So if IVF isn’t an option – or doesn’t work – then what?
6) Educate others. If you are emotionally able to do so, it can be helpful to share with others your situation and gently instruct them about ways they can be sensitive to this suffering and support those who struggle with it. For example, can you share with your doctor information about IVF? Can you ask your pastor to be sensitive to those who struggle with infertility? Can you talk to your priest to make sure that couples who desire to have children are remembered in prayer intentions in liturgy? Can you start a support group in your parish or in your community?
7) Pray. Although we greatly desired the gift of a child, deep down I was reluctant to beg God for a child. I felt so blessed in so many other areas of my life – my marriage, my family, my vocation – that it seemed (to me) greedy to ask for additional gifts. And, at times, our infertility caused me to fear that God didn’t want us to have a baby – so, best not to ask Him. At a certain critical point in our infertility journey, I had the great fortune to speak to a wise bishop about our struggle. In the gentlest, most fatherly manner, he reprimanded me, warning me against despair, and counseled, “Do not fail to ask God for what you need. He will not refuse you.” And, the bishop was right. God has not refused me those gifts I needed most – acceptance, peace and joy. I have also found solace in meditating on Scripture, especially on those passages that involve the barren women of Bible and the witness of their own perseverance in prayer and the fruit that it bore for the Kingdom. Reading the lives of certain saints has been also been helpful to me, as well as the spiritual memoir, My Sisters the Saints, which recounts a woman’s journey to motherhood with the companionship and guidance of six women saints.
8) Deepen your appreciation of the role of suffering. It’s very easy to let infertility make you a sad, bitter person, to let it come between you and your husband, and to let it come between you and God. At one point, I made the decision that I did not want to be miserable – and was given the grace to realize that God didn’t want this for me either. I wanted a good marriage. I wanted to look at other children with joy – not with resentment or envy. It helped me to think about and meditate on the role of suffering in our lives, and how I ought to handle it, whether it was infertility or something else (it’s always something!). I recognized that rather than trying to avoid suffering or letting it define my life, I needed to practice gratitude and selfless love. In his encyclical on hope, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict summed it up like this: “It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.”
9) Hope. One particular challenge I had with infertility was how to simultaneously accept my cross and yet remain hopeful. A woman’s cycle only reinforces these seemingly inconsistent states of mind – hopes are raised and dashed each month anew. I will admit that after much reflection on this paradox, I still do not understand it fully. One source that I have found enlightening is Josef Pieper’s essay, “On Hope,” in which he reminds us that hope is not the “presumptuous anticipation of fulfillment,” but rather “the power to wait patiently for a ‘not yet’ that is the more immeasurably distant from us the more closely we approach it.” Or as Pope Benedict XVI put it in Spe Salvi, “It is, however, hope—not yet fulfillment; hope that gives us the courage to place ourselves on the side of good even in seemingly hopeless situations . . . .” I also learned that in hoping for a good that might not come, I let myself be open to goods that I could never have imagined. Let yourself be surprised by hope.
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