Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Late to the party

I was just at the dry cleaners going over some recent posts and I noticed that I missed some comments.  I know Leila has invited me to discuss personal matter with her over email and I might get there at some point but because this whole discussion started over the internets, I'd like to keep the discourse here.

I don't believe I personally attacked Leila.  The language I used to discuss her writings or the spirit of her blog could be considered snarky but I maintain that I did not attack her personally.  Given some of the comments on my blog, a few people thought I was wrong in wondering why she frequented infertile blogs.  I did not mean to question her relationship with anyone else.  I love it when bloggers get along. 

However, I write to follow an argument or support/oppose others' opinions and I disagreed with hers.  For my own edification, this is the chain of events:
  1. California's Proposition 8 is defended in front of the US Supreme Court.
  2. I discover the word "infertile" is uttered in the court room.  I'm intrigued.
  3. I wander over to Leila's blog and find she posted an interview in USA Today with the Archbishop of San Francisco where he defends the Church's argument that procreation is the whole reason for marriage.  As someone who has not procreated but is married, I'm offended.
  4. So, because I'm offended, I write a letter to the Archbishop where I argue my position on infertility in the gay marriage debate and post the letter on my blog.
  5. Concurrently, I'm offended that Leila writes on her blog in reference to the interview with Cordileone, "How I wish I had the eloquence and intelligence of this kind and thoughtful man of God."
  6. Because I don't think what he had to say was all that eloquent or intelligent and because it was offensive to infertiles/the childless, I'm upset that Leila (a supposed friend to the infertiles) offers no contrast or further insight to what the Archbishop said.

Further, in her comments in that post (and of course, feel free to correct me) Leila was the first person to invoke that infertility was caused by the Fall.  I see no connection whatsoever between the "gays can't get married because they can't procreate" argument and "Hey, infertiles, the Fall is the reason for your circumstance."

To me, the Fall comments were unnecessarily hurtful.  It's sort of death by a thousand cuts.  What else do fertiles have to offer me and others like me?
For those who have kept with me for a while, you'd notice that I'm happy to... well, I feel it's necessary as a thinking human being to challenge and debate.  You'll never see me post something about the Church and say that, "I have no words" or "This cardinal is just right on."  First, I always have the words.  And my blog is not a forum to repeat what the Church teaches.

I've said this many, many times but I'll say it again.  If you have not walked in my shoes, I don't think you have the right to say anything about infertility other than, "I'm sorry."  Everything else is pouring salt on the wound. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

"Despite... the years of sinning, Elizabeth is winning"

The title is pulled from a song by Matt Pond PA.  Incredible band.  Worth a look.  The lyric came to mind as a contrast to the argument that bad things happen to us because of sin/the Fall.  More on that later.

I feel forced to respond to Leila's comment in this post.  Hers is the second to last comment in the string.  I don't think any post of mine has generated so many comments and they're not brief.  Each one is an thoughtful essay and should stand on its own.

Leila said that I did not interpret her comment on her blog related to gay marriage and how infertiles fit in to that scenario correctly.  I stand to differ.  Here is the entire section of her comment I am referring to:
I want to speak to you as a fellow Christian now, as secular folks don't believe in the Fall of man. But you've often brought up the issue of elderly folks getting married. They can get married as long as they can physically partake in the salient act of marriage (conjugal love). The reason old folks cannot have children is for the same reason that infertile couples cannot: The Fall. Defect, aging, decay, disease. All from the Fall. 
 This is what I said:
And on Leila's blog she took the time to say that infertility was due to "the Fall."  And that meant that I was defective, diseased, old, decayed. 
And this is how she responded:
If you put a direct quote up, and in context, you would see that I never said that and never "meant" that. I am very careful about the words I use (although in comments, they can be rushed). Never would I say that an infertile woman was "defective, diseased, old and decayed"! Just never.  
Let's run through the logic, shall we?  Infertile couples cannot have children because of the Fall and defect, aging, decay, disease emanate from the Fall.  It follows that my husband and I are infertile and do not have children thus we are "an infertile couple."  Infertiles cannot have children because of the Fall and defect, aging, decay, and disease all come from the Fall.  Therefore, our infertility is caused by defect, aging, decay, and disease.  If as a sufferer of infertility, I can call myself an infertile woman, I am defective, diseased, old, decayed.

JoAnna did in a manner of speaking support my statement by saying:
A healthy female and a healthy male can and will procreate eventually if they time intercourse accordingly and all systems are working as they should. If they do not conceive within a year, then there is an unexplained disease or defect (nutritional deficiency, etc.) that is preventing one or both of their reproductive systems from functioning as intended (biologically). 
I really can't tell how the gay marriage debate and denying gays the right to marry based entirely on the notion of procreation morphed into explaining why infertiles are infertile: the Fall.  I'm siding with Joy Beyond the Cross and the Misfit in saying that the Fall offers me no comfort and it really makes absolutely no sense to bring up this topic in the context of gay marriage.  Why did we get stuck on this?  Was it to divert attention to the issue at hand which is the unfair targeting of infertiles in the argument against gay marriage?

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Right after writing my post last night, I went over to Joy Beyond the Cross and read her horrible news.  I couldn't sleep last night because of it.  I woke up my husband to tell him.  He said, "God, that's terrible."  All this debate on my blog felt so gratuitous.

I see two camps forming.  The first doesn't think it's OK to question Church leaders or contact them to do so.  They also like to attribute infertility and some other bad stuff to the Fall.  In addition, they are on board with the procreation aspect being the central tenet of the anti gay marriage argument.

The second camp (the infertiles/the childless and cancer sufferers) aren't taking a lot of comfort in the Fall argument.  They also see value in the other salient aspects of the anti gay marriage argument not related to procreation 'cause hey, we're married and we don't procreate.

Joanna, it's not that I don't recognize that our infertility is due to some defect.  That's obviously true.  It's just that I've never felt the mothers have been able to empathize with the infertiles and they don't even try.  That's why I don't get why they comment on infertile blogs.

I'm here and I write to represent a persecuted minority.  And advocate for us.  To hear lawyers and archbishops casually throw around the word "infertility" like it meant nothing to some people was extremely hurtful.

There's a gulf I guess between these two camps.  People that get pregnant like clockwork can't understand people like me who fail to conceive 32 months in a row.  Nearly all the friends my age have children and I have to bend to their schedules.  It's a life fertiles don't understand.  That's all.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Thank you and a rebuttal

I'm very happy my letter to Archbishop Cordileone sparked so much interest and thought.  We have a lot of smart, articulate women in our community.  Thank you for taking the time to comment.

First off if anyone wants to use the letter, go right ahead.  No need to credit me by name just as a sympathetic sister in Christ.  Just please don't edit or change the content.

How do I go about addressing all the salient arguments in the comment from the last post?  It'll be random.

I completely disagree that the Archbishop didn't devalue the marriage of infertiles.  By calling infertility, "a challenge and a disappointment that some husbands and wives have to go through" means he doesn't understand infertility at all.  And nothing I've read from Leila lets me know she understands it either.

It's hard to express profound grief and trauma in a letter and I probably failed in that regard.  To call the most significant event that is continually happening to you, a disappointment is profoundly insulting.  When anti gay marriage advocates both secular and religious choose to rest their argument against gay marriage on procreation, they failed to consider how they would address infertility.  I cannot properly format all the sections of the Supreme Court transcript on the gay marriage case (Hollingsworth v. Perry) that I want to refer to but, Justice Kagan asked: 
In reading the briefs, it seems as though your principal argument is that same-sex and opposite -- opposite-sex couples are not similarly situated because opposite-sex couples can procreate, same-sex couples cannot, and the State's principal interest in marriage is in regulating procreation.  Is that basically correct?
Cooper, the lawyer advocate for Proposition 8 said, "I -- Your Honor, that's the essential thrust of our -- our position, yes."

The Church, despite saying in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered'. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
They've got to pair up with the secular argument because the Supreme Court won't listen to biblical reasoning.  The Church, instead of emphasizing the 'grave depravity' of homosexuality and it not being genuinely affective and sexually complementary, they rest their argument of procreation.

And because of USA Today and several Supreme Court Justices, anti gay marriage advocates forced themselves into addressing this little inconvenient problem called infertility.

I've got a big problem with that.

Why?  Because Cooper thought infertility is "very rare."  Cordileone called it "a challenge and a disappointment" and implied that the only people that are infertile are old.  That's why I made a point to tell him I am only 35.

If the most traumatic experience of your life was called very rare and only affected old people wouldn't you be upset?

And on Leila's blog she took the time to say that infertility was due to "the Fall."  And that meant that I was defective, diseased, old, decayed.  I'm not sure any of these adjectives are mutually compatible or exclusive because she didn't use 'and' or 'or'.  Sarah (and I'm sorry, I can't remember where she said this) said that cancer was the result of the Fall.  Skin cancer runs in my family.  And that's because of sun exposure.  My very good friend Renuka Sharma died of non-smokers lung cancer.  I wasn't a Catholic when she was dying but if I were I suppose it would have been faithful of me to tell her she had terminal cancer because of the Fall.  I'm sure that would have been helpful and comforting to her.

I don't need bloggers to regurgitate what the Church teaches.  I can look that stuff up myself.  If the reason you write is to cut down debate and women exercising their brain, I don't see any value in that.

And Sarah, I don't write to get the reaction I want.  I'm not insecure.  I don't care if the Archbishop doesn't respond to me.  My parish pastor didn't respond to me when I took Made for Another World's brilliant letter about Mother's Day and not asking mothers to stand up and leaving out the childless.  And that guy knows me.  I'm not bothered.  It makes me work harder.

I live in a place that has three Catholic churches for 600,000 people.  And it's not urban.  I worship where my in-laws were married, where I was confirmed, and where we were married.  I'm not moving churches.  I've accepted that I worship in a place where people are deathly worried that it took them three months of trying to get pregnant.

I agree with the Misfit that I feel a deep connection now with gay Catholics.  Ah, the irony.

Did I say, "that it is wrong to emphasize the role of procreation in marriage?"  No I didn't.  I said that argument is "half-baked" and that the argument against gay marriage shouldn't "hinge" on procreation.  If the validity of opposite sex marriage hinged on procreation, I'm not married.  

I sometimes wonder why Catholic superstar Leila got involved in the infertile blogs.  I hate to judge knowing what I know but since she loves to, I'll go ahead.  Until you know what it's like to love a man and take the very serious step of marrying him and work very hard to make your marriage a good one in a society that loves to tell you to get a divorce if you're unhappy when everybody is unhappy sometimes, and make love with that man during the time of the month that almost everybody seems to get pregnant and still get your period two weeks later month after month, and face a life knowing you will not know the joy and sorrow of raising and loving your husband's children, you will never understand what drives me.  

I am a faithful Roman Catholic.  However, I will not be a mouthpiece for the Church and I will not stifle debate.  I won't let bullies bring me down.

I didn't muddle anything.  I stand by my letter.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I finally finished it.

OK, I just had to finish it.  I've had lots of other things on my mind but didn't want to quit this project.  Here's the letter (and it's not open for corrections or changes!)  It's done.

April 11, 2013

Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone
Archbishop of San Francisco
One Peter Yorke Way 
San Francisco, CA 94109  

Your Excellency:

As a married Roman Catholic, I have been following the news of the United States Supreme Court’s consideration of gay marriage closely.  I believe strongly in and find great comfort in my marriage not only as a perfect union between a man and a woman but also as a Sacrament of the Church.  You have my appreciation and great respect for leading as chairman the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

While I in no way reject the view that marriage is the best place to raise and nurture children, I do not believe that the argument against gay marriage hinges on procreation.  I was pained to read your words justifying the manner in which you defend traditional marriage in the March 25, 2013 edition of USA Today.  You stated, “To legalize marriage between two people of the same sex would enshrine in the law… that marriage is essentially an institution about adults, not children; marriage would mean nothing more than giving adults recognition and benefits in their most significant relationship.”

You further state when asked how this view applies to elderly or infertile opposite sex couples:
Infertility is, as you point out, part of the natural life cycle of marriage (people age!), as well as a challenge and disappointment some husbands and wives have to go through. People who have been married for 50 years are no less married because they can no longer have children.

Adoption can be a wonderful happy ending for children who lack even one parent able or willing to care for them. But notice, when a man and woman cannot have children together, that's an accident of circumstances, the exception to the rule. When a husband and wife adopt, they are mirroring the pattern set in nature itself....

As a non-elderly infertile woman (I am 35 years old), I cannot disagree more with this view.  However, I firmly believe you did not intend to hurt infertile married couple through your comments.  For some of us, infertility is not just a part of the natural life cycle, it’s a permanent status.  If I may, let me take you briefly through our infertility journey. 

In 2008, in preparation for our wedding, my husband and I learned the Natural Family Planning method through our local parish in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.  After one year of trying unsuccessfully to conceive, we went through every diagnostic test outlined by the NaPro Technology system including laparoscopic abdominal surgery by a Catholic surgeon 135 miles from my home.  Three years since that surgery and additional Church-sanctioned fertility treatments, my husband and I have never conceived a child.  We have always been open to new life.  We have never used artificial contraception or Assisted Reproductive Technology treatments. 

We have further discerned that we are not called to adopt a child.  Adoption is a complicated legal process and can be very costly.  Not only that, because many states allow birth parents a period in which they can change their mind about the adoption, children are sometimes taken away from a loving adoptive family in a heart wrenching process.  To view adoption as an easy remedy or quick alternative to infertility is simply not true.

My husband and I are struggling to live a full life in Christ as a committed, loving, childless Catholic couple.  I hope you will understand that our infertility journey has been much, much more than a “challenge and a disappointment.”  This journey has been at times heartbreaking, isolating, and has profoundly changed the course of my life. 

In a faith community where families are large and many people assume that if you don’t have children you’re not a good Catholic and are using artificial contraception, the community can feel unwelcoming and judgmental.  Many times I’ve shared with friends that the only way I’ve been able to accept my situation is because I lean totally on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for strength and fortitude.

You labeled infertile couples as “an accident of circumstances” and an “exception to the rule.”  I firmly believe that in a loving Christian community, infertile married couples cannot be considered inconvenient statistical outliers that get in the way of the accepted argument against gay marriage.  We are not tools or convenient anecdotes.  We are committed Catholics struggling like every other believer to uphold our values and live out God’s commandment to us: to love one another. 

It is exactly because we are exceptions to the rule that I believe infertile couples, are worthy of compassion, respect, and attention.   

My prayers are two-fold.  One, I pray you and the Church leadership will emphasize the unique and special qualities of opposite sex marriage beyond procreation.  My husband and I recognize our marriage as the greatest opportunity for ministry.  We are complete as a man and a woman living together in a Christian home.  Many sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Marriage, if fact, support the holy mystery of marriage without emphasis on children or family.

Two, I would respectfully ask for greater understanding and outreach by the Church towards infertile married couples.  To illustrate just how marginalized the infertile community can be, a infertile woman who moved to Los Angeles in 2011 called the Family Life Coordinator of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest diocese in the United States and discovered that although there were support groups for widows and separated/divorced people, there were none for couples suffering from infertility.  Just as I believe Christ has been my constant, faithful companion throughout this painful journey, more recognition by the Church could ease the suffering of many couples who now feel they are pushed aside in a world where fertility is taken as granted.

I believe God has given me and my husband the cross of infertility in part to make others aware of a problem most people don’t give a second thought.  You can imagine my surprise when the topic of infertility was suddenly a critical companion to a national debate about gay marriage.  If you would like, I can discuss my concerns and ideas with you further.  I can be reached at [my email address] or by phone at [my phone number].  You and your critical work in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are in my fervent prayers.



Friday, April 5, 2013

It's Friday!

  1. No, I haven't finished the letter to Archbishop Cordileone.  Not that my general feeling of abhorrence has gone away, I'm just preoccupied.
  2. Speaking of preoccupied, I've been on a baking and cooking frenzy this week.  Everybody wants to know what's gotten it me.  My short explanation is that nobody (because I'm a child of the eighties) ever told me I couldn't do something.  Now that I live with a man from a generation where they told kids they were worthless, I've received feedback from some related folks that I can't cook/bake.  So, now I'm the defiant one and I've done a fabulous job of proving them wrong.
  3. So, what have I made?  Galaktoboureko for Easter.  Entirely homemade Cajun shrimp cappelini alfredo.  Well, I didn't make the pasta or the shrimp.  And an amazing (pat on back) Meyer lemon loaf cake.  So moist!
  4. I love the Browneyed baker!  I only really follow childless blogs, a couple non-threatening adoption blogs, and Joy Beyond the Cross (well, because she's just too smart/sweet/faith-filled not to) and I saw this which took me to that, I wasn't really into the dulce de leche bars, I did find so many other recipes worth trying.
  5. Tonight, if I have time (my husband is "taking me out to dinner") I'm making Trader Joe's Jo-Jos Cheesecake Bars.  She made 'em with Oreos but since I know that Jo-Jos are better, that's what I'm using. 
  6. And related to having time tonight, I'd contend that watching Mad Men will make your man a better husband.  We're behind (because we don't have any type of cable service or television transmission) on Mad Men because we wait for them to be streamed on Netflix.  So, we watched episodes 1-3 of season 5 last night.  Megan does a song and dance routine for Don at his surprise birthday party.  After all the guests are gone, Don is gruff and rude and tells Megan not to spend money "that sort of thing" ever again.  He also tells her that she embarrassed him by performing a slightly suggestive dance. She's put off.  My husband recognizes his similar behavior and makes him think.  OK, good.  Next scene, Don asks to take Megan "out for dinner."  She's happy.  So my husband picks up the clue and asks me last night if he "could take me out for dinner."  YES!  What a polite way to ask.  
  7. No, never got to the cheesecake.  He's in bed already.
  8. Today is five months since my disastrous haircut.  The layer above my ears are not down to the bottom of it.  I project that it will take another six months or so to get to my chin, for a layered bob.  
  9. I'm headed to San Diego tomorrow to see my 90-year old grandmother.  We are reconciling after a difficult life-long relationship.  And in the evening I'm visiting my husband's second cousin and his wife.  They just had a baby so we're hanging at home.  I can hang with that.
  10. And for the first time in many months, I'm going shopping in a real brick and mortar store.  I absolve to take a bottle of water (malls make me dehydrated) and hang out and try on clothes for at least an hour in Anthropologie.  It's gonna be a great weekend!