I know I haven't been posting lately for one reason primarily, I knew I couldn’t be charitable. This comes about because of a topic that has been nagging me a lot in the back of my mind, married infertility.
There are two articles which finally spurred me into reflectively writing about this. The first is an article by Fr. Robert Barron, “The Very Sad Childfree Life” which I first encountered at strangenotions.com, and “Of Wedding Bells and Baby Booties: 10 Reasons to Have Kids Early in Your Marriage” from Katie Peterson Warner at The Integrated Catholic Life.
Both of these articles are very good reads and provided a lot for me to think about as a young married woman. The reason that these articles stirred so much in me is, I am a late 20’s married Catholic, who practices NFP with my husband of almost 3 years. We desire to have children and cannot. Our lack of children is not by choice and if we had a choice we would have a little one preparing for at most their second birthday and a newborn in our arms. Instead we have our little apartment with only 7 fish and each other to take care of.
If you have read the above articles you can figure that my husband and I are not the 20 something couple who has chosen to not have children, but how would you recognize us in a restaurant, grocery shopping, or speaking to us in church? We do go on dates, we try our best to take care of each other, we enjoy the company of each other and our friends. We try to take trips and visit family. We wouldn’t look any different than those who have chosen to not have children. Fr. Barron is spot on in his title, “The Very Sad Childfree Life”, except we realize what we are missing and cannot bring it into our lives.
Katie Peterson Warner is also spot on in her article. I have watched these characteristics shine through many of my friends and in-laws who are recently married and having children. It’s amazing to watch them grow and strengthen their marriages and realizing at the same time that my husband and I are more like our unmarried friends than them.
I know at surface value these may seem like selfish and superficial reasons to desire children. At least for my husband and I, these aren't our only reasons.
Most married couples can attest to the two functions of sex in marriage, to be unitive and reproductive. It is also common scientific knowledge that there is only a small window that a woman can conceive a child in. It is a true miracle for any child to be conceived in any act of intercourse. One of the blessings of any form of Natural Family Planning is that I could tell you on any given day, my cycle date, which “phase” of my cycle I'm in, whether I’m waiting or not to see if I'm pregnant and a whole other plethora of “too much information”.
It’s a battle of potential doctor’s appointments, progesterone, blood draws, vitamins, and personal health issues to see a test with only one line on it. A struggle to keep yourself positive when you are overthinking every symptom that your body has to say of whether is it pregnancy or is it PMS. The courage to look at every period as a chance to start fresh rather than what did we do wrong. A challenge to not cry a little bit for every pregnancy announcement, story of a family member who had infertility and got pregnant naturally, or stick to your beliefs and not cave to medical treatments like IVF.
I will fully acknowledge the good work that institutes like the Pope Paul VI Institute has done for Natural Reproduction to enhance a couple’s chance to have a natural conception. I am thankful Church documents like Familiaris Consortio, Donum Vitae, and Dignitas Personae, for at least acknowledging that infertility is a struggle, even for a brief moment.
This is the cross my husband and I carry. It is often heavier than I can imagine and barely noticed by those we haven’t told. I know that those who share stories of those who have suffered infertility and had children are only sharing their joy. The truth is, it doesn't always turn out that way. Rather let me tell you this story.
My husband and I are happy to say that we are performers. We love being involved in concerts, plays, musicals and anything that lets our love of the performing arts be shared with others. On our wedding day, we stood in a large Cathedral, without microphones, and stating our consent to marriage and vows publicly. We wanted to be heard and would have screamed it from the rooftops if we could have.
We had stated our intent twice, we had come together freely and with the intent to honor each other for the rest of our lives. The priest asked us if we were willing to accept children lovingly as a gift from God. Our “yes” resounded even louder. Our two year old nephew who was just learning to speak his mind chimed even louder, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” to the laughter of us and our guests. As the laughter died down, my husband and I looked back at each other and in hushed voices said yes, smiled and continued through the mass.
I still look back on that and laugh today, but now I have a little whispering voice wondering if it wasn't at least a little prophetic of the struggle that my husband and I have today.
In writing this, I’m not saying that these other articles have said something wrong. I just find it painful that people who I love and trust have thought this is our choice or that we could wish or pray a child into being. I am writing this to show others that this is a struggle that many couples are facing and that I can’t be the only woman who is looking to guidance from our clergy others who are facing this struggle as well.