, dispute or question the statements! But ONLY to understand them and how your beloved feels about it…and how much you love him or her… and when the wife feels he completely understands what she wrote, then and only then it is her turn to understand his.)

18.  IDN:  “I” method practice. (Answer the questions, and share as above, reading twice and understanding… 1. I feel grateful when you _________.  2. When I think of our future, I feel _________.  3. Lately I have felt some anxiety about _______________ because ___________.  4. An emotion I have trouble sharing with you is ________ I usually feel this emotion when _________.  5. I feel close and connected with you when _________.)

19. IDN:  “Hot Spot Sharing” (This one is sensitive, so only go there when there is no tension from anything else.  We all have “hot spots” areas that when brought up strike a sensitive nerve & creates an emotional response – which happens so reactively, almost before we know it!  In marriage, it’s helpful to know these hot spots so we might be sensitive to them.   1. What are some of my hot spots?   2. What are some of my spouse’s hot spots?  3. How does your “hot spot” affect your self-worth?  Ex) when you tease me about my weight (hot spot), I feel sexually unattractive (self worth).  I feel _________ when you _____________.  Remember: this is not a judgment on your spouse, but a sharing of a deep feeling.  Refrain from saying, “but I think you look beautiful! I was just kidding!”   It’s not about the intent; it’s about the feeling of the person sharing.)

20. IDN:  Share deeper ideas.  (What do I think about God? How do I feel about my answer?  WDITA death? HDIFAMA?  WDITA being open to having more children? HDIFAMA? WDITA the problem we are arguing about? HDIFAMA? etc!… all these should be written out ahead of time and then exchanged at DN, maybe over dinner?  Read twice, etc.)

21.  Be respectful.  Say please and thank you.  (You would be surprised how often we take for granted the ones we love the dearest.  A little respect goes a long way!)

22 – 25 Sexual Intimacy.  (Showing your love through your sexual intimacy is another way you communicate your love to your spouse.  It is an extension of your communication & unity that you two have in every other area of your life.  As they say, if you aren’t communicating well in the kitchen, you won’t be communicating well in the bedroom!  Your sexual relationship is personal, deep & binding.  It will be up to you two to communicate about it, but here are a few ideas to inspire your love.)

22.  Breathe a sigh of relief; you’re different from each other and it’s okay.  In fact, it’s better than that – it’s perfectly beautiful!  (So often women can say things like “why does he think like that?  he has such a one track mind!”  Or men also, “she’s just too sensitive and too emotional!”  Learn to appreciate the ways that your wife or your husband is different than you.  And you are not weird nor messed up.  We just were created differently.  Real quick let’s look at some of those difference in this area (to affirm to you that you are not alone!): 
                Men: more physical, compartmentalized, seeks physical oneness and sex is a high priority.  Women: more relational, wholistic, seek emotional oneness, other priorities may be higher.  Men: are stimulated by sight, body fragrance & are body-centered.  Women: are stimulated by touch, attitudes, action, words & are person-centered.  Men: need respect, admiration, to be physically needed & physical release.  Women: need understanding, love, to be emotionally needed & time.  A man’s sexual response is quick excitement, usually initiates, difficult to distract.  A woman’s sexual response is slow excitement, usually is the responder, easily distracted.  A man’s orgasm is (did I just go there?…oh man, yep…) to propagate species, is shorter, more intense, is physically oriented, and he nearly always reaches it.  A woman’s orgasm is to propagate oneness, is longer, more in depth, is emotionally-oriented, and satisfaction is possible without reaching it. And that’s just the way God made us!  And each has its own dignity and worthiness!  So let’s change our language to, ‘I might never understand how he can think that way/ or how she can feel that way, but I admire and love that about him/her!’)[3]

23.  Pillow Talk.  Let your spouse know what you like, what you don’t (in a non-critical way).  It’s the only way he or she can learn to express their love in a better way.  (Oh, and listen! to what your spouse says ;-)

24.  Sex is self-giving, not self-seeking.  Often sex is dismissed as merely an activity like playing tennis.  You do it because it feels good.  But the gift of sex in marriage ought to be a loving act – a physical communication of your love.  Love doesn’t use someone else for their own pleasure but seeks to do what is best for the beloved first.  PRAY with and for your spouse that you may both continue to understand on a deeper level the great gift of your bodies to each other.

25.  Sex is a renewal of your wedding vows.  So let it be freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully given!  Be present to the person you are with; let nothing come between you!  Discuss what this means to you and your marriage during DN.

26.  Go on an annual marriage retreat.  This would not be a vacation or resort, but a retreat for you both to focus on your love and your marriage.

27.  Receive the Sacraments – particularly confession and the Eucharist.  (there is nothing like purity of heart to give you a fresh look, a fresh love for your spouse!)  note: for non-Catholics, making a good confession of your sins to God and joining in your Church’s service every Sunday is imperative!

28.  Learn your spouse’s love language.  (From the book “The Five Love Languages” by Dr Gary Chapman, there are languages of touch, quality time, gift giving, words of affirmation & acts of service.[4]  It’s difficult to learn a new language – especially when you’ve only spoken one your whole life!  But you CAN do it!  And work to understand without critique and appreciate your spouse’s efforts!  Sometimes the smallest gesture in a different love language takes the most effort.)

29.  Learn when your spouse just needs a break.  (ex) guys, you can speak her love language til you're blue in the face, but she might just need you to change a diaper and do the dishes to fill her “love tank” up!  Or ladies, you might have a long “honey do” list for your man, but he might just like an evening with you or just to sit and drink a beer and not. move. from. the. chair…just to get the stress off.  You are each other’s lovers and protectors – not in a controlling way but in a cherishing way.  Don’t let your beloved get burnt out, step up and help out.)

30.  Remember your common passion.  You didn’t fall in love because you were so different; you fell in love because you connected on some level.  As they say, “friendship starts after the words ‘me too!’”  What passion do you share?  What dream do you share for the future?  For your life together?  What philosophy on life do you both adhere to?  Discuss it.  Empower it.  Cherish it.  And your unity and love will grow ever deeper.

31. The more you give, the more you receive.  Love finds its fulfillment when you give it away.  Each human person finds the fulfillment of who you are meant to be, when you give of yourself to another out of love.  The more you give in love, the more your spouse’s heart will be filled and will respond in kind.  And God’s blessings will abound! J

Now you see why I only did 30!  I have more but it would have been way too long!!! J  I hope you enjoyed that.  lol!

Well, that’s my view of it and I welcome yours!  (Please comment below!  And please use initials or first name or even pseudonym instead of simply “anonymous” so we can have some way to distinguish each person in the discussion.  Thank You!)

Please SHARE!
follow me on Twitter!! @newfeminism

[i] Eph 5:12
[ii] Tate, Lloyd and Jan.  In Home Marriage Preparation.  Pg 68.
[3] Tate pg 92.
[4] You can take your Love Language Test Online! http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

How I came to write this:
There was a post going around on facebook and twitter about “50 Ways to Inspire Your Husband”.  I read it and was unsettled.  Some of the ideas were fine, even good, but something was awry.  The more I thought about it, the more I did not like that list, because it was fundamentally incorrect.  It seemed to be focused on the husband in a singular, autonomous way.  Almost in a selfish way (just a hair to that side, but it’s there), like we would find in many of the American self-help themed books.  It’s “he needs to find his dream, do his thing when he wants to, feel great about being him, and be applauded all the way” attitude.
Now, hold on!  I am not opposed to women appreciating, applauding, supporting, inspiring or encouraging their husbands.  I am all for it!  But I do believe all the support and love a woman can give her man should be to bring out the best in him, and the best in them.  Sometimes the best in him would not be giving him enough time to “do whatever he wants”, but perhaps creating a loving environment that makes the self-giving side of family life more beautiful and enriching. 
Marriage is not two individuals hanging out and being their best individual selves under the same roof.  It is a real unity of the two.  The marriage itself takes on life!  So, inspiring your husband ought to be towards that same unifying end not merely his successful, autonomous self.
So, with that reflection, I thought, “It’s so silly when people complain and don’t do anything about it.  I should write a new list.”  And here is the result, it’s only 30, because it was getting way too long and they are jam-packed points, but anyway…I hope you enjoyed it! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Feminism Mission Statement

The New Feminism Movement has been officially founded TODAY!  
July 16th, 2012.
The following New Feminism Mission Statement for the recently created New Feminism Facebook Community/ Page was released today.  I participated in the drafting of this statement which brings together a wide variety of faces and approaches to the work of New Feminism.  
To JOIN the New Feminism Movement go to www.facebook.com/NewFeminism and click "like"!

New Feminism

Facebook Community Mission Statement.

We, the women of the New Feminism Movement, come together on this site/page to unite our cause upon the following principles.

1.  We come together to liberate woman, in her naturally designed femininity, not only from masculinization, but also from denigration as sexual object, commercial commodity or disfavored gender.  

2.  We believe that women have a unique voice and role in protecting the dignity of the human person and creating a culture that values the life of every person, regardless of race, age, gender, physical ability, faith or any other category invoked to dominate or marginalize.

3.  We reject the imitation of masculine models of success and domination and acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of society.  

4.  We embrace a wide variety of projects that seek to achieve true equality and incorporation of the feminine throughout society.

5.   We seek to introduce a new paradigm of feminism, whereby woman and the female virtues (i.e. Empathy, Interpersonal Relations, Emotive Capacity, Subjectivity, Communication, Intuition, & Personalization) are valued as fundamental to the health and sustainability of the human family.

We acknowledge there are many faces, many approaches within this movement including philosophical, secular, religious, moral, economic, medical, business, familial, and other perspectives whereby a woman expresses and becomes most fully herself.   In this forum, we all come together to share and be united in the cause of New Feminism.

:-) Such a wonderful day!!

Well, that’s my view of it and I welcome yours!  (Please comment below!  And please use initials or first name or even pseudonym instead of simply “anonymous” so we can have some way to distinguish each person in the discussion.  Thank You!)

Please SHARE!
follow me on Twitter!! @newfeminism

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Nitty Gritty Motherhood

Wow.  You know there are a zillion things I want to post and a number of great contributing posts I want to share!!  It seems time keeps escaping me.  I have an brilliant follow up to the continued bikini/ modesty conversation as well as the farming/ we need dads discussion, but alas it has not made it to paper yet and keeps surfacing in my collision of thoughts when I am away from the computer. (Or when my computer has been eaten by little dinosaurs - oh! it has happened! At least that's what my 3 and 5 year olds tell me...)
I also want (need!) to share with you some exciting things happening in the new feminism world! (Okay, I need to get to work!  While I do, here's something for you...)

So, while those two posts (which are going to be phenomenal ;-) continue marinating in this newfeminism brain of mine, let me introduce you to another lovely new feminist!
April Jaure is a new feminist and has a blog of her own: myfemininemind.com
She is married to Chris, and is a stay-at-home mom to two girls, 5 and 3, and a third girl due in October.  She is profoundly grateful for the gift of her femininity and enjoys writing, connecting with others and building a harmonious home.
;-)  She shares with us her take on motherhood.  This is fascinating, truly.  I'm curious to hear your wonderful responses/ thoughts!  (And by the way, I LOVE all your responses!  We are not meant to all agree - how boring would that be!  We are meant to discuss, hash things out, share our take - so keep it going!  Difference of opinion? Bring it!  Love the piece but want to add your own thoughts? Awesome!  You are beautiful.  And your reflection on life and motherhood/ womanhood is authentic and real...and valid.  Please share with us!)

Nitty Gritty Womanhood

Life gives many lessons. Of all the lessons life has taught me, I don’t think anything has changed me more radically than motherhood. Its lessons come sometimes through cuddles and comfort, and sometimes they come through bitter suffering. Motherhood has changed how I think of myself, how I view my place in the world, and how I view other people. It changed how I interpreted all of reality. Like the popular commercial says, “Motherhood changes everything.”

My life prior to motherhood was lived primarily in my head. I thrived in the world of academia and loved nothing more than class discussions that involved trying to wrap my mind around Jacques Derrida’s Deconstructionism, or analyzing in-depth a great work of literature that was filled to the brim with symbolism and nuance. In those days, I was rarely actually in the present moment, I was always imagining something in the future or analyzing some abstract concept. Due to experiences I have written about elsewhere, I learned young that being in my body and being fully engaged in the present moment was not where I wanted to be.

So it was, that motherhood came as quite a shock to me. It was just so... physical. It was often messy and gritty. Without motherhood, I probably could have lived my whole life without being truly present for any of it. But as I reflect, it seems so much of a female’s life is just so physical. Take menstruation for example, that first initiation into womanhood. It’s holy and sacred, a reorienting of our bodies from girlhood to womanhood, a constant preparation for the possibility of nourishing new life within us. Menstruation is that time when we are called to change our focus from “doing” and “completing” to just being and reflecting. We are called to rest and to reevaluate our priorities and to ponder how our lives are going. So while this time is special and sacred, the shocking physical reality remains. I think my girlhood reaction to first learning about menstruation sums it up well: “We bleed?! From THERE!!??”

All of motherhood is no different. There’s that act that causes motherhood in the first place. It’s carnal and messy. Then there’s pregnancy. Like menstruation and sex, it occurs inside my body. I have the experience of housing, protecting, and growing my children until they can breathe for themselves. After that comes labor and birth. Once again, messy, gritty, carnal reality.

It occurred to me one day that I have the experience of every member of my immediate family having been inside my body. I’m not trying to be crass, but that is just the lived reality of many mothers. It also seems that it is to my body, more than the bodies of others, that they all come to when they need comfort. Babies and toddlers become scared or hurt and come to me to nurse. My five-year-old comes to me for cuddles when she’s sad. My husband too, if he has had a stressful day, he comes to me for some cuddling...or something more. Sometimes all this physical touch is comforting and easy to give, but if I am being honest, there are times that my children’s bodies cling to and hang onto my body when I’d rather just have some personal space.

It seems so much of the work of motherhood involves caring for the physical bodies of other people. We clothe those bodies, bathe them, and feed them; we wipe poop from their bums (and sometimes from their backs, their legs, and the furniture too). Not that men don’t do these things. They do (and if they don’t, they should), but it seems the world over, the primary caretakers of people’s bodies—whether those bodies are young, elderly, healthy, or ill—are women.

Some people like to create this sort of duality between a person’s spirit, and a person’s body, and act as though it is the mind, the intellect, or the spirit that truly matters while the body is of no great consequence. But the lived experience of womanhood is so physical that it seems to directly contradict such thinking. My own experiences have taught me that a) I am my body, and b) my body is good. 

I feel that setting up a duality between a person’s body and their mind can result in many harmful practices. If people’s worth depends on their intellect, then It becomes okay to abort children with Down's Syndrome. It becomes okay to euthanize the ill and elderly because if their body is broken, then we should just free their spirit from the body’s oppression. If suffering itself has no value and people are their minds, then the suffering and work of women from the dawn of humanity to the present time has been a meaningless waste of time. If even giving life is not worthwhile, and the suffering women go through to give that life, is meaningless, then women’s bodies are seen as a prison, a prison that modern science is gratefully able to medicate or surgically alter away. If the reason for our whole feminine cycle, recurring month after month—the giving of life—is not important, the attitude arises that if women must reproduce for their own satisfaction or sense of fulfillment (though having no intrinsic value in itself), then they should do it as few times as possible.

If the intellectual life is superior to the physical, then what women do by their very natures—give new physical life—is no longer a gift. What we do and indeed, our very bodies themselves, becomes a burden and a disease. The very personhood of women is denigrated. I feel, that a culture of death must always begin with the degradation of women because we are the bearers and the protectors of life.

But it is in such times as these, when many beliefs and practices harmful to the bodies and spirits of women, and therefore to all of humanity, are commonplace, and when the normal, healthy processes of womanhood are declared a disease requiring prevention (as with the recent HHS mandate); when people believe that what they do to their own or other’s bodies is of no real importance; when femininity itself is seen as nothing but an unfair burden to bear with the optimal choice being to medicate it away as we choose; it is then that the gifts of women are needed all the more. We are the bearers of life—spiritually, physically, and in all its nitty-gritty realness.

We proclaim that it is worth our time, our efforts, and our lives caring for the bodies of others. When we care for the sick and the vulnerable, whether in our wombs or in our homes, nursing homes, daycares, or elsewhere, our actions say, “This person matters. Even this life has value.” When we uphold the dignity of others in private or in the public sphere by the work that we do, we proclaim, “Giving and supporting life will never be a waste of my time and talents.” Even if a woman does not know it, even if a woman herself does not believe it, our very biology attests to the conviction that life is precious and that people—even unproductive, helpless, inconvenient, or disabled—are worth our sacrifices.

New feminists, let us support one another in the joys and challenges of our sacred calling as the protectors of life. May we stand together in witnessing by our words and our lives to the awesome and amazing privilege we have in being created female.  - April Jaure

Such an intriguing, physical and real take on motherhood.  Thank you SO MUCH for sharing with us, April!

Well, that’s my view of it and I welcome yours!  (Please comment below!  And please use initials or first name or even pseudonym instead of simply “anonymous” so we can have some way to distinguish each person in the discussion.  Thank You!)

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