Infertility: A Holy Week Reflection

I’ve been particularly drawn to the Passion of our Lord Jesus since infertility has colored my life.  I especially love praying and reflecting on the mystery of Jesus’ Crowning with Thorns, which has providentially received a lot of media attention during this Holy Week due to the devastating fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  Jesus’ Crown of Thorns reminds me of His pain, both physical and moral – a pain that calls to mind the experience of infertility:

Lord, you are a King but you were treated like a criminal.
In Heaven, you would receive a royal crown, but here on Earth, only painful thorns.
Though this trial must have been excruciating and degrading, you bore it with patience and courage. 
You trusted in the will of God.

Lord, I feel somehow that I am made for motherhood, but I have no brood of children.
I do not know when or how I will see the fulfillment of this deep longing.
Lord, help me to bear the pain and humiliation of this trial with patience and courage, as you did.
Help me to trust in the will of God, as you did.

The times that I’ve felt hurt or embarrassed by infertility are too many to count.  There was the former male boss, who I informed about our condition to explain the frequent appointments.  His prying response (“so which one of you has the issue?”) was crushing.  There were the appointments themselves, a most intimate part of our marriage specified and planned by a doctor and laid bare for observation. There are the Mother’s Day masses, the agonizing moments when other women are publicly praised for a prayer that for me, goes unanswered. There are the mundane conversations amongst acquaintances (“A puppy? Don’t you have any children?…just how long have you been married?”). There are the public pregnancy announcements, and the presumptuous applause, (“oh what a perfect family! First a boy and now a girl!”) forcing a smile to hide my disappointment and wishing certain people were more sensitive. 

Unlike our Lord during His passion, I’ve faltered from the pain of these thorns.  Time and time again, I’ve become a mess of anger and frustration, snapping back with a quick one-liner or complaining to my husband incessantly at my first opportunity.

But deep down I know God is asking something more of me than these petty responses. I feel Him calling out to me to become more like Him.

When I reflect on Jesus forgiving those who persecuted Him, I am confronted by my failures to be charitable to those who have, unknowingly or not, contributed to my pain. Maybe the friend with the public announcement actually was ignorant of my feelings.  I recall that mothers standing at mass don’t have some blissful, easy existence – some are undoubtedly parenting their children through difficult trials, their own thorns – like illness or emotional distance or difficulty in school or a million other things.

When I think of how Jesus was mocked and ridiculed, but made no reply, I am challenged to accept small offenses with patience. After talking with my husband about the difficult moments (I don’t mean to imply these discussions are wrong or unnecessary!), we can offer a prayer for our expectant friends. It’s often the hardest thing to do but brings us peace.  Perhaps the questions from the acquaintances could prompt a deeper conversation, rather than a retort (“God hasn’t blessed us with any children yet, but He’s expanding our understanding of fruitfulness in our marriage…”).  I can take my strong reaction and simply let it go, knowing that God sees me, even if they don’t.

When I consider how Jesus perfectly carried out and trusted in the will of God the Father, and thus came the miracle of the Resurrection, I recognize that I must trust in God’s plan for fruitfulness in my life, despite infertility.  Accepting the unknown, and the unwanted, is difficult.  I sometimes wonder, does God see my struggle and these deep desires of my heart? He must have some plan for my life – after all, He created me!  Even though I cannot see His plan yet, I am invited to pray and to trust with greater resignation during the “Good Friday” periods of my life, and as I await a glorious “Easter Sunday” when the fruit of this trial will be revealed.  A friend recently gave me the Litany of Trust bySr. Faustina Maria Pia of the Sisters of Life, which provides great comfort: “…that my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next, Jesus, I trust in you.” 

May the Triduum be a profound and fruitful time for all of us struggling with infertility as we place our hope in Christ and continue to trust in Him during moments of humiliation and pain.  May we receive the grace to walk through these trials and to grow abundantly in virtue as we await the resurrections in our own lives. 

Allie is married to her husband of nearly three years and writes from Texas.

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