Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Summer in Sight

It was a balmy blistering 83 degrees here in Rome yesterday, and we celebrated by cranking the AC for the first time and bathing naked on the terrace. Well, half of us did. Buns and bubbles everywhere. Good thing we have zero across-the-balcony neighbors home during the day, and are sufficiently shielded from the multitude of passersby below.

Also featured: clear, 100% natural lemonade popsicles (I love you, Italy) and dozens of still-parka-clad natives streaming by on the side walk. (I will never understand you, Italy.)

I get that it gets really, really hot here. And that, therefore, 83 degrees and 95% humidity is nothing in the face of the looming spectre of Ferre Augosto and the days of 100 + on both thermometer and barometer. But for the love of modern cooling systems, a fur-hooded parka? When the mercury has crossed the 80 degree mark. That's stupid crazy.

It's cognitive dissonance at its finest, here, because as the tourists begin stripping down, (and I include myself in this illustrious subgroup) the Romans keep their parkas on, their stockings up, and their cardigans knotted firmly about the shoulders, just in case a bracing breeze should stir the languid springtime air. And I begin to wonder, am I drunk? Is it actually much cooler than I feel? Are my kids going to get sick at the park in shorts and polos, if from nothing else than the icy stares of disapproving Nonas?
Unrelated photo of a baby with a mustache.
83 degrees. And I'm wondering if I should have thrown a couple sweat shirts in the diaper bag. Italy, you're getting under my skin.

Here are a couple things I am looking forward to, despite the hellish temperatures that loom:

A trip home to the good 'ol US of A in June/July. Weee! A week in Colorado, an long wedding weekend in Florida, A long diplomatic layover in the Italian consulate in Chicago (plus a side of South Bend, Indiana, just for good measure) and a nice little Independence Day fete in our nation's capitol. So yeah...that's 2 international flights and 3 domestic crammed into 3 weeks. Should be...something.
Welcome to our row, gentlemen. Can we buy you a drink or 5 to dull the sound of shrieking? (We really do this, when necessary. It's part of making sure people don't decide never to have children of their own after meeting yours.)
A few days on the Amalfi Coast. A friend from Denver is taking a belated honeymoon to Italy and wanted to house swap with us while they come into Rome and do piligrim-y things and we flit down to Amalfi and hang out on the beach. Um, yes please.

Dave's little sister coming to spend part of July with us! Dave's sister Claire is a brilliant and talented doctor who is currently working in Cambodia where she specializes in tropical diseases. (My in-laws are very understanding parents.) She's also worked as an ER doc in Detroit and NYC, so if that isn't a diverse resume, I don't know what is. She has like 3 Master's Degrees, too, and is completely adorable. So if you know of any single Catholic dudes who are semi-outdoorsy and multilingual with IQ's pushing 160 and a love for Third World living...(I am not positive Cambodia is Third World, but it's hot as hell there, and that's sufficient to qualify in my book.)

Dave's best friend (and best man) coming for a long weekend in May just weeks after his ordination to the priesthood. It really doesn't get any cooler than this. Keeping our finger's crossed for a private mass in St. Peter's. Or maybe an invitation from Papa to join his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta? Hey, a girl can dream.

World Youth Day. Dave was going to go, on the Papal flight no less, but he is sending one of his writers on assignment instead. And I am so, so glad.

Independent and semi-adventurous that I am, single parenting in the heat of Roman summer sans swimming pool does not strike my maternal fancy. And it will be super fun to watch it all on tv, anyway. Promise.
Hey guys.
Sandals. Ladies, I need help! Shana posted some of her picks for flats on ANMJ this morning, and a couple of them look like they could be sufficient for high-mileage trekking, but I think I'd sooner die than own a pair of Birkenstocks. I just...no.

So does anyone recommend a cute, comfortable, and durable walking sandal that doesn't scream aging feminist or spunky/outdoorsy sophomore? Also, TOMS...talk to me about TOMS. Can you walk in them for miles and miles? Do they hold up like Sperry's do? Or are they just too insubstantial? I have a lot of shopping planned for our USA visit...

What about you all? What are your summer plans? Is it even ever going to be summer where you live? I know my temperature bemoaning is probably offensive to your frostbitten ears (I'm looking at you, Denver and Canada) and so I offer my condolences. But know that I would trade temps with you in a heartbeat. Love, the sweatiest woman in all the world.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Safe, Legal, and (medium) Rare

Kermit Gosnell, the late term abortionist and murderer standing trial in Philadelphia is, unfortunately, not the exception to the rule of abortion in America today.

This is hard to watch, but not because it's filled with gruesome images or graphic photos. It's hard to watch because it's filled with gruesome philosophy embraced by an impoverished humanity. It's hard to watch because it perfectly illustrates how the linguistic decay of a civilization allows for the destruction of its people in a very literal sense.

It's hard to watch because in so doing, it becomes very clear that when the side of Good has lost the battle for our common language, hearts and minds are won to the side of the enemy, where they can hide behind euphemisms and anachronisms and catch phrases. They can even hide from themselves, behind these sterilized terms and turns of phrase.

Watch, and listen. Be mindful of the necessity of Evil to hide behind vagaries and imprecise definitions and generalizations. It can't suffer the truth, because the truth sets free. Evil seeks only to hide, to cover up, and to imprison.

Listen for terms like 'termination,' 'procedure,' 'solution,' 'killing the heartbeat,' 'stopping the procedure from continuing,' 'it,' 'parts,' and 'instruments.'

Words are everything. And sometimes, words fail.

Friday, April 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Homemaking edition (sort of)

So delighted to join Jen in her triumphant return to the small and portable screen.

1. This apartment. So blessed to find it so quickly upon our arrival in the Eternal City, and so thankful for its proximity to Dave's office. And to pretty much everything touristy and beautiful about Rome, which our visitors definitely appreciate. But we live on a busy, busy street. And we're on the 4th floor. Which means our 'kid-friendly' space is ... limited.
The living/family/dining/guest room
2. First up: the 'outdoor' space. That gorgeous balcony with the Cupola view? Mommy's heart attack. My boys are surprisingly obedient considering their ages, but it's still a scary, scary place when toddlers are involved. Now soliciting and entertaining any and all advice from more experienced DIY'ers and home owners/long-term renters for how to baby proof this freaking thing.
Calm down mom, it's only a 30 foot drop into traffic.
Laundry room with a scenic view.
Keeping a sharp eye on his construction crew below.

3. Joey and JP's new Montessori-inspired 'classroom.' I made a lovely friend at our parish here in Rome who is a full time working mama to a beautiful little boy who almost shares a birthday with JP, and so was gracious enough to share a birthday party with him last weekend. Right now she is responsible for student life at the University of Mary, but in her past life she worked for several years as a Montessori teacher, and is currently homeschooling her little guy in the method. One part intimidating + 10 parts intriguing.

4. Using the powers of the internets and my #1 consultant, Google, Inc., I got creative during naptime earlier this week and here is the result:

Top shelf: sensory play/messy stuff JP can't quite reach to eat. Yet. Sand-wave maker (from my childhood), giant Christmas ornament pilfered from the 2012 Papal Christmas tree, picture book of art from Galleria Borghese, tray of colored buttons for sorting, and one million highly-toxic colored pencils from the street vendors.

Writing tray: chalkboard, notebook, chalk, parental regret (I can just smell it).
John Paul sucking on venerating an icon in the 'prayer corner'
Indulging Joey's magpie tendencies with a 'secret big boy drawer' for his treasures. Current inventory includes a postogranm (coolest app ever)  of a friend's newborn son, a B16 pocket calendar, and various and sundry shiny metal objects.

The 'kitchen.' Got to learn how to make Mama's coffee some time.

Prayer space: icon of the Holy Family, relief of Bl. JPII, 'art' featuring the current liturgical season, and a Scripture verse for the week. And a card from Papa B, because we had one on hand. We're those people.

Some child level artwork of plants and seeds, and a view of the whole 'classroom.'
5. The big boy bed. I swore I never would, but then I did. And I'm (mostly) glad. He asks to go down for naps now, and bedtime is so far a much, much less hostile negotiation. And we've only found him sobbing in the middle of the hard marble floor once per night since Wednesday. So, progress.


And happy. This is at naptime. Words fail.

6. Color of the week for laundry: rustic orchard red. That's the report I just gave Dave on what color I dyed our linens and shit (that used to be a store, right?) this week. It's the careful result of layering puke green, 80's pink, and street-bazaar red over weeks of towel washing. Call me if you're interested in a custom mix for your own

7. That's all I got. Picture heavy and content light this week.

P.s. LOVED hearing from you yesterday about how other mamas kick back for a little down time. At least a few of you confirmed me in my love for home improvement TV and alcohol. And night prayer? Before 11 pm and while still dressed and conscious? Brilliant.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Relaxing Evening In

What do you do to 'unwind,' mamas?

Me, I like to drink a beer or a glass of vino, kick my feet up on the solid compressed plastic alloy IKEA coffee table in the living room, and watch a couple few episodes of 'House Hunters' on Youtube. Sometimes in 9 minute segment chunks at a time, because, you know, Youtube.
I've asked these guys to sommelier my personal happy hour like, several times, but nobody every gets back to me.
I also like to bust out the occasional Crossfit home-adapted workout, or go a couple rounds with Jillian Michaels on my 2-year-old's sweet 7 inch portable DVD player. With cans of cannolini beans in lieu of actual weights. I vastly prefer Crossfit at this point, both because it is so much quicker and because I am so much more sore the next day. Which tells me that it's either the most effective 9 minute workout in the world, or I am in a lot worse shape than I like to think.

If the night is particularly young and the young are all abed, I might also sneak out on the balcony with a bottle of highly toxic Italian nail polish remover and my bag o' colors. I would say at this juncture in my very busy and important life, I can still make time for the important things, like changing the color of my nail stubs on a weekly basis.

All glamour up in here.

What does your 'me time' look like?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

To Market to Market

Where I probably could buy a fresh pig. But I'm not quite there yet, Italy.

One of the great blessings of living in a country where people live a little closer to the land is that even in a city of several million people like Rome, I still have access to some of the freshest meat and produce I've ever seen.

I've mentioned before that Italy has stricter laws as far as GMO and pesticides are concerned, (though my favorite butcher thinks nothing of dropping the cherry from his cigarette into his case of sausages and skinned rabbits and then carefully plucking it out and wiping clean the meat. Shudder.) so things that I may have struggled to fit into our grocery budget back home are simply commonplace here.

The tiniest little strawberries, called 'fragolini:' Molto piccolo e molto dolce.
Yesterday I bought the bulk of our meat and veggies for the week at the marcato at the base of our apartment building. I spent about 40 Euros (roughly $50), and I came home with all this:

Meat is by far the most expensive ingredient here, so most weeks I will buy 1 (one!) chicken breast and have it filleted into thin slices, and the result is what you see above: an entire IKEA container filled with mini 'chicken breasts' that I can stretch into 3 meals. This week that little box 'o chicken will yield chicken and pineapple fried rice, gluten-free chicken parmesan, and probably something involving the magical packet of Ortega taco seasoning gifted to me by a very sweet fellow ex-pat whose husband makes frequent returns to the US. And who shares my affinity for all things 'Messicano,' as they say here.

We do have at least 2 vegetarian meals per week, not because we don't like meat, but because we can't afford to have it here every day! This bothered me at first where the boys were concerned, since I don't want to deprive them of the nutrients and protein they need in order to grow, but once I realized they were eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables here and were having either beans or eggs or some other protein-dense food on a daily basis, I relaxed a little. Plus, chain-smoking aside, Italians seem a lot healthier than Americans, from the cradle to the grave, a reality which, despite the massive amounts of pasta I see consumed, has to harken back to their native cuisine.

(An aside. According to an Italian acquaintence who is very slim (effortlessly so) and very typical in her habits, I am assured, Italians do not eat pasta in the evening unless it is a special event, like a holiday or a big family dinner. They limit their carb consumption in the afternoon and evening, and it would seem that this has a hugely positive impact on their bodies being efficient in processing so.many.carbs. Plus, she pointed out, they have been eating this way for centuries, and therefore their bodies are accustomed to doing so. She theorizes that perhaps American women's bodies are not.)

Another huge help I've discovered, thanks to my sweet friend Susanna, who is herself a transplant to Rome (from the Italian island of Sardinia. Swoon) via CNA - her husband works with Dave and produces EWTN's Vaticano, a weekly news show from the Vatican, is Despar's home delivery service. Despar is a German grocery chain whose selection of international foods is fairly impressive, and whose willingness to deliver cases and cases of water and heavy cleaning supplies is magical.

For an additional 5 Euro on top of my grocery bill (about $7.50), I can have a month's worth of water delivered to our house. Delivered as in driven to our building, loaded on the elevator, and unloaded in my front foyer. Boom.

Like Christmas, only wetter.

My pedestrian days of water lugging are behind me.

So the grocery shopping breaks down like this: every 2 days or so, a trip to the fresh market, where we buy all of our meat, most of our produce, and a good chunk of our eggs and dairy. And the occasional scarf or piece of cheap jewelry or knicknack from the dollar/Euro bins at the end. Because Mommy has a problem.

About twice per week, I go to Todi's, the local discount grocer around the block. There I buy diapers, (5 Euro for a 20 pack. Best price I've seen in the city which still guarantees the diapers will perform their desired function.) yogurt, frozen veggies, canned goods, and some cleaning supplies/trashbags.

Once per month I visit Despar and import our drinking water, and usually end up with unplanned vino purchases and the stray jar of Nutella, because damn their prices are good. And Nutella is hard to quit.

Ocasionally I stray from this pattern if we're travelling or if we ever (okay, inevitably) need something on a Sunday afternoon, when everything is closed. Then I have to hoof it about 1.5 miles west to Simply, which is a rather largish and nice-ish grocery store featuring a good mix of Italian and international foods.

There you have it, folks. All the stuff you didn't know you didn't care to know about grocery shopping in a foreign country.

Oh yeah, and these guys. Not super helpful, but usually very entertaining.
This is a clear popsicle. Which is a miracle. Also, they wanted to Lady and the Tramp it. Their request, not mine.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Boy oh Boy

Stepping back from yesterday's craziness (calling all trolls, come hang out in my commbox) for a little good 'ol fashioned mommyblogging, courtesy of sweet and crafty Sheena at Bean in Love, who actually asked for obnoxiously kid-centered posts of progeny.

Twist my arm.
Yes, that arm. The monstrous post-partum mommy arm flapping in the bottom right-hand corner of the frame.
 When John Paul was born, we were all but convinced he was a 'she,' both because the pregnancy was so different from Joey's, and because we had our girl name settled oh, about 9 months earlier than our boy name. But out he popped, and we are so glad to have two little man cubs only 19 months apart.

They are already best friends,
though Joey is for sure the Alpha Wolf. Except that JP is only trailing by 7 lbs these days, so better watch your back, big brother.

Joey is the proverbial eldest child: bossy, confidant, opinionated, a little self-centered, smart, and really, really stubborn. In other words, he's the male version of me.

John Paul is our sweet and snuggly guy...but he can scream. Like noises from another planet. Particularly during the Eucharistic Consecration. Or if ever we happen to be tagging along when Dave is filming an interview or having a conversation with somebody famous and/or important. John Paul does not have a 'discrete' setting. Also, his screams. Oh Lord, poor Joey is still scarred from the Great CIO-fest of Spring 2013, (wait, that's now, actually. But it's been a great past 2 weeks! So I think we won.) when we locked him in a marble-floored bedroom with his younger brother and 'sleep trained' them both to the tune of JP's ungodly shriekings ringing off the acoustically perfect floors.

Don't be fooled by this face.
My ears still bleed from time to time.

They look alike, but they look like their own little persons, as well. Joey is skinner and has a longer face (and a much fiercer scowl) where JP's honest and open round face/eyes assure me he will never be able to tell me a lie. Or so I hope.

We're so in love with these little boys.

And so is the entire city of Rome, it turns out.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Greening up your Bedroom

Happy Earth Day, readers!

Surprised to hear that from yours truly? Well, let the record state that while I remain miserably apathetic about recycling (because it's stupid and it uses more energy to break down and refashion the original materials than it saves), I am totally and 110% crunchy when it comes to avoiding - and helping my family avoid - hormonal pollution.

On a practical level, that means we make careful choices with our dairy and meat purchases, we don't drink the appalling tap water available to us here in bella Roma, and I don't use hormonal contraception. Now, I have one or two other reasons for refusing to pop the Pill, but for the sake of this post, let's focus on the simple fact that it's bad for you.

Like very, very bad. And also pretty terrible for the environment and surrounding inhabitants, e.g. your neighbors. Human and animal alike.

So without further explanation, I offer to you (and I will permanently link this on the header bar at the top of the blog) my semi-infamous 'Green Sex' talk.

When I was a FOCUS missionary and way back even before that when I was a grad student at good 'ol Steubie U, I began to draft and then revise this talk, giving it every couple of months or so to varying crowds of (mostly) college-aged audiences at conferences and at colleges around the country. While I've been off the speaking circuit for a good long while now, popping out babies and moving overseas and whatnot, the content is still relevant - perhaps more so with all the HHS nonsense still brewing at home - and so I want to share it with you here.

Green Sex

Green sex is the concept of sex ‘au natural,’ as God – or nature – intended.  Sex without props, potions or procedures.  One man, one woman, no equipment necessary.  It’s cost effective, has a carbon footprint of essentially zero, and is a basic proven predictor of marital longevity.  In laymen terms: it’s free, cheap and easy.

Green sex is also the idea that contraceptive use – or the deliberate destruction or suppression of the reproductive functions   is in fact seriously deleterious to the environment and may indeed be harmful to the human person - physically, psychologically and relationally.

So why aren’t we hearing more about it?  It seems like the green thing to do – in light of mounting evidence of the effects of chemical contraception on the natural environment, would be to cease and desist all chemical contraceptive use at once.  Or else.  But… that doesn’t seem to be on anybody’s political agenda these days.

Because the idea of "green sex," for all it's shock value and buzz-worthy appeal, isn't exactly catching on like wildfire.  Cosmo hasn't run any features exposing the rampant estrogenic pollution of our streams and waterways resultant from the disposal of human sewage laden with prolific amounts of artificial hormones.  

The White House hasn't introduced any sweeping initiatives to enact protective measures for transgendered trout whose sexuality has been swayed by human interference...

But the consequences of contraceptive use on the environment - both externally, in nature, and internally, within the human body - are staggering.

First, a little background on who is “using:” From a report by the Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood), issued in January of 2008, we have the following statistics:

• 62 million U.S. women are in their childbearing years (or fall in the age range of 15–44)
• Of these 62 million women, 43 million, or 7 in 10, are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they or their partners fail to use a contraceptive method.
• Millions of these women are teenagers.  Of the 3.1 million teenage women who use contraceptives, 53% of them—more than 1.5 million teens—rely on the pill.
• The typical U.S. woman wants only 2 children. To achieve this goal, she must faithfully use contraceptives for roughly 3 decades, beginning in her teen years and continuing well into her forties.

Good to know.  Let’s build upon this information with some facts from the front line, taken from
the drug info packet of Ortho Tricyclen – the number one prescribed oral contraceptive in the United States:

"Taking the Pill at a younger age may increase your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Particularly if taken for five consecutive years prior to a woman's first pregnancy"

Let's break that down.  According to the drug manufacturer’s own warning label,

Taking the Pill:

1. “may increase your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer"      

Which, could also be loosely translated to “might give you cancer."  Sounds a little more ominous that way, no?

Taking the Pill:

2. "...at a younger age."  

Let’s examine this one.  The average age of onset for hormonal contraceptive use in the U.S. is between 15 and 22 years of age.  

Let's say a 17 year-old, high school junior obtains a prescription from her general care practitioner and remains on the Pill for the remainder of high school and then continues through college and grad school.  Assuming she finishes her MA at age 25.   She's now been on the Pill for 7 years... Hmmmm....

Taking the Pill:

3. "prior to a woman's first pregnancy"  

Let's presume the young lady in our above example marries around age 28 (early average, by today’s standards) and waits 12-14 months to conceive baby number one (again, pretty quick by today's standards.) She has now been on the Pill for more than a dozen years prior to her first pregnancy...

So, transgendered trout aside, it would seem that there are plenty of humane reasons to think before popping those little pink Pills - humane in the fullest sense of the word.
But seriously, does the phrase "Green Sex" do a number on your psyche?  Make your stomach feel a little... off?

Mine too.

But I haven't thought of a more fitting name for it yet, so "green sex" it is.

Some food for thought:

Why aren't we hearing more buzz about "greening” our sex lives?  Why hasn't there been public outcry over the massive amounts of environmental pollution produced by hormonal contraceptive use?  And perhaps most disturbing of all, why aren't women up in arms about the ramifications that even short-term contraceptive use has on their health?
Because going green - in the bedroom - is not the most convenient option.  Because we don't really care what we're doing to our bodies, as long as our bodies are performing exactly as we tell them to.

It’s funny though, because for a society so infatuated with the practice of lessening consumerist tendencies, it's awfully fishy that no body's pointed a finger at Merck or Wyeth or one of the pharmaceutical companies’ other big players, asking the tough questions about energy output and the environmental ramifications of pumping billions of gallons of estrogen-enhanced waste through our waterways – not to mention through our bloodstreams. 
It sure gets you thinking...

Maybe – just maybe – contraception is bad for the environment.  Maybe it’s bad for our own internal environments, too.  Maybe, in spite of everything we’ve been told about “responsible” family planning and good stewardship, we’re actually doing more harm than good in our misguided attempts to outwit our own biology.

Need proof?  We could try calculating the carbon footprint produced by the laboratory production, packaging, marketing, shipping, stocking and consumption of Ortho-Tricyclen in the United States alone, and you have an energy output far outpacing that of other more popularly-critiqued industries that have come under recent heavy media fire for failing to properly steward their resources and reduce their footprint.

In an era where incredible emphasis is placed upon social-responsibility, and where those whose endanger the natural world are condemned unanimously… why hasn’t anyone taken up the standard against the toxic wastefulness of artificial – and specifically chemical – contraception? 

Let’s back up and begin with the basics; those three fundamental claims made in favor of contraceptive use, the “Big Three” for Big Pharma.

They’ve been ingrained into the minds of women (and men) over the course of years of careful public health campaigns in public schools and marketing efforts in medical offices and pharmacies, and they are as follows: 

1.      Contraception is convenient
2.      Contraception is responsible
3.      Contraception is liberating 

Myth # 1: Contraception is convenient:

Truth: Contraception as a convenient means of manipulating or “controlling” one’s biology has perhaps become the single biggest selling point for the product.  In a culture which praises immediacy and action, there is nothing more appealing to the consumer than the “quick fix.”

We see it in the marketing of diet pills and supplements, in the advertisements for internet service providers, and in the never-ending quest for quicker service at the pump or in the drive through.  We are a people obsessed by productivity – or the promise of it – and who will sacrifice almost anything to shave a few minutes off our times.  

Let’s examine the promise of convenience as it relates to the proper use of hormonal contraceptives:
1.      You must take your Pill at the same time, every day.  If you miss a dose, its efficacy is dramatically lowered. 

Check out Planned Parenthood’s instructions for missed doses: (read this fast for best effect)
    • If you miss 1 pill, take it as soon as you remember.
    • Take your regular pill at the usual time, even if it means taking 2 pills in one day. 
    • Continue taking your pills, but use another effective method of birth control (in addition to your pill) for 10 days, even if you begin a new pill pack or have your period.
    • If you miss 2 pills, take two pills at once, then 2 pills the next day.
    • Continue taking your pills, but use another method of birth control for 10 days.
    • If you miss 2 or more pills at the start of a new pack of pills and have had sex, you are at risk for pregnancy. 
o    Take your pill at the same time every day. This keeps hormone level steady and prevents ovulation.
o    If you ever vomit within two hours after taking your pill, take another pill
o    If you take your pill late, you may have spotting (bleeding). The best time to take the pill is after a meal. 

Sounds rather complicated.  But what if you are taking your dose on time?  Read on:

·         Begin your first pack of pills by taking the first pill on the first Sunday after your next menstrual period starts.
·         You will always start each new pack of pills on a Sunday.
·         If you are using a 28-day pack, begin a new pack immediately. Skip no days between packages. Your period will come sometime during the last 7 days. 
·         If you are using a 21-day pack, you will take no pills for 7 days and then start your new pack.

So by convenient, I suppose the manufacturers mean mind-numbingly complex.  If Tylenol had such stringent dosing practices, I wonder whether it’d be the number one painkiller on the market.

Myth # 2: Contraception is responsible:

Facts: Billions of dollars are spent on the research, development, production, advertisement, packaging and distribution of contraceptives - from pill packs to condoms, and everything in between.

Our waterways are becoming saturated with astronomical levels of estrogen, decimating animal populations in the surrounding ecosystems.  Case in point: Boulder Creek – (yeah, this town gets a lot of weird press) is now home to a bizarre, mutated kind of “transgendered trout.”

“They [EPA-funded scientists at the University of Colorado] studied the fish and decided the main culprits were estrogens and other steroid hormones from birth control pills and patches, excreted in urine into the city’s sewage system and then into the creek.  Randomly netting 123 trout and other fish downstream from the city’s sewer plant, they found that 101 were female, 12 were male, and 10 were strange “intersex” fish with male and female features." National Catholic Register, July 2007

These are not the chemicals leaking downstream from a steel mill or a pharmaceutical factory, which would surely have local activists up in arms. These are chemicals being excreted in human waste; read: they are coming out of our bodies and causing genetic alteration - mutation in some cases- in local wildlife. 

Curt Cunningham, water quality issues chairman for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Sierra Club International, worked tirelessly last year on a ballot measure that would force the City of Boulder to remove fluoride from drinking water, because some believe it has negative effects on health and the environment that outweigh its benefits.
Cunningham said he would never consider asking women to curtail use of birth control pills and patches — despite what effect these synthetics have on rivers, streams and drinking water:

“I suspect people would not take kindly to that,” Cunningham said. “For many people it’s an economic necessity. It’s also a personal freedom issue.”

And all the while, we're being told in firm, sensible tones: do your part. We only have one earth. Switch to high efficiency lightbulbs...

Boulder, Colorado is turning a blind eye to one to the mutation of one of their beloved indigenous animal species for the sake of … convenience?  A strange phenomenon for a city known to be infatuated with all things animalia... but then, stranger things have happened in Boulder.

But would anyone consider making the switch from synthetic hormonal contraceptives to something a little, well, greener?  Something with zero impact on the environment and a significantly positive effect on the sociological state of affairs?  Has anyone stopped to consider the very real ramifications of literally millions of couples eschewing sex "au natural" in favor of a more controlled and convenient conjugal collaboration? 

Myth # 3: Contraception is liberating

Truth: Contraception is anything but freeing.  Need we revisit the tedious litany of instructions for proper use of the Pill? 
The truth is, contraceptives have made women less free, not more.  Because for every claim of convenience –
·         “No risk of pregnancy!”
·         “Casual, consequence-free sex!”
·         “Guilt-less hook-ups!”

There is an equal and opposing consequence – take the following three examples:

1.      Use of the Pill increases the risk for sexually transmitted infections based upon increased sexual activity: 

“The morning-after pill is also having a damaging social effect by lulling young women into a false sense of security, encouraging a more casual attitude to sex, and exposing them to increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.” London Daily Mail, May 2009

2.      Use of the Pill encourages promiscuity: take the following statement from one of the inventors of the birth control pill, Dr. Robert Kistner of Harvard:

“For years, I thought the pill would not lead to promiscuity, would not cultivate dangerous sexual behavior… but I’ve changed my mind.  I think it probably has.”

Nobel-prize winning economist and professor at the University of California at Berkley, George Akerlof, agrees.  He found that:

“Instead of freeing women, birth control obligated them to have sex before marriage in order to compete in the “relationship market.”

And finally: 

3.      Use of the Pill gives women – especially younger women – a false sense of security and safety.  According to the Guttmacher Institute in a 1996 study:
“A teenage girl who has unprotected sex just one time has a 1% risk of contracting HIV, a 30% risk of contracting genital herpes, and a 50% chance of contracting gonorrhea.”

What it's really about, this acceptance of contraception as a necessary and indeed essential component of modern life is convenience at any cost.  At all cost.  For some, the cost will be greater.   
Take the following story from the Australian News Service published April, 2009:

“Tanya Hayes, a student from Croydon in Melbourne, Australia, died Monday, hours after collapsing in her car.
Hayes had been taking Yasmin, an oral contraceptive recommended for patients using the acne medication Accutane, for about four months.
Hayes had ignored symptoms of a pulmonary embolism for about two weeks, including "breathlessness" and "a nasty, hard cough," according to her family.
She collapsed outside a restaurant late Sunday night and was rushed to Angliss Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.
Hayes died less than five hours later after a pulmonary embolism, or blood clotting, occurred in her lungs.”

Tanya may have paid the ultimate price for her use of contraceptives, but every one of us is paying something.  

And while it would seem that while there most certainly are individuals and companies who are benefitting from the tremendous sales of contraceptive products, we – the women who use them and the environment in which we live – are not making out so well.

Perhaps the biggest myth enshrouding the practice of contra-ception, Latin for against the beginning (of life) is the unshakable claim that somehow those little pink pill packs have made us, as women, free. 

To read much of recent modern feminist literature, one might very easily assume that the entire achievements of equality enjoyed by the fairer sex in the past century were accomplished thanks to the invention of the Pill. 

Truth be told, the assumption that any woman could be, potentially, ‘protected’ from the dangers of an unwanted pregnancy and available for sex sans consequence has led to the expectation that every woman is exactly that: available.

A girlfriend of mine was recently dating a guy – very casually – and they ended up back at her apartment one evening after dinner, chatting on her couch.  After a few minutes of small talk this ‘nice guy’ got down to business, asking if they were, you know, ‘safe’ to hook up.

“So are you like, on something?  I mean, are we safe?”
“Are we safe?” she wondered incredulously..

He turned red (to his miniscule credit) and elaborated “You know, are you like, on the pill?”
“Um, no, I’m not.  And is that seriously how you just asked me to sleep with you?”

The conversation – and the brief relationship – ended about 3 minutes later.

The point was, the assumption, the entire burden of ‘responsibility’ was on her shoulders.  Only difference between this guy and a million other dudes on campus was that he had the crass to say it out loud. 

And neither a condom nor a chemical contraceptive can guarantee ‘protection,’ whether from deadly disease, unwanted pregnancy or no-strings-attached sex.  Despite what you may have heard in health class, or down at the campus health center (which very conveniently stocks loads of free samples from dozens of pharmaceutical companies hawking product and brochures from Planned Parenthood hawking, you guessed it, product).

According to a 2010 economic analysis of contraception by economist Timothy Reichert entitled ‘Bitter Pill,’ “Contraception creates a demand for abortion.”  He likens contraception and abortion to complementary forms of insurance that resemble primary insurance and reinsurance.  “If contraception fails, abortion is there as a fail-safe.”

Data collected from 1960 to 2005 confirms his thesis that the practices of contraception and abortion should rise until equilibrium levels of sexual activity are reached – and indeed, the statistical evidence shows a strong correlation between the rise in legal abortions and the rising use of contraceptive technology.

But we are not simply a target demographic, potential customers and consumers.  Women in particular have been gifted with a unique and complex sexuality which lends itself to long term investment in a lasting sexual relationship. 

Because of the widespread availability of contraceptive technology, a woman is now compelled to enter the sex market at a younger age and ‘compete’ while she is a scarcer commodity, while at the same time driving the cost of abstinence for other women to an historical high. 

Women who choose to delay their entrance into the sex market until they desire to marry find themselves at a profound disadvantage, both from the perspective of availability of potential mates and the stiffer competition from younger sexually active women who, by nature of their suppressed fertility, are available for consequence-free sex. 

In plain terms, what this essentially means is that from a strictly economic perspective, the availability of contraception compels women to make themselves ‘sexually available’ in order to compete with their peers for a rightful share of the market.  

It’s a rather grim way of looking at romantic relationships, but there’s evidence of it in every aspect of modern society.  Sex has essentially become the currency and women the desirable product or service.  Not an especially attractive scenario, from a feminist perspective.  Which is why I would advocate that authentic feminism must embrace the whole person rather than reducing her to parts or performance ability. 

Being a woman, having the capacity to conceive and nurture new human life, is not a design flaw.  It doesn’t need to be sutured, suppressed or tied off in order to ‘protect’ men from the consequences of intimacy with us.  

Similarly, we needn’t defend ourselves against the scourge of male fertility by means of barriers or chemical repellants.  We are not at war with one another.
But we are making war on our own bodies, and on the environment in which we live.  

As human beings we are entrusted with an awesome responsibility to till and keep the garden of the natural world.  We are to be stewards and guardians, not polluters and consumers.  Not of the environment, and not of each other.

So the next time somebody engages you on the topic of responsible environmental stewardship, ask them what they’ve done for the planet lately, and maybe think twice before popping your morning Pill.

Because you never know who’s downstream.