"There is no sign unless something happens contrary to nature. The brightness of the sun is no sign, but an eclipse is."
- Fulton Sheen
This year, Easter Week and National Infertility Awareness Week fall at the same time.
Catholic couples who face infertility face some unique struggles, and often bear their crosses in silence. Those outside the church often approach fertility as something one can switch on and off like a light, and often do not understand why Catholics will not pursue IVF and similar artificial reproductive technologies. Within the church, many assume that couples with few or no children are using contraception, turn up their noses at them, and ask no more questions.
When couples, Catholic or not, discover their infertility, the experience is somewhat like facing a death, only they mourn something that was never there. In her personal memoir, former First Lady Laura Bush puts it this way:
For some years now, the wedding invitations that had once crowded the mailbox had been replaced by shower invites and pink-or-blue-beribboned baby announcements. I bought onesies or rattles, wrapped them in yellow paper, and delivered them to friends. I had done it with a happy wistfulness, believing that someday my time, my baby, would come. George and I had hoped that I would be pregnant by the end of his congressional run. Then we hoped it would be by the time his own father announced his presidential run, then by the presidential primaries, the convention, the general election. But each milestone came and went. The calendar advanced, and there was no baby.Jennifer Fulwiler of the National Catholic Register has posted an article on the often invisible experiences of infertile Catholic couples. If you or someone you know is facing infertility, it is a worthwhile read.
The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?
Tip of the Schoomarm Ruler to Tito, for posting the NCR article on Facebook, and to In All Things Good.