On this Feast of the Holy Innocents, we commemorate the day on which King Herod, in an attempt to thwart the infant Messiah from displacing his throne, ordered the death of male children ages two and under in Bethlehem. An angel warned St. Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to protect Jesus from the evil plot of King Herod. This heartbreaking feast, so soon after the joyous solemnity of Christmas, invites us to meditate on the fact, as Pope Francis wrote, that: “Christmas is…accompanied, whether we like it or not, by tears…The Evangelists relate the birth of the Son of God as an event fraught with tragedy and grief.”
As couples walking the path of infertility, we know too well how Christmas can include tears of grief and pain. Whether we lament in profound pain, like the mothers of the massacred children of Bethlehem, after the loss of a long-awaited baby from miscarriage or stillbirth, or we mourn another Christmas without a positive pregnancy test, we have lived the truth that the season of Christmas can be one of both profound joy at Christ’s coming and unfathomable pain in our cross of infertility.
When we wait for a certain Christmas miracle that doesn’t come to be and our aching hearts find no hopeful relief, let’s look to the example of Mary, Mother of God, and Joseph, foster father of Jesus, as they accepted the unexpected, lived in the tension of uncertainty, and ventured into unknown territory when they were told to flee to Egypt soon after Jesus’ birth. They know what it means to face the unforeseen with a spirit of surrender and hope in God’s mercy, even when they could not see the meaning or outcome of what God was asking of them.
After the incredible visit of the Magi to the Holy Family, imagine the shock and terror the angel’s visit to St. Joseph must have ignited in his heart, his desire to protect his wife and child at all costs, and his grief for the many innocent children in Bethlehem subject to King Herod’s decree. St. Joseph trusted this word of God in obedient faith and embarked on a harrowing journey with a newborn and his newly-postpartum wife to start a new life as refugees in Egypt. The Holy Family escaped to Egypt, not knowing how long God would ask them to stay there. They left the comfort of their family and home life in Nazareth and started over again, poor and penniless in a foreign land.
In this flight to Egypt, the Holy Family offers a beautiful example of radical trust and obedient faith in God’s plan for their family; they ventured into the unknown with hope, trusting that God would provide and sustain them as they faced unforeseen challenges and grieved the separation from their families, community, and religious customs. As we wrestle with the grief of infertility during this Christmas season, may we look to the Holy Family as a source of strength and encouragement to trust that God is with us and that He is guiding our family life and our marriages with a tenderness and mercy we cannot fathom, even though we cannot understand why He asks us to walk through another Christmas with this cross of infertility.
This Christmas season, take courage if your path is one of quiet waiting and surrendered suffering. Pray for the Christmas miracle of a heart surrendered to God, trusting in His love for us and His mysterious plan for our families as Mary and Joseph did.
Lenore and her husband Bobby were married in 2017 and are parents to two lost to miscarriage. They live in a small town in Ohio with their Australian shepherd, Augie.