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July 15, 2005


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THANK YOU! CCL does some great work, but for the love of little green apples, they get so didactic sometimes!

I called them for help after my son was born. We were doing the full ecological breastfeeding thing, and what do you know--first period at six weeks postpartum, period at three months with ovulation before it, and every cycle thereafter with 43805789237 days of mucus production, a full thermal shift *and only four days of high temperatures maximum.* I was NOT ready to get pregnant again, so there was a *lot* of abstinence. I emailed them for help, and this is what John Kippley wrote back to me:

"You are not grateful enough for the blessings in your life."

Go stuff it, jerk. If I'm asking you why my body is broken and my spirit is broken, what I want to know is, "You can try taking this supplement," or "You can try reducing/increasing your breastfeeding time" or "It sounds like you're suffering from some postpartum depression, and we've found that many moms have an early return of fertility after a traumatic birth and postpartum depression." Not, "You're an ingrateful wench."

Funny, but our financial contributions to CCL dropped off sharply at that point... Oh, and Mr. Kippley said he "couldn't" interpret my charts because they weren't on OFFICIAL CCL PAPER! Because, you know, .4 degrees is different when it's recorded on blue paper rather than white paper. Maybe if I owned the special paper, I wouldn't have been ovulating...?

I have been involved in many 'movements' in my life - and I have seen a certain inflexibility and, dare I say, control freak attitude from many of the founder/leaders of these movements. I am personally thinking of some childbirth methods...(does anyone remember the Bradley/Lamaze wars?). I think that part of what happens is that someone discovers a wonderful truth, with the potential to really improve some aspect of life - and in the effort to disseminate that information without it being diluted down to the point of ineffectiveness, there is a certain possessiveness that develops. The really sad thing is that this attitude often ends up creating the very situation that it is meant to prevent, and it also leads to a cohort of disaffected former fanatics for whatever the insight/movement/discovery is.
For example, I was an early convert from Lamaze to Bradley childbirth techniques. I did Lamaze with my first baby (1974) and Bradley with my second (1976) and my Bradley classes were with the Hathaways as my instructors (the couple who took Dr. Bradley's insights and turned them into a Method, complete with trademark, marketing, etc.). I became a Bradley instructor in 1981 and left the organization in 1987. The method works, still works, is probably one of the better ways to get into training for childbirth - but all the extraneous stuff and all the micro-management from the 'home office' was more than I could take.
My husband and I spent 7 years as team for Marriage Encounter. It was a wonderful experience, but there was also the emphasis that this was the only way to have a good Catholic marriage - and that just isn't true.
What bothers me is the attitude that seems to happen all across the board that "What works for me will work for you." YOu know, we have Carmelites and Dominicans, and Jesuits, and Franciscans, and all kinds of other spirituality out there. We have active and contemplative and mixed.
Some people love the rosary, others the divine mercy chaplet, others the daily office, and some just go for the Jesus prayer. We have icons and statues, and medals and prayer cards, and none of these are absolutely essential but they are all enriching.
The basics of the faith are clearly outlined in the catechism. The teaching of the Popes from time immemorial is that moms have an obligation to care for their babies themselves, to breastfeed if humanly possible, and to respect the normal process of childbirth. The church has never changed her teaching on the immorality of contraception, abortion, sodomy, etc. But the ways in which the church can and should teach these eternal truths needs to be faithful and effective. Every time the enemy can get in there and play divide and conquer, every time he can get us squabbling among ourselves about the externals and less consequential items, he has won a battle.
My biggest issue with CCL is that when I got pregnant while breastfeeding my first baby, I lost faith in ANY method of NFP for several years. And when I tried to teach myself the STM from their books, I was totally lost - I couldn't figure out what was vital, what was important, and what was window dressing. I couldn't effectively use a multiple marker system because I couldn't see the forest for the trees - and I am NOT STUPID!
I'm in a group of NFP professionals (teachers, health care providers, researchers, diocesan representatives) and it is interesting how carefully people phrase opinions. I have been very impressed at how polite everyone is - but I can also see an under the surface current that is something like"How can(s)he be so stupid?" when a problem is identified within a particular method.
Boy , I sure rambled on here!

My problem with CCL, and I do love them, is the "smiley face". Everyone who writes for the Family Foundations newsletter has a wonderful life. Nothing is ever wrong. There is very little mention of the times when you have a five year old, a three year old, a one year and you are newly postpartum. You are *desperate* to avoid a pregnancy. Your husband is *desperate* to come together. The CCL line is to pray together and everything will be fine. That is easier to say and tough to do, especially if you are in a marriage with a man who is, like most men, visually stimulated and works in a job with attractive women all day long. It doesn't seem like there is much understanding for normal life.

There is a lot of emphasis on only using "grave reasons", and yet my grave reasons aren't yours. It seems to me that there is a tremendous amount of judging exactly who is guilty of not having "grave' reasons.

Also, I became pregnant with this last time at 9 months pp, with relations on day 5 and a peak day on day 15. Not possible. Only God could have done that. Despite being open to life, I was still thrown for a large loop. It would have been nice to hear, when I asked someone to review my charts, some understanding of my feelings. To speak to someone who has had this type of thing happen, and they understood why I was so upset. Yeah, I'm supposed to be open. But it's harder to live than to say.

All of that aside, I still love CCL and the work that they do. I am exceedingly grateful that they were there, and I still believe in their work wholeheartedly. I just wish that they were more realistic.

With the caveat that I think any woman who can breastfeed should (though I refuse to dictate how often or for how long), I heartily agree with what you wrote here. Many of those who push certain parenting and birthing techniques with the admonition "do this or your kid will be a serial killer" seem to miss the point that 95% of ensuring social stability in your progeny is simply being lovingly present to your children. Yes, there are techniques and methods that have been shown to work, but those same techniques used by selfish, uninterested parents won't yield great results. Similarly, a lovingly present parent who doesn't have "the rules" down is not destined to raise a flock of degenerates.

I don't mean to denigrate those concerned parents who seek out strategies and methods: if something is known to work, why not use it? My distaste, rather is for those who reduce parenting to a program or a
technique that can be mastered. Parenting is a relationship that develops organically, it is a loving response to the glorious revelation of God's love that is a child. Approaching this relationship with a "strategy" seems somewhat strange. Then again, I may just not be a rules person.

As for CCL, I read a witness to the glory of NFP in their newsletter once. It left my wife and I with the distinct impression that this woman was mistakenly foregoing seriously needed psychotherapy and marriage counseling by clinging to NFP as a cure-all for her and her husband's problems. NFP may have been working for them, but they had serious issues that were going to bubble over into trouble sooner or later. This was aparently a success story.

I feel I should add the disclaimer that I embrace and endorse the Church's teaching that periodic continence for the purpose of delaying conception can be a moral good, and indeed my wife and have had recourse to such natural spacing. People always seem to question that when I say things like this.

P.S. My wife makes a great point about breastfeeding (in one of the tracked posts above). Father Virtue actually states that hostility at the breast is more damaging than bottle feeding.

My mother would say that the problem you are identifying in CCL, and is so rampant in other 'movements', is a tendency for people to confuse private and public revelation - as in, if God tells me I should be doing this, He must want everybody to do this - and my mother would, as usual, be right. ;-)

That said, the truth these movements communicate is often worth putting up with the hassle, at least for a while. If someone really has had their life transformed by CCL or Marriage Encounter, or Positive Discipline or LLL, then who am I to deny them their public enthusiasm?

I have friends who work in the CCL office, and apparently there is a lot of excitement (read:chaos) about all of the possibilities opened up by the Billing's retirement. One thing that was mentioned was perhaps fostering more co-operation and communication with other NFP and family-friendly organizations. Wouldn't that be a sight to see!

I would take everythign they say with a grain of salt and do what you think is best for yourself and your family. Being a breast feeding zealot is impractical and silly if you can breatfeed do it if you can't there is always a bottle. Mothering is only doing the best you can and I think that is all God asks of anyone


In DC my friend Margaret (APL CO/WY) said that she knew of a blog I'd like, it was called Gladly, etc. Then, like 2 hours later I said, "Oh! It's so funny--this woman J and I keep bumping into each other at Conferences--we seem to be leading parallel lives or something." She said , J is Gladly! So it was a funny coincidence, and I finally made it here to visit!

I'm enjoying your blog and this post really spoke to me. I was raised Catholic, and after too many unaddressed questions decided to leave the Church before my confirmation. I've been on a wild faith journey and am finding myself drawn back to the church. However, NFP is definitely one of those areas that I am having the hardest time surrendering and letting go. I don't want anymore children. While I admire those who are truly open, I don't feel that way. I am tired. And overwhelmed. And you know I'd have another wild boy... ;-) Just kidding--but truly I do not feel equipped to deal with another pregnancy or another toddler.

There are other areas, too, where I am having trouble finding reconciliation. But, for whatever reason, I feel called back to explore those concerns/questions/disagreements *in*the Church rather than from outside looking in.

Anyway, I will read more and keep learning.


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