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Natural and Unnatural

I was over a friend's house picking up a buddy of mine this past weekend. He wasn't ready so I ended up hanging out for a few minutes with his wife and her friend. I'd met the other woman before but don't know her all that well. She was talking a mile a minute about how "natural" she lives and how great she feels. Of course, she was telling us that we should be living the same way. She lectured me about different herbs and how she's detoxing her body.

She's been "living naturally" since New Year's Day. (Her words)

She said she feels so much better ("fantabulous!!!" was her word) and she's been doing a lot of reading about all the "unnatural" chemicals people put in their bodies and how harmful it all is.

My buddy came into the room and rolled his eyes but I didn't know her well enough to joke about it since she seemed to take it all very seriously so I listened to her. Actually, I kind of pretended to listen by just nodding my head and occasionally grunting.

In the conversation my buddy joked about me "detoxing" my five children.

"What?!" gasped the woman. "Really? You really have five kids?"

One of the funny things about writing a Catholic blog is you sometimes forget that having five kids is a lot. But around the Catholic blogosphere I read about so many people who have that many children and many more that I forget how countercultural it is to have more than two children.

Then she asked me if I was crazy?

I responded I was. (I mean, how else do you respond to that?)

"My gosh," she said, slowing herself down for a moment. "I couldn't even imagine. One's enough for me. I'm not having anymore. My husband wants more but thank God for the Pill."

Ms. Natural Living is on the Pill?

I couldn't hold me tongue so I just threw it out there. "How does all this natural living coincide with all the chemicals you're putting in your body from the Pill?"

And then she said that she needs to be on the Pill because it allows her to live naturally. If she had more children then she wouldn't have the time to live the way she wanted to live, she said.

I held my tongue after that. Remember, I was the crazy one.

Erin Manning wrote:

What a horrific lie it is, to convince millions upon millions of healthy woman that their bodies' natural fertility is a terrible disease for which a decades-long prescription to a drug engineered to fight against it is not only necessary, but imperative!
It is rather an oddity that with all this focus on natural foods that many women still don't consider birth control in the same manner.

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Anonymous said...

I'm still in school and my wife an I have our fist child on the way. We don't even have the kid out of uterus yet and I already get the vib that most of my fellow classmates think we're crazy.

There are a few other students that have kids as well, but after talking to them I got the distinct impression that they see them as "mistakes." Its been disheartening to saw the least, but I've found a renewed sense of strength from this quote:

Now a child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh free will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce and which they freely agree to protect. They can feel that any amusement he gives (which is often considerable) really comes from him and from them and from nobody else. He has been born without the intervention of any master or lord. He is a creation and a contribution; he is their own creative contribution to creation. He is also a much more beautiful, wonderful, amusing and astonishing thing than any of the stale stories or jingling jazz tunes turned out by the machines. When men no longer feel that he is so, they have lost the appreciation of primary things, and therefore all sense of proportion about the world. People who prefer the mechanical pleasures, to such a miracle, are jaded and enslaved. They are preferring the very dregs of life to the first fountains of life. They are preferring the last, crooked, indirect, borrowed, repeated and exhausted things of our dying Capitalist civilisation, to the reality which is the only rejuvenation of all civilisation. It is they who are hugging the chains of their old slavery; it is the child who is ready for the new world.

-G.K. Chesterton


Lori said...

Not to mention what the "passing" of the pill chemicals do to the water systems, and the whole circle of life that follows...VERY unnatural, I would think.

Early Riser said...

She lost me at fantabulous.

Barbara said...

Planned Parenthood of Canada just announced its inability to help its clients in their quest for natural planning. What 1.2 billion, world-wide organization have you vilified for teaching natural family planning, oh clueless one?
It appears that women are alarmed at the scientifc studies linking increased risk of breast cancerc to abortion andthe Pill. Neither the surgery nor the medication are natural!

NFPworks said...

Barb's totally right. I've been blogging about this for years, but finally lately there's been a huge increase in articles and attention on people turning away from the Pill for various reasons, including environmental reasons. Planned Parenthood (well, just one that we know of right now) is the latest to jump on the natural band wagon. Articles mentioning NFP/ turning away from the Pill include one in TIME, a couple Canadian publications, the Swedish version of NPR, the blogosphere, and probably more...You should print out/ get the urls for a couple of these articles, and give them to your quasi-organic lady friend.

Mike in CT said...

Birth control:

The only area of the medical profession whose intent is to thwart a healthy, well-functioning system of the human body.

Yup, that's natural.

Anonymous said...

Who else gets these reactions, as I do when people learn that I have five children? :

"Have you worked out how they are made yet?"

"Haven't you heard of condoms?"

"You two should learn how to turn on the television."

"You must be a glutton for punishment"

"Oh well, that's fine for people who can afford a large family" (in a very judgmental tone, a favorite among "Progressive Catholics")

"You should leave her alone sometimes" (which my wife particularly hates as it implies her complete docility)

Everyone of these remarks have been made to me more than one. The amazing this is that these totally inappropriate remarks are usually made by complete strangers - who seem to think it acceptable to make public judgments on one's fertility.

And then, every now and again, someone will say, very gently, "You must feel very blessed". Funnily enough, the person who says this is guaranteed, every time, to be Catholic or Jewish.

Anonymous said...

In the next few weeks, I will inform my work place that my wife and I are expecting our fourth. Remembering the eyes rolling on my third announcement makes it easy to anticipate the reaction.

My line is going to be, "It is kind of interesting to see co-workers reaction to the news. Those who understand what life is truly about and the joy children bring to your life, get it, and are happy for me/us. Those who understand 401K's and early retirements with their inverted focus don't really get it. The reaction of individual people is really very telling into their personalities and the quality of lives they must live."

That'al should shut them up.

WingletDriver said...


When people ask me, "Have you worked out how they are made yet?", I reply, "My wife and I have been doing some experiments and have it down to two or three possible causes."

Michael said...

My favorite response to the "Have you worked out how they are made yet?" type questions is:

"Oh yes, and someday we'll remember to separate her underwear from my underwear in the wash."

SherryTex said...

Oh guys, you hit a nerve. With nine, I get this question whenever we go out.

"All of them yours?" "With the same dad?"
I never have a sharp retort to this because I'm supressing an urge to growl.

But "Don't you know how this works?" "Obviously."

"Are you done?"
"Done with what?"

Organic chicken not hormone injected, purifies.
Pellet induced sterility via decades of synthetic hormones --living naturally. Right.

SarahL said...

What better to go with my morning coffee than this post?! Loved the responses to "Have you worked out how they're made, yet?" I've been asked, "Are you done?" before, and my response is usually, "I don't know, but I hope not." We only have three, and the oldest, our only boy, would really like a baby brother.
One of the reasons for "being done" that have been offered to me is the fact that I inherited my dad's PKD, so eventually my kidneys will probably fail, and there are lots of people out there who seem to think that if you have a medical condition that you might pass on to your kids, you really shouldn't procreate. After all, I hear, "Do you really want to do that to your kids?"
I'd rather have PKD than not be alive, myself. I think my kids would agree, even if we all end up in dialysis centers at some point. ;) I can think of a lot worse things to pass on to my kids.

Katie said...

That's pretty common among the "natural living" community. They won't eat high-fructose corn syrup and are convinced that processed flour is poison, but they'll flood their body with chemicals from contraceptives.

I've decided that from now on, when I announce a pregnancy and people joke "don't you know what causes that?" I'm going to respond with a totally deadpan "Yeah. F*****g." Crass joke deserves a crass answer, amirite?

KristinD said...

SarahL - I'm a SAHM too with 3 little ones and PKD also, inherited from my moms side. And I have a knitting/crocheting obsession also. If you ever would like to touchbase I'm on http://christianfamilyplanning.net with the user name findinghumility. (I'm hesitent to put the e-mail out here and I don't have a blog..sorry)

Michael said...

Actually, I like and don't like my reply to those questions. In some ways I like it because of the shock and consternation it causes the other person, but on the other hand, it still portrays fertility to be something avoided if you can figure it out.

Perhaps the better answer is a take-off of Katie's, especially if the brood is around.

Q: "Don't you know how that happens?"
A: "Yes, and isn't it loads of fun when you're married?"

SarahL said...

I forgot to clarify, when I said I could think of lots worse things to pass on to my kids, that none of them are health conditions.

And thanks, Kristin D! I'll check out the website, and I look forward to meeting you there. :)

I love this blog!

Anonymous said...

katie, I love it. If you go to cafepress.com and search NFP, they have so many t-shirts with nfp slogans, and there's one similar to that. :)

SarahL said...

Oh, and many thanks to Jeff for posting the GKC quote! :)

Sarah said...

Ohhh! Hippies like that drive me nuts! The illogic of it all!

When my hubby and I decided to do NFP everyone was horrified on my mom's side (liberal feminist side)- said we were stupid, reckless, etc. My husband's side was wary of it too (they're Catholic) and asked us if we had really thought it through. Even my obgyn was laughed derisively and said, "Oh! The old rythm method! I'll prescribe you some prenatal vitamins right now!" (Needless to say I quickly switched to a pro-life NFP supportive practice!)

Either way, there was a lot of resistance.

Now, 2 1/2 years into our marriage we're expecting our first born any time now (really- he's welcome to arrive whenever he's ready... come on now!) and we were able to (through the grace of God) stick to the method to avoid and then finally acheive pregnancy when we were called to:). I love the freedom this method really allows and the power it give to women (and men) to enjoy and responsibly protect their fertility! Talk about co-operation with the way God created you to be:).

We'll see how things go with the post-partum and breastfeeding... if anyone has any tips or good articles for NFP after childbirth, please pass the links on!

Sarah - Kala said...

Keeping in mind these are the same idiots who get pissed off when they can't get pregnant the very first time 'cos they deserve to have their lives run like clockwork when and how they want. Geesh. You cannot win with some of these dumdums. Our rivers and streams are clogged with the chemicals that they piss out. Sorry, but it's true. As long as they are getting what they want they can claim enlightenment, but it's really ignorance. God help them anyway.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Sara 11:52-- the Couple to Couple league has some articles on using breastfeeding to space pregnancies (baby in bed, no pacifiers, nurse on demand, etc. etc.) Breastfeeding spaces our kids about 2 years apart, no NFP involved! But it depends on your own body, so you'll want to wait and see.

Steve and Cindy Willmot said...

Oh, I just love it. When my husband announced our 6th was on the way, he actually got sticky notes posted on his computer in his office by "concerned" co-workers. These idiots we can tolerate. It's our "concerned" family members that take the cake. My comment these days--"Someone has to pay your Social Security."

Anonymous said...

Sarah-Kala has it right. The unthinking acceptance of the Pill (and other hormonal contraception) would be funny if it were not so sad, and if it did not have such far-reaching effects on all of women's "healthcare". Have rough periods, irregular cycles, endometriosis, or acne? Take the Pill. You're off the Pill now and can't have a baby? Well we have an alphabet soup of treatments for that: IUI, IVF, DI, DOST, GIFT, ICSI... Oh, and you just want to help your body work the way God intended? Sorry, there's no pill for that.

I am really hopeful that some day the natural living movement will make it's way into mainstream women's health treatment. It's very odd indeed that "natural" or "green" living has taken on these elitist connotations. Many people, myself included, find our way into more natural living when it comes to nutrition because NFP has brought us there.

The fact is that many foods these days are manufactured with as little regard for preserving fertility as the Pill. And the foods coming from a lot of industrial farms have been emptied of the most important vitamin and nutrient content necessary for sustaining fertility. Marilyn Shannon's "Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition" is a necessary read for any woman using NFP, and is written from a reasonable, Catholic perspective. It's available through the CCLI (or Amazon). It would really be the best answer for Matthew's lady-friend, though I'm not sure it would be well-received...

D and S said...

For the "Don't you know what causes that?" I have a standard response;"Of course, why do you think we have so many?"

My wife's response is "No, would you care to explain it for me?"

Dan, patriarch and father of 11.

Christina said...

Being on the pill allows her to live naturally? How does having kids suddenly stop you from living naturally?

Some of the most naturally living people I know are Catholics who also practice NFP and have several kids. In fact, it was by their example that I started considering eating more all natural/organic/healthy foods and also started charting based on their recommendations.

I had a doctor try to put me on the pill for an irregular period, instead I learned how my body works, started charting, diagnosed the problem and altered my diet & supplements to fix it without the unhealthy side effects of the pill. Nothing beats that for being natural and having kids would not have effected the results.

Side note, I feel like I'm the only single person in the world using NFP...with abstinence all the time of course ;).

Christina said...

I second Shannon's book, I couldn't remember which one I'd read. It's helped me so much and I'm not even trying to be fertile. It was what gave me the tools to diagnose my irregularities and ideas for how to help fix it.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

*head desk*

Betcha anything that she thinks this "detox" helps prevent cancer....

Margaret said...

"Don't you know how that happens?"
"Of course. We're just better at it than most people." :)

Re. breastfeeding-- lovely in theory, not always true in practice. Some of us are just Fertile Myrtles, even when exclusively, "ecologically" breastfeeding. It's okay, though. Fertility returns, one or two long, confusing cycles, and then back to normal.

Anonymous said...

As the youngest of sixteen children (yes, same parents all) I, too, have heard my share of insults, jokes and unbelievably dumb questions. As a 43 year old mother of three who is not able to have more at this late stage I have a pretty good perspective of how the differences play out and I encourage everyone who can to continue to have as many babies as their families can support.

When weighing the pros and cons on the issues that really matter, all the advantages are to the larger families except bathroom time (of course the home we grew up in was older and had only 1 and a half baths).

Holidays were a blast when we were little but now, with families of our own they are huge events and something to be experienced because they are like nothing else.

There is always someone to help when it is needed, so many different talents. Always a lap to sit on or a shoulder to cry on. Some one to play a game with or, when your older, to go out for a beer with. Boredom is not an option. Plus, you learn to stick up for yourself and others, too.

And when mom and dad get older and need care, many helping hands make the burden light -- no one feels taken advantage of.

We, my husband and I, witness to our selfishness to our children all the time now and they all hope they will be blessed with a least a half-dozen. Pray they succeed, I do.

JP Amy

PattyinCT said...

So you know, in reading these comments, I've just decided something. When and if God allows us the privilege of bearing our fifth child, I think my husband and I should play dumb. That's right, clam up and not make any announcements. Then when I start to show (which happens earlier and earlier with each pregnancy) I can just play dumb still. Hey, what's the worst that could happen? At least then I can outwardly guffaw in the faces of those who would otherwise "pity" me! hehehehe
Can't wait...Honey...Where are you??? Hehehehe

Carolyn said...


whatever one's beliefs/"lifestyle"/religion etc are why would ANYONE who hears the television commercial for "the pill" even consider it when it clearly states the side effects (in their words) as being "stroke, heart-attack, or even DEATH"???

I had my first child 3 weeks shy of my 42nd bday. please remember Catholic families come in all sizes, even though we are open to more.

David L Alexander said...

When I see a family with, say, eight kids, I'll say to one of the younger ones, "What? Only eight? Why, if you had nine, you could be a baseball team!" And I try to look real serious, and they wonder if I'm pulling their leg, then they look to Mom or Dad -- who are relieved by this time.

Regardless of the issue of birth control versus NFP, I can't imagine the number of kids a family has being anybody's damn business other than their own.

Besides, it's more fun to just mess with their heads.

lavatea said...


Thank you for the reminder that Catholic families come in all sizes, even small ones. From time to time I find myself *gasp* judging (I'm ashamed to admit) families at Mass with only one or two children (older children where it's apparent that the parents are done making more). I know this is terribly wrong of me, as a small number of offspring does not automatically equate with contraceptive practices. And I should know better, since I currently only have two living children myself.

So, consider me contrite. God's still working on me.

ICXC NIKA said...

Saw a button that I posted on my FB:

Yes, we have a lot of kids,
Yes, we know what causes it, and
Yes, we'll have lots of company in
the nursing home while you sit alone
and miss your big boat!


Alice Gunther said...

Laughing out loud, because I have had this conversation so many, many, many times. But perhaps not so hilariously as this.

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