We plan, we prepare and plan and prepare again. Eagerly awaiting the big day. The day most have been dreaming about since they were little girls. Wearing the sought after dress, walking down the aisle and saying “I do” to a lifetime together. Reciting their vows, not knowing what the future will hold and not knowing the depth and meaning of what they are saying.
I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life.
A newly married couple, filled with wedded bliss, hope and dreams of their future. Buying the first house, seeing two pink lines, decorating a nursery and building a family. Promising to accept children lovingly from God, but unprepared when the promise changes. Instead of finding themselves with children, their arms are empty. Barren. They encounter loss, grief and a cross most young couples never planned into their marriage.
Perhaps, a topic never discussed in marriage prep or during the engagement. Infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth. Something that many newlyweds never imagined to be a part of their happily ever after. Yet, the reality is it affects a great number of couples. One in four women will suffer a miscarriage. One in eight couples will have troubles getting pregnant. A heavy burden that so many couples carry.
For most couples it is something they encounter within the first few years of their marriage. A time that is labeled as the honeymoon stage. A time in the marriage where the biggest squabble is who left the toothpaste out, as newlyweds are still adjusting to living with each other.
Perhaps, taken by surprise at what they are facing. Encountering a loss that pierces the heart and shakens a marriage. Something very personal. At times, not even talked about between the spouses or shared with family members or closest friends. Not knowing how to navigate the grief.
Feelings of guilt, confusion and sometimes resentment set in. Agreeing on the next steps, doctors, testing and how much one is willing to do. Husband and wife in different places on their faith journey, each dealing with grief in their own way.
Couples who experience infertility are three times more likely to have their marriage end in divorce. Those who suffer miscarriage are 22% more likely to divorce. Stats that are staggering, but very real.
Whether our culture admits it or not, marriage is intended for the purpose of creating life. Paragraph 2363 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, talks about the twofold end of marriage, the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. I think this is the reason why it is so hard on a marriage. Man and woman brought together as one, to reflect God’s life giving love. A love so real, that a new person is brought into existence.
I remember being that couple. For eight years that was my husband and I. Watching our friends expecting their second or third child. Being the ones in the pew Sunday after Sunday seeing young parents tend to their children and feeling emptiness. People asking us if we planned on having children, not knowing the heartache we already experienced.
So where does one go from here. How can a couple unite together even in the loss and longing.
Pray Find a time to pray together. It may feel uncomfortable or something only one spouse wants to do, but make it a priority. It doesn’t have to be anything extensive to start with, maybe an Our Father or Haily Mary. A simple, Jesus, guide us, unite us and show us your will. Marriage is a Sacrament and one that grace is poured out into, if we are only open to it.
Communicate Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings with your spouse. Take the time to ask how they are doing and really listen. Their feelings may be different than yours, but are not any less valid. Share with each other how you feel about seeking medical help, what are thoughts about adoption.
Time Together Although it may feel like a time you want to retreat and isolate yourself, because it seems like the easier option. Make time for your spouse. Go on more date nights, intentional time together at home, go on a vacation, do things together that bring you both joy.
Find Community Reach out to other couples who have had a similar experience. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a large group. Perhaps, just one couple who you can confide in, receive guidance from and simply know you are not alone. If it is difficult to do, there are amazing Saints who have carried a similar cross. A few examples, Saints Louis and Zelie Martin and Servant of God Chiara and Enrico Petrillo. Read their stories, draw inspiration from their faith.
Have Hope God brought you and your spouse together. He has not abandoned you. He has a wonderful plan for your marriage. Although, it seems your prayers are going unanswered, God is present in the here and now. God is working in your life. It may seem like your happily ever after is only a dream, but God’s providential plan is one of joy and faithfulness. Hold onto that promise!
Joining Ann Losinski on The Catholic Bride podcast today to talk about walking with your spouse through the journey of infertility and miscarriage.