This week’s installment comes from a dear friend from my Steubenville days who is approaching her first wedding anniversary this summer. She is a beautiful, faithful woman who gave many years of service to the Lord before finally meeting her Prince Charming. As she shares from her experience, marriage hasn’t necessarily been a fairy tale. She was generous and humble enough to allow us a peek at the other side of the NFP coin: subfertility.
We started taking NFP classes a few months before our wedding. I had already been charting for a while. I took copious notes, because that’s what I do. I have always been a rule follower and so I figured all my beloved and I would have to do was follow the rules.
So there we went with tracking temperatures and mucus and having the conversations you can have before you’re married. The conversations came easily, of course we were open to life. It was a no brainer. I was also 34 when we wed, so I felt like a ticking time bomb in regards to my fertility.
We were married on July 29, 2017. We had 8 priests concelebrate our wedding. The church where I was a youth minister for 6 years was packed. It was everything I had ever dreamt of and even more. We honeymooned in Rome, got our marriage blessed by the Pope, traveled to Paris for my artist husband to have a full heart and then went onto Lourdes for me to thank Mama Mary for sending the husband I had begged her for 6 years before in that very spot. I prayed for a baby, having figured that if she got me a husband she would give me a baby.
We came home. I was late. I was, however, not pregnant. Test after test and I wasn’t pregnant. You might as well have ripped my heart out with all those negative tests, because I felt like I knew what was best for us, that we were ready.
We have followed the rules and still no baby.
See, that’s the strange in-between of NFP. You haven’t been ruled infertile, but you also haven’t conceived. You’re open to life and have discerned it and nothing is happening. This strange in-between is where the evil one tries to work his way in. And this in-between place can begin to make you feel not “Catholic” enough.
We are good, NFP following Catholics, we follow the rules, we have fairly good relationships with the Lord and we aren’t pregnant.
And this? This where the judgment creeps in.
Because my sisters, you’re not Catholic enough if you don’t breathe on your spouse at some point during your honeymoon and get pregnant.
Here we are around the 10 month mark of our marriage and there’s no one growing in my womb. The judgment – whether perceived or actual – is so hard. Because when you do everything right and you still aren’t pregnant people start to ask to questions or to make assumptions or to judge and that’s… really awful.
But God is breaking through the strange in-between. I went on a retreat for the wives of the members of the lay religious community my husband is a part of. The theme was unbeknownst to me: Joy in Sorrow.
Imagine my surprise when out came the overflowing tears, the pain and the sorrow of my heart for not being holy enough and for not being Catholic enough and for following the rules and still not conceiving and how hard that is.
These women, they got me. And in that moment, they spoke to my heart and encouraged me to see the joy in front of me and to not miss the blessings around me in the midst of the suffering. They spoke the truth in love to me: that God is good and faithful and that only my husband and I could possibly know what’s going on with our fertility and to trust the Lord.
I was surrounded by a room full of women who had the lives and the children I have always dreamt of and I wasn’t jealous.
And so in the midst of all of this, when it feels like everyone else has a sweet baby to cuddle and we don’t, we remain faithful, because no matter how much you discern, no matter how much you plan, no matter how carefully you follow the rules and still things aren’t turning out the way they are “supposed” to, you discover that God who is the author of life wants to teach us something new in this strange in-between.