February 25, 2010

I've been thinking about infertility

As most readers of this blog know, in May 2007 I miscarried our first child.  It was a painful loss and feelings of grief, blame, inadequacies and guilt were overwhelming.  What caught us off guard but was just as painful was the lack of support for parents like Travis and I, especially within the context of the Catholic Church, and the lack of recognition most pro-life people gave to our first child.  I don't blame those people for how they reacted or didn't react; had I not gone through the process myself I too would not know what to say or how to act with a miscarrying mother.  Yet I believe that as a pro-life community we should and can do much better. 

In the past few months I've become aquaintenced with several Catholic women who struggle with infertility.  The pain, sadness and frustration these women feel is palpable.  A few of them have shared about problems they've had for years that, when brought to the attention of their ob/gyns, were just masked with the pill while they were unknowing teens.  Later, when they began to ask questions they were told they'd never be able to have children and that was that.  No seeking other treatments, no getting to the cause of the problem, just a band-aid and a meaningless "I'm sorry."

To an extent I can understand how these women feel, but only to an extent.  After that I wonder how much it hurts when they hear us good, procreating Catholics - blessed with fertility - make comments about "how Catholic could they be - they've been married for x many years and have no kids."  I know those types of comments are made because I've heard them said and I've made them myself.  Shame on all of us.  Shame on me

So this morning I googed Catholic infertility and you know what I found?  Blogs and two Catholic websites offering links, support and prayers.  All but one of them seem to have been created by families struggling and feeling alone.  Yes, there was a statement on reproductive technologies from the USCCB (very good), but the 7th top find claimed to be Catholic and then offered help finding a sperm donor...  ummm... no.  Once again, as a pro-life community we can and should do much better.

So here's a question to you, if you are struggling with the inabiltiy to concieve what would you want?  Someone to listen? 
A way to submit your name for Mass intentions?
A support group of some kind?
Messages of support and kindness?
Education of some kind?
I'm not sure if anyone will want to comment, but I want to listen if you want to talk.

Good links I found:

Related posts:
Miscarrying Peter
How to Support a Miscarrying Mother


  1. My husband and I found out in November that we are not (and will not) be able to conceive. We however, found great comfort in knowing that we CAN and WILL adopt a child through Catholic Charities.

    So in answer to some of your questions:

    It is very hard when people say things like "Did you try this?" or "There are so many options before you even consider adoption". We were told with a definitive answer that there are NO options for us (the only options were ones contrary to our faith, and even those were not really considered options). So I guess what I would say is it is wonderful when people want to listen and offer support. However, there's a fine line between support and being judgmental. Not to mention, adoption is not a "lesser" option, its not a "second choice". It is a beautiful gift and it is too often seen as only a secondary option. This is not the case for us and we never want our adopted child to feel as though they were a "fall back" option.

    The other thing I would add is that personal questions about "when are you guys going to have kids" or "you've been married almost two years, its about time to have kids" are really difficult to take. Curiosity is one thing, judging is another. I don't mind when people ask about our plans for our family in a general way, that opens up doors for me to talk about my experience and how excited we are to be in the adoption process, but the way its addressed and worded makes a HUGE difference!

    While it is a hard truth to swallow, having faith and knowing that God's plan for our family would never make us unhappy, we are at peace and are ready to build our family in a beautiful, yet unique way.

    p.s. I went to the ISU newman center when you were there for a year i think, that's how I came upon your blog!

  2. Great post, I had a really long comment to leave about our infertility, but my computer didn't like that so i'm not sure if it worked or not. I will retype it and post it later.

    p.s. i remember you from isu's newman center, that's how i came across your blog!

  3. I've thought about this a great deal. There are a large number of our friends, some Catholic and some not, who are struggling with infertility and also struggling to find peace about that cross. It's a cross I cannot fathom needing to carry. Thanks for posting those websites as well...I've passed them along to a few people in hopes that they'll find some comfort.

  4. Bonnie-thank you so much for this post! My answer, as somone struggling with infertility, is ALL OF THE ABOVE! You expect rude or careless comments from you co-workers but you don't expect them in church. If Catholics would seek to understand this issue as you have, we would be much more supported.

    I think it would be wonderful if each diocese found a way to support couples, especially women, who were infertile. I realize that support groups may only work in larger cities, but even a yearly conference or retreat that was advertised in each church would be awesome. I've never heard of anything like this.

    When we told our priest what we were struggling with he made a comment about "making sure we did things in line with the church." We told him our doctor was Catholic and he said, "oh, you're good." That was pretty much it. I don't blame him for not offering us more support-I doubt the diocese has anything for him to offer.

    But I can assure that the prayers of you and others like you mean a great, great deal to the many couples going through this. My only advice to your readers would be to be cautious when complaing about your kids in front of somone you know can't conceive. Yes, I understand that things are tough sometimes and you need the support of other moms, but complaining about little Susie skipping her nap and you not getting enough time to yourself hurts us who would glady take your baby even if she never napped. (And since I've never met you, I obviously don't mean you specifically-just hypotheticall speaking.) It would be really nice if moms would save the complaining for a time when it's you just and another mom.

    Again, thanks for you post! So nice to know you care!

  5. Well infertility is not an issue for us(thankfully); however, as you are aware we did lose our daughter's twin. Honestly, we didn't know what to say or think for ourselves let alone to someone else. I think everyone grieves in their own way. What we learned in it all is that life is precious and fertility should not be taken for granted or assumed. We do think of her though, generally in fleeting thoughts at random times. Sorry if we were unable to offer you any support when you needed it.