This post was written anonymously by a wife.
“My child, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments;
for length of days and years of life
and abundant welfare they will give you….
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be a healing for your flesh
and a refreshment for your body.”
Proverbs 3:1-2, 5-8
“Why won’t you use IVF?”
This is a question I have been asked more than once—usually by a well-meaning person who has used IVF resulting in live births, or a person who knows someone who has. There are a lot of reasons that are hard to pack into a single blog entry, but I think Proverbs 3 breathes truth into why my husband and I are not going that route.
I could go on to discuss the moral and ethical implications of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), but those are easily searchable online. Going into the defensive about Catholic teaching on ART isn’t my goal; instead, I will share what I have learned about the tremendous healing that can occur on multiple levels by plunging into NaPro (Natural Procreative) Technology, as well as what the Lord has revealed about His plan for our healing when we cooperate with His designs for marriage.
NaPro Technology was developed in Nebraska by an OBGYN named Dr. Thomas Hilgers. This work resulted in the development of the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning (NFP) as well as a network of doctors who specialize in restoring a woman’s fertility so she can conceive in the context of her marriage rather than in a petri dish. Even if a woman is not trying to conceive, NaPro doctors will work with the woman to help optimize her fertility by optimizing her health—focusing on her as a person rather than emphasizing the outcome of a baby. I have been treated by NaPro doctors since 2013, long before I ever met my husband (2018) or married (2020).
Working with NaPro doctors has opened new parts of my world and soul that I didn’t know existed. My current doctor treats me with dignity and respect, and her nurses are second to none in their care. My NaPro doctor has done additional studies in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and after twenty-two years of suffering with this metabolic disorder, I was finally diagnosed with adrenal PCOS—a variant known to few medical professionals that has turned out to be a key factor in how my body works.
“How do I fix it?”
This, I thought, was the most straightforward question to ask. Yet the answer wasn’t easy. My doctor explained that adrenal PCOS is generally found in women who have deep-seated childhood trauma. She recommended journaling, trauma therapy, and adaptogenic supplements.
But… I’d already been through trauma therapy. What more was there to work through? I journal several times a week. I take BuSpar. What more could I possibly do to reduce stress levels? That’s what she had for me. And so, I was left wondering if it was a lost cause.
On a seemingly unrelated note, I have gained a lot of weight in the last few years. I have struggled to lose it and am currently just a few pounds down from my highest weight at the time of this writing. My thyroid levels are finally under control, so what could it possibly be? Cortisol, she said. High DHEA-S and cortisol levels are the markers of adrenal PCOS, so the key to treating the syndrome, weight gain, and resulting insulin resistance would be reducing these hormones. The carrot I was now chasing was no longer pregnancy or even weight loss for vanity reasons—rather, I needed to heal on a deep level and restore my health before inviting another life into my body.
At that point I knew I needed to work with a dietitian to get my insulin, blood glucose, and weight in check. My clothes no longer fit, and I disliked the way I looked in pictures or the mirror; at first it was those superficial reasons that primarily drove me to the dietitian, though my lab work was scary too. I scrolled through the list of providers on my insurance website and saw a woman’s name associated with a Christian organization. I called her and we spoke for a few minutes while I interviewed her. She didn’t have much experience with PCOS, but she did like to work on food habits—why we eat rather than what we eat. Though she didn’t have the qualifications I thought I was looking for, I felt connected to her and decided to give her a try.
The meetings that ensued felt more like diet therapy than a meeting with a dietitian. Her reasoning? Diets don’t work. Also, she pointed out, I know what to eat—that wasn’t the issue. The issue was why and how I was eating.
So it was a willpower issue, right?
Well, no. Actually, binge eating largely stems from a mixture of restrictive dieting practices and trauma. What a surprise.
The more I worked on the exercises she gave me to explore my relationship with food and eating, the more I recognized traumas surrounding food that I’d entirely forgotten about. I returned to my trauma therapist and began working through some of it with EMDR therapy. Old, dark traumas surfaced, and I was in the position of a beggar for Christ—all needy and all desiring of redemption. The sick need the Divine Physician, after all, not the well (Matt 9:12). And so, this opened a door to redemption. As Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur wrote in her diary—Per crucem ad lucem (Through the Cross to the light).
Fidelity to God’s call for our marriage, to the Lord’s teaching and commandments—i.e. using NaPro rather than forcing conception or dividing the union of the marital act with ART—has meant healing beyond just pregnancy (which we’re still waiting on). But as I’ve explored licit infertility treatments, the Lord has revealed to me new ways that he wants to make me whole. Perhaps He would have revealed these things and healed them if my husband and I were able to conceive like we want to, but instead He is using this time in the desert to lift the ills of my life to the surface and bring me closer to Him through the healing and redemption only He can give. Our God is a god of surprises, who gives us good things; He is the Divine Healer and restorer of childhoods, the Redeemer of all brokenness. His commandments are healing for the flesh, and refreshment for the body.
This contributor is a wife from Pennsylvania who has been married for a year and a half.