Mother’s Day, Fruitful Femininity and Infertility

COMMENTARY: The day you and your husband say ‘I do’ you are a family. A complete family.

It’s hard to feel fruitful while experiencing infertility.
It’s hard to feel fruitful while experiencing infertility. (photo: Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock)

I once read a (secular) infertility blog, and in the inaugural post the author made a thoughtless joke, something like “I just flew back from maternity leave, and boy are my arms tired.” 


Well, virtual crickets swiftly followed by an angry mob of infertile women descending upon the comm box. It won’t come as a surprise that the blog in question did not live beyond the first few (apologetic) posts.

See, the mistake the author made was thinking that because she had, at one time, trouble getting pregnant, it didn’t matter that she had ultimately been successful in her efforts and given birth to two (TWO!) healthy babies. She still thought hers was the voice the infertile women searching the internet for comfort wanted to hear, insensitive jokes included. It. Was. Not. 

I bring up this story now, as we approach Mother’s Day 2024, because when addressing infertility and childlessness, I never want to be guilty of committing a similar error in judgment. 

My dear husband and I have been married for almost 26 years and I’ve never once been pregnant, and not for lack of trying. I’m assured in my “Infertile Woman” bona fides. However, my vocation to motherhood was in time realized through the adoptions of my four sons. 

I know and recognize that for some, even parenthood through adoption is elusive. Others, for many good and valid reasons, do not feel called to adopt. I can and do remember the painful Mother’s Days before my sons’ arrivals, but now that I’m about to mark two decades as a mother myself, both the pain and memories have faded into pale scars. 

A couple of years ago I became aware of a wonderful Catholic Infertility Ministry called Springs in the Desert. In the website’s own words, “Springs in the Desert is more than just a ministry, we are a place of respite, solidarity, and encouragement…” Oh, how I wish I’d had this resource years ago! 

I recently had the great pleasure to be a guest on the Springs in the Desert podcast where Jillian Kubik and I talked about what fruitful femininity means, and what it can mean within the context of infertility. It’s hard to feel fruitful while experiencing infertility. Everywhere you look there seems to be a reminder that you somehow might be falling short of the very things your femininity was designed for, the things that we think define it, define us

Living a Catholic life is a constant exercise in awareness of children and round pregnant bellies all around us. Mother’s Day aside, the entire month of May honors Mary, Mother of God. Mary is our mother, too, and we seek to emulate her in our lives as Catholic women. Natural creation is awake and alive with new life. Birds are building nests, bees buzz from flower to flower. Everything is green, blooming, fertile. And here you are. 

While children are perhaps the most obvious fruits of marriage — if they’re anything like my boys, they’re hard to miss — their absence does not make a marriage any less fruitful in God’s eyes. For example, the witness you and your husband provide the world through your steadfast faith and abiding love of Christ and his Church while carrying the cross of infertility bears a cornucopia of spiritual fruits that can inspire the faithfulness of others feeling the weight of their own crosses. 

The day you and your husband say “I do” you are a family. A complete family. Your family may grow with children, and what a blessing they are. But sometimes children do not come. The love you share within your marriage, the life you live together every day trying to help the other get to Heaven, and the gifts your family brings to the world through your friendship, prayers, and hospitality are such good and holy fruits. Offering up your own suffering to the prayers of those who still long for marriage can also serve to remind yourself of the great gift you have received in your loving husband and happy marriage. 

This Mother’s Day, it’s okay to feel sad, to sit in your suffering. (And more practically speaking, maybe attend the Saturday Vigil Mass instead of Sunday morning, if your arms are feeling especially empty). But please do not despair. You are loved, and so worthy of the Father’s love. The fruits you bear you may never see, but he sees them, and they are abundant. I’ll be praying for you and your husband — your family — this Mother’s Day and every day.