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Monday, November 28, 2005


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I think that you should start a group for women struggling with infertility.. I think that it would be helpful for yourself and other people in the same situation.. It might be a way to pray for yourself and others in the same situation and help you to have the fellowship that you want..

What Allie said. I am certain you are not the only young Catholic woman who married early and was as a result confronted with infertility early. And if there are older women around, you might learn from them and they from you.

Is there, by the way, a patron saint for infertile women? Or one you feel especially close to? You might like to call your group after her, as little sign...

I believe that one of the patrons of infertile women is St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist.

I think it could be good,Arwen, but there is a danger of your whole identity becoming "infertile woman". Does that make sense? I'm glad you don't go to the groups where everyone is pregnant.There is no need to put yourself through that.
I remember so well the aching heart and aching arms. Yes, my arms literally ached when I saw other women holding babies. It was especially bad during mass! You will be in my thoughts and prayers this Advent. Know that you are not the only one who thinks the scriptures are just loaded with infertility and pregnancy during Advent - they really are!! (And my name really IS Elizabeth so the readings about her used to break my heart!)
PS The year my daughter came home from korea on November 3rd we joked that we were NOT doing advent that year. We had had enough "waiting" thank you very much!!

Do it! Please! Not for your own it for women like my sister-in-law, who has been suffering by herself - in our parish - for 5 years now. If you start it, I think I can convince her to go. I'm sure there are more out there! And I'm sure as well that there must be older women in our parish who would have some wisdom to share....just think, you could have seminars and guest speakers on IVF and church teaching, on domestic and international adoption, on grieving, all of those things.

And our parish is a haven for small groups...I'm sure you would have a lot of support.

My 2cents.


Great idea! It would help me so much if my church had one. Everyone in my town is extremely fertile and it would help to not feel alone. Also, it would give my husband a break from having to hear about it all the time.

Go for it. I think the pros outweigh the cons. I bet there are other women out there, wishing there was a group for them. Kate had some great ideas, I think, for speakers and seminars and such.

I wish that my parish, or even a parish near me, had a Catholic infertility group that I could be a part of. Right now I belong to an online group that has been my main support for the past few years. I am so thankful for that group, but I would love to have a regular group of women that I could relate to in real life. If you can do this, I think you should. (Let us know what you decide.)

If I know you at all--and I'd say 18 years of sisterhood gives me the right to claim at least some degree of knowledge--the idea that the support group would turn into a wallow-fest is ludicrous. The real question is: do you think God wants to use you in this way? I'll pray that you'll figure out the right answer. I love you!!

It sounds like a great idea to me, both for you and for the other women (I'm sure they're out there) in your parish who suffer silently. The only question I'd have on the subject of practical organization would be, how would you define "infertile"? Is there a time limit beyond which one is considered technically infertile? And what happens if one of the members conceives?

I only ask because as you know, I was at one point worried that I might be infertile. My worry turned out to be premature, but nonetheless it took me a good while longer than I'd expected to conceive. In the months before I conceived I would have loved a small group to talk to and pray with, but upon conceiving I would probably have spontaneously removed myself from the group, so as to not pain them with my pregnancy. And I don't think that's a bad thing, or a reason not to found a small group (I think the potential benefits far outweigh the occasional possible awkward situations), but just something to take into account.

I think it's a wonderful idea and I know you are just the person to make sure it would go smoothly!

There are more pros than cons. Besides, having the online IF community has always made me feel much better just knowing I wasn't alone. And maybe having this group at your church will help even the smallest percentage of those suffering silently.

That sounds like a great idea - and I'm sure that there would be people who are interested, it's just that infertility doesn't "show" as much as fertility does, if that makes any sense. There are probably several women at least in your parish who feel like they're the only ones in a hundred mile radius to be having any problems.

I would suggest working out a couple of ground rules, like someone mentioned above; what constitutes infertility (personally I'd just go with the medical definition of "A year or more without conception", just to avoid unpleasant moments between, say, someone who's been trying for three years and someone who's been trying two months and is having an early freakout). Also, would it just be primary or would it include secondary infertility?

I would have loved a group in RL - the only people I know in the same pickle are online (except for one girl who needed surgery for mild endo, but she conceived two months later and has since had another baby without problems, so it wasn' *quite* the same thing).

Arwen, that small group sounds like my office... and there's no escaping there - at least not yet. :(

If I lived near you, I'd be interested in a group like that. I'm literally the only person I know IRL who has expressed an interest in having a baby in the past year who doesn't either have a new baby or one on the way. The one last person I had hanging out with me in the "not pregnant" club announced today that she's pregnant. *sigh*

Thank you, btw, for the note on my blog. I'll continue to keep you in my prayers also!

I think women who are dealing with infertility need God's love and the support of other women, especially in an environment where others' obvious fertility is a constant reminder of one's own longing. I think it would be a great service to allow those women a safe place to experience that love and support. Be mindful of the tendency to wallow, but don't let it stop you.

Where do I sign up? Oh, right, I don't live near you... I think it's a great idea but the definition/boundary thing might be tough - I went to one meeting of an Infertility, Adoption, and Foster Care Ministry at another parish, and it seemed like they were maybe trying to cover too many people at once. I didn't get enough out of it to merit the drive - there were 5 couples at the meeting I attended and one had adopted domestically, one had adopted internationally, one had done IVF, one was experiencing secondary infertility, and the other was us - unexplained and waiting for God to show us the way.

Regarding the "wallowfest", sometimes wallowing isn't all bad, so long as it's not all you do (and in a small faith group, you probably wouldn't). I had an epiphany about this during a visit to a prairie preserve. Throughout the prairies there are depressions in the ground that were once buffalo wallows. When a buffalo wallows, it's not just lying in the muck, it's cleaning off bugs and old fur and stuff. Learning this changed how I feel about wallowing... sometimes it's just the thing to help you snap out of a funk.

Decide what you want out of it and give it a try. You can always back out of it or shut it down if it doesn't work out.

I think you would do best just offering support for those who have been trying for over a year of marriage. Make it be a place of refuge to talk about the feelings. Some wallowing can be a good thing for all involved--if you can get those feelings out, they may not have as much pain to give you.

One thing you might consider is attending a meeting of your local RESOLVE chapter ( to see how they run their infertility meetings. I do know that sometimes those turn into IVF or adoption support groups, for example. It can be very difficult to be in a group like that and decide on being purposely "childfree after infertility". But attending a meeting like this could help you with understanding pitfalls and the direction you might like to go in, before you advertise to heavily.

Mainly I think you would have to decide if you could be supportive of somebody who is pursuing an option that conflicts with your theological stand. If not, then I definitely don't think it is a good idea.

Finally, the nature of such a group is that people will graduate for one reason or another; I don't think it would be realistic for you to think you need (as the originator of the group) to be part of it forever. Like anything else, the torch can be passed. Many women do try to stay in touch with infertility support after having a child or children, but it gets harder for sure, if only because of the demands of caring for kids, not just the emotional aspects.

Good luck! I definitely think you may be getting a call to fill a need! Actually it surprises me that there isn't something like this. It's not like infertility is a NEW problem.

Go for it!

Try it and see what it turns out like. maybe no one will call you, maybe great people will, maybe awful people will. You can always disband if it is yucky. But try and'll never know until you do.

Random thoughts on this:

I, too, struggled with infertility at 23. The question isn't "Do I deserve to feel this bad at this age?", but "Do I indeed struggle with infertility and might it be helpful to explore connecting with other similar women?"

If you're in a parish where it's normative for young couples to start families early, then there are certainly others who might want what you suggest. When you carry a secret sorrow, it's important to know that you're not alone.

Re: fear of a wallow fest. I suspect that if everyone has a chance to talk about her own story in depth to begin with, the realization that you've been heard and understood will help it get onto a good footing. The need to whine reduces as the amount of honest compassion increases, in my experience.

It also seems that there might be varieties of group "closeness" that might all be helpful. Perhaps it will be good to meet frequently and develop close relationships, though you will have to deal (preferably up front and ahead of time) about how to rejoice with a member who gets pregnant. But even the occasional get-together to all become acquainted and have someone to exchange glances with during a painful homily or chat with briefly after Mass would be lots better than nothing at all.

God bless you. May his perfect will come to pass for you and your husband.

Another idea -

Just because you start a small group for women dealing with infertility, doesn't mean that's all you have to talk about (read: it doesn't have to be a wallow fest all the time). I know that I'd rather be in a casual conversation with a non-perpetually-pregnant person - where I know the conversation won't lead to how bad her morning sickness is, how she can't believe how fast she got pregnant, etc.

Also, it would be good for when, G-d willing, you all start families, you have a safe place where people will understand that getting pregnant or adopting doesn't cure you of your infertility, and maybe you'd deal with becoming parents differently too. As an infertile but adoptive parent, I'm often more at ease talking with people who've been there done that somewhat the same way I have, or are at least not pregnant or talking about it each time I turn around.

Yes! I think you should absolutely do it. If you think it's something that YOU need and would benefit from, then you can count on the fact that there are OTHER women who really need it as well. Many of whom you might not know have or are struggling with infertility.

I agree that in a denomination that values family so much, dealing with infertility can particularly sting, in addition to the other pains one encounters in this experience. I'm not Catholic, but in my experience at different conservative Christian churches, huge families (6,7,8+ children) are not out of the ordinary. It's wonderful to see on the one hand, but painful to be around on the other.

Don't forget to include (if they aren't too busy!) the "Mother Dimble" women of your parish. [This is a reference to a character in C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength who never had children of her own, but became a mother figure for her husband's university students.] Women who have passed through the acute pain stage and gone on to live a full and fulfilled life have something to offer, the same way mothers of older children often help mothers of toddlers. The one who has been there and survived intact is a resource beyond price!

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