Father Gabriel was killed just as Mendoza was, but it was Father Gabriel who died with a clean conscience.
The second volume of Anonymous Us is finally available! It’s over 100 stories from the front lines of third party reproduction—a satisfying due diligence for anyone considering using a sperm or egg donor or surrogate. It’s also a great introduction to assisted reproduction for anyone who wants to know more about the subject.
My latest piece for Ethika Politika:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that sin includes any activity that brings death to the body, or death to the soul.
Increased utilization of third party reproductive technologies and our current infertility epidemic are deeply tied to sin. The birth dearth is primarily a result of the marriage decline. The marriage decline is a result of a profound absence in virtues and character development—resulting in a culture in which people can’t trust themselves and can’t trust the opposite sex to meet the basic demands of a marriage: commitment, fidelity, and cooperation. We don’t need more sexual education, we need more virtues education.
I recently was confronted about my Catholic conversion by a teenager whom I’ve known for years. “You’re not going to force your religion on your kids, are you?” he chided. I responded defensively, “I plan on at least giving my children the gift of a moral education—which the Church expertly provides.” From there began a conversation about whether there was an absolute truth or not. My teenage friend announced that there is no such thing: “morality is arbitrary … Good and bad means different things for different people in different circumstances.” Later in the conversation, the topic of children came up. I asked him, “How old do you think you’re going to be when you get married and have kids?” “I’m not sure I want to have kids,” he said.
I’m not sure I want to have kids.
His response shocked me greatly, because I’ve known him for years and I know that he is great with kids and since early childhood he has regularly declared his desire to eventually be a dad. Were his first remarks regarding truth related to this change in desire for children? I think they are.
David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column in 2011addressing a researched study that found that young Americans lack categories and vocabulary on matters of “right and wrong, moral dilemmas, and the meaning of life”:
My latest piece for Verily magazine:
Mr. & Mrs. Smith, at last!
On August 23, 2014, one of the world’s most recognizable couples wed in a small civil ceremony on their private estate in France. Of course I’m speaking of Brangelina, the celebrity duo otherwise known as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The pair has six children together: Maddox adopted from Cambodia, Pax from Vietnam, Zahara from Ethiopia, and three biological children: Shiloh, Vivienne, and Knox.
To the surprise of many, it was their children who made many of the most important decisions surrounding the ceremony—from her dress design to the wedding vows. But this all makes sense, considering the couple says it was the kids’ insistence that led them down the aisle.
Their (and our) interest and jubilance surrounding their parent’s marriage is well-founded. Relationship stability is of monumental importance to happiness and societal well-being. In fact a study in the journal Children, Families, and Foster Care reported that family stability and healthy child development go hand-in-hand.
Tonight I went to a fundraiser in DeRidder, Louisiana in support of their local Community Pregnancy Center. I sat next to a gentleman working for Mike Huckabee, and together we were at the Louisiana Right to Life table, just adjacent to a table full of women from Gabriel’s Project, in a room full of a hundred or more people—all dedicated to defending the sanctity of human life. The fundraiser’s keynote speaker was a woman named Abby Johnson. Abby has an interesting story. She went to Texas A&M for college. While there she started working for Planned Parenthood, hoping to help women in crisis by offering contraception services and healthcare. She moved up the ladder and became Director for a Texas branch. As she got higher up she began to witness things that really bothered her. She used to defend Planned Parenthood publicly by saying that they did everything they could to reduce the number of abortions. That’s why they provide condoms and birth control pills to girls as young as 10. The solution to solving unwanted pregnancies we’re all made to believe, is more contraception. In tonight’s riveting speech, Abby told us that she was in the boardroom at an executive level meeting her superiors told her she had to double the quota of abortions from previous years. Yes—shockingly, there is a quota, a minimum goal of abortions that Planned Parenthood aims for, and they were increasing that number, hoping for a higher number. It confused her. She thought the goal was to help women in crisis, and decrease the likelihood of those crises. But no, PP is in the abortion business.
She decided to quit working for PP after a particular day when she was asked to oversee an actual abortion procedure. She knew what an abortion was and what a fetus is, but somehow the bio-hazard bags full of “products of conception” never phased her. But on this day the abortionist doing the procedure was from out of town and he brought in an ultrasound, to do an ultrasound guided abortion. Ultrasound guided abortions are actually sort of rare. Most abortions are performed blindly, as in the doctor can’t see what he’s doing. This is because nobody really wants to see what they’re doing, its too soul crushing. But this doctor did use one, because he embraced the idea that its safer for the woman if he could see what he was doing while performing surgery on her. So Abby was there to oversee. The woman was sedated. The baby in the womb was 12 weeks and his profile, limbs and major organs were all visible. They could even tell his gender. When the doctor put the suction device into the woman’s uterus, he aimed it at “the target” and Abby watched as the baby squirmed and began flailing his arms and legs as if trying to escape from the device. But of course there was nowhere for him to go. Abby says she flinched and felt the need to cry out “Stop, you’re hurting him!” But she stayed silent. She then watched as he was dismembered and suctioned out.
Abby quit working for Planned Parenthood. She founded an organization called And Then There Were None—to assist abortion workers in getting out of the industry and helping them heal. Abby says she’s responsible for at least 20,000 abortions. One woman that came to her ministry used to work for a late term abortionist and says that after 17 years in the industry she’s probably responsible for around 500,000 abortions. The former abortion workers that find the organization typically will go on healing retreats. There they are asked to humanize one baby that they participated in aborting, and write him or her a letter.
This is where I choked up and started crying.
Abby had written a letter to the little boy she saw that day on the ultrasound screen. She named him Paul. She said (something like) “when I think of you now I see you safe and warm in Jesus’ arms and hope that I can see you again in heaven. But as comforting as that image is to me, I know of the horror you were subjected to, and I’m sorry for my role. I’m sorry I didn’t defend you that day. Please know that your life was not in vain, and that me knowing you has given me the courage to speak out and do what I can now to redeem myself.”
Interestingly, Abby says that Christian women make up 72% of the women who came into her offices for abortions. There were women who had blood pressure cuffs on one arm, while they held rosaries or bibles with their other. She says there is lots more for The Church to do. The “presumption of forgiveness” is a real problem. And pastors and priests need to directly address this issue in their homilies and sermons.
Perhaps, and this is me speculating, the cultures that Churches are fostering actually motivate women to get abortions because to be an unwed or young mother in these circles would be far too embarrassing and stigmatizing for the woman to handle. They would rather get the abortion and keep it a secret, hoping God will forgive them, than be subjected to a community of judgmental gossipers, holding regard for the gospel’s teaching on sexual morality, while failing to live up to its high standards for forgiveness and love.
Tonight was a special night for me. I must thank Abby for making me feel something and for speaking the truth even though its uncomfortable, even though she’s ashamed of the person she once was. We’ll see if I’m given opportunities in the future to put her testimony into positive use. I hope so. While I never directly oversaw any abortions, I did volunteer for NARAL, and that weighs on my conscience. I have other sins too that weigh me down.
There were two young looking mothers in the room with new infants—miracles from the efforts of the Community Pregnancy Center. The women looked happy and safe. They were surrounded by other women eager to support them, give them baby clothes, and their time. I saw one of the mothers as she lifted and kissed her baby’s face. I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter (this was over 3 years ago now). I didn’t have health insurance at the time and the only name I knew to call was Planned Parenthood. I thought surely since they have “parenthood” in the title that they could offer me prenatal care.
No, they could not offer me prenatal care because its not on their list of services.
Thank you Abby for your testimony.
Now that my son is nearly two months old, I’ve caught up with enough in life to be able to find a moment to tell you about the birth experience. Or tell my future self.
First, I succeeded! I got the natural birth I wanted and needed so badly! It was a glorious, albeit extremely painful experience and I’m forever thankful to God, my husband, my mother-in-law, my doula, and doctor for getting me there.
In preparation I watched nearly 20 hours of birth preparation video. I read so many books. I did acupuncture. And reflexology. And took a long ass six mile walk in the hot Louisiana heat a week after my due date. I took vaginal suppositories of evening primrose oil, had awkward late term pregnancy sex for the prostaglandins. I ate spicy food, pineapples, and castor oil (twice). But still, it took me 42 weeks and 2 days to cook my son. They come when they want to.
After firing my midwife on my due-date, I transferred care to an OB. We had trust issues. I was terrified he would be c-section happy, and I think he thought I was a high maintenance granola queen. I never would have imagined I would go so late. At the two week late mark I had to sign paperwork legally freeing him of liability because I had refused to be induced within the prescribed time frame. I was due Tuesday, I agreed to be indued for the following Thursday. Rickard had to start his job in Lake Charles soon and every extra day in New Orleans was costing us money, and I was getting more stressed out by the hour—worrying that my son might have health complications if he stays in there too long.
The Wednesday before the induction I had my last acupuncture session. I relaxed. I accepted the induction and stopped trying to do everything I could to get him out and instead just rest in preparation for the birth. I went to bed early that night. I was scheduled to be induced at 4:30 am. So I woke up early, braided my hair the way I wanted it, brushed my teeth, put on deodorant and got myself ready. Literally ten minutes before we were supposed to leave for the hospital, I get a major contraction. My labor was starting and the baby was coming.
My doula was all ready to go, she just gave her cab driver a different address and arrived at our rental apartment instead. I threw up. But there was a bucket ready for me so that was fine. Our daughter was asleep in the adjacent bedroom, at one point she woke up and said “Mommy sad. Mommy! Hurt.” At which point Rickard went to console her and said, “No, mommy working.” She seemed satisfied with that. I kept a low growl and took advantage of our bathtub and LED candles. I used and abused both Rickard and our doula’s hands as stress balls during every contraction. Without their bodies to extoll and extend my pain to I’m not sure what I would have done.
The sun rose and by 7:30 we were at the hospital. All three of their tub rooms were out of commission. I was very sad. But the baby was coming with or without hydrotherapy. They put me in a dark room that I can’t remember anything about except there were windows. The animal started to come out and I began to get tired. The exhaustion made everything harder. But I was able to move and adjust myself against the pain. The nurses hardly ever came in—probably because my agonized howls made them uncomfortable. Nobody likes watching someone in pain. But the pain was very useful.
I had to keep my mind positive. With every cutting contraction I had to tell myself this is good, this is your baby moving down. My mobility was a complete blessing. At one point the baby got stuck. My doula assessed that I still had a cervical lip, hindering his ability to drop. I lifted my leg in time for the next contraction and pushed down. He popped down. Success.
The noises I made were very interesting. I was embarrassed by them. Usually I am told I am soft-spoken with a gentle vocal tone. That morning I went hoarse from heaving squeals where the volume and force behind the air I was exhuming was being trapped behind too tiny a mouth.
I took off my hospital gown because it annoyed me. I pushed Rickard and my doula out of my way whenever they too annoyed me or touched me wrong. I was an animal, naked and vulgar on the hospital bed. Every 45 seconds the atmosphere transformed from quiet anticipation to roaring effort and cheer. It was warm and strange when my water broke. Like a balloon full of swamp popped within me. When the baby was ready to come out I was on my back. We had some of the same troubles as we did with our daughter. Every time I pushed he would come out a little, but inevitably drop back due to gravity. I should have been on all fours, but alas that didn’t happen. They told me I had to push harder. The doctor even said we were running out of time and if he didn’t come out sooner rather than later we’d have to go to surgery and cut him out. I decided to push harder.
But I was already pushing so hard. This is where my decision to avoid an epidural really helped. I could feel him now. My “hardest” was not hard enough, and so I had to go from a 10 to a 15. I mustered everything I could and decided that I could care less about pride, appearances, integrity or safety. I no longer cared if my entire vagina ripped apart in the process I was going to push my baby out. I screamed like I never screamed before. I went to a wild place.
Two maybe three times.
Then he arrived. Slimy and just as wild and animalistic as his mother.
It was glorious. And so very very hard.
I did end up tearing. But the recovery from the tear was much better than the c-section had beed. I had anticipated an oxtyocin rush after the birth much like a dose of ecstasy (the pill, molly). But it wasn’t like that. I was very tired and not really euphoric. However, I still held on to my doula’s hand and it was very special to me. There was a sense of wonder and magic in being there with her that can only be compared to taking drugs with acquaintances. It brings you together somehow. Maybe that was the oxytocin.
When my son was born I cared. I held him and loved him immediately. I breathed him in and felt joy, not trauma. I’ve loved him well ever since and avoided the post partum depression I was afraid I would come down with should we have had another cesarean.
I don’t want to paint pregnancy and labor as a “good” experience because people misinterpret positive with easy, like candy or tropical vacations. My pregnancy and labor were good like an ultramarathon is good. It was good like Christ’s dying on the cross was good (an image I visited many times during labor). The pain transformed me. But dealing with it naturally gave me confidence and let me feel on top of it, whereas the cesarean left me feeling passive and insecure in my body’s ability, in my abilities.
I love my little boy and am thankful to him for the gift he’s given me.
My daughter V is two-years-old and was conceived in glorious poetry and has since impressed us with her perfect timing across all spectrums from conception and delivery to comedic expressions and cries that rescue us from bad company. Her brother on the other hand, is off to a rough start pushing two weeks past his due date and requiring his mother to make some difficult decisions in regards to induction.
My Louisiana care-provider is legally bound to induce women once they hit their 42 week mark. We don’t have a great rapport because I’ve only known him two weeks. I moved to Louisiana at 36 weeks (a month before my due date) and had originally chosen a certified nurse mid-wife for my care, but literally on my due date I chose to switch care-providers because she terrified me (will write more on that later). My new OB is part of the same group of physicians and was likely suspicious of my reasons to change care providers so late in the game. I’m sure he was wondering if I would be a high maintenance shrew, obstinate to his recommendations. We had a conversation about expectations of care, and he said at our original meeting, “if you’re not willing to be induced at 42 weeks, then I don’t think we’re the right match.”
And so here I am, at 42 weeks with no baby and I am seeing my natural birth plan disappear. My emotions are everywhere, and also numb.
V had great timing, but I went into labor with her completely inexperienced, ignorant and unprepared. After accepting an epidural there were complications that came up that would have been preventable if I were mobile, and we ended up doing an emergency c-section that was quite traumatic for me. I remember feeling an inch away from death. I remember being exhausted and freezing and completely paralyzed from the neck down, shivering violently and waiting several minutes for someone to notice and put heating pads on me because I was too tired to speak and make requests for myself. I remember not really caring when V was finally born. I was profoundly numbed.
For my son I have done my homework. I am equipped to manage pain and remain mobile. I know what different chemicals do and what different positions do and I have hired an excellent doula and spent hundreds of hours by now reading, consulting, stretching, exercising, and otherwise preparing for this birth.
Once we hit 40 weeks I did a number of things to try to naturally induce, including: walking (6 miles in one day just two days ago), acupuncture, moxabustion, Qi-gong, sex, nipple stimulation, spicy food, pedicures, enema, castor oil, foot reflexology, evening primrose oil, pineapples, oregano/basil, and of course, visualization. All of those things have seemingly assisted in my dilation (i’m now at 4 cm with a “very thin” cervix), but still the doctor wants me to induce. He feels “up against a wall” legally.
We have to move out of our temporary housing in New Orleans to a small town in SW Louisiana (a 4 hour drive) as soon as possible because R starts a new job July 1st. Ideally we’d be there yesterday to start training, but alas I’m still pregnant and we really can’t switch care-providers now. I am done being pregnant. I want the baby out and I want to begin our new life in our new town. My mother in law is here all the way from Sweden and I want her to meet her grandson and spend enough time with him before her plane trip home (which we’ve already extended once).
Yes I feel pressure from the hospital to induce, but I also feel pressure from my esteemed friends and family to buck authority, wait it out, so I am sure to fulfill on my dream natural birth.
I’m fraught with risk management dilemmas right now and doing a great deal of calculus plugging in the emotions and suggestions of a great number of people, along with medical risks for my son, me, and professional risks for my husband. Then there are financial risks (extending temporary housing) and hazards of moving during a recovery period to keep in mind. We have only a short number of friends in this new town and zero family.
I decided to compromise with the doctor and rather than induce tomorrow morning (Wednesday) I signed a “refusal of car” form that allowed him to escape immediate liability, but I will arrive willingly Thursday morning for Pitocin induction. Tonight I’ll go on a long walk, eat spicy food, and take more primrose oil. Then tomorrow morning I will see my acupuncturist. And if none of these things propel me into labor then I’ll take a cab to the hospital’s birthcenter at 5 am, ready for duty.
I wanted to birth naturally because I wanted the transformative experience, the empowerment of it all. Without having begun labor yet, there is already a small transformation in that I am realizing I can’t always get what I want, and sometimes with parenthood you have to let some of your dreams go.
By Kristi Blazi Lado
Looking forward to seeing this!
Great post over at acculturated. And I always appreciated when my quotes are recycled.
Our collective back-patting about anti-consumerist self-criticism is in fact classist condescension. Our society has no qualms about consumerism, provided it is genteel consumerism. But when some people have the bad manners to be indiscreet about their appetite for consumption, our defense mechanisms spring into action.
In a New York Times column that cements Michio Kaku’s status as the Joel Osteen of science, the celebrity physicist and irrational optimist happily predicts that “in a few decades, parents may be able to choose many genetic characteristics of their children.” (His one sentence throwaway about a “vigorous ethical debate” hardly inspires confidence.) Of course just as assisted reproduction is today a procedure available only to the affluent, we can expect that designer children will only be available to affluent consumers of the products of conception.