God’s Will in Our Fertility and Family Size

I read an article yesterday that gave me pause. Not only because it is morally ambiguous, but because it brings into question whether or not we should cross certain lines. I don’t want to wade into the moral debate right now and I know which theologians I side with in the debate. It made me think about my struggles with secondary infertility and miscarriage. It has been a long and excruciatingly painful road, but it’s been a road of great grace and growth as well.

Motherhood is deeply engrained in women. It is one of the reasons it is so vehemently attacked in our culture as the culture unhinges itself from reality. There are some women who say they don’t want children, but I’d wager the reasons are complicated and a lot of the time selfish. We have been told that our careers are more important than anything else. No, human beings are more important and being a mother changes us at the deepest levels of reality. It forces us to look hard at ourselves and see where we need to grow and change. It teaches us how to love sacrificially, which hurts. It’s meant to because only love that hurts is real love.

This Cross is a painful one for women and men who carry it. I’ve lost four babies in miscarriage and I have multiple friends who also have had miscarriages or not been able to conceive any children. There’s something about being a Catholic who can’t “be fruitful and multiply” that causes an even deeper pain. We constantly hear about being open to life and the good of a large family. I’ve sat through homilies on it. I’ve read articles and books on it. There are countless times I have sobbed my way through Confession telling various priests that I don’t understand why every child since my daughter has died. Why can my friends and others have children in abundance, but I can’t? My own daughter frequently asks me why friends of ours can have another child and I can’t? There are constant reminders of what I can’t give my daughter–a sibling–and that my body is rather broken in this department.

This pain couples feel who either cannot have a child or who are suffering from secondary infertility after having a child or children can drive people to desperation. Even Catholics can turn to immoral practices like IVF in order to try to have children. In fact, IVF preys on this desperation for profit. Our culture is told that having children or not having children is up to us. This is of course a lie, but it’s one we all buy into in one form or another.

I see this mentality to a lesser extent when people have said to me after a miscarriage that I can always have another child. Even people in the pro-life movement with me will cast aside my miscarried children and tell me that God will eventually send me another child or to just have faith. My lack of faith isn’t the problem. In fact, it was my forcing myself to have miscarriage after miscarriage even after each one decimated my body that demonstrated my lack of faith and obedience. I wanted it my way, even though I spent nearly four years in an ever deepening postpartum depression because I wouldn’t listen. Unlike many other women whose bodies can recover more quickly after a miscarriage, it takes me at least a year. My hormones wreak havoc on me physically and mentally.

My hormone issues are complex. I can conceive children easily, but I can no longer keep them. I’m now convinced that my daughter is an even greater gift because her twin sacrificed herself and went Home so she could live. The only child I have carried to term was originally conceived with a twin, which made my hormone levels skyrocket. My OB/GYN admitted that may be the only reason that pregnancy was different from my others. Even though losing Victoria has been painful for us and Michaela, God used that pain to give us our daughter here on earth.

What I have had to accept is that I am not everyone else. My path is not the same as my friend who has five children, or two children, or three children. I always wanted a son to give to God in the priesthood. I see the great need and so many families don’t want their sons to be priests. When I was pregnant with Andrew–who I lost 2 years ago–I said if it’s your will God to even send him to places tormented by violence then I will trust in You. But, once again. This was never up to me.

We forget so often that it is not up to us. It is up to God. The more we fight against this truth, the more miserable we become. We hold on too tight and place our will before God’s will. This always leads to our misery and pain. We don’t get to understand everything in this life. The vast majority of it is mystery. I don’t know why God has chosen to give my husband and me one child and not more. What I do know is that we have to reach a point when we relinquish our will and say: “Not my will, but Your will, Lord.” This is what we get wrong in our desire to become parents or to have more children.

During the years that I was struggling with my desire to have more children and the repeated miscarriages, I would talk to various priests about it. I would express my frustration, confusion, and pain. I always knew in the back of my mind that my particular hormone issues make my case more complicated since each miscarriage caused greater postpartum, but I’d try to ignore this reality. I’d accuse myself of being selfish for not trying to have more children even though the postpartum was so bad that I’d lost sight of myself completely for 3.5 years.

I even struggled quite a bit after my last miscarriage even though I was free of the postpartum depression. The NaPro shots dulled the symptoms a bit and regular exercise helped quite a bit, but I knew that the situation was precarious. I now can’t take NaPro shots, so I have nothing to help sustain a pregnancy or offset a very real possibility of postpartum depression. Plus, I have no reason to believe NaPro will be effective for me since my last pregnancy ended in the same manner as the previous three.

I know it’s difficult to not be able to either have a child or have more children. I face it every single day. I am constantly re-aligning my line of sight to Christ so that I am not comparing myself to others. Telling me I don’t have enough faith or I need to wait and see is to ignore what God has clearly told me. For His reasons, I am not going to have more children. Adoption may happen, but now that my husband is chronically ill, we aren’t so sure. I am finally listening to God.

The same priest over the course of the last few years has told me that it appears God’s will is for us to only have one child. I finally started listening when he rather directly told me he doesn’t think I will have anymore children. First, because he’s not usually that direct and second, because he keeps saying it and I keep ignoring him. Only when I really listened did the weight I was carrying lessen. God has given me an amazing daughter and she should be my focus. This is easier said than done, but it is correct. I must live the life God is asking me to live, not keep holding out for a different one.

It’s important that we come to accept God’s will in our lives. If we don’t, then we will suffer, not because God is being malicious, but because we can only be truly happy living  in accordance with His plans. Some of the kindest and motherly women I know have never been able to have their own children. What I have noticed about all of them is that they give their love to all children they come to know. They shower them with great love, care, and affection. Many of these children don’t get that affection at home, so these women are a gift to those children. In God’s infinite wisdom, he saw the gifts of these women and asks them to spread their love outward beyond their immediate family. While my personality is different from these wonderful women, I sense that God has something He wants of me too. I just don’t know what it is yet.

We have to remember that motherhood and fatherhood are great goods, but they are not the highest goods. God is the highest Good. He is Goodness Itself. Loving and serving Him is the meaning of our lives and at times we place the goods of this life above Him. If we are placing our will above His then we are putting our desire for children above Him. We are not following His call “to be fruitful and multiply” if we are ignoring the individual call He has in mind for each one of us. There are limits that we must live in relation to fertility and parenthood.

Even if parenthood is a great good, it cannot come at the cost of compromising our moral understanding or violating God’s law. We can’t constantly rail against God because it leads to our own misery. At some point we have to stop beating against Him and rest quietly in His arms. We have to give it all back to Him and remember that the glories of Heaven will make all of the pain, agony, toil, loss, and confusion all worth it in the end. That’s living faith, hope, and charity.

Mother’s Day and Miscarriage

I am going to share this again. I am totally not trying to toot my own horn here. Mother’s Day is coming up and that can be a difficult time for many women. If you have had miscarriages, then you are a mom. Your children have just been given the gift of the Beatific Vision without a sojourn here. I know that doesn’t take the pain away, believe me, I know. Share this with your friends who have had miscarriages. Remember at Mass on Sunday that you children are celebrating the Heavenly Liturgy with us as Christ presides over every single Mass. Here is my meditation on the Rosary and miscarriage that is up over at Catholic Exchange.

Last month we recognized Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility comes in many forms: those who cannot have children, those who suffer repeated miscarriage, and those who cannot have more children after they have one or two. There are many different types of infertility and it is something that I know well. It is the great Cross of my adult life. I have been given one beautiful and amazing daughter and I have had three miscarriages. Dealing with infertility or the death of a child in the womb, stillbirth, or after birth is deeply painful. It is only in light of the mystery of the Cross that our pain and anguish can make sense. After my last miscarriage, I began to meditate on The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in relation to miscarriage.

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

One of the hardest parts of miscarriage is all of the waiting.  When you initially suspect you are losing your child, you have to wait to confirm with the doctor.  Then the ultrasound confirms that your baby has died.  The waiting starts anew for the miscarriage to begin, or be over.  After the miscarriage itself you wait for the agony of the grief to subside.  You wait to feel joy, peace, or even whole again.  So much waiting.  It is difficult, but uniting this to Christ’s agony the night before he died can help bring you comfort.  With my last miscarriage, I was exhausted and hurting from all of the waiting.  I was waiting to bleed out my child.  It was agonizing for me.  Think of how Christ felt knowing that he was about to be tortured and crucified.  Most importantly think about how much weight he felt taking on all of our sins.

Look at what Scripture says about the Agony in the Garden. Matthew 26:36-46 “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Look at how Our Lord felt.  He was overwhelmed with sorrow.  Isn’t that how it feels to lose a child?  Don’t you too want someone to keep watch with you in that hour of loss?  The pain is unbearable.  Lift your pain and suffering to Christ.  He knows how you feel.  He wants to comfort and wait with you in that hour of need.  He always wants to be there for you.  It is hard, but try. Give the agony over to him.  I know how hard it is to just give the grief over to Him.  You may feel anger, betrayal, or incredible sadness. Or, like me, you may feel all of these emotions.  Give it all up to Him.  Every single emotion, thought, feeling, action.  Ask Him to sit with you in your agony.  Ask Him to welcome your child into His Kingdom.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: Meditation on the Rosary and Miscarriage

My meditation on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary and miscarriage is up at Catholic Exchange today.

Last month we recognized Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility comes in many forms: those who cannot have children, those who suffer repeated miscarriage, and those who cannot have more children after they have one or two. There are many different types of infertility and it is something that I know well. It is the great Cross of my adult life. I have been given one beautiful and amazing daughter and I have had three miscarriages. Dealing with infertility or the death of a child in the womb, stillbirth, or after birth is deeply painful. It is only in light of the mystery of the Cross that our pain and anguish can make sense. After my last miscarriage, I began to meditate on The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in relation to miscarriage.

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

One of the hardest parts of miscarriage is all of the waiting.  When you initially suspect you are losing your child, you have to wait to confirm with the doctor.  Then the ultrasound confirms that your baby has died.  The waiting starts anew for the miscarriage to begin, or be over.  After the miscarriage itself you wait for the agony of the grief to subside.  You wait to feel joy, peace, or even whole again.  So much waiting.  It is difficult, but uniting this to Christ’s agony the night before he died can help bring you comfort.  With my last miscarriage, I was exhausted and hurting from all of the waiting.  I was waiting to bleed out my child.  It was agonizing for me.  Think of how Christ felt knowing that he was about to be tortured and crucified.  Most importantly think about how much weight he felt taking on all of our sins.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Miscarriage and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

This week is Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility comes in many forms: those who cannot have children, those who suffer repeated miscarriage, and those who cannot have more children after they have one or two. There are many different types of infertility and it is something that I know well. It is the great Cross of my adult life. I have been given one beautiful and amazing daughter and I have had three miscarriages. Dealing with infertility or the death of a child in the womb, stillbirth, or after birth is deeply painful. It is only in light of the mystery of the Cross that our pain and anguish can make sense. After my last miscarriage, I began to meditate on The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in relation to miscarriage.

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

One of the hardest parts of miscarriage is all of the waiting. When you initially suspect you are losing your child, you have to wait to confirm with the doctor. Then the ultrasound confirms that your baby has died. The waiting starts anew for the miscarriage to begin, or be over. After the miscarriage itself you wait for the agony of the grief to subside. You wait to feel joy, peace, or even whole again. So much waiting. It is difficult, but uniting this to Christ’s agony the night before he died can help bring you comfort. With my last miscarriage, I was exhausted and hurting from all of the waiting. I was waiting to bleed out my child. It was agonizing for me. Think of how Christ felt knowing that he was about to be tortured and crucified. Most importantly think about how much weight he felt taking on all of our sins.

Look at what Scripture says about the Agony in the Garden. Matthew 26:36-46 “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Look at how Our Lord felt. He was overwhelmed with sorrow. Isn’t that how it feels to lose a child? Don’t you too want someone to keep watch with you in that hour of loss? The pain is unbearable. Lift your pain and suffering to Christ. He knows how you feel. He wants to comfort and wait with you in that hour of need. He always wants to be there for you. It is hard, but try. Give the agony over to him. I know how hard it is to just give the grief over to Him. You may feel anger, betrayal, or incredible sadness. Or, like me, you may feel all of these emotions. Give it all up to Him. Every single emotion, thought, feeling, action. Ask Him to sit with you in your agony. Ask Him to welcome your child into His Kingdom.

The Second Sorrowful Mystery-The Scourging at the Pillar

Our Lord was brutally tortured before he was taken to be crucified. Anyone who has seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ has caught a glimpse of what Our Lord endured for us before his death. Miscarriage can be deeply painful physically, mentally, and spiritually. Depending on the severity the physical pain can be unbearable. As difficult as it is, offer up each cramp or wave of pain to Christ. He knows extreme physical and emotional pain. There will be moments when the grief alone will feel like torture. Give it over to Christ. Share with Him your burden. You do not suffer alone.

The Third Sorrowful Mystery-The Crowning of Thorns

In a great moment of humiliation and torment, Roman soldiers crowned Our Lord with a crown of large thorns. It is deeply difficult to be crowned in loss. We may intellectually know that suffering is a part of this journey, but none of us is prepared for the heavy burden of loss, especially losing a child or children. It is a crown no one wants to wear, but when we lose a child in miscarriage we are given our own crown of thorns. Unite that loss with Christ. When someone says something insensitive to you about your miscarriage, remember that Jesus was humiliated as He died for us. Ask him to help you endure the crown of loss and the lack of understanding that you may encounter. Unite yourself to the glorified Christ and ask him for the strength to endure this crown of thorns.

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery-The Carrying of the Cross

This is the longest portion of the journey. We must carry the Cross of miscarriage with us for the rest of our lives. “And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha.” -John 19:17. Christ had to carry the Cross and we are assured that we must follow Him. We must bear the pain and anguish. It may lessen its sting over time, but it never truly goes away. We must remember anniversary dates, see other people having babies, or miss the children we never got to hold. Ask your children in Heaven to pray for you as you carry this Cross. Ask Christ to help you shoulder the burden. Remember how He loves you. In your moments of despair ask Him for help. He is always there, especially in the darkest moments. He is there helping us put one foot in front of the other. He whispers to us that we can go on and he helps us carry the Cross.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery-The Crucifixion of Our Lord

The darkest moment in human history came before the brightest. Our Lord died on the Cross to bring about our salvation. Miscarriage comes with the death of a child. Or for many, multiple children are lost over time. We must learn to give those children back to God. They are His. It is deeply painful. It is hard to let go. We must unite our own loss and suffering with the power and pain of the Cross. The Lord who offered Himself up for us will take good care of our babies. They are, and always were, His. I have struggle greatly at times with this truth. In our moments of deep grief, pain, and agony, we must give it up to Christ who died on a Tree. We can also ask His Mother to pray and comfort us. She stood by and watched her Son die. She knows the terrible pain of losing a child. This is especially helpful during the miscarriage and also while dealing with the grief. This life is the Cross, but remember the battle is won. We are a Resurrection people. We hope in the life to come.

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary are the perfect prayer for women and families dealing with miscarriage. Prayer may be difficult. The nice thing about rote prayer is that it can help get us through the really tough times. It guides us when we feel like we cannot go on. Ask Our Lord to comfort, heal, and strengthen you. Ask Our Heavenly Mother to guide you through the grief back to Her Son. As I carry this Cross, I will be praying for all of you.

Dealing with Miscarriage Part II: Grief

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. I wrote yesterday about what it is like to be Catholic with only one child without even realizing that it is Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility comes in many forms from the couple who cannot conceive to people like me who have a child and then suffer repeated miscarriage. I know that many people suffer from the grief of miscarriage. I want to re-visit a series that I wrote on my own experiences and I hope it ministers to you. God bless.

Swimming the Depths

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Blessed are they who mourn; for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:5

Grief is one of the most difficult aspects of life.  We are guaranteed that it will come our way.  Most of the time it blindsides us.  Grief in miscarriage can be lonely, deeply painful, infuriating, and cathartic all in the same day.  The grief sets in when we are told that our child is dead or it may set in once the bleeding starts or stops, or it may take years for the grief to overtake us.  Miscarriage is something that our society, and I hate to say it, the Church largely ignores.  This is probably for a number of reasons.  I would say some of it has to do with the abortion culture, some of it is privacy, and a lot of it is fear.  Fear on the part of the family who has lost…

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