What are good and faithful Catholics supposed to do when they encounter the anguish or despair in life that comes from an inability to do something they desperately want and that seems so natural—like having children? How should we apply our ability to trust to a situation like this?
Proverbs 3:5 tells us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely.”
As Catholics, we know that we must have an implicit trust in God no matter what happens in our lives. We know that He loves and cares for us more than we could possibly ever imagine. Yet, when something bad happens, or when something happens that is not in our plans for our lives, we often find ourselves in the midst of despair and even anger. We punish ourselves by asking what we did wrong. We bargain with God and tell Him we will do “x” if only He gives us “y.” Or maybe we even get angry at Him and ignore Him.
All of these reactions are those of a human being fraught with faults—a human being who needs to come to a greater understanding of what it means to trust in a God who loves us and has vowed to always take care of us.
Trust isn’t an easy thing. In fact, it can be downright difficult. In an article about developing trust in God, Fr. Joseph Esper writes of the many beautiful stories of saints who had perfected a trust in God so completely that they never even searched for signs of His love or existence. They simply didn’t need them. We must learn to develop that same kind of trust, and when we falter, we can look to these saints when we need strength.
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a baby after 12 months of trying (six months for women older than 35). In the US, 6.1 million women “ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.”
That inability to get pregnant can take its toll, not only on a woman, but on a couple. The woman who feels the strong pull of the vocation of motherhood may find herself experiencing feelings of anguish, despair, and even bitterness, anger, and a feeling of uselessness. She begins to wonder “Why me?” and “What have I done to deserve this?”
If you know someone—or if you are someone—who is going through infertility, please understand that the answer to this second question is that you have likely done nothing wrong. And sometimes a couple is never able to understand why they have difficulty conceiving a baby. But God wants you to know that, with His help, you can get through this and find peace.
What Do I Do?
Having a child means not only the joy and laughter of small children running around the house, but the hope for the future of a family, of unconditional love, and of a bond that is so incredibly strong that it’s very hard to break. When a woman and a man are denied this blessing, they may feel empty, helpless, and sad. All of this is natural. And you must allow yourself to mourn.
If you know someone who is unable to have children, never put limits on her time period to mourn. Everyone goes through the healing process at his or her own pace. And, yes, healing is a process—one with which both members of the couple may need help. They not only need the help of friends, but they need the help of God. That is why having an unwavering trust in God is integral.
Dr. Marie Meaney, PhD, who herself has experienced the sadness of infertility, wrote:
It is important that we permit ourselves to mourn. Only then can we embrace the cross and allow God to help us. If we try to deny it and run away from the pain, we will never get past it and never let it bear the spiritual fruit and potential it has….Only God can heal this wound and prevent it from turning into anger, bitterness, and resentment.
And healing is what the couple must strive to do. It will take time. And it will take faith. But just as our earthly parents love us unconditionally, and their love knows no bounds, so much more does God’s love know no bounds. He wants only what’s best for us. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to see things as God sees them, so we may feel confused or sad at times. Those are the times we must turn to Him in prayer. Those are times we must call for the intercession of saints who knew how to trust.
Dr. Meaney suggests how a couple can get through this difficult time. She stresses the fact that the husband and wife must support each other and communicate their feelings. She explains that each is likely experiencing this grief in different ways, so it’s important for both the man and the woman to share how they’re feeling so that they can work together to heal.
She also cautions people who have friends suffering from infertility and says that you should allow this person to lead the conversation about it. Let her/him know you are there to listen, but do not bring up the subject on your own. Sometimes even a simple response, such as “I’m so sorry you’re going through this” is enough to help the person feel at ease.
In addition, she suggests that a couple experiencing infertility talk to other couples experiencing the same thing. The comforting words of those going through a similar situation can help them find peace.
Is IVF a Solution?
In vitro fertilization is a method that doctors use to create a child, usually in a petri dish.
During this procedure, doctors take the eggs from the woman (usually, though not necessarily, the wife) and fertilize them with the sperm of the man (usually, though not necessarily, the husband). According to the USCCB, “In IVF, children are engendered through a technical process, subjected to ‘quality control,’ and eliminated if found ‘defective.’ In their very coming into being, these children are thoroughly subjected to the arbitrary choices of those bringing them into being.”
IVF is an immoral act because, through it, children become commodities. Children have the right to be created through the loving embrace of their father and mother, not as the result of a medical procedure in a lab. Furthermore, many embryos are usually created so that the chances increase of one or two surviving once implanted. The ones who are not implanted are either frozen, discarded, or used in medical experiments. This violates the inherent dignity of the baby and is a moral injustice, in that this ends a human life. Life begins at conception.
In addition, IVF is a costly procedure, and it opens the door to allowing same-sex couples and other non-traditional families to form, thus denying the baby his inherent right to know both of his biological parents.
Pope Paul VI Institute
Yet, there is hope for couples experiencing infertility. Doctors at the Pope Paul VI Institute have done amazing work with infertile couples and have helped thousands bring about children naturally. According to its website:
The Institute has developed a new approach to women’s health care that embodies the best principles of medicine and offers superior treatments to women and challenges mainstream medicine, which relies on contraception, in vitro fertilization, and abortion.
The Institute networked a natural system of fertility regulation—the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System (CrMS)—with a women’s health science—NaProTechnology. These provide effective, morally acceptable, and sexually healthy options for women and couples. The CrMS and NaProTechnology enable couples to reconnect love and life in the area of fertility regulation and in reproductive and gynecologic health.
Through the Institute, God has given hope to many couples who thought they could never have children.
Yet, even if you pray and undergo ethical and moral treatments, and still cannot have children, God does not want you to despair. His heart aches for you, even though He alone understands His reasoning. He is walking with you throughout your trials, and He is there with open arms to comfort you if you ask.
Nobody can tell you how to trust, and nobody can make you trust in God. It comes only through a desire to trust, through discernment, prayer, and over time. But God assures you that you will find peace when you trust in Him.
Let the words of Psalm 62:6 comfort you: “My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.”
God is our hope. Open yourself to His embrace, for only there will you find the peace you so desire.