nfp

Endometriosis Awareness Week: Meet Rhonda Ortiz

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old! The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen. As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

Today, I’d like to revisit an interview from NFP Week 2015 with Rhonda Ortiz.  Rhonda also has lived with endometriosis and has a powerful story to share.

Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week. But more on that in a bit.

Here’s an excerpt from Rhonda’s NFP Week Interview:
RhondaOrtizHey there! I’m Rhonda Ortiz. I’m a 34-year-old Catholic convert, wife, and mother of three. Other than chasing after kids, I spend my days writing and working as a freelance graphic designer. …

I spent five frustrated years wondering, if I wasn’t destined to be a mom, what the heck was I going to do with my life. My thoughts ran wild through the rat nest that was my head, making this and that set of plans, seeking…something. Anything!…

I finally agreed to see a doctor and learned that I had endometriosis. I had my first laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrium in June 2007.

We assumed I would be pregnant right away, but that also didn’t happen…

 

For the rest of Rhonda’s courageous story, please visit the original interview at this link.

Thank you, Rhonda, for sharing your story with us not once but twice. Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest! Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week. Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

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Captive Panda Club at erinmccolecupp.com

NFP Week: Meet Barb S., Franciscan Mom and Captive Panda

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

Today’s guest blogger is Barb S, aka Franciscan Mom.

Barb aka Franciscan Mom talks about being Catholic and subfertile as part of NFP Awareness Week.

Let’s hear from her about her journey as a Catholic living with subfertility.

I’m Barb from Franciscanmom.com and Cook and Count. I’m editorial consultant at Catholicmom.com, a musician at my parish, a Secular Franciscan and a school-library volunteer.

My husband and I took NFP classes through our diocese during our engagement. We’ve been married 24+ years. We learned, used and taught the sympto-thermal method of NFP. We have 3 children, ages 23, 19 and 13.

The wide gaps in our children’s ages are part of the reason Erin asked me to share our story. We always wanted several children and did use NFP to space pregnancies—but despite careful charting, our pregnancies were spaced much farther apart than we’d expected they would be.

I had some complications following the birth of our oldest child, and I can honestly say that fear of more (and possibly worse) complications made me a little hesitant to sign on for rounds 2 and 3 of pregnancy, but ultimately I got past that and then discovered that it wasn’t as easy to conceive a child the next time around.

I guess subfertility is different from infertility because we knew that we had the ability to conceive (and carry a child to term). It’s frustrating. We knew we had been able to conceive once—why couldn’t it happen again? I worried, before we conceived our second child, that those birth complications with our oldest had somehow impaired my fertility. I was also experiencing some uncomfortable menstrual symptoms, which my GYN offered to “treat” with hormones; I refused that treatment (for the first time) in 1994 and subsequently spent more than 15 years trying to convince doctors that something was definitely wrong.

It’s actually NFP (and all those years of carefully-recorded information about my own body’s patterns and in-depth knowledge of what was “normal for me”) that came to my rescue in getting the fourth GYN in as many years to finally listen to me and send me to yet another doctor for treatment, which wound up being a DaVinci (robotic) hysterectomy and the discovery during surgery that I had endometriosis. Suddenly everything made sense, and I felt vindicated in my decision to walk away from Doctor #3, who told me that what was happening to me was “normal, even if it is the sucky end of normal” (how’s that for a lovely exam-room manner?) Apparently the endometriosis invasion was extensive; one of my Fallopian tubes was attached to my intestines by scar tissue.

For some stupid reason, though, that first surgeon left me both ovaries and one tube, which meant I had a fully-functioning estrogen supply to reboot all that endometriosis. I might not have even noticed a problem—except I was still using NFP.

Why would I do that? I wanted to be able to let my daughter know when I’d gone through menopause. I know that’s on all the medical-history questionnaires, and it became important to me to be able to do that for her. I figure she’s genetically predisposed to wind up with endometriosis as well, so the more knowledge, the better. So I kept using the sympto-thermal method, taking my temperature and charting daily, and following my ovulation pattern. Within 4 months of surgery, I began having episodes of spotting that were timed just right to be menstrual periods.

My doctor listened, because I had data to present to her. We did a little bit of “wait-and-see” along with regular pelvic ultrasounds (which can find cysts and “fluid collections” but not endometriosis), and over the next year I had one very painful burst ovarian cyst and another very large cyst that was surgically drained. Finally, a little over 2 years after my first surgery, I had my ovaries removed, along with as much remaining endometriosis as a surgeon at a cancer center could find. I didn’t have cancer but I was sent there because of the surgeon’s expertise in removing all of what we didn’t want left behind.

That’s the long story of how NFP helped me with my health. I think ultimately, the knowledge I had—of what was and was not normal for me—gave me the courage I needed to see yet more doctors, undergo yet more examinations and ultrasounds and a D&C and 2 endometrial biopsies, and stand up for myself as I refused offer after offer of yet more hormones that would, at best, mask the problem and—since the problem was undiagnosed endometriosis—possibly even make it work.

How has NFP made life less-than-easy? Well, the easy way out of my situation would have been to accept hormonal birth control, and just put off dealing with the problem until later. I’d have saved myself a lot of physical pain and a lot of money spent on Advil (I was taking 4 every 6 hours, setting alarms in the middle of the night so I wouldn’t go a minute longer than that without replenishing the Advil supply).

NFP was less than easy when we were able to achieve pregnancy; people (yes, Catholic people and yes, family members) just assumed that we were “done” after the first child and definitely after the second, especially given that extra-large age gap there. So we got a lot of rude and unwelcome comments about NFP “not working” when we finally were able to announce that welcomed, wanted, and (in our minds) overdue pregnancy. If people only knew!

Although we’re faithfully Catholic and strong proponents of NFP, we’ve never run into the “you’re sinning if you don’t have a huge family” crowd. Our challenge was the opposite. We always felt alone in using NFP. No one we knew practiced it. No one in our families or circle of friends supported us in it. We only had each other for support. So our challenge as a subfertile Catholic couple was less of an issue as our challenge as an NFP-using Catholic couple. We lived with the hurts of countless snide and snarky remarks about how NFP “doesn’t work” on top of our own private burdens of subfertility. I’ve had people ask me if all 3 of my children (all of whom share the same last name, all of whom look alike, none of whom look like me) are from the same marriage. I guess no matter what your level of fertility is, people will find a way to say inappropriate and rude things (in front of your kids).

I hope that sharing our story will help someone else feel not so alone. I encourage you: if you have data about what’s normal for you, and something is happening that is not normal for you, see a doctor. If all you get are pat, easy answers about hormones, find another doctor. Don’t waste all the time I did. Don’t feel all the pain I had. Find a doctor who will listen and who will respect your knowledge and your data.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Barb.  Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share? Do you feel like you’re the only Captive Panda out there?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Captive Panda Club at erinmccolecupp.com

NFP Week: Meet Carolyn Astfalk, Captive Panda

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

Today’s guest blogger is Carolyn Astfalk.

Carolyn Astfalk LR Sepia

Let’s hear from Carolyn about her journey as a Catholic living with subfertility.

My name is Carolyn Astfalk, and I’m a wife, mother, and writer. My husband and I have used natural family planning (NFP) for more than eighteen years. Since January, I’ve been blogging at My Scribbler’s Heart, and my debut novel, Stay With Me, will be published by Full Quiver Publishing on October 1, 2015.

Most pregnant women look forward to their first sonogram with eager anticipation. I was giddy with excitement, a full heart, (and a full bladder) at my first sonogram, eager to leave with an image of my unborn baby that I could share with family and friends.

But on the sixth week of my sixth pregnancy, as I drove to the technician’s office, I felt as if I were headed to my execution. Already suffering through near-constant nausea, the dread had worked me into an anxiety attack by the time I arrived at my midday appointment.

Between my first and sixth pregnancies, they joy and excitement of a sonogram had been replaced by gloom and dread. After that first awe-inspiring sonogram, three of my four subsequent pregnancies were marked by black and white monitors with tiny, motionless babies—if you could see the baby at all. Each of those pregnancies ended with my husband and I sobbing in each other’s arms at the outpatient surgical center.

While I clung to an irrational fear of infertility before we’d even tried to conceive, it turned out we had no trouble conceiving. Sustaining pregnancies, however, was fraught with numerous difficulties.

When I had one or two children in tow, sometimes even well-meaning people unintentionally diminished pregnancy loss by saying, “Well, at least you already have one (or two) children.” Yes, we were blessed by those children. But each child is unique, and whether his or her life lasted five weeks, eight weeks, or longer, that child had already claimed (and still claims) an irreplaceable spot in my heart.

The dreaded sonogram of my sixth pregnancy revealed a healthy baby. Sixth months after that little girl was born, we conceived her little brother. I attribute those full-term pregnancies, in part, to our use of NFP, both as a method of avoiding and achieving pregnancy and as a diagnostic tool.

We practiced the symptom-thermal method of NFP from the beginning of our marriage, before and after our first son was born. After the first miscarriage, my doctor recommended learning the Creighton Method. Initially, its use was helpful in determining abnormal hormonal fluctuations during my cycle and a subclinical level of under-active thyroid. Later, we used NFP to delay pregnancies when further medical testing was needed to find additional causes for my miscarriages.

We’ve chosen to use NFP because we want to be obedient to the Church and agree with Her teaching regarding human sexuality. That NFP has vastly increased my knowledge and understanding of my health and fertility was a bonus. Between that knowledge and the outstanding care of NFP-only doctors, midwives, and health practitioners, our family has grown beyond the doubt and fears that came in the wake of those still and silent sonograms.

Like anything else, NFP has its joys and its crosses. My husband and I have discovered many ways to be at odds with each other, so I’m grateful that NFP has given us one less reason to butt heads. We’re united in our commitment to its use and share the responsibility for its effectiveness. Yes, I do all the observing and charting, but both trusting God with our fertility and practicing abstinence when necessary require mutual assent. We can’t put off those conversations and decisions indefinitely, nor can we resent each other as we might were one of us the gatekeeper of pleasure or fertility.

Charting has been a minor inconvenience at worst. The most difficult part of NFP’s use has been the necessary abstinence when trying to avoid a pregnancy. There’s no way around the fact that it’s frustrating that the time my husband and I are most inclined to be intimate is when we cannot be. As we’ve grown weaker (or more needy) over the years, our resolve has weakened, forcing us to be more generous with God and each other—and that’s not a bad thing.

As in so many other aspects of our lives, we’re often quick to jump to conclusions based on only what we see. In the case of sub-fertile Catholic families, you may see what passes for a large family these days. What you don’t see is who is missing—the children longed for and the babies lost.

My paternal grandmother died very young, leaving my grandfather with two boys. They only family photo of them is one of my grandfather, father, and uncle with a picture of my grandmother awkwardly superimposed above them. I’ve heard it was common practice at one time to add the deceased love one into the photo, but to the modern eye, it borders on creepy. Yet having the entire family pictured together, those here and those who have moved on, points to a larger reality—our eternal kinship. That’s what I wish people could see: our whole family, together forever.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Carolyn.  Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share with your fellow Captive Pandas?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

NFP Week: Meet Rhonda Ortiz, Captive Panda

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

Today’s guest blogger is Rhonda Ortiz.

RhondaOrtiz

Let’s hear from her about her journey as a Catholic living with subfertility.

Hey there! I’m Rhonda Ortiz. I’m a 34-year-old Catholic convert, wife, and mother of three. Other than chasing after kids, I spend my days writing and working as a freelance graphic designer. I’m also the founding editor of Real Housekeeping, an online magazine with over twenty contributors (and counting!).

Life in the Captive Panda Club…

When Jared and I were first married, we assumed we’d be Good Catholics and beget enough kids to field a football team. I had just graduated college and had no firm career plans—I was just waiting for the blessed arrival of a bundle of joy to keep me busy and happy.

That didn’t happen. At first, we assumed it was just a matter of time. After a year, Jared suggested that I see a doctor. That was a last thing I wanted to do. Like the proverbial ostrich, I stuck my head in the sand. If I didn’t learn what was wrong, nothing would be wrong. Right?

I spent five frustrated years wondering, if I wasn’t destined to be a mom, what the heck was I going to do with my life. My thoughts ran wild through the rat nest that was my head, making this and that set of plans, seeking…something. Anything!

Compounding my quest for daily purpose was the fact that my job at the time—teaching math at a Catholic school—wasn’t the best fit for me. And yet I couldn’t see myself doing anything except teach.

I finally agreed to see a doctor and learned that I had endometriosis. I had my first laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrium in June 2007.

We assumed I would be pregnant right away, but that also didn’t happen.

Fast forward to December 2009. My husband was studying for his doctoral comprehensive exams. I was in the middle of (a yet-undiagnosed) major bipolar mood swing which not only impeded my work but made me unbearable to live with. Yet somewhere in there was time and impetus for intimacy.

And then the miracle happened. On Christmas Eve, I discovered I was pregnant.

We learned after the fact that four different people, in four different states and with no communication between them, had felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to pray for us at Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Those of you who are good with NFP can do the math yourselves: this was my peak day.

Our first son, Benedict, was born the following September. Our second, Miriam, was conceived a few months after my second surgery and was born in October 2013. And in May we welcomed our third, Joseph, who is our first “Surprise!” baby. Given our previous subfertility, we were shocked, to say the least.

Regarding how the experience of subfertility is different from infertility…

They are both difficult to deal with and accept. I suppose one difference I see between the two is that, with subfertility, we have to discern how much medical intervention we’re going to allow in order to conceive again. We know now that I can have children; the question of,  “Am I going to have yet another surgery?” is compounded with our prudential discernment about having more kids.

On NFP and health, marriage, and life…

NFP has taught me the truth of the phrase, “Knowledge is Power.” Facing my fears and going to the doctor has taught me that it’s better to know, because in knowing I can do something about it. Now I have options. Now I can make decisions.

This lesson has impacted all areas of my health. After a major cross-country move I started experiencing more crippling mood swings and anxiety attacks. Thanks to the knowledge of a family member’s recent bipolar diagnosis, I was able to put a word on what I was experiencing and seek professional help.

Having proper medical care has made a world of difference to my daily life and especially my marriage. Knowledge really is power.

I haven’t experienced the “tough” side of NFP yet, but given that we now know we can have “unplanned” children, I think we’re about to experience it!

On being subfertile and Catholic…

Before Benedict was born, I felt like I had to explain our childless state to everyone. It wasn’t as if others were prying into our intimate concerns, but living in a vibrant Catholic community as we did at the time, we were surrounded by large families. I was afraid of being seen by others as unfaithful.

Those fears were unfounded. No one thought ill of us. In fact, those who knew had sympathy. They prayed for us.  They befriended us and welcomed us into their families.  We happily conversed about their kids, of course, but they also understood that we didn’t have kids to talk about and therefore talked about other things as well.

This is the best thing others can do for subfertile Catholics. We needed friends who could meet us where we were. Thank the Lord, we were blessed to have them.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Rhonda.  Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share with your fellow Captive Pandas?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

NFP Awareness Week: Let’s Hear from the Captive Pandas

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

This week, I’m honored to host the following guest bloggers:

7/21 Erin McCole Cupp (surprise!)

7/22 Rhonda Ortiz

7/23 Carolyn Astfalk

7/24 Barb, aka Franciscan Mom

Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share with your fellow Captive Pandas?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

DYFAM free on Kindle through 21Nov13!

Yes, friends, Don’t You Forget About Me is free on Kindle through Thursday.

Um… I really don’t know how to elaborate on that.

20130713-095421.jpg

 

Okay, here’s some elaboration.  The most frequent compliment regarding my writing that I get from people who know me in real life is, “I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing.”  That means, “I expected it to suck and it didn’t!”  If that doesn’t convince you to go get a free book, then I don’t know what will.

 

The first not-glowing review!

Who wants a little taste of schadenfreude?

RAnn at This That and the Other Thing has posted her review of Don’t You Forget About Me.  

Considering where I got this book (Full Quiver Publishers [sic]) I rolled my eyes and figured I was about to quit reading some diatribe about birth control pills causing all sorts of health problems.  I was wrong.

HA!  Gotcha, RAnn!

RAnn goes on to write:

If a characteristic of a good writer is getting readers to see themselves in characters, Erin Cupp nailed me in Mary Catherine.

KA-CHOW!

“Hey!” you say.  “Where’s my schadnfreude?”  Well, that you’ll have to get by going over to RAnn’s place and reading the actual review.  Considering RAnn’s review policy and her rating system, the fact that DYFAM got a B is nothing up at which I’ll turn my nose.  It’s kind of like getting not cursed at by the Hell’s Kitchen dude.

OMG, these Gordon Ramsey x DW pics are the best. There's so little ginger!

But wait!  There’s more!

YES.

Really,  people, I could go on like this all day.

I’d like to thank RAnn for taking the time to review DYFAM.  I’d also like to thank you, if you’ve read the book, for hopping on over to Amazon and posting a review of your own… pretty please?  Or maybe on Goodreads?  If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the remedy.

Frightening Yourself on a Road Trip: A How-To

I snagged a copy of Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable just before leaving on a road trip… that ended with our family staying in a cabin in the woods for two days.  What’s the premise of Stealing Jenny?  I don’t think I’m giving too much away, but think Catholic Misery (not Catholic guilt, silly–different animal all together):  a twisted soul kidnaps someone to, you guessed it, a cabin in the woods.  My fertile imagination was glad that I had my family around me the whole time.  There were mice in said cabin, but no kidnappers.  Phew.

My review?  I hate the use the cliche “fast-paced page-turner,” but it fits.  The characters were believable.  That is a huge compliment to a writer when bringing us characters who do things like–gasp!–practice NFP and chastity (sorry, folks, but no matter the morality I have espoused for myself, I am still a child of my culture, and if you’re going to write a character who lives a counter-cultural life, that character had better be three-dimensional).  The suspense was well-developed and well-handled.  There were a few characters I would have liked to see more fully-drawn, but all in all, Stealing Jenny was well worth the read.

If, however, you are planning on a trip to the woods and are easily frightened, save the read for when you’re back and safe at home.