Being Catholic is the best thing that can happen to a human being. That’s just the truth. Saying “yes” to Christ and His Church means saying “yes” to eternal life. In this life, however, it also means saying “no” to certain things. Things that can—in times of sorrow, need and desire—actually look pretty good to a person.
For me, the hardest “no” I ever had to say was to in vitro fertilization.
I was 24-years-old when I married the love of my life. At our wedding we promised to be open to children—that our love would be “fruitful.”
But it wasn’t. After six years of marriage and still no babies, I started consulting the experts.
I saw a lot of doctors, I read a lot of research. I took pills, I had injections. I spent a small fortune, and a lot of hope, on completely pointless pregnancy tests.
The one thing I refused to do was in vitro fertilization. I had two reasons for turning it down: 1) the idea made me feel like a white rat; and 2) the Catholic Church backed me up on that. In vitro fertilization (IVF), the Church teaches, is beneath human dignity. Accordingly, the Church’s position is that IVF is morally illicit without exception.
My refusal to do in vitro proved to be a sticking point with every new specialist I consulted. It got so I could practically time it.
DOCTOR: Why haven’t you done in vitro, again?
ME: Um, religious reasons.
DOCTOR: (stiff little smile) In that case I’m afraid I can’t help you.
But, it did more than halt a few conversations. In the eyes of the medical establishment, my refusal to do IVF set me apart as some kind of weirdo. A mental defective, even. Over and over again I was confronted with the attitude that if I were just a little bit smarter, a little more independent, a little less enslaved to an outdated, outmoded religion, then I would naturally give in and do in vitro. Then, the doctors kept pointing out, I could have what I wanted. It could all be so easy. Why was I making it so hard for myself?
And my only answer, which I never voiced (the specialists meant well, and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings) was: Because I am not a white rat. Because I am a human being. Because there is more to me than eggs and hormones. Because there’s ME, damn it!
I believed this with all my heart, but it didn’t make infertility any easier to bear. I hated being childless. I hated being the only one of my friends who had no cute stories to tell about her children, who was never able to announce to her husband, “I’m pregnant,” who never saw his eyes light up at the news. I hated Mother’s Day; I hated baby showers; I hated the stabbing grief I felt whenever someone close to me announced she was expecting a baby. I wanted to be truly happy for them, but I just didn’t have it in me. And for that, I hated myself.
On our 20th wedding anniversary my husband and I went to a hospital to get a whole bunch of shots. Then we went to Toys“R”Us to buy baby supplies. The next day we got on a plane and flew to the other side of the world to adopt our daughter.
Adoption made us a family. But—and I know a lot of adoptive parents, or prospective parents, may not want to think about this—it does not take away the pain of infertility. That never quite went away. It got a lot easier to bear, but it is still a part of who I am.
The point is, though, that God made me who I am. And God does nothing without a reason. That means that, for some obscure reason, the world needed this person, this woman, with this body—this body that doesn’t quite work the way most other women’s do.
I know in my heart that God chose my daughter for me before either of us was born. He made me wait plenty long for her—you think nine months is a long time, try 20 years!—but in the end He had it all planned, and perfectly.
If infertility has taught me anything, it has taught me that the only way to true happiness, the only way to live, is to trust God completely. Even if it means saying “no.”