Busted Halo
feature: religion & spirituality
December 5th, 2014

Be Born in Us Today

Grieving infertility and miscarriage in the season of Advent


O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

— Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, “O, Holy Night”

Wanting to be a parent is perhaps the greatest human desire. The desire to love another soul unconditionally — to teach, guide and nurture — is profoundly exciting. Being willing to impact the life of another in such an intimate way is overwhelmingly selfless. The yearning to share one’s own DNA, body, family traditions, home and life with a new creation is a dream many experience years prior to attempting to create new life.

Yet, for those for whom conception does not come easy, their deep desire is met with even deeper pain. The pain of infertility is felt on various levels: emotional, physical, social, spiritual and psychological. It may feel like guilt, shame, anxiety or fear in the form of, “What did I do wrong?” or “Why me/us?” Some women wonder if something is wrong with their body since they are unable to carry a child. Some even wonder if their significant other will still want to be with them if they cannot carry new life in their womb. Attempting to conceive and the emotions that come with it can be more exhausting than exciting for the woman who desperately wants to be pregnant.

Suffering in silence

During the struggles of infertility some share their desire and despair only with their significant other, which may result in feelings of isolation in society. Some women feel like the nurses at their OB/GYN office know them better than their colleagues, as they are the ones who truly know what’s going on in their lives.

Sadly, infertility and miscarriage are not uncommon, yet the medical and grief processes surrounding such losses are something we do not openly discuss in our society. I would argue that more often than not, this is out of respect for the intimacy of trying to conceive. Additionally, we simply may not know what to say to someone who lost a baby when we only learn of the pregnancy in light of the loss. Regardless of reason or motives, too many women and couples suffer in silence or solitude and feel that there is no appropriate way for them to talk about their grief outside of their significant other, physician and counselor.

Now, at this point, you may be wondering why this article is included in a December publication. And that’s a fair question. I discuss infertility and miscarriage in December because the grief of losing a baby or not yet being pregnant often resurfaces or may feel more intense during the holiday season.

As Christians, every year we celebrate the weeks leading up to Christmas, called the Season of Advent. Advent, which means “coming,” is the time of waiting and preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ. In the season of Advent we wait …

… for Emmanuel, God with us, to be born.
… for the shepherds to hear the angels singing.
… for Mary and Joseph to start their journey to Bethlehem.
… for Mary to give birth.
… for Jesus to make his entrance into the world.

Waiting for the birth of Jesus is similar to waiting for any other baby’s birth. We hear the announcement from the mother that she is pregnant, and from then on, everything changes. We wait to see hope, light, joy and love in the purest human form wrapped in brushed cotton with the smell of perfection that only babies possess.

Yet, for the mother who just experienced a miscarriage at Thanksgiving before she got to share the good news of great joy with her family, Advent and Christmas may feel like seasons she would rather slumber right on through. And, for the couple who has tried for years to conceive, hearing the story of the infant John leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary journeyed to their home might just be too much to bear. For those who are grieving a miscarriage or struggling with infertility, every month is a season of preparation and waiting.

It is my hope during this season of preparing room in our hearts for the infant God, that we will also prepare room in our homes and hearts for those who are still waiting. I challenge us, as siblings of the Christ Child, to embrace those who desperately want to be parents, and make room for them to be authentic in their desires and struggles. May we celebrate this Advent with leaps of joy for the Marys in our community who are great with child, and embrace the Sarahs and Hannahs in our midst who have yet to conceive. May we, like the shepherds, be guided by Heavenly Hosts on our journey to once again welcome the Light that no darkness or pain can ever overcome. May we reflect that light to each other as together we await the birth of eternal Hope.

Brothers and Sisters, Emmanuel will be born in each of us again this Christmas. Come, thou long expected Jesus!

The Author : Ashley-Anne Masters
Rev. Ashley-Anne Masters is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and serves as Staff Chaplain at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. She is the author of Holding Hope: Grieving Pregnancy Loss During Advent, co-author of Bless Her Heart: Life as a Young Clergywoman, and contributor to Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith. She blogs at revaam.org.
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  • Kathleen

    Brilliant article. I have been married for 35 years and childless. It was 10 years of intense pain, especially at Christmas. Yes I wondered why me? what is God’s purpose for me? I have been given a tremendous insight into grief, which now assists me in my work. I can honestly say that grief is a gift from God the process which enables us to grow and let go but grief is not one of God’s better gifts.

  • Amy

    THANK YOU!! I used to dread the readings this time of year…when Elizabeth conceived in her “old age”. We struggled with inferility. After ten years and as many miscarriages-we adopted 3 beautiful children from South Korea. But Advent is always a bittersweet season. I pray for all of you on the board here. God bless you and easy your sorrow.

  • Teresa

    Thank you very much for your article, Ashley. It is so beautifully written; so sensitive to the pain of women who have suffered in silence. I have carried the pain of infertility for many years and am now coming to terms with that pain. With God’s grace, I hope to let it go, to be healed, and for it to become a blessing for others. God Bless you.

  • Tammy

    I just had a miscarriage last week. I have dealt with infertility for a decade and a half, and even though I now have both bio and adopted kids, this is a whole new world of hurt. And with it being at a time when I’m supposed to be happy and spiritually fulfilled, preparing for Christmas, makes it just that much harder. I found this article through a friend who is also suffering through infertility. It is a horrible cross to bear, that no one understands unless they have been through it. The pain is inexplicable.

  • Anne Sherrill

    Ashely-Anne–your article is so beautifully written. Having experienced the silent pain of miscarriage twice, your article really expresses what I couldn’t explain. I never forget those days when my babies were due or the days that I learned they would not be joining us. Blessings to you.

  • Barbara

    Thank you so much for this article.

    Sunday was the 7th anniversary of my miscarriage. I can no longer become pregnant. I lost my one and only chance.

    It is especially hard at this time of year, and I still imagine what things would have been like if my angel was allowed to be here with us.

    I was blessed that my sister was there for me (she had a miscarriage a couple of years before mine). She understood exactly what I was going through, and always listened when I needed to talk. She had my sister-in-law who had gone through it before her.

    Recently a friend just lost a baby, and I’m trying to be there for her. I suppose we all pass on what we wished we had when we went through it. I wish none of us had to, but it’s a blessing to have somebody else there who really understands.

  • Erlinda Brent

    I must admit that I have a different kind of grief. Having never been in a relationship that warranted having a child, and then having to have a hysterectomy at a relatively young age, I am full of grief and anger. (I am well past the age of having a child, but the loss of hope still hurts.) At the same time, I am grateful for my nieces and nephews who are hale and hearty. I also grieve for those who have lost a child, and who cannot have children. It all hurts. I don’t know if your entry was aimed at women like me, but thank you anyway.

  • SarahC

    What a blessing this article is!! My son died at 2 months old, and the holidays are always difficult for me, because I grieve each season over the “what-might-have-been”. I can only imagine a similar heartache that those who are struggling to conceive must feel. Thank you Ashley-Anne, for your kind words. May God bless you and yours this Christmas!!

  • MaGie

    I’m a proud member of Elizabeth Ministry Internation, a ministry to women of child-bearing years, based in Wisconsin. We operate on the understanding that the best consolation for a woman in need is another woman who understands (precisely what Elizabeth was to Mary at The Visitation). It’s within this framework that I send you my most heartelt thanks for being an Elizabeth to me. Clearly, you understand what this is like from experience, and I wish to offer you the same comfort and understanding you just offered me. This really meant a lot to me. Thank you! A blessed Advent to you and your loved ones.

  • Aaryn Jones Frick

    Ashley-Anne, Thank you so much for writing this article. We too are struggling with infertility. Much Love, Aaryn

  • Sarah S.


  • AnitaH

    Thank you for posting this. I have many friends who’ve experienced infertility, stillborn children and thwarted adoptions and have felt daunted over how to be a comfort to them.

    I understand too well the fears of women who wonder if their infertility will cost them their marriage. I’m in my early 40’s and have been told more than once that I’m not even date-able because my chances of having a child are minimal at best.

  • Emily

    On behalf of many explained and unexplained infertiles, thank you for posting this. It was done with great sensitivity and inclusiveness, which is much needed by us during this time of year. A million times, thank you.

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