Having majored in Family Studies, I really thought that I would be a perfect wife and mother. I took the classes, learned the skills, got the degree; I became much more practically educated on relationships than many people. I watched other people struggle with relationship problems and naively adopted the Elle Woods perspective – “What? Like it’s hard?”
What I never expected, though, was how much my worldview would change from when I was sitting in my public liberal arts university classrooms to today, having completely re-devoted my life to Christ. I never anticipated the crosses that would come with marriage or my inability to even become a mother. There was nothing in my textbooks about that.
I remember one summer class I took called “Parent-Child Relationships.” One day, my professor asked our class an open-ended question: why do people have children? Answers started to pop up: for Instagram clout, because they’re cute, because they love their spouse. I said something like “to carry on their family name.”
This is a question that I’ve had myself revisit quite frequently in this journey of infertility–why do I even want to have children? I find a lot of peace with my current answer.
When my niece Winnie was just starting to talk, we would ask her “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and she would always reply, “a great saint!”
I believe that this should be at the heart of our desire to have children, especially as Catholics. Really, what is the point of having children if not to create more people to know and love God–to raise great saints? This perspective has made facing infertility a lot easier.
If we cannot raise great saints, then I pray that we may become them ourselves.
This approach to the desire to become a mother helps to keep me humble when comparison threatens to steal my joy. I may feel jealous that other people have their own children to raise; however, I have not been robbed of the opportunity to inspire people to know and love God.
Of course, from time to time, I feel the frustration of grappling with my desires while others get pregnant accidentally and easily. It’s important to remember, though, in acknowledging the heart of my desire, I am not trying to convince God that I am worthy of children. He is not an investor on Shark Tank. I am not trying to sell myself as a good potential mother. Even if I have the best “reasons” for wanting a baby, God may have other – greater – plans for me. That is where I turn to my community.
For much of my life, churches have catered to me – as a visitor to youth group, as a disciple in college ministry, as a member of bible studies that someone else has put on, amongst many other things. At this point in my life, though, I strongly feel that I should be the one who not only reaps the benefits of church hospitality but also invests in ministries to better serve my church family.
My husband and I have become increasingly involved in youth ministry; we led a high school youth group during our first year of marriage, and now, in our second year, we are leading middle school Confirmation preparation. This experience is a bit out of our comfort zones, but we view it as a gift from God to teach a group of rising young Catholics about the beauty of our faith. We may not be raising our own great saints, but we pray that the Holy Spirit speaks through us to these kids.
There is likely an opportunity in your community to love others in a way that uses your gifts from God! Serving our communities is also a great way to gain some understanding of why God has given us certain crosses throughout our lives. It is through those experiences that we can connect with others and share stories of hope.
If, while carrying our crosses of infertility, we cannot make our own great saints, then let us become them ourselves in how we love and serve our communities.
Shelby O’Brien lives in Michigan with her husband, Conner, who she met while studying at Ave Maria School of Law. Shelby is a legal research consultant with a background in social work and leads Confirmation preparation at her local church. Shelby and her husband have one adorable cat named Daisy but have been navigating infertility since getting married in May 2022. Shelby is excited to join her sister, Amy, as a Springs in the Desert writer!