Caring for the whole self while dealing with heavy crosses such as infertility and chronic illness can be challenging; yet, it is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves as we navigate our lives. Saint Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

With a chronic illness that often leaves me bedridden for long stretches at a time, it can be difficult to find ways to care for myself, especially when it feels like my body has already made the decision to rebel and there are no solutions to remedy this. When I find myself in one of these stretches of time, I am often faced with the temptation of scrolling on my phone, a temptation that leaves me vulnerable to content that is detrimental to my mental health. Pregnancy announcements and content from Catholic influencers are particularly difficult for me to come across. Although I fully share in the joy of new parents, and those who are able to enjoy health and community, it can also stir up within me feelings of grief over the losses of my health, the ability to have children – whether biological or adoptive – and community. When I catch myself “doom-scrolling,” I try to refocus my attention on the Lord through the simple Jesus Prayer and do things within my means that are good for my body and mind. That said, I do often fall short and cave into the temptation of doom-scrolling, but through the Lord’s mercy, we are all given the opportunity to repent, get up (even if just figuratively) and strive again. 

When health and weather permit, my husband and I enjoy taking walks and going on short hikes. This has been incredibly enriching for us. Spiritually, spending time in nature allows us to witness God’s presence through the beauty which surrounds us. I often think of the old Christian song, “This Is My Father’s World” (by Maltbie D. Babcock) when we are out on a walk in the countryside because it beautifully encapsulates God’s handiwork in all of creation:

This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas–
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

The physical and emotional benefits of going on walks and spending time in nature are also plentiful. In the age of social media which often leaves us vulnerable to unhelpful or harmful content, it is important to carve out time to disconnect from technology and do something nourishing for ourselves, whether that means going outside and participating in a nature walk, or spending a restful day at home with prayer and a good book (or even a good nap!).

 It can be difficult to care for our bodies when we feel betrayed by them. As a woman, I thought I was inherently made for motherhood. Although I am still discerning what spiritual motherhood looks like in my life, I grieve the loss of my health, and have grieved the fact that my womb – a sacred space God created in my body – will never be able to carry a child. In the midst of my grief, I am reminded that my worth as a woman is more than my ability – or lack thereof –  to have children. My worth is found in Christ alone, and one of the best ways we can honor Christ is by prayerfully discerning and surrendering to His Will. By doing this, my husband and I have been able to cultivate much peace, joy, grace, and fruit in our marriage, even in the absence of children. My body may fall short and I may have to endure suffering, but Christ has redeemed us and is always showering us with His compassion and mercy.

As I continue my journey with chronic illness, knowing we will never have children, I am comforted by the fact that my worth is found in Christ alone and that His compassion and mercy for me is endless. I strive to do what I can to take care of my body because it is a temple of the Holy Spirit within me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and belongs not to myself, but to God. 

A.M. Rossi is a 20-something in her fourth year of marriage. She and her husband have been faithfully embracing their call to a Josephite marriage since their wedding day. She loves spending time with her husband, reading, writing, crafting, and advocating for those with chronic illness and rare diseases.