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Monday, June 23, 2014

God's View Of Love {Teaching Our Children About Their Bodies and Sexuality}

Growing up in a "Catholish" home meant that I went to mass once a week, confession twice a year, and CCD during the school year until I made my Confirmation. It meant I was taught the basic prayers, such as Grace Before Meals, Hail Mary, Our Father, and The Act of Contrition, but I was told that praying the rosary was silly and unnecessary. I was told that the Pope was the head of the church, but he was only a man, and he got things wrong sometimes, like the whole birth control thing and the divorce thing. Life was meant to be lived happily, and that meant controlling the amount of children you had and leaving an unhappy relationship if you wanted to.


So it is not surprising that when I was told by a practicing Catholic woman that taking birth control for a year or two after my c-section so that I could heal that I believed her. I got the shot in my arm when my son was three months old, and received it several more times, finally ending it when he was about 18 months old.

I shutter every time I think about it.


Chris grew up in a more faithfully Catholic home than I did, but it was his family member that encouraged me to get the shot, so it is not hard to believe that we walked away from the Church two years after we married. We joined the young and upbeat non-denominational church up the road. After all, it didn't matter where we worshiped because religions are getting it wrong everywhere, and we had a right to go where we felt comfortable. And you know, child care and moms groups and church picnics are very enticing to couples with young children and make experiences at church much more pleasant or so we thought at the time.

The majority of the couples at the new church, along with the preacher, thought that being a good steward of the gifts of time and money meant having only one, two, or maybe three children (if you wanted to try for a boy or girl after having two of the same gender).

When I found myself pregnant after four years of trying to conceive, I heard a lot of congratulations that went like this, "I bet you'll be glad when all of this is over, and you won't have to worry about getting pregnant again!" When I found out that my baby died at 12 weeks, the ladies at church didn't talk to me about it. They didn't offer me sympathy. It was like it never happened. A year later I found myself pregnant again. The pregnancy progressed, and we found out we were having another boy, and the ladies at the church finally felt like they had something to console me about, "Oh, that stinks that you are having another boy. I bet you wished you could have added a girl to your family."

I think the women at our old church had good intentions. For the most part, their conversations about pregnancy and having babies were very similar to conversations with Christians and non-Christians alike. A lot of  Christians today feel that God is in charge of many aspects of their life, but not their fertility.

Looking back, I can see my desire to return to the Catholic Church had slowly started coming back to me during my years of infertility and miscarriage. All of my research about conception, human development, and women's health taught me how precious my fertility is and how each child conceived is a miracle.

In my heart, I wanted to be surrounded by people that truly understood that each life is valuable, and every person is a gift to be celebrated no matter how short their life or how imperfect their health.

My husband's reasons for returning to the Catholic Church were different than my own. He wanted a church with a long standing history, one that doesn't crumble under the test of time, and a desire to return to the practices of his childhood.

Eventually, we made our way back to the Church. We had to learn what the Church teaches about love, marriage, and openness to life. We read Humanae VitaeLife-Giving Love : Embracing God's Beautiful Design for Marriage , parts of the catechism, and talks about the Theology of the Body

What we learned was that the Churches teachings on love, marriage, and children are timeless. The teachings are not man-made, and they are not old-school. They do not harm either man or woman, but respect them as a loved and beautiful creation of the Almighty God. 

Man and woman come together in marriage, to live a life with one heart and mind. They are a source of happiness for one another, and their love creates children. Their children being most special gifts, in turn add to the good of the parents.

God is the source of life, and our lives are His. We had to take the long way around to realize finally that our fertility was not ours to control.

So when it comes to teaching our children about their bodies, the vocation of marriage, and being open to life we use specific books during different years of their schooling and have many conversations along the way. Open and honest discussion about their changing bodies, thoughts, and feelings is necessary to building a solid foundation. If things are left unsaid or spoken of lightly, our children may think that they are not important or should not be discussed with us. We want our children to have a solid understanding of love and marriage, and a desire to learn and grow more in their understanding of God's plan for their sexuality and life.




In late elementary school, we use Catholic Boys and Girls Health along side of another science textbook. With our oldest, we used Abeka Science 4 Understanding God's World, but we didn't love the book. For our next son, we used Catholic Boys and Girls Health alongside Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology (Young Explorer Series) . Since we first started homeschooling, Catholic Boys and Girls Health has been developed into an entire year's science curriculum called Behold and See 4, which can be purchased from Catholic Heritage Curricula.

Then in middle school, we read through All Things Guy: A Guide to Becoming a Man that Matters with our boys. It is a nice little book, with clear and thorough information that is easy to understand.

Once our oldest son entered high school, we taught health again using Lifetime Health, Student edition . My sister-in-law used this book in her Catholic high school, and she gave it to use for free, which was nice as it is an expensive textbook. It covers a lot of information about health and wellness, drug use, infectious diseases, disorders, adolescence, adulthood, family life, and reproductive health. It is a book that will keep the conversation flowing. We also worked our way through Theology of the Body for Teens, which is an excellent resource to help Catholic teens understand their bodies, sexuality, and vocation.


Our society has a lot to say about sexuality, marriage, and freedom to choose what we do with our bodies. But there are a lot of lies that promise happiness, but truthfully cause sadness and pain. God's plan of love, marriage, and sexuality is the only way that leads to real freedom and happiness.

By having honest conversations with our children and using quality resources to help aid us as we educate them about their bodies and the beauty of their sexuality, we feel confident that they will be able to give and receive love in the way God intended. Thankfully there are many resources available to use that don't teach that our bodies are dirty and that sexual desires need to be repressed or disregarded. These resources are faithful to the teachings that God gave to the Church and show us that our bodies are good and holy and that freedom and happiness come from a pure and faithful heart.


When we see the truth about our bodies and the truth about sex, we change our lives not as a result of persuasion, guilt, fear of pregnancy or disease, or because we have to, but because God's view of love is everything that the human heart longs for. But it's not enough that we long to receive this kind of love. We must learn how to give it. 
                                                                                                            Theology of the Body for Teens




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14 comments:

  1. Erica! This post is SO great! I have had similar experiences with non-denominational Christian women. I've heard things like "people shouldn't have so many babies and not use BC, because these babies are human lives and we need to make sure each one gets the attention and appropriate care it deserves"--- so apparently all the catholic mommies out there with 3 or more kids have very unhappy children! And yes! I've heard the "well we will stay open to God's will and if we feel called to have another baby we will do so" --how are you open to Gods will if you are using birth control? All these comments really irk me. Thanks for all the great resources! I will refer back to this post a lot as my children get older and need guidance. I definitely plan to teach my daughter the principals of NFP as soon as she gets her period. I didn't really know how my body worked until I read a book about NFP and I want my daughter to understand and appreciate how awesome her body is. Thanks again for this awesome post!

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    1. Thanks Mia! Yes, if I am ever blessed with a daughter, I plan on teaching her the principals of NFP once her cycle starts as well. If I had been taught it early, I would not have been so shocked by my PCOS and infertility issues. I think it is very important that we understand how our body works.

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  2. Erica - This is beautifully written! I am so sorry for the loss of your baby. I hope and pray God will bless you with a daughter very soon! I too grew up with a lukewarm faith and was led back to the Church by most of the same books you shared. The Truths of the Church are such a gift. I too, have had many negative comments as our family size has grown and I often wonder if people would make the same comments knowing that our "reversal" babies we never going to be here if not for our reversion. We could never have for seen or even felt worthy of how God has chosen to bless us. We hoped to just have our fertility restored and so thank God daily for all of our children. You are inspiring me to write more substantive posts!

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    1. Thank you Christina! I am sorry that you had to hear negative comments about your family size. What a blessing that you were able to have your fertility restored after your reversal. A true gift!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm so glad you found your way back to the church. And thank you for the suggestions! We have Greg Popcak's Beyond the Birds and Bees and we really like it. :)

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    1. Thanks Sarah! I have Beyond the Birds and Bees, also. Although I have not read the entire book. I skimmed through it when we first came back to the church. I should make the time to read it. :)

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  4. Thanks so much for a wonderful post! Clark just noticed our wedding photos on the wall and asked "where am I?" I told him he wasn't born yet. Then he said, "You and Dad married, then Jesus made me." I figured since he came up with that on his own that we'll just keep it that way until he starts asking more questions. ;)

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    1. Ha! Clark is a smart boy! Once he gets a little older you can fill in more details. :)

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  5. Infertility is such a bear of a thing... good can come from it and I am so happy that it helped bring you back to the Church, but I am sorry for your loss. It is good to hear there are resources available when this becomes a common topic around our home!

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    1. Thank you. My NFP instructor once told me that God gives us what we need to draw us closer to him, and in the case of my infertility that was certainly true. It would have been so much harder to deal with my miscarriages if I had not had my faith.

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  6. Oh.. Erica, you know my story. I always thought I would have this very large family and I do have this large family but half of them are in Heaven and other half here. But that is the beauty of God's love for us. That I can rest sure that I have four saints who are looking after us. My children here are very aware of them , calling them by names all the time. Telling others even strangers about them. My husband and I are teachers of NFP thanks to Cathi and Andrew and I see it is a great need especially with the Hispanic because I was told that they are simple minded and couldn't really do it so we let them be ok with the pill... Its crazy to think like that. We need to empower them so that they can feel God's great gifts to the fullest.

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    1. Cecilia, I can not believe that someone would say that to you about the Hispanic community. That is awful!
      Cathi and Andrew wonderful people and such great witnesses of our faith.
      Yes, we do have many saints in heaven who can pray for us.

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  7. Great post, Erica. Thank you for sharing your story of how you came back to the Church.

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