Deep within the essence of the marital relationship is a parental capacity; the potential for husband and wife to gift each other with the new identity of ‘mother’ or ‘father’. This potential rests in a profound human desire to give life; to expend and extend our own existence beyond ourselves to the next generation. This parental capacity is a vigorous life force that restlessly seeks to find its target, a recipient of our urgent longings to give ourselves to our offspring.
For couples who are unable conceive, the heartache can be immense. The frustrated helplessness, the sense of being ‘punished’ for past mistakes, the gruelling process of endless tests and the roller-coaster of hope and disappointment that accompanies each menstrual cycle; all these can take a toll on the marriage relationship. Cherished dreams of growing their own family fade and it can be especially painful to see other couples pregnant or with new babies.
For some the desire to have a child or another child may not be shared by their spouse. Some spouses unilaterally make the decision to get sterilised or terminate an unplanned pregnancy leaving the other spouse with a crushing helplessness. This can give rise to deep pain and resentment that poisons the relationship for years or even decades. Often decisions are made in haste and out of fear without fully considering the consequences leading to later regret.
Questions for Reflection and Sharing
- For couples without children: what qualities do you see in your spouse that would make him a great father or her a wonderful mother?
- For couples unable to have children: what qualities have you seen your spouse develop through the difficulties you have faced together?
- For couples who have children: what qualities do you most appreciate in your spouse in relation to the family?
- For any couple: what heartache or regret do you have about your fertility decisions?
Looking for more? SmartLoving.org is a website dedicated to providing couples of all stages with resources to make their relationship the best it can possibly be. Check it out: www.smartloving.org
A Total Gift of Self: Sexual intimacy is a window onto the Divine; when couples appreciate that their love making is not simply a recreational activity, but a sacred love language, their relationship takes on new purpose and meaning. It ceases to be simply an activity of mutual satisfaction and becomes a divinely-inspired mission to love. A Total Gift of Self is series of resources including a DVD, booklet and instructor resources which provides practical information on fertility, family planning methods and the moral and theological issues. Released in the year of the 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae, it heralds a renewed interest in the vision of authentic human love held by the Catholic Church.
This article featured in the December 2012 edition of the CathFamily e-Magazine. For more from this issue, check out:
- Mother of Life
- Being Prolife: your parish and community
- Our Lady of Guadalupe Novena
- Our Lady of Guadalupe Colouring-in