Baby #2, Isabel’s younger sibling is 4 weeks into being. My body is saturated with crazy hormones which have introduced me to the Seven Dwarves of Trimester 1: Sleepy, Nauseous, Confused, Gassy, Hungry for Stuff I Never Eat, Bitchy and Insomniac. I haven’t imbibed coffee –that blessed elixir of the matins– for two weeks (and TEA is not the Freakin’ Same!….it’s weak, herby and just so very wrong!!!) Yes, as the exasperated voices of worldly common sense chide, I’m pregnant with my second child in two years. Yes, I haven’t finished my thesis and yes I will have to try to find some way to finish it with a newborn and a toddler, and yes I will have to figure out a way to pay off my gargantuan student loans with a newborn and a toddler.
All of the voices are there, both inside my head and in the mouths of the well-meaning people who can’t understand why I don’t just use birth control. Why have babies when you can’t afford them? Why when things are hard, when your marriage has just come back from the brink of divorce, when you’re facing unemployment, trying to finish a graduate degree, debt, mortgage and all of those problems, do you want to bring another child into an already stressful situation?
Those who know of my conversion turn on the Church’s teachings on marriage. The “celibate old men” fallacy is trotted out dressed in her radical feminist fatigues, wagging her finger, doing her best Isabel Allende impression: ”The POPE lives in a palace and doesn’t have to raise a family, what does he know?” Softer voices bring in the “God will understand” fallacy, to which I respond…Will he?
See my religion is what Chesterton calls a love-affair. I don’t buy the whole notion that I can split my body off from my mind and actions the way the secular/leftist religious sphere argues. If I proclaim a Catholic faith, taking confirmation vows, receiving the Body of Christ in communion, saying the Nicene Creed, I live a Catholic life. Period. I am Catholic when it sucks to be so, not just when there are smells and bells and a great tea-social after Easter Vigil with cake. I am Catholic when it asks more of me than Sunday mass attendance and Religious Education Classes. I am Catholic because the Church is right, especially about Birth Control.
Catholicism is a religion of integral, internal unity. There is no division between body and soul. The disposition of the one is reflected in the other. If I am making an obscene bird-flipping gesture to God with my members does it matter that I sing “Adoramus te” while I’m doing it? Unlike what religious leftists and Catholic dissenters like to believe there is no division between Christ and the Church, because the Church IS the body of Christ. To curse the Church and praise Christ makes as much sense as telling everyone else that my husband is ugly, has big feet or a messed up troll-face, then saying to him “I love you and you’re precious to me.” One cancels the other. The disposition of the body, its actions or lack thereof, tells the truth of the soul. A dissenter from faith is like a dissenter from marriage, proclaiming love to the spouse in flowery tones, then taking his body to the streets for a casual one night-stand and saying as Alfred Molina in the movie Frida. ”Hey, it’s just a f**k, I’ve given more affection in a handshake.” (To which Frida rightly reacts by hurling a plate of tamales at him)
Perhaps this is the problem with modern, secular culture. We seem to have forgotten the virtue of external/internal consistency. We have decided that “form” is evil and what matters is “content” and “feelings”. We think the way we dress, or act in public, or write, doesn’t matter, what matters is how we feel, or our ideas or who “we” are–this “we” being some disembodied essence, not our real being. It’s the dichotomy of inside/outside. Don’t judge a book by its cover, it’s what inside that counts, ob la di, ob la da, life goes on..
Yet the outside always says something about the inside. It’s not the whole, but its a sign. All signs signify something, whether it’s disorder or order, consistency or hypocrisy, fidelity or infidelity. To live consistently, to not throw over one’s values or morals when those values contradict with one’s preferred hedonistic pleasures, or, seemingly, with pragmatic common sense, is difficult, but to throw them over is worse. It degrades one’s entire character and makes the devil laugh.
The best response I can think of to why I don’t just take the pills, or get the IUD, or use the condoms is the answer given by the blessed woman in Lewis’ The Great Divorce, “I am in love and out of love I will not go.” That means taking the hardships, the difficulties, the misunderstandings, the stress and everything that comes with it. That doesn’t mean being irresponsible and expecting others to rescue me, on the contrary, it means growing up. It means to stop thinking that life and love are merely about pleasure without sacrifice and it means to conform the actions of my body to the movement of my heart, even if its hard.