Here are some written testimonies...
Austin and Theresa’s Story
Before we were even married we talked about our desire to have and raise a family, but in the beginning of our marriage we were moving and starting new graduate programs and jobs, so we didn’t think it was wise to start right away. We decided to use NFP to avoid pregnancy, but in the meantime, we were working towards (and sacrificing for) being able to start our family as soon as possible. At some point, even though we were not in an absolutely perfect financial situation, we decided to take a leap of faith and be open to the possibility of having a family.
Even though we weren’t trying very hard to conceive, when I started my period that first month, it was devastating. I think I had already intuited that infertility was going to be a problem for us. Every month that passed only deepened that devastation.
It was a very difficult time for me. It was particularly difficult to be around my many married friends who were starting to have children. It wasn’t so much a feeling of jealousy as much as it was just a feeling of not belonging. I simply couldn’t participate in banter about cloth diapers and morning sickness. What was even more frustrating was the awkward silence that would happen when I accidentally walked into a conversation about cloth diapers and morning sickness and I’d get a gaze of pity from around the room. I think the worst of all was the judgment I received from some women who thought that Austin and I simply did not want to have children. They would keep asking, “So, when are you going to start having kids? You have some catching up to do!” Thank you so much for pointing that out…in front of everyone. It was through these experiences that I began to feel that the Church’s rightful enthusiasm for life was, in some people, causing them to only see value in a woman’s physical motherhood. Not only did I not feel a part of my particular community, but I didn’t feel a part of the entire female sex. If I don’t even have the potential to bear life, then what is my femininity based in at all? What good can I do for the world? This question began to reach into every facet of my life.
Although I had once had enthusiasm and confidence as a teacher in the classroom, I began to feel purposeless and ineffective. I felt uninteresting and unattractive to my husband who repeatedly assured me that that was not the case with both his words and his actions. Sex became a reminder of my ineffectiveness as a woman, so I avoided it as much as possible. I remember in moments of prayer just crumbling before the Lord and uttering, “I have nothing to give – nothing.” I remember one particular moment at Mass when I was looking at the crucifix and feeling as if Christ could not possibly understand my suffering. In a flash of grace, I realized how incredibly foolish that was. I found great comfort in the Cross – in uniting my thirst for a child to His thirst for souls. I couldn’t offer my effectiveness, my fruitfulness, my accomplishments, but I could at least offer the thirst that was flowing from my emptiness.
I still had some hope because we had not yet exhausted what the medical field had to offer. So, we began learning the Creighton method of NFP and also started working with a NaPro doctor. Something that was particularly refreshing about this experience is that these professionals were not only interested in helping us achieve a pregnancy, but they also wanted to help me be as holistically healthy as possible. It was so nice to have a doctor actually listen to my concerns and take them seriously. I soon discovered that several health issues that I had been having for years were all related to one another and my doctor helped me get all of these things in check. I was so relieved to feel better and my hopes were rising, but every month they were dashed when we still weren’t conceiving a child. Every period was more devastating and the emotional roller coaster was becoming too much to bear.
In the midst of this, we found out that the infertility was also on Austin’s end and that, between the two of us, our chances of conceiving were very low. We decided that that small percentage was not worth the amount of emotional and financial strain that was building up every month. I expected the finality of this choice to crush me, but instead, I entered into a profound peace. It was such a comfort to know that we would no longer be in this constantly heart-wrenching wait and that we could begin to discern, with hope, whatever it is that God wants to do with us next. It was through accepting infertility that I began to piece together all of the little lessons that God had been offering me along the way. The main message is this: “Theresa, I was able to bring eternal, abundant life to the world through my death. Trust me that I can bear fruit through your barrenness!”
Jesus said, “Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.” Jesus spoke this on the way to the Cross – the very place where he turned death upside down and allowed it to lead to life. He also transformed my empty womb to not be a declaration of my ineffectiveness as a woman, but to be an invitation to an even deeper life. So, I am putting all of my trust in this truth: that the Lord will somehow bring life out of my barrenness. I will admit that this is difficult because I cannot always see the fruit he is developing through my life the way a pregnant woman can watch her belly swell, but I take comfort in the words that Elizabeth, a once barren woman, spoke to Mary and that were then echoed by the angel speaking to Mary Magdalene at the tomb: “Blessed is she who believes that what the Lord has spoken to her would be fulfilled.”
The first time I thought Theresa and I were pregnant, we had been married for only a few months. In our own minds we were far from “ideally ready” for seeing our family expand. Theresa was late in her cycle—much later than she could remember having been before.
I became worried about how we would make it work. Then I felt guilty for only worrying. As the next few days passed, I realized that, yes, I was also excited at this possibility. Theresa and I had talked about children often while dating. And as we took steps towards marriage, the hope of having kids together was an intimately natural aspect of the shared life we anticipated. But now I felt as though I had never really thought about it. Maybe I wouldn’t have stared at the possibility straight in the face until it was close enough to make me nervous.
Either way, now my imagination took off at full speed; I wondered what this person would be like. And what if it was a little girl? Wouldn’t I love to take her everywhere? Wouldn’t it be great to show her everything? This is our life. This is the world. The day my excitement got the upper hand on my fears was also the day Theresa would later tell me she was no longer late in her cycle. “Well, I guess that’s fine,” I said to her (and to myself). “People have…well…it’s supposed to take a number of times before it really takes, doesn’t it? I hear it can be pretty hard for some people.”
Shortly after this, we moved to the Midwest and made a number of very good friends, most of whom were not ‘some people.’ We spent our first years here watching their own families grow while we tried to get our lives in order. It was hard to wait, but we had a plan and making sacrifices together was kind of comforting. Soon enough we finally started really trying to conceive. There was a newness and a thrill in our marriage. Of course, we reminded ourselves that it could take some time to get pregnant. It can be pretty hard for some people.
Still, Theresa’s new cycle really startled us. It wasn’t just that it didn’t work this time and that we’d have to wait. It was that we would have to wait. Are we those people? But did I really think I was somehow—immune from difficulties? We had both been committed Catholics for quite some time and had learned along the way that Christ redeemed our suffering at the cross, that he’s there with us in our worst of struggles, that He can use our pain to bring us more deeply into his love. But shouldn’t these things I’d learned and believed make my difficulties—not so difficult? Or could all of this have at least prepared me to not be so surprised to learn that we are, ‘those people’?
Obviously, not getting pregnant on the first try is something that happens to many people—even people who eventually have children (and people who have miscarriages!). It would be two more years before Theresa and I would learn that we’d most likely never conceive a child. But every step of the way, each new hope and disappointment, every strategy and its failure, infertility broke into our lives. It was one drawn-out interruption, the same unwelcome guest knocking on our door surprisingly often. When the doctors could tell us nothing more, it felt so ordinarily shocking, so normal.
Theresa mourned. She felt useless, empty, and confused. I didn’t know what to feel, or whether I felt anything at all. For this I felt guilty and unsure whether I could really help her or understand. At other times I did feel the loss, and deeply. Some days I felt as though I had always known this would happen, and then later I would find it simply unbelievable. But in each case there was a kind of numbness or silence. By the time we learned that we were infertile, I had become used to surprising misfortune, “Of course! This too would happen to us. Why did I ever expect anything different?”
I wouldn’t say that I grew angry with God. I grew cynical. It became hard not to lose trust. I didn’t become completely suspicious. Infertility tempted me to swallow only a small dose of cynicism—a perfectly small amount, just enough to fit through the cracks of my daily life undetected. Like a little grain of coarse sand it slowly rubbed down my willingness to look upwards for life. I learned to say the words “no, God doesn’t have children in store for us,” but I learned them in such a way that really meant “no, God has no life in store for us.” Of course, He loved us, but did He have a future for us? Is our life going anywhere? Or is it disintegrating into a hundred incomplete, hollow, sterile pieces?
Infertility has been hard for many reasons. It has (obviously) been hard not to have children. It has been tough when fellow Catholics are insensitive or judgmental when they notice you still don’t have children years into your marriage. Also hard were those last few months when we tried to conceive, when we fought (not without wounds) to prevent a mystery shared from being reduced to technical strategizing or a duty to be fulfilled no mater what. But in the long run, infertility’s deepest challenge has been hope: to lift up my head, to not feel sorry for myself, to not look at myself at all but rather forward to the One who is the Way, who gives Theresa and I a future.
We have learned much about how grueling it can be to receive God, this surprise guest, this familiar stranger. But does love know any other way than to open the door eagerly to his interruptions? Theresa and I still see very little of what this will mean for us. We would love to adopt. Perhaps we may even be convinced to become foster parents. We have become more familiar with unexpected strangers; we have learned a little of what can happen to “some people,” and feel our hearts opening bit by bit to those who may not be welcome where they are. Please pray for us that these hearts might remain open when he knocks again; pray that we will think “of course he would do this!” Pray that we will receive the ones who come even as we ourselves were received, immature and misbehaved, to be fed and raised in a home of pilgrims where we never deserved to dwell.
Don and Mary Kay’s Story
In February of 1987, if anyone had referred to infertility as a blessing, I would have thought they were clueless, thoughtless and cruel. But looking back on the journey that Don and I have walked, I am so aware now of God’s amazing ability to take any cross He gives us and turn it into the most precious blessing.
When we were first married, we both agreed that 4 children would create the perfect family and looked forward to our first pregnancy with joy and anticipation. Those feelings slowly turned to sadness and anxiety as month after month, no pregnancy occurred. Little did we know that not being able to conceive was just the beginning of our nightmare. After several years of attempting to get pregnant, our doctor recommended infertility testing and treatment. That was when the horror of this cross we were given to bear truly pressed upon us. I started to get really scared that we would never have a baby much less four.
We researched to see what fertility testing and treatments were allowed by the Church and began months of doctor appointments, blood tests and medications, then, one stormy, blizzardy night in February, 1987, my doctor called us to his office to tell us that because of a rare condition that showed up in one of Don’s tests, the chances that we would ever get pregnant were slim to none and he recommended that we consider adoption.
We were devastated. We were going to be denied the joy of ever being a Mom and a Dad. Don and I both knew how difficult it was to adopt a baby. When we got home that night, I sat in a rocking chair in the nursery and hugged a teddy bear and cried and cried. For the first time, I actually talked to God about this tragedy and said, “If you want us to have a child, then it’s all in your hands.”
When I had calmed down, I really thought about our situation and I asked myself the most important question. Did we want a pregnancy or did we want a baby in our arms and in our lives? After some careful conversation, we concluded that what we really wanted was a child to raise. So we placed this cross back in God’s arms and prayed and prayed for a child – whether it was a birth child or an adopted child was up to God.
We spread the word to everyone – friends, doctors, attorneys involved with adoption, even total strangers – that we were interested in adopting a baby. Weeks later, we received a call from our Doctor saying that he had been in contact with a Birth Mother who knew she wanted to give up her baby. She was due in a few months. We were thrilled and scared all at the same time, but again, we turned it all over to God. On a beautiful spring evening, we were getting ready to go out for pizza when the phone rang. The doctor said, “Your daughter was born a few minutes ago and she is perfectly healthy.” Through a lot of tears, I yelled the amazing news to Don who was in the bathroom. He came running down the hallway still trying to pull up his jeans and screaming, “It’s a girl!! It’s a girl!!”
The next morning, our attorney gave us permission to go see the baby. We flew up to the hospital and peered through the nursery window at all the babies and way back in a corner, there was a tiny baby all wrapped up in pink with no name written on her crib. The nurse saw us and she knew right away we must be the adoptive parents. She motioned us around to a side door and to my great joy, she opened that door and placed this precious little bundle in my arms. That was one of those forever moments! I understood so clearly that God is my loving Father and the love I felt toward this miracle in my arms, He felt a thousand fold toward me. That is when the cross of infertility became the most awesome blessing.
“I am telling you the truth: you will cry and weep…..When a woman is about to give birth, she is sad because her hour of suffering has come; but when the baby is born, she forgets her suffering, because she is happy that a baby has been born into the world. That is how it is with you: now you are sad, but I will see you again, and your hearts will be filled with gladness, the kind of gladness that no one can take away from you.” (John 16:20-22)
God continued to bless us and because of the generosity and love of two more Birth Mothers, we were able to adopt two more perfect newborn babies. The cross of infertility became the gift of life that enabled us to finally have those babies in our arms for whom we so dearly yearned.
Adoption is so dear to me. And yet I never even think of my kids as adopted, because they are such a part of me now. I cherish these three children with all my heart. They are a living breathing sign to me that God is a loving God to all of us. I thank God constantly for the miracle of these children and for their Birth Mothers who showed such unconditional love by choosing life for their babies and giving them to us.
“Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously all my own. Never forget for a single minute, you weren’t born under my heart but in it.”
People say to us that these children are so lucky to have been adopted by us but the truth is, we are the blessed ones, the luckiest Mom and Dad on earth. We never could have created children as cool as these three. And we laugh that there are a lot of traits on both sides on our families that were better off not being reproduced!!
Our journey has taught us many things, but two of the most important stand out. The first is a call to action. We must all defend the right to life, support Birth Mothers in every way we can and earnestly pray that God remove the sin of abortion from our world. The second lesson is we must faithfully and trustingly take all of our crosses and give them back to God. He loves us and will transform even the cruelest burden into the most amazing miracle. He will give us blessings a million times greater than anything we could wish for ourselves!
Michael and Danielle’s Story
We were married in August 2008, and were excited to see God’s plan for our new life together, especially His plan for growing our family. On the day of our wedding, we were definitely open to starting a family right away but decided not to actively seek a pregnancy, but after being married for several weeks, we began to see the blessing that a child would bring to our lives. So, for the next year, we carefully studied our Natural Family Planning charting to try to achieve a pregnancy. After trying to achieve a pregnancy for only a few months, we began to suspect that something was not right. We visited a doctor and were assured that it takes healthy couples up to a year to achieve a pregnancy and we were told that since we were young, we should just be patient.
The process of trying to conceive was full of frustration and uncertainty. Each month we were convinced it would be the month, that we would become pregnant by the end of the month, but each month we were disappointed. The worse part of the whole process was its cyclical nature and roller coaster of emotions. Each month began with excitement and certainty that this would be the month. And, each month ended with disappointment and depression. Then, the whole cycle would start anew a few days later.
After a year-and-a-half, we decide that we wanted to seek medical help for our infertility. We began by learning the Creighton Method of Natural Family Planning. Then we began seeing doctors. The doctors gave us a few suggestions and a few months later, we were pregnant. We remember thinking at the time, “Our struggle is over, never again will we have to deal with infertility!” Unfortunately, that was not what happened and we suffered a miscarriage a few months later.
We grieved our baby very deeply. We named our lost baby Catherine Marie. We found solace in our grief knowing that God creates an eternal soul for each person at the moment of conception, so we would be with this dear baby in Heaven one day. In fact, the loss of this baby intensified our longing for our heavenly homeland where we know there will no longer be tears of loss but the joy of reunion!
In the wake of the miscarriage, we decided that it was the right time to begin pursuing adoption. Adoption was always something we seriously considered but had never felt the time was right. After praying about it for several months, we met with Catholic Charities adoptive services. We worked quickly to finish the pile of paperwork and complete our home study. A few months later, we received a call that a birthmother had chosen our profile and a week and a half later, our dear daughter was born and joined our family.
Since the birth of our daughter, we have continued to seek medical help for infertility. After diagnostic surgery and removing endometriosis, we were sure a pregnancy would be just around the corner. However, that was clearly not God’s plan, so we are still waiting. While we still truly desire to have a biological child, our prayer now is that God will give us peace and joy with whatever His plan is for our family and for our fertility.
We have learned to be open to God’s plan for our lives. We had always wanted to adopt, but only after we were finished having a litter of biological children. Michael, especially, liked the idea of adoption but was worried that he would not be able to bond with a child who was not biologically his own. Before our struggle with infertility, we left little room for God’s plan. Now we have come to understand that His plan is much grander and more magnificent than ours. Starting our family with an adopted child was not our plan, but it clearly was God’s plan, a plan that has made us happier than we ever could have imagined. Our adopted daughter is in no way less our child, and we cannot imagine a better way to have begun our family.
We have also learned that a child is a gift and that each human life, no matter how short its days, is inestimably valuable. Before our struggle with infertility, we felt that a child is somewhat owed to a couple. However, this struggle has taught us that each human life is an invaluable gift from God and can never be earned nor deserved. Before our struggle, we partly thought of adoption as the good deed of parents rescuing a needy child. However, it was we who were rescued. By our yearning for a child, we now realize that adoption is a gift, and not simply an act of charity. We are immensely thankful for the responsible birthmother who loved her daughter enough to give us such an irreplaceable gift.
Our infertility has truly been a cross in our lives. But, the God we follow always has a magnificently beautiful plan for our lives, which transforms the pain and suffering into a gift, a blessing. Sometimes, His gifts will be exactly what we expect and will come amidst joy and celebration but other times His gifts will be unexpected and will come through tears and suffering. Through this journey, we have learned that the only way to be ready to receive His gifts, no matter how they come, is to open our hearts, eyes, and hands and wait patiently and expectantly for the perfect gifts He has planned for us.
Patrick and Dianna’s Story
Several years ago we started our struggle with infertility. The journey it took us on changed the very fabric of our marriage.
We came into marriage with preconceived notions of how our marriage would begin, like most couples. We would push deeper into our careers, move into a little house, learn to grow closer in our relationship, and have a couple kids to start our lives as parents. Life has a funny way of reminding you that you are simply living your life, not controlling it.
In those first four years of marriage there was a question that we were asked repeatedly in social situations that caused Dianna to fight back tears every time, “Do you have any children?” It was the most well-meaning question. New friends and acquaintances were expressing interest in our lives and marriage, but as a couple struggling with infertility those five words were heartbreaking.
Early on we were blessed, for a short while, to happily say, “Yes! We have a baby on the way.” But after a miscarriage at 12 weeks it became a difficult question to answer. Do we avoid an awkward social situation by saying no? Do we risk an uncomfortable response by choosing to celebrate the short life of our baby, Jude, by saying that we have a little intercessor in heaven? As time went on without achieving another pregnancy the answer to this question seemed to become more complicated because it hurt more and more that we were without children. Dianna became a pro at simultaneously giving Patrick a glance of support, swallowing the lump in her throat while blinking away tears, and smiling through a scripted response of, “We’ve been trying for a while now so please keep us in your prayers! By the way what are your plans for the summer?” This answer felt the most appropriate, but what we really wanted to say...err…shout was, “No. No we don’t have any children here on earth to make our family complete and it’s killing us because we desperately want to grow our family but we can’t find a doctor to help us who will respect our faith and we feel like we’re failing and like no one understands our pain and we’re so overwhelmed with grief from our miscarriage and infertility that we don’t know what to do!”
But, we couldn’t say that, and so we buried it.
Miscarriage takes its toll on a marriage. Men and women respond to grief differently we fit all the classic stereotypes. Patrick kept a lot of his feelings to himself and tried to find ways to fix what had happened. Dianna wanted to share all of the emotional highs and lows and look back on what she could have done to prevent the loss. We began to crack under the stress. There was tension in our relationship -simple things that seemed easy before caused horrible struggles and fights. Baptisms, birthday parties, seeing children, and visiting family – these kinds of things brought on waves of emotions. We struggled to get through the day without an argument or tears, we became depressed, and we felt lost. But, eventually we found our way.
Unlike many of the 17% of United States couples who struggle with infertility, we had a very special resource at our hands – our Catholic faith. It has been our most important compass in navigating this rocky road.
Our Lady has always been central to our relationship and we knew that she would be with us in our prayer to start a family. So, we made a decision to ask for her intercession. Every Sunday after Mass we made our way to the Mary chapel to light a candle and to pray together. For a while, we also committed to a weekly walking Rosary. Our marriage started to heal because we started to communicate in a healthy way by praying together out loud. It was such a simple thing, but the impact was tremendous.
After a year of recovering from the heartbreak of our miscarriage, we decided we wanted to try – actively. We quickly learned that “actively trying” meant something we weren’t prepared for when we started talking to OBGYNs. They would suggest procedures that went against our Catholic beliefs. They offered dangerous drugs to help Dianna’s fertility, without knowing anything about her health and the cause of our miscarriage. They appeared to care more about addressing the symptom than the root cause. We discovered that insurance would cover fertility, but not infertility. Literally, the act of creating life was considered a “problem” that they would address – but infertility, not being able to conceive, a medical disease, was considered a “private matter.”
We began to see the world in a different light. So we made a promise to each other. We would look into a Catholic fertility program and would stick to it. If we couldn’t get pregnant through natural means then we would work on adoption. And that is exactly what we did. For over a year we completed the adoption paperwork process, while working with a NaPro specialist for Dianna’s fertility. We grew stronger as individuals and as a couple. We began to understand Dianna’s body and why we were having difficulty, all while learning that we could have a life of love and happiness while living within God’s plan. We found our way back to more fully loving one another.
Two months before we finished the adoption process we found out we were pregnant again, and we were blessed with a son. The journey has been long and hard, but one we don’t’ regret. We are a stronger couple now and the journey shaped and formed our married lives. And, we have faith that we can live through whatever comes next (because surely there are more struggles ahead), that God will provide, and that in the end the sacrifice will have been worth it.
Austin & Theresa
Don & Mary Kay
Michael & Danielle
Patrick & Dianna
Office of Family Life
Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend
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