Couples dealing with infertility often struggle in silence, not knowing where to turn for information or where to find support from other people dealing with the same thing.
According to 2019 statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control, about 10% of women ages 15 to 44 in the United States have trouble becoming pregnant or staying pregnant. Studies show that about 9% of men in the U.S. deal with fertility issues.
The diocesan Family Life Office is launching new programs to offer both spiritual and practical support for these couples.
To help with the spiritual struggles of infertility, the office has started a weekly virtual reflection session held at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, live-streamed from the Natural Family Planning Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NFPSC.
Janelle Florendo, a member of Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek, leads the sessions centered around reflections in “Walking with Mary,” a devotional for women dealing with infertility. She and her husband struggled with infertility for several years before welcoming their now 9-year-old son, and she is currently pregnant with her second child. She is also an instructor on the Creighton model of Natural Family Planning, another way that she encounters women struggling to conceive like she once did.
Florendo said those memories of being unable to conceive for so long led her to want to help other women through prayer. About 25 to 30 women have turned out for the first three online gatherings, and they have come from around South Carolina, the U.S. and even overseas. Florendo has encountered participants who joined in from her home nation of the Philippines and others from Sweden. One woman even contacted her from China. Kathryn Wood, the author of “Waiting with Mary,” participated in one session.
During each reflection, women have the chance to share their stories and receive emotional and spiritual support from each other. After praying the devotional together, they break into virtual groups where they can share their experiences with infertility, talk about their griefs and frustration, and offer advice.
“It’s important to have the opportunity to share your story and also to listen to others,” Florendo said. “I have had a few women tell me they felt like they were able to be spiritual mothers to each other. We have had women in tears because they say their families and friends don’t understand what they are going through. The chance to pray and talk to each other makes them feel like they are not alone in their struggles.”