Family Reflections: Hanging on to hope while fighting infertility
By Kim Speirs
I was lecturing at the University of Louisville when I received an urgent message: I’d just been selected by a birthmother to adopt her child. Twenty-three hours later, I was holding my precious son, Michael Francis, in my arms.
When I finally got to meet her, his birthmother said something I’ll never forget. “I can only imagine what you must think of me,” she said. “You must think I’m a horrible person for bringing a child into this world without being able to provide for him.”
I sat next to her, put my hand on hers and told her the absolute truth. “That thought never entered my mind. Not only have you answered 15 years of prayers for me, but you’ve allowed this precious treasure to be born. You are a hero.”
This is a happy story, but it came after a very long struggle with infertility. It never occurred to me that I might struggle with infertility. I was a dancer in college, and I worked out regularly. I didn’t do drugs, didn’t struggle with any diseases and was in great shape.
Or so I thought.
After being married about a year, we began trying to conceive but to no avail. Over the next several years, I sought the help of three infertility physicians who continually pushed In Vitro Fertilization. I was no theologian, but I knew that “selective reduction” was a euphemism for abortion; I didn’t want any part of that. Whenever I would tell them that I wanted to pursue in light of faith (without IVF), I was treated like a third-class citizen.
Eventually, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a disease that creates a hostile environment for fertilized embryos to implant –– if I were ever even able to conceive. I was often put on hormonal contraceptives to “control” the disease, but the disease grew worse and worse, even after three surgeries.
While this was going on, my husband also experienced tests and procedures. I didn’t know the impact that infertility had on men or on marriages.
It wasn’t until I was 39 years old that I discovered a relatively new science called NaPro Technology. At first I thought it was a version of the rhythm method, but I was wrong. It is measurable. It is consistent. It is science.
Once I learned the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, my NaPro doctor was able to identify core issues that the three previous “world class fertility experts” never took the time to find. One of the beautiful things about NaPro is that it is holistic. It focuses on healing the body, so it works the way it’s supposed to.
Within the year after my surgery, I received the call from the adoption agency. Eight months later, unfortunately, my marriage ended.
I found myself crying in the basement of my home with my newly baptized son curled in my arms when I received a call from Jerusalem. It was a very dear priest friend who called to provide much needed spiritual guidance.
He shared many beautiful things, but two in particular. First, he reminded me that as faithful Catholics, we often ask for the heart of Christ. Jesus’ heart is not only full of joy, but also filled with abuse, betrayal and abandonment, he said. He told me that my suffering was a sliver of the cross that Jesus bore for me.
The second thing he shared was that, if I allowed it, God would use this pain for his greater glory.
I’ve seen this come true with my work at the John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic in Austin. We serve many infertility patients who have struggled for years to conceive. I’ve also seen it bear fruit in the nearly 100 women we’ve counseled who are facing unexpected pregnancies. When I share with them that I came to Texas as an unemployed single mom, it resonates with them and gives them hope.
Infertility is a tremendous cross. It is not easy on women or men. It is a challenge for marriages. But, there is always hope. And, our God always has a plan, even if we don’t initially see it. I often asked God why I wasn’t allowed to have biological children. My answer is in the eyes of my precious son and in the work that we do at The John Paul II Life Center.
A prayer service for couples struggling with infertility and/or miscarriage will be celebrated by Bishop Joe Vásquez July 23 at 7 p.m. at St. Mary Cathedral in Austin. Sarah’s Hope & Abraham’s Promise, the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living and the Cathedral invite all to attend and join with these couples in prayer. A reception will be held after the service. Contact SarahsHope@RabboniInstitute.org or call (512) 736-7334 for more information and to register.
Kim Speirs is the executive director of the John Paul II Life Center in Austin. For more information, visit www.jpiilifecenter.org or call (512) 407-2900.