It was January 15.
My period was five days late.
Then came the cramps.
Then came the tears, the frustration, the anger, and the sorrow.
We weren’t pregnant. We really thought we had it this month.
Since getting married in August, my husband and I have been trying to conceive. We would use our fertility tracker each month to determine the best week to “try.” This software would help us avoid sex on the nights and days that wouldn’t produce offspring. We’re practicing Natural Family Planning. NFP has many methods but the two most popular are Creighton and Marquette. Using the Creighton Method requires you to track the hormones your body is producing. This helps you understand whether you’re ovulating or not. The Marquette Method requires you to check your Basal Body Temperature at the same time every day to predict fertile days.
While my husband and I are considering the Marquette Method more seriously these days, we have found the Creighton Method more accessible during the first year of our marriage. We’ve used digital apps to create charts and track my period since the month before our wedding. Our tracking includes using NaPro -- Natural Procreative Technology. Before my boyfriend became my husband, he would tell me that I took a long time in the bathroom. During our courtship, he measured my time in the powder room with a stopwatch. This is okay! If he’s that involved in the process, then he’s the right guy.
While these devices have been useful, we have also turned to Scripture for guidance during this journey including 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” Self-control is a large part of using NFP and NaPro. We chart my cycle and abstain. We pray together and have many deep conversations about how God is using this time in our marriage to strengthen our relationship. This has allowed us to be alone in our relationship and grow in love. We also use Psalm 25:4 to ask for guidance in this time of wonder: “Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths.” We sometimes wonder whether or not we are called to be parents. I hope we don’t have to face this scary reality. If we do, though, then we will face it with our faith in God.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines infertility as the lack of ability to get pregnant over a 12-month period. We are more than halfway there. We continue to pray that God, in His goodness, timing and will, can grace us with the beauty to become parents. This would help us fulfill our marriage vows, although we know there are other ways to have a fruitful marriage.
Remember what King David wrote in Psalm 127:3: “Certainly sons are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward.” We see this in the uniting and procreative meaning of sex. It illustrates how the act of sex itself becomes a union of man and wife. To create children reminds us of the three F’s of our marriage -- free, faithful, and fruitful: I have entered this marriage on my own free will, I agree to be faithful to my husband, and I agree to be open to children. Now we are presented with the possibility of an inability to get pregnant. The process of trying during certain times and being aware of your own cycle seeks to reduce the stress on your body and your psyche because you only have sex when it is possible to result in a child.
If infertility could be part of your life, then finding ways to resolve it while remaining true to your Catholic faith can prove challenging. In his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI wrote to defend the truth. He sought to articulate it with humility and conviction. He wished to bear witness to it in life. His final encyclical, his only social one, accounts for an indispensable form of charity.The charity of offering information about infertility is not solely offered in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Someone recommended to me a book by Angelique Ruhi-Lopez and Carmen Santamaria: “The Infertility Companion for Catholics: Spiritual and Practical Support for Couples.”This book reflects the words of the Catechism in paragraph 2375: “Research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged, on condition that it is placed ‘at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God.’” (CCC, 166)In paragraph 2377, the Catechism continues enlightening couples: “Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They disassociate the procreative act. The act that brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that ‘entrusts the life and identify of the embryo into the power if doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and the destiny of the human person.’”
Practicing NFP brings couples together more than just in the Greek sense of the word. To know is to know experientially. Cain knew his wife in these terms in Genesis 4:17! God wishes to know us deeper than this. Our relationship with God is not just theological. It is personal. Cain and his wife had sex, and that sex produced an heir. God brought man and woman together to be fruitful and multiply. If infertility is part of the journey, then these are the measures that Catholic couples can use to multiply. God knows what is on your heart. He put it there! He knows how much you want to be parents. Just keep in mind that there might be another way for you to get there.
St. Ignatius of Loyola authored Ignatian Spirituality. In the coolest cave in the mountains of Spain, he wrote 11 steps for approaching an important decision through prayer. These steps begin with identifying a problem. In our case, it's what to do about infertility should that path come our way.Look to St. Ignatius and prayerfully discern your path with infertility. How will you use medical help? Are you called to adoption? Please do not see adoption as a last resort, just like discerning your path of vocation. God doesn't want the last choice to be a last resort. You need to faithfully decide which is the best path for your family.Lastly, in this time of infertility or questions of our fertility, we need to protect our hearts from jealousy. A good friend or family member might have an easy time conceiving their first or second or even more children. Every person’s body is built differently in the image and likeness of God.Thou shalt not covet. Remember this well.As we celebrate Mother’s Day, let’s give thanks for the mothers we have on Earth and those who have gone before us to heaven.
As women, we all serve as spiritual mothers to someone in some way. You may find it difficult but keep Proverbs 3:5-6 at the front of your mind:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely. In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”