Faith and Longing

I didn’t know this, but October is National Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Month. My Mom, a devout Catholic, told me this information last week after reading her church bulletin. Apparently, the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament (which is also the Archdiocese of Detroit’s “home parish”) was holding it’s annual mass for those couples who have lost their baby or for those couples who were trying to achieve pregnancy. She had called me thinking that my sister-in-law (SIL), Janet, and I might be interested in attending the mass. I told her that I would talk to Janet and then call her back the next day if we decide to go.

Right away, I knew my decision was going to be based on whether my SIL wanted to go. It’s not that I don’t have any spiritual faith or that I don’t believe in a higher power. It’s more because the past 10 years of infertility have caused a “rift” between God and myself.

Let’s start with a little background. As I mentioned before, my mother is a strong believer in her Catholic faith. Growing up in our household, God was always present in our daily lives and activities. The weekends revolved around when we were going to mass. We would spend summers volunteering to do “Meals on Wheels” through our Church and any Catholic holiday helping out with preparations for our Church. Every night, we would read a chapter from the Bible. And because religion was very important to my parents, I attended Catholic school up through high school. I consider myself truly lucky that my parents invested their time and their money in bringing me up with such a strong faith background. And I truly admire my Mom for all that she continues to do on a daily basis for her faith.

And there’s me. After twelve years of Catholic school and the freedom of going away to college … well, of course I detoured and explored life without organized religion. It’s not that I stopped believing in my faith or stopped practicing the basic morals of what I was taught growing up. Rather, I stopped going to mass weekly and only went when it was absolutely necessary. I also stopped my habit of saying my nightly prayers. Let’s face it, college life (and even post-college life) was just more interesting and religion was put on the back burner.

However, even back then I always knew that I would return to my faith. The one thing that Hubby (who is also Catholic) and I always said was that when it came to raising our children, we wanted to provide them with the same faith and morals that we were taught growing up. And when that time came, we both knew we would whole-heartedly return to our faith.

So imagine what has gone through my mind these past ten years as pregnancy never came. Now most people would have turned closer to their faith. And at first I did. I returned to my nightly prayers and attempted to go to mass weekly. My prayers for a family initially started out as “Please God, I ask that you provide me with the family I’ve always wanted.” As the years went on, it became “God, I know I’m a good person but I don’t understand why you’re testing my faith. Why can’t I get pregnant?” Eventually, I just became very angry at God. Why would He do this to me? Why does He allow other people to become parents when they don’t deserve to be? If God has a reason for doing things (as everyone has a way of telling me over and over AND OVER again), what “reason” did He have for making me feel so sad and miserable and GUILTY for feeling the way I do?

So when the opportunity to go to this mass came along, I wasn’t jumping at the bit. However, I knew that this would be a good thing for my SIL, especially since her loss is so recent. After a bit of discussion, we decided to meet up for breakfast on Sunday and head down to the Cathedral, sans husbands (my hubby had to work and hers is not of the same faith).

Overall, I am truly glad that we went. My SIL had the opportunity to place Liam’s name in the Book of Innocence, in which prayers will be said for these babies’ souls. A prayer was said to all those parents who lost their infant and each family was given a rose and a rosary blessed by Cardinal Maida. A prayer was also said for all the couples wishing to become pregnant or adopt a child. We were individually prayed over by the bishop with an actual relic of St. Gerard and given his medallion to continue to pray to him so that St. Gerard would “intercede” to God on our behalf. It was pretty emotional being up there and being surrounded by the beauty and strength of the Cathedral. And I do admit, I certainly did feel God’s presence that day.

However, there was one thing that truly bugged me. This mass was sponsored by the archdiocese’s Natural Family Planning program. Which makes sense, given the nature of what this Mass was about. What had bothered me was the handout they provided on all their methods for Natural Family Planning. Not that I have anything against it, but obviously I wasn’t able to get pregnant using that method. At the very bottom of their handout, it made mention about the Catholic stance on infertility procedures. The basic gist of what they said was that certain infertility procedures are appropriate; however, those procedures that involve a third person in the creation of a child is morally unacceptable.

So wow. My first response on that? Holy Mary, Mother of God … I sinned. And I sinned REALLY badly. And apparently that’s the reason why my IVF cycle failed. So guilt was my first reaction. The second one was that of anger. Why the bloody hell is it considered immoral? I tried everything under the sun to try to procreate naturally and it didn’t happen. So are they telling me then that if pregnancy didn’t happen “naturally” then it’s God’s will that I remain childless? And yet … (here it comes again) there are people out there who don’t deserve to have children?

Okay, so logically I know my first reaction was irrational. And the second one is indeed justified. But it’s that type of thing that leaves me feeling disappointed in my faith.

Despite all that, I do admit that I’ve been trying to work on returning to my faith. As of recently, I have started meeting with a Stephen Minister through a local Catholic Church who just sits and talks with me about all this anger and guilt that I feel, especially about my infertility and my fears about the adoption process. Perhaps one day, whether I continue to pursue having a family or not, I will fully, without any reservations, return to my faith.

Hmm … I wonder if the Catholic Church knows that the week of November 4-10 is National Infertility Awareness Week. And I wonder if they’ll have any events that commemorates that week?