Topics of Crunching

Sunday, July 31, 2011

National NFP Week: Part 2 - Top Ten Reasons (10-7)

Call it what it is, I always say. That's the premise behind the title of today's post. True, it's not National National Family Planning Week anymore. Missed the boat on that one. But I promised a Letterman-style breakdown of the what I love about this crazy Natural Family Planning mumbo jumbo, so we'll cut to the chase.

10. Accurate
There are so many medical professionals who would argue with me on this, and I see their point. I have seen "failure rates" for natural birth control methods range from as low as .5% all the way up to 25%. What would cause this disparity? Measuring failure of this method is tough, since the majority of those who use it are happily married and could welcome more children with no real objection - most of the "mistakes" are what I would call "slip-ups." For example, I have a friend who, after 22 months of successfully using this method after her first child (through turbulent breastfeeding, mind you) got pregnant. A doctor would call this a failure, but my friend wouldn't. If you ask her, she says that she was growing "intentionally more lazy about tracking everything." In other words, she wanted a kid before she thought she would, and let her "slip up" take the fall. To me, that's a planned pregnancy, not a birth control failure. I also have a friend who truly wanted to space her children, and used this method without so much as a scare for 3.5 years before conceiving their second child on the very first try. I have a similar experience. I've only tried to get pregnant twice, and both were one shot one kill. I can not only tell my OBGYN the date of my last period, I can tell her the date of conception (down to the hour...TMI!). In between our kids, we had no scares. To me, accuracy of NFP is dependent on 2 main factors: what method you use, and how devoted you are to it. If you are using a "lazy" method, or are "lazy" in practice, well - who's surprised when the pee stick has two lines? So here's a simple answer from an unexpected source. The Department of Defense lists both condoms and NFP as equally effective, providing the woman practice correctly.

9. Economical
I spent $5 on my thermometer, $14 on my "how-to" book, and that was pretty much it. If I replaced them every year (I won't replace them that often, but just for argument's sake), and I used them for 30 years, I would spend $570 in my whole lifetime. If you have insurance, based on average co-pays, a woman on typical birth control will spend nearly $18,000 in her life (source). Here's a visual breakdown from the same site:

8. Natural 
This is not what I mean by a well-planned family.
We all know the green movement is...well...moving. What could be more natural than refusing to fill your system with chemicals to stunt a natural cycle of the female body? After all - how did they do it before birth control? It's a relatively new idea, right? When thinking about this before I started looking into NFP, I remember thinking that the reason my great-grandparents had 12 children was because there was no modern birth control. But then again, the pill wasn't perfected until the 60s, and what about people in the 20s, 30s, 40s? Didn't they have reasonably sized families? It seems that the trend of giant families in the 1800s was an American thing, more a product of necessity (more hands on the farm) than fertility. So what did our ancestors know about having babies that we don't? Mmm hmm.

"Sex= No connection needed with babies"
7. Enlightening
Raise your hand if sex-ed failed you (insert ridiculous flailing of author's arm here). I left high school understanding about as much about my body as I did about the body of the frog I dissected in 9th grade bio, and rest assured that wasn't much. A few simple facts that no one bothered to put together for me: Men are always fertile. Women are only fertile 3 days of the month, on average. Coincidence, or providence? My point here is that I have learned more about what's actually going on inside me and why from NFP than I ever thought possible (and the truth will set you free).

More to come in Reasons 1-6:
  • Marriage-Building
  • Healthy   
  • Unifying (between Partners)  
  • Rebellious   
  • Moral  
  • Pro-Life  

Monday, July 25, 2011

National NFP Week: Part 1 - Why Artificial Birth Control is Wrong

This child is clearly a
product of NFP and some seriously
crunchy parents.
Hello again! After my light-hearted and approachable post on the growing epidemic of juice-loving toddlers, it's time to reach deep into the heart of what makes me crazy again! This is an extremely Catholic, extremely pro-life, extremely crunchy post. Be warned. Still reading? Huzzah!

Of all the things I do, my choice to avoid all forms of artificial birth control is by far the most shocking to most people. In honor of National NFP (Natural Family Planning) Week, I'm going to talk a little about why. What? No birth control? At all? That's right - I don't take the pill, I don't use condoms, and I am against vasectomy and tube-tying. In fact, I think all of these things are immoral. To me, it's the most obvious and honest extension of the pro-life mentality. Almost all forms of birth control are abortive at least some of the time, meaning that they cause a fertilized egg to be unnaturally expelled or create an environment in the womb that makes it impossible to continue growing. If you believe that life begins at conception, that means that these kinds of birth control end life*. Abortive forms of birth control include hormonal pills ("the pill" in all it's forms) and hormonal IUDs, to name just a couple.

*If you don't think of conception as the beginning of life, I would really like to talk to you about why. Maybe you think of it as life, like a parasite has life. My question then is: when does that life progress to the point of having the same rights as a human? Or simplier even, when does it have a soul? Is it when the heart starts beating? When the embryo moves? When the baby is born? I have heard them all, and I can't for the life of me (pardon the pun) understand any of them. Biology says that conception is the beginning. Anything else seems to just be half-hearted unresearched personal philosophy.  But I'll save that for another day.

So what about other forms that don't allow fertilization? Barrier methods (condoms, cervical caps) and sterilization (vasectomy, tied tubes) have some really horrible cultural side effects: they make sex purely recreational, create a false sense of security, and foster an attitude of pregnancy as a disease. The more you look into it, the history of our society and how it has thought about sex for the last 100 years, you see that birth control has caused a breakdown in our understanding of our place in the world. We are sexual creatures. But we are also moral, logical, reasonable creatures. That's what makes us different from, say, a bonobo monkey.

The Duggar Family has become famous
based on their "quiver-full" mentality.
Do they have the right idea? I say no.
This does not mean that I want, or even plan to have, 15 children. Though couples that embrace pregnancy in this way (by not taking any measures to space or avoid pregnancy) have grasped the basic idea of "life is good," they are, in my opinion, missing the point. The whole idea is to love children, from the moment of conception on, and to treat them as gifts to be treasured and nurtured. Having too many children can hurt them all. They may not get the resources they need - financially, emotionally, or even physically - to grow up in the best possible environment. For example, if a 6 year old girl spends most of her day caring for the basic needs of her younger siblings, she is not being allowed to learn, experience and grow in a way that will give her the best chance at a great life. The key is to balance it. Love life, love children, welcome them as the gift they are, but value the ones you already have enough to not "crowd them out."

I realize that I'm simplifying this so much that if this is the first time you've heard of this line of belief, it probably sounds like complete malarkey. It goes against absolutely everything that our society teaches about sex, love, babies, marriage, etc. It took me a long time to get to the point of even understanding - much less believing - this school of thought, often referred to as the "culture of life." I'm not here to convince you of these thoughts with just a few paragraphs. I'm just hoping to open your mind a bit.

Enter NFP. Natural Family Planning is a deep subject. I'm just going to have to write a whole new post on this one. Sufficient for now to say that it's not your mom's rhythm method, it's so medically-minded that it will make the pill look elementary, and it will change your life for the better. How? Here's a fun fact: the divorce rate for couples that practice NFP? 5%. No, I didn't forget a 0.

Got you hooked? Stay tuned - my next post will be a simple top ten reasons why I love NFP. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

No, you can't have more juice.

Adorable, isn't she?
Too bad that's her
14th juice box of the day.
My oldest is 2 now, and I'm blessed with a bunch of great friends who are also the moms of 2-3 year olds. Toddlers are a varied bunch, but of course there are some things that are the same among all of them.  One common ground that will make any mom groan knowingly is that all toddlers don't want to eat. They want to drink juice. All day. A million gallons of it. Did I say all day?

If you've read anything on this blog at all, you know I like to be well-educated on just about anything that effects me. I don't promise that I am well-educated, but I certainly give it the old college try. Lately, thoughts of juice have become an embarrassingly central point in my life: do I have enough to last until the store opens? Did I pack some extra in my bag before I left the house? And the most constant question: how much have I given her today?

Standard reaction to:
"No, you've had enough
juice for the day."
The last time I was at the pediatrician with my daughter, she asked me what she drinks on an average day. Because I'm a freak, I actually had my answer prepared. I told her some approximations, and she was actually quite impressed. She said, "good!" That was her only feedback. C'mon, reader. You know that's not enough for me. I need research!

After wondering if I am being a healthful mother for about 3 months, I finally broke down the other day and looked it up. Surprisingly, there was actually a solid answer on the internet, courtesy of the Institute of Medicine. Here's my admittedly over-simplified sum up:
About how much should a toddler (age 1-3) drink in a day?
MILK: 16 oz (under age 2, whole milk; over 2, low-fat/skim)
WATER: 8+ oz (include what you use to cut juice)
JUICE: 4-8 oz (100% fruit juice only)
OTHER BEVERAGES: tea, coffee, soda, sweetened fruit juices and sports drinks should not be a part of his/her regular diet
They also emphasized that more can keep them from eating enough. Now, getting them to stick to that is another thing all together. But it seems most moms have already perfected the art of cutting juice with water (start them on 2/3 juice to 1/3 water, then 1/2 and 1/2, then sometimes more, depending on how much of a hog their kiddo is for the stuff). Cutting it works well, and it also gets them some actual, non-fructose powered hydration. Of course, cut it too much, and you'll get what I got earlier this week. "Yuck, mom. Yuck juice." Sigh.

Now I'm sure this is exceedingly boring to most people, possibly even the moms of toddlers, but it was news to me, so I thought I'd share. Remember, momma. Keep strong, and don't give into the adorable and ill-timed pleas for more juice. I'm not saying you're gonna keep it to 8 oz or less every day, but it's worth the effort, at least. Right? Oh I hope so.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Follow Up on those Crazy ZPGers

I have found a new blog that I love. This lady is amazing. Even the name of the blog is classic: The Feminist Breeder. Thanks to Amber - you've improved my life by sending me to this site.

One of my favorites on this blog was about how having more than 2 children is greedy. GREEDY. Seriously? Didn't I cover this? Oh yeah. I did.

Actually, to be specific, I covered those in favor of Zero Population Growth, and how they are killing off the industrial world, one delayed pregnancy at a time. This particular blog did a fantastic job of talking about the microcosmic effects of having more than 2 for an individual family. But of course, in the comments, someone had to go there. Someone had to talk about how we're over populating the world, and the responsible thing to do is to sterilize ourselves (so that we can enjoy our mochajavachinos at the local coffee haus without annoying the other patrons with our toddlers).
Honestly? Must we always promote our pseudo-knowledge and push our under-researched ideas onto others? Just because some associate professor said something to your buddy's mom in 1979 about population growth, and she loved it and repeated it a zillion times (loosing accuracy with every occurance), and he told you about it last week, you are now an expert. Knowledge fail.

But back to the comments section of the blog. If you ever want to have a good-hearted, jovial laugh at the ignorance of the average anonymous internet-user, just find a popular blog with slightly controversial ideas and read the comments. Here's how this one went down:

Note the light-hearted smiley face. Just a little witty banter between a mom and her doctor.

Way to take it to blows! Clearly, this blogger is both a doctor and a mathematician.

Yes. Awesome blog burn.

One more time, here's the link to the blog I wrote in March on this subject: "ZPGers may not have a leg to stand on" (Soon, they may not have kids to pay for their nursing home either, but that's a whole different subject...)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

That Fourth Day in July

lib·er·ty/ˈlibərtē/n1. The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life.1


free·dom/ˈfrēdəm/n1. The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. 2. Absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.2


in·dep·en·dence/ˌindəˈpendəns/n1. a condition of a nation, country or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory.3


I was listening to the radio yesterday (EWTN, of course. What else is there?) on the 4th of July. One of the talk radio hosts said that he believes that one of the biggest problems we have with our attitude about Independence Day is that we misunderstand the difference between liberty and freedom. He said that we use them as synonyms, that we think they mean the same thing, but they do not. Enter my confusion. I guess I had never thought about it. Are they really that different? What is the difference?


I have a friend who is very "intense" on facebook. I know, I know. Hello pot, I'm kettle, and you're black. But this guy makes my posts look like marshmallow fluff. Of course, I love that. I relish the chance to stir the pot right back and comment on the things he posts, most of which are about religion (note that we don't agree here, but maintain a friendship - go Ecumenicism!) but also include some of my favorite subjects like Irish Heritage and least favorite subjects like partisan politics. In honor of our "nation's birthday," he made multiple posts on the subject of that anniversary. Because I know he won't mind, here they are, verbatim, but in no particular order:


Rock on, friend. Stick it to the man.

1. FYI- Did you know that the "Star Spangled Banner" was written aboard a British ship, and the tune was composed by a British composer? It wasn't adopted as the National Anthem until 1931.


2. If Jesus died to set men free, why do we behave as if it took Him 1776 years to do so? 


3. "When will Mankind be convinced that true Religion is from the Heart, between Man and his creator, and not the imposition of Man or creeds and tests?" -Abigail Adams


4. (My personal favorite:) Jesus Saves From Patriotism.


And you think I like to stir up trouble! Of course he makes an excellent point, perhaps several. But I think there's something to be said about the theory of the EWTN DJ here: If people are confusing what Christ did for mankind and what the Declaration of Independence did for Americans, bad definitions are the source of the breakdown. Therein lies the rub. Shall we discuss? I include a cited glossary at the top. It doesn't do as much to illuminate as I would have hoped, but it's a good jumping off place. Let's start at the bottom and work up. 


Independence refers to a country's political ability to govern itself. It doesn't really relate to  the individual, but remembering that the official name for the 4th day in July is "Independence Day," that sheds light on the idea of why we shoot fireworks and drink too much. Because on that day, 235 years ago, we made an official statement to the British government that we were going to govern ourselves and fall under our own sovereignty alone. Boo-ya Mama England. (Please note that this is not the anniversary of when we actually began governing ourselves. A lot of good men died for the cause before that happened.)

That leaves Freedom and Liberty. From the definitions I found, it seems like they both relate to the individual, but freedom is more dependent upon the idea to which it refers, while liberty is more of an abstract,  broad-spectrum concept. 

Give me liberty or give me death (P. Henry). Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (T. Jefferson).
Let them revere nothing but religion, morality and liberty (J. Adams). When these guys talk about the ultimate goal, they don't talk of being free. Freedom is a word the founding fathers reserved for specific rights. Freedom of Religion (not from Religion, mind you). Freedom of the press. To bear arms. Etc. Freedom is a, forgive me, lesser concept. Liberty is the great pie in the sky that we strive for as Americans. The idea of freedom can be lofty, I suppose, but the word itself mostly is just functional.


Going back to my friend's point, I would say that Jesus didn't die to set us free in general. His sacrifice didn't make us free to write blogs without fear of government reprisal. The Bill of Rights did that. It didn't make us free to abort pregnancies if we so choose. Roe vs. Wade did that. What Christ did freed us from the consequences of our own sin. That's what makes it powerful. Not the word "freedom." The word "Sin" immediately following the word "freedom." 


Specificity! The best thing since sliced bread. After all, that pretty lady at the top with the eagle and the Captain America sheild is Lady Liberty. I doubt she'd answer to anything else.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Restless Mom: The Stay at Home Diaries

Sometimes it becomes very clear to me why I'm bad at being a stay-at-home mom. I really admire women who are good at it. It's a skill. It's an art. And a very desirable one! It's one of the best things you can do for your family - hands down. Your children will benefit in their development from the hands-on contact with a doting parent, your husband will find that he can work harder and progress more in his career as a result of the extra home support, and you will have a deep and abiding level of satisfaction that you are delving into the most important aspect of your life: family. For those blessed enough to have the financial option of only one income, I completely understand why someone would choose to stay home while their children are pre-school. Go for it! By all means!

Unless you're like me. Being at home even 4 hours a day during the workday is tough for me. My mom always said that I love to burn the candle at both ends - I don't feel complete (or even satisfied) unless I'm doing a million things, all of which have measurable results and result in outside praise. It's downright narcissistic. I get a truly ridiculous amount of joy from working on a project, focused and determined, then standing back and admiring the tangible products of my work. If I don't have another project to throw myself into immediately, I will fuss over the last one, checking on it, looking at it from multiple angles, pouring over every detail. I know how unhealthy it is, but of course, that has no effect on my behavior. I am trying to change - trying being the key word.

Being at home is like wifely purgatory to me sometimes. Housework is thankless and never ends, WAHM projects seem like a money pit, and a good day is one where the living room ends up looking like it started. I know, I know. How ungrateful. I'm a pig, and the pearls thrown before me are just getting in the way of my slop. But a girl's gotta vent - so here it is. Take today for example. There's PLENTY to do, but my dissatisfied cabin fever has kept me from doing any of it. I don't want to accomplish any of these tasks, and since I don't have a supervisor to dock my pay, I'll just sit here and write this blog. Maybe I'm restless b/c I didn't get to exercise that much this week - it feels a little like that. Mostly it feels like how I remember getting bored toward the end of summer break as a kid. Just restless. And overheated. And whiny. Oh the whining.