Do you have to have children?

My husband and I have been together for almost 7 years. We don’t use birth control of any sort, but for some sad reason we remain childless. Do we have to get fertility tests? Are we still being open to life when it is obvious we can’t conceive as we are? Or could that be considered a contraceptive mentality since we know that our marriage union does not beget children. What is the church teaching on this?

Nope. As long as you are following the rules of the Church in terms of the act, you’re not doing anything wrong. Being open to life is not the same as actively trying to conceive. Otherwise all menopausal women would have to be celibate.

Submit yourselves to God’s will. Provided you do that He will give you the perfect number of children as part of His plan, whether that be 0 or 10.

no you do not have to get fertility tests.

yes you are open to life and each marital act you and your husband share is perfectly fine. no, infertility does not have anything to do with a ‘contraceptive mentality’.

What the others said. Of course, if you want children you could look at fertility tests and morally permissible fertility treatments, but you don’t have an obligation to do this.

And another beautiful way to be open to life within the context of marriage is to look at the possibility of adoption. Some people have what’s called “unexplained infertility” (that’s the correct term to use) and even fertility testing, etc. couldn’t help it, as there is no obvious organic cause of the infertility. Some people are just called to be mothers in different ways–spiritual motherhood, foster mothers, or adoptive mothers. All of them allow you to be open to life even if you are unable to physically conceive. It’s kind of how a marriage would need to work when a mother knows going in she is infertile.

If you do seek fertility treatment, be careful to check and make sure the treatments you choose do not go against Church teaching, and that your methods respect human life.

And just because you are married does not mean you are called to be parents. Many couples are infertile. You can also be a spiritual mother or foster or adoptive mother. There are lots of children out there who need loving parents, and adoption and foster care are beautiful ways to help these children.

No, struggling with infertility and refraining from seeking medical treatment is not a sin.

Nonetheless, you should desire children (if that is God’s will) it is part of the spirituality of marriage. Learn Natural Family Planning, it can also help you achieve pregnancy. Oh yes, and pray! :gopray:

IMO you should go to your doctor to find out why you are not conceiving. It could be a small thing. See if you are ovulating. If not the doctor can give you hormones so you will. Get your husband checked as well. Medical science is there for you use and nothing wrong with that if we stay within the guidelines of the church.

I would not wait to get much older. Age makes a big difference. BUT just know after pursuing all options you can, you still may not conceive. My sister had only one child and never could find out why she could never have more. They adopted their second child. Adoption is not easy either. Even that takes awhile to apply and get approved. The younger you are the better.

Thank you everyone for your replies!

1ke: Your post was very helpful. Simple, to the point, exactly what I needed. Thank you!

Father Michael: I think you have the wrong impression of us. Why wouldn’t we want children? We are faithful christians and God said “be fruitful and multiply.” Well we have tried to “bear fruit” for many years, but nature didn’t “bear fruit” like it was supposed too. We certainly didn’t prevent nature from happening. We tried to use the natural family planning to achieve pregnancy and it didn’t help either. That is why I was wondering whether we were required to pursue fertility testing or if it was alright to simply keep our marriage act open to life and if there was any chance an infertile marriage act could be sinful.

I don’t doubt your sincere desire to have children. It is a great sadness when this expected part of marriage and life is unfulfilled. The point I was making was that while you are not required to undergo fertility treatment, you need to continue to desire (again if it is God’s will) and take the less radical step of praying / NFP. I understand that you have tried NFP, but keep praying and hoping, nothing is impossible to God.

A naturally infertile marriage act is completely consistent with God’s will i.e. not sinful, when accompanied by the desire (if it be God will) to fall pregnant. It is the intention and desire that counts not the likelihood of the outcome. Be at peace on this issue.

Why is this necessarily a great sadness? I can understand that couples that desire children but cannot have them would experience such emotions, but what of the couple that happily accepts what God gives them? If a couple is open to life, leaves it to God’s will but God does not provide a child, can that couple not be happy with what God has given them? Must they suffer sadness with the knowledge that God has left their marriage “unfulfilled”? If you are truly leaving things up to God, then any one outcome is not better or worse, happier or sadder – they are all as good and fulfilling as any other outcome.

I don’t think that is the case at all. We are called to submit to God’s will, certainly, but that does not mean that we need to like equally all outcomes. If we get cancer, we should accept this as best we can, but we don’t need to be equally happy about it as if we had good health. Likewise when a part of our body e.g. our fertility is not working as it should this is a sadness. One of the proper hopes of the married life, as we pray again in the marriage rite, is that the couple be blessed with children. As children are a blessing of marriage then a lack of them in marriage is by definition a sadness, one of course to be endured with hope and joy.

I’m not saying that we should be equally happy with all outcomes, but that the outcome itself is not inherently “happy” or “sad”. Many people do desire children and would find infertility to be a “sadness”. I would not disagree with this, nor would I suggest that they are wrong for not being happy with God’s will. This is an appropriate reaction, but it is not a property inherent to the infertility. What I am saying is that embracing the infertility and using it as an opportunity to help others instead of focusing only on your own family can be a positive outcome. People are allowed to be happy with less than ideal situations. It is not a sadness to that couple, nor should one imply that the happily infertile couple is wrong for being satisfied with the hand that was dealt to them.

I imply no such thing. I am not suggesting that those who are infertile should go around living miserable lives as a result. But, the absence of children in a marriage is always the privation of one of the blessings of marriage, it is therefore (as I said) by definition (i.e. the opposite of blessing) a sadness. No doubt most couples who find themselves in this situation are still happy, but married couples should always desire children if it is possible, and as we should all know “nothing is impossible to God”.

As someone in this situation, I don’t see childlessness as a sadness, really. More, it is the lack of a certain special happiness that only children bring. I don’t know whether this makes sense, but it’s not that my husband and I are unhappy – we are in fact quite happy. But, there are certain joys that we haven’t been able to experience due to childlessness.

Sorry, I don’t want to make you feel as though people are ganging up on you, but I was very curious about your statement that if a couple does not conceive it is a moral responsibility to practice NFP to conceive. I am curious as to your reasoning behind this. It makes it sound as though it is not enough to desire any and all children which God chooses to send but that couples are required to actively desire and attempt to achieve pregnancy. I find this especially perplexing as the Church allows for such a thing as a josephite marriage in which no children are possible.

old thread

Ooops, sorry. I misread the year.

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