Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pre-Cana/Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekend - Part Two

It's hard to believe that our Engaged Encounter weekend was only last weekend; between subbing for four of the last five days this past week and getting a second fitting of my gown on the day I wasn't subbing, it feels like last weekend was a lot longer ago. (the first blog entry about last weekend)

For the most part, the talks that were given were pretty innocuous. They weren't exactly thrilling to listen to, but then again, I'm not sure how exciting any talk would be when you're on the tired side, and when the talks are all read from a printout ("to make sure we don't forget anything or ramble on about unrelated topics too much"). The talks themselves weren't too long, perhaps 10-15 minutes each, after which point we were consigned to writing in our notebooks and talking to our fiancee/fiance. The format was repetitive after awhile, especially since Ed and I had previously discussed most of these topics. One or two of the topics sparked follow-up conversations along the lines of, "We've talked about this before, and we need to remember..." but nowhere near the in-depth conversation that others were probably having or that would have been expected of us.

(My parish priest had commented that when he'd sent other couples to the Engaged Encounter weekend, many remarked that they had so much to talk about, to which Fr. Carley's response was, "Well, what are you doing getting married; you should have been discussing this long ago!" I'd venture to say that sometimes there are matters or aspects of matters you wind up not discussing because you hadn't thought of a particular point, but if most or all of the topics that were brought up were issues you hadn't discussed, you really do need to rethink how soon you'd want to get married.)

In ruminating about the Engaged Encounter weekend this past week, I maintain that the most helpful parts were those in which we were not simply writing in our notebooks and talking to our partners; we were discussing how we prioritize various issues like money and family. (Ed and I were in nearly complete agreement on what we should prioritize, but the level of prioritization was interesting. We both chose food, house, education, and medicine/medical issues, but sometimes the order was switched. For example, is shelter more important than food? How about if you have a life-threatening or chronic illness; is that more important than food?) I wished there were more practical discussions like this, although I also have to admit that whenever Ed and I disagreed about our prioritization lists, we would also almost immediately be able to see why the other viewpoint was valid.

The talk that was outright painful was Natural Family Planning (NFP). I neither hide nor advertise that I can't have children. A lot of people know that I can't have kids but don't know specifics. I do not share the details with anyone, nor would I or will I ever discuss the issue at length with anyone other than my doctor or Ed. (Various people have asked for details; I have always and will consistently refuse to discuss it.) This is not only because it's painful to talk about, but also because it's not anyone's business. And that sums up how I feel about the entire aspect of having children: It's not anyone's business, nor is the method of having those children the church's business. I can understand why the church pushes NFP, why some methods are meant not to be followed, but I disagree with those reasons. Simply put: Stay out of it.

I was prepared to sit out the talk; I knew it would be coming, albeit not to that level of detail, to the point where I left the room. I do not want to hear how NFP will allow me to have my own children. I may or may not be able to have my own children; NFP won't help me here. In either case, I can discuss and attempt to resolve this issue with my doctor after the wedding (because that's when I'll have health insurance again). Hearing the details about how NFP works, and how it can even help infertility, pushed me over the edge. I left the discussion and hid in the chapel, but one of the discussion leaders followed me, asked if I was okay, asked if this was a painful discussion, said she would be there to listen if I'd like, and gave me a hug. This pushed me over the edge. I do not cry easily, but the discussion kept going on and on; I'd had enough, and I did not want to be followed or discuss my feelings with someone whom I don't know. And I will say that while I'd always been a bit ambivalent about birth control, leaning more towards the church's teachings, last weekend managed to push me over the edge such that I am now in more agreement with alternate methods of having children.

When I finally came back, the talk had been completed; it was the women's turn to go to their "writing rooms" (in my case, it was my dorm room), where I just hid out until Ed came. I felt utterly defeated and browbeaten. Between last weekend, and being reminded of things this week that I'd already taken care of even before being reminded, the whole week I've felt defeated.

I noticed that there was not a single mention of adoption; there was only one question about infertility (buried among other questions), and there was not a single chance to discuss how the children should be raised, or even how many we'd want, or when we'd want them. Those discussions would have been much more helpful to me. It was rather glaring, this absence of discussion of children or alternate methods of having them, even if IVF or other non-approved church methods aren't discussed, adoption is usually a sanctioned option.

I also noticed that during the entire weekend, rarely if ever did anyone get up to use the restroom during the talks. Ed was late to a discussion; I was asked where he was; I encouraged them to start the discussion despite his lateness; I was told that we could not start until everyone was present. My response was along the lines of, no, really, you should start (which they finally did); he'd return in a few minutes. I did not feel inclined to share why he'd be late (heaven forbid someone have a reason for needing an extra few the restroom).
I wish there had been a chance to provide feedback. The discussion leaders offered to take money off our hands, encouraged us to become involved, went on at length about how we could become involved (not surprisingly, Ed and I are disinclined to become involved with this ministry). Thankfully we got our certificate at the end of the weekend, so there's no waiting for them to arrive in the mail.

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