Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why We're Contraception-Free, Part 4: Hey Baby

Newly weds!
I got all choked up within the first few minutes of the ceremony, and I actually had a hard time saying my vows. Krista, on the other hand, was a rock: she showed no emotion at all the entire ceremony. She later told me she cried a lot the night before and must have gotten all her emotions out then. I had spent the night before playing a light game of Settlers of Catan with two of my brothers and my sister-in-law and had taken little time to contemplate the momentous event coming the next day.

We had decided to risk it with an outdoor wedding, and sure enough, just after the processional, we felt a few drops. But my high school youth pastor from Oregon who was presiding over our wedding kept going, and the drops stopped.

We finished the ceremony and all our photos without rain, but the moment I shut the car door to drive over to the reception site, the clouds burst. Luckily, the reception had always been planned to be inside. It stormed with high winds, thunder, and lightening the rest of the evening.

The time had come to live out our new found convictions. We honestly had no fear, no reservations, we didn't find ourselves second-guessing anything; instead, we were thrilled. We thoroughly enjoyed our short honeymoon in a cabin on a small lake in Wisconsin and were excited at the prospect of conceiving a child. We took the prospect seriously enough that we didn't share any wine during our honeymoon.

So we were actually disappointed when Krista had a period a week later. We knew it could take healthy couples a few months or even years to conceive a child, and we figured we probably hadn't had a real shot at conceiving a child anyway given the timing of everything. Nonetheless, as ridiculous as it might sound to any couple that has had real struggles with infertility, we were genuinely disappointed: our love had not borne fruit as we wished it would and as it was naturally ordered to do.

A month later, we figured we had had a fair shot and so were anxiously awaiting the first day we would be able to do a pregnancy test. That day happened to be a Sunday morning. When Krista returned with the completed test, she noted that the instructions said the test could take a few minutes to return a result, but that her's had returned a result immediately: it was very clearly positive.

We wanted to celebrate, but we also didn't want to get our hopes up too fast: the instructions said that the accuracy was lower when done that early in a possible pregnancy. But we didn't have too much time to think about it since we needed to be at church soon.

Krista did another test that afternoon and it was, again, clearly positive right away. We figured that probably confirmed it: Krista was pregnant! We embraced, said a prayer of thanks, and started calling our family. All of our parents and siblings were excited and congratulated us.

We were advised not to make a bigger announcement until Krista was passed the first trimester (due to the higher possibility of miscarriage), which we heeded. We also got Krista in to see a doctor, and they put the due date at May 31st. So unless he or she was born pre-maturely, the baby would be born after graduation (May 9th).

The Visitation
We were so looking forward to meeting this new baby, nine months started to seem like a long time to wait! But, of course, the built-in wait is a blessing since it gives the couple plenty of time to prepare. Over the next few months, we picked out a car seat, decided we would try cloth diapers (highly recommend it), and started to accumulate clothes and toys, while we also shared the joy of hearing the heart beat for the first time, seeing ultra-sound pictures, and discussing possible names. Krista says she felt the baby kick for the first time in the middle of Mass on the Sunday in Advent that had as its Gospel reading St Luke's account of the Visitation in which St John the Baptist jumped in the womb of his mother upon the arrival of Mary and Jesus.

A friend had told us that lots of people would want to give us gifts and help us out once word had gotten out that we had conceived. That was certainly true for us. We didn't have to go looking for it; people came to us wanting to help. Gifts poured in from members of our immediate family, extended family, friends, acquaintances, and people from the parish. It's always hard to judge people's motives, but I think it was probably a combination of general new-baby excitement mixed with the fact that people saw we were young and poor students. Whatever the reasons, we were over-abundantly blessed and were left with very little to get on our own.

Being married and expecting a child during our Senior year of college, we were blessed with some unique experiences. One professor mentioned he had heard about our news and shared with me how he and his wife had put off having children, only to find that by the time they wanted to start trying his wife had developed a disorder that made her infertile. He looked me in the eye very seriously and told me he thought what we were doing was very good.

We also quickly saw how much being married changed our social standing, particularly with professors. The fact we were married and expecting a child seemed to put us on a more even playing field. We befriended several professors and their spouses and regularly got together as couples. One professor admitted he forgot we were his students and just thought of us as his young married friends.

It also affected some of our friendships. Part of it was it seemed that, being married and expecting a child, we weren't as interested in doing the same things as we were before and that our peers were still doing. Combined with the fact that we were in the process of becoming Catholic, some friends became distant while we also gained new ones.

Krista was blessed to have a relatively stress-free pregnancy. No major 'morning sickness', though she was diagnosed with mild, diet-controlled gestational diabetes. The pregnancy didn't interfere much with her school work or campus job.

She was, however, looking forward to 'showing'. She was proud she was pregnant and was excited to show it off. By the spring semester, Krista was proudly sporting her baby bump and was the 'pregnant girl' on campus. The fact she was obviously pregnant also gave her comments a certain kind of extra weight in two classes we took together that spring, one on the theology of marriage, sex, and the family, the other on effects of media on the idea of womanhood.

Krista never did 'show' that much
In both classes, the issue of contraception was discussed. The one on the theology of marriage, sex, and the family was co-taught by two professors. One taught the history of Christian thinking on marriage, sex, and the family for the first half of the class, while the other taught classes on the contemporary thinking on specific issues for the second half of the class.

On the day we talked about contraception, the second professor started by saying, "So it's clear where the tradition stands on contraception. But I think it's ok." When the few Catholic students in the class and I asked her why, she said, "I don't have a theological reason why, I just don't think there's anything wrong with it from my experience." She said she was concerned that the Pill was sometimes abortifacient and so was against its use, but she recommended the use of barrier methods. She said she thought sex did have the dual purpose of unity of the couple and the procreation of children, but that the procreative aspect didn't have to be present every time. I pointed out that any barrier method would be putting a physical separation between the spouses and thus disrupting the unitive aspect as well (it's called the "barrier" method after all). Since throughout the course she had repeatedly said that we needed to take our human physicality seriously in our theology, I thought this would be a particularly effective argument for her. But I was disappointed: "Yeah, but it's not very much. There's still lots of touching," was her response. So the unitive aspect of sex is expressed in mere touching, not in a full, physical gift of self?

The class on the media effects on the idea of womanhood was attended only by a small group of female students hand-picked by the professor, including Krista, and then myself as the only male student (the professor said he included me since I was married and could have a useful perspective). Contraception was the topic of one of the meetings. After going through the history of Protestant views on contraception and rehearsing the natural law argument, one worry on which all the female students (besides Krista) agreed was that, even if they wanted to not use contraception, they didn't think they could find a man who was also willing to not use contraception. In other words, they felt pressure to use contraception because they were worried they would be making themselves virtually unmarriageable if they didn't. (One of the women from the class later emailed Krista and I and said she was now engaged and she and her fiance had decided not to use contraception.)

Krista and I had been attending Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) classes since the fall and by the spring we were ready to join the Catholic Church, which we did with four other Wheaton College students at the Easter Vigil Mass on April 3rd.

A month later, finals week and graduation came and went without any major baby developments. I started work as a summer nanny watching two boys (a temporary summer job until August when we were planning on moving), and Krista stayed home to finish the final preparations for the child.

One evening a few weeks later, we had a friend over. In the middle of conversation, Krista all of a sudden started laughing without an obvious reason. When she caught her breath, she said she had felt a thump and that she thought her water had broken, seeing as there was now a good amount of clear liquid where she was sitting.

We didn't have the car seat in the car yet or even a bag of clothes packed. Since Krista wasn't feeling any labor yet, she went upstairs to pack a bag, while the friend and I started getting the car seat out of its box. It was dark and raining and neither of us had experience with car seats, so it took us a while. By the time we got back inside, I could hear Krista upstairs. I ran up to find her in intense labor.

Newly born Elijah Francis Millegan
Our prep classes had warned us that first-time parents often "jump the gun" by getting to the hospital too early and have to be sent home. They said to relax and be ready for a 12-15 hour labor process. We didn't want to overreact, but we also had learned about the stages of labor. Though we had no first hand experience, Krista's labor seemed more like the last stage than the first. We called Krista's midwife, who said we should stay home for now and call back in 30 minutes with a report. But a few minutes later, the midwife called back, said she had changed her mind, and that Krista should come in.

Though we lived just 5 minutes away from a hospital, Krista was to set to deliver at a hospital about 45 minutes away so she could use a certain midwife group that a few professors had recommended. We were comfortable using a hospital so far away because we were expecting the labor to progress slowly and take a long time. Krista's labor, however, was moving along fast; on our way there, she was already feeling like she needed to push.

I dropped her off at the emergency room door with a nurse and parked the car. When I got back inside, they said they had already taken her up to delivery. When I finally met back up with her, they said she was at 9 cm, and she started pushing. Krista had been planning on trying to deliver pain medication-free, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Just 45 minutes after getting in the room, our beautiful baby was born.

As he was born, the nurse exclaimed, "It's a boy! And he has his mother's chin!" She was talking about their dimple chins. Born at 3:05am on Friday, May 21st of 2010, he weighed 7 lbs 15 oz and was 19 in tall. And in honor of the great prophet Elijah and the great 13th century monk St Francis of Assisi, we named him Elijah Francis Millegan.

Keep Reading: Part 5: Tested Twice
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This is Part 4 of a six-part series:

Part 1: Asking the Question
Part 2: Flipping the Switch
Part 3: No Longer Afraid
Part 4: Hey Baby
Part 5: Tested Twice
Part 6: No Regrets
Post Script

Resources:
Humanae Vitae
Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan
Children of the Reformation: A Short and Surprising History of Protestantism and Contraception
Sanger's Victory: How Planned Parenthood’s Founder Played the Christians—and Won
Birth control is moral (but not all methods)
Organic Sex, Organic Farming
The Vindication of Humanae Vitae
Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution
iUseNFP.com
Find an NFP class

12 comments:

  1. I have so enjoyed reading the first four parts of this today, particularly because our family's story mirrors yours so closely! I knew Krista from Gospel Choir, and my husband and I (both Wheaton grads of '08 and '09) got married in August, 2009. We welcomed our first daughter in July, 2010 and our second in July, 2012. We were also mentored and befriended by the Schuchardts, who had a really strong impact on our views of contraception/marriage/etc. I look forward to reading the rest of your thoughts. Say hello to Krista for me!
    Kelsey (Tunney Bohler)

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    1. Awesome! Yes, they were very helpful to us, and, it seems, to many many people. I will pass that on to Krista.

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  2. You two were a big part of my thought development on this topic. Thanks for that. I'm glad to have been proven wrong on the unmarraigable-without-contraception theory :-)

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    1. lol Yes, you made it into the story. Well praise the Lord, Laura. Hope all is well with you. God bless

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  3. This is great. I've enjoyed catching up today. Look forward to the next two parts.

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    1. Thanks. The series is almost done, will be done in less than a week: part 5 on Sunday and part 6 on Tuesday. God bless

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  4. I'm so glad that my friend linked this. This is a great series and I really have enjoyed reading it! As a newlywed myself, it's great to read of other couples choosing not to use contraception in their marriage. God bless!

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    1. gederto14 (Emily, from your blog),
      Thanks! I think it's important for us to get our stories out there so people know another way is possible. God bless

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  5. Hi Brantly! I don't know if you remember me but I went to Marist with you ... Gina Kirby (well now Gina Brown :-) ) I stumbled upon your blog from a post on facebook, and I'm so glad that I did. I enjoyed reading why you are contraception free and may I add you have such a wonderful writing style!

    I too, looked more deeply into contraception about a year ago. I was always told that I wasn't supposed to believe in it or just 'don't do it' as a Catholic. But I never knew the real reason why. I have a "Pocket Catholic Catechism" and in it I found "renounce the use of marriage when for just motives, procreation is not desirable. They make use of it during the sterile periods to manifest their affection and to safeguard their mutual fidelity. By doing so, they give proof of a truly and fully praiseworthy love." (This was from Paul VI, Humanae vitae, II, 16.) I thought that was so beautifully written ... if/when you choose to abstain from sex, you can use that time to "manifest" your affection. What a wonderful idea!

    It is so good to see that you are well! You have such a beautiful family! Hope to cross paths with you again someday!

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    1. Gina, Yes of course I remember you from Marist. It is wonderful to see that you're married with kids now. Great to hear from you. Thanks for the encouragement! God bless

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