3 Things Infertile Couples Need from the Church

3 Things Infertile Couples Need from the Church

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.

The Body of Christ: Beaten and Bruised, Stolen and Mocked, Adored and Glorified

The Body of Christ: Beaten and Bruised, Stolen and Mocked, Adored and Glorified
The following is not my own, but something that must be shared. This completely floored me today. It reads like something from St. Lawrence or the other martyrs. I had to share it with you. I hope it goes viral among Catholics. I found this on Facebook today, shared by my husband’s uncle who is a Roman Catholic Priest. He didn’t write it. It looks like writer is Steven R. Sanchez. Mr. Sanchez, please correct me if I am wrong. I have nothing to add. Here you go:



I have been trying to put a few things together in my mind and I welcome the intervention of my friends and my betters.

For the last week I have been incredibly bothered by a homily I heard on the Feast of the Assumption. The priest began speaking about hope and goodness promised by the Assumption in the face of what seems like a negation, like death. He then said “Surely all of you are aware of the terrible thing happening in the Midwest.” At this point, I was certain and completely moved that he was going to say “In Ferguson, Missouri . . . ” Instead he said, “In Oklahoma City . . . “

I was completely floored. Not only did I not have a clue what he was referring to, when he finally did get to the point (some Satanists were trying to hold a black mass with a consecrated host) I was absolutely shocked.

Literally, in the preceding weeks, women and children fleeing the poverty and violence of their homes had been met by utter violence and hatred at the American border, Iraqi Christians had been exiled, crucified, and their children decapitated by ISIS, and in ANOTHER MIDWEST TOWN, an unarmed young black man had been shot and killed by a police officer and the result was utter chaos in the streets and a police response that I could only stare mouth agape as TANKS ROLLED DOWN THE STREETS OF AN AMERICAN TOWN WITH GUNS AIMED AT AMERICAN CITIZENS.

And instead, for this young priest, the greatest evil facing our country, the evil we in BROOKLYN had to join in and pray for a miracle, pray for an end to the evil, was this Black Mass in Oklahoma.

And so I began to think about this. Something bothered me about this whole juxtaposition. Was this priest right? Was it that in some profound cosmic mystery the Black Mass was more serious and dangerous than everything else?

You see, these Satanists were trying to get their hands on a consecrated host, on the real presence of Christ. Not just a symbol, not just some bread that they could pretend was a consecrated host, they wanted to get their hands on the real thing . . . the body of Christ. And this image began to ruminate in me.

On the border of Mexico in Texas and California the body of Christ, present in these women and children coming to our country with all of the hope of a better life, was rejected. “Go home. We don’t want you here. America for Americans.” Yes, America for Americans, not America for the poor, not for the marginalized, not for the stranger, not the outcast, nor the orphan and the widow . . . No, not them. Not those stinking dirty brown faces that came here–gasp–illegally! No, not that Body of Christ.

And in Iraq. Not those nazarenes. Not them. Send them away. Kill them if they stay. And we can sit comfortably by while they suffer. And our president can golf. And our congress can pontificate. And our elite can talk about how we can’t go back there. Can’t help them. And isn’t it all too bad. We don’t really want to get involved. Not with that Body of Christ, persecuted and martyred.

And in Ferguson. It’s just easier to look at this police officer as a racist murderer. To look at Michael Brown as the latest victim of a racist society. And especially from the other side of those tanks, to look at those crowds of young men and women, angry and hurt, as just violent criminals that we must STOP before they loot and hurt those businesses, by ANY MEANS NECESSARY it seems. Because to look at them as people, wounded, fragile, full of desire for love and truth and beauty . . . well, then, I might have to put my ideology aside and actually feel something. Maybe even weep. No, let’s talk about the plight of the black man, the racism of the white man, the inherent goodness of the police, the slant of the media, the rush to judgment . . . let’s talk about men in general, because they don’t have bodies . . . No, no body of Christ for us here either. Just sociological claims and political posturing. Right and Left and Republican and Democrat. Men and women without flesh. Ideas without bodies.

You see, for me the irony is that we ignore the body of Christ in Mosul. We disincarnate the Body of Christ in Ferguson. We reject the Body of Christ on the border. But in Oklahoma City, there, Satanists are trying to get their hands on the Body of Christ. For all their perversion, they’re the only ones who are trying to get their hands on Him.

And what were they going to do? Commit a sacrilege? Trample it? Beat it? Profane it? The first time that happened, He had handed himself over for it. When Peter raised his sword to defend him, he was rebuked. The Son of Man must suffer and die. And we’re scandalized by some Satanists? This is where we spend our energy?

You see, I’m not a bishop. (I’m sure the whole Church should rejoice in that.) But if I were. If I was the Bishop of Oklahoma City, I would have said “Ok, you want the Body of Christ so badly, I’ll take him to you.” And I would have invited my flock to go with me. We would have walked through the streets of Oklahoma City, from the Cathedral to the Convention Center where these Satanists would be waiting, and Monstrance in Hand I would have led my flock. I would have led them right inside. I would have led them right up to their altar. I would have turned, and offered the benediction, and I would have prostrated myself, and invited my flock to prostrate itself. We would have prostrated ourselves and there offered ourselves to his Presence. And we would have stayed. Let them Crucify him, but I would adore him. And I would have wept. Wept for these poor confused Satanists. Wept for Iraq. For Isis. For Ferguson. For those women and children at the border. For America. But most of all, I would have wept for Him. Him who I long for and I am so unfaithful to. Him who I want to love but everyday I crucify. Him who is the only one that can respond to this deep and utterly profound need I have for happiness. And I doubt there would have been a black mass. But I’m probably wrong, and I would have handed him over myself, and then I would have shown myself to be like Judas. Again.

This is probably why I’m not a bishop.