I Make People Uncomfortable

How’s that for the title of a post? The thing is, it’s true. I make people feel very uncomfortable because they don’t know quite “what” to do with me. I am an Infertile Catholic woman.

Six years ago when my husband and I got married we declared proudly that we were going to be married for one year before we started our family. We told people that we knew that if we didn’t have a strong marriage we could never be good parents. We waited for a year – always looking towards that day when we’d start our family. We learned Natural Family Planning, knowing that it was the one way to control our family size that would help us both with conception and waiting. I was taking some fairly heavy duty prescription drugs due to an auto-immune disorder and I took the year to wean myself off of the drugs carefully. I was practically counting the days.

Whenever someone attempted to warn me “it might take you guys a while to get pregnant,” I refused to listen. “We’re doing Natural Family Planning,” I explained, “I know exactly when I’m fertile. We’ll be just fine.”

I had known since I was a small girl that God was calling me to be a mother – so, of course, there wouldn’t be a problem, how could I have not understood God’s call? Of course He’d give me what I wanted, what He’d called me to! (You know that old saying, “If you want to make God laugh just tell Him your plans?”)

That first cycle that we were TTC (internet lingo for “Trying to Conceive”) I woke up four days past ovulation with nausea and I was thrilled. The word was that my mother & grandmother had struggled with morning sickness since “practically the moment of conception” so I was sure that it had worked. I was pregnant! I was going to be a mother! What on earth were all of those naysayers talking about? It doesn’t take “awhile” to get pregnant! You just have to know what you’re doing!

not pregnantAnd then I started spotting at 7 days past ovulation. I was stunned! What was this? It’s too early for my period! My cycle has always been consistent! Eleven days past ovulation is when my period comes! Not seven! What? What? No… it’s impossible. I started researching implantation bleeding, still convinced that I was pregnant. Two days later I was bleeding in full force.

The next month was the same thing. The third month of TTC our timing was a bit off and I had a perfectly normal cycle. No nausea, no spotting at 7 days past ovulation – it was a perfectly normal 11 day luteal phase. The fourth month was the same thing… another perfectly normal cycle. The fifth month was another short luteal phase. I went to my Natural Family Planning practitioner and said, “What’s happening to me? What’s wrong with my chart?”

She immediately told me that I had a progesterone problem. Even though I have a BA in Biology, I knew very little about the female fertility hormones estrogen & progesterone. Like the scientist that I am, I went home to research it. I joined an online community of women who taught me all that they knew about fertility and I quickly got up to speed. I learned that I’d most likely had early losses, around the time of implantation.

I went to see an OB/GYN, who looked at me puzzled, “but you haven’t actually had a positive pregnancy test?” she asked. “Well, no,” I said, “but look at my charts! Look at these short luteal phases! And my NFP teacher says that I need progesterone! Can I get some?” She looked at me with a blank look on her face, as if she was waiting for me to laugh and tell her that I was really kidding. I continued to wait for her to do something. Finally she told me that she couldn’t prescribe me progesterone until I’d had a “documented loss” and continued to tell me that she thought that I was talking myself in to morning sickness because I so badly wanted to be pregnant. (She couldn’t answer why I had it some months and not others – didn’t I want to be pregnant just as much in those other months?)

She told me to come back after I’d given it another three months. So I agreed.

I had another loss during that time, but it was “OK,” I told myself, because I was going to get help! I was going to get progesterone!

But I didn’t. I got testing. I got Clomid (the most common “first line” fertility drug on the market). People started asking my husband and I when we were going to start a family – hadn’t it been a year?

This cycle continued. I won’t torture you by going through month by month, but the summary is that I’ve had seven early losses at the time of implantation. I researched ways to raise my progesterone on my own. I tried every trick that I could find on the internet. I switched clinics and finally found a doctor who was willing to prescribe Prometrium (progesterone supplements) because he looked at my chart and pointed right to my early losses. I thought that this was an answer to my prayers. It wasn’t.

People are very uncomfortable with Infertility. People who’ve never had a tough time conceiving tell you “just stop trying so hard and you’ll get pregnant” or “get a bottle of wine and go to a hotel and seduce your husband” or “why don’t you adopt? You’ll get pregnant right away!” Infertility is thought of as more of a mental disorder by the general public than a specific medical condition. You’d never hear someone tell a cancer patient “just get your mind off of things and you’ll get better” so why do they feel like they can say that to someone who’s infertile?

We’ve had people ask us why we don’t bring our children to church (I suppose since I’m 38 and my husband is 47 they just assume that we have children and let them sleep in on Sunday mornings). I’ve had people ask me “what’s wrong with you? Don’t you know that Catholics are supposed to want children?” I’ve had people say that they could give my husband some “pointers” if he’d like them.

There’s more to my story than what I’ve shared here. I plan to write a lot about Infertility (and other aspects of my Faith) in future posts, but this is just a start. Stay tuned for more specifics about the journey of my husband & I. (That just sounded like the comment at the end of a daytime soap opera, doesn’t it? “What will happen next? Tune in next time!”)

We don’t get to choose the crosses that God asks us to carry. We don’t get to choose who gets cancer or whose child dies in a swimming accident. We don’t get to choose our path in life. God simply asks us to trust Him. He doesn’t ask us to trust when it’s easy, He asks us to trust all the time.

Had we gotten pregnant that first cycle I’d now have a four & a half year old, who I’d be explaining to why he or she needed to wait one more year before starting Kindergarten. I’d have fulfilled what I believe that God was calling me to since I was a small girl. If I had that four-and-a-half year old, however, I never would have met some wonderful friends (met through that on-line community that I spoke briefly about). I wouldn’t have the dog that I have now (I’ll write more about our Sheltie in a future post). I wouldn’t have the job that I have now if we’d gotten pregnant that first time. I probably wouldn’t have the Faith that I have now.

Infertility is a cross that I have to bear, but it’s also the greatest gift that God chose me for. I still don’t know why me. I still don’t know which direction our life is going (more on that later, too), but I know that God will be with me for every step of the journey.

And what could be better than that?

18 comments
  • HeidiSeptember 1, 2011 - 8:21 am

    What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • AnnaSeptember 1, 2011 - 8:25 am

    Posts like these make me cry. I would love so desperately to take this cross from you. 🙁ReplyCancel

  • AliceSeptember 1, 2011 - 9:05 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I love your attitude. You’re so right that we don’t choose the “what” but we do choose our response to God. How important it is to see that we deal with what we do because of His love for us. Hang in there. The best is yet to come.
    AliceReplyCancel

  • MomoffiveSeptember 1, 2011 - 9:20 am

    Wonderful post! It’s similar to what we experienced — especially the things people would say — until we adopted our five daughters. You don’t need other people’s pity, but they will midguidedly give it to you. Stay strong and healthy, focus on the fact that marriage is a sacrament between the man, woman and God (children aren’t one of the conditions to make a marriage “valid”), and give as much as you can to the Church, who needs you desperately. I’m so glad that I threw myself into a number of ministries while trying to get pregnant (which I can’t do now while raising my family), and to this day I praise infertile couples who do the same, in addition to men and women who remain single and also give of their time generously to the Church.ReplyCancel

  • Juliette CamburnSeptember 1, 2011 - 9:23 am

    What an absolutely beautiful post and such wonderful inspiration for helping us all “bear our crosses” a little more faithfully. Thank you!

    P.S. My husband and I are both acupuncturists and practice herbal medicine and have had tremendous success at treating infertility with Chinese Medicine. If you haven’t tried this avenue yet and are interested, let me know 🙂 This is NOT a solicitation! Just a friendly offer for some information 🙂ReplyCancel

  • TammySeptember 1, 2011 - 10:10 am

    Thank you for being the voice of those of us who have struggled with infertility. It IS one of the hardest crosses to bear in the Catholic community, in any form. Even after we were finally able to have our son (thanks to clomid), and again experienced secondary infertility for years before we adopted (drugs didn’t work again), we got many snide looks and rude comments about only having one child. I am being treated for my PCOS, but that doesn’t automatically make me fertile again! I would love to be able to just say, “I’d like to get pregnant this month,” but that doesn’t happen for many of us. And adoption is expensive and difficult–I know, I’ve done it. It’s not something you can just say you’ll just go out and do and it immediately happens either. The crosses are many with infertility. I look forward to your future posts!ReplyCancel

  • Susan C.September 1, 2011 - 11:24 am

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us. What an amazing thing to be able to carry your cross with joy. A lesson I’m still working on 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Family of BlessingsSeptember 1, 2011 - 12:06 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. Being Catholic and struggling with infertility is so very hard. God is using to for His glory and your post is a blessing to read. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • LisaSeptember 1, 2011 - 5:29 pm

    What a hard road to walk! The hard part is that there is little understanding available unless you are able to bare your soul to people that have no business knowing about such an intimate part of life. I hope you have a good friend to talk to, and ideally, know someone else who has walked that path, successfully, or unsuccessfully (like me.) Most people seem to conceive or adopt, and you will have children if you determine that is God’s plan for you. I recommend the book “Sweet Grapes”, the author of which I can’t remember, as helpful in dealing with the feelings.

    Love, blessings, and prayers to you.ReplyCancel

  • TheresaSeptember 1, 2011 - 8:24 pm

    Beautiful, beautiful post. My heart aches for you. Thank you for sharing. You are in my prayers!
    I look forward to hearing about your Sheltie in the future! My cousins have one who we love! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • AmeliaSeptember 26, 2011 - 1:09 am

    So true – we don’t get to choose the crosses we bear. I think you are bearing yours beautifully. Thank you for sharing some of your story.ReplyCancel

  • PattyOctober 1, 2011 - 12:57 am

    I think if your post makes just ONE person think before they make a thoughtless comment about a couple’s childlessness it will have done it’s job. Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • CathyOctober 26, 2011 - 12:26 am

    Thank you for sharing…we struggled with infertility and then adopted two wonderful babies…then God sent us one biological child. I lost three…2 ectopic pregnancies and one miscarriage.
    People who comment on your family plan just don’t think how harmful they are being.

    Now my beautiful daughter (the biological child) is going through the same struggle. God has a plan and someday we will know what it is. God’s blessings to you.ReplyCancel

  • PattieRNFebruary 3, 2012 - 3:43 pm

    I was unhappily not-a-mom for the first years of our marriage, and I remember the tears with every new period.

    In my personal case, nothing improved physically or spritually unless an underlying thyroid issue was found and corrected, giving us a blessed window where we had two sons in two years.

    THEN—being the sinner that I am—-I was afraid to admit to being overwhelmed with two-under-two (and this was in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when there was no internet and darn few books out there on the subject.)

    I do not know what God has planned for you and your husband, but if this grandmother can chime in, His time is not our time and His ways not our ways. I got used to saying “We haven’t been blessed with a child yet” and changing the subject…although I wanted to get a sign for Mass that said..

    THE ONLY “PILL” I AM ON IS SUPPOSED TO HELP ME GET PREGNANT!ReplyCancel

  • ThereseFebruary 4, 2012 - 10:32 am

    To Marie, and all those responding carrying this cross of infertility, please, please look into NaProTechnology at http://www.fertilitycare.org. This approach is 100% in line with Catholic teaching regarding the dignity and transmission of human life, and 2.8 times more effective than IVF!! Their paradigm is to find the underlying cause of the infertility and correct it, allowing the couple to conceive with a natural act of intercourse. Doctors who are not trained in NaPro by the Pope Paul VI Institute DO NOT know these protocols!! Do not waste your time with them–please use the above site to find a FertilityCare Practitioner and NaPro doctor near you.
    God bless each of you!ReplyCancel

    • MarieFebruary 4, 2012 - 1:07 pm

      Thanks for commenting Therese. I hope that your link can help someone.

      The NFP training that I referred to in my post was Creighton and when we realized that we were having troubles we consulted with PPVI. We could not afford 14+ days in Omaha (which is what Dr. Hilgers indicated would probably be necessary) so we opted not to travel there for in-patient consultation, but I have convinced my main stream practitioner to follow all of the recommendations that Dr. Hilgers made.

      It hasn’t worked for me, but I appreciate the plug because you never know when it might work for someone else. Please keep reading!ReplyCancel

  • JamieSeptember 9, 2012 - 6:08 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this post. I’ve been married 2.5 years, and my husband and I are childless and probably always will be. I started going into menopause at 17 and don’t have cycles anymore (known as Premature Ovarian Failure. Nobody I’ve talked to can tell me why this happens). We’re not financially able to adopt right now, and my husband isn’t sure he ever wants to. I never imagined living my life childless, and sometimes I just don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. We can no longer relate to our college friends who all got pregnant at the same time and all have babies the same age (and leave parties at 7 because the babies need to sleep). I have a hard time being around them due to the constant “baby talk”. Please, please, pray for my husband and I. I feel very bitter sometimes, and my heart aches that I can’t give my husband children.ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey MayMarch 28, 2015 - 2:29 pm

    Thank you!! I am also a Catholic infertile woman & so often I feel alone in Catholic circles because I am the only married woman without kids. Thank you for being that voice.ReplyCancel