Monday, October 12, 2009

Green with Envy

Isn't it crazy how infertility leads us to view good things as negative and vice versa? We hope that our doctors will find something wrong with us instead of hoping for perfect health. The night before my laparoscopy, I suddenly started getting nervous that my doctor would find nothing. It hadn't really occurred to me before that point in time, but what would we do if all of the build up to surgery and the pain to follow was for nothing? I cannot imagine how hard it is to be diagnosed with unexplained infertility. At least if our doctors find something, we will be able to work to correct it.

I felt the disappointment of good health the other week when we met with my doctor. Back up to the day that we lost our last baby. My sister called to let me know her doctor had found a blood clotting disorder in her workup. This disorder causes both recurrent early pregnancy loss and late pregnancy loss, but it is easily treated. I thought we had finally found the cause of our pregnancy losses and had hope that next time would be different. But my test came back negative. I should have been rejoicing as this disorder can lead to other problems such as diabetes and heart disease. However, I felt…disappointed.

Then there is the phenomenon of feeling sad when hearing happy news. Pregnancy announcements, baptisms, and kid's birthday parties should bring us joy. And we do feel joy for our friends and family. We may enjoy being included in the special events of our loved one's lives. But underlying the impulse of joy is a twinge (or more) of sadness and longing. A realization that other's lives are moving forward while our lives feel like they are permanently on hold. The scenario was played out so realistically in the movie Julie and Julia when Julia sobs at the news that her sister is pregnant while continually saying to her husband, "I am so happy for her." Many of us had strong emotional reactions to that scene because we knew exactly what Julia was experiencing. It is a mixture of competing emotions that can leave our head's spinning.

I am part of a group at church that has been studying the US Catholic Catechism for Adults over the past two years. We are almost finished! This week we discussed the 10th commandment "You shall not covet your neighbor's goods." The discussion of the 10th commandment focused on envy and one quote from the catechism grabbed me. "Envy is an attitude of sadness at the sight of another's prosperity. It can create a disordered desire to acquire such goods, even by unjust means. Envy tightens the heart and subdues love. For this reason, envy is considered a Capital Sin" (one of seven sins that can lead into more serious sin). Wow – does some of that ring true for me! The Catechism didn't just leave me to feel guilty though – it gave me some advice on how to overcome envy. "Baptized people should counter envy with humility, thanksgiving to God for his gifts to oneself and to others, goodwill, and surrender to the providence of God (cf. CCC, no. 2554)." Humility, thanksgiving, goodwill, and surrender. I know that surrender and thanksgiving are frequent blog topics and something that I need to continually work on. But do I ever think about humility or goodwill? Yes, we automatically experience these things at times, but do we truly work towards them as a means of combating IF envy? It seems that there is always more work to be done in getting through IF gracefully – more layers to peel off the onion. But how blessed we are that God offers us the graces we need to combat our weaknesses, even if imperfectly.

"A tranquil mind gives life to the body, but jealousy rots the bones." Proverbs 14:30

"Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander." 1Peter 2:1

"Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble." 1 Peter 3:8

"As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace." 1 Peter 4:10

"All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. (And) be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ." Ephesians 4:31-32

Reflection Questions

  1. In what ways has IF affected my ways of thinking?
  2. How does envy play into my life?
  3. What are some virtues I can work on to combat these feelings?

An Act of Contrition

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His Name, my God, have mercy.



  1. I definitely understand wanting something found during your surgery. I feel the same way. If you're going to have to go through procedures, you want something fixed. I definitely need to work on overcoming envy.

  2. I need to work on overcoming envy and jealousy too. I actually just posted a litany on humility that gives me some comfort. It is so hard though. How are you feeling since your surgery? I hope you are feeling well!

  3. GREAT post! (as always) Thank you so much for your insight and reflections. :)

  4. Thinking abt you today....not sure if you knew it was National Remembrance Day...we are praying for you and your three little ones. Lots of love! E and A