Wednesday, May 27, 2009
An Interview with Marie & Joseph Meaney
We were looking forward to having a family, and we had no reason to think this would be a problem; every young couple goes into marriage thinking children will simply come along. We were very open to life and willing to embrace the number of children that God would give us. So I guess most couples who suffer from infertility are surprised when they suddenly realize things don’t go as they expect.
When pregnancy is not happening, the temptation is to go into denial. “This can’t be happening to me”, one is tempted to think! Furthermore, one wants to think positive and not make matters worse by getting stressed about the issue.
Looking into the medical side of the issue means having to admit that there is a problem – and this is very painful, especially for the woman.
If the husband is not encouraging her to go through the medical tests and if he does not take things in hand to get himself checked out either, then the woman feels very alone in this situation.
These are the beginnings of this difficult journey during which one realizes just how hard and painful infertility is. It took me by surprise. I had never thought that the suffering would be that great.
Children are the fruit of the spouses’ mutual love for each other. They desire them therefore as a gift from God and as a gift to each other. They want to launch together on that great adventure of raising children, and when that doesn’t happen, it is really terrible.
First you are standing at the foot of the cross, and after a while you realize that you’ve been nailed to it. I think this is particularly true for the woman.
Of course, the man suffers from this too, but he experiences this differently than the woman. Giving life is so intrinsically bound up with the woman’s being that it is absolutely agonizing for her not to have children.
Again, it depends on how that suggestion of adoption is made. If the person enters into your pain and says, “Well, why not consider adoption?”, then this is fine. For it is true that adoption is a beautiful option for the couple. But if the implication is: “Oh, therefore you won’t be undergoing such pain any more”, then this simply misses the point.
Now, my husband and I have simply not felt the vocation to adopt so far.
Adoption, I think, is a call in and of itself. But other couples that I’ve talked to who are infertile and have adopted, love their adopted children just as much as they would love the children that they might have biologically fathered and mothered. But they still feel the pain of not having children of their own.
MSA: The other level of temptation you spoke of were cultural temptations: in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination.
Marie: Yes, this is a further dimension of suffering that is added on to the suffering of infertility.
My husband and I are very lucky in that our families are very faithful Catholics. So both our families have never put pressure on us by telling us, “Oh, if only you did in vitro, then you could fix the problem.”
But when this happens, then an extra burden is put on the infertile couple which wants to do the right thing and is left alone in its sorrow.
Again, the implication is to go for an “easy fix” and if the couple is not willing to use that option, well then it only has itself to blame.
I think that it is very helpful for you to realize that God is with you in this suffering, there, at its deepest and most painful point. He is not simply standing under the cross, he is hanging on it with you – right there.
You will probably go through phases were you are angry with God for denying you the children that you would welcome so lovingly. You have to wrestle with God in this situation like Jacob who wrestles with the angel during a whole night - and it will seem like a long, long night.
God will probably not give you an answer that you can formulate as to why He is not giving you children (and it is a temptation and wrong to try to construct answers along the lines of “I don’t deserve children”, “I would have been a bad mother or father”, for they are false and contradict God’s love for us), but He will give you an inner peace which will satisfy your heart without necessarily taking the pain away.
Another way of dealing with this cross in a spiritually fruitful way is realizing how you can use it in this battle of the culture of life against the culture of death. I think that God will bring great fruit out of the acceptance of the cross by an infertile couple.
It may be helpful if we offer our suffering up for children who are in danger of being aborted. We won’t know the spiritual fruits we are bearing on this side of eternity; we don’t know how many children we will have saved through this.
But on the other side, we will meet all the spiritual children that were born to us.