Friday, July 29, 2011

Thank You, Planned Parenthood!

Over the years, my thoughts about Planned Parenthood have been very conflicted. I always felt uneasy with even the slightest association with abortion, even if they otherwise do great work (sex ed, parenting and adoption referrals, GLBT issues, etc). Of course, after realizing that I am pro-choice, my feelings started to change. I realized that, even if I myself do not agree with abortion, I do like that many of their efforts are bent on reducing abortions. However, they did one great thing for me today. They made me realize it IS possible to adhere to my faith's birth control teachings.

Most people know that Catholics are not allowed artificial contraceptives. Of course, whether this is an outright ban or guidelines is up for debate. However, Catholics are encouraged to use Natural Family Planning to prevent pregnancy. NFP or Fertility Awareness Methods as they are sometimes called, involves closely and diligently tracking your menstrual cycle, to figure out when you are likely to ovulate. Now, women only ovulate a couple days each month, however, sperm can live in a woman's body for five days, so that means a week of not having sex. There are many different methods of tracking fertility, from taking your temperature, charting your cycle on a calendar, or checking fluids for differences. This is OK. However, typical use rates being 75% effective, noting that a lot of the sources I heard from were theologians, and knowing people who use it who have five or more kids didn't inspire a vote of confidence in me.

Yet, when I was reading Planned Parenthood's information, they noted that the effectiveness of Fertility Awareness is dependent on some factors. One, yes, your cycle needs to be regular. Two, it's better if you use multiple methods (taking your temp AND checking fluids AND charting on a calendar) but that also requires an extreme amount of diligence and cooperation from both partners (it helps if you're also monogamous :)). Three, the low effectiveness rate is due to lack of diligence more than anything and, if a combination of methods is used, effectiveness can be up to 99.6% (Phew!!!!). Four, things like breastfeeding can change your ability to read signs but at the same time, exclusive nursing for six months actually helps suppress fertility. Five, you have to be either disciplined enough to abstain for about ten days a month or be OK with using barrier methods (condoms, cervical caps, diaphragms, etc). Six, to actually learn these methods, both partners should take a class. All of this information can be found here.

I cannot tell you how relieved this made me. It's one thing to read from Catholic sources but they do have to say that. To hear this from doctors and professionals who are committed to affirming all women's choices gives me a huge vote of confidence. I had been a fan of it before but I at least wanted to use barriers as a back up. Of course, that choice is still up to me (hey, we do have a conscience clause, right?) but to know that I can use it and it can work by itself, so long as I'm diligent and committed helps me a lot. Obviously, I'd have to be extremely committed and my partner would have to be, but it's nice to know that I can prevent pregnancy and follow my faith's tenets at the same time.

It does bother me that many Catholics have so much animosity towards PP. They are not the type to simply push abortions and pills on women. They also encourage abstinence, obviously have information on NFP/FAM (and even recommend couples go to Catholic hospitals and churches to learn it), have information on body image and actually do help women who choose to raise kids or place them for adoption. Yes, like other organizations and institutions, they have their failings and coverups (which they do rectify) but, as Catholics, I'd like to think we'd understand something about that.

So, thanks again, Planned Parenthood! Thanks for affirming everyone's right to choose. And thanks for making it easier for me to be Catholic!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Don't wait for life to start

So, I have most of the summer to myself. My job has hired so many people, no one can be full time. Most of my friends have "real jobs" and are quite tired at the end of the day. My boyfriend works more hours than I do and, while he's certainly important, I cannot and should not make him my entertainer. Really, apart from looking at housing and some work days, I don't have that much to do. So, what do I do?

Well, I first try and clean up my space. I've found that I'm much more disciplined when my bed is made, my clothes are clean, and everything is in its place. Also, as one roommate is on vacation and the other has just obtained full time employment, it only makes sense that I would tackle most of the cleaning. While I struggled with organization my entire life, I've gotten over the stage of, "It's my place and my parents aren't here to tell me to clean!" I'm not so fond of not being able to find things when I need them. So, I try and pick up my space and maybe wipe down the counters, the bathroom sink, that sort of thing.

I also work out every day. No exceptions. If I'm going to work with kids all year, I should be in shape. I have my P90X kit, along with weight resistance bands, a mat, and a pull up bar, so I simply do a different workout each day. I find it helps me have more energy, better posture and increased confidence. It also helps that I've been eating better. While I am pretty young, I don't want to count on a fast metabolism forever. I also want to be healthy and I like being active. Even when it's too hot, nothing stops me from working out in my air-conditioned apartment.

In addition, I try to work on my music and writing. I always loved to sing and I find that singing is how I pray. While I can't afford to take lessons right now, nothing is stopping me from singing a few songs every day or joining my church choir. In addition, why not take out my guitar and play a few songs or work out of my lesson book? No, I'm not going to be the next big pop star, but it's something I love and something I end up using, so I might as well practice. In addition, why not blog or write my thoughts or stories? It keeps my brain active and helps me clear my mind a bit.

I also take opportunities to make extra cash. Next week, I'm filling in for someone at a friend's company while she's on vacation. It gives me the opportunity to do something constructive, meet people, and make some much needed money. I'll have something to do with my time and I'll be able to pay for a security deposit and a much needed haircut.

I've been finding opportunities to get involved with my church as well. I mentioned choir but they also have Bible studies, service events, and pizza nights. As I won't be doing everything and the kitchen sink next year, I'll have time to actually be a parishioner and not simply a semi-regular Mass attendee (I do attend every Sunday, just not at the same church due to scheduling). My boyfriend has also started attending with me and now it's something we do together. Now that I have the time, why not start getting to know my community?

Waiting for my life to start is a waste of time. If I'm sick of having nothing to do, I listen to my mom's words of the past and find something to do. In fact, I've been able to enjoy some of this quiet time. Not only have I been able to plan and to become more disciplined, I find it restful. I can only imagine I'll pray for this kind of time as soon as my year starts. In the meantime, I'll do all of the above and enjoy it.