Written by guest contributor and CURO member, Sarah Vacca. Originally published on her blog TheGracefulCatholicWoman.com, reprinted with permission.

The purpose of Mother’s Day is to celebrate all mothers: spiritual mothers, physical mothers, religious sisters, consecrated women, married women, and single women.  We are all called to be mothers.  It is innate in women to care and nurture others both physically and spiritually.  Those who are married and waiting for physical motherhood can still find this day to be harder that most. 

My husband and I got married in June of 2016 in our early 30s.  Since then we have struggled with infertility, which is a cross.  However, in that cross, we have learned helpful ways to bear it and, therefore, have grown stronger in our faith.

Seek Medical Help

After three years of marriage, in 2019, after not conceiving we sought out a way to improve our health and hopefully our fertility.  We started to see doctors through My Catholic Doctor. We found out through various tests that my hormones were out of whack and I wasn’t ovulating.  Seeking medical help should be the first thing you should do because you want to maximize every cycle. It is important to note that some women may need to seek additional medical attention such as doctors who specialize in NaPro Technology. This should include only procedures that are aligned with our Catholic Faith.  Procedures which substitute for the marital act are morally illicit because they involve the wrongful dominion of human beings over that which belongs to God, such as IVF (Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 2377).

Create Healthy Habits

In seeking medical help in 2019, I was told by our doctor that I was considered obese.  I weighed 205 pounds. In order to improve our fertility, I had to lose weight. Instead of doing a diet, I had to change my lifestyle.  When possible I try to eat organic foods, pasture raised eggs, grass-fed or vegetarian meats when possible. I have eliminated gluten, highly processed oils, carrageenan, corn syrup, fructose, artificial food coloring, etc.

Creating healthy habits with food is just one example of a healthy habit. As Catholics, we believe this is the anthropology of the human person.  Body, mind, and spiritual are intertwined.  Other healthy habits I am trying to work on are: going to an extra Mass a week, praying the rosary daily, doing my daily Scripture prayer in the morning, and being physically active a few times a week.  Just like we seek doctors to improve our health, I also sought out help to help me to create these habits. Currently, I am seeing a Catholic wellness coach and a spiritual director.

Be Thankful for Your Periods

Every cycle, I would think this could be the cycle!  Then when I got my period days later, I felt a huge let down and lots of tears.  A very wise friend said to me, “Sarah, you should be thankful for your periods.”  This completely changed my perspective.  Here I was thinking my period was a bad thing, but really it is a good thing.  Having a normal cycle is an indication of good health and means you can still conceive.

Create Memories With Other’s Children

I can remember as a young girl, my aunt took me out for a special day with her and my sister and it was something I really looked forward to.  I felt very loved that my aunt took so much thought and care that she wanted to spend the day with us.  This is what my husband and I do with our nieces and nephews. This could be for an afternoon, a whole day, or a whole weekend.  It is an opportunity for our nieces and nephews to experience new things while also spending quality time with us.  Spending time with children doesn’t have to be with family; it could be with your friend’s children.  This helps us to experience the joys of being a parent while waiting for God’s plan.

Be Open to Fostering or Adopting

While there is a natural desire to have biological children, we should be open to fostering or adopting children.  Remember St. Joseph? He received a special grace by being the foster Father of Jesus.  It is important for couples to prayerfully discern whether God is calling them to foster and/or adopt children.  It should be done prayerfully, because while the cross of infertility is difficult, the Lord may not be calling a couple at that time. It is important to understand that a couple can choose to foster or adopt at anytime.  For example, if God is wanting to give the couple biological children, God may also want to give more children to a couple through a means of fostering or adopting. Like discerning when to abstain from intimacy (according to the teachings of the Catholic Church), one should also discern how and when the Lord wants them to grow their family.

Find Yourself A Saint

In our first year of marriage, St. Anne befriended me.  I fell in love with a picture of her and little Mary.  It wasn’t until later that I found that that St. Anne waited for about 20 years to conceive Mary. Any saint can intercede for those who struggle with infertility.  Some saints that are helpful when praying about this specific intention could be St. Collette of Corbie, St. Gerard, St. Nicholas, and of course Our Lady.

Embrace Spiritual Motherhood

I used to think that spiritual motherhood was limited to religious sisters.  But all women are called to be spiritual mothers no matter our age or vocation.  Think about a group of religious sisters.  Do they not call their head religious sister of their order “mother”?  And, how many times do we call on Mama Mary, The Virgin Mary, to intercede for us?  As Jesus said to Mary on the Cross, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (St. John 19:26-27) It was at the Cross that Christ invited women into the full reality of spiritual motherhood in imitation of our Lady.  Christ gave us His Mother, Mary, Our Spiritual Mother.  We are all Mary’s spiritual children.  She shows us the way to Him. Just like Christ gave Mary spiritual children, the Lord will give us spiritual children.  Anyone that Jesus puts in our care, we should help them to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him just like Mama Mary does for us.

Grow In Holiness

As St. Bernard says, “The soul must grow and expand so as to be capable of God.  And its largeness is its love, as the Apostle says, ‘widen yourselves in love’ (2 Cor 6:13).  It grows and extends spiritually not in substance but in virtue.”  Use this time now to grow in holiness as a woman of God and as a couple. You can do this be reading spiritual books, going on retreats, attending talks, conferences and Bible studies, reading daily scripture, etc.  As a couple you can join Marriage Encounter or Teams of Our Lady in your area.

Share In Others’ Joy

Sharing in others’ joy reminds me of the Visitation.  “During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:39-44)

First let’s look at what Elizabeth didn’t do during this meeting.  Elizabeth, when greeting Mary did not say, “How did you get pregnant so soon at such a young age?” or “I have been married longer than you. I should have more children than you.”  Elizabeth also did not dismiss Mary when she visited and did not refuse to speak to her.  Instead, Elizabeth embraced Mary her and shared in her joy.  It was because of Elizabeth’s decision to greet Mary that she had one of the first encounters with Christ (even before St. Joseph) and in turn experienced that joy with Mary, the Mother of God.  Can you imagine the joy that Elizabeth must have experienced being with Our Lady and Christ?  The event was so joyful that even John the Baptist leaped for joy in the womb.  If Elizabeth had these feelings of envy towards Our Lady and Christ, she would have missed out on a very unique experience with two holy people.  When we have these thoughts of “how did she get pregnant on her honeymoon?,” “How did she get pregnant before me?,” How can she be pregnant again?,” these are temptations to envy.  Envy is being sad about the good things that happen to others.  We can be envious of other women because of the children that they have.  While children are a wonderful and good gift, we should not look at them like a material thing that we don’t have.  We should look at them as God’s gift.  Every person is made in the image and likeness of God.  When we experience envy in our hearts, which is a capital sin, we are pushing God away.  We are turning inward.  Instead, we need to be like Elizabeth and go outward.  We need to embrace our fellow women friends, like Elizabeth embraced Mary at the Visitation.  Because Elizabeth chose to go outward, she had a God-moment with Mary and with Christ.  If we choose not to share in the joys of other women, we will be missing out on God-moments.

Build Up God’s Kingdom

There are many ways to build up God’s Kingdom.  While one way is through raising children in the Catholic faith, that is not the only way.  You and your spouse can use the charisms or gifts God has given you to build up the Church and bring others to the Truth.  For example, my husband and I both have the charism of intercessory prayer.  We are an intercessory prayer couple for the last 8 years and we have been teaching RCIA at our home parish for the last 3 years.  We also have other gifts that we share with others.  My husband is a spiritual director and a bioethicist.  I have my own blog where I write about faith, money, saving, and lifestyle. Whatever your gifts that you uniquely have and the ones that you share with your spouse, prayerfully discern how God want you to use your gifts to build up His Kingdom.

Know That God Has A Plan

Lastly, know that God has a plan.  As when the Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, “
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (Jeremiah 1:5).  The Lord has a plan for us, for our marriage, and for our family.  It is hard to know why God gives us the cross of infertility.  We may never know, until we get to heaven.  It is important to not waste the time that God has given us.  God may not have given you children yet because he wants you to get closer to Him, to grow in virtue, so that when you do become a physical mother you can form your children better in the faith.  Maybe God wants you and your spouse to build up His Kingdom in different ways before He gives you children.  Maybe God wants you to be in better physical shape so that you can be there for your children and take care of them better.  Whatever the reason is, God’s plan is always better than ours.   Think of times when God’s way was better than your way and you may start to see that God’s Way is The Way.