When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I was a child pondering this question in the 80’s. This was a time when little girls were encouraged to pursue professions traditionally held by men. Most of my girlfriends proudly boasted their plans to be doctors, attorneys, research scientists and even pilots. Our mothers were starting to work outside of the home which expanded our ideas.
What did I want to be when I grew up? I had a clear answer to this question from the time I was five years old; I wanted to be a mother. Some of my best friends were surprised by my desire for motherhood partly because it was not fashionable and partly because my demeanor was not sensitive or sentimental. I was happy for my friends who were going to pursue their glamorous professions, but my desire never changed. I wanted to be a mother a 5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 21 and even today at the ripe old age of 41. I think my desire to mother a child has been the only constant in my life.
I knew by the time that I was 26 that I would never be able to carry a baby. I denied this reality for many years. I saw reproductive endocrinologist in Ohio, New York, Georgia and Florida. I endured 11 surgeries in 10 years absolutely certain with each that I would be fixed. My disease coupled with the effects of so many surgeries followed by chemotherapy left me living a life which included financial ruin, weekly visits to a pain management clinic, severe depression and debilitating pain. Endometriosis had been detected in my lungs and had caused severe damage to my bowel and bladder. The only option I had left was a hysterectomy with bowel and bladder repair. This surgery (which was recommended 10 years earlier) saved my life. I no longer take pain medications and live a life virtually free of physical pain.
As a result of my blog post TOLERANCE, I have been posed the following question twice in the past week: “When did you decide not to be LBGTQ?” The implied answer is never (because I was not born with same-sex attraction or gender dysmorphia). As such, I could never understand the deep complexities of acting upon desires outside of God’s plan or law. I wholeheartedly reject this defense of the homosexual or trans-gendered lifestyles.
I know what it is like to have a desire which acting upon becomes offensive to God. Every doctor I met offered me options which would result in my having a child. Though my uterus and fallopian tubes were toast, in the early stages of my disease my eggs were viable. Every doctor from which I sought treatments recommended extracting and freezing my eggs to be used for future in-vitro fertilization (IVF) partnered with surrogacy. This was my only option for a biological child; and boy was it tempting. I literally spent years researching the Church’s teaching to try to find some loop-hole which would give me what I wanted; a baby. No matter how hard I tried, I could not find anything in which my desire for a child should trump the dignity of the human person. Here are some things that I learned:
- As a Christian, I believe that life starts at the moment of conception. An embryo is not something that should be manipulated and then destroyed so I can be a mother.
- IVF procedures involve multiple embryos being implanted, which often results in selective reduction (a fancy word for abortion).
- There are over 400,000 unused frozen embryos– source CBS News (this is a conservative estimate of life on ice)
- God designed our sexuality and the context in which children are to be born (conjugal act); therefore, each child has a right to be the result of God’s design. God asks our obedience in this; the opposite of obedience is sin.
- Genesis 2:24 states: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
- Jesus reaffirms this in Matthew 19:4-5: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’?”
- God’s plan in the only plan which unites a child with both its’ mother and father; children deserve that as the norm.
- Surrogacy makes human life a commodity.
Ultimately, I never froze my eggs (though I really wanted to). There is not a day that goes by in which I don’t think about the fact that I will never have a baby. Some days, it just comes as a shock to me all over again. My desire has not waned for one moment. Even as I write this post, my heart rate is elevated and my tummy is upset. It will never go away. It will always be the biggest sorrow of my life. There is truly only one thing that trumps my desire to be a mother; my obedience to God. I fail at it in some way almost every day, but I know that I must try. God will always love me, but he wants my obedience.
It’s not my desire to have a child which is sinful. It’s acting upon that desire in a way which is offensive to God that is sinful. It’s viewing children and motherhood as a right, and not a gift from God. It’s using my strong feelings and desires as an instrument to dictate a created reality. Christ came for us. He left us His Church which gifted us the Bible. These are some the Church’s hardest teachings. For has painful has my journey of infertility has been, I know that I am not smarter than God. I don’t know more than Him and I have been given this challenge to bring me closer to Him.
I promise you that my desire for motherhood is just as strong as a person living with same-sex attraction’s desire to live a homosexual lifestyle. My maternal feelings and desires for a child are just as powerful as a person living with gender dysmorphia’s desire to have gender reassignment surgery. That is why I empathize with their struggle. I know that unfulfilled desires are painful and difficult. I know that these feelings of same-sex attraction and gender dysmorphia are real; I’m sure these desires are powerful.
So, back to the question: “When did you decide not to be LBGTQ?” I think that you can remove LBGTQ from this question and replace it with any desire which takes over our lives. For me, the question would read, “When did you decide not to be infertile?” Clearly, it’s not being infertile or the feeling or desire for children which is sinful. The sin comes when we place the fulfillment of that desire above all things including God. The sin comes when we fulfill that desire in a way which is not in sync with God’s design. It’s the same for any desire whether it be same-sex attraction, gender dysmorphia or seeing motherhood as a right.
I know this sounds sorrowful, but there is also abundant joy. Infertility has caused me to seek out truth, deepened my prayer life, meditate on the Lord’s Passion, and seek maternal example from Our Lady. My husband and I share a bond which is indescribable; only he is close to understanding my pain (because he shares it). Not having my own children has allowed me additional time and patience to address the difficulties of step-parenting. Infertility has strengthened my resolve to be unapologetically pro-life. Infertility has taught me that my own life is a gift from God to be lived for others. Above all else, infertility has caused me to pursue the Lord and have faith in His will. For if we know Jesus is Lord, we understand that there is no feeling or desire more important.