A few months ago I wrote about how I occasionally run across statements in online profiles that baffle me, and thus began a series entitled “Profiles: Things That Make You Go ‘Huh?’”
In the first installment, we discussed single parents who indicate that they have children who live with them part-time (presuming they live with their other parent the other part of the time) and yet are willing to live anywhere. Which, to my mind, gives the impression that these parents are willing to move far away from the children – or conversely, to move their children away from their other custodial parent. Either of which, to my mind, seems very problematic.
I was in that case writing about profiles by both men and women, despite protestations to the contrary that implied I was somehow “targeting” men. But this month, I want to pick the theme back up with another Profile Thing That Makes Me Go ‘Huh’ that is directed specifically at men.
It happens, as do many profile puzzlements, in the “seeking” section. In this case, I see men who are specifying that their future beloved must be fertile. I’m not talking about the phenomenon, which I have already discussed, of the much-older-man-seeking-much-younger-women, which clearly implies that he is seeking fertility. No, these are cases where they flat-out say “she must be fertile.”
I don’t see this a lot but enough to think perhaps it needs to be addressed – not just for those few men but also for the thousands of others whose future progeny are dependent on the mysteries of female fertility and yet understand very little about it.
Here it is: No woman can ever be certain that she is fertile.
That’s all you need to know.
There is no test, no exam, no doctor’s opinion that will guarantee a woman’s fertility. Some women (for instance, the post-menopausal or those who have had hysterectomies), can be absolutely certain that they are not fertile. But the positive cannot be proved. There are women with no detectible medical problems who spend their entire married lives trying unsuccessfully to conceive, while others with multiple obvious issues get pregnant over and over. Some can get pregnant but have a very difficult time carrying the pregnancy to term. Others have one or two children and then inexplicably are unable to conceive again.
Women’s fertility also decreases over time, with most women losing the ability to conceive well before the onset of menopause. In fact, I once read that only about 50 percent of women are still able to become pregnant by the age of 40.
Even a healthy young woman can’t independently be described as fertile. She is only half of the equation. She may be fine medically, but unable to conceive if her husband’s fertility is compromised.
Here’s the problem
So laying down a fertility condition for your future wife is meaningless at best. It is also dangerous, especially as something you post on a public forum.
Because in doing so, you are essentially handing that future wife the keys to an annulment. You are invalidating your future marriage. The Church is clear that the self-donation in marriage is to be unconditional. You can, of course, choose any spouse you’d like. (Well, any that will have you.) But once you make that choice and stand up on that altar, you are accepting them as they are, for better or for worse, till death do you part.
If you have announced, for all the world to see, that your spouse must possess a trait that cannot be proven until after the fact, there is a very real possibility that you have invalidated your own marriage. It doesn’t matter whether she turns out to be fertile or not. The fact is that you didn’t accept her unconditionally. Annulments are regularly granted on the basis that one spouse rejected the other on the basis of infertility. Those marriages would be just as invalid if infertility had not been a problem. The problem is in placing the condition at all.
Marriage is not about attempting to stack the odds in favor of procreation. It is about placing ourselves in the context of the type of self-donating relationship that God uses to bring new life into the world, and leaving the final outcome up to Him.
We’ll all be a lot happier if we can remember that.