If you have just stumbled upon this post, or if you missed yesterday's blog post, I recommend that you start here first. And again, thank you for using love and charity when expressing your thoughts.
As you can imagine, the months that followed our daughter's birth were pure bliss. Crying, colicky baby...I'll take it! Sleepless nights...I love them! Breastfeeding struggles combined with nursing on demand and slow-gaining-weight baby..."don't worry darlin' I've got this and we'll get if figured out! You and mama are a team and your daddy thinks you hung the moon!"
Maternity leave ended and while I hated to return to work I knew the reality of the financial situation. We had some hefty medical debt to pay off. It was the price we had to pay for achieving our dream.
In the meantime...husband, baby, and I continue to attend Mass in blissful ignorance. In fact, if anything, I was on my knees even more offering prayers of Thanksgiving. And although I secretly wanted a second baby...after promising God that one blessed gift would be more than enough...I never voiced those words out loud to my husband or to God. We vowed that we would never go through the emotional and financial strain of IVF again. One miracle baby was more than enough and our family of three was perfect. So why did I want just one more?
The first rumbling within my heart...that maybe...just maybe...we had done something "wrong" was when I was discussing the Church with a girlfriend who had recently left Catholicism. I was truly heartbroken for her. We were discussing various aspects of the Faith when she mentioned that she had just never really "bought into" devotion to Mary...the Saints...and the infallibility of the Pope. As I explained my deep love and Church reasoning for all the things that she was dismissive of, she said that while she missed certain things about the Faith, she didn't feel like she could remain a member of the Church, and she always wondered how people like me could remain a part of the Church when they blatantly disregarded Church teachings.
"People like me"???
I don't disregard church teachings. Okay, maybe I contracepted, but who doesn't??? And now that we know we are infertile I don't need to even do that anymore...see, I'm back in good standing. (contraceptive mentality???!!!)
It was then that she asked me how I had reconciled using IVF to achieve a pregnancy that clearly went against Church teaching.
I think that the world stopped turning for a 2nd time in my life. At that moment, it was hard to think...to process what she was telling me...and surely she was wrong...she wasn't even Catholic anymore!
*insert head into sand*
Flying High a 2nd Time
Conversation dropped...time passing by...Mary Catherine self-weaning from nursing around 15-months old...life was good. Although a bit unsettled from the telephone conversation a few months earlier, I was content to live life as I had been doing. Juggling a career and parenthood was about all that I could handle at that point in time. I simply did not have any additional energy to research Church teachings...and maybe I didn't want to know the truth...
And the reason for my lack of energy...
Shock. Joy. Fear. Elation.
An early ultrasound confirmed what we had never experienced before...a conception achieved on our own (as if!) with a heartbeat. Previous to Mary Catherine's birth we experienced four miscarriages...none of those babies ever had a heartbeat...or lost a heartbeat before ultrasound could even detect it.
Christmas 2006, Mary Catherine Age 2, Benjamin 5-Weeks
Benjamin Paul arrived in November of 2006 almost three years to the exact date of our IVF procedure.
A coincidence? I think not.
Instead, I think the Holy Spirit was shouting at me, "GOD IS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN 1%". (Remember, "less than 1% chance" was what the "specialists" told us was the possibility of us conceiving on our own. We needed them.)
And as excited as I was over the birth of our son...and feeling so very blessed...I was also feeling anxious and confused over this whole issue of IVF.
Were people lying to me? Was my girlfriend correct about Church teaching...did the IVF clinic lie about our possibility to conceive on our own without their help...why had I never heard a homily about the Church's position on issues of reproductive technologies? And what exactly was my culpability in all of this???
Had I really been listening to homilies at Masses...living a Catholic faith life...learning/understanding/and embracing all the truths of the Church?
Or, had I been on auto-pilot for so long...buying into all that a secular/materialistic/feminist world view had to offer...that I ignored or refused to listen to Church teachings?
Hitting Rock Bottom
As months that turned into years passed, this nagging IVF issue tugged at my heart. I decided I needed to do some research for myself.
One Saturday afternoon, I went to a Catholic bookstore. I needed a First Holy Communion gift, but also thought that I would take the opportunity to read some up-to-date/current publications on reproductive technologies. I wanted this issue "settled" in my mind. I wanted reassurance that what I had done was okay and all was right in my faith world.
And there, in the "family life" section of the bookstore, next to the Kate Gosselin book (Jon & Kate Plus Eight) (in hindsight...what in the world was THAT doing in a Catholic bookstore???) I picked up a handbook for infertile couples.
While I can't remember the exact wording it basically summarized that besides sperm collection issues, embryo destruction (both during and after the in vitro process) and a myriad of other "spin-off" issues (gender selections...using donor eggs and sperm...gestational carriers...etc. etc.) the worst part about a couple using IVF was that they created a child in a most disrespecting way. And while that child is a child of God, they were NOT created in a manner pleasing to God. (paraphrasing)
As my checks flushed and I felt the heat rising up my collar I became livid.
I remember throwing the book down, not even purchasing the First Holy Communion gift.
Who the hell were they (these authors of the book) to tell me that my child's conception was displeasing to God? And The Magisterium? Clearly not with the times and understanding all of the new advances in modern medicine!
Scales covering my eyes and ears. First, refusing to hear the truth. Then, disbelieving after seeing and reading it.
That night, I sank to my knees in prayer. Why, oh why, would God allow this to be my life's experience? Why, after being a "good and faithful daughter" all through my childhood and teenage years would I be subjected first to the pain of infertility and then to the realization that what my husband and I had willingly entered into was wrong. Was this punishment...for contracepting? For not going to "Confession" regularly?
I felt paralyzed with fear. Why would my Church abandon me? Where would I be welcome to worship?
In my mind, I had committed the ultimate sin. Right up there with women who abort and men who murder.
I needed to find a new religion...a new church...one that accepted me for the sinner I was.
Please join me tomorrow as I share the final chapter to this saga...how my search for a new church home actually led me back to the Catholic Church...and the incredible blessings that God has continued to bestow upon my family.