Catholic Pregnant Mum of 5 enters Beauty Pageant!

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Laura Beeson

My name is Laura Beeson, I’m a Catholic wife, mother, homemaker, beautician and sometimes singer.  So why did I, at the age of 30, with no previous experience decide to participate in a Mrs. Ohio International Pageant?  Because I wanted to.  

Now, most of my life is filled with doing things for others, and I’m happy to, I know I am serving Christ through my husband and children and volunteer work, but I learned that I don’t need to be so self-sacrificing that I won’t allow myself to have my own experiences.  If it would have been a burden to my family, I wouldn’t have followed through, but I’m frugal and self-sufficient and I’m not too proud to admit that I use YouTube videos to teach me the rest.  

For a while I struggled with guilty feelings about it all, am I just being vain?  Then one day as I contemplated it, I realized, I don’t need to feel bad about the things that bring me joy, because God gave me the interest and talent to be a beautician.  Yes, though it may seem mundane to others, hair and make-up and pretty clothes bring me joy.  And I’d go so far as to say that my Christianity helps me to filter through fads and fashion to see what truly shows beauty and discard what doesn’t, which only makes it more enjoyable.  

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Originally, I had this grand plan that I would keep it a secret that only my husband would know and after the Pageant is when family or friends would find out.  Mostly because I just wanted to do it for myself and didn’t want to come across as attention-seeking.  But after learning more about Pageantry, I realized that was unrealistic, of course they want you to promote the pageant, the community you represent, your platform and yourself. That seemed fair.  

I had chosen the Couple to Couple League – Natural Family Planning as my platform, since my husband Sean and I are a certified volunteer teaching couple through the organization, this was a wonderful opportunity to promote this uncommon knowledge to other women and couples.  I told myself to let go of the pride, don’t worry about what others think, and just do it!  So for the six weeks leading up to the Pageant, I promoted myself as Mrs Crawford County through social media and my husband graciously obliged to go along with it all, I love that man.   

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Now, let me make it clear, not all Pageant systems are created equal, but I liked what I saw within the Mrs. International system.  

What Is Mrs International®?
A FAMILY AFFAIR… The International Pageant system has been developed to promote today’s married women, their accomplishments, and commitment to family and marriage. Around the world women are finding this system to be the opportunity to work with their husband and family to become positive role models.

 

Our Mission: “To Make a Difference”
Beginning 30 years ago, Mrs. International® was developed to have higher standards than other pageant systems. Each contestant competes in Interview Competition, which is valued for 50% of her overall score, Evening Gown, valued for 25% and Fitness Wear for 25%. Each contestant has the opportunity to select a platform of her choice that she spends the year promoting. Husbands are a direct part of the show, escorting their wives in the Evening Gown competition, and the husband crowns his wife titleholder.


I’m sure there may be other Pageant Systems that I wouldn’t feel comfortable participating in or promoting, but this is a system where they value family and community work, I can stand with that.

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Now, at the time, we had 4 kids, ages 7, 5, 3, & 1, as you can see, our kids have been pretty consistently spaced with the use of Natural Family Planning (NFP).  I know, plenty of people look at us and think, “Clearly that method doesn’t work,” but to us, it’s a testament that it has.  I’ve always been the “weird” gal who wanted a larger family, but after our 4th was born, I was feeling pretty worn down and in need of a mental and physical break, which NFP assisted us with.  I loved and served the family I had, started exercising regularly which did me more good than I realized it would, enjoyed the return to normal hormone levels and the regular body functions that accompany them.  

Then, all of a sudden, I found that God had changed my heart unexpectedly and having another baby wasn’t so scary anymore, and in fact, I was interested in another baby. So, we weighed our reasons to postpone pregnancy, and there weren’t too many anymore, I’d be 12 weeks pregnant for the Ohio Pageant and if I won and had to attend the International Pageant, I’d be 6 months along.  Basically, I realized that it was more important to be true to myself and allow the possibility of another life than to worry about how I’d look in a gown or how others’ perceived the workings of NFP.  So, it was no surprise to me, that I was 12 weeks pregnant for the Pageant, but I had decided to keep it a secret since I didn’t want there to be any wonderings about biased judging, nor had I been to the doctor yet for a check up.

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The week leading up to the Pageant I packed my things, made sure I had everything I needed and reminded myself that no matter what, I was going to enjoy myself, because that was the point of me doing this whole thing.  If I made a mistake, or didn’t have something I needed, or spoke poorly, I’d let it go quickly and move on with enjoying the experience.

Saturday morning I arrived to the Pageant venue for Orientation to begin at 10 AM, there were 4 categories of ladies competing:  Junior Miss, Miss Teen, Miss & Mrs.  There were 6 of us in the Mrs. division.  Most of the day I fought the feelings of intimidation, I’d see a beautiful woman and before I’d allow myself to think one way or another about her, I’d make myself go over to her and start chatting.  And you know what?  Making yourself move is the hardest step, but after that, you start to enjoy yourself, because people are interesting!  I’ve learned that we women, do ourselves a disservice when we make judgements about other women by what we perceive from their appearance.  We miss out on possible friendships, opportunities to serve, or the chance to make ourselves a better well-rounded person. The way a woman looks on the outside, does not speak of who she is as a person.  

Over the years, I’ve had quite a few people tell me that when they first met me, they thought I was a snob (well, they used a different word, but I won’t repeat it here) but once they got to know me, they say that word doesn’t describe me at all, whew, that’s a relief!  I don’t know why I’ve come across that way, but I think that’s helped me to develop myself into being more friendly than the stand-off-ish route I used to take when meeting others.  

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Our interviews were with five different judges for five minutes each, the questions varied from “What are your plans if you win?” to “If you were an animal, what would you be?”  I’d say it went well, and a hippo was my answer.  Most of the day was filled with covering what was expected of us and practicing as best we could for the Performance Pageant the next day.

Luckily, on Sunday morning I was able to find a Catholic Church that held a 7 AM mass that was only about a 15 minute drive from the Pageant venue, because we were expected to arrive by 8:20 AM and were not permitted to leave the building for the rest of the day.  The day was filled with rehearsal, hair & make up and more rehearsal before the show began at 5 PM.  

I’d say I kept up with the “pros” just fine, I didn’t forget my name, I didn’t trip on stage, or stammer for words during the Fish Bowl question.  I did realize after one portion that I had forgotten to look at the judges, so I knew I didn’t have a perfect score, but I planned to do the best I could for the remainder of the event.  I ate pizza while waiting to showcase my Fitness Wear in the changing room, clearly I took it all very seriously.  And the best part was my wonderful husband got to escort me across the stage in my evening gown, looking quite dapper himself.  

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I wasn’t the least bit surprised that the wonderful Teri Grothaus won the title of Mrs. Ohio International, she’s a CNP who goes on mission trips to Guatemala and collects bottles of vitamins to distribute to the children there, and I think it’s safe to say we knew almost immediately we were kindred spirits.  She’s a gem, and this week I’m cheering her on as she competes in the Mrs. International Pageant representing our state of Ohio!

Looking in retrospect, I’m happy about it all:  that I did it, that I informed others about NFP, that I could show my kids that you can enjoy the things you lose at, that it helped me to develop in characteristic ways I had let slack.  

So, would I do it again?  To my delighted surprise, the answer is yes.  Will I?  I don’t know, maybe.  That’s what I love about life, I don’t have to make definitive answers about the future, because I don’t know what God has planned, but if I leave myself open to the possibilities, then I haven’t limited myself.  Whether I do or don’t, I’ll strap on the Breastplate of Christ and go about my way, hopefully letting Him carry me into unlikely places and sharing uncommon things in the world around me.

– Laura Beeson

Giving more in the bedroom – Catholic style :)

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Luke 21:1-4

21 He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

This wonderful piece of scripture illustrated perfectly how I teach people how to fast. Often people approach fasting as a rule bound endurance test in which discipline reigns supreme and we all feel awful and end up just hating fasting – or simply give up.

The way I approach fasting is to encourage people to give up just 1 cup of coffee in the morning, but to do it out of pure love for God, in conjunction with a short prayer. You see, fasting is all about love. It is about how much we are willing to give. How much we are willing to joyfully suffer is the measure of our love (God never enjoys a grumpy faster! 😀 ).

Love and suffering go hand in hand and can never be separated. This is such a fundamental truth of Christianity, illustrated perfectly by Christ on the cross, that it can very quickly become overwhelming. My approach is very much based on the spirituality of St Therese of Lisieux: little things done with great love. If we can understand the concept of the indissolubility of love and suffering in the smallest thing, then we can begin to apply it to bigger things in our lives.

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The absolute key element is that we must be very honest with ourselves about how much we are able to give at this point in our lives. If we are holding back, then we are holding back our love and we will never grow closer to God. If we are giving too much, then we are going to burnout and become resentful about giving any more. Both of these polarised stances are as harmful as each other. Balance is the key. Honesty, patience and compassion towards ourselves, and support from a faithful and experienced spiritual director who knows us and how much we can cope with.

The poor widow got this exactly right. She un-begrudgingly gave all she could give, and it was the right amount. Of course we don’t know this woman’s circumstances outside of this story. She may have had family or friends supporting her. She may have been relying entirely on God to provide for her needs. I very much doubt Jesus would have approved so strongly of her generosity if it meant she was going to make herself ill, or cause her not to be able to cope. She realistically gave all she could at that time in her life.

Some of my friends and family know that I fast. They don’t get why! I try explaining but their hearts are just not in the right place to understand about how I want to reciprocate the enormous love shown to me by Jesus on the Cross, with little acts of self sacrifice – and I respect that. Everyone is at a different stage. I’m sure they are stronger in other areas where I am very weak.

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It struck me this morning that this story, and the way it relates to fasting can also be applied perfectly to the Catholic Churches teaching on married couples being open to life.

Of course the norm in our secular society is to use artificial contraception. We used artificial contraception for the first 5 years of our marriage. But the Church teaches that this way of having sex causes us to hold back our love. Love, in a Catholic marriage is about the entire self giving of ones self to the other – and to God. This is probably one of the hardest teachings we will ever face because it cuts down to the very core of who we are as people and our need to love and to be loved. Also, artificial contraception gives the impression that sex is something that we have the right to control and use as we please. This view is so normalised now within our secular society that being open to life and having a large family is sadly regarded as odd.

What I find so sad is that people using artificial contraception just don’t know what they are missing out on. Having lived both lifestyles, I can absolutely attest to the fact that being open to life is so, so much better. It is healthier, more natural, teaches you and your husband respect for your body and your fertility, empowers you to be able to discuss marriage, sex and babies in a much more open and giving way with God as the boss. But that is not to say that it is easy. It took me about 6 years to get to the stage where I could peacefully and happily be open to life.

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Just like with fasting, I was struggling with how much I was willing to give – how much I could give at that point in my life. This is why I say it really is a lifestyle, rather than just a part of ones life. As I prayed about being open to life, I found myself beginning to prioritise different things in my life, giving things up, re-ordering things. I found myself deciding that at this point in my life, remaining open to life was more important to me than having a career. That is not to say that I gave up my job – but only that it now ranked less important on my list of priorities. Of course at this time in our lives my husband had a good job and there was not real need for me to work – so I was in a position to be able to give that up. I was also lucky enough to have a husband who was also keen to be open to life. Many people don’t have this. We were both in good health and had support from my parents. Many people don’t have this either. But most crucially, I wanted to give more – just like I wanted to fast. I was at that stage in my spiritual life where I could feel God calling me to do this.

The rewards that came to the marriage from us both giving more came as a complete surprise to both of us. Rather than “What am I getting out of this marriage?” it changed to “What more can I give to this marriage?”. All 3 of our children were planned. In fact our second and third child were conceived quickly using NFP to determine when I was at peak ovulation. Our first child took over a year because we hadn’t learned about my cycle at that point and obviously didn’t know what the heck we were doing! 😀

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But it wasn’t always easy to get into the giving mindset. I don’t have easy pregnancies. I get very sick and very big and very tired. I really do not like being pregnant very much at all. My first experience of birth was very traumatising and I swore blind after that that I could never have another child because I could just never go through that again. The day after our first child was born my Father in law died, and my husband started a new job. We grieved all through our first days of becoming parents. It was awful. My husband was not able to get into the Father role emotionally for over a year. I had to do it on my own.

After my first two children I had crushing post natal depression. After my second I got 9 months of 24/7 tinnitus. We went through the most horrendous time as a couple. I really felt overwhelmed a lot of the time and that I wasn’t really coping or doing a good job as a Mum. I got mastitis after all 3 and couldn’t breastfeed – and I know that if I have another baby I will get it again because that is just how my body is made. And through all these times I struggled agonisingly with being open to life.

We often failed to stick to the teaching, not out of pure selfishness or greed or lust, but out of not being able to cope with the stress and the pressure of normal life, and the need to be loved and comforted by each other. I often felt like a terrible failure at these times – which was the totally wrong outlook. We are only human. Just as in fasting – you can only give your all. Any more than that and you start to make yourself ill, or resentful about giving more. And lets not underestimate for a second the damage that is caused by unchecked resentment in the bedroom, or the rest of the marriage. For some people, even giving up one cup of coffee is a struggle, and you simply cannot ask anymore of them at that stage in their life if they are truly giving their all. We are all at different stages.

IT IS OK TO STRUGGLE! Struggling means that the desire to live the teaching is there, even if you are not quite able to do it yet. My advice to this would be exactly what I would say about fasting: be patient and compassionate with yourself, take it to confession and let it go, and keep going 🙂 What would make it easier for you to be open to life? What would make it possible for you to be able to give more? Have you ever tried the Little Way Of Fasting?

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There is one last thing…

The Catholic church teaches that “For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness” CCC 2368

It is possible to use NFP with an artificial contraception mindset. That is to say that there is no good reason why you should be avoiding having another child right now. Reasons for this would be based upon a couple preferring a smaller family and a more comfortable lifestyle. This totally goes against the philosophy of being open to life and certainly is not giving your all. In terms of fasting this would be like giving up your cup of coffee in the morning, but having a cup of tea instead – you really arn’t giving anything.

Of course that is not to say that people do have very real reasons to avoid pregnancy. The mothers life might be at risk from another pregnancy for example. In my case, my husband is sick and unable to work which has put me in the position of breadwinner. I can honestly say that I am at the limit of what I can give right now. And that’s ok 🙂

It is all about love. How much are we willing to love? How much are we willing to give? Be it fasting or being open to life, the same rule applies: We must never give begrudgingly, and just like the poor widow, God does not expect me to give anymore than my absolute all. We are all a work in progress 🙂

Keep giving! 🙂

“Sex will become a futile exercise for those wanting to reproduce…”

Prof. Carl Djerassi

Prof. Carl Djerassi

Sex could soon exist purely for fun, as more women turn to IVF to have babies, the inventor of the contraceptive pill has claimed. Professor Carl Djerassi, 91, believes the Pill could become redundant as soon as 2050, as more men and women choose to start a family through the ‘insurance policy’ of IVF, even if they do not have fertility problems. It means would-be parents would freeze their eggs and sperms before being sterilised, rendering the Pill pointless.

The professor – who played a crucial role in developing the oral contraceptive in 1951 – says advances in fertility treatment will create a ‘generation manana’ in which people know they can control the timing of parenthood, without any repercussions.  But it also means sex will become a futile exercise for those wanting to reproduce – and will instead become purely recreational.  

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, he said: ‘The vast majority of women who will choose IVF in the future will be fertile women who have frozen their eggs and delayed pregnancy… I predict that many of these women will be fertilised by IVF methods because of the advances in genetic screening. And once that happens then IVF will start to become a normal non-coital method of having children… For them, the separation between sex and reproductions will be 100 per cent.’  

Professor Djerassi also predicted there will be more IVF fertilisation among fertile women in the next few decades – ‘say by 2050’ – than there currently is among those who are fertility-impaired. At the moment, that figure is around five million.

In other news…

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Daryl Lee and Luke Harris

A gay couple are to become fathers to three babies in just seven months after meeting three different surrogate mothers online. For the past 15 years, Daryl Lee, 41, and Luke Harris, 50, had longed to have children and joined a number of online forums in an attempt to find a suitable surrogate. They made contact with one of the women, Becky Harris, 27, and through her met Bex Harris, 32, and Viktoria Ellis, 32.

Mr Lee, 41, is the biological father of two of the children, while Mr Harris, 50, gave his sperm for the third. All three babies will be born within seven months of each other, between January and July next year. ‘We love each other very much, but despite that it has felt like something was missing from our lives – our home felt empty without children,’ Mr Harris told The Sun’s Sarah Arnold. ‘We never imagined in our wildest dreams we would have three all at once.’ 

Mr Lee and Mr Harris, who live in Surrey, had met online in 1999, and entered into a civil partnership in 2012.  They had considered adopting a child, but decided to try surrogacy after learning that singer Elton John and his partner David Furnish had a child, Zachary, by a surrogate mother in December 2010. Their second son, Elijah, was born via the same woman in January 2013. Gay couples using a surrogate to have a child have only been able to apply for a parental order, giving them the legal rights over the child and relinquishing those of the surrogate since April 2010.

Surrogates - Becky Harris (bottom right), Bex Harris (centre) and Viktoria Ellis (top left) with their neighbour Jemma King (top right) and Bex's mother Karen (left) appeared on ITV's This Morning in July to talk about surrogacy. When they appeared on the show, Bex was already carrying Mr Harris and Mr Lee's baby, Viktoria was preparing to, and Becky was days away from giving birth to another couple's child.

Surrogates – Becky Harris (bottom right), Bex Harris (centre) and Viktoria Ellis (top left) with their neighbour Jemma King (top right) and Bex’s mother Karen (left) appeared on ITV’s This Morning in July to talk about surrogacy. When they appeared on the show, Bex was already carrying Mr Harris and Mr Lee’s baby, Viktoria was preparing to, and Becky was days away from giving birth to another couple’s child.

Mr Harris and Mr Lee met Becky Harris, but she was already helping another couple and was pregnant with her third surrogate child, so put them in touch with her former sister-in-law, Bex Harris. Bex, 32, conceived the first child with her own egg and Mr Lee’s sperm, which she inseminated at home. She in turn introduced them to her friend Viktoria Ellis. Ms Ellis then got pregnant using Mr Harris’s sperm. Finally Becky Harris, having recently given birth to another other couple’s baby, decided she would help them too and also became pregnant with Mr Lee’s sperm. 

They decided that Mr. Harris would not inseminate Miss Harris or Ms Harris as this may lead to confusion on the birth certificates.

Mr Lee said: ‘While it is unorthodox to have three surrogates at the same time, we couldn’t turn down what could be our only chance to have the big family we’d always dreamed of.’ The couple say their families are happy for them, and are extending their three-bedroom home to add extra bedrooms and bathrooms to fit their brood, who they have dubbed the ‘twiplets’.  Both Mr Harris and Mr Lee plan to work part-time, with one parent at home to care for the children, and Mr Lee’s parents will also move in to help them.

Under UK law, it is illegal to pay a surrogate mother to carry a child, other than reasonable expenses such as travel costs, maternity clothing, care for her other children or counselling. Agencies recommend these expenses amount to no more than £15,000 per pregnancy.

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Ironically it seems that Mr Lee and Mr Harris are already living out Prof. Djerassi’s prediction. As Prof, Djerassi says: “Sex will become a futile exercise for those wanting to reproduce.” 

With these types of stories I always wonder what will be told to the children when they start asking difficult questions about where babies come from. It is sensitive enough issue anyway without having to explain that: 

“Well, we went online and found a woman who was willing to rent her body to us for money. She has done this 3 times before with other people and so you have some half brothers and sisters living out there somewhere but we don’t know who they are. Anyway, Daddy masturbated into a small pot and gave the sperm to your mummy who artificially inseminated herself and became pregnant with you. Then we found two other women who agreed to do the same thing. You and your brother have the same Daddy (Daryl Lee) but different Mummy’s (Bex and Becky Harris), but your sister is no biological relation to you because she has a different Mummy and Daddy (Luke Harris and Victoria Ellis). When you were born, your Mother signed a piece of paper saying that she had no legal right to you and she handed you over to us. We paid her £15k to do this.”

Perhaps it’s better they just stick to the Stork story…?

Is there anyone left out there who disputes my claim that NFP is THE major counter cultural evangelising message in the west in the 21st century?

Sources –

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2827111/Sex-exist-purely-fun-2050-fertile-women-turn-IVF-start-families-claims-inventor-Pill.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2828276/Gay-couple-fathers-three-babies-just-seven-months-meeting-three-different-surrogate-mothers-online.html

http://www.1flesh.org/