They are faithful Catholic women who tell a similar story. They are newly married and eager to start a family.
Yet as three months turns into six months and then into a year or longer, these hopeful mothers-to-be become painfully aware that starting a family will not be easy. They have discovered they are probably suffering from infertility.
To find a solution they are off to their local doctor, who puts them through multiple tests and prescribes all kinds of medicine. After realizing that pills and drugs aren’t working, the next option the doctor suggests is to give assisted reproductive technologies a try.
While some of these Catholic women may not know the exact reasons why, that little voice within each of them tells them that treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI) are not right and go against Church teaching. They are not going to go with those treatments.
What do they do now? Are they the only “weird ones” out there that are not going through with IVF? What do Catholic women do in these cases? To whom can they talk?
After a few searches on Google, the women realize that they are hardly alone. In fact, they quickly discover that their struggles are hardly unique. They’ve just entered the realm of Catholic infertility bloggers.
“I started blogging in December of 2007,” Karey Nobles of Richmond, Va., told Our Sunday Visitor. “When I began, there were only a few blogs that could be considered Catholic. That’s why I started mine. It did me no good to read blogs about assisted reproductive technologies, like IVF and IUI, because I knew they weren’t an option for me as a Catholic.”
Nobles, whose blog is titled All You Who Hope, said the number of like-minded Catholic women blogging about their fertility struggles is too many to keep up with these days. Nobles and others estimate that in their corner of the blogosphere there are more than 50 women who post regularly.
More than just posts
At Sew Infertile, Nicole Tait said that the women she has come to share stories with are answers to prayers. She posts on her blog whenever she can. Whether it’s an update about her latest treatment with natural procreative technology (NaPro) or ranting and raving about why God won’t respond to her plea for motherhood, she is not afraid to write about it.
“I blog all the time. I’m an open book. Infertility isn’t pretty, and I do not hide it,” Tait told OSV.
Amy Sherlock, 29, shares a similar sentiment. Married in summer 2006, she has struggled with endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome. She hit the blogosphere with her stories in May 2008.
“I decided at first to blog so that I could have a place to keep all of my thoughts as I went through these treatments. As time went on, no pregnancies followed, and my readers multiplied, I realized my blog was so much more than just a place for me to chronicle my experiences,” Sherlock told OSV. “Rather, I was meeting dozens and dozens of faithful Catholic women dealing with the same cross of infertility or the cross of re-current miscarriages. These women were going through exactly the same emotions and spiritual struggles as I was.”
So strong has this bond of infertility become for these women that a number of the bloggers have gone to great lengths to not only reach out to others in the group via regular phone conversations but have even arranged to meet each other. In short, cyberfriendship in many cases has become real-life friendship.
In August 2009, eight of the bloggers came together from around the nation for a weekend together at a cabin in Tennessee. They billed their getaway as the Barren Wives Weekend.
“We did a lot of talking; it was as though our blogs came alive,” wrote Tait on her Sew Infertile blog just days after the getaway. “So instead of writing, we talked and we talked about what we already wrote. We would talk until 2 a.m., and then I wasn’t able to sleep in so I would wake up at sixish. It is amazing that we all battle the same battle. Seeing it on the blog is one thing, but seeing the tears in real life is another.”
Nobles, who attended the weekend, agreed that these women mean much more to her than just a group of computer pen pals.
“These ladies are my real-life friends now. We are invited to each other’s baptisms, birthday parties, etc. I honestly don’t even think of it as meeting up or talking on the phone with bloggers anymore. They are just my dear friends who I happened to meet through blogging,” she said.
In the Lexington, Ky., area, Kristy Tucker has battled infertility since the start of her marriage in 2006. She has recounted her journey at Percolating Petals. She said that the prayer support that this group provides has been vital to her.
In particular, much fruit has been born from a prayer-partner program that the bloggers initiated in Advent 2009. Each blogger who participated was secretly given the name of another blogger to pray for and offer sacrifices for. At the end of Advent, the particular prayer partner’s name was revealed.
Several of the women noted that it wasn’t long after Christmas when a pregnancy boom of sorts took place among the group.
“I find it hard to believe that was a coincidence,” Sherlock told OSV. “We did prayer partners again during Lent. There seemed to be a large number of surprise adoptions and/or pregnancies during and immedi-ately after Lent.”
Nobles delivered her first biological child, a boy, in late November, a year after adopting a little girl, and Tucker gave birth to a girl in mid-November.
Can you still blog and be a member of the infertility community if you are pregnant and have a baby? The general consensus among the group is yes.
“At first we were all barren, trying to find our way,” said Tait, who gave birth to a girl in early December. “Our barren wombs brought us this group together and so we continue to pray and support the women who are still waiting and suffering with the cross of infertility.”
Entering her fourth year of infertility, Sherlock told OSV that she hasn’t lost hope that one day she will be blessed with motherhood. Whatever happens, she knows that this group has been a lifeline of support for her over the past few years.
“I can’t even begin to describe what the Catholic infertility blogging community has meant to me,” she said. “Imagine having a team of 35-plus people praying for you at the same time when you are in the depths of despair. Imagine having that same group rejoicing with your good news, crying with you, supporting you, being the presence of Christ in your life in a very tangible way.”
Eddie O’Neill writes from Wisconsin.
On the Web (sidebar)
Here is a listing of blogs mentioned in the story, along with other Catholic infertility blogs:
All You Who Hope: allyouwhohope.blogspot.com
Apostolate of Hannah’s Tears: theapostolateof hannahstears.blogspot.com/
Joy Beyond the Cross: joybeyondthecross.blogspot.com/
Percolating Petals: percolatingpetals.blogspot.com
Sew Infertile: sewinfertile.blogspot.com
This Cross I Embrace: thiscrossiembrace.blogspot.com
Prayers for Pregnancy (sidebar)
Mother of Christ, you know, as no other mother can, the high dignity of motherhood. You know how immensely great the privilege to call into this world a tiny soul is destined to praise God forever in heaven. This is the privilege I now seek, Mary!
Confidently I beg you to assist me, for I know that motherhood is so precious in your sight. And confidently too, I hope for this blessing through your divine Son, since Jesus is the lover of the little children and has said that we should allow them to come to him.
It is for this blessing that I beg you to join to my petitions your own holy intercession, that I might be privileged to bring to Jesus a little one such as he so dearly loves, that he may bless it, that he may bless me, also, in my motherhood, and that he may then make us both grow in the wonders of his divine life. Mother of Mothers, Pray for me!
God, our Creator, by your love the world is filled with life, through your generosity one generation gives life to another, and so are your wonders told and your praises sung.
We look to you in our love and in our need: may it be your will that we bear (adopt) a child to share our home and faith.
Loving God, be close to us as we pray to love and do Your will. You are our God, nourishing us forever and ever. Amen.