Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: A Catholic Perspective
One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of “unprotected” intercourse or 6 cycles using “fertility-focused” intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has “primary infertility” and a couple who has conceived in the past but is unable to again has “secondary infertility”. Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.
This week, April 20 – 26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week.
We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.
If you are experiencing infertility, please know you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey
The Experience of Infertility
In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of “what if we get pregnant right away?” There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you’d announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for most couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in six couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered “infertile” by doctors who understand the charting of a woman’s pattern of fertility. At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark the couple “earns” the label from the mainstream medical community as “infertile”.
As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors’ appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teachings of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with options that are not options for us and are told things like “you’ll never have children” and “you have unexplained infertility”; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, “How are you and your husband doing with all of this?”
We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our childlessness (primary infertility) or small family (secondary infertility) makes us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teachings of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that makes us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet “no” or “not yet” or “maybe never” from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.
Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose to not say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don’t want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.
One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husband and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a fine line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins – with cramps and bleeding and tears – we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be “best” for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.
Our faith is tested. We ask God “why?”, we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day” that surrounds us at Mass on the second Sunday in May will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.
- Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.
- Do not make assumptions about anything – not the size of a family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.
- Do not offer advice such as “just relax,” “you should adopt,” “try this medical option or that medical option” – or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.
- Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a call and should be discerned by every married couple. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.
- Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the “real” answer. Often times we answer, “OK” because that’s the easy, “safe” answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this the tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.
- Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint’s intercession. Most likely we’ve prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercession on our behalf.
- Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say “no, thank you” to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.
- Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be patient and kind if we don’t respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don’t “Like” all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.
- Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in a conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.
- Do not ask when we are going to “start a family” (we started one the day we got married).
- Do not ask which one of us is the “problem” – we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.
- Do not say things like “I know you’ll be parents some day,” or “It will happen, I know it will!” Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to “just adopt and then you’ll get pregnant” (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds, please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.
- Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan.
Bloggers who contributed to this article (those with an * have children after primary infertility or are experiencing secondary infertility. They are marked as such so that if you aren’t up for possibly seeing baby/child pictures today, you can meet them on a day when you are, but please do take the time to go and visit them.):
There is also a “Secret” Facebook group with over 150 members who contributed to this article as well. For more information or to join the group, email Rebecca at RebeccaWVU02@gmail.com.
1. We went to Washington DC last weekend and it was a blast. I wish I could go back soon. Jim and I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. It was the farthest I’ve run since my marathon. And it was painful, but I managed to finish.
2. We also went to Pittsburgh Wednesday night to watch the Red Wings and Penguins play. It was a ton of fun. Even though Red Wings lost. They’re still going to the playoffs!
3. You probably know by now that I run Fine Linen and Purple. But if you haven’t entered our contest to win Jenna’s beautiful necklace, you should. It’s pretty low-entry and you can tweet once a day for more!
4. I’m also running a half marathon in a little over 2 weeks that I am not feeling prepared for at all.
5. I get to see Marie tomorrow and I’m excited. I’m grateful for the internet because I’ve made awesome friends (like Marie) and I would have never met her otherwise. This is what happened last time we hung out. We’re really cool.
6. My brother turns 20 on Sunday and that is just crazy. Yesterday was national siblings day or something so I felt like he deserved a quick take. Happy early birthday buddy! Oh, and he’s living with us for the summer. And working with me. So that should be interesting.
7. Funny picture time. Or gif rather.
*Thank you to Instagram for providing every single picture except one that I put in this post.
Here’s the other ones I was thinking about:
1. Not Alone by Red (I said I was going to use this one before, but we decided against it)
2. some other song by Red (I seriously forget the name, sorry Jim!)
3. Your Guardian Angel by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (this one was definitely up there!)
4. Warmness on the Soul by Avenged Sevenfold (just the fact I could find a reasonable song to play at a wedding reception was enough to get me excited)
5. Smother Me by The Used (until I really read into the lyrics. Uhh, no.)
6. Yours to Hold by Skillet (until we realized it is kind of sad and we don’t want that.)
7. Marry Me by Train (umm.. overplayed much?)
8. The Luckiest by Ben Folds (we also realized that 5000 other people used that one.)
You’ve seen those people with the fitbits on their wrists, right? I’m one of them. I never paid much attention to how much I was moving around (or lack thereof) until I got of these babies for Christmas. I have the Fitbit Flex (which is one you wear on your wrist). It syncs with my phone and tells me how far I am away from my goal of 10K steps a day.
I feel like I’m more willing to move around during the work day, but it never seems that I can get over 4K steps before 6:00. And then even days that I’m running a few miles I still don’t hit the 10K. Part of me wishes that I worked somewhere that I was moving around more, but at the same time there’s not much I can do when I’m sitting at a desk all day. I make sure to move around at least once an hour, whether that be going to the bathroom or going to someone instead of e-mailing them.
I feel like it’s a good gauge of how active I’m being during the day. But at the same time, I feel like I walk around like a crazy person at the end of the day trying to get the last steps to not look I was a lazy butt all day. But then I obsess about my statistics. Which could or could not be a good thing. I’m a numbers person and I pretty much feel like the laziest person ever when I only get around 3K steps.
But I like the fact that the Fitbit has made me more self-aware of the fact that I really don’t walk around much during the day. I try to make it my goal to get over 2K steps before lunch and 2K steps after (I rarely get 4K steps but it’s a good goal). My rest days I hardly ever get anywhere close to 10K but I like how I’m focused more on getting more activity in even on my rest days.
Do any of you use a fitbit? Be my friend if you do!
Hosted by the lovely Jen. And post 4/7. Woohoo.
1. Yeah so the last time I’ve done one of these was in June. I started writing a few on my running blog. And then I stopped. So I’m just going to keep going on this one. I decided that I’m going to keep writing randomly in this blog when a thought crops into my head that doesn’t belong on my other blog or on Fine Linen and Purple.
2. Jim and I adopted an adorable dog that we named Jax. He is seriously the best.
3. Jim and I are Godparents! Our friend Kiera just had an adorable daughter named Helena Perpetua (and isn’t her name just fantastic?) She posted her birth story yesterday so you should all go check it out!
4. Jim and I also have a new nephew. Kendra and Steve had Ivan a little over a month ago. He’s the cutest!
5. Is spring ever going to come? It was -3 when I woke up this morning. Needless to say I really didn’t want to take Jax for a walk (thanks Jim for doing that haha). We’ve had literally the worst winter in 20 years. And of course we were going to wait until next year to buy a snow blower. Go figure.
7. My throwback Thursday picture from yesterday I decided to share with you all. You’re welcome.
How many of you have hated the way you look at one time or another? I see a lot of hands out there. Know that you’re not alone. It’s a constant struggle to love ourselves and the way we look.
If you’ve read my blog before, I have Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It sucks, in short. My weight has yo-yoed pretty much all of my life. I’ll gain weight, lose it, gain it back, and the vicious cycle keeps going. And it’s hard when I’m at my high weights to love myself. It’s hard to wake up and feel beautiful when I know how fast I’ve gained 20 pounds.
And what for? Why do I hate my body so much? Is it because I don’t feel as beautiful as I did on my wedding day? Is it because I look at my pictures from high school and laugh at the fact I thought I was overweight then? Is it because I’m ashamed I can’t keep my weight at a decent level?
Really, there is no point. What’s the point of hating your body when there’s really nothing to hate? God designed us the way that HE wanted to. Sometimes I forget to remember that. This is something that I’ve struggled with pretty much my entire life. There’s no need to dwell on it, either. I should be proud of the way that I look and how I’m doing things in my power to remain healthy!
Hey you with that engagement ring. Yeah, you. I was you just a few months ago. Your wedding might be days, weeks, months, or even years away. I know. The wait is terrible. You just want to spend the rest of your life with your husband happily ever after. Believe me, it sucks.
You might be nervous about your wedding. Will all the vendors get there on time? Will people show up? Will the music be played corectly? Will I fall down the aisle (one of my favorite worries)? Perhaps you’ve had some bad dreams leading up to your big day. Maybe you’re still having them. I did too, it’s okay.
The truth is, nothing about your wedding day matters. It really doesn’t. Something will go wrong (I’m sure a lot of people tell you this, but I assure you, it will). And you know what? It really doesn’t matter. If I would’ve fallen down the aisle, I would’ve laughed. My vows were messed up, I laughed through them. Our pastor forgot to read the Gospel (until I reminded him). I forgot my garter and Jim forgot his letter he wrote to me. And none of that mattered at all.
You know why? Because it’s the marriage that matters, not the wedding. All of your friends and family love you for YOU and are happy for YOUR marriage! They don’t care what your centerpieces are (seriously, they don’t. Can you remember any centerpieces from weddings you’ve gone to? Me either). They are there to celebrate YOUR love and YOUR marriage.
You’ve probably heard that annoying saying that your wedding is one day and your marriage is for life. Well it’s true.
Maybe I’m weird but I didn’t put as much emphasis on the wedding day. I didn’t stress about it (until the day of!) and tried not to worry about the little details. They might make your wedding stand out but would you rather have your wedding stand out or your marriage? Do you want to be an example for other couples through how you live your lives as a married couple, or do you care more about having the best wedding?
To be honest, I wanted my wedding to be perfect (who doesn’t?) but those mistakes and funny things that happened are the things that I am going to remember. And I spent the day laughing and enjoying the fact that I was now married to my husband. I would rather be the model of a healthy marriage than the model of the best wedding. How about you?
Oh, and have fun and don’t stress on your wedding day. It really is the best day ever!
There was a discussion in one of my Facebook groups about having a screen-free bedroom. And it really resonated with me. I am on my phone or iPad pretty much until I sleep and 80% of the time the TV is on. I’m starting to think that this isn’t going to be good for our marriage in the long run.
To give you some background, I’m pretty much attached to my phone (and it’s something I really need to work on). Jim is not. We both have smartphones but he’s much.. er.. smarter with his (see what I did there?) The problem is that I’m spending too much time in social media world and not enough time talking and getting to know my husband on a deeper level. I love the nights where we cuddle and just talk for a long time instead of watching TV or playing on my iPad.
This is something that I know I definitely need to improve within our marriage. I need to give up my phone when I lay down. I need to turn off the Internet at bedtime and spend more time with my husband. I have all day for that! I don’t need to let it impede on my relationship too.
What about you? Do you have a screen-free bedroom? Would you consider one?
(I’m linking up with 7 posts in 7 days because I’m going to write 2 in one day because I failed yesterday. Cool? Cool.)
I’m back. For this post. To vent. I know, I know you missed me.
So you might have seen that post “23 things you should do instead of getting engaged at 23” floating about on Facebook. I know I did. And guess what? I’m 23, married, and I’m still doing many of those things. CRAZY I tell you.
Okay so yeah, we got married young. 22 and 23 isn’t ideal in this society. Gasp! We didn’t live together before marriage, we dated for ONLY 3 years before marriage, and oh my gosh.. we STILL don’t know who we really are, what we’re doing, or what we’ll be doing in the next year. But here’s the thing, we’re doing it together.We’re figuring out this crazy thing called life TOGETHER and side by side. I know it’s a crazy thought, but you really don’t need to go through life alone… and there’s nothing wrong with going through it with someone by your side.
Here’s the thing, you don’t need to have everything settled down before you’re married. We set our wedding date before we had jobs. We were very blessed and lucky to get jobs right out of college, but we still would’ve been married on May 4 whether or not both of us had those jobs. We have no idea who the heck we are. We’re 23 and 24! Goodness. Who really knows who they are until way later in life? Or ever for that matter?
I don’t feel like marriage is a “cop-out”. I’m not hiding behind my husband and I don’t think the world is too big or too scary to deal with alone. I’d like to think I’m a pretty independent person. I have my own friends, hang out with said friends without my husband, and come home to a smiling face asking how my day was. I didn’t throw away any of my friendships or dreams to get married. I have someone who encourages my dreams and has brought me new friendships.
And the argument about the divorce rates being so high for people who get married young? We live in a society that divorce is the norm. Issues? Let’s get a divorce. The crazy thing about marriage is it’s a SACRAMENT. That means, it lasts forever. Issues? We deal with them. Fights? Who doesn’t get in fights? At the end of the day, he’s the one I chose to be with the rest of my life. If we have issues down the road, we won’t turn to divorce. We made a life-long commitment. Apparently that’s too insane to think about.
You may think this is just dumb nonsense coming from a 23 year old newlywed still in her honeymoon phase. However, I’d like to think that marriage is more than just a cop-out or for people who are too scared to go through life themselves. I’d like to think it’s for people ready to take on life TOGETHER. Crazy, isn’t it?
So the past few months I’ve been trying to juggle 3 different blogs. Needless to say, it isn’t working well. I feel like I have been much better about writing in my other blogs, and sadly I’m going to close this one down. However, I’m still going to keep writing over there (especially with 7QT) but having this one to worry about is just too much. So feel free to find me over at EmilyRuns and Fine Linen and Purple.
I’m going to be merging over all the wedding posts and perhaps the 7QT but I need to condense my blogs into one.
I appreciate every single one of you who has been a faithful reader and I hope you will continue to read over at those blogs.