As October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I was asked by a dear friend to share my experience with miscarriage. I ultimately decided to write this because I feel I am through the dark, heavy, suffocating fog of infertility and child loss. If I am able to share any words with anyone to make them feel less hopeless or less alone, the past four years of suffering have been worth it. My husband and I together have been blessed enough to discover the gifts and beauty of infertility and child loss. This is a journey that so many of us walk, but it can still feel overwhelmingly lonely.
I married my best friend on an excessively rainy day, but we didn’t notice because we were smiling and laughing the entire time. All our friends and family joked about God’s blessings raining down on us and how this meant we’d have lots of babies. As a naïve, blushing couple, we secretly wished it would be true. We had so many hopes and dreams about growing our family. We planned out our whole path over a bottle of champagne on a beach in Antigua. But as usual, God had a much better plan.
When I reflect on our time of infertility and miscarriages, I think about how my husband and I suffered together, but we very much had to traverse our own journeys of faith and suffering separately as well. The first gift of losing a child is suffering, which counter to popular culture, is indeed a gift. Two quotes often come to mind when considering suffering and they still bring tears to my eyes. The first is from St. Faustina with whom I found so much comfort: “Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Savior; in suffering, love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.” Child loss made me profoundly feel how pure God’s love for His children truly is and how much He loves me. It shed new light on my ability to feel how our Lord and Savior feels when we offend Him, how deeply He must suffer when we hurt those He loves. It also taught me to offer up my suffering for others; crying feels more productive when you know someone else who is suffering is benefiting from it. I would often offer up my suffering for women who could have children easily, but who were not in a loving marriage and felt trapped by their pregnancies.
The second quote I hold dear is from St. Josemaría Escrivá which says, “God in His providence has two ways of blessing marriages: one by giving them children; and the other, sometimes, because he loves them so much, by not giving them children. I don’t know which is the better blessing.” This quote definitely made me ugly cry, but it helped me realize that the second gift is time. Time is one of the most precious gifts on earth, and child loss gave us time with our Lord, time with each other, time to travel the world, and time to help others. I was able to use my gift of time for and with others to share my talents or help others let their talents shine.
The third gift is one that has strengthened my trust. I had no option but to fully throw my whole soul into trusting God. All the earthly things I had put my trust into—doctors, medication, fertility charts, vitamins, and procedures—had let me down time and time again. I also had to fully trust my husband. We had to have the talk about how he didn’t marry me for my reproductive abilities, but because he loves me, all of me, even if it means we can’t have a child together. As much as we love each other, I never imagined how the solid foundation we built together could grow our love even deeper in the most amazing way.
The fourth gift all of this has brought us is a change in heart. Once our priest told us we may be praying for the wrong thing and to pray for God to change our hearts, we were able to discern that our calling was different than we imagined for so long. We, as humans, can become so blinded by our own wants and perceived needs that we forget we have no control. In our case, it was a loud and abiding call to adoption. We are now traveling down a new path that is still quite narrow and difficult at times to navigate. I also recognize, however, that this new path is indeed glorious as it is filled with light, beauty, and joy because of the gifts we have received along the way.
I urge you to find your gifts along your own difficult journey. They may be the same as ours and they may be unique to you. But remember, there are many gifts, and you are most certainly not alone. We pray for you every night and walk beside you in spirit. May God grant you peace and the ability to find your gifts along the way.
Katy Downey and her husband live in Cheverly, Md. She is a teacher for the Archdiocese of Washington.