In general, I feel at peace most days and have come to a new level of acceptance about our current situation as a childless couple. I'm less anxious about what others think about me/us and more able to enjoy the blessings we've been given, even though that doesn't mean my heart isn't always longing to be a mother, which it is. Every single day.
My therapist and I agreed that we didn't need to meet monthly anymore, but on an as-needed basis.
But I had one particular thing I wanted to talk about with my therapist, and it's related to my feelings of anger at the Father's day blessing two Sundays ago.
I'm not sure how to put this into words, but I think it's worth trying. (And I'm sorry in advance if I say something wrong or insensitively.) Basically I've been feeling really frustrated with how some people in our Church talk about children and childbearing.
Sometimes I get the impression that people think having children is as easy as not using contraception. And then the implication is that if you have a "small family" (whoever decides how that is defined), you're probably using contraception, statistically speaking at least. If you have a "big family," you automatically get the Catholic gold star of approval.
I feel frustrated with how sometimes childbearing is spoken of as something you do, vs. something you receive as an un-earned gift.
I feel frustrated when I hear large families being lauded, and never hear praise for faithful infertile couples. Like the other day in conversation with some folks planning a mass, someone said, "We found a family with 9 kids to take the gifts up to the altar. What a witness!!" to which there was much head-nodding. And I thought, "I wonder if anyone would ever think that Mr. M and I were a witness? Would anyone ever ask us to take the gifts up? We're following Church teaching, after all. Isn't that a witness?"
(Please know that I am not at all meaning to criticize big families. I'm sure it is really hard to have more than whatever the socially acceptable number of children is, and I'm sure it's a heck of a lot of work to raise a big family! I think my gripe comes more from sometimes sensing that people laud big families as if their family size were entirely in their control: "How great and generous of them to have so many kids!" Yes, it is an awesome thing to accept many children into your family. But no one can take credit for having a big family as if it was entirely their choosing.)
I guess what I'm getting at is that I feel frustrated on a pretty frequent basis with the way people within our Church family talk about having children as if children were a "when" and not an "if."
For example, I read an article the other day about how the reason Catholic schools are failing is that people don't have as many children as they used to. Now sure, fine, lots of people contracept and artificially limit their family size. But as an infertile woman, I felt so lousy reading that article. The author only mentioned infertile couples once, and then only to comment how bad it is when infertile couples resort to IVF. Ugh.
So yeah, there are times when I feel personally responsible for demographic decline, Catholic schools failing, etc. etc. For goodness sakes, don't people realize that there's this thing called infertility and that not every Catholic has the large family they desire??
Or I'll read articles by NFP-skeptics who say NFP is bad because it has led to smaller family sizes. Same reaction: are these people living in an alternative universe where you're completely in control of how many kids you have?
Or I'll read reflections from engaged women who talk rosily about "when" they become a mother and all the wonderful homeschooling they're going to do, and how they don't care what society says, they're going to have 10 children, and I just cringe and pray that they never experience infertility because it will be a huge shocker to their plans!
I don't know. I know this sounds so pessimistic and is awfully poorly worded.
And I know I could just steer clear of articles with titles like "One-child families: boring" and "The solution to everything: large families!!!" (the first one is real; the second I made up). But the thing is, these are articles coming from my fellow Catholic brothers and sisters. My fellow pro-lifers. My fellow followers-of-Church-teaching. And I think it's pretty lousy that I have to tiptoe my way through certain articles and/or conversations, guarding my heart and leaving comments about how "You know, having a large family isn't guaranteed to anyone..." and "Not all infertile couples resort to IVF..." and "NFP isn't just to avoid pregnancy, but it can help couples struggling with infertility to get pregnant."
More than that, I dread to think about infertile couples who have left the Church because they felt like they didn't fit in, because they didn't feel that their marriage was valued, because they got a message (however wrongly interpreted) that Good Catholic Families (TM) fill a mini-van, at least. Infertility ministry, and just plain accurate theology about children and child-bearing, is not catering to a special-interest group but being welcoming in the best sense and truly evangelistic.
Okay, off the soap-box...
My therapist acknowledged that this is difficult, and that it's okay to be angry when I feel unappreciated by the Church or feel unfairly judged. She told me that when she and her husband were struggling with infertility, on three separate occasions people approached them to tell them that contraception was wrong (!!!!) I would have flipped out.
And I need to remember that God is my ultimate judge, no one else. I'm far from a perfect Catholic, but I have a clean conscience before Him that Mr. M and I are living out marital chastity, despite appearing outwardly like contraceptors (maybe to some anyway). It's all part of the hidden cross of infertility, I guess. And maybe it's good that I'm going through this, and learning to look for God's approval and not man's. Because man's sure doesn't happen often for infertile couples. At least not in my experience.
So that's my rambling tale from therapy. And hopefully my next post will be happier and include more pictures =)