Living Humanae Vitae, Marriage, NFP

The strange in between {Living Humanae Vitae part 3}

May 30, 2018

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.

16 Comments

  • Reply Marie May 30, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you so much for doing this series! It is one of my favorite things I have read about NFP because it shows the wide variety one can face. If I have learned anything from doing NFP it is EVERYONE has a totally different experience. Our parish has a pretty impressive number of women using it, and it amazes me the differences we all face. Miscarriage, loss of multiples, secondary infertility, getting pregnant super easily, not getting pregnant at all, taking months to conceive. Just because you do NFP, doesn’t mean you will have 12 kids…. but maybe? No matter what a family experiences, I think every situation is God calling us to HIM and to trust. It is an invitation to grow closer to Him with trusting one of the biggest aspects of our lives. It is easy to have a false sense of control over our lives, but NFP is a way we can remember who is really in control.

  • Reply Meghan May 30, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    This is very moving and my prayers go out to her. What a hard place…but beautiful witness to surrender to God’s ways.

  • Reply Jenna May 31, 2018 at 4:46 am

    Of all your NFP guest posts, this spoke to me THE MOST even though it’s not my story (we have four kids, including our honeymoon baby). What I relate to is the pain of judgement and feeling like a “not good enough Catholic” that weighs me down as I try to live out this teaching on life and family faithfully. The pain of wanting things to be another way but having to come to terms with the fact that maybe they aren’t and won’t ever be.

  • Reply Jessica May 31, 2018 at 8:29 am

    Thank you so much for sharing. We just found out, once again, that I’m not pregnant after 4 cycles of using NFP to try to conceive our second child. I know this sorrow is small compared to what others face with infertility/subfertility, but it still hurts and reminds me of how little control I really have over the size and shape of my family. Praying for you!

    • Reply Ana Glaze May 31, 2018 at 10:25 pm

      Jessica,
      Reading your comment meant more to me than you will ever know. We are on cycle 6 of trying to conceive our second child as well and each month that passes is only getting harder. I was starting to feel like no one else was going through this, since all of the women around seem to be having their second, third and even sixth child and we’re still only on our first. So many questions keep coming up like “Is something wrong with my body? Was my first child a fluke? Have I not been grateful enough for our first child? Are we supposed to only have one kid to raise?” and way too many more to list on here.

      I’m being a bit bold here and usually never do this but would you be willing to connect? I’d love to chat about what you’re feeling and going through as well and share our journeys together. Totally understand if that’s too weird for ya! Haha!

      Let me know,
      Ana

      • Reply Jessica June 1, 2018 at 9:05 pm

        Hi Ana! Thanks so much for offering to connect. I think I found you on facebook! 🙂

  • Reply jeanette May 31, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    This is not the first time I’ve heard Catholic women express the hurt of feeling judged (for not being pregnant or having children etc). Yet it makes me wonder where it comes from, this judged feeling. It sounds awfully alienating.

    I guess when I married, I just didn’t think much of the how I was going to have children, just that I will have children. The how turned out to be adoption. The biggest reason I wanted to get married was because I wanted to have a family, and I never really thought twice about what anyone else might think about how or when or why it happened. I never felt anyone’s judgement, as it was not on my radar at all. Maybe that was unique to my time or maybe it was just me, I don’t know.

    The longing and dreaming part can be there for all of us, but the actual blessing of children I just trusted would come from God in the way and time He saw fit. And it was not at all as I had envisioned. It just was what I ended up with. I never could have planned it that way. And I don’t know how I would have felt if it never happened at all.

    I think in some ways it is like other experiences we desire in life: being accepted to a particular college, getting a particular job or promotion, finding a spouse, having a home, good health, whatever. We have to have that open anticipation of the totally unexpected rather than trying to script the outcome so tightly that we hurt inside over not having our desires fulfilled in our timeframe or to our specifications.

    The desire to have a child is probably the one area of life that can be so crushingly painful because it is an act of creating human life that seems so easily within our grasp, yet at the same time so feared against when unwanted that the world grapples unceasingly with ways to control it from ever coming about. So when we “fail” to conceive, it is so hard to believe that the very loss we experience in that “failure” to conceive is actually a goal people strive for. Millions of dollars are spent on that goal. Heated political battles are fought over it. The irony is never lost on me.

    As for rule following, we don’t really follow rules, we are simply disciples who follow the Teacher, Jesus Christ. It’s a love relationship. We give Him our lives, our will, our love. The only thing we really want in turn is to be with Him daily throughout life into eternity. Whether we were married or not, whether we had zero children or a dozen, whether we had a house or a career or anything else. Loving Him through all that passes through our daily life.

    Weep with those who weep. If we never experience weeping, can we ever weep with others? Rejoice with those who rejoice. If we never experience rejoicing, can we rejoice with others? So we will both weep and rejoice throughout life. Babies or no babies. We will have days of weeping and days of rejoicing simply because life is such a surprising journey.

  • Reply yolanda June 1, 2018 at 7:22 am

    It strikes me that one of the consequences of widespread use of contraception is the expectation that not only can you choose not to get pregnant when you don’t want to, but that you will get pregnant right away when you DO want to. Our bodies just don’t necessarily work that way, and I wonder if women in the past had a better sense of that than we do in our current high-tech we-control-everything world.

    The pain of infertility is excruciating, and I would never minimize that pain in any way, but as a person who didn’t use any kind of birth control (including NFP to either limit or try to get pregnant) when first married and who didn’t get pregnant for nearly a year (and yes, I had all sorts of nosy “orthodox” Catholics either asking me or razzing me about it, and I didn’t appreciate that at all), I can attest that the body does not always work the way one would think. We were 21 and 27 at the time with no health issues.

    Once I started getting pregnant, though, I couldn’t stop. I conceived 10 times in 10 years, making me realize that first year was a fluke of some sort. A fluke I am glad I didn’t let nosy Catholics ruin for me! What fun we had in early marriage! I regard that first year as a gift, one that I could not fully appreciate until the years after.

    Also, getting older is a gift. I can honestly say I couldn’t give two hoots about what anybody has to say about our family at this point. Frankly, I’ll put my marriage and family up against any of either the nosy Catholics who judged me for not getting pregnant/not having 12 kids or the zero-population people who judged me for having more than the allotted two. Nearly 30 years of happy marriage (which, frankly, is more than I can say for most people I know, from either camp) speaks for itself. I also discovered that once people realize that you really couldn’t care less what they think or say, they tend to shut up.

    Prayers for all of those trying to achieve pregnancy, both that it will happen quickly and that you will find peace during the time of waiting.

  • Reply Rachel June 1, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    This was so hard to read, but so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your journey. That judged feeling of not being Catholic enough applies so many different times in so many ways, always in varying strengths (for example, my fiance and I are planning to go to Las Vegas for our honeymoon, not Rome……). I pray that we grow better at recognizing this hurtful feeling for what it is and asking God to carry us through it. He sees you.

  • Reply Ann June 3, 2018 at 5:36 am

    Have hope.

    My husband and I were in the same boat. Our first was conceived 13 months after we married. Even though I was an age where you had to wait 1 year, I insisted on testing and my doctor agreed after 6 months of trying (mostly because I think she was shocked I wasn’t pregnant if I had been using NFP to avoid). My fallopian tubes were blocked and the test to check actually unblocked only one.

    Knowing this, when my fertility returned at 9 months after my first, we decided to try for #2. We were shocked with a positive test when she was 14 months old, after only 5 months this time.

    Follow up medically. There is much they can do that aligns with Catholic moral ethics.

  • Reply Colleen June 4, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    This NFP experience is very familiar to me. I come from a large, endlessly and mostly effortlessly fertile family; everyone in the world knew I had been “waiting” for marriage; everyone knew I wanted babies. And then there were no babies for four years.

    I mourned and I raged at God. I had preserved my virginity for my husband, I had rebuffed every doctor who wanted to put me on the Pill for irregular periods because I didn’t want to adversely affect my fertility, I had learned Creighton and faithfully tracked and taken a boatload of Clomid.

    Eventually I insisted on a laparoscopy, had endometriosis excised, and now through the grace of God (and Clomid) we have three babies and are talking about trying for a fourth.

    But I will never ever look at another family (Catholic or otherwise) and make assumptions about how many children they have and why.

    God bless the author on her journey. I hope her wait is short.

  • Reply Bernie June 7, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Jenny,

    Please make your friend aware of naprotechnology. This is pioneered by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, who pioneered the Creighton method of NFP. Since your friend is charting regularly and religiously, all that data will come in handy to help diagnose a possible imbalance.

    Here is the website:
    https://www.naprotechnology.com/

    His son, Dr Steven Hilgers, is in the Houston medical center. He delivered our baby, and he specializes in infertility. He is a wonderful doctor, and of course devoutly Catholic like his father.

    I wish your friend success. Tell her not to lose hope.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing June 7, 2018 at 6:01 pm

      Thanks Bernie! She’s a Steubenville grad so I’m sure she’s well acquainted with NaPro, but I’ll leave this here for the benefit of anyone who hasn’t heard of their wonderful work.

  • Reply Deacon John June 7, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Did you get your thyroid checked. A friend was married for 3 or 4 years and it was her thyroid. She now has 4 children. Also the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of Life, ask the Holy Spirit for new life.

  • Reply Ray June 8, 2018 at 3:59 am

    Thank you for sharing. That took a lot of courage. My wife and I have not had this struggle, but trust me, we’ve had our share. We too have learned it is not in looking “around” for joy in times of sorrow…it’s “in the sorrow itself” that we have learned to find joy.

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.” 1 Peter 1:3-8

    In our trials, sufferings, and sorrows we are being “guarded” (defn. to preserve one for the attainment of something) in faith. We are being conformed to Christ in the suffering and sorrow. In this we rejoice.

  • Reply Jonathan Lee Ching June 9, 2018 at 1:28 am

    I would agree with Deacon John, it might be a thyroid issue. I worked in the health and wellness sector for about 3 years specialising in ketogenic diets. Many who thought they were infertile had their first little one.

    There are a few things that bother me about your post i.e. how I read it (though I know what you meant) – I just think that some people who do not understand Catholic lingo may be confused:

    1. Religion and NFP is not about the rules – the primary importance in any relationship is love, as you well know – just keeping non-Catholic readers in mind. The rules are merely an indication of honouring that love.

    2. God’s will over personal will – a nun at adoration once taught me that worshipping the will of God is the key to happiness. It’s sometimes painful, but acceptance of those things we can’t change and doing what one can (pray, hope and don’t worry to quote Padre Pio) is the most healthy way forward. Sometimes God says ‘no’ or ‘not just yet’ and it is good to hope, but discern the difference – I personally still struggle with this.

    3. There is no such thing as being ‘Catholic enough’ – either we are (submission to the teachings of the magisterium under the leadership of the pope), or we are not. In my personal life these kinds of scruples really damaged my relationship with our Lord. I hope that you can work through them in your time.

    4. “…we have fairly good relationships with the Lord” – What do you mean? Either one is in relationship or not. Sure there are varying degrees of holiness, but h
    He must be ‘uber al’.

    5. Mary gives babies – while she intercedes,sure, I think we could give God this one 🙂 I know what you mean . but some people may take it we Catholics are quasi-deifying the BVM.

    Finally, if you would like to look into ketotic diet options to help with fertility, please drop me a line to my email address provided. I will assist you without charge. I really hope to hear from you!

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