Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: A Catholic Perspective

The Bubble owes its very existence to the infertile Catholic bloggers who befriended me and encouraged me to start a blog four years ago. So, today I am honored to publish a post that my wonderful friends wrote in honor of Infertility Awareness Week. My heart is with you, dear sisters in Christ.

Special note for those in Phoenix: The 2nd Annual St. Gerard Mass of Comfort & Hope for those affected by infertility will be held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center on May 2 at 6:00pm. Reception and resources after Mass. 


Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: A Catholic Perspective 

One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of “unprotected” intercourse or 6 cycles using “fertility-focused” intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has “primary infertility” and a couple who has conceived in the past but is unable to again has “secondary infertility”. Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

This week, April 20 – 26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.

If you are experiencing infertility, please know you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey.

The Experience of Infertility

In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of “what if we get pregnant right away?” There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you’d announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for most couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in six couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered “infertile” by doctors who understand the charting of a woman’s pattern of fertility.  At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark the couple “earns” the label from the mainstream medical community as “infertile”.

As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors’ appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teachings of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with options that are not options for us and are told things like “you’ll never have children” and “you have unexplained infertility”; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, “How are you and your husband doing with all of this?”

We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our childlessness (primary infertility) or small family (secondary infertility) makes us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teachings of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that makes us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet “no” or “not yet” or “maybe never” from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.

Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose to not say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don’t want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.

One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husband and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a fine line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins – with cramps and bleeding and tears – we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be “best” for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.

Our faith is tested. We ask God “why?”, we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day” that surrounds us at Mass on the second Sunday in May will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.

  • Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.
  • Do not make assumptions about anything - not the size of a family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.
  • Do not offer advice such as “just relax," “you should adopt," “try this medical option or that medical option” – or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.
  • Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a call and should be discerned by every married couple. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.
  • Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the “real” answer. Often times we answer, “OK” because that’s the easy, “safe” answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this the tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.
  •  Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint’s intercession. Most likely we’ve prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercession on our behalf.
  •  Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say "no, thank you" to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.
  • Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be patient and kind if we don’t respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don’t “Like” all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.
  • Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in a conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.
  • Do not ask when we are going to “start a family” (we started one the day we got married).
  • Do not ask which one of us is the “problem” – we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.
  • Do not say things like "I know you'll be parents some day," or "It will happen, I know it will!" Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to "just adopt and then you'll get pregnant" (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds, please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.
  • Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan.


Bloggers who contributed to this article (those with an * have children after primary infertility or are experiencing secondary infertility. They are marked as such so that if you aren’t up for possibly seeing baby/child pictures today, you can meet them on a day when you are, but please do take the time to go and visit them.):

Mary Beth @ Grace of Adoption           

There is also a “Secret” Facebook group with over 150 members who contributed to this article as well. For more information or to join the group, email Rebecca at RebeccaWVU02@gmail.com.


  1. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.

    I don't understand why this is such a problem other than the expense and unreliability. It seems that if you really want a child and the technology exists to have one, then it's worth a try.

  2. Thank you so much for publishing this and for all your support over the years, Leila. Your respect and acknowledgment has always made me and I'm sure others feel less crazy and SO appreciative that someone else "got it" and bothered to sit with us in our pain. Really, I'm crying as I type this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  3. Because children are a gift, not a commodity, and other reasons as well. You can start here:




    Aside from the moral issues (not everything that can be done should be done), there are serious health issues:

    "Until 1978, most of the effort in medicine in evaluating and treating women with infertility was placed in trying to identify and treat the underlying causes. In 1978, in vitro fertilization produced a paradigm shift. It led to a “skipping over” the causes, and this continues up to the present time to be the foundational management approach. In essence, this is a symptomatic or Band-Aid approach to treatment, not one that gets to the root causes."

    Lots more, but that's a start. :)

    1. ^^This was for Bill, fyi.

      Thanks for your kind words, matchingmoonheads!!

  4. Bill, some other thoughts. It may not mean much to you as an atheist, but to go through the IVF process, there is involvement with porn and masturbation (the husbands). If you have not seen any of the "collection rooms", I'll just say that porn magazines and videos are part of the child's "conception". The husband masturbates in a room full of porn, and a stranger takes his "specimen" to another third party to make usually many embryos (humans), most of whom will not survive the process. Dead human beings (or frozen indefinitely) are another byproduct of the IVF/ART industry. Not to mention the exploitation of women who are selling their eggs (even feminists groups are on board with being horrified at much of the exploitation of young women that occurs… google "eggsploitation"). We haven't even touched upon the horrors of using the poor in other nations to rent wombs as surrogates for other people's children. It's the buying and selling of human gametes, it's using other humans as commodities or renting their bodies just to get what one "wants" (this is the emotionalism, the immature "I want it!" culture that we keep talking about).

    You said: "It seems that if you really want a child and the technology exists to have one, then it's worth a try."

    We are not allowed to take anything we want. And the end does not justify the means.

  5. Bill, I wrote a whole post on that very question here: http://theroadhomewv.blogspot.com/2013/01/why-not-ivf.html

  6. Leila,
    I second MM comments! And thank-you so much for being willing to post this and share The Bubble :).

  7. Anything we do, we should always consider the risks. A woman will take all kinds of risks so as not to terminate a pregnancy, and no one has a problem with it. But the risks of contraception and in-vitro fertilization are somehow unacceptable. If my wife and I had to rely on IVF to have a child, there would be nothing a religious person could say to cause us to have a problem with it. Medical advice as to the risks would weigh heavily on the decision, but what the Church would have to say about it would not be appropriate for such an important decision.

    1. Bill, we may not change your minds at all, and that's ok - but the point of this article is to bring an awareness to those of us who ARE practicing Catholics and going through the horrendous experience of infertility. All arguments aside, can you not just read the article and feel some sort of compassion for those of us going through it, without (as the article suggests) offering some other alternative, or trying to "fix" the problem?

      (By the way, in my line of work (in a Catholic fertility center) a good percentage of our patients have already tried, and failed IVF. It has extremely low success rates.)

  8. Bill, for believers, the Church is how God acts in their lives. So, to say that the Church cannot appropriately speak to "important decisions" is exactly nonsensical. And, I did not talk only about "risks". I talked about porn and masturbation and exploitation of human beings as well as the death of millions of human beings created as commodities and discarded. We are human beings, and thus moral agents. We look to the morality of things, with the Church (and reason!) as our guide. We don't kill. We don't exploit via porn. We don't conceived children via porn. We don't bring third parties into the sacred act of creation between husband and wife. We don't buy and rent humans as commodities, or exploit them. I am sorry you cannot see that these things are immoral. I have dialogued with you long enough to know that your threshold for what is "moral" is whatever you want.

    "I want it, therefore I can have it". This is the morality of a small child, but I think that we are living in a culture of small children who look like adults. Sorry, I'm in a mood today, but that's the truth. Where have the grown-ups gone?

    This is an AMAZING article about the emotionalism that has taken over our culture, and for some reason, your comments compel me to post it here:


    If you can't read it all, start at paragraph six.

  9. Rebecca, thank you!! And here is another story, from a Catholic woman who did use IVF to conceive her first child:

    Part 1: http://www.kueterfamilyblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/out-of-ashes-beauty-will-rise-our.html

    Part 2: http://www.kueterfamilyblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/god-is-so-much-bigger-than-one-percent.html

    Part 3: http://www.kueterfamilyblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/catholic-in-my-heart-our-infertility.html

  10. Bill, I'm still shaking my head about the fact that the Church should not be involved in life's important decisions. So, what should the Church be about? Trivial decisions? Which couch to purchase?

    Let me ask you: Do you believe that as long as something can be done medically, or scientifically, then it is moral? It almost sounds like that is what you are saying. If not, then what are you saying?

  11. Isn't it fitting that it lines up with Divine Mercy Sunday and Pope John Paul;s canonization?!

  12. Bill,
    While the Church gave us guidelines for our decisions, we are free to make our own choices; our obedience to Church teaching is an act of free will, no one is forcing us to do it. Specifically for my husband and I, we found the teachings of the Church to be freeing and dignifying. I am treated as a whole woman, not just as my reproductive parts, and the same is true of my husband. Our marriage and the life-giving power of it is respected and nurtured. We are in each step of the process together. We are not prisoners of the "baby at all costs" approach. There are no guarantees in any treatment option (Church approved or not) for infertility, but the options we pursue guarantee respect for each of us as persons and for our marriage, regardless of outcome. (If you read my post linked above, you'll see a much longer explanation, but it all comes down to this, really.)

  13. Angie, amen! And Rebecca, that is beautiful. Thank you!

  14. Leila,

    Before I get the boot again, let me ask you. Do you really want an atheist's point of view expressed on your blog?

    You know that you morality is scrupulosity to me. When I decide what is moral for me, I ask myself who will be hurt if I do it. If the answer is no one, I don't lose any sleep over it.

    1. On the same token, are you hurt by our decision (Catholics with infertility) to NOT do Articial Reproductive Technology? My guess is no... so, perhaps rather than question our motives (whether we "really" want a child), just respecting our decision and showing a bit of compassion would be a better choice.

  15. Bill, I have had atheists' points of view on this blog for many years and thousands of comments, so yes. But the problem is that you don't actually dialogue here (even non-Catholics have called you out on it and been frustrated). So, we give you tons of principles and concepts and facts, and you come back with "hey it's not hurting anyone [according to you]", and then we try to point out that yes, it's hurting many people (with specific examples) and you come back with comments about morality being scrupulosity and you will decide for yourself what is moral. So, what more is there to say? This is about dialogue, not just about you saying the same (non-connected) comments over and over again. I hope you can see.

  16. "When I decide what is moral for me, I ask myself who will be hurt if I do it. If the answer is no one, I don't lose any sleep over it."

    What you mean is, "I ask myself will I have to see someone being hurt by it" or "do I want to believe that someone will be hurt by it".

    Someone is ALWAYS hurt by immoral actions. It may not be immediate, but it ALWAYS hurts someone.

    Leila has quite clearly explained all of the people who are hurt by IVF...fathers who purposely expose themselves to porn which causes the same changes in the brain as illegal drugs, women whose bodies are abused to produce eggs, women who are used as incubators, and children that are treated as scientific waste.

  17. Thank you for posting this and for your support!!! It really means a lot.

  18. Barbara C. You are stating the obvious when you say that someone is always hurt by an immoral action. The fact that it hurts someone without any redeeming value is what makes it immoral. Obviously a flu shot might hurt someone but it has redeeming value for the person being hurt. I include hurting your own self esteem as something that could fall in that category as well. Lying, cheating, stealing, etc. not only hurts the victim. It hurts the perpetrator's self esteem. Same with actions freely taken that can lead to obsessions and addictions.

    The problem I have with Catholic morality is that it takes harmless actions and calls them immoral and then offers forgiveness so that you become indebted to the Church.

    It's like me doing an environmental site assessment at a clean property, saying it is contaminated and then doing the remediation. It's a conflict of interest.

  19. Leila. I understand what you are saying and I will try to answer the question you asked about whether we should do something if we have the technology such as IVF. Just because we have the technology doesn't automatically mean we should do it.

    I think if I or my wife were infertile, I would accept it more in a "stuff happens" manner than thinking that God does not will that we have children. I would adopt if we both wanted a child. If IVF had potential and we had the money and the willingness to do it, I might give it a shot. I would have a mature attitude about providing my sperm and take one for the team.

    I think the technology of assault rifles is a perfect example of not doing something just because we can. I think they should be banned. Why would anyone need one other than for wars and law enforcement.

  20. Bill,
    I used to think that if I were infertile I would accept it in a "stuff happens" manner. In reality, in finding out that I am in fact infertile, it has proven to be impossible to accept in a "stuff happens" manner. I'm not saying it's impossible for everyone, but I take most things in stride, but not infertility. I don't know your story, if you have children or not, but if you do, imagine life without them. Imagine all the dreams and hopes you have for them, and then try to fathom what it might be like to never see those dreams come true. (Not trying to argue with you, just hoping to give you some insight).

    As to doing IVF, specifically your comments about it having potential and having the money. NaPro Technology has better success rates than IVF AND has the added benefit of treating the underlying disease that causes the infertility rather than just the symptom of infertility. As to "having the money", the amount of profit that the IVF/ART (artificial reproductive technologies) industry makes is sickening. The industry preys on the emotions of couples who are dreaming those dreams I talked about above, it tells them IVF is their only hope and then charges upwards of $20,000 per attempt. Because NaPro treats actual health problems and not just the symptom, it is usually covered by insurance and is much less costly (across the board, of course you'll find case studies of more expense) than IVF/ART.

    As to your comments to Barbara about the Church and morality (specifically this line: The problem I have with Catholic morality is that it takes harmless actions and calls them immoral and then offers forgiveness so that you become indebted to the Church.), if that is what you think the Catholic Church is, then I totally understand your aversion to her. If that were what the Catholic Church actually was, I would be the first in line telling people to run the other way.

  21. Rebecca. Please don't think by my saying "stuff happens" that I mean to downplay any hardship or tragedy. I just mean I would see it as "God's will" (because I don't believe in a God). My wife would. I wouldn't. And I know next to nothing about the alternative that you are proposing. Hope you didn't take what I said as making light of the situation. I would say "stuff happens" in response to any random event.

  22. Correction: I would NOT see it as God's will.

  23. @Bill My husband and I were diagnosed with severe infertility. I'm Catholic but he is atheist so we decided to visit the local well known IVF center. The doctors confirmed the severity of the infertility and suspected the presence of a genetic condition so they offered two possibilities: either conceive through donor or produce 20 embryos so that at least two could be used for IVF. For us it was the beginning of a big crisis. The donor would have introduced a third person in our relationship, a person that we would never meet but that we could have easily seen looking at our future child features. On the other hand the idea to decide which embryos to pick discarding or leaving in a cold limbo 18 potential human beings terrified us. After a lot of thinking we decided that we were better off childless than loosing our peace. Friends and family didn't understand our choice and openly criticized us while the doctors labeled us as "practically sterile". Two years later, among the disbelief of doctors, I conceived a beautiful and healthy daughter.

  24. Hi Bill,
    Thank-you for that :).
    Ah, God's will...I've spent many hours, days probably, reflecting on God's will. I do not think it is God's will in the sense that He is in heaven dolling out hardships and rewards, that's not how He works. However, it is part of His permissive will, meaning He allows it to happen. He can also bring great good out of this suffering, and He has. It doesn't mean the suffering is gone, but through it I have come to know myself and those around me in a whole new light. While I would never have chosen this particular suffering (would any of us choose any suffering), I'm grateful that He has allowed it in my life. (Now, don't think I'm perfect and holy and pious, I also have many moments where I yell and scream at God and ask why and demand He take this away.)
    I know you don't believe in God, so please don't think I'm necessarily trying to convert you, just adding some additional insight.

    As to the alternative to IVF that I've proposed, in short, NaPro (Natural Procreative Technology) seeks to find the cause of the infertility (and usually other health problems in the woman), and to cure (and manage if a cure is not available) the cause (for example endometriosis or poly-cycstic ovarian syndrome or hormone levels that are not normal). Once the cause of the infertility is cured or managed, the couple is then able to create a baby "the old fashioned way." (It's more complicated than that, but that's the basics). Whereas IVF takes the symptom of infertility and only tries to fix that, often times placing 5 day old embryos back into the body of a woman that is not healthy enough to sustain the pregnancy. (Again, more complicated but the basics.)
    An analogy I have used, it's not perfect, but it makes sense to me is if I have sore throat and cough caused by the strep bacteria and all I do is take cough medicine to sooth my throat and stop my cough, I've treated the symptom, but the bacteria is still there. Left untreated, the bacteria will cause many more health problems than the sore throat and cough. But if I treat the bacteria, it will go away and so will the symptoms.

  25. Paxetbonum and Rebecca

    I just accidentally sent a long response to you to a blog that was linked to this one.

    I'll try again. There have been two very significant random events that has impacted by life. One was unfortuitous and the other was fortuitous. Losing my mother and meeting my wife were both random events that kind of balance each other.

    That's the way I look at it. I don't blame God for one or thank him for the other. I don't believe that there is any supernatural force or being causing anything in this universe.

    I've tried to tell my wife that but she doesn't believe me.

  26. @ Bill Maybe I'm missing something. Not sure how your reply is related with Rebecca explanation of NaPro and/or with my own personal experience.

  27. I remember being one of the women you emailed. I think it was just after I had the twins. Your compassion and just being so natural made me feel that we had known each other for years. It's so great that you wrote this post up and are recognizing such an important topic. It is so important to know that in the Church not all women get married and immediately start popping out babies but they also don't go to immoral and extreme measures.

  28. Yes. My original response tied them together but I posted it to the wrong blog. All I mean to say is that you really can't be mad at God for being infertile nor can you be thankful to him when you conceive. We are all here as a result of a series of random events. We have to take the good with the bad and see them as just the way things happen.

    1. This is another example of why your posts add nothing to the conversation and why I cringe when I see your name pop up in my email box again...and again...and again. Sigh.

  29. @ Bill You can believe that life is a series of random events or that God is leading your journey but this doesn't change the fact that some of the modern IVF techniques are opening up a strong debate about ethics and law. In different countries very different laws regulated the IVF industry and what is considered legally acceptable. Even in my very liberal state, the IVF centre offers counseling service and psychological support to the clients because IVF treatment it's not an easy decision to make. Deciding or not for IVF is challenging, only if you have been there you can really understand it.

  30. Paxetbonum. I agree with you and would not make light of you went through. I'm glad it worked out for you. Peace.

  31. Getting back on track here... :)
    Leila, thank you for posting, it is helpful to get more awareness out there on the "NON-IF" blogs, because it hits a much larger and more diverse audience.

    I hope, aside from entering the conversation in the comments, that your readers truly do read and allow to resonate the message of this article.

    God Bless, and blogosphere wouldn't be the same without you!

  32. Amy,

    I read your comments and the article again and I can see where my comments may have lacked compassion. I get it that this is a tough situation to be in and that IVF does not have a good success rate. Thank you for your feedback. Saying that "stuff happens" and that it is not God's will is of very little consolation for those going through difficult times.

  33. Thanks, Bill :)

    (And, actually, none of us feel that it *is* God's will, either! God doesn't will sickness or disease, just as He doesn't kill or destroy. So, on that point, at least, we all agree :) )

  34. Thank you Amy, and Hafsa, and Paxetbonum, and all! And And the stickler in me comes back to the distinction (made earlier by Rebecca) that God has an active will and a permissive will. The latter meaning that he allows bad things to happen so that men remain free. Free will is a great gift, which means we are not robots or slaves. But starting with Adam and Eve, the decision to *not love* is always an option for us (how else could we choose love, if we couldn't also choose to reject love?). So, God allows evil. It's in his permissive will. However, He only allows it because He can always bring a greater good out of that evil (consider the greatest evil: Jesus Christ killed on a Cross. And consider the greater good that came out of it). So, God is still in control, and no matter the darkness He allows to come in our lives, the Light (should we choose to love Him) will always be greater and always win out. It's the Good News. Life conquers darkness, Love conquers death. It should make us all giddy!

  35. Please allow me to make a comment completely separate from the conversation which is already in progress...

    I begin by pointing out that large families are NOT (or SHOULD not be) hurtful or offensive to those with fertility problems. What IS hurtful--and downright insulting--is the casual joke, uttered by either parent of a large family, "Oh, yes, we're a 'good Catholic family'" (as though quantity and quality were one and the same). My response is something like, "Well, since my wife and I were only able to conceive and bring to term ONE child, I guess that we're a BAD Catholic family."

    Sorry, but no matter who makes that unfunny "joke," I will always consider it extremely insensitive.

  36. Paul, I can understand what you're saying, but I hear about many parents of large families who have to deal with incessant negative comments from everyone around them, and I think it's a convenient and feel-good response to that type of thing ("We're a good Catholic non-ABC family) - one that focuses on the positive rather than gets defensive.

    It seems like there's very little that people can say about any family issue without offending someone they forgot to consider before speaking. Honestly, it hurts to see good people on all ends of these issues inadvertently offending and taking offense to things that are said from others who have opposite issues they're struggling with on a daily basis.

  37. sweet jane, thank you. I was struggling with how to respond to Paul, or at least I was pondering.

    Often when I say I have eight kids to those who seem shocked or incredulous (not always in a bad way), I say something like, "We are those 'crazy Catholics' who really believe all the teachings", with a smile. I want them to know that our Faith informs our lives, and that if they happen to be Catholic themselves (many are lapsed or non-practicing), they will see that some Catholics do really embrace all the teachings. They may have never encountered that before. Or if they are not Catholic, they will see that some Catholics do love the Faith in its totality and take it seriously.

    Never in any way, shape, or form would my words imply that faithful Catholics with fewer or no children due to infertility are somehow lesser Catholics. Not ever. The number of kids says nothing about the faithfulness of a Catholic couple. The number of kids, however, sometimes needs to be explained to a confused culture that cannot fathom why a couple would have eight children. Hope that makes sense. I don't see the two things as connected.

  38. Leila, your response reminds me of what I say to people who ask why we don't have kids or when we are going to have them. I'll say "it's in God's hands" and try to smile. For those who believe in the teachings of the Church, it covers that we aren't using contraception and for those who don't, it's usually a crazy enough answer that they don't follow-up. It is also a very subtle "infertile speak" that will usually spur a conversation if the person also happens to be infertile (though that type of question doesn't usually come from fellow infertiles :)).

    There is definitely a difference between saying we are a "good" Catholic family and we are those "crazy Catholics." IMHO anyway. The former being insensitive and prideful, the latter making the point in a non-prideful way.

    Also, I don't often hear the "good" Catholic family right from those who have big families, but rather from others describing big families, even from clergy. The assumption is big = faithful, small = not faithful, more often than not.

    (Sorry if this makes no sense, my brain is tired.)

  39. @PaxEtBonum

    Congratulations on your daughter! What a blessing!

  40. You've got it, Rebecca. I have no problem with someone explaining that they were open to whatever number of children that God wanted to give them...or lightening it up by saying, "we're crazy Catholics."

    But sorry, Jane. The "convenient and feel-good response" of "we're a good Catholic family" is convenience and feeling good at the expense of the faithful Catholic with fertility problems who witnesses the remark. Fine, then. My "convenient and feel-good response" is, "That makes us a bad Catholic family."

    The lesson is simple: Engage brain before putting mouth in gear.

  41. Paul, I'm a stickler here, and I have to say that that's not what Jane said. She said:

    "We're a good Catholic non-ABC family" You fit that bill, Paul, as you are a good Catholic non-artificial birth control family, and so there for how could that make you a "bad Catholic family"?

    Rebecca, exactly… saying, we are a "good Catholics" because we have a big family does not follow, just as saying we are "bad Catholics" because we have a small family does not follow. One has nothing to do with the other. It's the use (and even promotion) of contraception and sterilization that is at issue, not the size of the family.

    1. *therefore

      (and my point is, you can't leave out the "non-ABC" part of what Jane said, or you are accusing her of something she did not say, which is unjust)

  42. Leila, those bullet points you posted at the end were wonderful.

    I pray for all those affected by infertility, but I also pray for those people supporting those people. Many well intentioned people don't often say the right thing to a couple dealing with this kind of adversity. We lost two babies through miscarriage relatively late in our pregnancies and the support was great but we often heard comments about "how at least we had another kid" or "keep trying", etc. Many years later it's still hard for us, but we do know it was part of his plan.

    I'm so glad I read this post today. I will continue to pray for those dealing with infertility.

  43. Leila, thanks, and Jane, my apologies...though I confess that understanding the term "non-ABC" took reading Leila's explanation, and it would be meaningless to a lot of people who might not ask what it means.

  44. Paul, I think the "ABC" was shorthand for those of us on this blog, but in real life, it would have been explained or stated without abbreviation. But thank you for your gracious apology. You seem like a great guy!

    Tonka, thanks, and just to give proper credit, I didn't write the bullet points or any of the main post. My wonderful friends did that. :)

  45. Actually, Paul, I should have clarified in my post that I was just talking in general terms and didn't think of that exact quote as an ideal example. I don't even particularly like the term "good Catholic" to refer to oneself. I was just thinking a suitable reply to "why do you want so many kids?" should include something positive (rather than defensive) about the faith, and that's the sentence that I just blurted/typed (blyped?) on the spot. I'm sure we could come up with better ways to phrase it, taking both our points of view into account. But the fact remains - terminology may be causing offense where nothing offensive is actually taking place in minds/feelings/assumptions. That's what I consider a shame.

    1. Should add, I also never say "ABC" in public. I doubt the vast majority of people even know what that refers to. (Artificial Birth Control.)

  46. I'm not a believer but I find things like this very hard to explain on natural terms.


  47. Thank you for posting this Leila! Your willingness to dialogue with anyone keeps me coming back to your blog! As an infertile couple who has also suffered a miscarriage my husband and I feel that there are very few places in the Catholic world where we fit in. It has been so great to see this post pop up on so many blogs this week. God bless you!

  48. Thank you for publishing this, Leila. I'd just like to add (since I don't see mention of it in the post or comments), that studies have shown that infertility may be related to celiac disease/gluten sensitivity. Although awareness is on the rise, too many doctors still know too little about gluten's harmful effects on the body. For instance, gluten has been shown to attack human tissue in a petri dish. Persons with undiagnosed celiac disease/gluten sensitivity have undigested gluten proteins cruising around in their bloodstreams, because their small intestines are not dealing with it as they should be. Many people with gluten problems have no digestive symptoms, but they do have reproductive problems, depression/anxiety/psychological issues, autoimmune diseases, thyroid conditions, and other problems.

    According to this article (http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/wheat-making-you-wait-babies-gluten-infertility-link): "According to a recent prospective analysis, the answer may be that, in a subset of women with unexplained infertility (15% of the 7.4-14% of women struggling with infertility are "unexplained"), gluten exposure may be a primary contributor to a distressing and expensive chapter in their lives. Only the second to be done in the US, this study looked at 188 infertility patients and found that 5.9% of those with unexplained infertility turned out to have celiac disease as diagnosed by antibodies and biopsy. All of these patients were Caucasian. They all went on to conceive within a year of dietary change."

    I would like to stress that testing for celiac disease is still not terribly accurate, and if no autoimmune antibodies are present, or if intestinal damage cannot be seen via biopsy, most doctors will rule out celiac disease, even if the body is mounting an immune reaction to the gluten itself (shown through a simple blood test). As my husband says, that's like telling a patient, "Keep smoking; you don't have lung cancer yet." This was the situation with two of my children. They showed gluten reactions, but no autoimmune antibodies. The doc. said, "They're fine." I said, "They'll be going gluten-free." They're fine now. In fact, the changes in overall health and behavior, thanks to our gluten-free diet, in my husband, me, and all six of our kids is pretty astounding.

    I guess that's my long way of suggesting that people with infertility try a gluten-free diet, and I mean completely gluten-free, for six months at the very least.

    Thank you for giving me this opportunity to get up on my soapbox. It breaks my heart that so many couples are suffering because nobody bothered to mention that the food they eat every, single day may be sabotaging their efforts to conceive, or carry to term (undiagnosed gluten issues has also been implicated in pregnancy complications/poor outcomes).


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