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!