The Pain of Infertility and Facebook Envy

My mother in law had several miscarriages before having her first child. She went on to have five children. But she often talked of how difficult those preceding childless years were especially as she was an older bride.

Get Religion has an interesting post on how happy Facebook pregnancy posts are, to put it mildly, upsetting to friends who are infertile.

“Long ago, during my Denver days, I heard Cardinal J. Francis Stafford — at that time the city’s archbishop — make an amazing statement. He said that priests face many tough issues while trying to comfort those who are making their confessions while dealing with the wreckage caused by events in life that are occurring, literally, through no fault of their own.

In that context, he noted that of all the issues that he had faced through the years when hearing confessions, one of the the issues that consistently had the most devastating effects on the spiritual lives of penitents was infertility.

How serious? Often, he said, the spiritual effects of infertility were even worse than those suffered by those who lost a child to disease or to a tragic accident. There was a unique and silent pain suffered by those who wanted to have children, but could not. Whole communities will rally around those who lose a child. Those who feel denied the unique joys and pains of parenthood often suffer in silence, except for the interior screams of pain that others rarely hear. Clergy must understand this reality and help those who suffer from it, he stressed.

So what does that have to do with the following story from the Post, which is both creative and emotionally gripping? Read on:

Diane Colling, an occupational therapist and fertility patient, was scrolling through her Facebook page last week when, once again, she was bombarded by a friend’s exuberant broadcast about her pregnancy. “Your daughter will hold your hand for a little while, but will hold your heart for a lifetime,” her brother’s pregnant girlfriend posted.

“I know it’s not meant to hurt, but you feel like you’re getting kicked every time you see these,” said Colling, 28, who lives in Baltimore County and has been trying to get pregnant since 2006. “I have to unfriend people for a while. If I was smart, I wouldn’t go on Facebook anymore, but I’d completely lose connections with family and friends.”

Before Facebook, infertile couples could try to avoid pregnant people at work or social gatherings, limiting their exposure to triggers of bitterness or jealousy. But that was when friendships were forged mainly in person, not via today’s social media Web sites, where people can feel ambushed by photos of friends’ – or mere acquaintances’ – baby bumps.

Now, when more than a half-billion people use Facebook, couples yearning for children say they are trapped: They are unwilling to detach from the social network, but unable to avoid its frequent reminders — fetal sonograms are seemingly ubiquitous — of what might elude them forever.”

Infertility is a difficult cross to bear. It is perhaps even harder for faithful Catholics given the prohibition against IVF.

There is just so much pain in the pews. And on Facebook.

Do read the entire Get Religion post.

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry and I have been married 39 years. But the deacon’s wife gig is a new twist. Larry was ordained in August of 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren. The oldest grandchild is ten and the youngest is three. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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5 Responses to The Pain of Infertility and Facebook Envy

  1. LeAnn says:

    I came back to re-visit this after reading it yesterday. My mother also had miscarriages before I was born and between my brother and I. After years of contraception, I’m not able to conceive. It used to bother me a lot. It would bother me to see a woman with a baby bump or a woman nursing her baby because I was envious. Somehow I am past that now. I still have times when I truly ache and wish I could have carried a baby and given birth. But now when I see a friend who is expecting a baby, I’m so happy for her and her family. Babies are always good. Sometimes the circumstances are not good, but babies always make me smile, even a crying baby. Anytime a mother is frustrated with her baby, I would gladly take it for her for a few minutes and hold him. I don’t think I get to hold babies often enough. But my time as a granny will come in due time.

  2. Pingback: Embracing the Heavy Cross of Infertility | A Deacon's Wife

  3. Angry at being childless says:

    I have suffered from at least 4 miscarriages, the 5th I am a little dubious about as I hadn’t done a HPT to confirm it but the symptoms were all there. Throughout it all I have suffered from severe depression as well as internal rage, jealousy and bitterness. I am a married woman, I have worked hard to provide for myself… why do I get punished with childlessness while millions of young teens and drug addicts fall pregnant with such ease and no planning? As I get closer and closer to my 40′s I can’t help but feel more and more bitter and envious of parents of babies and young children. Christmas is not something I enjoy anymore either, for me it’s about the kids and seeing the excitement and joy on their faces. I can’t bear to see that on someone else’s children if I can’t see it on my own.

    • Susan Kehoe says:

      Dear Angry,
      The only way that I can even begin to understand suffering is to look at Jesus on the cross. But I know that is not much of a comfort to you. May I suggest that you check out the blog, The Cross I embrace. The blogger is a young Catholic woman who struggles with infertility.
      I will keep you in my prayers.
      God bless,
      Susan

      • Angry at being childless says:

        Thank you for your suggestion. I won’t go into great detail, only wish to say that I struggle to believe in Christianity because there is so much wrong with it. My parents tried to raise me in the Catholic tradition but I am not comfortable with any religion that teaches us homosexuality is a sin. I’d like to believe in a Higher Power though.

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