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Support, pray for those carrying the cross of infertility

Be sensitive to couples having infertility problems. Don’t complain about pregnancy, birth or your baby around them. Your difficulties are their dream.

Part one of this three-part series can be found here, and part two can be found here.

by Katie and John Meinert
Special to The Leaven

St. John Paul II calls children the crowning glory of a marriage — the crowning glory. So when they don’t come to be, it is a real frustration of marital love and causes deep suffering.

This suffering drives the multibillion-dollar fertility industry. It is only from such a place that people would subject themselves to that level of manipulation, financial hardship and grief explained in the earlier two articles. The fertility industry preys upon deep desires and broken hearts to make a tidy profit.

In the face of the suffering of infertility and the injustice of the fertility industry, we must, as a church, do better accompanying infertile couples.

Oftentimes, they feel abandoned and ignored by the church. In fact, many infertile couples feel the pain of infertility even more acutely as Catholics because of the church’s commitment to openness to life. Other Catholics can assume they are contracepting and dismiss them as bad Catholics. They deserve better.

Rather than the injustice of the fertility industry, there is NaPro Technology which works to heal the underlying causes of infertility and cooperates with women’s bodies. (Its success rate for achieving pregnancies is significantly higher than IVF).

On the other hand, NaPro is not a panacea. Children are, and will always remain, a gift freely given or withheld by God. We owe infertile couples the full support of the church — not only because they are particularly vulnerable, but also because we are committed to remembering and accompanying those who suffer.

Here are some practical tips to accompany infertile couples:

1. Acknowledge their suffering. You can’t do anything else until you have done this. Avoid easy platitudes that minimize or diminish their suffering.

2. Give infertile couples space to confide in you. Allow their suffering to affect you. Only love can alleviate the isolation caused by suffering.

3. Offer to pray for them, and ask if there are any particular saints you could ask for intercession.

4. Don’t ask why they don’t have children (or when they will or when they will have more). It will only add to their suffering, especially in a crowd. Being a good married Catholic has nothing to do with the number of kids you have; rather, it’s intimately related to willingness to accept them as gifts from God.

5. Don’t complain about pregnancy, birth or your baby around them. An infertile woman would cut off her arm to have morning sickness. Her wildest dreams involve staying awake all night soothing a baby. Your suffering is also incredibly real but know your audience.

6. Let them talk about their pets. Infertile couples know even better than you do that their dog or cat is not a human. They know it deeply and painfully.

7. Ask if they want to hold your baby. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

8. Don’t isolate them. Invite them into your domestic life (including baby showers), but show understanding if they decline.

It takes strength and dedication to remain faithful to church teaching in the face of suffering when technocracy promises results with IVF. When infertile couples choose this path of faithfulness, they are a powerful witness against the technocratic manipulation of nature and children.

Carrying the cross of infertility is a powerful image of the dignity of the body, of marriage and of children. Men and women doing this deserve our support and accompaniment.

To find out more about NaPro, go online to:

Katie Meinert, M.A., from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, and John Meinert, Ph.D., an associate professor of moral theology at Benedictine College in Atchison, are residents of Atchison and have been married for 15 years.

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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