Cleaning out the Fridge

By Mary Bruno 

The other night, Chris and I were watching a TV show which showcased a journalist husband struggling to support his pregnant wife. The refrigerator had broken again, so the camera caught him tossing spoiled food into the trash with an incredibly sad look on his face. The pain of disappointment was evident in his eyes. He could not bear the thought of not being able to provide for his family as they deserved.

According to Lloyd and Jan Tate’s marriage prep materials, “The primary emotional need for a man is a sense of adequacy – a feeling that he is adequate to the task of being a good husband, father, provider … or whatever role is important to him.”

Men have an innate desire to serve and protect their families in whatever form that takes on a daily and long-term basis. If he is unable to secure the means to keep the fridge cold enough to keep food from going bad, feelings of inadequacy cut him to the core.

I was struck at how well I recognized the feelings he was portraying.

As I watched the acting unfold, his emotions became more and more familiar to me. Most women, especially those who are Catholic, think that their most important purpose is to co-create babies to term; to nurture new human life into the world.

Her husband provides, and she creates.

I instantly compared this actor’s perceived inability to provide for his family with my own inability to provide a pregnancy for mine. And it hurt.

I paused the show and shared my sudden and deep emotional reaction with Chris, who replied “… but your purpose is not to have babies. And we do have a daughter, who we adopted and whom you care for beautifully.”

He was right. Having babies is an important purpose, but it’s not the only important purpose, and not even a superior one. As a woman, I do nurture and I do create, but I do it in different ways. but your purpose is not to have babies.

Although I know this to be true and am eternally grateful for how God has made great use of me, it’s important to acknowledge that grief. No matter how at peace I am, infertility is a loss – the absence of something very good. It deserves to be felt.

In order to accept the crosses God asks us to carry in this life, we need to allow ourselves to experience that sadness – but not stay there. We can still experience triumph and joy, even as we become purified by cleaning out the fridge of our hearts.

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