Sub-fertility and (slowly) learning to embrace my square peg

I’ve hesitated writing this post for so long because it never seems to come out quite right.  I fumble with the words again and again and my pride doesn’t want to put it out for people to read, imperfectly, because it comes from such a tender part of my heart that I’m afraid to expose it to ridicule.  I remember reading posts similar to what I’m probably about to write when I was primarily infertile and there was probably not a post I understood less.  But YOU already have your child! Why are you still whining!

But the fact is, I’m still sub-fertile.  And I’m still learning to live with that.  

I wish I was better about writing when the days are great because then I wouldn’t look so consumed with this subject.  But I’m still not that great at writing about great days, bragging about happy events. I’ll leave that to others.

The raw truth is that around the turn of the year, the time coinciding with so much anger in my life, coincided with a year of cycles with no baby. I have so many reasons to have hope for our future, and I do, but that unfortunate anniversary played a part. I tried my best to ignore it and I really thought I was at a place where I had accepted that we had our child and that was it, whatever else come what may, but the reality of living with sub-fertility will always be with me.

Sometimes I think the infertility experience creates muscle memory that is really hard to shake. I thought that was just what was going on.  A year of cycles, yes, but that’s OK. I didn’t want to fall into a game of counting, charting, checking, stating, and drugs, because I know little ones come slow for us and I just want to enjoy what I have for once.  This beautiful post from the other day and this timely one from today speak perfectly to my overall feelings and perspective on all that I have now. 

The fact is that even while being completely grateful for what I have, the reality of being sub-fertile means my motherhood does look different from most women, especially most Catholic women. I was very unprepared for how to deal with that. Its not a given that I’ll have more children to raise. The solutions to my child’s behavior problems aren’t as simple as “Oh he’ll learn that when he has a sibling”.  I don’t have the fatigue that accompanies constant pregnancy, but I don’t need to feel guilty about having a hard time with “just one”.

As much as I wanted to ignore it, I really had to confront this constant murmuring that was going on in the background face on at the start of year and realize the my dreams that I have in my life need to be 100% my own because I can’t live a life that I think a “Catholic mother” is supposed to live.  I need to live the life that God is calling me to live right here and right now.

I’m sub-fertile and I’m not trying to fit my square ‘motherhood’ peg into a little circle anymore.  

There’s no use idealizing having a large family and what I would do if I just had more children because I would seriously be missing out on everything that God has planned for me and the son he has already graciously entrusted me. And the truth is all mothers have to figure this out for themselves.  Although so often we just want to fit in, following someone else’s idea of what a Catholic mom should look like, or what any mom should look like, doesn’t work when you’re talking about unique individuals, sub-fertile or not.


There was a moment several months ago where I was having a heart to heart with Mary and I just asked her, was it really enough, just having Jesus? Were you really totally satisfied, or did you think things like what I think now, about wanting more children?

I really felt like her answer was loud and clear, piercing my heart, “Really, Jesus was enough for me.  Jesus is enough for everyone.”

Talk about getting the smack down from your mom.  But sometimes I need tough love.


The fact was that today was a “reminder” day.  I was asked when we’re having more kids. I was let in on a friend’s imminent  pregnancy announcement and I continually learn humility from a son that “is a biter”, which, if I were the type of parent that took credit for all my child’s successes, would also mean I would have to take credit for his faults.  But, luckily for me, I’m not that type of parent. Whew. 

I am trying to listen to the little voices during my prayer time that point me towards things that I am called to do.  One of the things that has helped me combat my anger and frustration over what I can’t control is allowing myself to dream about what I can work towards.  And then set goals to make those things happen.

I am not called to have a large family right now. Maybe not ever, but certainly not now.

So what I am called to do?  Well, this is me, trying to find that square place to rest my square peg.  My little, perfectly square shaped Alison motherhood peg.

13 thoughts on “Sub-fertility and (slowly) learning to embrace my square peg

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I have often thought about what it would be like if I ever “crossed-over.” And I’ve often thought that despite the priceless and desperately longed-for blessing of a child that “crossing-over” might be even harder. Having to live in the “mommy world” and having a family that is so different from all the other Catholic families.

    You’re so right, Jesus is enough for each of us. Learning to find joy in our current state is the key because there will always be another suffering. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as you embrace your “square shaped” motherhood self:-)

    • It WILL be amazing. I just didn’t anticipate how much finding of my identify in Christ through infertility would help with motherhood as well, but its still a continuous lesson. sometimes I think the hardest part and yet biggest blessing about infertility is that you have to answer all the questions about who you are, who you will be and what really matters, early in life, instead of towards the end like most people who are preoccupied with childbearing. that part really is a privilege, I think (though incredibly difficult).

  2. You’re right that, infertile or not, each of us moms needs to be the mom we are called to be. Not be the mom we see other moms being, or be the moms we admire. Though I have my five children (on earth) with me, I don’t fit in with all the other Catholic moms either — or at least I used to compare myself to them and then realize I don’t — but now, I just do what I do. I work full time, I raise my kids the best I can, I use NFP with my husband to avoid for the duration even when some of my Catholic mom friends are asking when another Hughes baby is on the horizon. We all do the best we can and praise God for the blessings we’re given. I really enjoyed this post because I can imagine (a little bit) of how you feel.

    • I completely had working women in mind when I wrote this, as I realize that’s a deviation from what many consider the “authentic Catholic way” as well. I am so glad you sensed it to, it means we’re onto something!

  3. I think that you are absolutely right that we have to live in the now that we have, rather than whatever it is that may someday be, and we can’t get caught up in what is not. Easier said than done, though. :)

  4. It is so refreshing to hear this as I went to a women’s group today and felt like the odd one out because everyone else there had children, either older children or young children, and no one could see that I was a mother too just in a different way. Thank you for this post it made me feel better about being a different kind of mom.

  5. I’ve been following your blog for a couple years now. I think I started reading when I was newly pregnant with my daughter and you were not yet pregnant with your son. It had taken my husband and I two years to conceive my daughter and so I knew what it was like to be in your shoes, especially after you got pregnant and trying to know where to fit.

    After I had my daughter, I too wondered if we’d ever be blessed with having anymore children. I never went on birth control after my daughter (we’re not Catholic…yet…I’m kind of heading that direction though…) as I wanted to be open to any possibility of conceiving again. Well, my cycles came back, a year passed, and I watched many other people who had a child around the same time as my daughter post that they were pregnant again.

    But my husband and I were also going through some really tough financial times, so while I was sad that I hadn’t conceived again, I also figured that it probably wasn’t a good time anyway to get pregnant anyway.

    Then I had an early miscarriage. And then, two months later, got pregnant again. To people on the outside, it looked like we had “perfectly” timed our children (and I’m a teacher and due in late spring even; everyone thought I planned this), but the truth is – I spent the most of the pregnancy stressed about finances and felt somewhat irresponsible for allowing myself to get pregnant when I did. I had wanted to get pregnant, but I also didn’t think I would and so it kind of felt like an “oops” pregnancy. But I feel guilty for even thinking that and know I should be thankful for what I have.

    I guess my comment is to say that I’m sorry you’re in this position, and I understand a little of what you’re going through too. I never really know what to think of my fertility either. I definitely don’t feel like I have the luxury of having as many kids as I want or spacing them out as I want. I’ve pretty much had to accept that my fertility is out of my hands. God will give me a child when it’s time for me to have a child. I too would have loved to have a big family (I’m the oldest of 6 kids). But I’m almost in my mid-30s now, and know that my time is limited, so I’ll just have to wait and see how big my family size will end up being.

  6. This is exactly the types of feelings I am sure I would feel, and I’m sure all women in your position have felt at least once. It is a big part of the reason why I’m working on a new type of support system for infertility (past and present). Thanks for being open enough to share it – and I thought it was perfect ;)

  7. “I can’t live a life that I think a “Catholic mother” is supposed to live. I need to live the life that God is calling me to live right here and right now.”

    For me, this seems like the central struggle of infertility. I knew EXACTLY what my life was supposed to look like. And I was wrong. Getting myself to truly and deeply believe that the difference does not mean I am a bad person – or that God loves me less – may be the work of a lifetime. It will actually be easier to convince other people of this :). But being grateful for the blessings I do have in my life goes a long way toward helping – whether those are the blessings that come with some kids (short of a “big Catholic family”), or with a life without kids. God doesn’t make throw-away lives, and wherever we are affords us the possibility of happiness and holiness if we’re willing to take it.

  8. “Although so often we just want to fit in, following someone else’s idea of what a Catholic mom should look like, or what any mom should look like, doesn’t work when you’re talking about unique individuals, sub-fertile or not.”

    Basically, every word of this post spoke to me, but especially these. Every journey really is different. And while I am thrilled to have our babies, I still have two biological siblings who live a very different reality regarding their fertility and Catholic motherhood. I will never “catch up” to them. I will never be a 23-year-old mom expecting her first with 20 years of family planning/anticipation ahead of me. I can’t change the years of waiting to start marriage and family life or rewind and get a do-over. And there is something… intangible… I really can’t put it into words… about becoming a wife and mother while having this history of waiting, grieving, yearning, begging, mourning years passing by. It is helpful to remember that really, we are all different, and God is working in our lives in unique ways. And that is okay. I love your example of the Holy Family… I often think of them when I start to feel like I don’t “fit in” to the “Catholic ideal.”

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