April 26, 2024

The Fruitful Hollow offers Catholic resources to help bear cross of infertility

Lauren Allen poses with her husband Sean and their adopted sons Peyton (standing) and Mitchell in a recent family photo. (Submitted photo)

Lauren Allen poses with her husband Sean and their adopted sons Peyton (standing) and Mitchell in a recent family photo. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

We tend to remember dates of significance, of milestones, of moments that mark a turning point in life.

Lauren Allen remembers Jan. 21, 2021.

“I was driving, talking to God, angry about my infertility,” says the Texan Catholic. “I prayed for God to take it away from me.”

To her amazement, she received a response.

“God told me, ‘Your cross is meant to be carried. There’s a reason you have it,’ ” she recalls. “Then God hit me in the head with this idea. I wasn’t trying to found anything, but that’s how The Fruitful Hollow got started.”

The Fruitful Hollow, with Allen as founder and director, is an online resource for those bearing her same cross of infertility—women, men and couples. It offers a weekly blog post, practical and spiritual resources, mentorship and more.

The difference between The Fruitful Hollow and other online infertility resources is its foundation in solid Catholic teachings and beliefs, explains Allen, saying, “We’re never putting out anything that goes against Catholic Church teaching.”

‘To help you carry your cross with grace’

The cross of infertility cast its shadow upon Allen even before she was married. Knowing “a 58-day cycle wasn’t normal,” she began charting using the natural family planning (NFP) Creighton Method. Based on the charts and her own research, she suspected she had polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Her suspicions were confirmed by a doctor when she was engaged to her husband Sean Allen.

“He went with me to the appointment where I got diagnosed,” says Allen. “She told us to immediately start being open” to life.

The couple turned to hormone treatment through Natural Pro-creative Technology (NaProTechnology or NaPro), which works with a woman’s natural system to ethically support reproductive and gynecological health.

The treatment didn’t work.

“They suspected I had endometriosis,” says Allen. Endometriosis is another common cause of infertility, in which uterine tissue develops outside the uterus. “They recommended I have surgery. At that time, we were so emotionally and physically done. The hormone treatment had taken its toll on my body.”

Hence, Allen’s prayer on Jan. 21, 2021, and the message and idea she received from God.

“The name took a few days to come to me, but I definitely think it was inspired by the Holy Spirit,” she says. “ ‘Fruitful’ is the opposite of ‘barren’ or ‘hollow.’ Our name proves that even in all of our hollowness, one can still be fruitful. That’s exactly what we aim to inspire our readers to be.”

The Fruitful Hollow’s mission is “to put out [online] valid Catholic resources for infertility to help you carry your cross with grace,” she explains.

“Infertility wounds you, and you can fester in those wounds. A lot of resources focus on that. Those feelings are valid, but I think it’s important to look to God to find a purpose or what you can learn from” the cross of infertility.

“I just knew I needed to start putting valid resources out there.”

Allen posted a question on a Facebook infertility support group she was a member of, asking “if anyone was interested in maybe a website or a blog—I had no clue what it would look like. Within a week, I had a full, international team.

“Yes, I’m the founder and director of The Fruitful Hollow, but it’s the work of the Holy Spirit through and through.”

Help from women who have ‘been there’

Looking at the biographies listed on The Fruitful Hollow site, its all-volunteer operations team of eight women runs deep in professional and theological backgrounds.

But all share three things in common: the cross of infertility, deep devotion to their Catholic faith and a desire to use the first two realities to help those suffering with infertility “carry [their] cross with grace.”

The Fruitful Hollow site offers that help in many forms—blog posts, informational and Catholic-aligned resources, mentorship, an online “garden of remembrance,” relevant saints and more.

The titles of some of the blog posts speak to the site’s mission: “Fiat: drawing near to Mary in infertility”; “Infertility from a husband’s perspective”; “Why has God put this desire on my heart if he’s not going to fulfill it?”

The topics speak of a shared journey, of compassionate understanding and of hope. They come from those who have “been there,” found peace through the Catholic faith and want to serve as a cadre of “Simones” of Cyrene to help others like them find peace, too.

Whether written by staff, featured writers or reader submissions, each post receives “vigorous screening,” says Allen. “They go through a theological edit then a professional edit before we post it.”

The same is true of the site’s resources.

Outside of links to other sites and one document from the Catholic Medical Association, “All the resources on the website are created by our team,” Allen explains, whether as downloadable documents or videos.

Many of the resource topics are generated by The Fruitful Hollow’s Sisters of Hannah mentorship ministry, named for Hannah of the Old Testament whose prayers for a child were eventually heard by God.

“It was an idea we had from the very beginning,” Allen says. “We wanted a way women could be mentored or accompanied through the process of infertility. The mentors have all walked through infertility and have come to a place of peace that helps them to walk with others.

“We listen to the women who meet with Sisters of Hannah, what they’re struggling with, what they’re experiencing, and [our resource editor] creates these fabulous resources.”

Sometimes the journey of infertility includes the heartache of miscarriage. After years of infertility, one of the site’s editors was thrilled to conceive a child, whom she and her husband named Jude. They were devastated when the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.

From their loss, Allen had an idea for a “virtual cemetery” for miscarried babies or infant deaths. She named it “Jude’s Garden—A Place of Remembrance” in honor of baby Jude.

“It’s an open Google Doc form where anyone can submit a name [of a baby], a date of remembrance and their country,” she explains. “It allows people to stop by the garden to pray for little souls or ask for their intercession.”

A look at the “garden” proves the impact of The Fruitful Hollow beyond the United States, with entries from Canada, England, Ireland, Luxembourg, Scotland and Australia.

‘No explanation for this besides God’

The independently-run site has helped people across the globe find compassionate, ethical, Catholic-aligned resources. And in some cases, it even drew them to seek full communion with the Church.

“I know of at least three followers that said they’re coming into the Church because of The Fruitful Hollow,” says Allen. “There are Christian followers now questioning IVF [in vitro fertilization, a form of conception outside the womb that is not in line with Church teaching]. They find solid information on The Fruitful Hollow. One woman said she read our information, knew it was true, and she converted.

“There’s no explanation for this besides God.”

Rachel Walters was already looking into Catholicism when she discovered The Fruitful Hollow site. The Catholic-aligned practical and spiritual information she learned there only deepened her desire to be welcomed into full communion with the Church, which she did this Easter at St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville. (See related article.)

When Walters saw the site’s call-out for a social media director last year, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I do [social media] in my day job, and I’d been praying for ways that I could help give back,” she says. “They’re such a wonderful group of ladies.”

Walters observes in the site’s followers that same desire to give back.

“You see it reach people, and they go, ‘I want to help someone else.’ It’s a big inspiration to see The Fruitful Hollow reach out and help people, and those people want to reach out and help others.”

The ministry is a bit of a mystery to Allen, who with her husband is now the loving parent of two adopted boys, Peyton and Mitchell.

“There’s so much in this ministry I can’t explain,” she says. “It was the Holy Spirit working in hyper-speed. It really is amazing to see him move.”

(Visit The Fruitful Hollow Catholic Infertility Resource site at thefruitfulhollow.com.)


(Related story: On the path to peace and joy: St. Thomas More woman says, ‘if not for my infertility, I don’t think I’d be Catholic’)

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