Two women received heartbreaking news today regarding the miscarriage of their unborn children. Please keep them (and their husbands) in your prayers.
Even though their beautiful children did not make it past the bonds of the womb, they made these women mothers. Their tiny heartbeats - their tiny feet - their very souls manifested a significant and unalterable mark on the hearts of these women. They are forever changed because once you become a mother, you remain a mother. Once you open yourself up to accepting a life hand-crafted by the Father, you ever carry a piece of that life within yourself.
May these two mothers find comfort in the fact that their blessed little saints are now acting as their personal intercessors before the Throne of God. May they enjoy the Beatific Vision from the lap of Our Lady, and may their parents feel the comforting embrace of Christ.
Motherhood, as Dymphna put it, is forever. Special thanks to her for sharing this artwork.Special thanks, too, go out to a woman named Dominique. She shared this reflection that I promptly fell in love with.
My Lord, the baby is dead!
Why, my Lord—dare I ask why? It will not hear the whisper of the wind or see the beauty of its parents’ face—it will not see the beauty of Your creation or the flame of a sunrise. Why, my Lord?
“Why, My child—do you ask ‘why’? Well, I will tell you why.
You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.”
I am humbled before you, my Lord, for questioning Your wisdom, goodness, and love. I speak as a fool—forgive me. I acknowledge Your sovereign rights over life and death. I thank You for the life that began for so short a time to enjoy so long an Eternity. -- Mother Angelica
Mattie, a reader, started an avalanche of thought for me last week. Ever since, I've kinda been on the hunt for answers to the many questions that've come from her simple, "Can ya just go get IVF?"The short answer is No - for a variety of reasons.
IVF is considered immoral by the Church. Every child deserves the right to begin life at conception through the loving embrace of both parents who are in a stable, dignified and ordered marriage. In fact, a beautiful quote from the Church in Her DONUM VITAE states as much:The child has the right to be conceived... to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.That, my friends, is true respect. That is dignity. To acknowledge the right exists, even before this tiny person comes into existence, for a loving, sacred and nurturing place of refuge proves the respect and care Catholics take in our role as stewards of life. This is why the Church so staunchly defends marriage and sexuality. These two unalienable gifts from God are the building blocks of healthy procreation. It is through the ordered marriage relationship that true sexuality reaches fulfillment - that fulfillment being the union of husband and wife and thus the creation of the physical, living sign of their love - children.These children, having been created in the ordered and sacred manner in which God decreed, will be blessed to grow up in an ordered, loving household in which their own development can best be discovered, ordered and reach fulfillment.This is not to say, however, that children from single-parent households, children of rape, children of adoption, etc cannot grow up to reach their full, ordered potential. Through the grace of God, anything is possible, and He certainly loves these cherished souls as much as those co-created in the marriage embrace. However, He desired that we order ourselves in the aforementioned manner because it is through this ordering that we afford our children the best chance for emotional, psychological and spiritual stability. Thus, IVF (specifically the act of joining a sperm and an egg in a laboratory setting) is considered immoral because it removes this dignity and order from the person(s) created.
Credit: Glassanos - Click image for info
However, this leaves a really big question wide open, and the Church has yet to get entrenched in the details.
After answering the above question for Mattie, my mind traveled down the rabbit hole a bit farther. Since IVF has already been utilized countless times by infertile couples looking to have children, what happens to all the embryos created that are simply frozen in time?There's no easy answer for this - and I've looked!I've taken several key folks to task over this. Priests, two professional theologians, an incredibly smart and spiritually sound couple, and a smattering of ordinary lay-Catholics who have been touched by issues of infertility, adoption and even eugenics. None were able to provide a concrete answer because as of yet, there simply isn't one.The married couple, however, provided the best resource I've yet seen on this! My special thanks to them for their incomparable knowledge and willingness to share that knowledge with others. I link it here for your own illumination.In it, you will find two heavy-weight Catholic ethicists duke the issue out at a bioethics conference late last year. Though I take issue with the attempt of Father Pacholczyk to denigrate the discussion into one of spousal rights (since this isn't so much about fertilization so much as adoption of a life that's already been created), what he says about causing us to tumble down a slippery slope is certainly a concern I agree with. However, most of what Dr. Smith relays (comparing this to adoption / breastfeeding) falls right in line with my own views. As a person who believes that God opens a window every time we close the door on ourselves through sin, I can't help but wonder if embryo adoption is God's way of answering the problem we created through the sin of IVF.This is a question that, as of yet, has no real answers. As one of the women I talked to put it, though, I'd be hard-pressed to condemn a married couple who bore a child in this manner. Granted, I'd be hard-pressed to condemn anyone for anything, but I digress.I can't help but wonder if God allowed infertile married couples to exist specifically so they could answer the call of these poor children stuck in a frozen limbo. Thoughts?
There is a woman on Facebook who has taken my Darkest Secret entry into over-the-top territory. I just found her posting the below questions on yet ANOTHER wall. Granted, she's driving traffic to my site, but I'm really wondering at what cost.
The insinuations she's making and the threads they then spawn (based on how she words her questions) have ended up turning this discussion very ugly. These are the threads in which people end up accusing John of being the spawn of satan or me being an inept child stuck in slavery caused by my blind zeal for religion.
She did end up asking a really great question at the end, though.
Anyway, a priest ended up answering one of her pointed comments. I felt the need to redirect a bit of that conversation (so that others didn't fall into erroneous thinking), so I responded. I'm going to post that here because apparently answering them in the commentary repeated times did absolutely nothing to satiate her curiosity.
I'll bold her commentary and leave as normal my responses. For the love of all that's fluffy and golden in the world, if you still have questions, direct them to me.
Please answer this as no one else seems to give a satisfactory answer.
The Catholic woman in the blog below is being forced to remain childless because her non-Catholic husband refuses to have more kids. A bunch of women have written in to comment and many - MANY - of them are struggling with a similar situation (myself included). I think you should do a segment that deals with how to answer this question from a Catholic standpoint.
1 - Is she committing a mortal sin by allowing him to do use birth control?
I'm NOT in the state of mortal sin. I'm not in the state of sin at all by being forced into a contraceptive union. My illustration is thus: Mike hits Jane. While Jane feels the pain incurred by Mike's slap, Jane is not at fault for his sin. Jane is blameless. So while I feel the emotional pain caused by John's decision to do this, I will not be held accountable in God's eyes because I'm not the one contracepting.
2 - Should she refrain from having sex if he's going to continue to use bc against her will?
To refrain from sex in order to "punish" my husband or guilt him into children is akin to breaking my wedding vows, so dear Father, I must disagree with you on this.
Sex is not just for procreation and it is not just for pleasure. It is also an important renewal of my wedding vows which serve to strengthen our relationship as husband and wife. He is already using one barrier to our union through his choice to use contraception. I will not be a party to creating another barrier through refusing to unite myself more closely to him through the act of sex. That would be akin to Christ refusing me in the Sacrament of Holy Communion because I consistently fail adhering to His Will as we're called to do. I still lie, I still struggle with pride, and I don't accept the crosses He gives me with charity. I'm failing to uphold my end of the Catholic deal, right? Would Jesus ever refuse me (barring mortal sins) in the Eucharist? No. Thus, how can I place myself above His example and react to my husband in such a way?
No - it is better to leave this in God's Hands and continue to be the best wife I can be to him. Maybe through my example of love, he will come to know something of God's Love.
3 - Is she a candidate for an annulment since he's breaking one of his marriage vows?
I'm NOT a candidate for annulment as John changed his mind after marriage. Also, we're not LOOKING to separate as we still love one another and wish to remain a family. As Father stated, if John had lied during our vows and never had any intention of creating children, that'd be different. The fact remains that his mind changed and regardless, we still love one another.
4 - Since her husband is refusing, if he remains obstinate, would she be allowed to go to an IVF facility and "adopt" an embryo without facing a moral dilemma?
I'm actually on the fence with IVF. That's actually a REALLY interesting point that I never thought of.
Father is correct - IVF itself is morally objectionable due to the fact that science is not how God decreed life to initiate, but if an infertile married couple chose to "adopt" a life that was already made through the sin of another, wouldn't this be kinda like adopting the child of a rape victim? Or adopting a forgotten / abandoned child from an orphanage?
Since these embryos remain in a state of frozen suspension, a loving, infertile couple who are open to life but simply unable to conceive may have been created infertile by God specifically so they could be the Hand of Divine Providence for those forgotten lives.
I honestly have no idea about that one, but it's definitely something to think about. Anyone else have opinions on this one, 'cause it's actually a really interesting point.
Shhh - I've got a secret to share...
This is a post I've attempted to start dozens of times. I'm half wondering what's going to happen to this one.
Will this be the one that gets published? Or will this one, too, be drowned out by tears, frustration, anger or sadness?
Guess the only way to find out is to keep typing.
My earliest memories revolve around my two younger siblings (both sisters) whom I always tried to "mother hen." I'd initiate games, I'd always be the "teacher" during pretend play, and I'd be the one that would organize and direct whatever mischief we'd get ourselves into.
However, I never liked dolls. That was my sister's thing. Maria was the quintessential "mother." She'd run around carrying her dolls everywhere, being sure to feed, diaper and burp them. I was much more interested in real babies. Plastic recreations simply made me feel cheated. I wanted real children to play with!
Like this in hot pink molded plastic!
I remember one Christmas, "Santa" brought me a swing for dolls. Santa, mind you, was our neighbor, Stan, who would dress up and bring us gifts on a random night leading up to Christmas - we all looked forward to that special visit every year. Anyway, the year he gave me the doll swing, I knew a mistake had been made. "Santa," I said, "I think this is Maria's gift."
Truth be told, Maria's eyes were glistening with jealousy. She hadn't opened her present yet, but boy did she want mine! It was pink and white and perfect for any doll lucky enough to find itself seated there.
Santa replied that he was certain the swing was mine because he picked it out especially for me. He knew I'd need it for the gift Maria was getting. Turns out she was given a Baby Alive type doll - moving parts, eyes that opened and closed, and she even giggled after sipping her bottle. Maria was absolutely in her glories, and she immediately went to town cooing over the new "baby doll" she was given charge over. I took its spoon and tried to figure out how the disappearing peas worked.
That night, feeling completely gypped, I went to bed angry with Santa for not knowing that I thought baby dolls were stupid. What he said about me needing it for Maria irritated me even more, because my Christmas present should've been for ME, not for Maria.
Obviously I was a selfish little brat at 5 years old. *Sheepish grin*
Anyway, I'd love to say that I immediately learned my lesson but I didn't. It took me a few days of sulking before I understood that "Santa" had wanted to foster sharing between my sister and I. Shannon, at this point, was still too young to really play with Maria and I (though I remember trying to get her into the doll swing at one point). I also tried to get our cat, Sparky, in there, but he refused to have any parts of it.
Finally, Maria said to me that her dolly wanted to take a ride in my swing. I knew her dolly didn't want to do anything of the sort. Dolls don't have emotions or desires. Maria just wanted to use my swing. Stupid doll. No, no she can't use my swing. It's my swing, and even though I think it's a stupid present, she can't use it because it's mine.
Maria (being extremely sensitive at this point in time), crinkled her face at me and said I was being really mean. I should be nicer to the baby doll because her feelings were hurt now that I was being so mean.
Just like I knew Maria was expressing her own desire to use the swing through the doll, I understood then that she was also letting me know she was hurt because I was being mean to her.
Fully reproached, I handed over my swing to let her play to her heart's content. I was the big sister... it was my job to be nice to Maria, even if I thought what she wanted to do was stupid. I realized, too, that letting her play with the swing made me feel like a mom. I spent a while with her, just helping her play, wondering if that's what our mother felt like when she sat down to play a game with me.
I was proud of myself because I knew what I was doing was right. I was acting like a real mom - something I'd always, always wanted to be - even from an early age.
Anyway, fast forward through the years. I began keeping a diary. The diary wasn't just a collection of angst-y whining that is typical of a tween (but boy is there a lot of that in there!). It was a history lesson meant to show my future children that I was once exactly like them.
My entries always called out my future progeny. I'd write letters to them, or when I'd describe the mischief I'd get into, I'd say "So don't think Mommy doesn't know what kind of games you're playing when you just say you're going out with friends! I know better!"
Really. I did this from my very first diary entry (I still have them all) and continue right up until present day. All throughout my pregnancy with Vincent I'd write him little love notes telling him about all the excitement his very existence brought. I'd mention his future brothers and sisters, telling them that I couldn't wait to feel the same excitement for them, just so they didn't feel left out at all the talk about Vincent.
I always imagined my kids finding my set of diaries in a forgotten box in the attic. They'd laugh at the same entries that now make me cringe, they'd be surprised by some of my antics, and they'd learn something from my more vulnerable moments. It was always my hope that these diaries would give them a window into who Mommy is outside of just "Mommy." I always wanted my kids to understand that I'm a person with emotions that rival their own... that Mommy DOES understand the hurt of lost friendships, the joy of new romance, and the thrill of independence.
You see, in my mind, these children already exist. They always have. I've been longing for them from my earliest memories. I've thought of them, planned for them, and made many decisions based on what their future perception of me would be (hence my lack of tattoos even though I've always really, really wanted one). I've just been waiting for them to finally arrive so I could meet them.
That's what makes this entry so incredibly difficult for me.
I am the mother of children I'll never meet.
I am not infertile. John is not infertile. Neither of us are sterilized, and there isn't even an age issue considering we're both young enough to not have the fear that accompanies the pregnancies of older mothers.
Why, then, am I lamenting the fact that I will never have the family I'd always envisioned?
Here is my secret...
My husband does not want any more children and defends his desire to use birth control to ensure I remain barren.
This is typically the moment I delete the entry and lock myself in a bathroom. The thought of other people knowing that this is my reality is incredibly scary. To even admit that this is my reality is tantamount to me "giving up" on my kids - the ones who always have (and always will) exist in my heart, just waiting to be given a body to hug me with.
Ugh - each passing sentence has me feeling like I'm walking through thicker and thicker mud. I keep stopping mid-sentence, unsure if I can continue, half-wanting to retreat and find that aforementioned bathroom.
However, I won't stop this time. The pain of secrecy is almost as much to bear as the pain of vulnerability now. The last couple weeks have been particularly thorny for me, which I think is why I'm now feeling the overwhelming "urge to purge" through writing.
Several friends recently had children (with about a dozen more expecting). I'm both ridiculously happy for these friends and admittedly jealous. I am truly thrilled for the new life they're bringing forth because they all deserve the happiness that these children will undoubtedly bring, but I also have a twinge of jealousy that I don't get to experience growing my family as well.
Every time I hold their newborns or see the pictures on Facebook, my heart both grows with joy and falls apart with grief. I don't say anything to anyone about this, because God forbid anyone feel guilty about sharing their joy with the world. I would never want that. I really do enjoy sharing in their joy, and I am content to keep my grief my own. I really am.
However, the questions are getting to be too much, the insinuations too hurtful, and the comments too overwhelming.
Over Christmas, we spent time with a family that just had a newborn. Of course, I was more than happy to hold her to give her mom a break. Several comments were made by my family that I looked good with a baby girl (or maybe I'd be next, etc). I both appreciated the comments and just about died from how overwhelmed with grief I felt. More than anything I'd like to add a few more names to the family tree, but I knew what they didn't. Their longing for grandchildren / cousins / nieces / nephews pales in comparison to mine. Couple it with the fact that I needed to keep that tid-bit to myself only made it worse. I was walking around choking back tears knowing that I couldn't provide what we all wanted.
Over Easter, we spent time with this same family. The new mom asked when John and I would be having another. Thank God for sunglasses, because tears immediately sprang to my eyes. Having been bombarded for weeks with babies and pregnancy reveals, I was barely able to conceal the pain as I murmured, "Hopefully one day. Still haven't quite convinced John the timing's right."
I then looked up at the ride my niece was on and made some sort of comment about her making an adorable face. I couldn't actually see Alliya's face, but it immediately brought the conversation to a halt as the mom tried to search her out among the crowd.
My beautiful Alliya!
Later that afternoon, my niece saw me with the baby again. As she and Vincent were dancing around the living room, she said,"Aunt Gina, do you want another baby?"
I smiled at her and said, "Alliya, I'd like 100 more babies."
She laughed (as did my mother-in-law) and replied, "Why did you have Vincent?"
I said, "Because I loved him so very much."
My mother-in-law was trying to answer her as well, but Alliya was pretty intent on my response. She's a smart one! She didn't accept my answer as good enough, so she pressed me further with
: "Then why don't you have more?"
Her innocent question was more loaded than she realized, and I fault her none for the immediate torrent of grief that coursed through me. I pulled the newborn against me and kissed her head, once again taken hostage by my pained knowledge that the baby I held wasn't mine and likely never would be.
I soon handed the baby back to her mother so I could recollect myself in private. I could see John sitting on the porch talking to the men and it made me slightly irritated that he never got these kinds of questions. These were conversations for women, not men. Besides, even if someone did ask him about children, he'd nonchalantly express his contentment with Vincent (which is fine). Then this weekend, we spent some time with my best friend's family. She and her brothers have exactly the kind of relationship I always knew my kids would have with one another. Watching Mary and her siblings play ball in the yard together was both wonderful and painful. When I think of the children I'll never have, I can't help but feel like I'm cheating Vincent out of his siblings. I mean, I even asked John about that - he and his siblings have a good relationship. Didn't he think that Vincent deserved the same?And then I worry about when we get older - will Vince be forced to care for us by himself? Will he have no support system with which to rely when John and I die? It's one thing to share this sorta pain with your friends - it's entirely different to share it with those who know EXACTLY the loss you feel. Who but a sibling can share that sort of grief with you?And then what if Vincent does grow up and decide to become a priest (I can only pray - ha!). In addition to me not having children, I would then also be denied grandchildren. These things are painful to me alone. John doesn't really desire these things, so there isn't any loss for him in that regard. And that's fair. I can't (and wouldn't) force him into caring for something that is a non-issue. He can't be faulted for his feelings on this subject. Considering how bombarded we are anymore regarding children being nothing more than a hinderance to personal gratification and success, I really am unsurprised. He was afraid I'd resent him for his feelings, but I can't. I understand his feelings and they are valid. So please don't attack him for that which he has no real control over. His feelings are just as strong (and valid) as mine.Hiding this flood of emotion has become extremely taxing. I don't like to bombard John with it, and I certainly never want to "out" him to his family (because no doubt there would be some head-wagging from certain corners). I also never want to make others feel bad for sharing their joy - or even making comments that imply the children I'd bear are wanted.
But the pain is there. It is palpable, and I honestly think this must be what couples struggling with infertility face. It has made me much more sensitive to my own comments regarding children and time-frames that revolve around them. After all, I'm kind of dealing with a forced sterility.
No, that's not fair. It's not forced. It took me a while, but I've recently come to understand that this is something I have willingly accepted for the benefit of my husband.
Lady and the Atheist
For a while, he was worried I'd grow to resent him for his unwillingness to grow our family. He'd avoid the topic like the Plague, afraid that if he was honest about his desire to remain a one-child family, I'd divorce him for someone who would give me what I wanted.
In fact, he suggested I do that, himself, during one of the many heated debates we had about this.
He was also concerned I'd attempt to force a pregnancy. God only knows how he thought I'd do that. I explained I'd never force a child into a situation in which he or she might end up resented. For as much as I want these children, I'd never want to raise them in an environment in which they weren't given the unconditional love due to them.
Besides, I didn't marry John because he'd be my baby-factory. I married John because I love him and saw a future with him. We did have discussions on children before marriage, and I've always envisioned a large family. His vision changed along the way (hence the situation I now find myself in). Regardless, I vowed to stick it out with him. I didn't vow to stick it out with him so long as he conformed to my desires for a large family.
Now two of my friends who are aware of the situation have pointed out that John, himself, vowed to be open to life. That opens the door to an easy annulment so I could drop him and move on.
While I understood they were attempting to help me "out" of my situation, they didn't understand that I didn't accept divorce (or even annulment) as an answer. Even though I technically have every right to dissolve the marriage because of his refusal to accept this particular vow, I would never do such a thing. It's non-sensical.
Well, for starters, I know without a doubt in my mind that John was meant to be my husband. When I prayed to Our Lady for a good man who would be an incredible father, the response was John. He is a good man and an incredible father. His ideas on the size of our family may have fluctuated, but his integrity as a person never has. Also his ability to provide a life for Vincent and I can never be called into question. I have more in John than most women could find in 100. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Besides, if you think about it, marriage is a covenant. It's a promise between two people to uphold certain things, right? Well, how many covenants did God make with the Israelites? Plenty - each one of them broken by humanity. However, God never reneged on His end of the deal, right?
Maybe this is the cross Christ is asking me to bear. Thus, I offer this to Him for whatever it is that He needs it for. I admit that I really, REALLY struggle under the weight of it at times. These last few weeks have been the toughest by far. But I believe that He never gives us something so heavy that His Grace can't prop us up enough to handle it.
In accepting this, I think I really came to understand what I've always said about Christ's love. When I explained to John the sacrifice I was willingly making for him (and thus, for our marriage), he responded with, "I don't deserve so much sacrifice. It's too much."I heard myself in his voice. I really did. We were having this heart-to-heart in bed when he said that, and I can honestly say I immediately pictured myself at the foot of the Cross saying the same thing to Jesus. The point of sacrifice is NOT that the person you're sacrificing for deserves it. A real sacrifice is a gift of love, given freely because you WANT to give it without any expectation for repayment. That quote I found a few months ago was right:
Love transforms suffering into sacrifice.It is LOVE that enables me to make this sacrifice without contempt, without resentment, and without anger. That doesn't mean I won't feel intense emotional pain. Love just gives me the strength to survive it... to endure it willingly for the benefit of both John and Christ. That knowledge is the only thing that gives me solace. I understand this is a wound that won't heal... and maybe it's not meant to. Maybe it needs to stay fresh with each innocent comment, each new pregnancy, and each new experience I have seeing siblings tottering around the park together while Vince unsuccessfully tries to butt in and play, too. My ways are not His ways, and maybe He's got something in store for me up ahead. Just keep me and my family in your prayers. As I said, this has been an incredibly difficult few weeks (on an emotional level), and I'm hoping this entry lets off some of the steam that's been suffocating me.Also, for those of you still with me ('cause wow... this really got long), I appreciate the time you spent. Blessings to you and yours.***PS - I've written a rebuttal to several of the more Negative Nancys who have written in to lament the many shameful things I've said. That can be found here.******PPS - I've now had to swap commentary to "Approve First" due to the overwhelming number of respondents who have declared themselves Christ by judging my husband and I guilty of mortal sin. So feel free to comment, but know that if you overstep your bounds, I'm very friendly with the delete button.***
This sculpture is the first (and as yet only) piece of art that has ever made me weep. I came across it in my travels, and the reaction was instantaneous. The tears were coming before I even understood what it was I was looking at.
The tender love and comfort extending from the child as she reached out to touch her agonizing mother is intense. That flood of intensity was then made into a deluge of sadness as I realized the child was "invisible," the symbolic soul of a child this mother lost. Then, when I realized what the title of the sculpture actually was, I just about died of a broken heart.
Though this sculpture doesn't necessarily have to speak of the post-abortion grief many woman feel, that was what I took it for at first glance. Then I realized this grief could easily be felt by women who suffered miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, or even hysterectomies before fulfilling their vision of a family. This sculpture could also encapsulate the grief of a mother denied children through birth control, social pressures or infertility... maybe even a mother who lost her child to illness, violence or trauma.
Such ceaseless pain is perfectly juxtaposed with undescribable love. This ghost child is peaceful, seeking no solace for itself; she is only looking to comfort her stricken mother. The mother, overcome by her emotions, cannot feel the touch of this angel. She wants to... she yearns to... but she cannot.
Oh my heart. I'm actually writing this entry with my "window" scrolled up just enough that the image is not visible on my screen. I can do nothing but weep when I see it.
May the Lord grant us mercy for our transgressions against these innocent babes. May those who seek reconciliation find peace, and may the Holy Spirit alight in the hearts of those who don't understand that life begins at conception.
"What's the Church's stance on infertility?"
This is a common question I get. Funny thing, though, is that half the people asking are genuinely curious and looking for an answer that might guide them through some very difficult choices. The other half are simply trying to convince me that the Church is a backwards, patriarchal mess hell-bent on ensuring no one is happy - EVER.
Truth be told, for the first half of folks this is a really, REALLY tough question with even tougher answers. For the second set, however, nothing seems to satisfy them and my answers only serve to frustrate them more (since my answers only reconfirm my staunch support of and faith in the Church).
Anyway, I am gearing this response to the first group. Men and women dealing with infertility have my deepest heart-hugs. I understand what it means to desperately want a child and grapple with the threat of miscarriage. I understand the feelings of inadequecy, the self-loathing and the anger at God, the world, biology, genetics. I really do.
However, Church teaching, tradition and examples have made this much clearer for me, and through my own threatened miscarriage, it is what gave me peace.
The Church teaches that children are a blessing from God established through the union of a married man and woman engaging in sex the way it was intended. That is the only way children are ever supposed to be brought into the world as ordained by God. However, because humans take part in the creative process, we've got children born out of wedlock, we've got teen moms, abortions, child trafficking, etc.
What recourse does a couple have when they want children, but are biologically unable to produce those children?
The answer, in the Church's mind, is adoption and patience. I, for one, truly believe infertility is God's way to answer the problem of unwanted children. The Church also teaches patience on this through the examples of Sts. Joachim and Anne. They, too, were childless and infertile for MANY years. They trusted in God's Will and remained patient and prayed. As a result, they were blessed with the most perfect child (barring Jesus) in creation - the Blessed Mother.
IVF, "test tube babies" and surrogates are all contrary to Church teaching. Many people find that arrogant / heartless. How can an institution deny the basic desire to procreate with your own genes, especially when science has evolved to help us with that? The answer is simple - Science does not account for the Will of God, and those who chose the IVF route may very well derail the Will of God. Instead of granting that couple a child a month or two down the line (or even a year or two down the line) so he or she is the proper age to marry the person He created for her, or to have the teacher that would inspire him or her to become a religious, president, or doctor who cures cancer, they place their own desires above the desires of God through science. Slippery slope there.
We are asked to trust in God's Providence. We aren't asked to understand, just trust. In the end, God always rewards those who trust in His Will with countless blessings.
Also, I'd like to direct you to this article. Infertility is sometimes a gift given specifically so God can glorify His Blessed Mother through miraculous healings. We never can fully understand the Mind of God, so we do best to simply accept His Will with the trust that He will provide exactly what we need when we need it, both for our good, and the greater good of all people (children and future children alike).
All lives (past, present and future) are hand-made threads sewn into a tapestry that only God can see. When we attempt removing threads (through abortion), cutting threads short (euthanasia / murder), or pushing an extra thread through the needle before the time is right (IVF, surrogates, etc), the tapestry becomes sullied. God blessed us with the unique ability to take part in the creation process with Him, however, we have the responsibility to trust in His Design. Doing things contrary to His Will is a lack of trust in His Design, and I honestly feel that sin against Him must hurt most of all.
After all, God loves us so much and knows exactly what each of us wants / needs to reach salvation. He laid out the path for us to follow, but time and again we turn from that path for our own selfish reasons. Though a heartbreaking trial, infertility could very well mean salvation for not just the couple dealing with it, but the children they would have adopted had they not chosen IVF. Or the children THOSE children would have impacted positively having felt the loving embrace of adoptive parents.
We cannot see how the threads are to be intertwined. We don't know our parts to play until all is said and done. The best we can do is trust that God has our best interests at heart.
Infertility, at its root, is an opportunity to trust the Will of God and take part in Divine Providence.
My prayers are with all men and women dealing with this issue. It truly is a difficult cross to bear. May the angels surround you and guard you in your decisions, and may the Holy Spirit be kind and kiss you with extra wisdom, that you may see His Plans for you and your family.