Column: But then God made me wait

In my last column, “Why I didn’t want to wait,” (Denver Catholic, May 9-15, 2015), my story left off with my husband, Kenn, and I discerning that we would be open to accepting children loving from God right from the moment we said our vows.

Well, we didn’t get pregnant on our honeymoon. Or in the first few months. Or in the first year. Or in the first three years. And as far as I can tell, I’m not pregnant at the time I’m writing this.

Yes, we are one of the many couples who experiences infertility.

I had a hunch that my body wasn’t working quite as well as it should when my husband and I first met with our natural family planning coach as part of our marriage preparation requirement. She looked at my charts and cautioned me that I should keep track of the spotting that was showing up at the end of my cycle.

Over the next year, the spotting continued. I changed my diet and started taking different vitamins, but after another year of infertility, I decided to have my progesterone tested. When I got my results, they revealed that my progesterone levels were well below the “low” marker on the medical graph. My OB-GYN confirmed that there was no way pregnancy could have ever occurred.

Throughout my struggle with infertility, three important themes surfaced. The first was trust. This was a hard one. While I was never angry at God, I wasn’t sure why my body didn’t work the way it should. I knew that God heard my prayers, so I had to trust that he had a plan.

It was also sometimes hard to trust my husband in the sense of wondering, “Does he want to try to conceive as much as I do?” And I think it was hard for him when he started wondering, “Does she want to make love with me just to try to conceive?” We knew that distrust is one of the devil’s favorite ways of creating division, so after every hardship, my husband always assured me that we could trust each other and God.

Another theme that surfaced was healing. At first, I wasn’t interested in infertility treatments. I didn’t want to force God to give us a baby, and I certainly didn’t want to pump myself full of hormones to force my body to doing something it wasn’t able to.

But over time, I began to see that the goal of infertility treatments that are inspired by Catholic bioethics is simply healing. My body was broken, and God wanted me to seek his healing.

With this new mindset, I began treatment with my OB-GYN. First, we tried HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), which stimulates the body into creating healthy levels of progesterone. When that didn’t help, we tried progesterone, which would help sustain a pregnancy if conception were to occur. Surprisingly, neither of those treatments healed my infertility, but I firmly believe that God desired that I seek His healing.

A third theme—creative love—emerged as I began to pray about a New Year’s resolution. To me, the phrase encouraged me to think about how my marriage with my husband could be creative, even if not procreative.

What kind of creative? The kind of creative that participates in Genesis. The kind of creative that brings to life the words “God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.” The kind of creative that is infinitely expansive and builds up the Kingdom of God.

It’s been exciting getting to this point, because we’ve discerned that for us “creative love” means becoming missionaries (see “Area couples leaves Denver to minister at reservation,” in Denver Catholic July 25-Aug. 7, 2015). I don’t know if God will heal my infertility in the future and make us a missionary family, but I do know that I will continue to trust him and ask for his healing.

Not every story about infertility ends with a miracle baby. There are many couples who are open to life but still haven’t been able to conceive. But I know that if we all let God write our stories, he’ll make our marriages just as fruitful as any other.

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”