My Longing for Truth, by Emily O’Donnel, research assistant

Emily O'Donnel

Emily O’Donnel, research assistant

Written for FertilityCare for Young Women, Fall 2014

I took an honors English class my first semester of my freshman year of college entitled “Rhetoric as Argument”. Fabulously naïve and painfully zealous, I prepared myself for what I imagined would be a delightful daily gathering of intelligent individuals willing to discuss differing opinions in a sophisticated and enlightened manner. My professor was a young, single, female PhD candidate with a vibrant personality and a thinly veiled bitterness towards the patriarchy, whose goals included shocking the conservative Midwestern students in the front row while simultaneously encouraging us to question everything we had ever been told was truth and drastically change our life plans “for the greater good”. Needless to say, the semester proved an interesting one.

We read provocative environmental pieces, radical feminist literature and profound works on the history of obstetrics and gynecology in America. While I admired that professor for several noteworthy reasons, her ability to keep her opinion to herself and grade papers impartially were not among them. I respectfully locked horns with her several times over the semester as I struggled to meet her ideological expectations in my writings. To her dismay, I chose to write my final research paper on the subject of hormonal birth control and its detrimental effect on women’s health. I interviewed Teresa Kenney, the Nurse Practitioner at the Pope Paul VI Institute, read several books cover to cover, and turned in a very concise argument on the environmental, emotional, spiritual and physical ramifications of hormonal birth control.

According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, feminism is “organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests”. In my paper I stated that I am, in fact, a feminist. I do firmly believe in women’s rights and, as a woman, am incredibly supportive of female interests. As a result, I firmly believe that a woman’s reproductive system should be celebrated and not suppressed by hormonal contraception. In my paper, I stated something of this nature. To this day, my most profound college experience was flipping through my graded paper full of comments from my professor, and seeing my sentence “I am a feminist” underlined several times with a penned comment: “No. You are not.”

In retrospect, that class actually did radically change the trajectory of my life goals and plans, though ironically in the opposite way that my professor had hoped, and I wouldn’t realize its full effect until almost two years later. From that moment on, I did become restless with the system — with everything society had told me was truth. I read everything I could get my hands on about Natural Family Planning methods, NaProTechnology and the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. I began charting my own cycle a few months after that semester ended in order to monitor my own fertility. I devoured everything I could find about fertility, cycles, pregnancy, nutrition, hormonal birth control, feminine spirituality, holistic women’s health care and current issues in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. I began compiling a library collection specifically devoted to these subjects for the purpose of lending books to fellow women on this journey of truth. (My collection now needs another book shelf).

Along the way, a few important saints have nudged me in the right direction and continue to guide me and encourage me daily. St. Edith Stein, a brilliant feminist and philosopher, has been a continuous light and sisterly presence for me on this journey and I am so grateful every day that this beautiful and holy woman of God pursued my friendship. St. Gianna, mother and physician, has become a major role model for my life, encouraging sacrifice and selfless love. St. Joan of Arc, a warrior woman of fearless passion and devotion to our Lord, has continued to surprise me with words of ardent wisdom, quiet strength and dedicated grace. And of course, the Blessed Virgin herself has been my motherly companion, especially those days when I felt most alone, a relationship for which I will spend every moment until my last breath thanking God. These holy women are a few among thousands who questioned everything society told them was true, lived their lives with a passionate zeal for Christ, and gave brilliant examples of what it truly means to be a woman.

Interestingly enough, my journey to learn more about these issues surrounding the modern approach to women’s health pointed out other fallacies in our society’s key teachings. Reading St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility, as well as revolutionary writings like Pope Paul VI’s Humane Vitae and St. Edith Stein’s Essays on Woman, began an incredible new chapter in my journey of discovery. I started making new connections and began filling in dots I hadn’t previously known existed. New light was shed on issues like homosexuality, environmental disregard, consumerism, abortion, the “hook-up culture” so prevalent in modern society, divorce, mental illness, pornography, atheism, loveless marriages, abuse and rape. As time went on, it became more and more clear that none of these issues stand independently from one another. I came to realize more deeply that they all have two major things in common: 1) they are all intensely on the rise 2) and they all largely stem from society’s rampant hormonal contraceptive use. As this understanding grew more solid, my passion grew deeper and much more fervent. In the eloquent words of the wonderful St. Edith Stein, “My longing for truth was a single prayer.”

It took a period of deep discernment, but eventually, everything started to quickly change. My life turned upside-down. I switched my major, I withdrew from several programs I had planned on participating in my entire life, and dove head first into totally new things I never dreamed I would include on my resume. I am now majoring in Biology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and looking into medical school, nursing and bioethics graduate programs as exciting options for my continued education. I am currently on staff at the Pope Paul VI Institute as a research intern for Dr. Thomas Hilgers, a hero of modern reproductive medicine.

I just applied to become a practitioner of the Creighton Model and I am so excited for this journey. The Creighton Model FertilityCare System has radically changed my quality of life, restored hope in my reproductive future, and empowered me as a woman more than I could have ever possibly imagined. I desire to become a FertilityCare provider because charting is a brand new language that has allowed me to understand myself, my body and my fellow sisters in Christ in a much deeper way. As a NaProTechnology surgical patient myself, I know first-hand the miracles that the CrMS working hand-in-hand with NaProTechnology can facilitate. I want, with every fiber of my being, to help other women’s lives go through similar miraculous transformations. If feminism involves female empowerment, the Creighton Model FertilityCare System proves to be the epitome of reproductive empowerment. The CrMS allows a woman to take control of her reproductive health, schedule preventative and diagnostic procedures, pursue holistic and necessary fertility treatments, and work cooperatively with her spouse and/or doctor regarding her fertility.

In the last two years, Christ and His beautiful servants the saints, have very clearly guided me towards the path I am supposed to follow. I do not know the details of the future, but I do understand that I am supposed to join in this glorious mission of spreading the word about diagnostic women’s health methods, rather than today’s widely used suppressive “medicines”. I firmly believe with all that I am that hormonal birth control is the root of many of society’s greatest ills today and I have a fierce desire to help reverse the current trends. My greatest wish is that every woman, of every age and every state of fertility, can receive the truly beautiful gift of deeply understanding the miraculous thing that is her reproductive system, and that this understanding will help her realize how much God faithfully loves her.

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