True, natural, God-given femininity

[The following is a reflection from Saint Paul Students for Life President, Annette Wellman]

I can’t claim to be a good writer, but I can offer you a brief reflection on the awe-inspiring event we had earlier this week.

We spent a good deal of time organizing the event, and hoped for even just ten people to show up. We considered ourselves truly blessed when forty people participated in our Natural Women’s Health and Fertility event. Thanks to the Mother of God for her intercession.

The evening began with an outstanding presentation on the Theology of the Body that led directly into Dr. René Leiva’s discussion on the dangers of the oral contraception and Linda Smith’s teaching of the Creighton Model view of the female body. The Theology of the Body, a teaching of Blessed John Paul II, has spoken to my heart and been transforming for me personally since I first heard it in July of 2007 at a young adult event in my hometown. Fr. Terry Donahue, a priest of the Companions of the Cross and a Saint Paul University alum, shared with us how our human bodies, created male and female, reveal the call to communion, the call to love in the image of the Trinity and as an icon of the love between Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church (see Eph 5:31-32). Our bodies reveal that we are made for love, for self-donation; we are meant to give our lives through love to others as Christ did on the cross.

“Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it” (Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Hominis – The Redeemer of Man, 10). God designed us to love and be loved just as He Himself loves, is loved, and is love itself.

All human love is called to image God’s love. God’s love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful (Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae 9). When we realize that our bodies show that we are called to communion (for the male and female bodies do not make sense alone, only in conjunction with one another), and we recall that we are made in God’s image and likeness (also, we speak of the Trinity as a communion of persons), the next logical point is that our love should image God’s love. Our love must be free, total, faithful, and fruitful. If any of these are left out, we fall short of being an image of the love of God here on earth.

It is in this context of Catholic Church teaching that Dr. René Leiva’s discussion on the dangers of the oral contraception began. He explained how the pill is too often prescribed to get rid of symptoms without actually addressing underlying causes. He spoke of many dangers of the pill, among them an increased risk of breast and cervical cancer, the top two cancers in the world.

Linda Smith, a Creighton model practitioner, explained that the pill treats fertility as a disease. One goes to the doctor for healing, not when your body is working as it ought. This is the first problem with contraception. The second problem (and she spoke of others) is that it masks all underlying problems. There are countless medical problems that cause unstable cycles for women, but the pill skips over underlying problems in order to unnaturally create a 28 day cycle. In contrast, the Creighton model tracks a woman’s cycle through the examination of mucus, bleeding, and other natural biomarkers and through these, finds the root of any problems that a woman may be experiencing.

The summer I graduated from high school, I went to my doctor to figure out why I was having strange cycles. I was having many strange symptoms of which Linda Smith mentioned. My doctor, unfortunately, didn’t care much about what my symptoms were and didn’t try to figure out the cause of my irregular cycles. I was prescribed an oral contraceptive, which I took for three months. He said I could renew it after three months if I wanted, but with the weight gain I experienced from being on the pill, I had no desire to continue taking it.

I was thrilled, as a woman, to see that there is an alternative to just being put on a pill. It was amazing to learn about the different cycles our bodies go through and how beautifully God designed us. We can be aware of this, learn about how the female body naturally works and use that to maintain our own health, to know the cycles of our fertility for when we are unable to get pregnant or when we need to avoid pregnancy if we have discerned so with our husbands for a serious and just cause.

I am not currently married, but within marriage, even if I weren’t Catholic and already believe what the Church teaches, I’d definitely want to use the Creighton Model or another natural way of regulating births. Our presenters pointed out that this gets the husband involved in the decision making, responsibility, and the charting. Throughout my life, I’ve seen guys who find out about the beauty of how the women’s body works, and I’ve seen such reverence in the way they treat their wife or girlfriend. It’s absolutely beautiful. What girl wouldn’t want a boyfriend and husband who treats you like your body has miracles working inside of it (definitely at least at conception!) instead of keeping you around for his own pleasure?

A friend of mine pointed out the vulnerability that this requires on the part of the woman. She has to share everything with her husband if she is going to get him involved in this process. He thought this was a beautiful thing, something that would really bring a husband and wife closer together, helping them to model that free, total, faithful, and fruitful love found in God. That would truly help you to be seen completely by your beloved, as St. Augustine says, “The deepest desire of the human heart is to see another and be seen by that other.”

I’ve kissed boys. A girl can tell the difference between a kiss that is for the boy’s pleasure and a kiss that is actually speaking, “I love all that you are.” Girls, don’t settle for less than this. You deserve to be treated by your doctor for the underlying causes of the symptoms that you are having. You deserve a boy who will treat your body with reverence. You deserve to be kissed not for another’s use, but out of pure love for you. You deserve to be treated like your female body is a treasure. Demand it. That is true, natural, God-given femininity.

— Annette Wellman

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