I must've written and rewritten this entry a dozen times. I've come to the realization that there's simply no neat and tidy way of being fully honest, especially given the circumstances. Thus, I apologize for the mess you're all about to find yourselves in.
A lovely woman named Anne is a Catholic woman who is dating an Agnostic man. She believes they are a perfect match in all things but religion. He was born and raised Catholic but now views Catholicism as something akin to a fairytale while she obviously has deep reverence for her Catholic heritage.
She asked us for our advice on what to do given she's looking to marry this man.
I've been wrestling around a lot with this one. She commented her plight at the end of August to my "I Married an Agnostic" post from 2011, and I'm half afraid she thinks I've forgotten all about her!
Anne, I promise that I haven't. I just didn't know how to write this without upsetting you. My advice, I fear, is not what you're hoping for.
My advice, in fact, is to get out now.
I realize you might be surprised to hear that from me, but I've walked in your shoes. For miles. I'm STILL walking in them which is precisely why I'm telling you that unless you know for certain you are being called to convert this man through a lifetime of marriage (which, itself, carries the reality of conversion not happening and your struggle having an adverse effect on future children), cut your losses, give your heart a healthy time to heal, and ask God to put the right man in your midst.
You might be wondering how I could say such a thing when my own marriage hasn't fallen apart and my son is a (mostly) willing participant in the Faith.
This was not without toil, tears, a very real threat of divorce, and an intense overhaul of my entire relationship with John. That's not even counting the amount of prayers and work that still go into it.
Am I saying I wish I hadn't married John? Of course not. I got two children out of the deal and undoubtedly grew closer to Christ. However, I was significantly less spiritually mature than you currently are when I answered the call to marriage.
You fully understand the importance of your faith and the necessity of a father to be a spiritual leader for his family. I didn't understand that; worse, I didn't even think such a thing was necessary! As a result of my ignorance, my family started out with a distinct disadvantage. We were not a cohesive unit in what would become a very large and important part of our lives. That friction reached its tentacles into everything, especially as I matured in my faith and realized the depth of my ignorance.
John's refusal to accept my religious beliefs as valid directly - DIRECTLY - correlates to his refusal to be open to more children.
So Anne, if you plan to have children, be prepared for a similar fate. It is an excruciating,
at-times-unbearable, cross to shoulder.
Readers who have been following me for a while might be incredibly unsettled by this.
When I first learned that this was the driving reason behind my husband's reluctance to have more children, words couldn't possibly express the emotions that coursed through me. In fact, it's been over a year since I learned that this was my reality and this is the first time I've voiced it beyond my two closest friends.
It's also the prime reason why responding to you, Anne, has been so challenging. I couldn't be honest with you without being honest about the depth of my own struggle. This is a tragic, brutal and incredibly bigoted reality, and it's a reality I want so much to protect you from. I wouldn't wish this sort of sacrifice on anyone.
It's a sacrifice that I willingly make, yes, but it's a willing sacrifice only because I've already made my vows. You have not. Please understand that this is what you'd be saying "I do" to... not just for yourself, but for your future children.
And before you think to yourself that your boyfriend would never do such a thing, again, I've walked in your shoes. My husband said he accepted my Catholicism.
Seeing Vincent's participation alongside me must've shifted that for him, because Catholicism was no longer some harmless fairy tale. To John, it became a bitter irritant. Prayers at bedtime are nails on chalkboard. Sunday Mass can solicit anything from an eye-roll to not-so-secret vindication when Vince cries that he doesn't want to go.
Catholicism has become such a hated thing to my husband that he does not want to see it replicated in his children. Because he cannot love that part of me, he cannot love that part of our children. Thus, the only way to stave off such irritation is to stop having children. To poison one is enough... to poison more than one is unthinkable to him.
And that is his mindset. Through tears, I demanded to know how he could hold such a bigoted notion in his head. He is not what I'd consider a bigot. He's otherwise incredibly tolerant and accepting. In fact, should any of his friends read this, they'd probably think I was somehow mistaken - that I'd misunderstood his motivation.
I assure you I have not. I had him spell it out for me. That was one of the most painful and damaging conversations I've ever had with anyone in my entire life. It still stings when I think of it.
I couldn't understand. I still don't to a certain degree. I asked him what part of Catholicism bothered him so much that he couldn't stand to see it played out in me... in Vincent. He couldn't answer me. He noted prayers at bedtime or his little sayings of "Jesus loves me" irritated him, but our son is wonderful. Him being baptized Catholic has not somehow made him less wonderful, but for John, it was enough to make him resent and yes, even hate, Catholicism. Hate it to the point where he willingly allows me to suffer an enforced infertility so as not to bring forth any other children who would suffer the fate of *gasp* Baptism and a Catholic education.
It is not fear of finance... fear of time constraints... fear of love or capability that has condemned me to this cross of infertility. It is my husband's hatred of Catholicism.
He shared this in a moment of deep and unfiltered honesty just over one year ago. I appreciated his honesty, because it showed a level of trust that we'd never come close to understanding. However, I've lived with this knowledge, completely unsure how to proceed. When I thought his decision was based on finances and such, the cross was easier to bear. At least his rationale made sense. This, however, was almost insurmountable. It is still a daily struggle.
It is a struggle I want to preserve you from, Anne. It's a struggle I want to preserve your future children from.
My husband and I have since discussed things. We both agree that had we known then what we know now about the importance of faith to one another, we likely would not have gotten married. I had, after all, broken off the engagement at one point when he tried to get me to agree not to baptize our future children. We should've known then that faith was more important than we were giving it credit for.
But we didn't, and we publicly vowed to love one another every day for the rest of our lives. Love doesn't begin and end with tummy butterflies. It is an active choice to respect, honor, protect, nurture and support your spouse - every day.
So that is how I find myself in this situation. I love my husband, Anne. I love him, respect him, support him, and do my best to nurture him in ways that will ultimately make him a better person. He obviously tries his best to do the same for me. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't warn you of the heartache that comes with this sort of union.
Take my story to heart. For as much as you love your boyfriend (and I have no doubt you do), you will also love those children you create, and you need to be thinking of them. The best decision you can ever make for them is who their father will be.
In all things, you have my prayers. Other readers, please feel free to chime in with your advice for Anne.
Vincent and I spent the weekend down the shore with family and friends. Usually we hang out as a group on the beach, but due to the rain, our neighbors ended up coming over to our house and my in-laws hosted an impromptu barbecue.
It was a blast. Our neighbors, Pete and Daisy, have two little girls named Jasmine and Lily. Jasmine is Alliya's age, so the two of them are best buddies. Lily is only two, so she and Vincent are a little pair. The four of them play well together, too, but they definitely tend to break up into two distinct groups.
Anyhow, when my FIL brought Jasmine over in the morning to give Pete and Daisy a break, Vincent was angry that Lily hadn't come, too. He didn't understand why she needed to nap when she should've been having fun with him. Later, when Pete showed up (also without Lily), Vincent didn't even bother greeting him. He demanded to know why he dared to come over without bringing his "best friend in the whole wide world."
Finally, Lily woke up from her nap and Daisy brought her over to join the rest of us. Vincent was in his glories. He jumped off the couch, rushed over to her and gave her a giant hug. "LILY!" he cried. "We gotta play!"
This is what the two of them look like for the rest of the time they're together:
Vincent leading her by the hand everywhere, checking to make sure she's got everything she needs (or does everything she's supposed to do before she gets a snack - ha). They also both tend to scramble if you try to sneak a picture of them being cute together. Rascals.
Later on in the day, Lily settled into my FIL's lap. She calls him "Uncle John" and she knows she's got him wrapped around her adorable little finger! Anyway, it was so sweet to see how they were interacting together. I snapped this picture of her giving me a toothy grin:
Vince is right behind her with his back turned, but Lord, that kid won't let Lily out of his sight for very long. It's so cute!
I admit, however, that I got a bit wallow-y when I wondered what it'd be like for Myla to be sitting in his lap. Vince is such a good big brother to Lily (and his other little cousins), I feel sad that he didn't get the chance to interact with Myla the same way.
I pushed those thoughts out of my mind until later that evening when we took the kids out for ice cream. Again Lily was sitting on my FIL's lap while I had Jasmine, Alliya and Vince huddled up in front of me. Lily was successfully convincing my FIL to hand over all of his ice cream to her, and he was happily obliging, looking like the proudest, happiest person in the universe.
It made me sad to think that we'd never provide him with the grandchildren he takes such delight in. I felt guilty... like I'd failed something on an intrinsic level. He wasn't doing anything to accuse me or even make me feel badly. He likely didn't even notice I was there watching him enjoy Lily's manipulations for ice cream. It was my own brokenness projected and magnified by my intense longing for not only Myla, but all the children I've envisioned and subsequently been denied. I understood that, but it didn't lessen my feelings of inadequacy, failure and sadness.
I didn't want to further my upset, so I turned away and imagined myself making a fist and physically punching back the knot in my throat until I could breathe without crying.
Sorry if I sound miserable or depressed. I'm not. I'm certainly sad now and again when this sort of situation arises, but I'm trying to be honest with how this sort of thing affects my daily life. Myla is always in my thoughts, so my imagination sometimes puts her into situations like this. Is it logical? Probably not. Then again, I think it's human to always wonder "What if?"
In this situation, it's obviously a moot point, but I guess we're so used to exercising our God-given gift of creativity that we can't help ourselves sometimes.
Losing a child (or even the opportunity for children) is a terrible cross. It's hard for folks who haven't been in this situation to understand how all-encompassing it is. I don't write these things to remind people of my struggle, but I do write to remind folks that this struggle is real and it's daily (not just for me, but for the many, MANY other men and women who struggle with this sort of cross).
Tread softly and with much, much compassion, because even when we're trying our best to look past our sorrow to count our blessings, we can't help but hear echos of our indignant humanity insisting "What if?"
This picture was taken last night at my brother's house. He hosted an impromptu cookie-party that gathered together my siblings, my mom, my nieces and nephews as well as my aunt, uncle and two family friends.
Anyway, we got this picture of the grandkids: Isaac, Charlotte, Arianna, Addison, and Vincent (left to right). Maria (mother to Isaac and Arianna) commented on Facebook "We need to even this out. Someone has to have a girl. Lol"
Took everything in me not to reply "Someone did."
I attended the baby shower of a friend of mine today. He became a dad several weeks early. He and my sister were gunning for preemie bragging rights, I think, because his daughter was born in similar circumstances as Maria's son. Thankfully, both of them are fighters and are well on their way to fattening up enough to come home.
God is good!
Today was my friend's shower. He and his wife came with photos of their daughter in the NICU. Of course she's beautiful! :) Please keep them in your prayers. We'll all be very relieved when they're ALL home safe and sound.
As for the shower, it was a surprising experience for me.
The entire way there, I was nervous. I was afraid of facing a baby shower for a little girl. I didn't know if I was "there" yet. I was super happy for Jen and Leo, but I can admit that I am painfully aware that Myla never had a shower and will never have family and friends gathered to celebrate her.
Before you chide me for my selfishness, I already get it. I felt guilty enough for even allowing myself to go down that road. I'm being honest, though. I was nervous because I wasn't sure if seeing all the pink balloons, baby clothes and baby things would overload me.
I was one of the very first people there. The place was adorably decked out in pink and purple balloons. "It's a Girl" posters were everywhere, and the tables had cute little bookmarks made with their daughter's birthday and stats. Immediately I realized none of my friends had yet made their entrance.
I sent out a text. Dear God, let them be two seconds away! I can't do this by myself!
To my horror, none of my friends were actually attending. They sent me messages back with varying degrees of "I have other plans."
My heart actually sank and I contemplated turning around and leaving right then and there. I couldn't face this all by myself - not without a friend or two to talk about anything and everything to keep me from the pity-party brewing in my heart.
But no. I quietly took a seat at an empty table. Especially knowing that our other friends weren't coming, I couldn't leave Leo to think that none of us was there to celebrate with him. So I sucked it up as best I could and braced for impact. I begged God to take away my selfish grief and replace it with a magnification of the true joy I had for Leo, Jen and their little Maggie.
I stayed in my secluded little spot for about 10 minutes as other people trickled in. God was kind, because He sent my cousin's girlfriend as one of the attendees. She and I aren't close (mostly because we never see one another), so she was the perfect person to snap me into "Happy Gina" mode. Since I'm not comfortable enough to share personal details, my "auto-wall" went up and I slid into my "Everything is great, how are you?" game. She's an actress, so my guess is that happens frequently with her, too. Regardless, it was exactly the situation I needed to survive that moment.
Pretty soon, most guests had arrived. My originally silent table had grown to encompass all of Jen's friends. My cousin's girlfriend knew many of them from theater, so by the time Jen and Leo finally arrived, the table was so full that I was able to quietly excuse myself and sit with Leo, his best friend, Adam, and Adam's girlfriend. Adam is an old friend of mine through my husband, so again God afforded me a great person to focus on so I didn't have time to dwell on any vestige of a pity party. I really enjoyed spending the next two hours catching up with Adam and getting to know his girlfriend a bit better.
When it was time to leave, I was able to go with with a sense of gratefulness and pride. Grateful, of course, that I'd been able to stay to celebrate with Leo and Jen. Grateful, also, that God had sent me two key people to help me cope with what could have been a really difficult experience. Pride, finally, that I'd made the decision to stick it out. I really am proud that I was somehow able to make it through that shower intact and truly happy. I felt no bitterness or envy, no jealousy or anger regarding the gift of their child. On the contrary, God gave me what I requested - a magnified joy and a deep appreciation since I knew that Maggie wasn't just a gift for them... she was a gift for the world.
Me: “I’m just not feeling very well.”
John: “Why do you think you’re sick? Did you catch Vincent’s stomach bug?”
I stopped myself from angrily retorting, No, John, I did not catch a stomach bug. This is not a cold, this is not the flu, and it’s NOT my imagination. This is our CHILD, and she is being unceremoniously taken away from me… from US.
Instead, I just shot him a look that shouted, C’mon, you’re not this dense, John. To hit home the point, I said, “It’s only been a couple days, John. I’m still bleeding, and I just don’t feel well.”
Immediately he took his hand from mine and recoiled into himself. Here he was trying to have a fun, cute time talking about our upcoming “honeymoon” to the Bahamas, and there I go bringing up things he’d rather pretend didn’t exist.
This is going to be a long, long road. I just don’t know how to handle things right now. I don’t know what to say or do, so I mostly remain silent. For the most part, I think I’m okay. I’m certainly sad when I think on my child, but I’m also buoyed by my faith that this child is happy and praying for us.
That being said, I want to talk about this. Problem is, I don’t want to talk about it with just anyone. I want to talk to John, but John absolutely bristles at the thought. The last time we spoke about this was Sunday night, and he was itching to be done with it throughout the brief moments we discussed things.
In his mind, I am just wrong. I’ve been so desperate for a child that I tricked myself into believing I was pregnant and got my period early. All the other signs were just coping mechanisms. In a nutshell, he closed himself off to the possibility that I was pregnant.
I’m not sure if he fully believes that or if it’s his way of coping with the possibility of a miscarriage. He said the idea of a miss is upsetting, but he also says that since there’s no way to prove a child existed, I was probably just wrong.
I admit… I almost want to believe that because the thought is comforting. I’m now going back and forth on whether or not I want to believe it was all in my head. But I don’t believe it. In the deepest part of my soul, I know I held a child.
I’ve been yearning for children for YEARS. Why, all of the sudden, would I start developing symptoms now? What would have changed in the last month that would have suddenly set my psyche off balance enough to delude myself (and the physiology of my body) into believing I was pregnant… only to then suffer the heartache of losing that pregnancy within the month?
I just… no. I don’t accept it. I want to. I really, REALLY want to, but the more I try to rationalize that as my situation, the more my heart revolts and says, “No. You shall NOT ignore this gift you’ve been given. You shall NOT forget the life you briefly held that now beckons you, through prayer, to Heaven. This child was made through love in the Image of God. You shall not write her off as some mistaken illusion.”
Chided by love, I’m back to square one. I’m struggling to handle these feelings but I don’t know what to do with them. At times, I’m perfectly calm. I’m able to move about my day as if nothing has happened. Other times, I need a moment to recollect myself in private… a tiny moment to remember what it is to breathe.
Roller coaster implies highs. I don’t feel as though I have any highs. Plateaus of “okay” might be more appropriate. Plateaus of “okay” interspersed with dips in the road. I don’t believe I’ve spiked down into depression, but the hurt and the sadness and the utter hopelessness of my situation does drag me down some dark alleys sometimes.
I just keep chugging along, though. I keep telling myself it’s normal to feel this way. It’s normal to have bouts with these emotions throughout the day, especially given I’m still at ground zero.
But sigh. I just don’t know what or how to say things right now. So I keep silent because I’d rather stay silent than cry. I’d rather stay silent then go off on an angry tangent that only masks the guilt and feelings of failure that I have.
Really, that’s all the anger is there for. I’m not really angry. I’m hurt. Dear God, I am so, so hurt. Sometimes I hate my heart for its ability to keep beating. At least my lungs forget to breathe sometimes, but my heart... What a nasty little contraption to keep on beating – thump after painful thump – when everything else within me wants to crawl into a corner and die.
No… maybe that’s a touch dramatic. I don’t want to die so much as leave this world to see my child. To tell her that I love her and to let her, for even a moment, feel my fingers on her cheek.
Cruel, cruel heart with your rhythmic taunting. I’m grudgingly grateful that you are deaf to my soul’s plea for solace. Keep marching, for though you don’t march for me, you march for Vincent. Maybe that’s enough right now.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.
As I said before, my MIL is a genuinely sweet person who really does go out of her way to make you feel welcome, cared for and loved. So when she took the accidental leap into "Crap hits the fan" territory, I wanted her to know my broken feelings were NOT the result of her sticking her nose where it didn't belong. I love the fact that she cares enough to ask these questions.
So when I had finally composed myself and felt ready to talk without falling into a snotty mess of tears, I positioned my beach chair in front of her and had the talk that I maybe should've had months ago.
I explained, without vilifying John, that we had come to the decision that Vincent was it for us. After all, we can't compromise on half a baby, so in order to protect our marriage, I agreed to relinquish my right to more children. Yes, it still hurts when I think of all those children I will always - ALWAYS - yearn for, but there is no point in damaging our marriage further by harassing John on a regular basis about it. We spent three years that way and finally managed to pull ourselves out of it.
So I asked that she not try to persuade John. It'd just make him angry that she was trying to get involved in a decision he feels as though he has every right to make. I'm not supporting his decision as right. I don't believe it is - on any level. But that's something that most of you wonderful readers already know. No point in re-beating a dead horse.
I explained all of this to her in concise, direct language so that she understood John's perspective. My goal was to prevent John from hearing about it later. He'd only end up feeling as though I'd gone behind his back to get his mom on my side or something.
So I presented a united front to her (which I have no doubt she'll take back to his family). I said that while I'd always be open to more children, I understand John's decision and cannot do anything to change his mind. Thus, for the sake of our marriage, I've tried to put my intense desire for children aside.
That was that. She understood and she then opened up about various situations that mirrored or held similarities to mine. I know she was trying to make me feel better. Honestly, though, I felt better knowing that she knew. She might not know the depths of my pain, but she at least knows not to bring me to the precipice anymore. And I feel as though I'll no longer hold the blame for not giving her and her husband the grandchildren they, also, want.
So that was the talk - finally. Later that night I told John that I'd had it with her so he was ready for any subsequent questions he might get from his parents (though I'm pretty sure that I DID handle the issue, so he very likely won't hear anything further).
Ah well. I'm honestly glad it's out in the open now. That particular secret really is a bear sometimes...
I listened to her laugh about John’s response to her question. She didn’t understand, yet. I, however, immediately realized that my feelings months ago were spot on – he had never really spoken to her about future grandchildren. He’d very likely said something trite and expected her to “get the idea” and never broach the subject again.
So when, after laughing about her son’s silly reaction, she saw her opportunity to delve deeper into the water, she took it. I don’t blame her. Looking back, I probably would’ve done the same thing had I been in her position.
I have to admit… as she was telling the story about John and Alliya, I wasn’t sure at first where she was going with it. It wasn’t until the realization hit that John hadn’t actually spoken to her surfaced that I realized I was in very dangerous territory.
She asked, “So… I know he said he is content with Vincent, but do you not want anymore? Is Vincent just too much for you guys?”
This is what the next few seconds in my head sounded like:
Oh crap, don’t cry, Gina. Don’t you freakin’ cry. Think of something to say.
THINK OF SOMETHING TO SAY!
Is Vincent too MUCH for us?! He’s perfect, how did that even enter into her head that Vincent could be too much for us?
Oh my gosh, SAY SOMETHING! But not yet because you’re gonna cry. You’re gonna sound like you’re upset, and she’s gonna know, and it’s gonna be terrible, because then the secret’s out, and John’s gonna be annoyed because you couldn’t keep your mouth shut, and then the whole family will find out, and GEEZ – SAY SOMETHING, ANYTHING! BUT TRY NOT TO SOUND LIKE YOU’RE SOBBING!
You must look like an idiot there staring off behind your sunglasses with your mouth hanging open.
(closes mouth, absent-mindedly begins chewing on lip)
OH NO, you chewed on your lip you idiot! Now she knows for sure and it’s been too long a pause for you to have just been trying to think up a delicate excuse for not wanting more kids than Vincent. Man, you’re a total failure at this. Now you’re stuck. Way to screw that up.
And as I had the “Way to screw that up” thought flash through my mind, my MIL realized the pregnant pause wasn’t so pregnant as infertile and immediately wished she could swallow the words that had already sliced through my soul.
She hadn’t even uttered her realization of “Oh Gina… I’m so sorry” as I felt the first tears start to fall. I was trying vainly to quell my tidal wave of grief so I could tell her not to feel guilty… that it wasn’t her fault I was reacting so strongly. I could only muster a shake of my head and a faltering, “No, Ma, it’s okay. It’s really okay. Vincent isn’t too much. John just doesn’t want anymore.”
My MIL is a wonderful woman. She truly is. She’s probably one of the most genuinely caring people in the world. She really is happiest when she’s making other people feel at ease or cared for. That part of her personality is so attractive… so magnetic… people tend to relish being in her company. So as soon as she realized she’d caught me off guard, she felt bad. So she said, “I’ll talk to my son. That’s just not right.”
I started to protest, but I was still too overcome with emotion to do more than bite my lip to prevent all out sobbing. So I just shook my head and she understood we’d talk later. She said, “It’s okay. We’ll talk later. Back at the house.”
About 45 minutes later, we were alone on the beach with my neice. She was playing with some friends, so I took that opportunity to have the conversation John should have had months ago.
Continued in Part III: The Talk
Fixed the air-conditioner, dear!
Ever have your husband say to you, “Oh honey, I’ve taken care of it. X-issue will never come up again. Don’t even worry about it!”
Ever think, immediately upon hearing those words, that X-issue will most CERTAINLY come up again because your husband doesn’t “take care of things” as well as he thinks he does?
Oh John… *shakes head with playful reproach* I fell victim to his version of “taking care of things” this weekend.
Several months ago, John’s mother had been hinting at the prospect of John and I having more children. Obviously her intention was not to shove a sword through my heart, but given the nature of my current fertility predicament, that’s exactly what ended up happening.
And really, that’s partly my fault. Never wanting to make her feel bad for desiring more grandchildren from us, I did my best to keep my emotions under control. I never let her see anything more than the carefully concocted façade that masked my deepest, most crushing grief.
After this happened in December (and it was December, I just couldn’t bring myself to post about it until February), John took the initiative and assured me he had spoken to his mother in an attempt to head-off similar situations. When I pressed him to find out how, exactly, he’d handled the conversation, I could tell that he wasn't very thorough because he didn’t want to have a heart-to-heart with his mother about why he, himself, didn’t want any more children. He didn’t want to admit that to his mom because he knew she wouldn’t let the conversation end there.
But I didn’t press the issue further because I figured I’d find out, myself, through future interactions with my MIL.
This weekend was my reckoning.
John and I took Vincent down the shore to stay with my mother and father-in-law. They were babysitting our niece, Alliya.
As I was getting Vince ready for the beach in the bedroom, John watched his mother braid Alliya’s hair in the living room. Alliya didn’t like that, so John asked his mom why she was forcing Alliya (who has Rapunzel-length hair) to sit still while she braided it.
My MIL responded with, “It’ll get too tangled if I don’t braid it.”
Things might’ve been okay for me had the conversation stopped there. It didn’t, and here’s where my husband’s brilliant version of “handling things” came into play.
My MIL continued, “Why are you asking, John? Prepping for a little girl of your own?”
Cue John’s brilliant response – instead of responding to her, he simply ignores her and walks away.
That’s right... he walked away.
I’m actually laughing as I think about that. I have little doubt he thought he was making a very good, obvious point to his mother. He probably even thought he was deftly handling the situation and “punishing” her with the cold shoulder by ignoring the comment and walking away.
But no. His mother thought he was just teasing. So when she relayed the story back to me on the beach while John was on the boardwalk with Vincent, she had absolutely no idea that she was treading on dangerous waters.
Continue to Part II: Dangerous Waters
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.
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.
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