The Daughters of Job(e)

I will never forget the moment when Nicholas first shared ideas for future baby names with me: it was November of 2014 and I was in his pickup truck as he was driving me to the airport…for a discernment retreat with the Sisters of Life.

At one point, he looked at me and said, “do you know what they say about the daughters of Jobe?” I did not, and so he promptly directed me to open the book of Job, 42:15, “In all the land no women were found as beautiful as Job’s daughters.”

I remember laughing and thinking to myself, “whoever marries this guy will be one lucky girl. I hope she knows it.”

That weekend, I spoke to Sr. Virginia Joy, the vocations director at the time, and she told me, “keep your heart open to marriage. Perhaps God has someone in mind for you that you will meet while you’re in Rome.” I laughed. I was certain of Christ’s plan for me, and marriage wasn’t part of it.

Just two months earlier, I went to Mass with a group of friends and met Nick when he was invited out to lunch with us. He was just starting his graduate program at UD, while I was in my second year there. If you ask Nick what his initial impression of me was at that time, he will simply say, “intense.” If you ask him if his impression was accurate, he will emphatically state, “Yes!”

At the time, Nick had a girlfriend of two plus years and I was determined to be a sister. There was no thought of romance between us.

I knew Nick had been having a difficult time adjusting to UD (I know now that UD was not his first choice for grad school, and the assistantship he was given has now been divided into two positions), so when many of our friends went on retreat one weekend, I invited him to ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s. He was quiet. It was unacceptable. I remedied this by abruptly breaking the silence and unceremoniously saying, “So, tell me your life story.” Amazingly, he didn’t think I was entirely crazy…and he told me about his life, in detail, as we walked together after finishing ice cream.

One thing we both shared was a love for Traditional Latin Mass. And so, Nicholas drove me to mass each Friday and each Friday we would have breakfast together. Looking back, it is easy to see how Mass brought us together. We became closer through our love of tradition as well as our love of coffee and bagels. When my roommates drove me nuts, I knew I could go to Nick’s apartment and write a paper in peace without disruption. I didn’t have to say anything and we didn’t have to even be in the same room, but he became a quiet source of comfort for me without my even realizing it.

But of course, we were only friends. So much so, that Nicholas actually told me his entire plan for how he would propose to his future wife (he didn’t change it, by the way, and his proposal to me is what started his rosary business). I remember meeting his then girlfriend at the time, and Nick later asked me what I thought of her. My response was simple, “I don’t know who you are around her.”

So after that discernment retreat in November, I began preparing for my study abroad in Rome. Nicholas helped me move out of my apartment. We continued texting each other throughout that Christmas break, and at one point, we realized, “wait..we could actually work really well together as a couple!” We made a pact that if neither of us was married or in religious life by 30, that we would marry each other.

And so in January 2015, I went to Rome. I began a 54 day rosary novena asking God to make the path forward clear to me. I will never forget when I was in Chapel at Santa Maria in Trastevere, and I heard Christ asking, “Will you give it all to me?” I knew this was asking me to lay it all down, to let go of my dreams, to let Christ lead. And I thought that it meant that marriage was not my vocation.

I spent the next three days miserable, until I was in Santa Maria Majore. Note the length of time: three days.

I was in prayer, still mourning the dreams I had of marriage and children, but determined to follow Christ. I then felt a strong prompting to meditate on the sacrifice of Isaac. As I reflected on this, I began to realize: God asked Abraham for his only son so as to give Abraham an opportunity to demonstrate his trust in God. God, in return, rewarded Abraham. I recall being promoted to reflect on Christ placing my hand in Nicholas’ hand, as he led us to the altar together, as Christ led us to the Cross. I heard simply, “You have shown me your faithfulness, now see the one I have prepared for you.”

For three days, I had felt utter misery, but I had trusted. Then, on the third day, there was the resurrection: God’s full plan revealed to us.

It is for that reason among many others that one of the central parts of our marriage and family mission statement says, “We will keep station at the Cross in anticipation of the resurrection.” It is why our daughters, Madeleine and Mariana, are named for Mary Magdalene and Our Lady of Sorrows respectively: these are the two women who remained at the Cross with Christ.

We have certainly had our share of crosses: family members passing, infertility, my anxiety, my RA. But there have been so many joys as well, so many resurrections amidst the Cross.

I met Nicholas in September 2014, we began courting in March 2015, were engaged in July 2015, and married January 2016. Our romance is one I never expected and could never have written, and God’s hand in our relationship is so clear to me. I am deeply grateful for him: he is my rock, my quiet place of comfort, my constant, my cross. Christ has chosen Nicholas to help sanctify me, and I am astounded by the gift of our marriage.

And what they say is true, by the way: the daughters of Jobe are the fairest in the land.

Trust: The Heart of NFP

I will forever remember the first time I tried to educate somebody else about NFP. I was explaining that NFP along with natural reproductive technology, or NaPro, could actually provide health solutions for most problems treated by the pill. My audience: my junior level morality class.

I am one of the first in a generation that has used NFP from a young age. Rather than immediately being put on the pill for the issues I was having with my cycle, my parents took me to see a NaPro doctor and a Creighton practitioner. And so at the young age of 16, I was familiar with signs of my fertility, the way in which a woman’s fertility worked, and the fact that my current hormone levels likely meant that I would struggle to have children if they continued at that level into adulthood.

I quickly saw the many uses of NFP. I saw how it benefited me greatly in preventing immense pain throughout my cycle. I wanted others to have this knowledge, too. Hence, the position in which I found myself: explaining NFP, a woman’s cycle, and the downsides of birth control to my junior morality class.

It was at that moment that I learned that many of my classmates were in fact on the pill. Mind you, this was a Catholic school. However, many of them had been put on the pill for various health issues. Most of these health issues could have been addressed by hormonal support provided through NaPro Technology. I’ll never forget the reaction though from the boys in the class who looked at me and booed me and Said to all the girls in the class “We don’t want to hear about your flow.”

Although comical now, it points to the issue of educating not only young men but also women about their health and fertility. Fortunately, my school decided to address this issue by bringing in a Creighton practitioner to talk to all the girls in the high school. Perhaps the young men could have benefitted as well.

As I became older, I found myself having discussions about NFP with my fiance. When we attended marriage preparation the way in which NFP was presented to us was a sort of prosperity gospel: use NFP and avoid kids when you want. But when you want kids, since you have been following God’s will, they will come easily!

However that wasn’t at all our experience. We faced infertility and all the struggles that went along with it. I wrote about that extensively in my infertility series that you can find here. If that is currently your struggle, know that I am praying for you.

Once we were finally blessed with our first child in 2018, we then switched to using NFP to avoid. That was not nearly as easy as it as it had been made to seem either. For both of us when I was postpartum it seemed that there were infinitely less available days for use than the happy, smiling, overly cheery couple at our marriage preparation had made it seem. There were likely many days that had been available to us but that I did not feel confident enough in using. I was using Creighton the first time postpartum, and since Creighton is a mucus only method, it became confusing postpartum. Postpartum cycles and fertility markers are very different than in normal cycles, which is why I’m using Marquette this time around.

In both cases, using NFP required trust. Trust that we would be carried through our suffering. Trust in the purifying fire of Christ’s love and suffering. Trust that any child would be a blessing, no matter that timing. Trust in one’s spouse to communicate. The center of NFP is trust, which is why this method can be difficult to embrace.

If you don’t trust your body, your spouse, or Christ, other forms of birth control can become tempting. And while there have certainly been times that birth control has seemed appealing, I know it would leave me feeling empty. It would remove the radical trust required in each intimate act. It would become a divide between us rather than something that requires continued communication and trust, as NFP has been for us.

I find that NFP mirrors the requirements of love: it requires self knowledge, communication, vulnerability, and trust to work effectively. How fitting that these elements are also required for a healthy and successful marriage. And so in using NFP to plan our family, we practice the very things needed for a strong marriage and indeed, a strong faith as well. For at the center of our fertility is Christ calling us to relationship with Him, calling us to walk on the waters, to put out into the deep, to trust in Him. Christ is calling us to know ourselves that we may know Him, to trust that we may be vulnerable with him, to be vulnerable with Him that we may be loved by Him. Will you answer His call?

Marriage and the Universal Vocation of Motherhood

This is a post written in the midst of our infertility journey that I had not published at that time.

Nearly a year after I was married, my mother went through everything in my old room.  She packed it all up in boxes and handed it to me. “Here”, she said, “This can be all yours to sort through now.” And as I was looking through boxes of clothes, purses, makeup, and school projects, I found two particular projects that were of interest to me.  One was from when I was in preschool, the other was from first grade.  Both were “All About Me” projects, the type of project where a teacher asks a young student various questions about favorite color, favorite food, favorite things to do, all for the purpose of being able to look at these things later and reminisce.

My favorite food was mac’ and cheese.  My favorite color was blue and purple. Things I loved included my dog, my mom and dad, and my siblings. But what did I want to be when I grew up? Not a teacher, not a doctor, not a nurse.  Not a lawyer, not an astronaut, not a writer.  I wanted to be a mom.

It strikes me, that as young as I was, as many different things that I could have chosen, that I chose motherhood as my desired vocation.  I know from my own memory that even as young as six, that I wanted to be a teacher.  But when asked, I didn’t choose to say, “I want to be a teacher.”  Instead, I decided that being a mother was a greater desire in my heart than being a teacher.

And yet, marriage was not my immediate vocation choice.  When I met Nicholas, I wanted to join the Sisters of Life in New York City.  Their mission to protect, preserve, and enhance the sacredness of all human life is a mission that deeply resonates with my heart.  And when I was discerning with them, I didn’t see my desire to join them as contrary to my desire to be a mother.  I saw that these women were mothers in a profoundly spiritual and mystical manner.  I saw the way the mothers in their convent looked at them and spoke of them as mentors.  I saw them carry babies and lovingly nurture them so that a new mom could have some peace on a retreat. And I wanted to participate in this spiritual motherhood.  It is still on my heart to minister to women in this way, though not as a religious sister.

On January 13, 2015, I left Nicholas behind before I went to Rome for four months to do research abroad on religious life.  On January 13, 2016 I stood in Vatican Square in my wedding dress with my new husband to receive the Sposi Novelli blessing.  God worked in my heart that year to open me to the possibility of marriage. He asked me to give up the possibility of marriage while in adoration, and then, three days later, in the Basilica of St. Mary, Major, asked me to give my heart fully to Him, but with Nicholas at my side.  He expanded my understanding of my vocation as Christ’s spouse to include marriage; I see now in my marriage that I receive Christ’s love primarily through Nicholas.  That in turn reminds me to give all that I have to Christ and to rely on Him even more deeply than I rely on Nicholas.  And though I hope to participate in embodied motherhood, Christ has used my understanding of spiritual motherhood that I gained from my discernment with the Sisters of Life to understand myself as a mother in a profoundly spiritual way.  I am a mother hidden, unknown to the world except to some close friends.  I may not be a mother in the same way as mothers with children on earth, but I am a mother.

Saying that takes a certain measure of boldness.  I am afraid that those with children on earth may be angered that I would dare to claim the title of “mother.”  And yet, my experience with discerning religious life and entering into marriage have taught me that every woman is a mother.  Every woman is called to be a mother, though her motherhood is expressed differently and uniquely. Reading Edith Stein’s Essays on Women has confirmed what I have known in my heart–that every woman, no matter her state in life, is to be a mother.  For motherhood is not confined to raising one’s biological children, but rather, “to be a mother innately means to cultivate, to guard, and to develop true humanity. Both spiritual companionship and spiritual motherliness are not limited to the physical wife and mother relationship, but they extend to all people with whom woman comes into contact” (Essays on Women).  Woman has been created to be relational.  She concerns herself with knowing, understanding, and helping others.  When we strive to cultivate and guard true humanity, authentic relationship, we are fulfilling the office of mother.  The office of mother is particularly important as it relates to biological and adopted children, of course, but would we not say that a religious sister who pours her heart out to teaching and cultivating children’s faith is a mother?  Would we not call the older, single woman who cares for our children and mentors teens a true mother to the community? So too it is then that any woman who prays for children of her own, who gives herself to the care of children, who takes up the office of godmother or confirmation sponsor, who devotes herself to the betterment of her community, who gives generously of herself to all whom she meets, may be called a true mother.

I am a godmother and a confirmation sponsor to two of my siblings.  I work with children daily, teaching them the faith and love of neighbor.  When they fall down, I tend to their wounds.  When they cry, I comfort them. And I pray for my own children that are not here yet.  Though I do not know the time or the way in which my own children will come to me and my husband, I know that they will come.  And so I hold them in my heart and my prayers daily.  And it is through these prayers, through this daily gift of self to others, through care for all whom I meet, that I strive to fulfill the call to motherhood, which is the call of every woman.

TTC: On the Other Side of NFP 

This is a post written in the midst of our infertility journey that I had not gotten around to publishing.

When Nick was hired by the Athenaeum (Cincinnati’s Seminary) in late February, I couldn’t have been happier. We had jumped into marriage trusting in God’s timing, and here was an answered prayer. After going out to dinner and celebrating, we began talking about the changes the new job would bring.

I was excited to move to Cincinnati, which had always been one of the two cities where I wanted to live. Nick was happy to be working for the Church and assisting the students at the seminary. We started looking at apartments and town homes, ready to be out of UD Student Housing.

As we discussed what we both felt to be a true start to our lives together, our discussion turned to children. Nick had a steady, stable job now, with amazing health insurance and a comfortable salary. Before that point, Nick was a graduate assistant at UD and we were living in student housing as part of his assistantship. I still had a semester left to finish my undergraduate. It was easy to see that we shouldn’t rush into trying to have children, though building a family together was one of the deepest desires of our hearts.

I remember the profound joy I felt when Nick and I decided to intentionally build our family together. In previous months, we had remained open, but we wouldn’t have said we were trying. At first it was easy to remain hopeful and excited each month, but after a few months of trying, it began to weigh on both of us.

Suddenly, communicating about my fertility became a big deal and a source of anxiety for me. I wanted to allow Nick the chance to initiate, but I knew he also needed to be aware of the changes in my cycle. I didn’t want to put pressure on either of us, but as the months passed I felt a growing sense of urgency and the need to take advantage of every opportunity. It was exhausting for both of us and it became a strain on our marriage.

In our marriage prep, we’d heard about the stresses of NFP. We’d heard about the difficulties of choosing to abstain during times of fertility rather than choosing a form of birth control. We’d heard that NFP could cause fights and at times resentment.

Everything we’d heard about the difficulties of NFP prior to our marriage was in the context of using NFP to avoid having. children (or TTA).

Clearly, we weren’t using NFP to avoid having children at this point in our marriage. It followed then, that there should be no difficulties caused by using NFP, no stress, no strain on our marriage.

We didn’t have to abstain at any point in my cycle! We didn’t need to worry anxiously about being pregnant when we weren’t ready! From the point of view of anyone that was currently trying to avoid having children by using NFP, we’d struck gold, and we should take advantage of this fun and exciting time in our marriage.

And while for a few months we felt that excitement and gratitude for our situation, as stress and worry about fertility mounted, the excitement and gratitude faded away.

Our marriage prep failed us. I realize that may seem to be a drastic statement, but I believe it’s true. When the couple you bring in to talk about NFP is the couple that “gets pregnant when the husband sneezes” (something the wife actually said while teaching us about NFP), the only side of NFP that you will hear about the crosses that come with NFP are those related to trying to avoid children. But there are a whole other set of crosses and struggles when a couple is trying to conceive (TTC) and it doesn’t happen. Even if the couple doesn’t ever meet the standards for being called “infertile” (6 months to a year of trying, depending on age as well as the doctor you ask) trying for two, three, four months is still stressful. It can still create issues that need to be addressed. The Church does newlyweds a disservice a when the struggles that come with TTC (and not just avoiding children) are not included in the marriage prep discussions about NFP.

I truly believed that trying to build our family would be a time of joy and excitement in our marriage. Sometimes, it is a time of joy and excitement. But other times, it can be a time of frustration, stress, and worry. It can drain Nick and me, although in different ways. It can cause tension and resentment between us, something we were not prepared to work through when it came to the intimate issue of building our family. As newlyweds that followed the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, intimacy was already new to us. It was already a struggle to communicate about issues related to intimacy, simply because we didn’t even have the language or the knowledge of how to do so—as is true of all newlyweds that choose to follow Church teaching. Now, because we were trying to have children, there was an added set of issues we needed to discuss with each other related to intimacy—on top of simply figuring out how to communicate with each other about intimacy in the first place.

I truly believe that had our marriage prep included a discussion on the tensions that can arise in a marriage while trying to build a family, that we could have dealt with some of these issues more gracefully. It would’ve helped to simply know that what we were going through was normal. It would’ve helped simply to know that we might expect some additional tension at times. We had learned things about arguing, finances, dating each other while married, compatibility, temperament, and love languages. We certainly didn’t follow through with everything we learned (and are still working on it, as are all couples), but simply having the knowledge was a great help to us. It helped us feel that we had at least some of the tools we needed to address the situations that arose between us. But when it came to building our family together—and intimacy in general—we did not feel that we had the tools we needed, and so we had to seek out the knowledge ourselves.

I know I am not alone in this struggle. I know of many married woman that say that they felt wholly unprepared for the struggles that came with marital intimacy. I have had numerous discussions with other couples about how the Church needs to be more upfront about issues that can arise with sexuality in a marriage as well as how to deal with them. I have read countless stories about women–and their husbands–who were utterly blindsided by the problems that accompanied trying to have children.

For those that have started trying to build their family, whether it be the first or seventh time, know that you are not alone in these struggles—whether it’s the first, third, or seventh month, or whether it’s been years, it doesn’t matter. There are always difficulties that accompany the TTC side of NFP. I believe this is the silent side of NFP, the side that people don’t talk about, because after all, Catholics can easily pop out ten babies. And we all know that NFP is all about creating happy families, because that’s what good Catholics do, right?  We all know that NFP is the natural option for family planning, and so it naturally follows that when you don’t abstain during fertile times, that your body will naturally do what it’s created to do!

These statements aren’t true, and yet within Catholic circles we seem to silently accept them as such. Trying to have a child isn’t as simple as checking in with your spouse monthly and deciding that yes, we are ready for a baby! Deciding that you are ready does not mean a baby will follow, and yet this was the impression that was given in our marriage prep–and the impression I believe is given among most Catholic circles. There were almost elements of the prosperity Gospel, since there was this idea that if you follow God’s plan for sexuality and don’t use birth control in your marriage, that God will bless you abundantly with children and shower blessings on your marriage. We should follow God’s plan for sexuality out of love for Him and because it respects our spouses. We should not be convinced to “buy in” to NFP by hearing the stats about how couples that use NFP have better commmunication, better experiences with intimacy, etc. We need to be honest with couples preparing for marriage about the difficulties that can arise with sexuality, trying to avoid children, and trying to have them—in so far as is appropriate and prudent for couples that are not yet married.

We reached a point in our marriage where intimacy was a chore and an obligation. Intimacy became a source of anxiety as I examined my chart and started feeling “it’s not enough if we want a baby.” I relied more and more on my understanding of health and cycles to try to optimize our chances for success—acting as if I could control whether we had a baby. I pinned the success of my health goals on two pink lines at the end of the month. I made Nick feel objectified and as if I was only interested in having a baby. I felt Nick didn’t care enough and didn’t understand what I was going through. It resulted in a myriad of issues that all came to a head around our first anniversary, pushing us to question whether we needed marriage counseling.

Thankfully, because we were able to recognize the issues that were disrupting and straining our marriage, we were able to develop a plan of attack to address these issues. We began having intentional, vulnerable conversations with each other about our struggle.  I was able to listen to Nick’s concerns and adjust the way I approached him and our fertility so that both of our needs were met. I began focusing on the many blessings in our marriage, and this ignited a new, deeper intimacy between us. We were able to do this because our marriage had a strong foundation in our faith.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of all newlywed couples in the Church that are experiencing this struggle.

We need to have frank, open conversations about the struggles couples can encounter in their sexuality, especially when using NFP for any purpose. I would strongly encourage those involved in marriage prep to have multiple presenters for the NFP talk, so that a variety of experiences, struggles, and blessings that come from using NFP may be presented. There is no singular experience of NFP or married sexuality, and the way we prepare couples entering into marriage should reflect that reality. When we avoid these difficult discussions out of a misplaced sense of propriety, we are doing a disservice to newlyweds. There is a difference between speaking imprudently about one’s very intimate experiences with one’s spouse and seeking to educate and inform those entering into marriage about the difficulties they may encounter.

Despite the Church’s beautiful teachings on Theology of the Body, speaking about the struggles and joys that accompany married sexuality still remains somewhat taboo. We remain silent so to avoid scandal, but in being silent, do we produce scandal by failing to adequately prepare couples for the realities of married life?

We cannot remain silent on these issues, and yet while these realities require frank discussion so as to adequately prepare couples, they also require a certain delicacy and restraint. These are matters of a deeply intimate and personal nature, and we must recognize and treat them as such. We must maintain the sacredness of the intimacy shared between the couple. Walking this fine line is certainly difficult, yet I firmly believe that it is a line we must walk if we wish to truly form couples in the Church’s teachings on sexuality.

We cannot continue to fail newlyweds. There is much that needs to be reformed in marriage preparation, and I strongly believe that the treatment of sexuality is one topic desperately in need of greater emphasis in marriage prep. If we are bold, yet prudent, in our discussion of married sexuality, we can address a myriad of potential issues before they even begin in a marriage. We can encourage those in need of healing from previous experiences to seek help. We can invite couples into the struggles and sufferings that married life carries with it, particularly with the use of NFP for any reason. Ultimately, in choosing not to be silent on these issues, we can raise up a stronger and more faithful Church, built upon the foundation of strong and holy marriages.

For Nothing is Impossible with God: An Update on Our Journey with Infertility

This is a post written during my pregnancy with Madeleine that I had not gotten a chance to publish.

Many of you may know by now that we are expecting our first child. It took 698 miles, over twelve months of blood draws, over twelve months on progesterone and estrogen, nine months of Clomid, two months of Femara, two ultrasounds, one HSG, one laparascopic surgery for endometriosis, but one year, nine months, and 30 days later the Lord has answered our prayers. Baby Jobe will be with us by mid July 2018! We cannot begin to describe our gratitude and our joy. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on all that has brought us to this moment.

In late September of 2017, we travelled to St. Louis to see Dr. Patrick Yeung, a surgeon specializing in endometriosis. Our regular doctor, Dr. Mattingly, felt that since other treatment wasn’t working, that perhaps endometriosis was the culprit of the symptoms I was experiencing. We know I had low progesterone and estrogen, and endometriosis was the only probable cause of those and other symptoms. We were hopeful that the surgery would provide us with answers and prove to be the treatment I had needed.

We are grateful for the love and care we received while in St. Louis. Since my extended family lives there, we were able to visit with nearly everyone before the day of my surgery and stayed with one set of my grandparents. After a day of testing and exams, Dr. Yeung scheduled me for surgery. The morning of my surgery, we headed to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. I was incredibly nervous, and the stillness of the Cathedral helped me to feel more at ease. I reflected on the past week, on recieving the anointing of the sick, and on the hopes and dreams that Nicholas and I share for our family. I thought about our frustration at the lack of answers, and hoped for the best. I knew God was asking us to walk with this Cross for a reason, but sometimes it was difficult to see the blessings in the midst of the pain.

The doctors and nurses that took care of me were incredible. They put my worries at ease, making me laugh and smile when I was nervous. In between the constant parade of different persons coming into the room, Nicholas and I prayed together. I prayed holding the rosary he had made for me for our wedding. He matched this rosary to my wedding dress, and put on it the medals of all the patron saints for those desiring children. Dr. Yeung even came in before surgery to pray with us, asking that God guide his hands and that the surgery would prove fruitful.

Of what they removed, only three spots were endometriosis. After the surgery, Nicholas and I decided to take a break from all of my medications, with the exception of progesterone, for a few months. We felt a deep peace about this decision and looked forward to having some time to focus simply on enjoying each other and growing in our marriage.

I have often been told that “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Well, it was the month after my surgery, and I knew any baby we could be blessed with that month would be due in July. I told God that I was perfectly fine waiting until September or October of 2018 for a baby to come, since that would let me work over the summer more easily. The one month, I told God, that I did not want a baby to come, was July—but, of course I would still be overjoyed. I just wanted to let God know that there was no rush.

On November 8th, 2016, I saw two lines on a pregnancy test for the first time. I screamed, I sobbed, and then I calmed down enough to think that I should call the doctor. Thinking the test would be negative, I had taken it while Nick was at work, which meant I had four hours before I could tell him. These were the longest four hours of my life. I ran out to get my blood drawn, and then went to Target to buy two baby hats: one pink and one blue. I made the bed, and put these in a gift bag in our room with a card. And then I waited.

When Nicholas arrived home, I took him upstairs. As he opened the gift bag, he began to sob. That very weekend, I had seen him tear up after watching a number of small children in our parish play during mass. He told me later that he desired so much to be a father, and that infertility had been weighing on him lately. At first, he didn’t believe that it could be true, and Nick asked me, “Is this a joke?” I had to assure him that it wasn’t a joke, that I had called the doctor, and that our baby was coming in July.

Infertility has forever changed how we will view our children. We have a deep understanding that no person is entitled to a child, and that children are undeserved gifts from our Lord. It has changed how I experience pregnancy as well. I have been able to thank God for the fatigue, the nausea, the hunger, and the other symptoms I experience. I am able to view these experiences joyfully, and offer them for others carrying the cross of infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss. To those that are still struggling with infertility, you are always in our prayers and in our hearts.

Struggling with infertility has shown me just how broken I am. I frequently attempt to do things alone, without the help of others, but I have learned that this is a struggle I cannot handle by myself. When I tried to deal with this alone, it hurt Nicholas and me. Infertility has humbled me. I have learned that I am easily overwhelmed and that I am frequently inflexible. I have learned that I have issues with control; I want to be in control, but I cannot be. I must surrender and give all things to Christ. Struggling with infertility has allowed me to experience a vulnerability with my spouse and with others that I would not have otherwise known.

Now, pregnancy challenges me to let go of control. It has challenged me to rely on Nick to do more of the cooking and cleaning than I would normally let him do. It has broken down my pride and helped me to realize that I cannot do any of this alone. I do not fully understand why Christ let us carry the cross of infertility, nor do I fully understand the timing of his answer to our prayers. I do know, however, that our journey with infertility is not over, in a way. I have learned that I cannot plan the future, and that it is possible that we will struggle with infertility again after our first child comes. Earlier in pregnancy, I was very worried about the possibility of miscarriage. Through these crosses, Christ has called Nicholas and me into a deeper trust. We cannot know the plans the Lord has in mind for us, but I do know that they are plans for good.

For although the journey has been difficult and sometimes painful, there have always been moments of immense joy. We have prayed, and the Lord has answered our prayers. We look forward to welcoming Baby Jobe into our arms, and teaching him or her that truly, nothing is impossible with God.

During the next few weeks, I will be publishing some pieces reflecting on infertility that I had intended to publish earlier, but was unable to do so due to technical issues. I still hope to take the time to make Visitation Bible Study a reality, as it is a project close to my heart. Over the next few months, I will be expanding the topics covered in my blog to reflect the broader experiences we have had with infertility and pregnancy.