On January 12 I turned 49 and simultaneously celebrated the 31st anniversary of my reception into the Church. I became Catholic for a lot of reasons, most of which you have all read before in a number of places from a number of other converts. Like most converts, I love to read conversion stories, but I recognize that others may find them boring.
One thing that I did NOT expect was that after all this time I am still undergoing conversion on a regular basis. It is downright uncomfortable sometimes.
Like some cradle Catholics, I went through a spell of cafeteria Catholicism. Even though I catechized myself pretty well, there were doctrines and dogmas that I chose, at times, to ignore. Now that I am much older, and have lived through that ancient Chinese curse (interesting times), I have regrets. And one of them is that I was not more generous with the gift that God gave us of (pro)creation.
This is not something that I am comfortable talking about with many people, even with fellow Catholics. Looked at from the outside, it doesn't seem to make much sense. I mean, we have given birth to 6 children and have had 3 miscarriages. We had 2 children in the first 2 years of our marriage. We suffered hardships because of the size of our family - being evicted from a home we had rented for several years because the owners rented to a family of 4, and we went and had 3 more children after that. Our children did not have a lot of the material stuff that their friends had. Most of them shared a bedroom and there was never enough bathroom space. Every child that God sent us was (eventually) welcomed, though I will confess that I came really close once to succumbing to peer pressure. What do I mean, I wasn't generous?
So why do I have this regret, bordering on guilt?
I think that it is because I know now that we could have cared for more children if we had allowed them to be concieved. I realize now that our reasons for stopping at six had as much to do with selfish reasons (I wanted to go back to school and finish my midwifery, and then I wanted to work without having to worry about an infant) as it did with the selfless reasons (my husband was working way too hard supporting all of us, and my mental health was beginning to suffer). We talked about a seventh, but kept putting it off - and now (barring a Sarah or Elizabeth type miracle) it is probably too late.
I mean, I have 'ovulatory events' still, but as far as I can tell my cycles are mostly infertile. The majority of women my age are menopausal - I'm not (yet) but I can see it looming on the horizon. It also doesn't help me to realize that at 49, my mom had 6 grandchildren (and I have none).
There are only a few short years of fertility in a woman's life. Why did I think that there was anything more important than that? Why did I let myself get trapped by my culture?
It breaks my heart to have to tell other women that they waited too long to try to conceive. I give them all the NFP type help I can - but once God shuts down the ovaries, there ain't much to be done (at least not within the moral and ethical constraints that I and the Church have!). And now, one of those women I need to tell is me.
This isn't empty nest syndrome, I think. Our 15 y/o daughter keeps us plenty busy, and I'm not sure I would have the energy to chase a baby at this age anyhow (although I would sure try hard!). It is just that I realize now, too late, that God had gifts for me that I declined, and that He gave me instead what I asked for. It is a hard lesson.