I was diagnosed with endometriosis back in 2013 after a laparotomy surgery. I had been charting my signs of fertility with Natural Family Planning and was able to help diagnose it. The doctor found that my endo was Stage 3 (out of 4), and thankfully was able to remove it all. This helped me to feel much less pain each month, for which I was most grateful. This all happened the year before I met my husband and we got married, so I assumed there might be some difficulty getting pregnant.
In 2014, my husband and I met and got married. We started trying to conceive right away. However, after about 6 months, nothing had happened. The doctor suggested we try several options including a semen analysis, ovulation inducers, Clomid and Letrizole, HCG shots, hormone supplements, ultrasounds, etc. Nothing seemed to be working.
After four years of poking, prodding, scheduling sex, and charting, the stress of it all began to weigh heavily on both of us. Maybe God doesn’t want or need us to have children…could this actually be true? How far do we go in this journey until we stop the interventions? Do we make that call? Do we need to seek help from spiritual directors or other doctors?
Those who struggle with infertility know that this can be such a burdensome cross. It takes a toll on your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. It’s trying on yourself and your spouse, your trust in God, and your relationships with others.
In addition to our struggle with infertility, my husband also suffers from chronic health issues.
So, here we were as newlyweds in our young 30’s trying to manage these extremely difficult health issues. I wasn’t sure how to deal with the reality that we might never have biological children, while my husband was just trying to get through each day without a migraine. We experienced almost five years of wrestling with God over these issues. Where are you while we suffer with these issues, Lord? There was definitely a sense of abandonment and hopelessness.
Thankfully, we did have support from our local Catholic community and our families. However, we found that most people were unsure how to relate to our issues. What typically were private issues became uncomfortably public as those who cared for us inquired about our difficulties. There was also the struggle of comparing ourselves with others, which can be especially challenging in Catholic circles where healthy people are having a lot of children.
This did take a toll on our marriage as we both were trying to deal with the reality of our lives. I was trying to wrap my mind around being newly married, being a caregiver, and the fact that my marriage was not living up to my expectations. I felt like God didn’t think I was worth a good marriage, a healthy husband and children. My husband was operating at about 40% most days with his health and trying to stay above water, while holding down a job and trying to love me the best he could.
I started to believe the lie that I was in control of my life. I believe that the Lord knew that I needed a good “interruption” in my soul. When we believe that we are in control, we trust only in ourselves, which can become a breeding ground for pride. I realized that I had stopped looking up and was only looking at myself.
Still, I fought so hard to stay in control because I did not think that the sufferings He was offering me were the right ones. I wanted different crosses.
This is where the anger began. My heart was so angry at this perceived injustice that was being given to me. I felt as though I was a beggar on the street and all the Lord thought I was worthy of were scraps and leftovers. I felt like I was no longer His daughter.
These crosses began to consume me and BECOME me. To be honest, I was not open to the words from the Our Father prayer, “Your will be done,” that I prayed each week. I had stopped finding comfort in Him. I remained so focused on my own expectations for my life that I resisted trusting in Him.
How do we find support for these challenges when there are no foreseeable solutions? How do we ease our hearts from grieving a life that is not what we want? How do I know He loves me when the circumstances of my life do not reflect that?
He was asking me to release control.
He was asking me to find my identity only in Him.
I spent years in prayer begging Him for explanations, begging Him for help, begging Him for healing.
He wanted me to shift my perspective.
I became so exhausted from these crosses and realized that something needed to change because I was in a deep desolation. By the grace of God, I decided to take a day to sit in prayer and listen to Him. I decided to spend time with Him even when I struggled to trust Him.
Believe me, I am as emotional as they come and there are days where my feelings are the only truth I believe in and it is very tough to pull myself out of them to be more logical. I knew that even if I didn’t feel that God was loving me, it did not mean that He wasn’t.
So I decided to talk to Him about this in prayer.
He was very patient with me. I learned that day that the Lord does love me. He loves me to the point that He wants my soul to grow into a deeper relationship and reliance on Him alone. I received this image of the Lord looking into my eyes, tilting my chin up to His, as He whispered, “My love for you is greater than you will ever know. I want you to keep your eyes fixed on Me. I want to carry these crosses for you. I am here. I gave you these specific crosses so that you can share them with others.”
I felt that I was being asked to share my experiences with others so that they may come to the Lord. This was precisely why He was allowing me to experience suffering: to deepen my trust in Him, to be vulnerable and to lead others to Him. He was calling me to something greater.
That day, the Lord was revealing to me His reasoning for my suffering, not because He needed to, but because He was inviting me to actively participate in it. I spent so much time resisting instead of participating. Now was my chance to respond to this invitation. Now He gave me a chance to respond by being a spiritual mother through sharing my infertility story and also calling me to continue my studies in spiritual direction.
How is the Lord redeeming your suffering today?
Andrea Mahoney is a lifelong practicing Roman Catholic who dwells in central Pennsylvania with her husband of four years. She works full time as an Executive Assistant. She loves to write and watch movies. She has a Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministry and is currently getting her certification in Spiritual Direction from the Avila Institute. You can find more about her here.