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By Janet Sahm Easter
I braced myself for the day our daughter arrived in this world. I say braced because I have found the arrival of new life to be a motley mash of high emotions and tests of strength – simultaneously joyful, exhausting, wonderful, miraculous…and scary.
There is no doubt about it, a new life is a big deal. Marriage is a big deal. And that is exactly what Humanae Vitae confirms.
Pope Paul VI reaffirms our capacity as human beings to love to a frightening degree. A love that is total, faithful, exclusive and fully human. To love through sacrifice – and specifically within marriage, whether by receiving the gift of a child or discerning to abstain – is in the end undeniably freeing in the true sense of the word. But yet again it’s scary. The kind of scary that turns your world upside down by putting another before yourself. The kind of scary that accepts the task of raising another soul before you feel adequate or even ready.
I always pictured myself as a mother, and Humanae Vitae’s vision of marriage as total self-giving love is what my husband and I signed up for (knowing it’s a lifelong mountain to climb). But motherhood was more of a shock to my system than I could have prepared for. There are days and nights when little Gemma Faustina brings me to my knees. There are times when my own selfishness burns brighter than ever in my conscience.
“Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents,” says Pope Paul VI. I couldn’t agree more. My daughter forces me to go outside of myself, to put her first. As I clumsily step into motherhood, she is refining my heart. Gemma is teaching me to choose love.
In the midst of the new-baby fog and difficult learning curve of motherhood, my husband and I have to regularly discern and discuss the possibility of another child. NFP requires great sacrifice – in other words, great love. It is scary to be that vulnerable and open, but I know I am becoming more myself, more fully human by embracing the Church’s teaching on marriage and children. Humanae Vitae reminds me that I am created for more.
Janet Easter is the co-founder of Verily magazine. She and her husband, Brian, and their daughter, Gemma, live in Pittsburgh.
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