I have not always prayed the rosary. In fact, prior to becoming Catholic years ago, I thought it was a crazy idea – praying for so long and praying the same thing over and over, not to mention talking to Mary. It seemed so hard to remember and tedious to say. Then…life happened. Several things happened all at once and I did not know what to say to God, only that I needed to say something and I needed to sit with Him and learn more about Him and His love for me. So, I picked up the rosary and the little booklet that my sponsor had given to me when I became Catholic. At that time, I had no idea the beauty and the richness that God would bring into both my prayer and my overall perspective on life. God truly captured my heart for prayer with the rosary and completely changed me.
Prior to this time, my prayers were based purely on my own intentions and those of others. I would talk to God when I had a problem that I needed fixed and I would let Him know how I wanted Him to fix it, almost like a wish. I especially prayed this way early on in our infertility journey. Oh God, please, I know you can perform miracles, so help me to get pregnant and have a healthy baby. So many women in the Bible get pregnant after being infertile that I know you can do it. I prayed, through many tears, asking God to take the desire for children away if I were not going to conceive. I was so focused on the outcome of having a child that I could not see any other outcome.
In a society where suffering is something we want to eradicate at all costs, the idea of opening myself up to God’s will, with the possibility of no clear answer, was foreign to me. So, after adopting our first child and continuing to have many unanswered prayers for more children, my husband and I reluctantly pursued In Vitro Fertilization as a treatment for our infertility (IVF is a process that involves retrieving eggs and manually combining them with sperm in a lab. Days after fertilization, the embryo – a human being – is placed inside a woman’s uterus. Pregnancy occurs when this embryo implants into the uterine wall). It was most definitely not our first choice, but tempted by what the world had to offer, we could see no other way to have the family we so desperately wanted.
My husband and I went on to have two beautiful children and two miscarriages with IVF, but it was not until years later when my brother called to tell me he and his wife were planning to divorce that I began to pray the rosary daily for them. I had no idea how God was going to change me through the rosary and time spent with Him and our Mother Mary. As I continued to pray, God began to press upon me the realization that IVF had damaged the integrity of our family. IVF led to great joy, but our choice also led to grief, miscarriages, and deaths. The collateral damage we experienced from IVF was unmeasurable. We lived every concern the Church has with this treatment, and as a result we do not advocate for IVF.
Despite our decision to go against His will for us and our family and pursue IVF, God has shown extreme mercy and grace, and we cherish our three beautiful girls, made in His image. At the same time, we mourn the millions of embryos created through IVF, often left to languish in a freezer indefinitely. They were not co-created with God in a loving marital embrace, as they deserved to be, but at the hands of a physician in a cold, sterile laboratory.
The roller coaster of infertility, and life in general, is expressed so beautifully in the mysteries of the rosary, with Mary and Jesus each saying “yes” to God’s will. Each was willing to face suffering for His greater plan. I, on the other hand, was too weak and immature in my faith to look at my own desires and place them at God’s feet, knowing that I wanted Him and His will even more. I think about how Mary’s “yes” led to the salvation of the world – she cannot have had any idea at the time what that would mean, but she said yes anyway. So going forward, I am resolving to open my heart, like Mary did, to say “yes” to what God is asking me to do.
I pray that each of you will have the courage to say yes to God’s will and His plan for fruitfulness in your marriage, even beyond the fertility of your womb. He has so much good planned for you. Don’t be afraid to wait for His timing. Desire our Almighty God and our Savior Jesus even more than you desire a child, especially when it seems impossible. You will bear good fruit!
May God’s most precious peace be with you.
Katie McMahon has been married to her husband, Mike, since 2004. They live in central North Carolina and are humbled parents of 3 beautiful daughters.