04 March 2009

Probing the Sulvan brain

You are hereby warned that the CSPP hardline comes up in this post. If you're not going to like it, you have no one but yourself to blame if you read it.

Pam expressed interest a while back in how the other half (that is, 99%) lives. I don't love talking about it. Guilt is forgiven and shame is covered, but regret never goes away this side of the eschaton. So I offer this not primarily to satisfy Pam's sick curiosity ;), but because it may be of use to someone who is like I have been at various points along the line. Conversion is slow going, and not that cool.

I planned my family when I was in third grade. I wanted three kids. That's just how I thought. My parents talked about wanting 3-5 kids and having it work out just right (they got two, then twins, then took measures). I grew up in a very pious house, an LCMS pastor's family, where you decided. I had no idea there was any other way. My mom talked about having been on the pill before I was born. Picking your family=normal. Like putting on socks before shoes.

I think when we got married we wanted two kids, or that's what we said or I thought about or something. We also planned to name them Wurlitzer and Square Root (strangely prophetic), but that's neither here nor there. We talked about contraception, kind of as an intellectual exercise, but ultimately concluded that if NFP were ok (the pope being the only measure we had for the topic) you couldn't really make a case for disallowing other methods. I was on the pill because that's what you do when you get married.

Didn't I ever squirm? you pious souls ask. Didn't I know deep down that this was wrong? No. No wondering, not once, not the least little bit. Some laws are more natural than others, and environment makes all kinds of difference.

Despite my disinclination to get the baby party started since it would interfere with my plan to go to school forever, it troubled me that if something terrible happened and one of us were left alone, we would have nothing to show for our marriage (here's as close as I came to being naturally lawful). We decided we'd be done with pills the same summer we'd leave for vicarage, rather than our last year of seminary as originally planned, and figured we'd make it work somehow.

A few months before that summer, though, we got wind of the potential abortifacient mechanism in ALL versions of the pill (I had previously been told only some were abortifacient and did my homework for the kind I was on). Bluff called and feeling robotic, I went home and pitched my pills. A couple of weeks later I totally kicked butt on a pregnancy test.

Now, quitting the pill is not the same as professing CSPP. I have another post for that chapter of my really awesome autobiography that so many people are interested in. My goal here is explain how I thought, and how I thought was: Huh? For what it's worth, I just didn't know. What it's worth, of course, is nothing in an absolute sense. But two doctors and a pharmacist had told me the pill I was on was not abortifacient, and all I knew about family planning was that for some reason Catholics weren't supposed to do it. I didn't like that Catholics weren't supposed to do it, because after all, why does God give women brains? So I wasn't exactly the noble savage, either.

But with no hard feelings toward you nice people who never dreamed of anything other than spending 20 years of your life cranking out kids: you're weird. Most people, most Christians, most Lutherans don't know why you got pregnant right away and keep turning up that way any more than they know why your pastor preaches on texts (not the lectionary, mind you--texts) and wears vestments (not maniples, mind you--vestments). They don't actually disagree with you in their natural state, because they don't even get how you think. They just think you want a lot of kids, because to them wanting is the only language of reproduction. If they suspect some sort of conviction on your part, well, that's easy enough to blow off, since holding weird convictions means you're weird and thus can be blown off by definition.

Coming over to the weird side is a big fat deal if you grew up normal, thinking normally, envisioning a normal life. Missionaries deal kindly, patiently, and charitably with polygamous tribal chiefs, and there's a lesson in that for all of us.


Sarah D said...

Yep, that sounds about right.

Ewe said...

My mom took the pill at the beginning of their marriage and she had terrible health problems including poor vision. I decided before I was even dating to never take the pill and deal with that. I was told that the pill had changed and that the new pill wouldn't cause health problems. I don't know if this is true because I wasn't brave enough to test that theory.
I remember having this conversation at one of those Concordias I went to and my girlfriends thought I was crazy. Why wouldn't I want to enjoy being alone with my husband for a few years before starting a lifestyle as a parent? Some of those same girls would be surprised that I did enjoy a few years with just my beloved before I was called Mama without ever taking the pill.
Also a whole another topic to this is I have so many friends that are infertile. They will never understand why people would take the pill when they so desparately want a baby.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Ah, yes, the Sulvan philosophy:

"Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. She walks in the lowest sphere. The rim of the world that was wasted goes through her. Half of her orb is turned toward us and shares our curse. Her other half looks to Deep Heaven; happy would be he who could cross that frontier and see the fields on her further side. On this side, the womb is barren and the marriages are cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place."

Then there's that Balinus character, no less evil.

Yes, environment makes all the difference in the world. We live in the world of Sulva and Balinus, where education, career, and other exalted notions trump marriage and family, drowning out the voice of natural law. The evil of birth control has slipped under the radar screen of our thinking since the preaching and teaching of our churches conformed to the world's new opinion of children as pros and cons.

Joy said...

"wanting is the only language of reproduction"....

I'm with you, Rebekah, and I WAS with you (physically and philosophically) during the grand ole sem days! I went on the pill a few month before my wedding--you know, to make sure Aunt Flo didn't accompany us on our honeymoon.

Normalcy is overrated.

Marie M said...

"So, you MUST have these convictions because you want a big family, right?" Um... not really... Everyday is a battle to truly desire those children with which the Lord has and will bless us! It's definitely "weird" for all of those pro-life Christians who are really pro-choice.

Pam said...

Thanks for this, Rebekah. I thought is was tough enough for me, who DID always want a large family.

When I was a senior in high school, I finally 'had' to take the required health class, and so was with a bunch of sophomores. We did that silly project where you pair up and pretend to be married, one part of which is to talk about having children. Being the spunky,ornery gal I was back then... oh, that's right, I still am! :)... I answered the question of "how many children will you have?" with '13.' I just did it to get a reaction, and boy did it ever. :D LOL

Wouldn't they all gape if they saw me now? Thing is, it's not as easy as I made it sound then. But then parenting isn't, whether one is blessed with 3 or 13. And someday maybe I'll let you know what that's like, (Lord willing) I'm over halfway there!

Gauntlets said...

Ever feel like you're getting hit with a goose girl's stick? I have no idea how I ended up here, all things considered, but here I am. Here you are. How we arrived here at roughly the same time is an amusing mystery.

Reb. Mary said...

Hmmm. Yes. And I can't help thinking about how we'll be going even deeper into The Weird next year by homeschooling. We'll be, you know, one of *those* families. :O :P :D

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rebekah, for your insight and reflection. My wife and I are dealing with this question as we speak (married 10 yrs before having kids, now 4, incl. twins). I was pre-sem at the same Concordia you were, and we had the same classes (incl. your future husband) and my wife and I had the same questions/thoughts/whatever. Now, as a Pastor, I struggle to figure out how to work it all out (and how to work it into my pre-marital counseling, to boot).
-Rev. R. Catherwood (Sweet Mother!)

Rebekah said...

Thanks for your thoughts, all. I also feel some irrational obligation to go on record as someone for whom the pill did not cause horrible physical reactions. It didn't bother me in the least. Downright convenient, in fact, even apart from the primary application.

Gauntlets, it is bizarre, isn't it? Totally worth it for us to still be friends, all this life upheaval.

RM, good luck stepping up the weird. Just think of the service you're doing by balancing it out.

Rev. Cath., I wish that I knew what I know now, hey? (And I'm not talking principal parts.) I've still got a baseball with your signature on it somewhere. :D

Anonymous said...

sadly, I don't remember signing any baseball (I am 35 after all!). But, principal parts or not, I remember speeches on hamburgers (from Brian) and on Whaling (Myself), and all that goes in between. Tell Heath that y'all are in my prayers, and we should perhaps discuss all this off list, given what I've said above, as a pastor and all that, and I (and the little woman) would crave all y'all's insights into this matter (both practically and systematically)

In Christ, and Him Crucified,
Rev. Robb Catherwood Jr.