The Gift of Infertility, Part 1

Having struggled with infertility for nearly six years, we know the pain of not being able to have a baby. We're also familiar with the awkward silences — and tears — that often accompany conversations with those who have never experienced infertility. On the one hand, people tend to believe fertility is something we have perfect control over. "Just relax," we've been told. "When you settle down, I'm sure it will happen." Or, "Maybe you're just not ready yet," as if "buying a house" or "getting a better job" would make us pregnant. On the other hand, it's a mystery why so many couples like us aren't blessed with biological children. If, as Scripture tells us, "children are a gift from the Lord" (Ps. 127:3), how should couples understand their infertility? What hope is there for couples who desperately desire children, but also want to remain faithful to the Church's guidance regarding artificial reproductive technologies?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, infertility is a condition that affects 2.1 million married couples (1 in 8 of childbearing age) and 6.1 million women, aged 15 to 44. Male factor infertility accounts for 30 percent to 40 percent of all cases. These rates are increasing as more couples delay marriage and childbirth to pursue careers and educational opportunities.

But did you know that according to Harvard researcher Alice Domar, "Infertile women report equivalent levels of anxiety and depression as women with cancer, HIV status or heart disease"? Adds Domar: "The majority of infertile women report that infertility is the most upsetting experience of their lives." Such heartbreak might help explain why so many hurting couples are tempted to pursue morally questionable remedies for infertility.

Fortunately, though, most couples can conceive using natural techniques that accord with the Church's wisdom on marital sexuality. Counsels Dr. Domar: "Very few people have physical conditions that make it impossible to have a child, and in many cases simple lifestyle changes and low-tech strategies can make a decisive difference. … Many couples can be helped by our greater knowledge of how lifestyle factors like stress, exercise, and nutrition affect conception, of better ways to regulate and target ovulation cycles, and of common medicines to avoid that can inhibit sperm and egg production." Dr. Paul Dmowski, a leading infertility specialist, estimates that "only 8-10 percent of couples in treatment need high-tech … procedures," such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). Concludes Domar: "So much attention in the media is focused on the latest high-tech intervention that many people forget to give nature enough of a chance."

Domar's observations allude to a popular prejudice in our culture that nature and science are at odds with one another. Natural, scientifically based alternatives are thus thought to be inferior to their high-tech counterparts. In reality, scientific technologies that work in accord with nature have proven very effective in treating infertility. The Creighton System's NaProTechnology program, for instance, boasts an overall pregnancy rate of up to 50 percent for patients of all ages and diagnoses — with rates as high as 80 percent for many couples. These figures are nearly two to three times higher than results from the leading artificial technologies.

 Techniques like those taught by the Pope Paul VI Institute, Couple to Couple League, and the Billings Ovulation Method Association differ from artificial technologies in that they cooperate with nature by equipping couples to listen to what their bodies are saying. For a woman, these messages can usually be discerned by charting monthly cycles and mucus patterns. According to the Pope Paul VI Institute, couples who have learned to chart effectively have a 76 percent chance of conceiving during their first cycle of use and a 98 percent pregnancy rate by their sixth cycle. Yet, because many couples assume they'll get pregnant right away, they rarely take time to explore how their fertility works. "Even sophisticated couples," relates Dr. Domar, "may not be clear about when ovulation occurs or how long sperm live."

Diet and nutrition are also crucial to achieving pregnancy. According to John Kippley, cofounder of The Couple to Couple League, "In many cases, cycle irregularities can be either eliminated or alleviated simply by better nutrition or body balance." Many other seemingly insignificant modifications — wearing boxers instead of briefs, eliminating nightlights, taking 500 mg of extended release B6, using iodized salt — can likewise aid in conception.

Shifting Trends

Despite high success rates, some couples (like us) might not be able to have a baby using natural family planning. Lured by promises frequently backed up by a "100 percent money back guarantee," more and more couples, including many Catholic couples, are resorting to artificial insemination (AI) and assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to conceive a baby. The majority of people who employ high-tech treatments turn first to intrauterine insemination (IUI), the most popular form of artificial insemination (a technique by which processed sperm are injected into the uterus with a catheter). If that fails, many couples move on to in vitro fertilization (IVF), by far the most widely used form of ART. In recent years, however, IVF has become so popular that some physicians no longer consider IUI a first-line approach.

Given that very few Christian ethicists approve of donor insemination, or heterologous artificial insemination (AID), we will limit our remarks to the homologous forms of IUI and IVF. By and large, Protestant theologians agree that infertility procedures that are homologous or exclusive, in that they use only the husband's sperm and/or his wife's eggs, are Biblically defensible. Out of her deep respect for the human person, however, the Catholic Church holds that no form of artificial insemination or ART is permissible.

The primary reason the Church opposes IUI and IVF is that these techniques frustrate the unitive aspect of the marital act. As discussed below, the unitive end of marriage encompasses the personal and spiritual good of the spouses themselves. One indication of this breach in unity is that artificial interventions (excepting a tubal ovum transfer with sperm) always require masturbation.

Until quite recently nearly all Protestant theologians disapproved of masturbation. Genesis 38:8-10, in which Onan is struck dead by God for repeatedly practicing coitus interruptus, is the locus classicus for the traditional teaching on masturbation. Commenting on this passage, Luther argued that God punished Onan because he "preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother." Continues Luther: "It is far more atrocious than incest or adultery. We call it unchastity, yes a Sodomitic sin." Calvin likewise declared: "The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing."

Yet most Protestant authorities no longer agree with the traditional elucidation of Genesis 38 and so do not consider masturbation a sin. James Dobson, for one, posits that Onan was killed for failing to do his "duty" to produce offspring for his brother, rather than for spilling his seed. In a similar vein, When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden, a "Christian guide to the practical, moral, marital, and spiritual challenges of infertility," acknowledges that while masturbation "can prove disruptive to a relationship with God as well as others, particularly in marriage," providing a semen specimen "on demand" can be a gesture of "respect for God" and love of one's spouse.

Protestant scripture scholar Charles Provan, however, demonstrates in The Bible and Birth Control that Onan was not killed for disobeying his father, Judah, or because he did not honor his brother's memory, or for anything other than spilling his seed. Citing Genesis 2:24, Provan shows that Judah's authority over his son ended when Onan got married. Provan also recalls that the punishment prescribed for failure to "raise up seed for a dead brother" is not death, but merely to have the widow publicly remove her brother-in-law's sandal and spit in his face (Dt. 25:5-10). Additionally, Provan leads us to ask why Onan — and not Adam, Eve, Cain, Jonah and countless others — merited such harsh punishment for his disobedience? Provan's conclusion, based upon a close analysis of Leviticus 20, is that God forbids all forms of intentionally sterile intercourse.

The Narrow Way

Apologists for IUI and IVF often call the Church's view on masturbation narrow, just as they call the Church's definition of conjugal love constrictive. Empty Arms offers this partially misleading analysis of Catholic teaching: "The Vatican, which interprets Scripture for members of the Roman Catholic Church, holds that sex (the unitive) must not be separated from the opportunity to reproduce (the procreative) nor vice versa. … As a result, the Vatican prohibits birth control, D.I. [donor insemination], and even insemination using the husband's sperm. … While we agree on the importance of Scripture, we question the specific interpretation that leads to the Vatican's viewpoint. If carried to its extreme conclusion, this view would suggest that no sterile man or woman may have sexual intercourse. It would also prohibit postmenopausal women from sexual relations. For this reason, some have suggested that the Vatican redefine conjugal love in such a way that it encompasses all forms of physical expression in marital love, rather than limiting it to sexual intercourse" (167-168).

Similarly, John and Sylvia Van Regenmorter, authors of a popular text on infertility published by Focus on the Family, contend that "numerous Roman Catholic theologians" disagree with the Church regarding infertility treatments. "Following this reasoning many Roman Catholic couples are convinced they may pursue AIH [homologous artificial insemination] without violating their consciences or their faith."

Granted, some Protestants don't approve of any form of artificial insemination or ART. But lacking doctrinal authority, most discussions about these matters are vague and unsystematic; equivocation is also common. Frequently, couples looking for specific advice are told there is no simple right or wrong answer. That's why it's so great to be Catholic. Regardless of what dissident Catholic theologians claim, the Church offers concrete guidance for couples struggling with infertility. This guidance is grounded in the Church's longstanding teaching on human sexuality. As reaffirmed in Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life): "There is an unbreakable connection between the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning [of the conjugal act], and both are inherent in the conjugal act. This connection was established by God, and man is not permitted to break it through his own volition (12)." These last four words — "through his own volition" — are essential to understanding the Church's position. Contrary to what the authors of Empty Arms say, the Church does not prohibit sterile (impotency is another matter, cf. Can. 1084) or postmenopausal couples from having intercourse. These couples are not choosing to disconnect the procreative and unitive aspects of their lovemaking; rather, they are letting nature take its course while continuing to come together as man and wife in the way nature ordains.

But the main point here is that the unitive aspect of the marital act does not consist merely of sex, as asserted above. Rather, as the Catechism teaches, its end is the "good of the spouses themselves" (CCC 2363). This good is such that it can only come about through the mutual surrender of one spouse to another: a self-donation that must be both personal and exclusive.

Contrary to what many couples may believe, IUI and IVF are neither exclusive nor personal acts. As we shall see in part two of this series, IUI and IVF thus violate both the baby's right to be created through a specific personal act and the mother and father's right to become parents only through each other (CCC 2376).

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  • Guest

    Thank you so much for this article.  Infertilitiy is not often discussed within the Church, and it's gratifying to see that changing.  The one point I take issue with is your interpretation of the Church's position on IUI (intrauterine insemination).  Yes, any form of IUI that involves masturbation is illicit for obvious reasons.  However, there is another form of IUI that is currently being debated among theologians, and until the Church makes an official determination (licit or illicit), Catholics are free to utilize this procedure based on their own consciences.  This format involves semen collection through the marital act using a perforated condom (the same method used for obtaining a semen sample for semen analysis).  Some theologians feel that this is acceptable because the marital act is involved (in a delayed fashion) and the fertilization occurs within the woman's womb.  Other theologians feel that the involvement of the martial act is too removed, and that the process is too artificial.  That being said, my husband and I did IUI once, and we would not do it again.  We felt that it detracted from the dignity of our marital act.  However, IUI is in a totally different league than IVF, which not only frustrates the marital act but also is a major attack on human life due to the embryos that get destroyed or are frozen in limbo indefinitely.

  • Guest

    Going into marriage, Craig and I knew that for several reasons — barring a miracle — we would not become parents the "natural" way. And yet, I was determined not to let infertility keep us from being parents, something both of us wanted. And so, we accepted our "gifts from God" from the state, first as their foster parents, then as their forever parents.

    Ironically, more than one couple has pursued this route, only to wind up pregnant. That didn't happen for us … and yet, I'm not especially disappointed by that fact. Most days, two is just about my limit!

    I urge those who find themselves unable to conceive to consider this increasingly popular way to grow a family. I write more about this in my column at CatholicMom.com: http://catholicmom.com/saxton.htm

    God bless you!

    Heidi Hess Saxton Editor, "Canticle" Magazine Blogroll

  • Guest

    Heidi, I was one of those people who ended up pregnant (7.5 weeks currently, with identical twins) while pursuing adoption.  I still would love to adopt;  it is a beautiful way to become parents.  God has ordained adoption by adopting us through the sacrament of Baptism.  

  • Guest

    What a great title and oh so true!   Infertility is indeed a gift.   Our lives have been enriched beyond measure through international adoption.   We're pregnant (in our hearts) and awaiting child #3.   For those thinking about ART via ICSI/IVF, please think again!  Not only does it take away from the loving marital act, but we must protect and respect life at all stages.  When an embryo is fertilized outside the womb in a dish, the odds are against survival.     God's plan isn't always our plan! 

     

  • Guest

    I'll be sharing this article with some couples. What do I have to do to obtain the Taylor's permission to have it published in our monthly diocesan paper (with proper acknowledgement) in August & Sptember?

    Congratulations Claire! God bless you, spouse and babies.

  • Guest

    Thanks, Spice!

  • Guest

    Claire, thanks for your comments. You raise some very important points. We address your remarks more specifically in parts 2 to 4 of our series (coming soon), but it is important to note here that the Church does take a position on the use of IUI (intrauterine insemination). In short, the Church holds that the means by which the baby is conceived is what makes IUI – or any form of ART – illicit. You are correct in saying that the use of a perforated condom to retrieve sperm is permissible. The Church, however, still does not permit the use of IUI, even if a perforated condom is used in the process. If a baby results from the use of IUI, she is created by means of a technological action (injection of processed sperm into the uterus) rather than being the fruit of a specific conjugal act involving the personal and exclusive self-donation of husband and wife. For the Church, “the act of conjugal love is … the only setting worthy of human procreation” (Donum Vitae II, 5). Only in this act are the rights of parents and child preserved. For a more thorough explanation of the Church’s teaching on this matter, see the 1987 document Donum Vitae, and check back in the coming weeks for parts 2 to 4 of our series.

    For those readers who would like to reprint this article, please email us directly through our website at http://www.americasdrugdeal.com.

    Thank you so much! Jennifer Taylor

  • Guest

    Years ago my wife and I went through a lot of exhaustive testing to try to determine why we could not have a child together.  I even had surgery to correct a problem I had.  But still nothing happened.  When my wife and I were in our mid-thirties we decided to adopt.  Such a blessing this bundle of joy was.  We had more or less committed ourselves that this was going to be our only child and we were happy with this.  Then 4 years later my wife discovered she was pregnant at the age of 37!  Yeah we were shocked and happy.  we are now blessed with two sons ages 20 and 15.

    I guess I should say to couples that cannot conceive is "don't give up hope"  God works in very mysterious ways.  And honestly adoption is a wonderful thing.  I was a little disappointed when we adopted a boy.  You see I was having a "male moment" and only wanted my own offspring to carry on the family name.  That was until I held the little "critter" when he was two weeks old.  I was won over by my oldest son at that point.  It is easier than you think to love an adopted child as your own.

  • Guest

    Jennifer,

        The following quote is an excerpt by an article written by Tim Drake for the National Catholic Register:

     

    Catholic theologians and ethicists would agree that NaPro Technology is morally acceptable. Cataldo said. Cataldo pointed out that "certain drug therapies and egg-stimulating medications at doses that don't have disproportionate risks for the children engendered or for the mother" also are acceptable. But other technologies, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) fall into a gray area. "Some moral theologians and ethicists see these techniques as assisting the conjugal act. Others see it as replacing it," he said. "Until such time as the Vatican speaks, Catholics contemplating the use of IUI or GIFT should inform themselves of both sides of the moral and theological argument and then make a decision in good conscience."

     

    Point being:  The Vatican (and the US Bishops) have not yet made an official determination specific to IUI (when employed using the perforated condom method) and GIFT.  They have spoken to artificial insemination, but not specifically to IUI.  My husband and I researched this extensively, because we were unwilling to engage in any treatment that had been ruled as illicit by the Church.Smile

  • Guest

    As a footnote, another issue that is still being debated among theologians is embryo adoption (in order to save "extra" embryos obtained via IVF which would otherwise be destroyed or frozen indefinitely.

  • Guest

    Patty,  Best of luck with your upcoming adoption.  I would love to be able to adopt some day.

  • Guest

    I would like to ask those of you who are having extreme difficulty or find it impossible to concieve a question if I may. Because of this difficulty does that mean that you get to enjoy the conjugal act whenever the mood takes a hold of you? Are you like trying all the time (a couple of time a day let say)? In other words are you are enjoying the congual act whenever…completly free of the fear of conception? Remind me again, it is fertility that is the gift,…right?

  • Guest

    Zachaeus, yes, we are free of the "fear of conception";  our fear is of not conceiving, obviously.  Actually, infertility puts a huge stress on a couple's conjugal  relationship.  There is tremendous pressure to get the timing right, and the devil really likes to use that for division.  Trust me, the mood does not tend to get a hold of us in excess, and, in fact, engaging in the conjugal act too frequently can be counterproductive because it can lower sperm counts for the time of the month that you really need them to be maximized.

         I realize that there are people out there who "suffer" from the complete opposite problem, and I know that it can be stressful to be so fertile that a pregnancy becomes something to fear rather than to long for (in cases where finances are an issue, for example).  If, please God, my twins carry to term, I might even be in this position some day (not that I'll ever be a highly fertile person, but I work fulltime,  have a tiny house and a limited income, and I don't know that I'm up for more than two kids at this point).   Maybe then I'll be able to empathize more with the hyper-fertile, but I can't say I'm there yet.

  • Guest

    I have a dear friend that is infertile and we have cried and prayed together. I have great compassion for her and her husband.

    I have the difficult situation of being married 15 years, doing NFP that whole time,(very crazy cycles due to my uterine disease) giving birth to 4 children and now miscarrying 3, 2nd trimester babies. On top of that, I am bed-ridden-sick the entire length of any pregnancy. Now we are so afraid of being pregnant, and still grieving over the ones we have already buried…we just can't be intimate…not since last year. My health is in bad shape and the stress on the family when pregnant and recovering, whew!

    What's a Catholic couple to do? I feel the strain between us.

  • Guest

    Elizabeth, if you have a uterine disease, have you ever considered having a hysterectomy?

  • Guest

    Zach, I had to smile at your post.  You are willing to be open and honest and say things that others might just think.  You reveal that oh so human tendency for us all to think that the grass is greeener on the other side of the fence, where in reality, we all have been given our crosses and each cross is really a gift — as the title of the article states– given by God for our sanctification.

  • Guest

    Infertility is NOT a gift!  I have 3 wonderful biological children that wouldn't be here today if it weren't for infertility treatments and, even then, it took me 15 years for all of them to arrive.  I still consider them very much a gift from God……sweeter, more Godly children can't be found.  And yes I am Catholic and I will never ever ever doubt that my husband and I did the right thing.  Maybe the Church doesn't approve, but I know in my heart that God approved of the whole thing.

    I know a loving God would not want couples to suffer needlessly when there is treatment out there so PLEASE don't let the "Church" stop you from getting help.

  • Guest

    Sometimes God gives us gifts that at first we do not want — like no children, or a child with a severe health condition. And Anna is using the same "God wants me to be happy" rationale that sinners of all sorts (including me!) have used since time immemorial. Yes, I cry at night sometimes when I think that it's pretty unlikely I'll ever have children (in my case, due to marriage at a very late age). But God could have called me to be a vowed celibate and have no chance at children at all; instead, in His mercy, He's permitted me to find the man of my dreams, and someday perhaps we'll adopt a child or children — and I will be, by the grace of God, the mother they've always dreamed of (even though, just like me, there will be times they hate their mother because she's an old meanie!).

  • Guest

    Good luck with that Michelle!

  • Guest

    Anna,the Church doesn't forbid all infertility treatments, just those that are unethical (particularly IVF, which treats embryos as a commodity and often results in the destruction of life).  Yes, your children are a blessing whether or not they were conceived ethically.  But you shouldn't be encouraging others to turn away from the Church just because you feel in your heart that there's nothing wrong with these procedures.  It's very dangerous to rely on emotions which can be very fickle, when we have a Church that was given to us by God to guide us in these areas.  The Church's teachings aren't just arbitrary;  they are based on extensive Biblical study by learned theologians who have a lot more than feelings to back them up.  As far as needless suffering, the Church teaches that suffering is not needless, depending on how you deal with it.  I know firsthand the pain of infertility, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but I also can see that God has used my suffering for my own sanctification (as MKochan points out) and he has used it to draw me nearer to him.  When it comes to suffering, we should look for ethical ways to alleviate it, but any suffering that remains can be transformed by the grace of God.  I can't say that I'm perfect in that area, but we all need to try to offer our suffering up to him so that he can use it for our conversion and to draw us nearer to his cross.

  • Guest

    We are all created to share in God's love and life for eternity.  We are each called to love — love God and love our neighbor — with the love of Jesus, which is meekhumble, and obedient to the will of the Father. Look at Jesus  on the cross and see Him give His love: fully, freely, fruitfully, and forever.

    Anna,

    Sometimes God calls us to bear fruit in a way that we don't expect or even want.  Consider, for example, the celebate priesthood and fruitfulness of all the spiritual children God has gained through this gift. Another example; two of the eight children in my family do not share my DNA, but they are nevertheless my children and I am their father.

    Children are a gift from God and I'm happy for the gift of your three children. Perhaps God did not lead you and your husband to adopt for some other reason? 

    I'm not sure why it matters to you that your children are biologically yours, but rejecting the authority of the Church and encouraging others to do so is not bearing the kind of fruit He wants, is it?

    Please lovingly study what the Church actually teaches in this regard and re-think the position you advocated above. 

    Claire,

    That was very well said.

    If we believe what we like in the teachings of the Church, and reject what we don't like, it is not the Church we believe but ourself. And if we do not try to behave as we believe, we will be doomed to believe as we behave.

    PTR!

  • Guest

    LaughingClarie,

     Hysterectomy has been advised by Dr. Hilgers of the Pope Paul Institute as the only real means of help for my particular disease if I want relief from the syptoms, but after great consideration, research, doctor appointments, tests, thought and much prayer….I just don't feel it is the right option, right now. Thanks for the input and hope all goes well for you. St. Gianna, pray for us.

  • Guest

    Samsmom,

         I am very sorry for your pain.  I agree with you that the pain of infertility never goes away, and I'm sure that the authors of this article agree with that as well.  Even though I am now pregnant, there is a part of me that will always sting from those years where I felt betrayed by my body, and those years where I watched others have several children in the timespan that I was trying just for one.  I have spoken with women who have born children after infertility, and they tell me that they still feel pangs when they here of someone who conceives without even trying and then complains about their pregnancy, or does whatever they can to prevent a future pregnancy.  I think the point these authors were trying to make is that, like other crosses (such as cancer), infertility is excrutiatingly painful, and it is nothing that anyone would ever willingly choose, but when united to the cross of Christ there are gifts that can come from it.  Believe me, I am far from perfect in this area.  I make sarcastic comments when people aggravate me by taking their fertility for granted, and there are days where I let the devil convince me that I'm a failure and a "freak of nature".  But on my better days, I really try to let God transform it into a gift by drawing nearer to him and nearer to my husband, and also by using my experience to try to educate others about infertility and adoption (there is so much ignorance out there;  I'm absolutely convinced that this is one of the major reasons God gave me the cross of infertility).  I know you probably think that all this is easy for me to say since I'm now pregnant, but the truth is that there are no guarantees in life.  I have an extremely high risk pregnancy (not only because of my age, history of miscarriage/infertility and the fact that it's twins, but more importantly because the two babies are in the same sac and will likely share a placenta which is extremely risky), so I could lose these babies at any moment.  Even if I am blessed enough to carry them to term, I know that I will never ever forget the pain of infertility, and like I said, some of the pain will always be there, remembering how every month was a letdown for me while others conceived and just took it for granted.  Sorry to be so long, I just want you to know that I really feel for you and I'm sure these authors do to.  I really don't think they are in any way trying to minimize the pain that you and others feel. 

  • Guest

    Elizabeth,

         Thank you;  I will keep your situation in prayer.
     

  • Guest

    Let me see if I understand. 

    So I can just believe in and follow the teachings of Christ's Church, except for when, for me, the circumstances are too far from what I want.

    Do I have that right?

    Please think about this — as selfish, cruel, and brutal as human beings can be, if we did not suffer, then can you imagine how much more selfish, cruel, and brutal we would make our world? God has given us the gift of suffering to make us more human — more in His image and likeness.

    Again, look upon Him on the Cross for love of us.

  • Guest

    I am astounded by the title of this article.  Infertility is NOT a gift in any way, shape or form.  What infertility means to me is that my body, as God has made it, is unable to create and carry children to full term.  It is a disease, a medical condition, not a gift.  My gift has been my 10 year old son.

     

    Before I make this statement, I want to make it very clear that I think adoption is a wonderful thing.  It takes special people to take children into their hearts and homes.  Adoption, as wonderful as it is, is not a cure for infertility.  It does not reverse the loss of fertility (as the term infertility means).  I want the experience of being pregnant aging and having a pregnancy without fear of loss. 

     

    I have spent the last 16 years trying to have children within the prescribed methods of the Church.  I have spent just about as long crying myself to sleep after having one of 7 miscarriages within the first 10 years of my marriage, and then for no longer getting pregnant for the last six.  My marriage has become an almost sexless union.  I started early onset menopause 3 years ago, at age 37.  I no longer ask why me Lord.  I just stopped asking the Lord for anything.

     

    To me, and perhaps only to me, I find that trying to equate a condition that has robbed me of hope and has me depressed as a “gift” makes small the total sadness, depression and pain that I feel.

     

    I am very happy for you who have found joy in adoption, for whom npf has yielded children, and to those who have made peace with their infertility.  I know that God works in mysterious ways.  I know it's not for me to understand His decisions this side of death.  I just have to live with it, and I find no joy in that.

  • Guest

    Dear readers: Several of you have wondered how we can possibly refer to our infertility – and the experience of it – as a gift. Part Four of our series addresses this issue more directly, so we invite you to stay with us over the next few weeks as we tell the rest of the story. Let us say, however, that we agree with you. Being infertile is not easy; it is most certainly a cross – and a heavy one at that! We are by no means trying to trivialize or idealize this issue.

    Every couple has a unique experience with infertility, but some of our struggles are the same, and that’s why we’ve chosen to write this series. We wanted to provide other hurting couples with information about the Church’s teaching on infertility, as well as guidance on where to turn for help. Infertility treatments are not the answer to the pain of infertility. In most cases, infertility treatments, such as IUI and IVF, do not even address the underlying causes of infertility. Instead, these treatments often bypass the problem, leaving the couple in the dark about the biological causes of their condition.

    Experiencing infertility has been extremely difficult for us, just as it has been for many of you. After six years of trying, exhausting nearly all legitimate means, we still have not conceived. We, too, have lived (and continue to live) the hardships associated with infertility – the annoying and insensitive comments; the invasive medical procedures and tests (laparoscopy, hysterosalpingogram, semen analysis, etc.); attending baby shower after baby shower, wondering if you’ll ever hold a biological child of your own; watching other friends – who didn’t even know one another when we got married – get married, get pregnant and have two, three, or four kids while we still have none. The list is endless. We’ve definitely felt the burden of the cross on our marriage, too – especially how infertility can rob a marriage of spontaneity and intimacy. We’ve cried, we’ve denied, and we’ve cried some more.

    We agree that adoption and other similar acts cannot (and do not) take away the pain of infertility. Being infertile is a cross we’ll have to carry to Heaven, if God wills it. Carrying our cross – any cross – is a burden, but it’s a duty we’ve been given. (We’re referring here to couples – like us – who’ve done all they can legitimately do and still remain childless.)

    It’s not easy to understand how and why God would ask us to carry such a cross (we speak more to this in Part Four), but God’s ways are not our ways. Good Friday makes no sense outside of Easter Sunday and the Resurrection. Our Lord brings about new life only through the embrace of His cross. Jesus surely did not feel as if the cross was a gift when He was struggling to carry it, but He knew the victory that would be His – and ours – by embracing it. Indeed, as Christ saw it, the cross was the path set before him to gain the gift of eternal life for us. In that way, the cross itself is a gift.

    We have to live with our crosses, and there’s often no experience of joy in this. Such a lack of the experience of joy, however, does not mean the cross itself is not a gift. Christ may not have experienced the cross as a gift, as He was living through it, but it was (and is) a gift. Without accepting the gift of the cross, we cannot get to Heaven. Thus, Our Lord instructs us: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk. 8:34).

    Again, we invite you to stay with us through Part Four of this series, which elaborates upon the theme of the gift of infertility. In the meantime, let us pray together for the grace to “rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom. 5:2-5). Let us also “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Heb. 12:2, emphasis added).

    Thank you for your interest in our series and for taking the time to comment on our article. May the Lord bless each of you as you struggle with the gift of the cross of infertility.

    Jameson & Jennifer Taylor

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  • Thank you so much for writing this article series. Most Catholics know that the Church is against contraception, but they have no idea WHY, and how certain infertility treatments are ALSO against Church teaching for the same reasons.

    Infertility is so rarely addressed, so I’m thankful for this catechetical and personal articulation of Infertility.

    I did a post on Infertility & the movie UP here:

    http://www.nfpworksblog.com/2009/12/23/up-the-gift-of-infertility/

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