When people ask about my children, I say “I was never so blessed“. I should say instead, “God chose to bless us differently“. Maybe I’ll learn to say it that way – time will tell. It’s certainly a more accurate statement. God has richly blessed my husband and me. All it takes to see these blessings are a little faith and a different perspective.
I used to use contraceptives. I was young, dumb, and trusting of the medical system. Initially, I didn’t even have a real choice in the matter: take them or be doubled over in pain from ovarian cysts. That was usually the diagnosis – ovarian cysts. One doctor, though, wrote on my chart, “unwanted fertility”. I did not stay under his care for very long, since I did, in fact, want my fertility, even if I didn’t desire a child right at that moment. At that time, and in that place, conventional medicine proclaimed that the only way to control my cysts and endometriosis was to take the reproductive aspect of my body out of commission .
During my years at Catholic high school, I vaguely remember hearing about Natural Family Planning (NFP). I was warned by the lady who introduced it to us to never “let them put me on hormones”, but when my pain and dysfunction got so bad that they interfered with activities like standing upright, I yielded. The people I had trusted to take care of my medical needs never offered any alternative. In my ignorance, I never spoke up for myself to ask for other options that might better preserve my fertility.
Receiving that diagnosis, though, woke up something inside of me. Not too long after, my husband was ready to try for children. He has his own subfertility issues, and in the end, my subfertility together with his did not allow us to conceive a baby. And yet, I can honestly say that our family is complete.
We heard about NFP – me for the second time, him for the first – during our marriage preparation seminar. Like many couples who use NFP, we came to use it only when we wanted to have kids. We learned so much about how our bodies work! I can honestly say the fact that any couple conceives and becomes pregnant is a miracle! That a woman brings forth a baby after nine months is a second miracle. Personally, I think this sense of the miraculous nature of conception and birth should be taught to middle schoolers; that way, puberty would be demystified and promiscuity reduced, but I digress.
We decided to use the Creighton Model of charting because of my challenges with ovarian cysts and endometriosis. We tried Clomid to stimulate ovulation – I was in too much pain to be touched, let alone to try to conceive. We tried drugs that would thin my cervical mucus and hopefully make nice, hospitable highways for the sperm. All of this resulted in no conception, no highways, and no joy. The marital embrace became associated with pain, sadness, and frustration. Every menstrual cycle was like a new death, and an occasion for grief. I’m sure that may be a familiar experience for you, too. My story doesn’t end there, though, even though my “baby” has fur and four paws.
We then tried, at my gynecologist’s advice, to adopt. To be honest, that process was an intrusive nightmare! I became depressed around this time and did the smart thing and sought treatment for it; unfortunately, this meant that the countries where we sought to adopt wouldn’t consider us. We chose not to pursue an open adoption for reasons of our own (s an adopted child myself, I have questions regarding the effect of this on both the kids and on the adoptive parents’ authority). So, it felt like there was still no joy, and still no baby. Nor were we able to adopt an older child, since we had moved away, and the people controlling the adoptions required a verifiable support system, which we were leaving behind.
Sounds like a tragedy, right? Where do I get off saying that I’m blessed and my family is complete? Well, God knows what He is doing. I mean it! He knows so much better than I do. I now understand why every single time we got close to having a child of our own, something stood in our way. In our case, after we moved, my health failed the rest of the way. That event resulted in my ultimately becoming healthier mentally, physically, and spiritually. It took years, not months.
(As a side note: I do not recommend my path; it’s a lot of stress and hard work. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. I have nothing against a good challenge, but the real takeaway here is that God knows His business. Trust Him- totally, and without reservation).
I’ve learned that life is happening while we wait. While we wait to meet our spouses, we are living. While we wait for our wedding day so our marriages can begin, we are alive and living. While we wait for children, we are living. Elizabeth and Zechariah, Sarai and Abram: they were living their lives fully while they waited, hoped, and prayed. We are alive and living while we wait for the full glory of the Kingdom of God. We must remember to appreciate the journey, not just the destination.
I have peace of mind now. I have a wonderful, loving, and supportive husband. He has a wife who is his biggest fan and who runs the dishwasher sometimes. The marital embrace is once more an expression of love and affection. As a bonus, it doesn’t hurt anymore, either.
So, I don’t have any children. I’ll grow old with my husband, God willing, and we’ll be alone in the world. However, we have the time, and the freedom, to take care of our aging parents – our siblings with children don’t. We also have godchildren and nieces and nephews to shower with love, affection, and guidance. We have our clubs, our parish, and our friends – our “family of choice” – to share our love, time, and knowledge with. We are not dry, barren wastelands, even though we weren’t blessed with children. We are still fruitful by helping others grow. God chose to bless us differently.
We learned, my husband and I, to view ourselves as complete as individuals before we married. Then, we learned to view ourselves as a complete family, just us. We had to. That turned out to be God’s design for me and him. There is joy in knowing that we are whole, just as we are – me, my husband, and God. Oh, yeah, and the dog!
This post was written by contributor Delsonora.