It has now been 10 years since I learned that I don’t have a uterus (MRKH). During this time, having sought the help of many faithful lay people, priests, theology books, saints’ writings, blog posts and support groups, I have noticed that there is a gaping hole in the body of Catholic publishing and public awareness. Catholics dealing with infertility have plenty of resources telling them what the church does and does not permit with regard to reproductive technologies. What they don’t have is enough spiritual support to help them walk the difficult road they face.

I love that Pope Francis talks about the Church as being a field hospital. It’s not just a place for the perfectly holy with perfectly working bodies who live in perfectly formed worlds. There is sin, there is suffering, and there is death. We live in a war zone.

I don’t know anything about pastoral techniques, and I don’t have a theology degree, but I have walked this particular road long enough to have a decent view of the landscape. Taking the last 10 years into account, this is what I would like the world to know:

Infertile people need help carrying this cross. They need validation of their suffering, confirmation of their place in the Body of Christ, and encouragement to walk the path set before them.

1. Validation of suffering.

Accepting infertility is a grieving process, not unlike grieving the death of a loved one. The pain is real. Don’t minimize it. Never tell someone to “get over it.” Even years later, something unexpected can trigger tears without warning (prime example: Facebook pregnancy announcements- especially with pictures). Your infertile friends are grieving. Minister accordingly. Ask them how they’re doing. Empathize. Tell them you love them. Help them feel loved. Help them know that God loves them and has a plan for them, in spite of their body’s failings. Don’t offer false hope, and beware of Prosperity Gospel squeaking its way in. Sometimes, more prayer isn’t going to make a baby. God will do what He wills, not what we will.

2. Confirmation of their place in the Body of Christ.

Simply put, many of us feel like we don’t belong. We’re surrounded by other couples who have been gifted with children.

Infertile couples need to know that their marriage has a purpose in itself, with or without children, which are a gratuitous gift from God and not a prerequisite to a faithful union or a required demonstration of fruitfulness. Being “open to life” means being open to whatever life God has planned for you, be it 10 children, no children, overseas missionary work, or anything else. Growing up in a family, it’s natural to expect children-but what right do we have to expect a gift? If we teach that certain technologies are wrong because children are a gift and not a right, then we need to carry that through and emphasize the fact that marriage is not made complete by the blessing of children- sacramental marriage is already complete to begin with. This teaching tends to get lost. We need to remember that children are not the only manifestation of fruitfulness in marriage. They are most obvious, but not the only. Let’s talk about other manifestations of fruitfulness: Charity, Hospitality and Sacrifice.

3. Encouragement to walk the path set before them.

Following the teachings of the Magisterium in the case of infertility may be the hardest thing that many of these couples have ever done in their lives. With some forms of infertility, the the only way to fulfill the good, natural, and burning desire for a biological child is through illicit treatments. Laying down these God-given desires and freely choosing to forgo these technologies (sometimes out of pure obedience rather than agreement) is a tremendous sacrifice. It is truly dying to oneself. This self-sacrifice can go on for years, or even a lifetime. If you know someone dealing with infertility who is trying to follow Church teaching- encourage them. Recognize their desire to please the Lord. Don’t beat them down with doctrine and never, ever say, “just adopt.” Adoption is a unique calling, one that the couple needs to discern separately.

The best thing that anyone ever said to me upon expressing my frustration with Church teaching was, “God gives us these rules for a reason. He knows what is ultimately going to make you happy. Somehow, I don’t think that IVF is going to make you happy.” Those words have stuck with me ever since they were said some six years ago, and they have become the biggest source of encouragement for me along this path. True, these words won’t work for everyone, but there is something out there to give life to The Way for each person who desires to walk it. At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is to help us to see the beauty of the Church’s teachings. Help us stay strong in our belief that this road is worth it. Be a friend along the road, even if it’s the Via Dolorosa.

Advertisements

25 thoughts on “3 Things Infertile Couples Need from the Church

  1. Wow. This is amazing. So, so true. One of the places that was hardest for me to find infertility support was the Church–and I knew it was just a lack of understanding. I see that changing in small ways, and that gives me hope. And you are so right about adoption. It’s a particular calling and not for everyone. And it’s also sad to me that people say, “Just adopt,” when it’s such an extraordinary experience too. No one ever says to a fertile couple, “Just give birth to a child.” Thank you for sharing your heart. Love this post.

    Like

    1. Thank you Rita! Very true, adoption is such a wonderful, beautiful and unique calling. I too am hopeful about the direction things are going with awareness in the Church. It’s a long road, and very slow going, but we’re on the right path.

      Like

  2. I particularly loved these lines: “sacramental marriage is already complete to begin with. This teaching tends to get lost. We need to remember that children are not the only manifestation of fruitfulness in marriage. They are most obvious, but not the only. Let’s talk about other manifestations of fruitfulness: Charity, Hospitality and Sacrifice.”

    So often the focus on families with children leaves us feeling like we aren’t enough; this can’t be said often enough.

    Like

  3. You are absolutely right. We need these things from the Church so much. I’ve felt so alone so many times during Mass, surrounded by growing families and listening to homilies written most specifically for them. 1 in 7 couples suffer through infertility. That’s a huge percentage of our population, and yet the proper support just isn’t there. Thank you for writing this.

    Like

  4. This is so beautiful and SO true, Connie!! I agree 100%. It is much easier to tell someone what’s right and wrong (and of course we have to do that) than to walk with them in their suffering. But that’s what we need, and to know we matter, and to know we have a place. I echo everything you said here. Amen!

    Like

  5. Reblogged this on Fruitful Catholic Infertile and commented:
    Dear Connie, I just read this and thought of thanking you for putting this out and shedding light into it. It’s really crucial for ALL Catholic couples to have that sense of purpose, most specially for those who are struggling with infertility. For me, it’s hard not to feel judged, considering we are from a third world country where I rarely see that infertility becomes a big problem. But I guess, we all have different circumstances and we just take life as it is. That’s why my faith in God has truly helped me in dealing with all the struggle. Everyday, I thank our Lord for the grace of knowing that no matter what, He loves me, and He loves us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m so happy you liked this. That’s really the most important thing, knowing that our Lord loves us. ❤

      Like

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Comment here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s