This year, Springs in the Desert’s goal is to accompany those on this path as we work to “change the conversation” surrounding infertility and loss. While there are many conversations we need to have and change within the infertility space, the most frequent, and most foundational, is the internal dialogue we have in our own heads.

While we can side-step intrusive questions from well-meaning family members, and we can navigate difficult conversations with our spouse or pastor and then put them aside, many of us are subject to a constant, and often negative, flow of internal questioning and criticism. I would argue this self-conversation is the most important conversation to change (after our conversation with God). We are not likely to make much progress with the other conversations if we’re not first in right relationship with God and within ourselves.

So how can we hope to change this internal dialogue and conform it more closely to reality? First, we must recognize the truth: no matter how broken and unfruitful we feel, we are God’s beloved children. Our struggle with infertility has not consigned us to a meaningless existence. In fact, our cross is the very invitation to the abundant life, extended to us by Christ.

When I’m having a hard time believing that this cross is an invitation to fruitfulness and meaning, and I am tempted to feel abandoned or punished by God, I sit with this St. Josemaría Escrivá quote:

“God in His providence has two ways of blessing marriages: one by giving them children; and the other, sometimes, because he loves them so much, by not giving them children. I don’t know which is the better blessing.” (Quoted in Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei by Scott Hahn, p. 102)

Let’s consider a few points for reflection. First, St. Josemaría says God’s Providence is at work here. It isn’t that God has two paths for married couples that He dispenses at random – no. In His Providence, He blesses all married couples intentionally.

Discussing Divine Providence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The universe was created ‘in a state of journeying’ (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call ‘divine providence’ the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection.” (CCC 302)

Creation isn’t static. It is going towards something, and as part of creation, we are going with it. The Catechism tells us that we, together with creation, are guided toward perfection by means of God’s Providence. It goes on to quote from Dei Filius, “By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, ‘reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, ordering all things well.’” (CCC 302)

God’s Providence “orders all things well” and guides us toward perfection. If His Providence is responsible for leading us on the path of infertility, it must be intentional, well-ordered, and have the potential to guide us toward perfection.

Second, and following from what we unpacked about Providence, St. Josemaría says that God blesses marriages both by giving children and by not giving them. The lack of children in a marriage is not a curse or a punishment. It is a great and mysterious blessing from the hand of our loving Father. I know it is so difficult to feel the truth of this statement, but it is important to know it, at least intellectually, and to remind ourselves of it (incidentally, my “word of the year” is truth, and I am thinking this is part of the truth God wants me to keep in mind this year).

St. Josemaría Escrivá’s words remind me that God has not forgotten me. He has not consigned me to a life of empty meaninglessness. He has great designs of fruitfulness and life in store for me and is guiding me toward perfection. The pains and sufferings of the path of infertility are a purgative way, yes, but they are strewn with the flowers of hidden graces and consolations – the unique and specific means Our Lord has lovingly chosen just for me, and for you – a blessing.

The path of infertility is a difficult one, and it is unsurprising that we are tempted to carry on a destructive and negative internal conversation. But the truth is that pain and self-sacrifice are inextricably linked to growth and new life. God calls all of us, no matter which blessing He has chosen to give our marriage, to rely less on ourselves and to be willing to put aside our desires and preferences so that we can be more fully conformed to Christ. For some, this takes place through the physical pains of pregnancy, lack of sleep, and an endless pile of laundry. To others, God extends the path of infertility and the suffering it entails. In both, the ultimate goal is an emptying of self to be filled with Christ. And I do not know which is the better blessing.

O Jesus, help me to accept the means of self-gift that you have placed in front of me today. Help me to realize that no suffering is meaningless when united to You. Help me to seek after You alone, and not the false comforts of my own will. Amen.

Katie Summers and her husband Matthew have been married for almost five years and live in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. When not reading mystery novels or drinking vanilla lattes, you can find Katie listening to podcasts while crocheting.