Today I have the pleasure of introducing a new resource that maybe all of us at one time or another wish existed. In fact, maybe its lack started us to writing about infertility on our blogs or made us start a blog all together.
An actual book about infertility for Catholics! Novel idea, eh?
The book is The Infertility Companion for Catholics: Spiritual and Practical Support for Couples, written by Angelique Ruhi-López and Carmen Santamaría and published by Ava Maria Press.
The idea for this book was born out of the experience of two friends, Angelique and Carmen, who live in Florida and who both had unexpected obstacles in their journeys to growing their families, including infertility and secondary infertility. While they didn’t journey simultaneously (first one friend, then the other), their shared experiences helped them to see the need for a very Catholic resource and eventually drove them to write this book. Over these next two weeks you’ll see from the schedule here that a bunch of different bloggers will be participating in the “Blog Book Tour” to give you reviews, excerpts, interviews, and giveaways surrounding the release of this book, which has been scheduled to conveniently coincide with Infertility Awareness Week, April 22-28th. How smart is that?
The book title does say a lot about whats in it: practical and spiritual support. When I first heard about this book I really did think to myself (and maybe out loud), Oh please don’t be just another Catholic book telling us don’t do IVF. Don’t get me wrong, for many people, this is an important topic that needs to be clarified from the get go. We’ve all heard that “Oh, my friend so and so did IVF and she was Catholic” so clearly, this is an important moral question that needs to be addressed and discussed in a very loving manner because many, many people out their haven’t heard this message. However, I was just praying that this book didn’t stop there! To tell someone what treatments are off limits without offering the alternatives and support to make it through a now even more estranged journey (which is where most Catholic materials I’ve read seem to stop) is a bit like – forgive the bad analogy – throwing someone in an ocean, telling them they can’t use a raft, and then expecting them to just learn to swim and make it back to dry land on their own. Sure, maybe some will figure it out, but a great deal of people will struggle and flail in the process.
So back to the book, the first chapter reads very instructive and well, practical. Helping the reader to answer the question if they meet the scientific definition of infertility and a rundown of some common diagnoses. Before going into what the Church teaches about artificial reproductive technologies (ART), there is a great little chapter about what our faith has to do with infertility at all, including references to familiar bible stories and a background to theology of the body. For many, this is the confusing leap between why the church is even concerned with what couples do privately, and I loved that this was included before the actual details of the Church’s stance on ART! Afterwards there is a chapter on treatment options available for Catholics which addresses specific and again, practical concerns that Catholic may have with traditional approaches to infertility treatment and how best to navigate that path, including both author’s experiences.
Finding the correct spiritual support is a huge part of making it through experiencing infertility in one piece and even then it can be a close call. This was where we get to my favorite part of the book! The part that I was really hungry for, help finding the meaning and peace in the midst of all the cloudy emotions and remembering Jesus in all of it. The next few chapters, Discerning God’s Will, The Cross of Infertility, and Bearing the Cross: A Spirituality of Infertility, all address these more intangible difficulties of infertility while calling us out of the darkness of despair to remember our purpose as Christians.
Probably the most valuable part of the book for me was the description and explanation of the St. Ignatius spiritual discernment exercise. This can obviously be found elsewhere, but the application to one’s own infertility journey is very, very valuable and a good reminder to what its really all about. And this is where I will give props to my husband for “being right” and I will hopefully not upset the blogging community too much, but this is an extremely big advantage to not blogging about every detail of the infertility journey and is probably why as some point along our paths, most of us have taken a step back from doing so. This community provides an invaluable resource of support and love in what is otherwise a very isolating journey. However, discerning the next steps in something so personal and spiritually important as the steps tied to the growth of your family is really between you, your husband, and God. But saying that and knowing how to do it so you get that calm and peace in your soul are two different things. The St. Ignatius steps laid out in this book were extremely helpful to proper discernment for dealing with any big decision, but especially infertility related ones since it can get so confusing emotionally. Its always good to remember to have that quiet time between just you and God to pour your heart out and then really, truly listen. Good stuff!
There’s a lot more to this book, including a very necessary chapter from Carmen’s husband talking about the male perspective of male factor infertility which I applaud him for writing and telling a much needed perspective that is non-existent in the blog-world, as well as a chapter on Infertility’s Effect on Marriage, dealing with The Loss of Miscarriage (including instructions on what to physically do after a miscarriage as well as support network resources), and Opting to Adopt. There is also a great chapter on How Family and Friends Can Help, which would be great to give if you’re having difficulty explaining to those trying to understand infertility how they can support their loved ones and that in a mine field of things not to say, there really are things that can help.
The fact that the book was peppered with inspiring quotes, bible verses, and catechism references makes it very biblical and Catholic resource that really helps tie the suffering of infertility directly to our faith. Each chapter has a list of further references at the end that will help the reader find more information on a topic of interest. Although at times it can be confusing to remember who is writing each chapter (Angelique and Carmen switch on and off) and it would have been nice to have a reminder as each chapter started, a strength of this book really is the perspective of two women, one who faced infertility and one who is currently facing infertility. The difference in tone of their writing is subtle, but perhaps its like reading the blogs of women who have become pregnant and had children vs. those that are still in the midst of the struggle. There is a difference, maybe a wisdom or confidence that comes from experiencing faith and prayers completed vs. an inspiring rawness of someone still following faithfully in the struggle that makes a difference in relate-ability and ultimately makes the book a stronger resource for all of those dealing with infertility. It is really a great resource for those starting off on this journey or looking for more resources to support them along the way.
Finally, in being given a chance to read and review this book I was also given the opportunity to give one away to a reader! I’ve never actually done a giveaway before but am super excited to be able to have this as a giveaway prize!
Anyone can enter and the rules are simple: just leave a comment with your name (or pseudonym), email (only I will see your email – so I can tell you you won!) and one thing that you would look forward most about reading this book. Or the one thing you wish this book would address if you didn’t see it addressed up there. If you don’t feel comfortable commenting I’ll accept an email entry as well :)
I’ll close the comments in a week, April 24th, aka Baby Moonhead’s “official” LMP due date, select a winner at random and send you this book!
You can either try to win this book for yourself or for a friend who you know would appreciate it, both are great ideas!