“Give me children or I shall die” – Genesis 30:1


“Rachel, seeing that she herself gave Jacob no children, became jealous of her sister. And she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”  (Genesis 30:1)

It happened again.  I allowed myself to be distracted by children at Mass yesterday.

In the pew in front of me was a mom with identical twin boys who appeared to be about fourteen years old, and two additional sons in the six to nine age range.  All of the children behaved beautifully, and the older boys each helped a younger one follow along in the missalette

And I cried.  And when I received Jesus in Holy Communion I apologized to Him for being so transfixed by this family, and then I cried again, in His arms…..like countless other times.

Sometimes the cross of infertility falls with crushing weight upon me, even after all these years….decades.  I writhe beneath this cross, my face pressed into a puddle of my own tears.

Nothing else in my life has ever caused me such aching, screaming, exhausting pain….not even having endured the cancer which did not take my life, but which wrenched from me the precious gift of giving life.

For four long and painful years, we had tried to conceive without success.  Then came my totally unexpected diagnosis.  Everyone else worried about my survival, while I mourned the fair-haired babies who would never be.  The children I had dreamed about all those years, when my husband would press his ear to my tummy and playfully ask, “Anybody in there yet?”

Those who read my blog regularly, know that I have an adopted son. And I want to state emphatically that this grief in no way diminishes the love I have for my son.  When my four-week old infant boy was placed into my arms, I experienced a love I had never known before.  I was “in love,” and my precious baby occupied not only my waking moments, but my dreams as well….

I no longer avoided baby showers, or wept when I had to buy a baby gift.  Those once dreaded reminders were now a source of joy for me.

I was so happy raising my son that I pushed the pain of never having conceived and given birth deep down into a hidden place in my heart.  And, for the most part, it stayed there….until he grew up.

It is impossible to explain the pain of terminal infertility, which describes the condition wherein a child has never and will never be conceived.

During the years when my friends were having babies, I felt like an outcast.  It wasn’t their fault.  I simply could not participate in those pregnancy, labor, delivery, nursing, rite of passage conversations which women have bonded over since the beginning of time.  I was an outsider, and always would be. (And was told as much by at least one well-meaning “friend.”)

When my sister got pregnant, she sobbed when she told me, both times.  And I wept for her, that her joy had to be tinged with sorrow because of my infertility. And I wept for myself as well, because we had always shared everything, but  I couldn’t share the miracle she was experiencing inside of her.  I helped her shop for maternity clothes, and gave her baby showers and was there when her boys were born, but I couldn’t really understand…..

God’s very first commandment to Adam and Eve was, “Be fruitful and multiply….”  I feel as though that command was seared into my soul when my husband and I received the Sacrament of Marriage.

And it remains, unfulfilled, and yearning, burning, demanding to be satiated.

The night before my hysterectomy, alone in my hospital room, I caressed my abdomen and said goodbye to my dreams of watching that belly swell with new life, and of seeing the joy and wonder on my husband’s face as we cradled a child we had created together…..the fruit of our love, and a part of us who would live on when we were gone.

I hurriedly scribbled in my journal, “tomorrow, that beautiful part of me created to give life will be gone forever… ”  and then the sleeping pill stole my consciousness.  I was 27 years old.

And yes, I am often distracted by families I see at Mass, those with older children as well as those with little ones.  And, I blink back tears when my husband expresses concern about the young couple a few pews up, who lost a baby, and who are now expecting again.  It’s not that I don’t care about them or that I don’t pray for a happy outcome this time.  But his tender interest in a pregnant woman innocently revives that awful feeling of failure which comes with infertility.

As I type, I am wondering if anyone will even read this far.  I guess I am really writing this for myself.  It is how I deal with the pain…. try to take it out of me and put it into words.

I have hardly even mentioned God in all of this, but He has held me in every moment of this sorrow, and has caught all of my tears in His Heart.  Without Him, I would have gone mad with the pain.

He has given me the grace to accept without understanding, and to trust when it all seems unbearable.

And when I told Him I was sorry I had trouble carrying this cross, and that I wish He didn’t have to see my tears, He told me that He fell beneath His Own Cross, and that He too cried during His Passion.  And He reminded me that we are never more dear to His Heart than when, covered in blood and tears, we fix out eyes on Him, and allow Him to pick us up when we stumble, and to carry us when we need relief.

Then He said it was okay to admire the children in Church, and that He admires them too and that they bring Him great joy.

Finally, He said:

Wait and see!  One day, you will be so surprised, and you will never cease to thank Me for this heavy cross I have chosen for you…….but how pleased My Sacred Heart would be if you would thank Me NOW…..and simply have faith in My Infinite Goodness.

Yes, thank Me, and when the pain is too great, rest awhile on My Heart, burning with Love, that Heart which would never permit you to suffer one moment more than is necessary for My Glory and your eternal happiness.  Wait and see, My child.

Wait  and see! 

Infertility resources:

http://www.catholicinfertilityjourney.com/
http://hannahstearsinfertilitysupport.blogspot.com/

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/catholic-fertility/

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27 thoughts on ““Give me children or I shall die” – Genesis 30:1

  1. what a beautiul post. thank you for sharing. I too am a mother of one child born in my heart and not my womb. I didn’t find my husband until my child bearing years had ended. I cried when my sister gave birth to her second child. I related to your story very much. Our Lord sent me my daughter at the exact time appointed by Him. Just as you are grateful for your child, I am grateful for mine. You and I share beautiful crosses. I loved how you ended the post by reminding me that God says, “wait and see. You will see.”

    • Gardenia, thank you so much for your kind words. I feel very close to you, and to any woman who shares this terrible (but beautiful) cross. Yes, our children grew in our hearts, didn’t they? And it was a long labor indeed! Adoption itself is a wonderful mystery of love. I used to have a poem which called it “heaven’s planting…” — or sort of a “transplanting” it seems : )

      Thank you for sharing how you cried when your sister’s baby was born. The pain and grief are hard for many to understand. Even among infertile women, there are those who find this cross less painful. But, I used to belong to a yahoo group called catholicfertility. Members were women still trying to conceive, but they put up with me because I had to be among other women who would understand what I was going through — even though it was much too late for me. These women suffered so much. But, they gave each other comfort.

      And you have comforted me. Thank you Gardenia, and let us “wait and see” together. God love you, Patricia

        • Hi Gardenia. I visited your blog, and your little girl is precious! If I can find that poem, I will send it to you. I used to keep it on a bulletin board when my son was growing up.
          I’m sure it’s filed away somewhere : ) I’ll look for it! God bless you, and enjoy your “little flower”! They grow up s-o-o-o fast!

  2. I always knew I would find this particular pain unbearable, and I was spared it. I think the Lord must hold you in very great esteem to have given you this cross. And you’re right – one day, you will see and you will be amazed. God bless! Joyce

    • Oh Joyce, you are such a love! I know that you have your own sufferings to bear. Wouldn’t we all run away in terror if we could see our crosses ahead of time, before God sent His Grace with them?
      I sometimes think of the manna which fed the Israelites while they wandered in the desert. They were given only enough for each day — no hoarding. I think Grace is like that too. We (I)! sometimes think up horrible scenerios which I hope will never happen to me. Yet I know all the while, “My Grace is sufficient for you…” And, it’s always there. But the pain is real….like His Pain. He loves us, and one day, we will all see. I love that book -stashed somewhere in my house — which Therese read as a girl, and quotes from in her letters to Celine: “One day, a grateful God will cry out, ‘Now it’s My Turn…’ And then what wonders we will see! ” Thank you, Joyce, for your kind words.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I don’t know why I was moved to read it at first. When I reached the point where you were wondering if anyone would read this far, I wondered myself why I had. I do not share your pain of infertility. But I continued to read your post and your “Wait and see” was a message for me and the pain I carry. Today I went to the dentist, the new hygienist asked me how many children I have. So there I was telling her about the first born, where she lived what she did, then the second… all the while thinking about what I was going to say about the fourth, the youngest; the one who only lived 18 years and left so suddenly, so quickly last summer. There is something about flesh and blood that is part of being a woman no matter what. Whether it is having never experienced a pregnancy or having experienced one and then lost. It is a cross, a quiet interior suffering. I don’t know why God thinks I am this strong. Your “wait and see” was most inspiring. Thank you.

    • Rebecca, I am so very sorry that you lost your 18-year-old daughter. I cannot imagine your pain. Losing a child has always seemed to me to be the worst kind of suffering. Yet, God is right….you do sound so very strong, and it hasn’t even been very long yet…not that time will remove your pain.

      Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words to me. I’m so grateful to God that you found something in the post that was helpful to you.

      You were in my prayers today at adoration. May you always find comfort in His Loving Heart. May Jesus be your strength from moment to moment as you bear such a heavy cross.

      And, I will remember you when I feel my own pain…

      In Christ,
      Patricia

  4. Your honesty and transparency are amazing. So beautiful. I could feel your pain, but I could also sense your faith! God loves you so much, and I promise that He mourns with you on these days at church when you get lost in other’s children. Reach for Him! Many blessings to you!

    • Kim, thank you for your beautiful words to me. You are most kind. Believe me, I do “reach for Him..” It is the only way, isn’t it? How good God is to be with each of us in every moment of our lives…always there with just what we need.

      I visited your blog, and so I know you have your own battle with infertility. You are on my prayer list now and I’m praying for you to be blessed with the child you long for so much. Oh, I do so hope your waiting will soon reach a happy conclusion.

      I lovingly like to tell Jesus that since He didn’t allow me to conceive, I think He should at least give special attention to my prayers for my sisters in Christ who also struggle with infertility. And, I like to think He agrees with me : )

      May your dream come true soon, dear Kim. Know that you have a new friend praying with you.

      Wishing you all God’s blessings,
      Patricia

  5. Thank you for sharing this. You have a gift for expressing your huge, faith-filled heart in this post. I could feel the admiration you had, the sadness you felt, the love you feel for your adopted son and I rejoice in your faith-affirming love and witness. To God be the thanksgiving and the glory, and I hope many others read this post, especially those who are mourning and feeling as though they would rather die than endure the cross of infertility.

    • Hi Colleen,
      Thank you for sharing your encouraging words, and if anyone could be helped by what I wrote, I would be most grateful to Our Lord. Ah yes, to Him be all thanksgiving and glory and endless love forever!

      I got to spend two hours today with Jesus in adoration, and I prayed for all of you who were so kind to read this post, and to leave such loving and supportive words. The best part of blogging is the wonderful people you meet.

      BTW, my book on Consoling the Heart of Jesus is on its way. Can’t wait!

      Thanks again, Colleen.
      Blessings,
      Patricia

  6. I always knew that only one who walked through fire could understand the pain of others as you so graciously do. Very few people can share such sorrow with faith dripping off every word.
    The breadth and depth of your suffering gives witness to the fact that only grace can walk us through such profound sorrow.
    I keep trying to protect myself and hide my pain…and you fearlessly share and let us walk with you…What courage.
    I can’t see you, but I send you love in the Lord and only ask that the He continue to shelter you under His wings.
    Blessings and +PAX my friend.

  7. Caroline, I always want to reach across the miles and just hug you! If I have walked though the fire, you were there first, and many more times. That’s how you know only Grace can walk us through….Grace, and the One Who is in the furnace with us.

    It’s so consoling to know that in the end, we always win, because Jesus fights for us, and let’s us think we are helping…

    I protect myself too; that’s why my blog is unknown to most people who know me personally. I think it’s a necessary choice if I’m to feel free to share certain things about my life.

    Caroline, I see (and I know others do as well), your amazing courage, your pure heart, and endearing gentleness. You are a precious daughter of God. And, I am so grateful for your friendship!

    When we get to Heaven, I’m going to be so excited to finally meet you : ) Oh yes, at the library table!

    May you too dwell beneath the shelter of His Mighty Wings until this moment on earth has passed, and the only fire we know then will be the Fire of His Love.

    I love you, my friend.
    Patricia

  8. To everyone who left a comment here, I am so deeply grateful to you for allowing me to share my story of infertiliy with you. Each of you left comments which consoled or uplifted or encouraged me in some way. Thank you for caring, and for understanding. You all have beautiful hearts, and I have prayed for each of you and thanked God for you.

    And of course, He is the story. His is the Glory…the Promise…the Heart on fire with Love. He is the reason that no matter what we have to bear in life, we can get through it with peace and joy in the midst of pain. May He be forever praised!

    Gratefully,
    Patricia

  9. “He caught all of my tears in His heart.” Those words will remain with me long. Patricia, the longing you describe, I know it too, even though I have five living children and one in heaven. There’s always a longing of some sort, isn’t there, for what we can never have-be it children in our womb, friends in our lives, joy in our spirits. The pain can be intense and unbearable at times. I pray for you in your longing and rejoice in your friendship.

  10. Dear Anne, I am so sorry that you lost a child. I know that no matter how many children one has, each is irreplaceable. I think of Jesus, with 99 sheep, and yet He goes after that one mssing little lamb.

    May you find some comfort knowing that one day, you will see your precious child and your whole family will be together again.

    Truly, as you said, there is always longing…. I often recall Our Lady’s words to Bernadette, “I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next.” I’m sure those words were meant for each of us.

    It is such a blessing to have friends like you who share the journey. We are all broken, and even “standing on our heads…” to paraphrase Fathe Dwight Longnecker’s blog title : ) But, it’s so comforting to have the love and support of others who understand, and also to be able to reach out and pray for them as well. I truly love the people I have met in my few months of blogging.

    Thank you for your prayers. Like today, I am usually quite peaceful about life, but sometimes a little thing touches that wounded place, and the tears flow. I’m sure you know the feeling.

    A big hug to you, Anne, and I too rejoice in your friendship, and am inspired by your beautiful, annointed writing.

    In His Peace and Love,
    Patricia

  11. Patricia, I want to thank you for enlarging your heart and adopting your special son.
    My dad was an orphan, a ‘foundling’ orphan.
    He had been abandoned by his birth mother at 4 weeks of age and left in the nurses quarters of a women’s hospital.
    At 14 he was eventually adopted to help work for the woman who had fostered him for about 8 years.
    I praise God that you answered the Lord’s call to be a loving and godly mother to this boy.
    I know it hurts to have never carried a child in the womb.. my second sister has never had children either, though she would’ve been a such beautiful mum!
    You are a gift to your son ..and he is to you too.
    I know the Lord holds you close when the pain gets too much.
    Sometimes it’s hard to come to terms with our sorrows and we have questions that lay unanswered – but I believe God will answer them some day..
    He truly is the God of “wait and see!”
    much love to you..Trish

    The Lord is

    • Dearest Trish, thank you for your very kind words. My son truly was a gift; there were so few children to adopt, and so many couples on waiting lists. We were so blessed by God to be chosen. We would have liked to have adopted more, and we did inquire, but were told so many others were waiting for their first child. Having my son truly took away the pain of being childless, but that longing to experience what a woman’s body is especially created for still remains, and always will. But, as you alluded to, God knows why, and someday, we will too! My heart goes out to your sister, but she’s lucky to have you : ) You are so dear! Thank you for your compassion. Love you…Patricia

  12. I am lying in bed. It’s 1:30 am and I am weeping because I will never have a child in my arms. I’ve been through countless fertility cycles. I quit two years ago and cannot move past this pain. All I want is a baby and it will never happen for me. I weep for what I have lost and ache to know the love of a child. I can’t bear this pain any longer because I know it will be a lifelong pain. I don’t want to live one more year with this agony. And your post only confirmed that the grief of infertility will never go away. I will never be done with debilitating pain.

    • Kristin, I will email you soon. I understand your unspeakable grief and pain, but there is hope…and it will not always hurt in the same way as today. I hope you read the end of my post, and also the comments below it. You are in my prayers today. Believe me, you are stronger than you know. I see “christ” in your email address, and so I assume you are a Christian. I promise you, that in Him, you can bear this cross. Ask for His consolation, His strength. He will hold you in His arms. I won’t forget you, Kristin. I will write you..hopefully today. Hold on to Jesus…He loves you so!

      Love and prayers,
      Patricia

    • Kristin, I am praying for you too. Very sorry for the grief and loss that you feel and the weeping and sadness that you know. Do you have someone to talk to about this? Prayer is very important, as Patricia points out. Jesus will lift you up. He also works through others that have suffered, as Patricia has, similar pain. Often healing comes when those who have suffered reach out to help others. Those that have suffered the same as you will have the most helpful, and compassionate listening ear, and probably advice for you. The pain may always be there, but maybe through faith, and finding others to help you bear your burden it will not be debilitating? During the past year I became good friends with someone that has suffered this. It opened my eyes. There are about 2 in 8 couples that experience this. I don’t know for how many it is a permanent condition, causing even greater pain. My heart and prayers go out to you, Kristin!

  13. Hi Kristin

    Would you consider a resource where you can connect with others who are now living child free after fighting infertility? This website serves as a meeting place for anyone managing fertility issues, loss or adoption.

    This link is the gate to the various communities broken out around infertility.

    (link removed by blog administrator)

    I hope you can find some stories that make you feel less alone. I am a fertility veteran myself. I was able to bring a baby home in the end, but I will never forget what those dark days felt like when we survived failure after failure.

    This site is liberal. I fear the link will not be shared, but I hope it remains posted so you may find others to help lighten your load.

    • Hi Roccie,

      Thank you for your most caring comment. Truly, only those who have been there know the agony of infertility. I am so happy that you were able to conceive and carry to term eventually. Wonderful!

      As you guessed, I decided not to share the link you included with your comment, because some of the treatments discussed at the website are not in keeping with my religious beliefs. But I do hope that Kristin will see your comment and be encouraged by your supportive words.

      If she does a search, I know she can find many groups which offer support to women/couples struggling with infertility. I am including two links below which would be acceptable to practicing Catholics.
      http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/catholic-fertility/
      http://hannahstearsinfertilitysupport.blogspot.com/

      Meanwhile, Roccie, I really do thank you for stopping by to comment. I feel very close to anyone who knows the heartbreak of infertility.

      Patricia

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