Can you be both a married Catholic, and childfree? It is a question I ponder often.
I ponder this question during mass when our priest announces all the upcoming family ministries prior to releasing us to “go forth, glorifying the Lord with your life.” Can I go forth, glorifying the Lord, if what I perceive as one of the primary aspects of my vocation and life cannot be fulfilled?
I ponder this question during our time volunteering with the couple-to-couple marriage preparatory ministry, when the giddy soon-to-weds playfully jest about whether they will have two or four children and what happens if the last set is twins. Did I discern the correct vocation all those years ago?
I pondered this question during the baptism of both of my godchildren. Am I truly the best disciple and exemplar to teach and to guide these children when I will never have my own?
Through Adoration, couples counseling, and my beloved wife, I can hear God quietly whisper, “yes, yes, yes.”
In many ways, living life as a childless, Catholic married couple is a complex paradox. We are called to have Hope, but we must sacrifice our worldly “hopes” for offspring. We are called to have Faith in God’s mercy and healing power, but we must, realistically, accept the fact that the healing we most desire may only come upon our unification in heaven. We are called to Love, but we may never see the physical manifestation of our spousal love.
For my wife and I, we finally discerned, with God’s help, to stop the charting, the hormone therapy, the specialized treatment, the dieting. As evidenced by our lengthy journey, for us these efforts and treatments were not life-giving, but life-draining. They made us bitter, resentful, and isolated. Instead of a cross to bring us closer to sanctification, our infertility became our primary identity and robbed us of our true identity as children of God.
For many months after surrendering to God’s will in our lives, I struggled with the fact that I had “given up.” I had given up my biological children, given up on my roles as a husband and father, given up my cross of infertility. In retrospect, I understand that God did not remove my cross, but took my yoke upon Himself just as He did on Calvary. By placing my life into His hands, the heavy cross of infertility was willingly surrendered as well.
During infertility, with monthly cycles and biological clocks, time feels like sand running through your hands. If you do not cup your hands perfectly and draw tight the gaps between your fingers, the hourglass will empty and any chance at happiness will be lost. With so much scheduling and so little time, it is easy to forget that our true purpose is eternity.
God loves you where you are.
If you need to take a temporary break from treatment, God loves you. Give him your cross.
If you need to quit altogether, God loves you. Give him your cross.
If God has given you the strength to continue to persevere, God loves you. Give him your cross.
Regardless of where you are in this journey with infertility, God is calling you and your marriage to share “life-giving” love. What does that mean and what does that look like? I can only provide examples of what it has looked like in my life to date.
In the midst of the battle with infertility, life-giving love can be sharing encouragement, prayers, or even a pint of ice cream after a long day of treatment or a missed cycle.
While you are on break from treatment, life-giving love can be resting and rejuvenating in peace with the Lord and your spouse.
If you’ve moved on to post-infertility, life-giving love can be pursuing adoption or participating in foster care.
Lastly, if you have discerned that neither biological nor adoptive parenthood are your vocation, life-giving love can be found in prayer, volunteering, or simply breathing life into your relationship with your spouse.
As St. Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 17, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.”
We are not called to live the life our parents want, our friends want, or society tells us to want. We are not all called to be parents, yet we are all truly called to lead the life that the Lord has assigned to us and to give our undivided attention to Him Who creates all things. We are called to do this now and, by following this call, the Lord will guide our life in whatever way maximizes the life we can give to the world.
Go out, be life-giving, and give God your cross.
Christian lives in Oklahoma with his amazing wife, Lindsey. They enjoy walking their two dogs and spending time with their family in Oklahoma and Kansas. As a couple, after a long bout with infertility, they have discerned that they are called to live a life-giving, childfree life.