Per Leila's invitation at the Bubble, I would be honored to share my faith and my story...
I am the oldest of 8 children (born less than 9 months after my parents marriage, oops!) and a cradle Catholic. My father's Italian family was extremely devout and my grandmother is still alive and living on her own at the age of 97, saying many rosaries a day. His brother is a priest who just celebrated the 40th Anniversary of his ordination.
My mother's family was also Catholic but did not seem quiet as devout in my childhood, although my grandfather had a wonderful voice and sang in the church choir and my grandmother bought me a Miraculous Medal necklace when I had to have 10 teeth removed at one time at age 10 - I am wearing that necklace now as I write.
I remember loving to go to Mass as a girl. Sometimes I would ask to go twice on a Sunday, once with my family and once with my Italian grandmother and/or aunts (my dad's 2 sisters never married and lived with my grandmother until they both died at a young age from breast cancer). I loved the rosary. I loved Mary so much I wished I could see her like the children at Fatima or St. Bernadette (the patron of my home parish and school). I loved religion class at school and reading the bible and memorizing prayers and singing the songs (boy do I sound like a nerd)! I loved the sacraments and vividly remember both my First Communion and First Reconciliation, which I was allowed to make individually and before the rest of my class (for a reason I do not remember). I went to elementary school in the 70's and experienced some of the "wacky" liturgical stuff and weak catechesis, but I think the school did a better job than most as I received a pretty solid and orthodox education. My parents took us to Church every Sunday and Holy Day but we never prayed at home, other than grace before every meal.
I went to a small all-girls Catholic high school in the early 80's - we still had several nuns as teachers and a principal. I loved my high school experience and had an excellent faith education, with lots of bible reading and faithful Church teachings. I headed to a Jesuit college and appreciated my 3 required theology and philosophy courses. I met my DH the very first day of school at our Catholic co-ed (sexes separated by floor level) dorm. He was Catholic because his Lutheran mom had promised to raise children in his dad's Catholic faith (even though Dad rarely went to Church). She faithfully kept that promise to DH (and his 2 older brothers), sending them to Catholic grammar schools and high schools, even though she never converted.
DH and I were inseparable from Day 1 and became engaged the middle of my junior year (he was 1 year older). We were both headed to law school and married in June after our first year (which we attended together because I was able to skip one year of college). My Mom had always been very open with all her children about the physical details of sex and the fact that she and dad never used b/c, but the only thing she told me before my wedding was to be sure that I did not have any babies before I finished law school because she would not be watching them while I skipped off to school each morning (my youngest brother was about 4 at that time)! My DH had brought home the super old first edition of CCL's "The Art of Natural Family Planning" but I don't remember why we did not decide to investigate further. Probably because the consensus of all our Catholic friends was that b/c was fine if you had serious reasons (like being poor and in school full-time) and you were preventing conception from happening in the first place. So I went in an started on the pill (never being told it was sometimes an abortifacient) several months before our wedding.
We went to Church almost every Sunday as we finished our last 2 years of law school together. DH had committed to join the Navy as a JAG officer after passing the bar exam and I was so eager to have a baby I just assumed he would pass on the first try and counted out 9 months from when he would be a Naval Officer (with a full-time salary and insurance, neither of which were present in law school) and threw away the rest of my pills right then! It took about 7 months for us to conceive and our first baby was due during his first duty tour in Seatlle, Washington and was born there (it was boy). Our second baby (also a boy) was born 20 months later in Maryland, during our second duty station.
DH then left the Navy for another government job and we moved back to our home city and were surrounded by family and even attending the same parish I grew up in. We wanted to have a bit more space before our next baby but I did not want to go back to the pill for health reasons, so we used barrier methods for a while.....until DH was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 31 (our boys were 4 and 3). He underwent 2 major surgeries and a summer of chemotherapy and we were told we would have a 25% chance of having another child in 5 or more years (close to 0% anytime before then). We were both deeply disappointed and when he started feeling well the next year, we started to look into adoption. We were told that due to DH's cancer, we would not be able to adopt domestically. Since we had 2 boys, I thought we could go to China for a little girl.
But in September, almost exactly 1 year after DH finished chemo, I had a positive pregnancy test (had been feeling kind of yucky for the past week and thought I would eliminate the possibily before I went to the doc). I was ECSTATIC! I could not wait to tell DH when he got home from work! The most amazing thing was that when DH got home and we were sitting in the living room (and I was planning how to tell him the awesome news) DH suddenly blurted out, "On the drive home today I pictured you sitting in a rocking chair with a newborn, isn't that weird?"
OMG, I almost passed out! I almost burst into tears and told him God must have let him know that, against all odds, I was indeed pregnant! We were on cloud 9 the whole pregnancy and I had my little girl (at home!) finally, when my boys were in kindergarten and preschool.
So now everyone assumed we were done! And so did we! Asking the Lord about it never really entered our minds, despite the fact our kiddies were in Catholic school and we went to Mass every single Sunday! I did take the CCL NFP course when my daughter was almost 1 (I breastfeed exclusively and have experienced BF infertiflity from 9 to 18 months), but we continued to use barriers as a "back up" during the fertile times.
We moved to a much bigger house in another suburb when my children were 10, 9 and 4. We worked very hard to update this "Brady Bunch" looking 70's house. We had more money than we ever had before. And we were miserable. DH and I were fighting a lot (we rarely ever fought in the previous 12 years of marriage until then) and we could not figure out what was wrong. We went to see the Catholic speaker Matthew Kelly in our new parish, thinking maybe a faith perspective could help us. We spent another month or two still not getting along. Until on the night of December 8 (which I later realized was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) I burst into the home office we shared where DH was on the computer.
"I think we need to have another baby!" I blurted out.
It was his turn to almost fall off the chair.
"Well that was what I had been thinking, but I thought YOU did not want one."
"I thought YOU did not want any more!"
THAT is what contraception does to a marriage, to the most intimate partnership we have in this world. It corrupts the communication and the bond and has ramifications so far beyond the bedroom I cannot even begin to tell you. Just trust me on this, I beg you dear reader.
That very evening we were open to life. And I conceived. And I lost the baby in a long protracted miscarriage that involved a ruptured cyst, a hospital stay, and the natural passing of my baby over 3 weeks later on January 22 - yes, the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the legalization of abortion, when I would have done ANYTHING to keep that precious baby in my body (I would not let my doc do a d&c). I was an emotional and spiritual mess. WHY? When we had finally "gotten it"? When we decided to be loving and generous?
Many bleak weeks followed. My brother and his wife were pregnant with their first at this same time and very kindly called to let me know when they would be announcing this to the family so I would not be surprised. The baby was due the same week as my baby would have been (and ended up being born on my birthday)! It was just not fair! I had several panic and anxiety attacks and had to stop working for a bit (I had a small law practice with my Dad). Finally, as I was crying out to God yet again, I read something about "redemptive suffering". I realized I either believed in it or I did not. Jesus either REALLY is the Son of God or he was not. Being just culturally Catholic made no sense at all. Either God is everything or He is nothing.
I decided God was indeed everything. And my life changed that day 7 years ago, which probably has a lot to do with all the graces being stored up by my aforementioned Italian grandmother and the thousands of rosaries she has said and hundreds of Masses she has attended!
3 more children followed (girl now 6, boy now 4, girl now almost 2). I am in my mid-forties and as I write this, I may be pregnant again. I am so full of joy waiting on the Lord and his plan for my life. He knows so much better than me what I (and my DH and family) need and will bring us true happiness and fulfillment in this life. My greatest hope is that my whole family (DH, children and all extended through the generations before and after me) will someday be joined together at the wedding feast of the Lamb. Nothing else really matters. Peace and blessings in Christ.