Nosy Friend is ecstatic that I’m having a baby boy. She arrives at my doorstep, flinging her cross-fit toned arms wide open to hug and congratulate me. I grab the package of mouthwatering French macaroons straight from a Paris bakeshop off her hands, but she snatches it back.
“Hang on. You get this after I get to cross examine you,” she says.
I’m slightly nervous. My old friend from law school is a pro at squeezing witnesses, and she already knows the vast majority of my most embarrassing moments so a round of Q & A would stuff her arsenal with more things to blackmail Anabelle Hazard with. But the macaroons, oooh, I gotta have them. “O-okay. Shoot.”
“So, now that you’re having a boy, are you done?”
Eyeroll. “Are you done having kids?”
“Didn’t you read my blog post about letting God plan our family size two pregnancies ago?”
She shakes her head. After I hang up her lamb’s wool coat, she perches on the bar stool of my kitchen island.
“What kind of friend doesn’t subscribe to her friends’ blog?” I ask.
“The kind who is in court or with clients wracking billable hours.”
I sigh as I slip in beside her. “Okay, in gist, my husband and I are practicing Catholics who understand, believe and abide by the teachings of the Church. Every marital act is self-giving and open to the fruit of love…children. Frankly, I’d feel used if all he wanted was the pleasure of sex without the gift of children and responsibility of parenthood.”
Her dark red lipstick is turned downward. “You’re not getting fixed?”
“Vasectomy or tubal ligations are also against Church teachings. Mutilating the co-creative/self-giving nature of sex is like unwrapping a precious present, throwing away the fertility eggs inside, tying up the gift back up and returning it to sender with the tag: ‘No thanks, God!’
I hand her my i-phone. “You must not have read this blog post from a colleague on vasectomy: Why fix something that isn’t broke?”
“I don’t do blogs.” Nosy Friend pushes my phone away. “That’s like reading opinionated cliff notes or case digests in comics form. Its’ for people who can’t read big stuff.”
“What?” I shriek. “I write plenty of big stuff! I write explosive posts with deep reflections, like the time I rammed into a truck and hopped on a motorcycle. I wrote about the time I went on vacation and got the stomach bug and my husband wheeled me in a baggage trolley with my arms wrapped around a trash can… well maybe I meant to, but anyway, that’s major stuff because I wound up in the ER! The E.R.! I could have died and you wouldn’t have known it.”
“You rode on a baggage trolley? Gross. Why couldn’t your husband get a wheelchair or sweep you off your feet and carry you?”
“There were no wheelchairs in the resort, he has a bad back, and I was carrying extra pregnancy weight.”
Another lipstick-ed pout at the word ‘pregnancy’. “You’re close to forty. Don’t deny it. Your dermatologist sister did an awesome job zapping away your sunspots, but I know we both graduated the same year. Do you really think your body is capable of another pregnancy?”
“I know God wouldn’t call me to be a mother, if He didn’t give me all available graces to answer my vocation.”
“But didn’t God also give you contraception and birth control?”
I pause and scrape my chair back a smidge. “God gave me Christ. Christ gave me the Church. The Church gave me theology to understand that natural family planning, which involves self control, is an even better gift that God gave me. You really should read my blog post on the number of law suits surrounding birth control side effects. There is no way I would think it’s a gift from God. Its from hell, more like.”
“So you’re not done?” She shudders. I can almost read her mind. She is thinking of her travels all over the world to five star resorts with her rock star husband, tasting exotic cuisine, and coming home to luxury linens, a yipping Japanese Pomeranian, and weekly nail spa appointments, everything posted on Facebook for me to drool on, which I have, by the way … except for the dog with matching owner’s pink pedi.
“That’s a loaded question,” I say. “If you mean ‘will we use artificial birth control and resort to sterilization’, then no, we’re not. If you mean, ‘would we like to have more children’, yes, we’d like some if God gave us more, but we’re also grateful enough if He doesn’t. But if you mean, ‘are we going to have more children’, then I don’t know. Next year, God could bless us with twins, we could discern serious reason for spacing or avoiding pregnancy (which the Church allows) or we’d have a fourth miscarriage –“
“Wait. Wait. You’ve had three miscarriages and you’re willing to get pregnant again? You’re crazy!”
I shrug. “I’m also afraid of losing another baby and winding up in the ER or the OR again, I’m only human. But faith overcomes fear. This life is only temporary. I can look forward to eternity with my children. Catechism says children are your crowns in heaven and three of them are already there! I have more reason to look forward to heaven, and teach my children on earth to aim for it at all costs… But not so fast, I’m enjoying their childhood.”
“You mean you actually like children? Want a whole gaggle of them?” Her smokey shadowed eyes are practically sending SOS smoke signals to the Chikasaw tribes.
“Yes! No one held a gun to my head to quit the firm to stay at home with little people. I love them: girls or boys.”
“Even when they break your kindle, stain your carpet, deprive you of sleep or ruin your figure?” She skims her eyes and stops at the pudge in my middle section, which will never go back to its concave unstretch-marked origins again.
“So none of them were unplanned?” She clucks her tongue.
“Our third pregnancy which resulted in my first miscarriage was a surprise,” I say. “But she was certainly planned by God.”
“So how many surprises do you plan on having?”
“I’m counting on a lot. It comes with the territory.” I smile. “Did I ever tell you about the time I went shopping with my middle child and she shoved a size 18W dress at me, insisting it would fit me perfectly. When I told her it was at least 10 sizes too big, she said “What exactly does 18 W mean?” I said, “It means 18 women.” She said, “What?! How can 18 women fit in there?”
Nosy Friend laughs. “Children can be funny. But pesky, too, and a lot of work.”
“I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying ‘No sacrifice, no true love. no cross, no crown.’ If you have no further questions, can I have the macaroons? Want a piece?”
She slumps down on her barstool. “I need a drink.”
I pour her Sunsweet Prune Juice, a favorite for, er, digestive reasons. “Now, can I ask you why you and Barry never had kids?”
“We can’t have any,” she says. “We’ve tried IVF (in vitro fertilization) and both times they’ve failed.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” I say. I am sorry they couldn’t have children and that they used IVF. Again, the Church teaches against IVF because procreation is a marital sexual gift and since life begins at conception, the status of the embryos are not ours to determine: whether to be thawed indefinitely or dispensed with.
“We wanted one. Just one.”
“You know, Nosy, we struggled with secondary infertility. Catholic friends recommended we consult a Napro physician who could help us with our issues in the ways the Church permitted. But we couldn’t afford that, so we had a holy priest pray over my womb and voila! Miracle baby! Blog post June 2014.”
“Well you didn’t tell me you wrote about that.” She finishes up the prune juice. “I may just start reading your blog.”
“You should. You’ll be on it tomorrow.” I motion to her glass. “Do you want a refill or are you done?”
“I don’t know. Are you done?”
I pick up another macaroon. Mint chocolate. “Why? I’m just getting to the good part.”
+AMDG+ (Work of fiction. Any similarities to real persons are purely coincidental but the questions are not imagined. They have actually been asked, and those are my honest answers.)
Anabelle Hazard is a practicing Catholic and a non-practicing attorney. She is a managing editor and columnist for Catholic Stand but a disorganized novelist and long-winded blogger at Written By the Finger of God.