Openness to life – in theory and in practice

January 16, 2007 | 36 comments

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the contraception aspect of converting to Catholicism. Before I discovered the Church I’d never even thought twice about it. I didn’t even know that anyone was seriously against it anymore. I thought that it was one of those things like water and air that we all universally agreed was a very necessary, very good thing.

Even when I was first exploring the Church I had it in the back of my head that I’d kind of, uhh, “forget” that whole not using birth control rule. But as I read up on the Catholic case for openness to life and really understood the reasoning behind the stance on contraception, I was shocked to find myself easily agreeing with the Church. Instead of seeing the teaching to be oppressive and archaic, I now see it as one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. Embracing this teaching has fundamentally changed my marriage, my family and my life more than I could have ever imagined.

That said, the Church does teach that it’s OK to avoid pregnancy if extreme circumstances make it not a good time to have another baby. I think I pretty clearly fit into that category since:

  • I am still paying off the $10K in out-of-pocket medical expenses that resulted from the DVT during my last pregnancy.
  • I still haven’t found insurance that covers pregnancy. It’s hard because a) we’re small business owners, b) I’m now high-risk because of the DVT, c) I’m even more high-risk because of the diagnosis of the clotting disorder. Back when I could just go to midwives this wasn’t a big deal, but now I really need maternity insurance.
  • Without maternity insurance, my total out-of-pocket expenses for another pregnancy would be around $14K, and that’s if everything goes smoothly. That would be a very hard financial hit right now.
  • We’re currently living with my mom and that’s only sustainable for another six months or so, so we’re working hard to save for a much-needed house.
  • Throughout my next pregnancy I’ll have to give myself daily anticoagulation shots in the stomach. My insurance covers part of this, my part is about $800/month. (I should note that I’m not 100% sure that there’s not a cheaper option. Some initial searches didn’t come up with much, but I haven’t researched it thoroughly.)
  • I just finished treatment for the DVT a few weeks ago, so it is strongly not advised that I do anything that would cause a hypercoagulable state (e.g. surgery, pregnancy, etc.) at this time. I’m still in dangerous territory.
  • All of the specialists I saw when I had the DVT strongly cautioned me against future pregnancies. Two suggested I consider sterilization. They emphasized that I need to wait as long as possible (like, years) if I “insist” on having more children.
  • All the usual reasons you might not feel prepared to be pregnant again (especially since I tend to have pretty bad “all day sickness”) when you have 26-month-old and a 6-month-old.

For all these reasons I feel as sure as I can be that I have legitimate reasons to want to postpone another pregnancy at this time. I haven’t started charting yet but didn’t think I needed to because I was being very conservative. So I thought.

I found out this weekend that I’m pregnant. To say that I was surprised would be the understatement of the year. For the reasons I mentioned above, this was not in the plan right now.

I’ve hesitated to write this post because I haven’t told a single person (other than my husband) in my personal life, but I feel like this is a good time to draw on the wisdom and support that my commentors here so often give me. Also, it’s very relevant to the purpose of this blog, which is to chronicle my experiences with faith and the Church.

I’m going to go take a day or two to freak out. 🙂 In the meantime, I ask that you pray for me that I remain calm and not worry unnecessarily. Also, I ask for any advice. For once, I’m not even sure what my questions are. Just let me know if you have any thoughts that might help. My husband and I are both only children so we are really, really out of our element here.

On a final note, I should add that I do welcome this new life. Even though I’m surprised and tired and worried, I’m happy that this new son or daughter is here.


  1. 4andcounting

    Praise God!

    Now that I’ve said that, whoa! I will pray for you and your family. My only advice is to read the book “Life-giving Love: Embracing God’s beautiful Design for Marriage” by Kimberly Hahn. While she may not address your specific situation, she does offer great encouragement. I read this book after having my second child and before getting pregnant with my third (those 3 kids are ages 5, 4, and 3 now). It was just what I needed, as I felt overwhelmed in so many ways.
    Pray, pray and then pray some more. A new life is always to be celebrated, but there is definitely room for concern and worry too.
    I’ll be interested in how things progress from here. Peace.

  2. Rosebud

    Congratulations, Jen! We will definately pray for peace as well as for everything to work out according to His will.

  3. mrsdarwin


    It’s always interesting to have your carefully constructed plans completely blown away — it’s happened to me before, and it’s humbling and painful. And then you look back and realize that although you never would have expected it, your life is so much richer than you could have ever foreseen. In my case, I have a boisterous three-year-old who has never stopped surprising me ever since I first discovered I was pregnant. But what a joy she is!

    We’re praying for you, and if you need anything at all, never hesitate to call.

  4. Barb, sfo

    Jen, I will pray…and pray…and pray again. May God bless you & baby with the best of health.

  5. tanya

    May the Lord bless, bless, bless you for your faithfulness in practice and in spirit. I’ll be praying with you through your newest journey.

  6. Milehimama

    Hi Jen,
    Congratulations! I think going from 2 kids to 3 kids was my biggest adjustment – once they outnumbered me, I went from “cool, hip girl who just happens to have some kids” to “Mama”. I always joke I’m 28 going on 60 now!
    I just wanted to give you some encouragement. All of our pregnancies were ‘unplanned’. I’ve been advised against so many too – for reasons not as serious as yours.
    But, if God wants to give a baby to your family, there’s no way to stop Him!
    You might check into nutritional support for pregnancy – for example, my son is being treated with Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil, basically) for a brain disorder, but in my research it kept turning up again and again as very helpful for clotting issues and stroke victims. There are also several herbal type things that can help support a healthy pregnancy (just stay away from getting info from sites trying to sell vitamins; there’s lots of objective info out there.
    That said, if you need these therapies with no insurance, the hospitals usually have a social worker on site that can help you apply for government assistance, temporary disability, or even “charity” – the hospitals do write off a portion of their care -they are usually quite knowledgeable about all the programs and grants from pharmaceutical companies as well.
    Another resource not to be overlooked are the moms at church. Believe it or not, almost all of the moms that I know with 4, 8, 12 or more kids had at least one VERY complicated pregnancy and they are a great resource! And always happy to share a birth story (aren’t we all!)
    Hang in there, and remember there are no accidents- God chose to purposely place this child in your family at this exact timing – He’s got His reasons.

  7. Adoro Te Devote

    “To your Mercy, O Lord, I entrust my past. My present, to your Love, and my future, to your Providence.” ~ St. Padre Pio.

    Say this prayer every day. Several times, if necessary, focusing on the “present”.

    God bless you!

  8. Jerret

    No prayers, but I sincerely hope everything works out. Good luck.

  9. Bekah


    Many prayers go with you as you proceed on the journey. This is one area I know very little about, but if you need help researching anything, I’ve found wonderful support through my networks of knowledgable midwives. Ask away.

  10. Patrick

    I heard a joke one time, and I can’t remember where, but it is…

    Q: How do you make God laugh?
    A: Tell Him your plans.

    Jen, God has chosen you to bear this child for a reason. This does not mean it will be easy or convenient. Just like Our Lady, however, you will be blessed for accepting the challenge. Congratulations!

  11. Tim

    Jen- this is great news!

    Now, I realize that if you are prone to worry, as most humans are, the banquet table of anxieties is set and just waiting for you to pull up a chair. But you have a choice.

    I have three simple suggestions. They are obvious, but worth putting down so that you can constantly remind yourself and be prepared to knock Satan on his butt when He comes on the attack – and He will.

    First, remind yourself that you have made a decision. You said in your post that you welcome this new life. Amen! So your course is set. You and your husband are going to do everything within your power, guided by God’s wisdom, to bring this wonderful gift into the world.

    Second, pray. One of my favorite prayers in the mass is recited by the priest: “Grant us peace in our day. In your mercy, keep us free from sin, and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
    I knew a priest who would insert the word “useless” in front of “anxiety” when saying that prayer. Anxiety is just that -USELESS! It does us no good whatsoever. It is destructive. Not to be confused with concern, which can be very positive in prompting us to take necessary action. You do not have to embrace anxiety. Ask for the Lord’s protection in your mind and heart.

    Add to that a prayer for wisdom. “Lord, we thank you for this child, this gift, and we ask you for wisdom to make the right decisions about my health and about the baby’s health, so that we may protect and honor this gift, and in so doing, honor You.”

    Add to that a prayer for physical protection. “Lord, please protect me, my baby, and our whole family from physical harm. No weapon formed against us shall ever prosper.” – Isaiah 54:17

    Third, trust. Put your faith in God. That will lead to peace in the midst of circumstances where most would panic. St. Paul refers to it as “the peace that passes understanding.” -Philippians 4:6-7.

    One of the best ways to build your faith is to go over in your mind past situations where the Lord has come through or answered prayer. If you can’t think of any, or at least not something of this magnitude, then look at what He has done for people that you know who have put their trust in Him in troubling situations.

    And, of course, look at what the Lord has done for His people in Scripture. One of my favorite lines comes from the Angel Gabriel to Mary. He announces that Elizabeth, who is older and barren, is going to have a child. And then Gabriel anticipates Mary’s next question and announces: “For nothing will be impossible for God.” Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

    Make a list of all the things that are too hard for God to do. 🙂 Go over the many scriptures where God delivers someone from a bad situation, and spend some time meditating on them. This will build your faith.

    Did you ask yourself this morning if water would come out of the faucet when you brushed your teeth? Probably not. Why? Because you knew that it would. It does all the time. So you don’t give it a second thought. That is what reading scripture can do for your faith in God. Why should you believe that He will help you through this? Because He has helped His children over and over and over and over again.

    It’s your blog, but if I were you, I would invite readers to share their most wonderful experience where God delivered them or helped them through a tough situation. Maybe that would be a separate post altogether. Reading those stories could help us all and remind us that our God is really a concerned Father who loves us.

    And of course you have my prayers, and the prayers of many readers from this blog, not to mention the Communion of Saints. (I like to picture St. Peter and St. Andrew sitting next to me praying with me. Sure, they smell like fishermen, but I need the prayers!!)

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful news and allowing us to struggle with you. May you and your baby find peace and protection in God’s Divine Mercy.


  12. Kiwi Nomad 2006

    Congratulations Jen, to you and your husband as you learn of this new life. I hope that things do go well for you and the baby.

  13. Robert

    Ah, a blessing wrapped in a crisis – God’s favorite way to keep us awake. My prayers and support are with you.

    As far as advice goes: well, get some money. There, wasn’t that helpful?

    I would suggest going to your church community and explaining your predicament to your friends and fellow worshippers. That will generate some help. You have a business – see if you can’t get someone in your church to use your services heavily in the next year to help pay the bills.

    If all else fails, don’t be too proud to beg. Your readers will help.

  14. Sarah

    If I lived closer (though I do have family in your area…), I would be right over (whether you wanted me to or not!) with a big dish of something yummy and a hug! Lacking that tangible sort of thing, I have to start by saying CONGRATULATIONS! Do check out that Kimberly Hahn book, and maybe look up Our Lady of Guadalupe. She’s the one I go to when I’m having “shiver me timbers” moments…and it’s an apparition of Mary when she is pregnant. You and Mary have a lot in common, you know. Unexpected pregnancies, uncertain situations, financial challenges.

    You and your family are in my prayers.

  15. Elena

    Congratulations Jen! I have six children. My #3 child has been such a joy to us. While son #1 and son #2 fought over the last cookie, little son #3 went in and just took it! He restored order!! LOL!!

    Anyway I third the Kimberly Hahn book. I think you will truly enjoy it.

    Adding you to my prayer list!

  16. GLouise

    Wow! Congratulations. Prayers to you and your family!

  17. Anonymous

    Before you formally commit yourself and your precious children to the Catholic church, I hope you will take the time to watch the Frontline documentary this week:

    If there’s any better wake up call about the Catholic church and its reality, as opposed to the hype, I can’t think of one. I hope you are smart enough and savvy enough to recognize this before you put your children under the authority of a hierarchy of priests.

  18. SteveG

    First off, congratulations again!!

    So many wonderful comments I doubt I can add much.

    I heartily agree with Tim’s comments about the uselessness of anxiety.

    There is a priest I go to for confession regularly that has this conversation with me every so often..

    Fr. X: You know how all of the saints got to heaven don’t you.

    Me: Can you remind me please.

    Fr. X: By trying their best to love God and neighbor today. We have to forget about all the yesterdays, and we don’t have tomorrow yet and may never get it, so we need not worry about its troubles and anxieties. Just try your best to love God and neighbor today, to make it through today, and work on what you have in front of you.

    It’s such basic common sense stuff that you think we’d all get that by now, but unfortunately we all need such reminders.

    I am also going to repost something here that I sent you privately as I think it is so important and bears directly on the causes of the useless anxiety mentioned.

    The human imagination can do many extraordinary things. But we can’t imagine love. Or perhaps I mean loving: love as a continuous state; one that carries on in much the same way from day to day, changing and growing with time just as people do. The great stories of literature are about meeting and falling in love, about infidelity, about passion. They are seldom about the routines of married life and having children.

    We can imagine dramas and turmoil. People make films about them. In our own minds, we often put together the most terrific stories about thrilling or devastating events that might befall us. But what no one can imagine is the day-to-day process of living with things and getting on with the humdrum job of loving. We can imagine only the beautiful and the terrible. We are drama queens, and our imaginations are incapable of giving us any help about coping from day to day. Marriage is not the same as falling in love; nor is it an endless succession of terrible rows and monumental reconciliations: it is about a million small things: things beyond our imagining. (Simon Barnes – I not a saint, just a parent

    I think that tendency to imagine the worst is what causes the useless anxiety (vs. the normal and prudent concern we all should have).

    I also want to second Robert’s thoughts here regarding the financial stuff. I’d actually like to take it a step further and challenge all of us readers to offer some help if we are able by contacting Jen before she needs to ask.*

    God Bless and I’ll of course be adding my prayers as well.

    *Jennifer – I just noticed you don’t have anywhere on the blog where folks can directly email you. Maybe you could add an email link so folks could offer help anonymously.

  19. Mike J

    Congratulations Jen. I certainly wish you a not-too-hard pregnancy and delivery.

    If you want some help in getting medical info, let me know. Digging up medical info and organizing it to teach and inform people is what I do for a living.

    My wife had 2 difficult pregnancies out of 4 total. She’s always said it was worth all the difficulty. I’m quite sure that you too are made of tough enough stuff to weather any such trials.

  20. The Ironic Catholic

    Jen, I have had an unexpected pregnancy and my daughter has been one of the true lights of my life.

    Your worries–health, financial, emotional–are legitimate. Take them to God. We’ll take them to God. Somehow this WILL work out. I’ll pray for you and your family at Mass today.

    p.s. I tend to ignore people named Anonymous…if they can’t bear to provide an email, they aren’t taking a stand, they are just tossing bottle rockets.

  21. Elisabeth

    Jen, one of my favorite verses…

    (Matthew 6:26) “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

    In my short life I have been in dire financial straits and was even in an accident where I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and came close to death–many, many months of rehab to get back to what I am today. I had just bought a house 2 months before and didn’t have a husband to help me through.

    I have had to remind myself many times over that the Lord is watching over me…He won’t fail you…really.

  22. David

    I’ll keep you in my prayers.


  23. Radical Catholic Mom

    I bet you are scared right now.

    Remember: God loves you more than you do and God loves your baby more than you love that baby.

    He is bigger than any health crisis and any financial issue.

    He is the Creator of the entire Universe so these issues that are huge for you are minute for Him.

    Go to Him with specific prayers. Ask Him to provide a good doctor who will support and respect your family. Ask Him to provide you with the mysterious money that He has waiting for these types of ocassions.

    God Bless you and Peace be with you!

  24. Catholic Mom

    I echo the wise words given to you by so many. Trust in God, lean on Blessed Mother, and know that you are never alone. I will keep you in my prayers.

    I thought I had fertility issues since I had to take clomid to become pregnant the first time. Lo and behold but I was pregnant again when the first one was but 8 months old. A huge surprise since I was in the middle of my family practice residency. Still, God knew what he was doing and I can’t imagine not having my two oldest just 17 months apart.

    Blessings to you and your growing family.

  25. Amber

    First off – congratulations!!

    You have some wonderful comments here. I don’t have anything to add other than to just reinforce what others have said – pray, pray, and pray some more! You and your family will be in my prayers.

  26. Nancy C. Brown

    Congratulations, and trust in God. Easy to say and not so easy to do.

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on thine understanding.”

    This means, this situation goes beyond what you can understand. Which is why you keep trying to understand it. But God is good, he has a plan in all this.

    We will be praying for you, and are happy a new little life is in this world.

  27. Susan

    I said a prayer for motherhood this morning at adoration. I wasn’t sure why, I am not expecting and don’t plan to be again anytime soon. I just said it and replaced the words ‘I’ with ‘her’. I think that was you!
    How ironic!
    Congratulations and good luck. I’ll keep you in my prayers. So glad I stumbled upon your site.

  28. Stephanie

    Oh wow!!! Congrats!!!! I don’t have much advice since we’re still TTC #1, but I’ll certainly keep you in my prayers.

    St. Gerard, pray for us!

  29. Ma Beck

    A new baby!

    Congratulations, and I would just echo what everyone else said. Turn it over to God.

    And Jen, I’m sorry to hijack for a moment, but I must. I must.

    Then you certainly shouldn’t send your kids to public school, in which far more molestations occur than in churches.

  30. Mike J

    Since ma beck hijacked the thread for a moment, I’d like to insert some information. Note that this is real information, not myopic media hype:

    Department of Health and Human Services
    Children’s Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families
    Child Abuse & Neglect Research
    Statistics and Research

    It seems that we need to keep kids away from parents, relatives, neighbors, and friends for them to be safest.

  31. Entropy

    Praying for strength for you!

  32. lyrl

    While I personally don’t like the “birds of the air” comparison (our heavenly father lets way more of them starve to death than most people realize), I think the odds are in your favor, Jen.

    May you find many blessings in both the timing of this pregnancy and in the person to come out of it.

  33. Ersza

    Hey, Jen. First, congratulations on your pregnancy. Second, I recommend that you enroll in a formal NFP class as soon as possible with your hubby so that you have the best chance of avoiding such a thing happening again. I’ve heard great things about the Creighton method, which is a mucous only method, and might work better during the postpartum period. Third, remember that you got through one whole pregnancy with no problems, and only had the DVT in the end of your second pregnancy. You are at greater risk because of your blood disorder, but with the anticoagulant injections, you should be fine. That reduces the whole thing to a financial crisis. Definitely stressful, but survivable also. Your husband is a lawyer, correct? If so, and if he is not a complete hack and loser, you will be able to pay off this pregnancy and the last one handily in the future. Lawyering is a good living, though it can be hard times at first when you’re working all the time and paying off student loans. In the meantime, look for low interest loans and other ways to defer the expense if possible. So, having gotten those two concerns out of the way, we are left with having three very young children. That’s going to be challenging, but you can get a lot of help and support through your church and other mom networks. Give it to God, and you will get through. God bless!

  34. Anonymous

    Congrats, Jen, and we are praying for you and yours. Do you have a paypal account where we can send a gift for the baby?

  35. Anonymous

    Jen – heparin is cheaper than Lovenox, but does need to be injected twice daily. However, Lovenox has a patient assistance program to help pay for their product…..At the health center where I used to work we had a couple of moms who got it that way.
    I would recommend that you consider a consultation (could be via email or phone) with Dr. Paddy Jim Baggot. He is a pro-life, NFP only, specialist in Maternal-fetal medicine. He’s in So Calif.
    I also recommend that you ask for the intervention of St. Gerard and of St Gianna Molla for your precious pregnancy.
    Feel free to send me a private email, too, if I can be of any assistance. The link is on my blog

    This comment will come up as anonymous due to the fact that I am posting from the hospital computer. alicia the midwife

  36. Jamila Akil

    Congratulations Jen!! Everything will work out for the best.

    Jamila Akil ( formerly SmartBlkWoman, but I have a new blog)


  1. Reaching gracepoint | Conversion Diary - […] failing, our finances tanked, I developed a life-threatening blood clot during pregnancy, then had another (unexpected) pregnancy right after…

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