Like getting an S/A done, this is one of those things that I pull off around the time everyone is despairing of my even remembering that I said I would. What can I say? I march to the beat of my own drummer, and he's been dead for a while now.
So, anyway, as I mentioned at one point, I made several forays into finding a spiritual director, and was stymied in ways that indicated to me that superior forces were refusing to bless my efforts. I took the hint and quit. A few weeks ago, the subject was raised again by none other than my dear husband. You know, the recent religious skeptic/quasi-deist...who said, out of the blue, "I really should have helped with this before. I have a friend who's a priest who would be a great spiritual director, and I got in touch with him and he said he'd be happy to do it. He's insisted on meeting with me [my DH] first, and then I'll introduce you."
I was a bit shocked, and insisted it would only be fair that I meet the fellow before deciding, but it seemed like a good development.
However, my DH is traveling for work again very shortly, and has been very busy finishing things before he goes. And he hadn't raised the matter in a while, so I figured another door had closed. Then, this weekend, he told me that he was having dinner with his friend (hereinafter code named "Father" - heh, heh) on Monday, and might drop by with him afterward so I could meet him. Sometimes, the things I claim to want sneak up on me at a point when I am not emotionally prepared. I was apprehensive, but what was I going to say? No?
Anyway, my DH called last night while I was in the middle of errands, but I was good and came home. His friend the priest was, well...not what I was expecting. You may recall (or share) my concern that most priests would not be able to deal well with the travails of an infertile woman. Certainly, at minimum, I would expect it would require someone a bit older, and Father is around my DH's age (a few years older than I am). I'm not going to try to describe him personally because I'll fail and anyway lose the point. But he kicked my DH out of the living room for a walk (in the horrible heat - my DH is a prince, really) so he could talk to me, which I elected not to protest, and told me my DH had briefed him on the IF and associated issues (we've had some very emotional, but good, talks about this recently), and I should tell him about it.
Though I may not be known for brevity, I guess blogging has helped me organize my thoughts on the matter. I managed to get the last several years of my life, and why I'm so disappointed with where I am, into a paragraph or two - not really brief, but brief for the subject matter. There's other things I could go into besides the IF, but I figured I would stick with that for the time being. And he said some things that rather shocked me.
First of all, since I started planning to seek a spiritual director, my idle mental energy has not infrequently been devoted to playing out arguments in my mind - all the things I'm going to have to convince him of before I can get anywhere with the topic of infertility. The confessor's remark that I'll get pregnant "in God's time" rings in my ears still. Obviously, priests have been given no training on how to deal with this subject or what it really entails. But if that's true, I'm at a loss to explain Father's reaction, unless he just went to a seminary in a different universe, or he has been plagued with a bevy of infertile women as directees (seriously, there will be no Purgatory time for any priest who has that happen) since the moment he was ordained.
For one thing, he never tried even to suggest that the problem would be solved when I got pregnant. Gold star for that. That's not remotely helpful. Instead, he said that it was absolutely not OK that I was infertile, and that it would never be OK. Just like the death of someone you love - you may re-attain a place of peace, and even live a life of happiness and joy, but the fact that that person is gone will never be all right. It will always be grievous, always a loss, this side of heaven. (This makes sense to me on an intellectual level, but it may be important to note here that I have never lost someone really close to me to death.) I can get used to the idea as much as I want, but the fact that I wanted children and am childless will not ever be fine.
This is not something I really wanted to hear; I wanted to hear that I was suffering with it now because I had not processed the grief, and that eventually, I would get to a place where it would be just fine - no more a wound than the difference between having six children and eight. But I believe what he said is true. I've been searching for witnesses in the form of women who've accepted childlessness and moved on with their lives (and have found beautiful and inspiring examples), but it's my feeling that their joy and full lives are not regardless of their infertility and childlessness, but in spite of infertility (which makes them that much more impressive, really). The difference between having a family and not being able to have one is not a matter of indifference, nor a matter merely of having one's subjective preference frustrated. It's intrinsically important and its loss is a serious loss. I believed that already, but was hoping that I was wrong.
He also said that the desire to have a family was both a natural and a right one; it's part of my vocation to marriage and I was right to expect it to be fulfilled. He actually explained something I know he must have been taught - some part of theological anthropology, or psychology, maybe - that some crosses are specially heavy because they are vocational, relational, and physical (thus, we can't work with and improve them, as we could emotional or spiritual afflictions). The archetypal of these is the death of a person. (That's not a cross for the dead person, of course, but for the survivors.) I wanted to ask him what else would belong in that category and more about the theory behind it, but I'll get another chance to do that. On subsequent reflection, I think I've thought of another example, but I'll check with him to see whether I've understood right.
Obviously, he said that infertility belongs to this type of cross. It's not like having a bad time at work; that's not vocational or relational, or physical. It may be a cross, even a heavy one, but it doesn't erode who you are, and it may be passing. I also shared with him my concern that it wasn't just that I don't have children, but that I don't feel I have anything I'm supposed to do with my life; that I've been robbed of a purpose as well as a family. He thought that was valid but stressed (lest you think he was just depressing) that I will eventually find the thing I am supposed to do, and that though the cross won't ever be gone, it can be transformed - that the spiritual element of motherhood that's missing for the infertile woman will eventually be fulfilled in some other aspect of life. Which, he clarified, does not have to mean adoption, or dealing with children at all.
I told him honestly at that point that I would fight the desire to be maternal to anybody (which I have done for a while, but did not do always). I can't bear others' evaluation of my "maternal tendencies" any more, and I can see that they are watching me. I had rather be believed - or be - a heartless sociopath than that poor girl who's trying to mother her friends, strangers, dog, because she hasn't any babies...I know myself that that attitude isn't healthy, but it's how I feel. He didn't endorse that mode of behavior either, for the record, but he was understanding about it :).
I also told him my prayer life was substantially gone, and he said, of course, that I should work on that. So I'm starting on 15 mintes of reflections a day, which I think I can handle (good grief. How could I dispute that? And I remember my last spiritual director, who said that nearly three hours of devotions a day - what I was doing then - would be fine "for now"). He was also firm on the point that if I'm angry with God (yes), I should tell Him so directly. I know, Sew already said that this was important and really helped her. (I should always listen to Sew.) And I've thought about it, but I've been too annoyed with God to give Him the satisfaction of yelling at Him about it. I rant to third parties instead. Apparently, that does not yield the same fruit.
Obviously, I have a lot to work on, and I'm just starting. Even having a spiritual director appear in my life is an incredible blessing of which I am not insensible. I am grateful for my husband, who is a wonderful man (even though I badger him and whine about him). But I thought, perhaps, some of this might be some use to another infertile gal.