Infertility. It is a word that has been a part of my (and my husband’s) story since day one. Even before we were married in May of 2014, we knew that my diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and assumed Endometriosis (which was officially diagnosed in 2016) might cause difficulties in achieving pregnancy; but, wide-eyed and so full of hope, we fully expected that God would give us biological children. We never anticipated that God’s Plan for our family would be so much different than the map we set out for ourselves. We did all the things that Catholic couples were supposed to do: we practiced Natural Family Planning (NFP), prayed all the novenas, sought a Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro) doctor, took all the medications, changed my diet, and gave endless amounts of blood samples. Yet, no baby.
Infertility is a part of our story. It is a cross that we have carried, and not always with grace; still, it is something that has changed us, molded us, and transformed us over the last eight years of marriage.
I have experienced my share of anger, resentment, bargaining, and crying (more like weeping).
“Why is it so hard for us? Why does it seem so easy for them? Why am I broken? What could I do differently?”
These are thoughts that cloud my brain and fill my heart – thoughts that I know are of the devil, and not true, but they are present all the same. When our daughter was born and was lovingly and selflessly placed into our lives (which is a story for another day ), I knew that our struggles had led us to this moment.
Without the cross of infertility, we would never have met our daughter. I know this is as true as the sun is hot. She has made every tear completely worth it and given meaning to our pain. This knowledge, though, has not taken away our cross. True, I no longer cry at every birth announcement, or immediately spiral with anxiety every month when my period is about to start. I no longer live on the edge of a breakdown when I hear my friends talk about how they find it difficult to avoid pregnancy. But the cross is still there; it is still heavy, and it is still strong – it is just different.
I no longer feel wrecked by my barrenness (though I have my moments, don’t get me wrong). My husband and I have joyfully accepted that our family will grow through adoption – and we are at peace with the beauty of this calling. But today, infertility hits more at the core of my identity as a woman. I struggle with thoughts of being broken, “less than,” and valueless. I think about how one of the greatest gifts that God has given women is our unique and beautiful ability to bear life and sustain life from our own bodies – but I cannot do that, at least not in the physical way.
These thoughts often lead me down a negative spiral.
Thankfully, our diocese has a (FREE) infertility support group and counseling service called Enkindle (via the Office of Natural Family Planning, Archdiocese of St. Louis). I had been avoiding calling the counselor for months. It felt too raw, too awkward, too vulnerable. I felt that since I was already a mom, my pain and thoughts were not valid. Why should infertility hurt me so much, when others were still in the depths of longing for a child? But I finally made the call, and, on that day, I was given some of the greatest, most life-changing advice that I have ever heard.
I poured out my feelings, my pain, and my heart to the counselor. I expressed how I felt broken and unworthy, and she said: “If your daughter grew up and was unable to have children, would you tell her that she is “less than” a full woman?”
Let me tell you, that question stopped me in my tracks. I responded (clearly emotional): “Of course not, she is perfect” and the counselor said: “Then, why would you say that to yourself?”
Since that moment, I have been carrying those words with me every day to remind myself that my worth and value as a woman are so much more than my ability to physically bear children. My value and worth are in how I care for my child(ren), my husband, my family, and my friends. They are in how I show love, and in how I receive love.
Jesus said: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” (John 15:9). As hard as it is to remember, especially when deep in the valley of infertility, our call as Christians is to give and to receive love. We are made in the image and likeness of God. Our identity is not based on our ability to procreate, but on our ability to LOVE. Even when it feels like the brokenness inside cannot be mended, sister, know that you were never broken to begin with.
Regardless of what your infertility journey looks like, know that you are loved just as you are. You are not broken, you are not “less than.” If you continue to give love, you are exactly as God created you to be. Whether you are a momma to saints in Heaven, a mom by adoption, or continue to pray for the day you can be called “mom”, know that you have innate value and dignity, and that your life can bear fruit — even if it’s a different kind of fruit than you expected.
Jamie has been married to her husband, Michael, for 8 years. Together they welcomed their beautiful, red-headed spunky daughter through the gift of adoption in 2018. Jamie and her family live in St. Louis, MO; they love all things Blues Hockey, a good cup of coffee, and hosting friends for a great meal.