Not meant to be? Discerning parenthood

“I think clearly God is telling you guys you’re not meant to be parents right now.”

I was catching up with a friend the other day and this was what she came up with after I had filled her in with the going-ons of our life these days.  All I could think of in response was,

“Well, duh.”

I wasn’t upset she said that, because it is probably the most direct and obvious statement of the truth I’ve heard in a while.  In fact, if I were to get upset, I guess the response would be purely an emotional one, more along the lines of “Well why doesn’t God listen to ME because I WANT to be a parent right now” and not actually refuting the truth of what she said.  That would be besides the point.  Her statement still rings true.  It stings and is hard to swallow probably because yes, in my situation, it is true.  I don’t believe God could be making a mistake right now.

I have to remind myself as a married couple we have been called by God to be open to fertility, not necessarily to be parents on demand – which very well may have been our desire.  I think back to how we discerned to no longer use NFP to avoid pregnancy and I remember the decision vividly.  While the decision was complex and personal, it was blatantly clear we no longer had just financial reasons and while neither of us had graduated and had certain jobs, we would have been in a position to properly care for a child had one come along in 9 months.  I’m slightly embarrassed to say that it was not that we had a strong pull that now was the time for us to become parents, although part of me wishes it was so I could have more clarity on our move from here, its just not true.  And in hindsight, I would consider it a blessing that it didn’t happen that way for us.  It was only that our just reasons to not share our fertility with each other were gone, which thankfully, is more than enough reason to not use NFP.  While one great benefit of NFP is that it can help you target your fertile time to achieve pregnancy, NFP’s main purpose as far as morality is concerned is to help those with just reasons to avoid pregnancy.  I do not believe the Church teaches anywhere that NFP is meant to be the default condition of all married couples.  What it ultimately came down to for us was that we knew by using NFP to avoid pregnancy, we were literally holding something back from one another.  Yes, we had not contracepted and done anything immoral, but we were both conscious of the fact that we were not entirely giving ourselves to one another.  For just reasons, our fertility still remained guarded.  And over the course of a few months, it became clear to each of us, first separately and then together, that we weren’t being called to hold back from one another anymore but to take what came.

Take what came.

What came is that we discovered that the opposite of a call to avoid pregnancy is not a call to pregnancy, which unfortunately, many people of varying degrees of fertility believe.

1664 Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its “supreme gift,” the child

This is why the comment,

“Perhaps God’s just telling you guys that you’re not supposed to be parents right now”

is so funny to me.

What else could God possibly be telling us?  We have given him ample opportunity for Him to bestow on us the ‘supreme gift’.  Just as I don’t believe He makes mistakes with “oops” babies, I know that if we give Him the openness of our fertility, He’s not up there saying “Oh crap!  Those little guys missed the egg again!  Sorry Moonheads, I’ll try harder next month!” In fact,  I believe that only by giving Him the openness of our fertility after responsibly discerning parenthood can we be certain that our desires aren’t getting in the way of His will.  Just like we can’t accidentally become parents, we can’t accidentally not become parents.

Which then brings me to the statement which I do find rational disagreement with,

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

I’ve stated the call to not use NFP to avoid pregnancy is not necessarily a decision to become parents.  God gets to make that decision.  For us, God has made the decision to not make us parents so I do believe I should approach our journey to continue to be parents with the utmost prayer and selflessness, which of course is not an immediate decision.  I’ve talked to other women who felt, much like I did, that the first year of not postponing pregnancy felt more like a year of being a mother without a child, rather than just a woman with no children (which is in reality more accurate).  I believe that it was because somewhere in there, in either my anguish to hide the fact that I wasn’t pregnant or in order to try to keep hope alive and prepare for what still may have come statistically,  I made the decision that I was to be a parent.  At this point I’ve realized I have no power to make that decision.  (I will add in here for those who wonder that my husband has remained level headed and not had to play these mind games with himself.  One difference of how infertility affects men and women!) The fact that God is so clearly not making use of our biology, is a large, harsh, but realistic sign to me that perhaps not only am I not to be a parent right now, but not at all.  Maybe we are supposed to fulfill our desires to become missionaries or some other non-traditional way of serving others, as opposed to parenthood, at least at this moment.

In order to “just adopt”, I would want to be sure that God is calling me to parenthood, which does not necessarily follow from not being able to have children biologically and in fact may be a large sign that we’re not.

I must also add that while adoption may not necessarily be the conclusion for all infertile couples for a variety of reasons, I do believe this period of being open to fertility is quite necessary as a step towards adoption.  I don’t know of any couples that have used NFP to avoid pregnancy while pursuing adoption, although that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  God can use this time to plant this seed, prune us and see if we are called to parenthood.  However, that of course means that the time of working through the grief accompanying infertility is also necessary for adoption.

In short, I’ve learned (the painful way) that being open to fertility is not necessarily the same as discerning parenthood and that for some people, the painful way is how discerning parenthood has to happen, because God does not accidentally leave those childless.

18 thoughts on “Not meant to be? Discerning parenthood

  1. Wow, these are really amazing thoughts and reflections ~ reminding me of a favorite expression that ‘God is rarely early but never late.’ I truly hope and pray that your discernment leads you to answers and peace ~ and children in God’s own time.

    • I believe that there are many more considerations to adopting when you factor in complicated child pasts and known disabilities, but I wonder if the ‘call to adopt’ is much different from the ‘call to parent’? Once you decide to care for a tiny human being and be the one to guide them, does it matter where that child came from?

  2. I will definitely be sharing this with A tonight. Without getting into too many personal details that A would be mortified to know I shared in a public forum, this is good food for thought for us.

    • I know before I was married I felt that the call to marriage and call to parenthood were synonymous. They are for many people but I definitely didn’t realize how much more complicated it gets when you have to choose parenthood beyond the normal call of openness to fertility. I hope you had a good conversation about it!

  3. I have been amazed by many bloggers journeys towards adoption and I agree with you that it is a calling unto itself…

    So many thoughts in your post…If I have anything to add, it is that of somebody who did infertility then gave up then went back at it…many years later…

    I don’t regret giving myself a break from the fighting years…

    It made me able to gear up and go at it again before the clock ran out.

    Praying for you this Christmas in a special way. You have been on my mind a lot lately.


    Little JoAnn

      • Me siento confortable usando español cuando escribo en tu blog, pero la me da pena cuando es el mío! Me parace que estos pensamientos son common por parejas que estan discerniendo adoption, ¿no?

    • Yours is definitely a story I think of when I consider the difference between giving your fertility and then deciding on parenthood. I wonder how I’ll feel when I’m done with research and working (or not working). Will I be as patient?

      As always, thanks for your prayers and comments :)

  4. You are amazing. Your thoughts make perfect sense to me, and I am learning so much. Your journey is unique, and I think God must be incredibly pleased at how deeply you strive to become self-aware and adjust your walk with Him based on what you find. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I’m essentially saying that your faith is very beautiful.

    • I feel that my journey is unique on these blogs because I realize that unlike so many other faithful women, my dream of my family has not been as shattered because I could never have dreams like that. To be fair, I’m unable to have many dreams of my future. That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to be a parent, that I didn’t think it wasn’t going to happen, or that I won’t pursue any treatment. And to top it off, the baby dreams seem to happen more than ever now. It probably just means that I just am really good at focusing on why comments bug me until I figure it out :) Which in turn, makes me figure out myself.

  5. Pingback: Empty arms and empty nets « Matching Moonheads

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