The Advent season is one of anticipation of the birth of Christ and preparation for His Second Coming. It is often filled with readying our hearts for His coming with devotions, shopping for our loved ones, baking and cooking for the big day, and making memories with our family and friends. However, when struggling with infertility, the end to another year and the presence of nieces and nephews or the children of friends can feel like cruel reminders of the ticking biological clock of fertility and how our own children are absent from the celebration. . It is important to recognize how this season can trigger certain feelings, to acknowledge and talk about these feelings, to renounce any lies that come up, and to cope with these feelings in a healthy way.
Amidst all the hustle and bustle and emotions and heartache that you may experience during this season, I invite you to reflect on the ways that the Advent season is much like the season of infertility. In Advent we tend the garden of our souls in anticipation for the birth of Christ. We may fast from things we enjoy (fasting isn’t just for Lent), go to Confession, give our time, talent, and treasure to those in need, take on an Advent devotion, read more Scripture, or go on a retreat. All of these practices are meant to strip us of our attachments and to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ birth at Christmas and for His Second Coming.
As with Advent, infertility treatment requires you to sacrifice a lot of comfort; this is meant to restore your body’s health and fertility to make ready your womb for a child. You may have to undergo frequent laboratory appointments and ultrasounds, to fast from foods that you enjoy, to take pills and injections at different times of the month, and most of all, to wait: to wait for Peak + 16, or to wait for the second line on the pregnancy test.
As in Advent when we wait for the birth of Christ, a lot of this waiting feels anxious, because we have much to do and much to plan. But waiting also means being present to the gift of the present moment. Allow yourself to be present to your husband, your siblings, your parents, your friends, and your coworkers, especially during this season. Allow yourself to sit by the Manger. Receive Christ’s invitation to “come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31) and put yourself in the following scene, as described by St. Faustina Kowalska.
St. Faustina, who we commonly associate with receiving the message of Divine Mercy, also had many visions of the Infant Jesus, especially at Mass. As you place yourself in this scene I invite you into the practice of imaginative prayer, also known as Ignatian contemplation. First, begin by using your five senses – seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling – to enter this scene (for example, smell the hay and the animals in the stable, feel the briskness of the winter night on your skin).
“When I arrived at Midnight Mass, from the very beginning I steeped myself in deep recollection, during which time I saw the stable of Bethlehem filled with great radiance. The Blessed Virgin, all lost in the deepest of love, was wrapping Jesus in swaddling clothes, but Saint Joseph was still asleep. Only after the Mother of God put Jesus in the manger did the light of God awaken Joseph, who also prayed. But after a while, I was left alone with the Infant Jesus who stretched out His little hands to me, and I understood that I was to take Him in my arms. Jesus pressed His head against my heart and gave me to know, by His profound gaze, how good He found it to be next to my heart” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1442).
Now, holding the Infant Jesus in your arms near your heart, tell Him your desires – your heart speaking to His Sacred Heart. Tell him about your desires to press your own child to your heart and to your breast; your desires to grow that child in your body for nine months and feel his or her kicks and hiccups. Whatever they are – no matter how big or how small – tell Him. He desires to hear and to fulfill these desires. Now turn to Mary. And finally, to St. Joseph. Speak to their Immaculate and Chaste Hearts.
God the Father created us with these beautiful desires, but He also created us with a “God-shaped hole” – a hole that can only find its deepest fulfillment in Himself. Bethlehem literally translates to “house of bread.” And the word manger means “to eat.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that, “the greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white Host.” While our desires for children are so good our ultimate joy can only be found in our ultimate union with God in Heaven. He has given us the Eucharist on this side of Heaven so that we can be united with Him Body, Soul, and Divinity, as a foretaste of Heaven.
St. Therese of Lisieux said, “Heaven for me is hidden in a little Host where Jesus, my Spouse, is veiled for love. I go to that Divine Furnace to draw out life, and there my Sweet Saviour listens to me night and day.” During this season of joy mixed with sorrow and good memories mixed with painful ones, run to the Lord in the Eucharist at Mass and Adoration. As you receive Him into your body or gaze at Him in the monstrance, go back to that scene in Bethlehem. He is waiting there to bring light and peace to your heart the way He did that first Christmas, and to give your weary soul and body repose. Trust Him.
Please know that I am praying for you and rooting for you on this crazy journey to Heaven. Have a blessed Advent and Merry Christmas.
Caroline Gindhart is a nurse practitioner at Divine Mercy Womens Health in Camp Hill/Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She received her nursing degrees from Penn State University. In her professional work, she diagnoses the root causes of infertility and treats in a way that cooperates with the woman’s cycle using her training in the Creighton Model and NaPro Technology.