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Being Catholic and Infertile

This piece has been in the news this week: a Catholic school teacher believes she was fired because she underwent infertility treatments that go against Church teaching. (By the way, not ALL infertility treatments are morally objectionable; check this out.)

Now, I don't know if this is the real reason this woman was fired. However, from the news reports, it appears that she signed a contract that prohibits such behavior from an employee in that school system, and thus, she violated her contract.

Now, I can speak with some authority on this subject, as I am infertile. First, let me say that I really hate that word: I think everyone's life is fertile. We all grow and "give birth to" ideas, relationships, work, etc. I don't feel infertile. I do know that I could never conceive a child. And that is devastating, especially for a Catholic woman.

From the time we are children, little girls (and especially Catholic little girls) are presented with images of being a mom. We get baby dolls for our birthdays, that we sing and coo to. We play house, and assign our little brother the role of baby (we usually have to bribe him). We doodle the names of our future children when we're bored in social studies class. We want kids.

For some of us, the cruel reality of infertility is hard to take. We think, "Hey, I did everything I was supposed to, God. I waited for the right guy, I married that guy, now I want a baby. Hold up your end, Father!" We figure we are "owed" that baby, and some of us will do just about anything to get one.

There is a lot of flawed thinking here, and I won't try to tackle all of it here. I will share that, early on in our marriage, when it became clear I wasn't getting pregnant, we looked at what was morally acceptable and what wasn't, and decided to adopt. I have two sisters who are both adopted, and it was a really comfortable choice for us. I know many people have a hard time with it ("I want a child that's my 'own' - my own flesh and blood"), but it turned out to be the best decision for us.

So, here is what I would say to this Catholic school teacher, or any Catholic woman struggling with infertility: Pray. Pray hard. Pray for guidance, and don't be afraid to let God know you're angry. It's a sad and frustrating experience, and God knows it.

Be generous. It is hard to watch your friends and family members welcome babies into their lives, and it seems like every time you turn around, there's a baby shower. Don't let your own pain intrude on someone else's joy. Be generous in your presence and your presents.

Be open to life, and study why the Church teaches what it does. The Church has sound reasons for finding some infertility treatments objectionable: they often destroy more life than they create. If you're open to life, you'll see this.

Explore adoption and be open to it as a way to build a family. There are so many ways to adopt today, and many children who need homes. Not all forms of adoption are expensive, and adoption often gets a bad rap in the press, because all you see are the adoptions "gone bad". Trust me, most adoptions - while a different way to build a family - are not horror stories, but stories of love, trust, redemption and joy.

I hope that every woman who struggles with infertility can find peace. It's not easy, but it is possible...with God, because all things are possible in Him.


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