When Stacey and her husband were struggling with infertility, they longed to share their journey with others. Finding a community hasn’t taken away their pain, but it has given them strength to bear it — and discover a new way for their marriage to be fruitful and creative.
A Facebook message from a stranger in Texas changed my life forever.
My husband and I were a few years deep into our journey with infertility. Not knowing where to turn for support besides the medical intervention from my doctor, I sought community on some online social media pages.
Infertility impacts one in eight couples, making it much more common than most people realize — but just distant enough that it is incredibly challenging to find others in your immediate circle that share the suffering. I remember researching support groups and only finding ones in our area that supported women pursuing reproductive technologies that were contrary to my faith and the dignity of the human person. I felt so isolated as the women in my friend and family circles were having their third, fourth, or fifth babies. My pain was frequently met with unsolicited advice or unintentionally invalidating remarks that made me sink deeper into isolation.
On the online support group pages, I found other Catholic women who were hurting, like me, but often the grief would manifest as an echochamber of anger and resentment. Deep down, I knew that the infertility journey, even with all of the pain, was an invitation to something more.
Frequently, I would post on the pages about the ways I felt God inviting me to live out motherhood in a unique way. I feel very much a mother when I minister to young people in the youth group at my parish, for example. I realized that the call to motherhood is a call from God for each and every woman.
Sure, motherhood is made manifest in our physical reality by biological parenthood, but it is so much more than that. Motherhood is primarily a spiritual reality. That’s why it is possible to be a mother even without giving birth. I am a mother when I care for those around me, when I mentor young people, when I welcome others into my home, and when I pray for those in need. This is an invitation for all women to use their unique gifts and creativity in the ways they live out the call to motherhood. It looks different for each woman.
Despite this beautiful call from God to expand my concept of motherhood, however, I still felt a lingering isolation from not being able to connect and share my struggle with my closest circle of friends and family. That’s where finding a community has been transformative — sharing our story with others and offering mutual support has been such a comfort.
When this stranger from Texas took notice of my posts on the online support group pages, she invited me to join the team that runs Springs in the Desert, an online community that walks with people experiencing infertility and loss. As more and more couples have reached out to this platform for help, my husband and I have taken on new roles to support their growth. We want each person to know that they are deeply loved by God — that it is not their fault, and they are not alone.
Being able to use our creative talents in this way has been a tremendous gift from God. We long to participate in God’s creative power. Many couples get to do this through bearing biological children, but others like us get to be more uniquely creative in living out the call to have a fruitful marriage as parents. My husband and I do this through the infertility ministry, but also by being radically available to serve people in our faith community.
Even though I find so much joy in this call to live fruitfully, that does not mean we’ve escaped the grief of infertility entirely. There is rarely a day that we do not confront the weight of this grief or feel isolated — we are surrounded with continual reminders of our infertility and live in a culture that does not know how to respond to infertility other than treating the physical aspects or perhaps prayer.
That is where community is key, but I know it is incredibly difficult to find. Starting out on the journey of infertility, it was so hard to find others for emotional or spiritual support. Springs in the Desert has offered me and my husband a place to grieve together with others enduring the same hardship, and a place to intentionally confront our suffering and turn it into something fruitful.
I will forever be grateful for that stranger in Texas who took a huge leap of faith to reach out to me. She invited me off the island of isolation and into a community of women and men who are bearing the cross of infertility. Together, we are finding a way to carry this cross in a way that is bringing new life.