God’s Plans and Family Planning

Interview by Anne Marie Stroud. Originally published in Family Foundations.

FF: Tell us a little about how your husband Colin and you met and started out on your journey of marriage.

Despite only living only an hour and a half apart, Colin and I did not meet until we were both in Florida, attending college. Colin was a college friend of my brother. After meeting, we dated for almost two years before getting engaged, and then married a year after that. When we decided we wanted to get married before my husband Colin’s senior year of college, we wondered how kids would fit into the equation. I graduated the year before and would be working. We wanted to be open to life, but we wondered if it would be more responsible to wait a year – for Colin to be out of school, have a job, and to be settled wherever we would be living. That’s what made sense, right?

We were also aware that we were not entitled to a baby. I had been diagnosed with PCOS and as someone who has never had a consistent cycle, one of my biggest fears was that pregnancy wouldn’t even be possible. We learned NFP during our engagement and I had made some diet and lifestyle changes that helped regulate my cycle. While this was all happening with my health, we were still discerning is we were called to try and wait to conceive or not. We brought this up to the priest leading our marriage preparation. As we talked through it, he agreed that it sounded like a valid reason to wait. Then, he ended with, “Be open to the fact that God’s will might be something very different.”

FF: How did that faith and openness help you in the first months of marriage?

Fast-forward about three weeks past our wedding. We were charting, and I was pretty sure my period was a couple days late. Four pregnancy tests later, we were convinced and overjoyed by the abundance of God, who had a plan, even when we were uncertain about how this would work.

We are both so blessed to come from families who champion openness to life. When we were originally talking about marriage, my mom made a comment assuming that meant we were open to having children right away. I love that response, because that’s what we say at the altar. Yes, to an openness to life. The fullness of our marriage has been realized in embracing the abundance that is my beautiful daughter, Magdalena. Getting married and having children goes hand-in-hand.

FF: I’m sure that people have different opinions about starting a family when you are young. How have you dealt with that or how has that reaffirmed you in your convictions?

So many people told us that we should wait to have a baby so we could get to know each other better in the beginning of marriage. Well, the best thing for our relationship since the sacrament has been growing this life together. It’s been the sacrificial love of Colin as he made dinner and cleaned the house and just loved me unconditionally for the months of morning sickness. It’s been the dreaming over our family mission and vision and culture and this baby girl’s life. It’s been an intimacy unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s been laying down selfish reasons and replacing it with joyful acceptance and partnership with God’s will for our lives. I’m moved to tears at the sacredness of the vocation God has called me into as a wife and mother.

Anyone we respect in our lives has been absolutely thrilled about our sweet baby girl and we’ve had very minimal negative comments. To anyone reading this, however, who is dealing with criticism regarding starting a family early on in marriage: God always provides. He shows up, in abundance. You can trust Him.

FF: You seem to be blessed to have really experienced God as a loving Father. How has this played a role in your fertility journey?

My life has been an ongoing journey of learning God’s love as Father and my identity as daughter. When we come to know Him as Father, we find that there is nothing to fear, nothing out of control, and nothing lacking. It would take a book to share the beautiful mosaic of people and experiences that have taught me this, so I’ll sum it up to say that I am so confident that God the Father has been relentlessly chasing after my heart from the moment I came into existence. Even when I have looked for love in empty places, He has brought me back.

In my fertility journey, I was so upset when I first found out about my PCOS. But that was yet another moment when God allowed space to be created for Him to work, to move in glory and power. In accepting and processing that diagnosis, I knew that He loved me. Until we learn God’s heart for us as Father, it can be tremendously difficult and painful to process when things don’t go how we wanted them to. I highly recommend the book Be Healed, by Dr. Bob Schuchts. It’s an amazing process of identifying what holds you back from receiving the love of God and empowering you to step into your identity as a son or daughter.

“We decided to name our daughter Magdalena, after a woman who was so healed from the love of Jesus and the acceptance of the Father that she was marked by a burning desire to be close to Him.”

Anne Marie

FF: What advice do you have for young women who have received a PCOS diagnosis?

I’m not a medical professional, so I’ll speak to the more mental and emotional side of things. Pursue health in your habits of eating, sleeping, and physical exercise. I believe that cutting out gluten and dairy for me was a big factor in cycle regulation. Most importantly, in pursuing order, have a consistent prayer life. Regardless of what’s going on, let Him be the center of your gravity.

Deal with your stress. The mental and emotional effects the physical. Discern whether or not you need to make some lifestyle changes in your relationships or even work situations. I ended up leaving a toxic work situation, which helped me immensely in pursuing physical health and emotional freedom. The Lord provided for an amazing career change for me, which helped me live out amazing work and life boundaries, resulting in much less stress (and consequently, missed periods).

FF: How did learning NFP early on in your marriage help you all in planning your family?

We learned NFP mostly to learn how my body was functioning. There’s so much freedom in knowing “okay this is contributing to why I’m emotional right now”. It’s helped my husband love me well and helped us prepare for marriage well. Additionally, should it have been difficult for us to conceive, it would have helped our doctors be able to further assist us. Learning and implementing the NFP and tracking my cycle was so liberating in learning my body and seeing how lifestyle changes I was making affected me.

I had a great conversation with my mom about what discernment looks like, and she is such a beautiful witness to openness to life and how to walk out those decisions with your spouse and with God. It’s all about letting Him be God – knowing that He doesn’t force His will upon us, God is going to trick you and leave you out to dry. Instead, He wants us to make informed decisions with the pieces in front of you…and then trust in His plan.

Anne Marie Stroud is deeply in love with Jesus and her Catholic faith. She loves being wife to Colin and mom to Magdalena Grace! She has written for many prominent Catholic blogs as well as spoken to crowds of hundreds about having a real relationship with Jesus. She currently works in Catholic marketing company and as a freelance writer. You can connect with her on Instagram @thecatholichypewoman or read her blog at thecatholichypewoman.wordpress.com.