Infertility CATHOLIC COUPLES’ STRUGGLE WITH INFERTILITY
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FROM THE EDITOR ............................ P. 4 THE CROSS OF INFERTILITY AND SUBFERTILITY Marilyn Rodrigues
COVER STORY ................................... P. 6 CATHOLIC COUPLES’ STRUGGLE WITH INFERTILITY MARILYN RODRIGUES
THE CHURCH ..................................... P. 18 INFERTILITY FACTS Marilyn Rodrigues
TESTIMONY ....................................... P. 28 WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE AN ADOPTIVE PARENT By Owen Vyner
LIFESTYLE .......................................... P. 36 PLANT A MARY'S GARDEN Francine Pirola
SEASONAL NOTES.............................. P.46 PENTECOST AND MOTHERS’ DAY ACTIVITES, RECIPES, PRAYERS
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From the Editor The Cross of Infertility and Subfertility Around one in six couples of childbearing age experiences infertility or subfertility at any one time. Like any cross, sometimes this one is harder at some times than at others to bear. Mothersâ€™ Day blessings at Mass can be particularly difficult. Or the Christmas season with its endless nativity scenes and hymns about the long-awaited birth of a child.
Some Catholic couples can feel forgotten, misunderstood, and isolated because of their fertility struggles, even if they draw strength from their faith and the Church. Like with any cross, this burden may be removed after a time. But if it isnâ€™t it can, and should be lightened with understanding, support, and the prayers of friends, family, and parish and other faith communities.
THIS MONTH May 2016
Sun 1 6th Sunday of Easter Mon 2 St Athanasius Tue 3 Sts Philip and James Sun 8 Ascension of the Lord Mother’s Day Thu 12 Sts Nereus and Achilleus Fri 13 Our Lady of Fatima Sat 14 St Matthias Sun 15 Pentecost Sunday Wed 18 St John I Fri 20 St Bernadine of Sienna Sat 21 St Christopher Magallanes and companions Sun 22 The Most Holy Trinity Tue 24 Our Lady Help of Christians Wed 25 St Bede the Venerable St Gregory VII St Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi Thu 26 St Philip Neri Fri 27 St Augustine Sun 29 Corpus Christi Tue 31 Visitation of the Bl Virgin Mary
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Catholic Couples’ Struggle with
Many Catholic married couples struggle with infertility, whether or not they follow the Church’s teachings on married love and the raising of families. In the 2015 issue of Frankly magazine Sally Jones (a pseudonym) explained the sadness she felt as a regular Massgoer:
“Infertility is difficult all the time but sometimes the sadness feels much more raw – like at Christmas time…. Over a number of years I noticed that a lump would form in my throat and I could not sing the words ‘when a child is born’. While I understood the song is referring to Jesus, I felt this anticipation in a very personal way; the hope of new life seemingly denied to my husband and me.”
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Researcher Erin StoyellMulholland recently surveyed Catholic couples who struggle with fertility and found some common themes and frustrations among them: feelings of isolation and inferiority to other couples, struggles with the medical aspects, and a sense of being misunderstood or unfairly judged by other Catholics. They reported that isolation was one of the hardest, especially once friends, siblings, and peers began raising their families.
“One woman said, ‘For a while it’s okay, but pretty soon all your friends have kids and they are off doing their own thing,’” Erin explained.
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Added to this is a relative lack of mention about childlessness or prayers of petition for infertile couples at Masses. Women reported struggling at times with medical issues including tests, fertility charting, medications, diets, or surgeries to try to diagnose and or treat their subfertility. Some felt less “feminine” because of a culture of equating women with biological motherhood, even if the Church’s teaching is more nuanced in its promotion of spiritual as well as biological motherhood. Marriages come under strain, especially if one spouse begins viewing the other as a means to creating children.
Particularly painful for couples striving to live out the Church’s understanding of sexuality was the assumption of other church-going Catholics that they had few or no children because they were using contraception. They also felt pained when Catholics and non-Catholics couldn’t understand why they would not pursue assisted reproductive technology such as IVF or insemination.
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“One woman told the story of how her Catholic sister suggested to her that she ‘get the baby any way that she can and then just raise it Catholic,’” Erin writes. “Such suggestions can frustrate couples seeking to live out Church teaching because they imply that they could have a child if only they wanted one badly enough.
“Couples even spoke of wellintentioned friends offering to act as surrogates. Although they appreciate the sentiment, they also find these offers unhelpful and in some cases, they make them feel worse.”
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Another frustration was the assumption that they could solve their problems simply by adopting a child – when adoption, while a beautiful solution for some, is not for all. Thankfully, Sally Jones’ story has a happy ending. After 10 years and three devastating miscarriages her family now includes two beautiful children and “our three angels in heaven whom we hope to meet one day”. She credits the many prayers offered on their behalf and great medical support, including FertilityCare. Read Erin’s two-part article on her study on Catholic couples’ experiences of infertility.
About Marilyn Rodrigues
Marilyn writes for a number of Catholic publications and is the editor of CathFamily. She and her husband Peter have five children aged 12 to three years. Her website is marilynrodrigues.com
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“The Church pays great attention to the suffering of couples with infertility, she cares for them and, precisely because of this, encourages medical research.” said Pope Francis in a 2012 address to members of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
“I would like to remind the couples who are experiencing [it], that their vocation to marriage is no less because of this...The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation to the gift of self and this is a possibility that no organic condition can prevent.”
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Infertility Facts Here are some quick facts on a huge topic! To delve a bit further youâ€™re welcome to use our links to some resources below.
Subfertility or Infertility? Subfertility refers to any kind of reduced fertility where for a long time a couple are trying to conceive but cannot due to hormone inbalances, problems with the reproductive tract, or other problems.
Most couples of childbearing age who struggle with fertility are actually subfertile and may be able to conceive and bear a child with the right treatment. True infertility in young couples, where thereâ€™s no egg or sperm production, is rare.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies The main ART is IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation), but there are others including interuterine insemination and GIFT (Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer). The Church warns against the use of these technologies for many reasons, but mainly because of two main principals it holds dear:
The dignity of the developing embryo as a human life For the Church, all human life is sacred and worthy of the utmost dignity â€“ the fact that most IVF embryos are expected to die or are destroyed and discarded, kept in a state of suspension or used in other ways doesnâ€™t align with this vital aspect of our Catholic belief.
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The sacredness of married lovemaking As Pope Francis explains it:
“The union of man and woman in that community of love and life that is marriage, is the only ‘place’ worthy for the call into existence of a new human being, which is always a gift”. Interuterine insemination, IVF and GIFT for example, all circumvent this sacred ‘place’ of union in the physical act of lovemaking. How? By the harvesting of eggs and sperm and their manipulation (in the lab or in the woman’s body) outside of the marital embrace.
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The Pope has actually called for a lot more medical research to be done in this area, as
“the search for a diagnosis and therapy is scientifically the correct approach to the issue of infertility, but it must also be respectful of the integral humanity of those involved.” For Pope Francis’ full address, click here
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Resources A Total Gift of Self
A Total Gift of Self is an innovative series of digital and print resources exploring natural fertility methods. Infertility is also discussed.
For more about A Total Gift of Self
Australian Website US Website
Click here to read
NaproTECHNOLOGY and FertilityCare NaProTECHNOLOGY (Natural Procreative Technology) is a new women’s health science that monitors and maintains a woman’s reproductive and gynecological health. It provides medical and surgical treatments that cooperate completely with the reproductive system in order to treat the underlying causes of infertility.
Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology This article is an overview of the Church’s reasons for not supporting many artificial reproductive technologies. We love this quote: “All children are precious gifts of inestimable value and overwhelmingly loved by God regardless of how they are conceived, but the Church’s view is that the way God planned conception is important.”
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Prayer to St Gerard An anonymous author penned this prayer to St Gerard, patron saint of expectant mothers, for those who have difficulty conceiving or are unable to conceive:
O good St. Gerard, powerful intercessor before God, and wonder-worker of our day, we call on you and seek your aid. You know that this marriage has not as yet been blessed with a child and how much this couple desire this gift. Present our fervent pleas to the Creator of life from whom all parenthood proceeds and beseech Him to bless this couple with a child whom they may raise as His child and heir of heaven. Amen. Other patron saints for fertility and infertility are St Gianna Molla, St Anne the mother of Mary, and St Rita of Cascia.
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The Adoption experience By Owen Vyner For some people adoption seems quite mysterious as though it is an altogether different experience of parenthood. We have to admit that there are definite differences.
For example, we first held our children at Denver International Airport and not in a hospital. We had no ultrasound images to pass on to excited grandparents although we did receive video and photos every few months â€“ and we watched and studied every detail endlessly.
Lastly, the gestation period was not established by a predictable biologically-established timetable but was determined by government agencies, visas and federal police checks. Yet despite these differences there are genuine similarities. The first aspect of adoptive parenthood is falling in love with someone who has no biological relation to you. I am surprised that I have to explain to some people that this is not the first time this has happened to me. After all, I fell in love with my wife.
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About Francine Pirola
Francine is the founder of CathFamily and its first editor. She is the mother of five children and has been married to Byron for 28 years. She has been working in marriage enrichment and prepartion with Byron for over twenty years.
I professed a lifelong love for her who was – for a time – a complete stranger. And the “I do” of parenthood should ideally be a natural overflow of the “I do” of marriage. In essence, the love that husband and wife profess on their wedding day (in Latin, ‘diligo’) is precisely the love of election – I choose you. This is also the love that God has for us in Christ Jesus. This is the love that all parents are to have for their children – the pledge of a lifelong love of election.
The second aspect of adoptive parenthood that often strikes us is the enigmatic nature of our children. They are complete mysteries to us – even their little faces. And yet, is it not true that in every child we find a mysterious stranger who we should welcome with love on his or her own terms?
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With biological parenthood people will often say that a child looks like a parent or a grandparent. We have no context by which to interpret the faces of our children. I personally find that the faces and temperaments of my son and daughter surprise me each day. Are we not called as parents to respect the total uniqueness of the child who has come into our hearts and our homes?
These two dimensions of adoptive parenthood: welcoming the child with love and as a mysterious ‘other’ are also at the heart of biological parenthood. In some way they stand at the foundation of God’s paternity when he welcomes each one of us in baptism.
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About Owen Vyner
Owen is a doctoral candidate at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family. He was the Director of Marriage and Family in a parish in Denver, USA (2005-2011) and also studied theology in Chicago. He is married to Terri and they have two children, Laura and Charlie.
In this way, both forms of parenthood â€“ adoptive and biological â€“ become complementary expressions of, and witness to, the fatherhood within God as revealed by Jesus Christ. This article was originally published in the Catholic Leader, March 2016. Reprinted with permission.
Check out our Facebook Page for an adorable Easter season video we found of young adoptive siblings! Click here Their parents, Joel and Sara Mullen, have their own You Tube channel Click here May 2016 | 35
Plant a Mary’s Garden May is the month of Mary. Why not plant a Mary’s Garden this month, as a sign of devotion and to create a place of beauty and reflection? Whether we give it a whole acre of space, a single lushly planted pot on a balcony, we can pray in our Mary’s garden with our children and for our needs as parents, for times when we struggle with our own infertility, or to pray for others who long to have children of their own. May Mary, our mother, make us all fruitful bearers of Christ and heirs of heaven!
By Francine Pirola
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Early Christian missionaries, in recognition of God’s glory revealed in nature, charmingly named many flowers to relate to Mary, Jesus, other saints and holy places. For example, the medieval names for ‘Baby’s Breath’ was ‘Lady’s Veil’ and ‘Jonquil’ was ‘St Joseph’s Staff’. During the Protestant revolution, many of these flowers were given the more secular names we know today.
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Here are a few ideas to get your Maryâ€™s Garden blooming:
Location Renovate a secluded corner of your garden, build an enclosed space in generous yard, create a feature in a busy location, or use a generous patio pot. Even an indoor floral arrangement of fresh, dried or artificial flowers can work well. Alternatively, create a roadside shrine or lay claim to a derelict flower bed in a public park or on school grounds.
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Feature artwork Position a statue of Our Lady as a focal point, or create something yourself using symbols of Maryâ€™s titles such as hearts (Immaculate Heart), roses (Mystical Rose), or stars (Star of the Sea). Garden art can be created with clay or painted onto smooth stones or tiles which can then be glued to a wall or a stone paver. For pots and indoor arrangements, framed holy pictures, plastic figurines or other craft objects can be used.
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Plants and Flowers Plant flowers whose names reflect various devotions to our Lady Marigold (Mary’s Gold)
Morning Glory (Our Lady’s Mantle) English Daisy (Mary Love)
Daffodil (Mary’s Star)
Maiden Hair (Our Lady’s Hair)
For a more extensive list, including the Marian names of herbs, visit
Forget-me-nots (Eyes of Mary)
www.fisheaters.com/marygardens.html www.mgardens.org Pinterest
Petunia (Lady’s Praise) Snapdragon (Child Jesus’ shoes)
Tulip (Marys’ Prayer)
Calla Lily (St Joseph’s Staff) Zinnia (the Virgin)
Begonia (Heart of Mary)
Gladiolus (Twelve Apostles)
About Francine Pirola
Francine is the founder of CathFamily and its first editor. She is the mother of five children and has been married to Byron for 28 years. She has been working in marriage enrichment and prepartion with Byron for over twenty years. May 2016 | 45
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Recipes, Activities & Prayers
Mother’s Day Rose Ribbons These rose ribbons are easy to make and look great atop a beautifully wrapped gift or on the breakfast tray! PRAYER, CRAFT
Mother’s Day Prayer Card Making the home the heart of the Church
© 2011 PMRC Australia Authors: Francine & Byron Pirola. This handout is one of a series of information sheets designed to help families develop traditions that encourage faith and family life. It may be reproduced for non-commerical purposes. www.cathfamily.org
Our Mother’s Day card honours both our physical and spiritual mothers. It has a simple template for children to decorate plus room for a personal message. Lord, bless our mothers.
Draw close to them and hear their prayers for their children. Give them the grace of surrendered lovea love that images the love of our heavenly mother, Mary.
M ay all Mothers find daily
the strength to love generously, the patience to endure graciously, and the grace to live their vocation of motherhood joyously.
We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Mother’s Day Treats Try these three delicious recipes that mum (and the whole family!) will enjoy – lemonade scones, fresh mint tea, and decadent hot chocolate shots.
Pentecost Fire Get cosy with your family around a fire and reflect on this warm and inspiring symbol of the Holy Spirit. RECIPE
Pentecost Sweet Treats Add our Pineapple Fire Fondue and our decadent Chili Hot Chocolates to your Pentecost Sunday feast! PRAYER
Holy Spirit Novena Download a prayer card with our simple but powerful adaptation of a traditional novena for the nine days leading up to Pentecost.
For more ideas and inspiration visit www.CathFamily.org May 2016 | 49
A special limited print edition for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, MERCY contains a refresher guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, testimonials, Pope Francisâ€™ reflections on Godâ€™s mercy and tips for taking mercy into our relationships. Limited quantities. For more information and orders visit CathFamily.org
Catholic couples’ struggle with infertility.