Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we’re talking talking more about fertility. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
Hot tears sting my eyes as I post the ad on Craigslist for our long-unused crib. Very few stores will resell them so I resort to giving it away online and it feels like a metaphor: “One crib full of hoped-for babies, collecting dust in our basement: Free to a good home.”
Even as I recycle expired car seats or donate a high chair, people seem giddy to congratulate me on being “all done.” And I get it; it’s a long/fast sleep-deprived season.
But what they can’t know is that this was not what I wanted—this was not my plan.
My husband and I have been working with engaged couples for several years now as they prepare for marriage. This ministry has introduced us to some wonderful people. Each year I have been struck by the familiar sense of fear and awe that come up in conversations around babies. This is to be expected, given the tremendous life changes assumed herein, combined with current culture and total resistance to veering off “the plan.”
This highly-regarded and tightly-gripped goal always leads us to really important conversations. In light of which, and with a healthy dose of hindsight, I am beginning to understand that through the years my own understanding of the gift of fertility has been evolving.
The Roads of Being Open to Life
Here are some nuggets I wish I could whisper in the ear of my newly-married self, starting with: Being open to life is being open to a myriad of journeys—even in one lifetime.Being open to life is being open to a myriad of journeys—even in one lifetime. #BISblog #blessedchats // Click To Tweet
To be really honest, when we got married over a decade ago, I had a pretty strong sense that fertility was a given—not a right, of course—but a given. As such, it was something to be wielded with respect and a bit of fear. Knowing that we held the power to create life with our union was both exciting and intimidating. We did marriage prep, we learned NFP, and I worked as a doula. We were as prepared as anybody is for the possibility of life, and our ability to work with our charts to time the arrival of children as we wished.
And it was a good thing, too, because a little over a year after we were married, we found that we were expecting. Our second child came a couple of years later, and we patted ourselves on the back for figuring out our charting like we had.
With gratitude and good notes, we had seemingly figured out the cosmic gum-ball machine to work with God to build our family. I say this jokingly, but even in our joy, I see now that we lacked a certain dumbfounded-ness at the absolute privilege of co-creating new souls.
Three years later, we were pregnant again with a baby due on Thanksgiving. We had always imagined four kiddos and felt like our hopes might be realized to give our children more siblings than we had had. Our girls were so excited.
We went into our nine-week ultrasound like the seasoned pros we were. I was relieved to be going because I had been feeling so good, I was a little suspicious: “I don’t even feel pregnant,” I joked.
When our appointment began, the midwife took an especially long time with the doppler and I began to worry. Finally, she turned the screen to us and confirmed that she had not found a heartbeat and that maybe we had miscalculated the date of conception. “Come back in a week and we’ll have another listen,” she said.
I miscarried our baby before we returned.
Truthfully, I had never entered the place in my mind that a positive pregnancy test did not guarantee a baby. I guess I had lived in a privileged place where I hadn’t encountered that reality, or at least no one had shared much about it. So when we got there, I was absolutely unprepared. “You’ll have another,” people said. “At least it was early.” “You’re young,” people tried to comfort us, but their well-intended words fell short.
We had lost a child, and we felt it.
A Lingering Loss
Miscarriage is a quiet, lingering loss that is garnering a bit more attention than it has in the past. But very often it feels like hard and hallowed ground to walk, and, unfortunately, well-intended friends and family feel themselves ill-equipped to do so.
Often, this sort of child loss is met with silence rather than support. If you find yourself in this place, I would highly recommend Laura and Franco Fanucci’s book: Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey Through Miscarriage.
It has been years and we have still not welcomed that hoped for “rainbow baby.” It isn’t clear why. All of our fertility tests and blood draws have revealed nothing out of place. And maybe we don’t need answers. But having them feels like the ammunition I could use to fight off this frustrating reminder that I am limited and human; and that we are not the only ones responsible for shaping our family size.
There is certainly some humility to be found here.
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Seasons of Fertility
So we have entered a new season, one I had never heard of and certainly one I never expected to find myself in (ever), let alone in my mid-thirties. We are in the season of grieving lost fertility.
It has been a bit of a lonely road because I haven’t found many other travelers here—at least not many who share about it. Not that they aren’t walking this road, too, but it’s a rare and raw conversation. To hear “No” in response to fervent prayers is its own point of frustration. To pass on baby gear I would have chosen to employ is not for the faint of heart. No way around that.
Of course I wonder what happened, what we might have done differently. We talk a lot about God’s will and can’t argue with the arrival of each month’s cycle. We have prayed about options like adoption and foster care and nothing has quite felt l realistic to us. We hear our children’s requests for siblings and I wonder what might be in store beyond this boisterous family we had imagined for ourselves. How might family be a concept bigger than we had previously imagined?
I do not fully understand the reasons we find ourselves in this place, but here we are. And, I believe God to be operating on a far larger scale than my own. I am learning to trust that there is an invitation to something new alongside my detoured plans. At this point, I am on the search for it and I am hopeful because of God’s unfaltering ability to let nothing be wasted—even the fragments of my best-laid plans.I am learning to trust that there is an invitation to something new alongside my detoured plans. I am on the search for it, for God wastes nothing—even the fragments of my best-laid plans. #blessedchats // Click To Tweet
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” –John 6:12
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