As women experiencing infertility, the idea of feminine fruitfulness can be a source of pain, as we often associate it with the ability to biologically bear and deliver a baby. Feminine fruitfulness, however, goes beyond the biological and encompasses the call of all women to nurture, love, and receive others in whatever state of life we are in. 

Saint Edith Stein highlights this beautifully: A woman’s spirit is a shelter in which other souls may unfold…Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole…to cherish, guard, protect, nourish, and advance growth is her natural maternal yearning.”

Many of us experiencing infertility long to shelter another soul by guarding, protecting, and nourishing a baby in the womb, but we are called to nurture, guard, shelter, and protect the family, friends, community, and work, in which God has placed us in this very moment. We are called to live feminine fruitfulness and our God-given call to maternity now and in a variety of ways. For example, we can become a safe place for our nieces to share their concerns and joys, a mentor to newly graduated co-workers in our workplace, a friend to the lonely older woman at our parish, or a place of loving acceptance for our spouse. 

The Blessed Mother offers us a beautiful example of feminine fruitfulness, perfectly encapsulating the four aspects of the feminine genius. Meditating on these characteristics of Our Lady can teach us how to fully live into the gift of our femininity:

  • Receptivity: At the Annunciation, Mary demonstrated feminine receptivity in her humble fiat to God, accepting and surrendering to His call to become the Mother of God. Receptivity is written into the very biology of the female body, exemplified when a woman receives her husband in the marital embrace with openness to conception of a child. Mary teaches us to open our hearts to God to receive His mercy, His love, and His mysterious plan and to bring those graces received from Him to others, just as Mary did in serving her cousin, Elizabeth. As women, we can shelter others within our hearts through listening, supporting, and encouraging them in prayer, conversation, and physical care. 
  • Sensitivity: Throughout the Scriptures, Mary is attuned and sensitive to the needs of others. At the wedding at Cana, she was sensitive to the lack of wine at the feast, asking Jesus to intervene and work His first public miracle. In our secular culture today, women are often shamed for being “too sensitive” or “emotional.” Yet, our emotional intelligence and sensitivity to the needs and struggles of others is an immense gift from God to the world. Mary shows us that being sensitive to the needs of others is a gift and can be used to help those in difficult situations by bringing their needs to God in prayer and being advocates for those suffering in our world.  
  • Generosity: As women of faith, and specifically in the vocation of marriage, we are all called to generosity and to make of ourselves a gift for others in service to God, our spouse, our family, and our community. While generosity can involve financial gifts to those in need and to our parish, generosity also involves hospitality, support, and giving of our time and talents in service to others. Mary exemplified this in her eager service and generosity to St. Elizabeth during her last few months of pregnancy.
  • Maternity: All women are called to live spiritual maternity, fostering growth, and bringing forth life in others by nurturing, sheltering, and cultivating virtue in others through our love, support, encouragement, listening, and guidance. Not only was Mary called to be the Mother of God in bearing Jesus to the world, but she was also a mother at the foot of the Cross, as Jesus expanded her maternity to encompass all of us, and she became spiritual mother of the Church. Mary exemplifies the sacrificial love of a mother in her surrender to Jesus’ Passion and Death and her humble acceptance of this new call to spiritual maternity to the Church. 

As women, particularly those of us experiencing infertility, we are called to fully live our femininity in all its fullness and fruitfulness exactly where we are. Our feminine fruitfulness is not contingent on whether or not we are able to conceive or have biological children. We are called to live our God-given gifts of receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and spiritual maternity. God longs to see us flourish in our femininity exactly in this place of our infertility. Like Mary, let us turn to God with humble surrender and allow His grace to move in our hearts as we discover the gift of our femininity.

Lenore and her husband Bobby were married in 2017 and are parents to two lost to miscarriage. They live in a small town in Ohio with their Australian shepherd, Augie.