On a sunny Saturday morning in Indiana, there were shenanigans afoot at Fertility and Midwifery Care Center. The beep of ultrasound equipment was replaced by the clicks and whirs of video equipment on tripods and gimbals. Conference tables made way for stands holding diffusers, reflectors, and LED lights. Instead of the efficient sounds of a well-trained nursing staff, the halls echoed with the sounds of a joint videography/medical task force gearing up for a surprise.
Yes, some subversive doings were in the works, and I was there for it. As Likable Art’s newest intern, I had a hand in planning and shooting the video now titled “The Decision”. Commissioned by the Couple to Couple League for the 49th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the video focuses on the work of OB/GYN Dr. Christopher Stroud and the impact of his decision to stop prescribing birth control in 2012. In the space of a morning, we shot footage of half a dozen families, edited their testimony, turned a conference room into a set, and surprised Dr. Stroud during his interview. Here are three things I took away from that challenging but fulfilling day.
1. EVERYTHING STARTS WITH ONE.
Dr. Chris Stroud was a convert to Catholicism. After a confession that led him to a strange encounter with Humanae Vitae, he made the decision to not only change some practices in his own life but also to stop prescribing birth control in his practice. This choice was fraught with professional and financial risk, and initially, the Stroud family feared the worst. But, contrary to expectation, Dr. Stroud’s practice grew to the extent that he had to expand. He became an expert in NFP and has used this expertise to help his patients combat infertility, make choices about their family size, and allow God to work within their marital bond.
Decisions to follow the God’s will are seldom isolated in their impact. Once let in, grace necessarily overflows, spilling into the relationships that connect us to other people. Because of this principle, there are babies and marriages that are in existence today because of one doctor’s choice.
2. THERE’S A STORY INSIDE. YOU JUST HAVE TO ASK FOR IT.
One component of this video involved interviewing patients of Dr. Stroud. Initially, I had a hard time believing that people would be open to sharing some of the most personal aspects of their lives with a motley crew of goons with cameras, let alone an internet full of complete (and often spiteful) strangers. And yet, when Cory asked, they did.
There was a lady who had struggled with infertility for 15 years before conceiving her son. There was a couple who told the story of how the premature birth and passing of their child was a memory full of sadness, but also joy. There were stories about tears and jubilation, faith and despair, the darkest and brightest points of their lives. They shared them with us while sitting on tasteful patio furniture, holding squirming children on their laps. It was humbling.
3. THERE’S BEAUTY IN THE MARGINS.
Within the Catholic world, Humanae Vitae is regarded as challenging, even controversial. But outside the Catholic world, it isn’t regarded at all. It’s irrelevant. Just one more Latin-y piece of paper written by one more dead pope. And he wasn’t even one of the memorable ones. Just another boring, stodgy Italian priest with a pointy hat. Faithful Catholics stand to the side of a culture that overwhelmingly embraces contraception, taking a path that few would even try to understand.
But standing behind the camera at the clinic, watching the stories pour out, dodging the tiny heads running around at knee-level, seeing the couples meet one another’s knowing gaze as they recall a shared challenging experience, that ancient document lived and breathed. At its core, Humanae Vitae isn’t about contraception, per se. It’s about life lived without limitation, love expressed as Christ expressed it: with total freedom.