After over four years, on and off, of failed fertility treatments, it’s safe to say that my faith was sorely tested. But if I’m being honest, it wasn’t just tested; it collapsed under the weight of nine inseminations, two IVFs, the reading of countless sperm donor profiles, the loneliness and sadness, and too many blood draws, drugs, appointments, and self-injections to count. In my case, it has not recovered.
I was thinking of this as I read about a Virgin Mary icon that’s being credited with helping dozens of couples in New Mexico conceive. Hispanically Speaking News reported earlier this month on couples visiting Our Lady of Perpetual Help Byzantine Catholic Church, touching or praying to an icon of the Virgin Mary -- then finding themselves expecting a child. Father Christopher Zugger bought the 200-year-old icon in 1998 and since then, he told the newspaper, “We’ve had all kinds of miracles with all kinds of couples.” I found myself thinking, “New Mexico isn’t so far away.” Faith, much like its sister emotion, hope, does appear to spring eternal.
The priest talked about miracles. You hear that word a lot when it comes to fertility – mostly, we all hope, that we'll be able to say, in the not-so-distant future, “we had a miracle baby.” And many, many women and couples are sustained by their faith. It is a balm that can carry you through truly dark moments, days, and weeks, give meaning to what seems meaningless, or even just provide a measure of comfort when you decide to turn over the stress and incomprehensibility of infertility to something greater than yourself.
There's even some scientific evidence to back it up, indicating that prayer helps people heal faster, for example, though the data is far from conclusive. A 2001 study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine even seemed, at first, to back up the possibility that prayer might as much as double your odds of IVF success; but a few years later a prominent researcher on the study pulled his name from it, calling into question the results.
But everyone knows that faith isn't about data or facts. It's about the opposite. And your faith, like your experience as someone trying to conceive, is deeply personal and individual. We’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings about how your experiences with faith, prayer, and religion have influenced your journey toward parenthood.