St. Valentine's feast day is tomorrow, as are the more sombering feast days of Sts. Cyril and Methodius and St. Maro. I toyed with surprising Will with Fisherman's Stew, but I'll more than likely plan it for another day, since I do not see the need to do budget maneuvering to celebrate Valentine's Day.
This does not mean I do not appreciate it as a holiday; I am always looking for an excuse to bake dessert and when Grace is older and knows what is going on in the world, I want to give her (and the future littles) a big Valentine's Day balloon and put an enormous red or pink bow on her head.
It is true that Valentine's Day-at-large celebrate general love, and is not merely for romantic love, and to look at Valentine's Day as such is narrow vision. I loved making and giving cards away to my classmates in grade school, and creating my very own mailbox out of a shoebox. And it is equally true how ridiculous it is to go to the grocery store in January and see stuffed bears holding hearts, and dozens of balloons, and dozens of roses, and all for one day. I would rather see those bears and hearts and balloons and roses available every day, rather than marked up drastically and dropped into the pit-of-sale! sale! sale! on February 15.
But is what we're looking for general love in society? Our openness to love seems to only be on certain terms: give and take.
Last year, I cried when my husband did not wish me a happy Valentine's day. I laugh now, and maybe I should blame it on the pregnancy hormones, but we were apart and he forgot. We had never celebrated it when we were dating or engaged, and I suppose I expected to celebrate it because St. Valentine is the patron saint of married couples, and finally, I felt like my time had come.
And what changed? you might ask. In my case, it was a reality check of sorts. A decision of what we celebrate and why. My husband the rationalist believes that if you do anything or believe anything, you must have a reason why. My whimsical mind likes to jump into the future, into possibility, and into loving everyone and everything around me.
I don't have a good reason for celebrating the secular Valentine's Day, except the want/need to eat heart-shaped cookies or red velvet cupcakes, buy balloons and dress Grace and myself in bright colors. And while I wouldn't mind flowers, what I mostly want to do on Valentine's Day is to acknowledge the gift of sex between married couples.
The Planned Parenthood signs twirling around the internet of #WhatWomenNeed for St. Valentine's Day had a lovely assortment provided to the organization Women Speak for Themselves, and here's mine:
Proper Education and Factual Information About Their Body
This post isn't about having babies or saying you should all have one (now! right now!); it's about natural family planning. It's about knowing your body and trusting yourself over a pill (a class 1 carcinogen), the only medication people take when their body is working correctly. It's about the best thing you can do in your marriage, together.
Before you roll your eyes and say that everyone who practices that are parents, you should know that I believe the strongest cause for objection is out of fear; and while I understand those fears, I also know that NFP is the best thing for marriage. Even when I give you the reasons, perhaps you'll think, I already have those down pat with my spouse. And maybe you do. But organic sex is like eating organic food - once you know the taste, anything else seems second-rate.
Firstly, nothing says "I love you, all of you" like NFP. Women's fertility is a cycle, and one that can be clearly charted if you take the time to learn the signs. It is an opinion to say cervical mucus is gross - it is a fact to say cervical mucus is the body's way of telling you when you can (or cannot, if you abstain) get pregnant. Ditto goes for temperature, sensation and peeing in a cup (all other methods of NFP).
|Hey girl... I love you just the way you are.|
There is no need to take cough medicine every day to prevent a cough, just like there is no reason to take birth control every day (or have is physically present in your body) to prevent pregnancy. A woman can only become pregnant 5-6 days a month. She is not constantly fertile like a man; and yet the woman has to take the drug to suppress her fertility.
More than the clinical side, though, there is a freedom in the mutual love-making, and the mutual giving. There is an intimacy and warmth of a couple who shares equally in knowledge and decision-making. There is love in valuing the fertility of both parties - loving the whole person. There is nothing contraceptive in mindset or in actions when participating in NFP; each person is totally open in love, in understanding, and in generosity.
Then, there's the abstinence, if you're TTA (trying to avoid). Will and I did that over our honeymoon, and it provided us with a lot of time to discuss why we were avoiding. NFP is not a default - married couples, in their vows, promise to be open to children. Will and I decided that we did not have a serious reason to avoid becoming pregnant; and we did, even though it was a 20 percent chance.
Natural, no health-risks and a 98.6 percent effectiveness rating aside, Will and I practice NFP because couples who do have a less than 5 percent divorce rate. The reason for that is the amazing communication skills a couple must develop. It's not just about already having the necessary "skills" - it's a willingness and an openness to having a tough conversation, to being honest, and to giving and accepting love, not giving and taking. NFP is pure vulnerability, and it's pushed me and tried me and helped me love Will the best way I can, and for the best reasons. NFP is not a good in itself, but it is walk worth taking, and a discussion worth having.
Valentine's Day is one day out of the year; in the scheme of things, it seems like a fine day to remind ourselves to love a little more. But love looks different in the lens of marriage and parenthood when there is more on the line - when your heart surges because your baby just pooped and your husband is going to change it so you can keep type-type-typing. Fixing dinner to nourish your loved ones; decorating the town house because it's our home; sweet kisses and a gurgling baby who has discovered how to make loud bubbles using her tongue and lips.
This year, when you're celebrating love, start celebrating an openness to love, and toast to the grand adventure that is an ordinary, beautiful life.