Miscarriage and My Holy Week Journey

I wrote this piece for the Blessed is She blog, where it was featured earlier this week. 
I wanted to share it with you here as well, on this Holy Thursday, as we begin to walk with Jesus 
on His road to Calvary. I know that we all carry burdens, and that Holy Week can often make 
them feel more intense than usual. I pray that whatever cross you are carrying, you will look 
to see that Jesus is carrying it with you. And come Sunday morning, I pray you will all 
experience the joy of the life - REAL LIFE - that He brings. 


It was Holy Week 2012. I was grieving a child I would never get to hold, and whose face I would never get to see.  Holy Week 2011 I had been pregnant. I carried a secret that only my husband and I knew about. That Holy Week we smiled at each other excitedly throughout the services of the Triduum. Easter Sunday we told family and friends that we were expecting.

And then, only few weeks later, we lost that baby.

The year that ensued was one filled with a lot of doctors appointments, a lot of negative pregnancy tests, and a lot of tears. By the time Holy Week 2012 rolled around we still had no baby in our arms, and the bitterness of infertility was starting to set in.

It seemed like everyone around us was announcing pregnancies and bringing home babies from the hospital. There was baby shower after baby shower. Everyone was happy and excited, and it was killing me.

Lent came to me as a relief that year. I didn’t feel like being happy, and Lent was something that I didn’t have to force a smile for. I could just be sad.

But it turns out the Lord wasn’t  going to just let me wallow, like I had hoped. He is in the business of bringing redemption out of suffering. My Holy week journey would include the road to Calvary, but it would also include the joy of the Empty Tomb.

Survey that wonderful cross.

Stations of the Cross is something most Catholics pray only during Lent, but I think it would do  us a lot of good to pray the Stations many times throughout the year. After all, crosses are not just for Lent. We all deal with them, all the time. They’re heavy, ugly, and painful. But they can also bring us closer to Jesus, if we let them.

No one enjoys suffering, but when I think about my life, it’s been during those times of carrying a heavy cross that I have felt closest to God. That’s because “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” (Psalm 34:18)

When life is awesome, we often forget our need for God. But when life rocks us with grief, when suffering has depleted us of our own strength, we are forced to rely on Him, and He gives us the grace we need. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Co 12:9)  

When I felt like I couldn’t face another smiling pregnant woman, or endure another person asking me “don’t you want kids?”, when the pain of wanting a baby was so overwhelming, when grief had zapped all of my strength, Jesus was there, pumping grace into my soul. I had to rely on Him because there really wasn’t anything else I could do.

That Holy Week, as Jesus carried His cross to Calvary, I walked with Him, carrying my own cross of infertility. The pain didn’t go away, but there was comfort, knowing Jesus was beside me.

Don’t forget about Mary.

Being a convert, I’ve been a little slow to pick up on Marian devotions. She was one of the things about Catholicism I was most wary of as I went through my catechesis. I believed she was Theotokos, God-bearer, and that she was full of grace, but I had never felt drawn to her for spiritual support, until that Holy Week.

“Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother.” It’s the fourth station in the Stations of the Cross. After praying it every Friday during Lent it finally hit me, Mary was a grieving mother, just like me. Her child died, just like mine. How she must have suffered, how she must have longed to hold her Son again, just like I longed to hold my baby.

Mary gets me. And what’s more, she is in heaven, praying for me.  

The Litany of the Saints gets real.

Remember when I said that Holy Week is a journey from darkness to light, from grief to joy? Well, it had been a pretty dark year, I had done a lot of grieving, and I was ready for some joy.

And God delivered in a completely unexpected way.

We were about two hours into the Easter Vigil, an amazingly beautiful, and amazingly long liturgy, when it was time to sing the Litany of the Saints, and I was starting to get a little sleepy. I half heard each name as it was chanted, and I in turn chanted the response, “pray for us.” And then we got to St. Anastasia, and I began to weep.

I never named the baby that we lost. My miscarriage was quick, messy, and confusing. I never even saw that baby. There was no way for me to know if it was a boy or a girl. But as I heard the name Anastasia I knew that that was what we should name that baby. And I knew that that soul which I had carried for a such short time was in heaven with all the Saints, before the throne of God, praying for me.

My infertility wasn’t cured that day, and I wasn’t magically given a baby to hold in my arms, but I was reminded that God had used my husband and me to create a new soul. There was joy in the knowledge that I was a mother, and that my baby was in heaven. There is life after death, that’s the promise of Easter.

The journey of Holy Week.

That Holy Week I found so much grace in my cross of infertility. Grace forcing me to rely on Jesus in a way I never had before. Grace opening my eyes to elements of my faith I had not seen before. Grace bringing joy out of suffering.

Darkness to light.

Grief to joy.

Death to life.

This is the journey of Holy Week.  

Through the Eyes of Infertility


"Do you have any kids yet?"

Hard swallow. Fast blink. Forced smile. "No, not yet."

For two years I tried to dodge this question, or else answer it without the awkward second half of the answer jumping out of my mouth. "But I want them!" 

Infertility was not something I expected to deal with. When I heard the word I pictured a couple well advanced in years, or someone who had some other major health conditions. Yet here we were, my husband and I, in our early twenties, not able to conceive.  The two years we tried for a baby were the hardest, most discouraging, and isolating of my entire life.  And now that we're on the other side of it my entire perspective on pregnancy, parenting, family size, even life itself, has changed. 

There's so much I could say to those who are affected by infertility. Whether primary or secondary, multiple miscarriages or no conceptions at all, whether you suffered for a year or 10 years, infertility an incredibly difficult cross to bear. I want you to know your frustrations are valid, that you have cause for grief, and most of all, that you are not alone or forgotten. 

What about those who do not struggle with infertility? You may know someone who does, or you may have never thought about it before. Either way, here are some thoughts that will give you a glimpse into the world of infertility.

Don't assume. Just because a couple doesn't have kids doesn't mean they don't want kids. Or just because a family has only one or two doesn't mean they don't want more. These are assumption I used to make about people all the time, until my own desire to have a baby was not met. The fact of the matter is, you just don't know what's going on with a person, or with a couple, or with a family. And honestly, it's none of your business. Instead of making an assumption, make a choice to extend compassion.

What can I say? A lot of people have asked me, when a friend is experiencing miscarriage or infertility, "what can I say to help them feel better?" The truth is, there's probably nothing you can say to make them feel better.  There's a few things I wouldn't say.

I can image how you feel. Because unless you've been through it, you really can't. 

I'm sure you'll have children one day. Really? Because I'm not sure, and my doctor isn't sure. So how can you be sure?

At least you have one baby. Yes, and I love my baby, and there is some consolation in that, but it doesn't take away the heartache of wanting to grow a family. 

Just enjoy this time with your husband. It is true that dealing infertility can be a very unifying experience for a couple. My husband and I grew a lot in our marriage during our two years of infertility. But trying for a baby for a long period of time can be a source of tension in a marriage. Something that is supposed to be full of joy and love becomes something that is calculated and agonized over. Needless to say, it's not always very romantic.  

There were a few things people said to me after our miscarriage that did make me feel a little better. One was acknowledging our loss and letting us know we had a legitimate reason for grief. The second was receiving kind words and flowers from a friend on Mother's Day. 

Don't ask if they have tried (fill in the blank). Because they probably have tried it, along with a whole litany of other things, like going off gluten, dairy, sugar. trying to lose weight. taking scores of vitamins, supplements, and medications. Not to mention the  the invasive exams and ultrasounds, and the weekly blood draws and shots in the rear end in attempts to balance the ever imbalanced hormones. 

Your friends who struggle with infertility may not want to be around you when you're pregnant. Please don't be offended by this. It's just really hard to be around pregnant people when you've been trying for a long time to get pregnant. If it seems like they're pulling away, try waiting for them to get in touch with you. They still love you, they just need a little space. 

Social media can kill. I had to un-friend a lot of people on Facebook while we trying for a baby, because if I heard one more birth announcement, or saw one more bump shot... This doesn't mean you shouldn't celebrate your own good news with family and friends on social media. But maybe think twice before publicly complaining about the unpleasant side affects of pregnancy, or the baby who never seems to sleep. Now that I have a baby of my own I do plenty of complaining about his bad naps (like today!), but I try to keep this in check. I remember well the days when I longed to deal with this sort of problem.

Let them know you care. If you know someone struggling with infertility let them know you care, and let them know they can talk to you about it. Sometimes a good conversation or venting session can be the best therapy. It's such a relief not to carry the burden of infertility alone.  And a good community of friends heals much heartache.


keep in touch! 


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