The old wooden kneeler creaked as I released all my weight onto it. The heaviness in my heart made me plop down clumsily. It had been a tough morning. A couple of hours before, I had received my least favorite kind of news: someone was expecting their second child. A storm of anger raged in my heart as I begged God to answer, how was this fair? My husband and I were so faithful! We had served as missionaries, prayed every day, helped the poor, and went to daily Mass, and yet our daughter was growing up before our eyes, and the gap between her and any future siblings continued to widen. Didn’t we deserve more than this secondary infertility?
This wasn’t our plan. No, we were going to have “as many children as God would give us,” and of course that meant ten children, not one! My heart raced as I attempted an examination of conscience, and when the confessional became available, I brought my heaviness and pain with me into that small box—it followed me everywhere I went.
In my cloud of melancholy, I confessed my sins, including the sins of anger and jealousy toward this other, more fertile, mom. Then I waited quietly for my penance and absolution so I could get out of there and have myself a good pity-cry. Father’s voice broke the long silence to say that at any moment, God could take from me my husband, child, health, possessions—even my very life—and no injustice would be done. He reminded me that everything we have is an undeserved gift, freely given by the Father. We do not merit these good things from God. It’s impossible to earn His goodness. God freely gives good things to us, and we can exchange nothing for them.
My flood of tears extinguished the fire in my heart before I even knew I was crying. Instead of focusing on the things to which I felt I was entitled, I now pondered the great mystery surrounding everything God had blessed me with. God had given me so many things that I neither earned nor deserved. With my sights focused on things that I wanted but did not have, I had forgotten to be grateful for my current blessings.
Maybe you’ve experienced days like this, too. It is understandable, and many would say normal, to deal with anger and jealousy regarding your infertility. One of the greatest ongoing lessons for me began that day, years ago, in the confessional. God calls us to higher heights than what is normal and expected. Step by step, He helps us to rise above these angry and jealous reactions to things. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” God keeps His promises. Our lives will be abundant. It is our own perspective regarding what this abundant life entails that needs to change.
Advent is a season of preparation which comes before the celebration of Christmas. How can we prepare our hearts this Advent, so we are ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus more fully? I propose that we spend time this season working on our perspective.
Acknowledge and Name Your Emotions
From my experience with secondary infertility, I’ve seen the importance of staying on top of my thoughts and emotions. A priest once said in a homily, “Sacrifice or Satan. What you do not sacrifice to God in the light, Satan will feast on in the darkness.” The more deeply we repress the emotions inside of ourselves, the more opportunity Satan has to quietly feast and taunt us. Try praying, out loud, and express to God what you’re experiencing. Give those emotions to Him and ask for His help.
Walk the Path of Gratitude
Instead of continuing to spiral down with sad emotions, redirect them by changing your perspective to one of gratitude. A good way to flip this switch is to begin listing out your blessings. You could also try retraining your automatic negative thoughts with the help of a therapist specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy. I did this myself, years ago, and I still employ what I learned on a daily basis. God gives us all sort of tools—let’s use them!
See God’s Goodness
Let your knowledge of God’s goodness grow. When you think of your blessings, remind yourself that these things are freely given by God. Know that God freely gave you these things because He loves you.
Seek Your Abundant Life
Ask God to reveal to you what your abundant life looks like. No two lives are the same; look at the vast differences among the saints! We see abundance lived out in numerous ways, from the life of preaching led by Saint Paul to the quiet life of Saint Anne raising the Blessed Mother. One thing shared by all the saints is that they put on the abundant life that God gave to them, and they did not fight Him for another one. Saint Maximilian Kolbe did not cry in his starvation chamber and beg God to explain Himself. He died singing, joyfully, and God wants the same joy for us, too.
Through working to change my own perspective, I’m living a much more abundant life today. My joy has radiated to my husband and daughter, and together we are at peace with our family. We do not look like the typical Catholic families surrounding us, but we do not lack anything. Each day, we see the gifts given to us by God, and we could not be more grateful to Him. This joy is our story, and regardless of where you are starting, I pray that this joy will soon be yours, too!
Amy Ambrose and her family live in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where you’ll find them tending to their ever-growing garden, reading at the library, or yelling for one another to come check out the view of the sunset.