Some folks have asked if my doctors are putting pressure on me not to have more children. I usually respond with a sound like hoooooo-ho-ho-hooooo (which is not supposed to be a sound like what Santa says, but rather a hearty laugh to indicate, YOU HAVE NO IDEA).
The doctors have said this before, when I was diagnosed with the clotting disorder after getting a deep vein thrombosis during my second pregnancy, but, luckily for my third, fourth, fifth, and sixth children, I knew that they weren’t that serious when they said, “You seriously can’t have any more children.”
But now they’re saying it with extra drama, and there’s nothing like lungs full of blood clots (for me) and lungs full of holes (for the baby) to make me think that they might actually mean it this time.
So what does that mean for me? When I converted to Catholicism, to my great surprise I came to agree whole-heartedly with what the Church teaches about contraception. I do Natural Family Planning (badly), and probably have about eight years of fertility left. Am I still going to stick with it? Am I resentful of these rules? Do I even want to have more kids? If the subject lines of my email inbox are any indication, a lot of folks are curious about this; hey, I would be too if I followed someone’s blog who found herself in this situation.
So let’s go ahead and crack open that can of worms, and I’ll give you my long answer to the question: Your doctors said you can’t have any more kids. What now?
Let’s talk about risk
First of all, let’s remember that when we speak about the dangers of pregnancy or any other undertaking, we’re talking about risk. This is not certainty. Nobody has a crystal ball. It’s all just educated guesses.
This sounds obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget.
You hear a doctor say, “You shouldn’t do XYZ because it would put your health at risk,” and it’s tempting to immediately declare, “‘Risk,’ you say? I SHALL NEVER DO XYZ AGAIN THEN!” But it’s critical to do the best we can to identify what level of risk we’re talking about.
In my own case, for example, I have a responsibility to my existing children not to take unnecessary risks with my life. The word to hone in on here is “unnecessary,” though, because the reality is that we take risks with our lives all the time. I’m thinking about taking a road trip this summer that would involve driving for hours down two-lane roads with 70-mile-per-hour speed limits and no barriers separating oncoming traffic. I would be driving on a weekend, when plenty of people are on the road after having beers at nearby lakes. There is no question that my life would be in danger if I went on that trip; in fact, the danger to my health in that situation is probably not even drastically lower than it would be with another pregnancy. Yet we perceive the pregnancy as being so much more fraught than the fun road trip.
For a variety of reasons, we’re always tempted to freak out and get all fearful when it comes to new life, much more so than in other areas of life. A mother setting out to climb a famous mountain as a personal self-fulfillment project would be congratulated and encouraged, whereas another mother being open to pregnancy despite concerning health conditions would be chided and discouraged, even if the risk to both women’s health from their respective activities were the same.
So, especially when it comes to the question of more children, we need to look very carefully at the question, “How big is the risk?” There are times when we’ll take a closer look and find that the risk is real and huge and deeply concerning; but other times we might just find that the risk isn’t all that much greater than it would be with plenty of other “normal” activities, and that the doom and gloom predictions about future pregnancy were fueled as much by our culture’s fear of life than as by a reasonable analysis of risk.
The hope factor
Every risk has a flipside, and this is another area that is too often forgotten about when we’re talking about pregnancy: the benefits of undertaking the risk.
We have this problem in our society of seeing new human lives as burdens. Instead of celebrating new people, too often we chalk them up to carbon footprints and mouths to feed. We deem others (always others, not people we know) to be “overpopulation.” And I’m not using “we” rhetorically: Seriously, I’m not immune to the mentality either.
The soundtrack to all of my pregnancies is the noise of my whining voice. I always forget about the life of the new son or daughter that I’m carrying, and talk about the huge burden that “the pregnancy” is placing on me. Maybe it’s all those years I spent immersed in secular culture, but I am naturally sympathetic to the frame of mind that wants to immediately shut down the pregnancy train as soon as the doctor says the word “risk.” Especially in the case of those of us who already have a lot of children, why not? After all, how many kids does one person need?
But children are more than a number in the family birth order, and each human life is infinitely valuable. Think of someone you love: When you consider the worth of his or her life, it makes you view the pregnancy that brought him or her into existence differently. It makes you willing to accept higher levels of risk to add a person like that to the world.
Imagine that you were diagnosed with a rare and fatal illness, and you discovered that there was a doctor who had developed a brand new way to treat it. Imagine that this doctor cured you. Imagine the waves of joy and relief that would sweep over you when you found out that he had defeated the disease that threatened to cut your life short. Now imagine that you found out that he was his mother’s seventh child, and that her pregnancy with him went against warnings from her doctors not to have any more children. Would his mother seem crazy for becoming pregnant anyway? Would she seem irresponsible for deciding that adding another soul to her family was worth the risk?
Unfortunately, sometimes we need to remind ourselves what other people can do for us in order to remember the value of their lives.
I’m not suggesting that there’s never a good reason to avoid pregnancy; even aside from health risks, there are plenty of other reasons couples might decide that it’s not a good time for another kid. I only suggest that when we make those decisions, it’s critical that we make them in light of the hope that every new baby brings. When you think of making sacrifices for a nameless, faceless “pregnancy,” it doesn’t seem worth much effort. But the cost/benefit ratio changes drastically when you really think about the worth of one boy or girl’s life.
NFP is worth it
All that said, I do think there’s enough risk in my own situation that I should chill on the pregnancy front for now, maybe forever. In that case, then, wouldn’t contraception or sterilization make everything easier? To put it concisely:
First of all, Natural Family Planning can be an effective way to space children. (I’ll give you a moment to stop laughing and clean up the drink you just spilled on your keyboard.) No, seriously, if you’re willing to invest a little time to learn the ropes, it can work just as well as contraception. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy, and that the challenges that come with NFP are very real. However, it’s not like the alternatives offer problem-free solutions either. As the great Simcha Fisher once said, “When it comes to facing fertility, all God’s children got angst.”
I know a lot of other couples who have given up contraception to use NFP, and not a single one of them has ever returned to contraception use. I’m not saying it never happens, but, at least in my experience, it’s rare. That’s totally counter-intuitive since NFP is a sacrifice-based system, but I think what most couples find when they give up artificial birth control to space children naturally (especially when they involve God in the process), is that the high level of personal sacrifice involved is a feature, not a bug. NFP is not just another form of birth control; it’s an entirely new lifestyle. It makes you see yourself and your spouse and your children entirely differently. It makes you see the meaning of life differently. It even makes you see your relationship with God differently. And once you’ve spent a while living that kind of life, you don’t want to go back.
Intellectually, I don’t think that contraception is a good thing. I’ve come to believe that it takes away women’s reproductive freedom, and, on a societal level, fuels abortion culture. But, when I think of my own situation, I never even get that far in the analysis. Like so many other people who have made the switch to NFP, I simply couldn’t be okay with any form of sterilization anymore, whether temporary or permanent. I don’t know how to articulate it other than to say I just couldn’t do it. On a purely visceral level, in that place deep in the heart where the most important truths about our humanity reside, I know as surely as I know anything else that those Catholic teachings about human sexuality are true and good.
So what now?
As you can imagine, I’ve gotten some flack about all of this lately, especially in light of this disastrous pregnancy. Sometimes I catch myself reacting by saying:
“I didn’t know!”
I mean, yeah, I knew that I had a blood clotting disorder that’s exacerbated by pregnancy, and, okay, there was that one just slightly life-threatening DVT in my second pregnancy. BUT! I thought that it would be fine once I took preventative Lovenox. I didn’t know that it was possible to end up with bilateral pulmonary embolisms when you were on blood thinners — I thought that I was stabbing myself with needles every day to prevent that kind of thing! I didn’t know that a one-month supply of said blood thinners would set me back FOUR THOUSAND dollars. I didn’t know that I’d end up having to undergo medical procedures that were like something out of a bad episode of Fear Factor. I didn’t know that one of my veins would turn black from having over 10 blood draws in the same arm over a few hours. I certainly didn’t know that my baby would have his own, unrelated life-threatening lung issues that would put him in intensive care for two weeks. Sheesh, people, I didn’t know!
The implication there is that I would have done something differently if I had known that I was signing up for a pregnancy that was like something out of a homeric epic.
But would I?
I look down at my sweet baby boy, who is sleeping in my lap as I type, and I am overwhelmed with love and joy at his existence. I am filled with certainty that his life was meant to be. I can barely even remember all the pain I went through to bring him into the world, because that finite amount of suffering seems so utterly insignificant in comparison to the infinite value of his life.
Yet I am also sitting here saying that it would probably be best if I didn’t have more children. It leaves me in a place of strange tension: If this baby was so worth it, wouldn’t that be the case for another one? As a mother, I certainly have a duty to my precious children not to take risks with my health; but if I’d followed that train of thought more closely before, most of said precious children would not even exist.
It is when I ponder these truths that I realize: It’s so freaking complicated.
There are no more difficult, complicated, messy decisions in the human experience than the decisions we make about having kids. In no area of life is there more at stake, more opportunities for suffering and loss, and more opportunities for joy and love and connection that will last through eternity.
I don’t have all the answers; many days, I don’t feel like I have any. I have no idea if I’ll ever have another biological child. Today I’m thinking that I probably won’t…but will I feel that way tomorrow? If I’ve learned anything so far this year, it’s that your whole world can be turned upside down in a matter of hours, leaving you with an entirely different perspective on life than you had the day before. Luckily, with NFP, you make these kinds of decisions on a month-to-month, rather than a long-term basis. I’ll have regular opportunities to re-evaluate my choices.
And so when people ask about whether I think I’ll have more children, I usually respond with a responsible-sounding answer about how I am aware of the risks and currently plan to take the prudent course and avoid pregnancy for the rest of my fertile years. But then I’ll glance over at my little blond-haired son, and sometimes his tiny, ink-blue eyes will catch mine, and I can barely suppress a smile as I think: Never say never.
No 7 Quick Takes Friday this week. Blessed Good Friday to you all!
I don’t know whether I’m just extra sensitive right now or whether a whole lot of people are having a really bad 2013, but it seems that I’ve come across an unusual number of stories of great suffering lately. From friends, from blogs I follow, and from the media, I have heard stories that leave me stunned with sympathetic grief, wondering how the people involved could possibly survive such a cross.
Naturally, I often wonder where God is in all of this. I mean, I’ve read some interesting books that do a good job of talking about how and why a loving God could allow evil in the world that he created (this one probably being the best of the lot), and I can sometimes do an okay job of explaining it from a coldly theoretical perspective. But then I hear stories where the victims of evil have names and faces. I see suffering befall mothers just like me, children who are so similar to my own, sometimes even people I know. And then all my words are immediately rendered impotent.
What to do in these situations? Where can we turn when eloquent theories fall flat against raw human agony? How can we ponder God’s role in it all without pulling away from him in woundedness and fear? For me, there is only one source of comfort in moments like this:
When we rail against God for human pain, too often we’re picturing a distant God who sits aloof in his throne upon the clouds. But to see the crucifix is to see the God who allows suffering, but does not exempt himself from it. To ponder the crucifix is to ponder the fact that that man, naked in bleeding on the cross, is the incarnate form of the One who created each molecule on each star and planet in all the billions of galaxies in the universe. To gaze at a crucifix is to learn the story of the creatures who introduced misery into their world through their own disobedience, which they chose through their own free will, and then to hear the tale of the Creator who did not abandon them to wallow in the mess they had made for themselves, but who jumped down into it with them instead. It is to behold a God who used his own pain to transform suffering into a love-generating act, opening the door for his children to be reunited with him in an eternity of peace.
Each time I am tempted to scream, Where is our God when we suffer?!, the crucifix provides its own, wordless response: He is right here, suffering with us.
I think I had a mid-life crisis a few months ago.
It was a weird experience, because I didn’t see it coming. Ever since my conversion I’ve had this unshakable sense of peace at the foundation of my life, a sort of root-level happiness that I never knew was possible. Yeah, things are hard, sometimes really hard, and I whine now and then (okay, a lot), but all of that stuff has to do with day to day annoyances. When you look past all that, I’m actually deeply fulfilled with this crazy existence of mine — after all, life doesn’t have to be easy to be joyful.
So I was caught off guard when, one warm afternoon last fall, I found myself riddled with stress and panic at the thought of turning 36.
It was one of those moments when information that I already knew well suddenly struck me completely differently than it had the first thousand times I’d thought about it: a nurse at my obstetrician’s office asked how old I would be when the baby is born, and I answered casually, “Thirty-six.” She left the room while scribbling notes on my chart, and I was left stunned, sitting rigid in the chair as if I’d just received some grave diagnosis.
“Thirty-six? Thirty-SIX?!?! My thirties are mostly gone! Forty is just around the corner! I’M SO OLD!!!!”
Now, I realize the ridiculousness of a 36-year-old thinking that she is old, and I’m sure I will laugh heartily if I re-read this in 30 years. It’s not even that I think that 36 is old, objectively; I just didn’t realize that that’s my age. I guess I’ve been so busy for the past half decade that I never really noticed that I was out of my 20s.
But whatever. No big deal. I tried to brush it all off as soon as I left the doctor’s office, assuring myself that I must just be in one of those moods where everything seems overwhelming and horrible. (Just that morning I had called Joe to wonder loudly if life is even worth living anymore, which resulted in an awkward silence when it came out that the question arose because we ran out of butter.)
The hours turned into days, my mood improved, and yet I continued to be plagued by some unsettling feeling about my age. I’d be going through my routine, feeling fine, and then — boom — that I’M GETTING OLD! feeling would slam into me and leave me reeling.
I tried to get to the bottom of this weird new anxiety, but had little luck. I went through this mental process I often turn to in times of stress, where I think through possible explanations and try them out like trying keys in a lock. Yet this time, none of them fit: Anxious about mortality? Nah. We Catholics think about death all the time, and I’m fairly comfortable with the knowledge that my life on this earth won’t last forever. Worried about looking older? I’m not immune to bemoaning new gray hairs and wrinkles, but it doesn’t bother me that much. Missing the “freedom” of youth? Oh my gosh. I was never more of a slave than when I was supposedly living the high life in my 20s. Do not want to experience that again.
I walked around like this for days, maybe even weeks: stressed about my age, stressed about the fact that I was stressed, and stressed that I couldn’t analyze my way out of my stress about being stressed. (Yeah. It’s hard to be me.) Then, finally, it hit me, and I understood what was at the root of my anxiety.
The ah-hah moment came when I stumbled across an old DarwinCatholic post, in which Darwin makes a profound point about our little daily choices adding up to create a life – specifically, that if our choices are poorly thought out, it may not be a life we want to live. He analogized it to constructing a building:
The house or office you are sitting in was built according to a plan and a purpose, a purpose from which it is now only able to deviate to a limited extent. My house cannot suddenly become an office tower, though it has an office in it. My office building would make a very poor house. But they are built knowingly, according to a plan. And yet, our lives seem often constructed to a purpose without the architect knowing that he is in constructing something with walls and doors — an edifice which will suit some ends well, and other poorly. Individual choices pile up unto some particular type of life, and once that life is built people sometimes find it is not, in fact, the kind of structure they want to live in.
After reading that, I got it.
People probably experience mid-life crises for a variety of reasons, but, for me, what happened was that I looked up and realized that my building is well on its way to completion. Even though I am happy with the way it’s turning out, it was startling to realize how much of it is done. Last time I checked, it was still a bare foundation with endless possibilities; it now has a definite design, a clear trajectory. Many of the choices I have already made rule out other, future choices I might have once considered. As a 36-year-old mother expecting my sixth child, it’s extremely unlikely that I will ever be a top makeup artist or ascend the Seven Summits or become a professor of physics. It’s not that I care that much about doing any of those things, but when I was 20, they were all options.
Now, they are not.
It was when I internalized that fact that I realized that the pain of my mid-life crisis was, at its root, fueled by my attachment to options.
I’ve long given lip service to the idea that the secret to life is seeking God’s will on a day-by-day, even hour-by-hour basis. Ever since I read the (incredible and life-changing) book He Leadeth Me, I have been a big believer in this idea that the most important way to be fulfilled and have an impact on the world is simply to ask God what he wants you to do right here, right now; to rest in the knowledge that God always has something important that he needs you to do, no matter your age or your physical abilities or your circumstances, and that it’s probably more exciting than your own plans anyway.
But believing something and living it are always two different things, and it wasn’t until my little mid-life crisis that I realized just how much hope I placed in having options. Rather than resting in the life that God has given me, and trusting that he’ll give me whatever opportunities I require to do what I’m meant to do in this world, I still relied on having lots and lots of choices for the future in my back pocket (you know, as a backup, just in case God dropped the ball with his plan and I had to take over).
And when I realized that many of those choices were gone now, with more disappearing with each passing day, it was a startling moment of coming face to face with my own attachments.
As I would find out a few months later when my health took a dive, this happens in other areas of life as well: in addition to time, you often don’t realize just how much you rely on things like power, money, or (in my recent situation) health until you don’t have them anymore. I always thought that my hope for a truly fulfilled life rested in God alone. Now I see that the breakdown was more like: 30% hope in God, 30% hope in robust health that allows me to engage in activities of my choosing, 30% hope in having plenty of time to do all sorts of other stuff in the future, and 10% in having the resources to make it happen. As we age, those other commodities dwindle — a 110-year-old doesn’t have a whole lot of health or time or resources, for example — and only God is left.
At least for me, a mid-life crisis is nothing more or less than a realization that every day brings us a little closer to that point when all we have left is God, and that we may be closer to that point than we thought we were. It sounds kind of depressing, like something I’d shout into the phone at Joe at 3 PM when I’m exhausted and the baby won’t nap and someone just spilled yogurt on the wall (“ALL I HAVE LEFT IS GOD!!!”), but it’s really quite inspiring. To go through a mid-life crisis and to come out the other side is to go through a process of purification, in which you accept the things that are gone, and realize that they were were never the source of true happiness to begin with.
I wore a chapel veil to church for the first time ever yesterday. It’s something I’d wanted to/felt called to do for years, and I finally committed to doing it during Lent. I didn’t make it to Mass last week because, you know, snakes on a plane, so this Sunday’s Mass was my first shot at it.
My biggest concern was not drawing attention to myself. Though a few women at my parish do wear scarves, hats, or veils in church, they’re a small minority, and I didn’t want to feel like I stood out. So when we arrived I slipped into the pew discreetly, which was made easier by the fact that I only had my five-year-old daughter with me (the one of dragon-defeating fame) since Joe had taken the others to vigil Mass the day before. After the first Scripture reading I finally began to relax, and by the end of the Gospel I felt confident that I was just an anonymous face in the crowd.
And then Fr. Uche began his homily. The Gospel reading was about the Transfiguration, and when he introduced the topic, he mused, “What did Jesus go up the mountain to do?” I jumped when a voice beside me shouted at the loudest possible volume:
That would be my sweet daughter’s pronunciation of “pray.” She’s so excited about Jesus and was so delighted to know the answer that she just had to scream it at the very top of her lungs — and, wow, who knew that a young child’s voice could fill an entire huge building like that? The church was packed with about 1,100 people, and I am pretty sure that every single one of them looked over at us in that moment. I had already felt like THE WOMAN IN THE CHAPEL VEIL!!!!, and now I felt like THE WOMAN IN THE CHAPEL VEIL WHOM WE’RE ALL NOW STARING AT BECAUSE HER KID YELLS AT THE PRIEST DURING MASS!!!!
I’ve gotten a lot of comments and emails from women who said that they were interested in covering their heads but had never tried it, so I thought I’d share my experience in case others find it helpful. And yes, there is definitely something ironic, and possibly a little lame, about undertaking a practice that’s all about humility and hiddenness and then writing about it on your blog. I get that. But I’m going to go ahead and crack open that can of worms anyway, because I know that it’s something a lot of us have thought about, and I think that at least a few folks might find a discussion about the practice to be fruitful.
First, a bit of background:
What I Wore
I especially wanted to share this detail since I know a lot of us have a hard time finding something we can feel truly comfortable wearing. I am thrilled to have discovered this chapel veil, which is based on an infinity scarf, from the Liturgical Time Etsy Shop. What’s great about it is that it can be worn as a scarf…
And then slipped over your head to use as a veil!
The design allowed it to stay on my head easily — I didn’t need any bobby pins to keep it in place. Also, it helped me relax to know that I could just drop it down and wear it around my neck if it got to be too much to hassle with.
Which brings us to the question: Why did I get myself into this in the first place?
Why I Wanted to Do It
The practice of women covering their heads at church made sense to me from the first moment I encountered it. It’s not a tradition I’ve ever wondered about, wrestled with, or felt hostile to in any way.
It started, in fact, with my observations about the practice of men removing their head coverings when entering a church. Here in Texas it’s common for men to wear hats, especially cowboy hats, and it was even more common when I was younger. I grew up seeing dashing gentlemen in their fine Stetsons; I’d often come across black-and-white pictures of my grandfathers and their fathers from the 40s, looking like movie stars in their suits and fedoras. On a gut level I understood that men can enhance their appearances dramatically with headwear.
Rarely is a man’s hair his best feature. Many males have thinning hair, and, at least in our society, they don’t have tons of acceptable options for hairstyles anyway. So, for that gender, hats are a prime opportunity to improve their physical appearance and draw attention to themselves. When I was a child I occasionally ended up in churches for weddings or funerals, and when I saw the men remove their hats, they always looked a little smaller and less powerful after doing so. I understood on a visceral level that for a man to bare his head was an act of humility.
For women, it’s the opposite.
Our hair is one of the main ways we express our individuality. Even for those of us who have no skill at hairdressing, the cut and style of our locks speaks volumes about how we want want people to perceive us. It’s also one of the primary ways we make ourselves beautiful. Imagine a girl standing in front of a mirror, heading out to a party, determined to look as gorgeous as possible…but totally neglecting her hair. It wouldn’t happen. When women want to attract attention with their physical beauty, their hair is one of the first things they think about. It’s a fact of human nature that both genders tend to notice women’s physical appearances, moreso than they do with men’s appearances, and hair is a crucial part of that.
So, long before I’d heard any exegesis about First Corinthians or encountered horror stories about women in abusive congregations being pushed to cover their heads because they were seen as inferior, the idea just kinda made sense to me. I didn’t (and still don’t) think it’s a big deal. I would not push others to undertake that practice if it didn’t feel right to them. It simply seemed to me that men uncovering their heads and women covering theirs was a nice, optional thing that people could do to deflect attention from themselves in a holy place.
If it’s true that this practice is all about blending in, wouldn’t wearing a chapel veil defeat the purpose? I thought. If I end up being THE WOMAN IN THE CHAPEL VEIL!!!!, as I was afraid I would be, then I would actually be drawing more attention to myself than if I didn’t cover my head in the first place. Yet that’s not what happened.
To be sure, one of the reasons it wasn’t an issue is that some women do cover their heads at our parish. Again, it’s not common, but you see it often enough that it doesn’t surprise anyone. It might have been a different story if we went to a more casual church where a woman wearing a veil would be the only one doing so. (Kelly has some great suggestions for those situations.) But the biggest reason that I think I ultimately blended in is this:
It’s hard for a woman with a covered head to be the center of attention.
When I thought of my own reaction to encountering women wearing scarves or veils, it dawned on me that you don’t spend much time looking at them because there’s simply not that much to see. Even if you do a double-take when you first glance at them, your focus soon drifts to something else since you can’t see many of the details that make people interesting to look at. Their hair, most of their heads, and many of the details of their faces and necks are obscured. They wouldn’t hold your attention because it’s boring to look at a bunch of fabric.
What Will People Think?
On the way to church my Neurotic ESP kicked into gear, and I could already hear everyone else’s thoughts:
Wait, isn’t that the same lady who wore jeans to Mass last week and said “And also with you” at the sign of peace?
Did I just see a woman in a chapel veil GENUFLECT ON THE WRONG KNEE?!?!?
These voices continued to pipe up in my imagination once I got inside the church…but when I tried to apply them to actual people, it all broke down.
There was Roxanne, who once dropped everything to come over and pray with me when I was having a hard time. Scattered throughout the pews were at least eight wonderful folks who had brought us homemade meals after babies were born and after my recent health issues. Across the aisle was my friend who volunteers at our church’s health clinic to serve those who can’t pay for medical care; over to the left was the gentleman who recently gave a large amount of financial assistance to a young couple with a crisis pregnancy whom he met when they turned around from an abortion mill where he’d been praying; and behind him was the couple who has cared for over 20 at-risk children through the local foster care system. Noe was undoubtedly out there somewhere too.
Waves of shame rushed through me when I realized: these are the people whom I assumed would be judging me.
Even I am not horrible enough to spend the Mass fixated on other people, rendering damning character assessments based on their outward appearances…yet I assumed that that’s what my brothers and sisters in Christ would do to me?
It was at that moment that I realized that this exercise in head covering brought with it an important, and surprisingly difficult, opportunity for spiritual growth: to presume other people’s charity.
* * *
I think that that last point was my biggest takeaway. To my great surprise, it seemed to me that the people around me were (wait for it…this is going to be shocking…) focused more on the Mass than they were on me. I know, amazing.
It reminded me of the advice that Dr. Phil used to give guests on his show: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what people thought of you if you knew how seldom they did.” (Let me hasten to note that I do not get all my life wisdom from daytime talk shows anymore.) (Now it mostly comes from Pinterest.) Anyway, I have rarely found that saying to be more true than when I covered my head at Mass. Nobody cared — nobody — and it was prideful of me to assume that anyone would in the first place.
So if you’ve ever considered wearing a head covering to church, I encourage you to do it. I think you’ll find it to be a beautiful exercise in hiddenness…as long as you remind your children not to shout at the top of their lungs when the priest asks a question during the homily.
(P.S. Since I included a couple of pictures, I’m counting this as a What I Wore Sunday post!)