The loss of fertility in our Catholic marriage: the grief, shame, and sorrow

Adrienne and I “met” on Instagram and became (long-distant) friends offline. When I found out about her story, I asked her to share here, because it’s the perfect example of why we shouldn’t make judgments about other people’s family size, because we very rarely know all of the details.

Nobody gets married and expects to deal with pregnancy loss, infertility, and even the complete loss of fertility. So often couples experience hard things and think they are the only ones, but that is never the case. That’s one of the reasons we started Surprised By Marriage. Through the crosses we experience, God can draw us closer to him and closer to each other. -Jen


It wasn’t something we saw coming. I didn’t even know the disease had been silently destroying me for years until 2015, when I was 32 years old. By then, we had already lost so much.

My husband and I were married in 2009. We had committed ourselves to a chaste relationship so our honeymoon was deeply special. We also brought home a tiny souvenir, though it would be two more weeks before I got a positive pregnancy test. 

Three months after the birth of our oldest daughter, we got pregnant again. This would come to be the first devastating loss we’d go through as a couple. At thirteen weeks pregnant, I lost our son. My husband baptized him in our bathroom, and we buried him at the Veterans cemetery where the sun rose and set just behind his grave everyday. 

Watching my husband cry as he baptized our first son in our home is burned in my memory forever. Losing our sweet John really taught us both how fragile life is. We both learned what a blessing both pregnancy and birth are. I would like to say the loss brought us closer, but this first loss taught us how not to grieve and process a miscarriage. We isolated ourselves from one another and failed to check in on each other. We didn’t come together in prayer. We were so broken in our grief, we were just trying to survive. It wasn’t until later that we circled back and admitted our mistakes during that time. 

The pain from adolescence returns

We would go on to have two more girls. As a teenager and young adult, I always had terrible cycles, which caused me deep embarrassment and shame. While the difficult cycles eased during the first couple of years after marriage, they became increasingly terrible again after our second daughter was born. After each birth, when my cycles returned, they were worse than before.

Following a very difficult pregnancy, our third child was born in December of 2013. Shortly after her birth, our daughter was diagnosed with failure to thrive. By the time she was five months old, she had already been admitted to the hospital for RSV and had significant health issues. Our other daughters were ages 4 and 2 at the time. Needless to say, life was overwhelming.

In June 2014, my husband was unexpectedly deployed. Days after his departure, I found out I was pregnant again. 

That night after testing, I miscarried again at five weeks. I could not deal with another miscarriage while my husband was gone. Without realizing it at the time, I went into denial and thought it was a false positive. He came home four months later, and soon after, we were pregnant again. Despite our youngest being less than a year old, we were thrilled. It was Thanksgiving morning when we found out, and I’ve never been more grateful on a Thanksgiving.

A pregnancy of joy and sorrow

That pregnancy, more than any others, felt laced with the Divine. There was a very distinct taste of Heaven during those first few months. I have never in my life been that completely joyful. I truly believe the Lord was preparing me for what was to come. 

In 2015, eighteen weeks into the pregnancy, I lost our second son. It was our third and most devastating loss. I found out at a routine appointment, when the Doppler was silent again. I remember screaming over and over, “Please, God, not again!” That night, I was admitted to Labor and Delivery for an induction as a woman labored and gave birth to a healthy baby next door. 

I felt as though I lived a sample of Christ’s Passion that night. My soul was burning in anguish as I labored through the night. A piece of me died that day. I didn’t understand why fertility and birth came so easily to some women but was so terribly hard for me. I wept to my husband, “What’s wrong with me?!” 

Finally, some answers

After my stillbirth, I finally started getting answers at a follow-up with my gynecologist. I found out that I had a clotting disorder, as well as endometriosis with adenomyosis—which is basically endometriosis’s evil sister. 

Unlike endometriosis, which is uterine tissue that grows on the outside of the uterus, adenomyosis grows within the walls of the uterus, slowly eating away and destroying the organ itself. There’s no treatment and no way to do corrective surgery (which can be done with endometriosis). With severe cases, most women end up needing a hysterectomy. My doctor told me I’d probably end up needing one, but that I had a good five years before then. I wish that had been true. 

A month later, in August of 2015—thanks in huge part to our Creighton provider and my gynecologist—we found out I was pregnant again. My anxiety was extremely high during that pregnancy. I was on blood thinners, progesterone, baby aspirin, and extra methylated folate. My prayers for a healthy baby were both constant and desperate. I needed this child to survive. 

One late night in April of 2016, after laboring for several hours, I gave birth to my third son. I held my son to my chest as both of us cried. I had finally given birth to a healthy son. God is so good.

Adenomyosis and its destruction

My cycles returned that summer, but my health deteriorated quickly. I was in bed all the time in immense pain. It wasn’t until November that I had another laparoscopy to remove endometriosis. My gynecologist found almost none…but he did find that the adenomyosis had eaten a hole through my uterus and destroyed it. My Creighton provider said that between my charts and laparoscopy results, we were sure to lose any pregnancies if we were even able to get pregnant again. 

My health continued to worsen. I could no longer get out of bed most days. My entire abdomen was in debilitating pain, and I was hemorrhaging. In an emergency appointment, my doctor leaned across his desk. “I know you wanted a larger family. I’m sorry. But we have to do this.” He was crying. I grabbed my husband’s hand and wept. 

The surgery was scheduled for his next available operating day. In the few days between, I begged for a miracle and pleaded for another answer. Proverbial doors and windows slammed in my face. I felt deep sweeping grief and shame. As a Catholic wife and mother, I felt I had failed. As I prayed through the emotions and we sought counsel from two priests, my husband patiently stood as a sounding board to my thoughts while affirming me we were doing the right thing—the only thing left to do. I needed a hysterectomy.

The morning of the surgery, I felt surprising peace. My doctor kept comforting me. My husband prayed with me. The day before, I had received Anointing of the Sick. I felt as ready as I would. Just before being wheeled back, I took my last pregnancy test. 

The grief and shame of hysterectomy

For the year following the surgery, I felt deep shame at the loss of my fertility. There were no books that I could find by Catholic women in my situation. Many Catholic women asked when we were going to have more children. Someone told me that having a hysterectomy was against Church’s teachings and another told me I’d committed a mortal sin.** This just added to my grief, pain, and shame.

During it all, my husband stood by, affirming me that my womanhood was still precious, insisting that I’d been brave and strong. He was angry for me and grieved with me. My husband accepted with great peace and saintly strength the cross laid upon our shoulders. Looking back, I’m grateful for his strength and prayer during my physical and emotional recovery. He truly lived out, in his quiet way, “in sickness and in health.” It taught us the importance of communicating our feelings and being receptive to the other’s feelings. We realized how critical it is to check in on one another. While we did the best we could, there are always lessons on how we can be more fully present for our spouse. 

I don’t feel the shame of the hysterectomy anymore. I can talk about it and feel the pain without it paralyzing me. The grief of losing my babies and my fertility will probably hurt for the remainder of my time in this life. But I’ve learned this over and over: God never lets Satan win. He always brings greater good out of suffering. Though I may never see it on this side of Heaven, joy always comes in the morning. 

Adrienne Stravitsch is an Army wife and mother of four children on earth. She has experienced multiple pregnancy losses as well as infertility. When she’s not homeschooling or loving on her husband and children, she can be found with her nose in a book or writing behind a keyboard. You can find her on Instagram @stravgirl, or her blog, Trust with Wild Abandon.


**Church teaching regarding a hysterectomy is explained in this post on the Vatican’s website (as a follow-up to this document). A hysterectomy is licit when medical experts deem the uterus incapable of carrying a pregnancy to term.

To the small Catholic families: God loves you too

Everyone knows about the verse in Genesis, where God commands Adam and Eve to have children:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it’…”

Genesis 1:27-28b, Revised Standard Version

The very first thing God told Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply! We vow on our wedding day to be open to children. Not enough is said about the importance of the dual purposes of marriage (procreation and union of the spouses). Marriage is rightly ordered towards having children and educating them. 

But what if a couple is not blessed with children? Are they less loved by God? Is their marriage somehow not living up to the command to be fruitful and multiply?

Of course not. Unfortunately, couples who are unable to have children are often left behind and forgotten. There seems to be this underlying notion that in order to be a good Catholic couple, you need to have all the babies. And that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Sometimes God doesn’t send all the babies

The truth is God doesn’t give a bunch of babies to every couple. Sometimes he doesn’t send any. But it has nothing to do with how much God loves that particular couple or with them not being fruitful. It’s all about what God wants you to do and how he wants you to bring his love to the world. 

Married couples with no children or not as many children as they would like still have so much to offer the world and to the Church. God has a big plan for you, whether you have one kid or ten kids. But we can’t know how God is calling us to be fruitful if we’re too focused on what God hasn’t given us.

If you are a couple who wants children and it just hasn’t happened, this post is for you. If you are a couple who has children but not as many as you hoped for, this post is for you. If you’re struggling with knowing what God wants you and your spouse to do because the babies aren’t coming, this post is for you. If you think all you’re supposed to do in life is get married and have babies, this post is for you.

Your marriage can still be fruitful without children

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there is a section on “the openness to fertility.” The Catechism quotes St. Pope Paul VI by saying children are “a supreme gift of marriage” and that “it is in them that [marriage] finds its crowning glory.” For a couple without kids, those words can sting a little, right? A lesser known quote in that section, though, is paragraph 1654:

“Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.” 

Catechism of the Catholic Church, par 1654

Yes, children are blessings and contribute to the good of parents. But even without children, your marriage can still be fruitful. 

St. Pope John Paul II talks about marriage in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio and refers to St. Pope Paul VI’s quotes about children. But he also adds this:

“It must not be forgotten however that, even when procreation is not possible, conjugal life does not for this reason lose its value. Physical sterility in fact can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children.”

John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, no. 14

St. Pope John Paul II spent much of his priesthood with couples and knew intimately the struggles in marriage. (How else could he have written Love and Responsibility and Theology of the Body??). He must have known many couples who struggled with infertility and knew that they could still (and did) live fruitful and meaningful lives. 

Marriage isn’t just for procreation

If you read more of St. Pope Paul VI’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (which is quoted in the Catechism, as mentioned above), you’ll also read this:

“Marriage to be sure is not instituted solely for procreation; rather, its very nature as an unbreakable compact between persons, and the welfare of the children, both demand that the mutual love of the spouses be embodied in a rightly ordered manner, that it grow and ripen. Therefore, marriage persists as a whole manner and communion of life, and maintains its value and indissolubility, even when despite the often intense desire of the couple, offspring are lacking.”

Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes, no. 50, emphasis added

Your marriage is not worth any less if you don’t have children, and St. Josemaría Escrivá has a beautiful response to this. When asked his opinion about the meaning of the lives of childless couples, he said:

“If in spite of everything God does not give them children, they should not regard themselves as being thwarted. They should be happy, discovering in this very fact God’s Will for them. Often God does not give children because He is asking more. God asks them to put the same effort and the same kind and gentle dedication into helping their neighbours as they would have put into raising their children, without the human joy that comes from having children. There is, then, no reason for feeling they are failures or for giving way to sadness.”

Josemaría Escrivá, Conversations, 96

Read the rest of his answer here

God is writing your story through infertility

It’s hard to see what God is doing in the midst of the pain and suffering of infertility, but God uses everything. Many couples are able to look back on their journey of infertility and see the blessings from it. 

One couple sees infertility as a blessing because it led them to their two adopted sons. 

My friend realized (through her infertility journey) that she has other gifts that bear fruit.

Because of our experience with infertility at the beginning of our marriage, we were able to be more available to family and friends, especially those with children. We were able to serve our community and church in ways that are more difficult now that we have children. We were able to be foster parents in a world that desperately needs them. We learned not to judge a family by its size, because we knew firsthand that infertility and pregnancy loss are not always visible to an outsider. Because of infertility, we are better spouses, better parents, and better members of our Church community.

And now that we’re experiencing secondary infertility, we know God has a reason for it. Maybe it’s because he has something else in store for us, or maybe he’s asking us to grow in trust. Either way, our family is perfect exactly how we are, because that’s what God intended for us at this precise moment in time.

To all the small Catholic families out there….God loves you too. More than you will ever know this side of heaven.

“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.”

– St. Josemaría Escrivá

Do you trust your husband to pick your clothes?

A couple of years ago, my husband saw a post about a man picking out his wife’s clothes for a week. He wanted to do it. I was a little hesitant. After all, I’m a big fan of t-shirts and flip flops (because it is hot here in Louisiana most of the year) and just knew he would want me to wear skirts and dresses. But I decided to be brave and let him choose my clothes for an entire week.

My husband, Logan, actually loves to pick out my clothes…but normally, I reserve that for date nights. (Our favorite date is the Goodwill date—we pick out each other’s clothes at Goodwill and then wear them to lunch/dinner.) But letting him pick out my clothes for 7 days?? That’s a much bigger commitment and requires a lot more trust.

We learned a lot from that week of him picking out my clothes, though, so I’m glad we did it. I realized he has pretty good fashion sense and that I needed to trust him more. He learned that it’s hard to pick out clothes for a woman every day and that I actually do trust him. It was pretty fun, too! Here are the pictures (selfies because Logan was usually at work once I was dressed) from that week in 2017, with commentary:

2017 day 1
Totally something I would wear normally, so it was a good start

2017 Day 2
Inward groan because I had never worn this…but turns out it’s pretty cute and comfy

2017 Day 2 part 2
I went out for dinner with friends that night so obviously Logan wanted to pick another outfit…and it was another dress I had never worn

2017 Day 3 take 1
He picked this (the skirt I had never worn) for me to wear to a birthday party an hour away  with our 3 kids while he was at work so I convinced him to let me wear this to vigil Mass later that day

2017 take 2
This was much more appropriate for a kids birthday party

2017 Day 5
I had worn this a month earlier to a wedding so it was weird wearing it on an average day

2017 Day 4
Another fancy dress on an average day, which was weird

2017 Day 6
One of my fave outfits…so I was happy

2017 Day 7
Logan borrowed this from a friend and I was not a fan (if that’s not obvious, ha)

 

Since we are stuck at home due to COVID-19, we thought it was the perfect time to bring back the “husband picks wife’s clothes for a week” challenge. It made things a little exciting each day, and we had fun with it again. In case you missed us posting about it on Instagram, we wanted to share about it here…and encourage you to try it too.

Since Logan knew I wasn’t thrilled about dressing up every day back in 2017 (when I was actually leaving the house), he decided to mix it up a little bit this time with some casual clothes. Thankfully.

 

The gist of the challenge:
  • Husband picks out wife’s clothes for 7 days
  • Husband must have wife’s best interests at heart (keep it classy, basically)
  • Take a picture of what he picks every day. You will want to remember this!

 

Now for pictures from this past week!

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It was unusually chilly this day, so Logan had to pick jeans. I hadn’t worn them in a couple months!

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Repeat shirt from 2017 because it’s one of his fave shirts on me and I don’t wear it often

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A dress that I didn’t want to wear all day…but it’s cute

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Another favorite shirt of Logan’s that I never wear

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This was Sunday, and since we’ve been dressing up every Sunday to watch Mass, he picked a fancy dress. I convinced him to let me change after lunch…

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He picked this for the rest of the day on Divine Mercy Sunday since he knew I wanted to be comfy and wear this shirt specifically

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Yet anther shirt Logan likes that I don’t wear very often

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A repeat from 2017 and I had probably only worn this once or twice since then…but maybe it will become one of my faves now

Logan’s thoughts
  • “You should trust my opinion more”
  • “I like to see you in things other than just t-shirt and shorts”
  • “The variety in clothes helps me focus on you more”
  • “I like you getting dressed for the day…as opposed to just bumming it.”

 

My thoughts
  • I should let Logan pick out my clothes more often
  • Dressing nice (even when I’m not going anywhere) is an act of love for Logan
  • How I dress affects the way I feel
  • I need to just wear things I’m not 100% comfortable with instead of letting them sit in my closet…because they’re not as bad as I think. And it just so happens that Logan loves them!

 

Since I don’t take very many risks when it comes to my wardrobe, it was a great time to trust Logan and let him show me what he enjoys seeing on me. It also made me realize that dressing nicer really does make a difference in my day and how I approach it. I was more motivated to get things done!

So what do you think about letting your husband pick your clothes? Or if you’re a guy, would you want to pick your wife’s clothes for a week? Let us know your thoughts!

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7 ways to foster your marriage while stuck at home

Although this post is inspired by the craziness caused by COVID-19, this is still applicable to couples who just had a baby or are dealing with illness or any other situation that keeps you stuck at home.

It’s actually the perfect time to focus on your marriage when you’re at home for an extended period, because the list of distractions is a lot shorter. And there might be a little more, um, issues that arise since you’re in close quarters. So here are some ways you can foster your marriage while stuck at home:

1. Pray together.

We say this all of the time, and we will say it forever. Praying together every day helps you grow closer together and closer to God all at the same time. It improves communication and helps you to get more on the same page. If there is one thing you do for your marriage during this time, make it this one!

2. Have a date night in.

You know we’re big fans of going on dates (check out our date night guide!), but what if we can’t go anywhere? Make a night at home special (which we do talk about in our date night guide). The key is to make it different than any other night at home! We try to put the kids to bed early so we can have extra time together. We pick a fun activity to do and a special treat to share. This may require some creativity, but that just makes it extra special. For an extra twist, pick a theme for your date night in! Check out our freebie to help you with themed home dates. 

adult alcohol blur candles
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

3. Do something new together.

This is a great time to find a hobby to share together – baking (we made a cake together once! Watch that video here), crafting, cooking, exercising, building…whatever it is that you’ve never done together before.

4. Play a game together.

Cards, board games, or you could do something like the “not so newlywed” game! Ask each other questions and see if you can guess what each other will say. Check out our “fun and games” playlist on our YouTube channel for some ideas. We also have a freebie to help you play the “Him or Her?” game!

man and woman sitting on grass playing cards
Photo by Steshka Willems on Pexels.com

5. Work on a project together.

We’re using this time to do some of the things we’ve been meaning to do. Clean up the yard, paint, create a prayer space in your home, etc. It’s so nice to work on something together and see the results!

6. Go outside together.

Some fresh air really helps, especially during stressful times! We’ve been praying a rosary outside together by our Mary garden, and it’s so nice. You could go for a walk, work on the yard together, etc.

clouds countryside couple daylight
Photo by Adam Kontor on Pexels.com

7. Do marriage enrichment.

Read a marriage book, listen to a marriage talk, or watch some marriage videos. We should always be learning more and be willing to grow in our marriage! Check out our recommendations page or our post of what Catholic couples can do during Lent for some resources. 

We hope those ideas will help get you thinking! Do you have any ideas to add to the list?

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40 Days of Loving Your Husband

Over the last 10+ years of marriage, I’ve noticed something. My marriage is doing the best when I’m being intentional about doing small things for my husband. It doesn’t even matter how small—what matters is that I’m doing something

I used to be that wife who always wanted my husband to do more, to be better, to love me in certain ways that he seemed incapable of doing. (Okay, I still have my moments…) But what I’ve realized is that he wasn’t intentionally not doing all of those things. He simply needed a little love first!

Do one small act of love each day

That was the inspiration behind 40 Days of Loving Your Husband. (Sorry guys, this is for the ladies…but you will appreciate it!) For 40 days, you can pick a card with a simple act of love to perform for your husband. Just cut out the cards and put them in a basket! If picking a random thing isn’t your jam, there’s also a checklist with the same 40 items. Pick one yourself to do and check it off the list. The whole idea is to do a small act of love each day.

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This can be done during Lent (although Sundays aren’t included in the 40 days), whenever your marriage is in a rut, or during a period your husband needs some extra love and affirmation. Some of these acts of love may come naturally to you, while others may be completely out of your comfort zone. But it’s important to make time for your husband and your marriage each day. Small things really do make a difference. I know that when I’m doing little things for my husband, he notices. And he reciprocates in a big way!

Try the 40-day challenge and see if you notice a difference in your marriage. To purchase, click the button below…

$3.99

 

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What you can do during National Marriage Week

Every year,  February 7-14 is recognized as National Marriage Week. It really is the perfect time to celebrate the gift of married life and to show appreciation for our spouse. It’s also a great idea to do a little extra something when it comes to nurturing your relationship together. And in case you wanted some ideas on exactly what you can do during National Marriage Week, we have some ideas…

1. Pray for all marriages.

This includes your own! We need strong and faithful marriages more than ever, and since prayer is so powerful, we need to make sure we’re praying for all marriages.

2. Show love and appreciation for your spouse.

How you do this can vary widely, but we always look to each other’s love languages for inspiration.

3. Plan a date night.

Even if you think date nights aren’t necessary in a marriage, it’s still good to get out together every once and awhile! Date night doesn’t need to be fancy. It just needs to be intentional quality time for just you and your spouse. Check out our date night guide for more thoughts and tips!

4. Read a marriage book together.

We share some favorites on our Recommendations page, but there are so many more to choose from! Reading together provides the perfect opportunity to have some great conversation.

5. Choose an enrichment program to go through together.

Just like certain professions require continuing education, we should be doing the same with our marriage! There’s an extensive list of enrichment programs at the USCCB’s website, For Your Marriage, here. We can personally vouch for how amazing United in Love is, which we did a couple years ago through our church parish. It was so fruitful!

6. Listen to a marriage talk.

Dr. Brant Pitre has some great ones (like this one and this one), and there are plenty others one to be found on Formed.org by Venerable Fulton Sheen, Dr. Scott Hahn, and others.

7. Book a marriage retreat for the upcoming year.

We love retreats! Here are 10 reasons why you should go on a marriage retreat. We also share why we try to go on a retreat every year in this video: Why We Retreat

8. Do an online 7-day marriage retreat.

For Your Marriage posts a 7-day online marriage retreat every year during National Marriage Week. Here’s the 2020 one! You can also sign up to receive an email each day.

Do you have any other ideas?? Share them with us!

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Advent & Marriage: Ways to keep Advent sacred together

When we really think about it, Advent and marriage have so many connections.

In marriage, our goal is to get each other to heaven. Plus our relationship with our spouse is supposed to be a foretaste of heaven!

In Advent, we’re preparing not only for the birth of Jesus, we’re preparing for when he comes again. It’s a reminder that we need to be ready! We want to be with him in heaven.

So it makes sense that we should want to keep Advent sacred as a married couple. Here are ways you can do that:

1. Commit to a spiritual practice together.

  • Been wanting to start praying a daily Rosary as a couple? Advent is a great time to start.
  • Attend an extra Mass together during the week.
  • Pray an hour from the Liturgy of the Hours each day.

2. Read a book together.

  • It could be a marriage book or a spiritual book. Read a chapter and then discuss! For suggestions of marriage books, check out our Recommendations page.
  • A book of the Bible counts as a book! Reading through one of the Gospels together leading up to Christmas is a simple but beautiful way to connect in a faithful way.

3. Limit screen time.

  • Normally watch TV every night together? Try to limit it to once or twice a week.
  • Put your phones aside when you’re together for a designated time each day.

Doing both of those will give you plenty of time to do any of the previous suggestions!


4. Don’t feel like you have to attend every party.

Seriously. It’s okay to politely decline an invitation, especially if you’re already feeling overwhelmed. December is a crazy time, and if saying yes to every single event will leave you frazzled and forgetful of what Advent is all about…just say no. Keep each other accountable to this!


5. Go to Confession.

We try to go every month, and that’s especially important during Advent and Lent! Make this a priority. Receiving this sacrament regularly has literally changed our marriage! (And if things start spiraling, it’s usually because one of us hasn’t been recently.)


6. Decide on which traditions to do this year, and shelf the rest.

Really, it’s okay. A couple years ago, Logan suggested we not take out our Jesse Tree (after struggling with it the previous two years), and I realized that he was right. We brought it back last year, and it went much smoother. Not every tradition will be right for your family every year—especially if you’re in a difficult phase with pregnancy, a baby, illness, or any other number of scenarios. Do what what works best for your family this year. But make sure you decide on that together!


7. Focus on the small things.

We tend to have high expectations of doing these fancy and elaborate traditions during December. But so often, it’s the little things that we remember. So focus on those—taking a few minutes to sit together listening to music, saying a prayer together as you light the Advent wreath, etc. We created a challenge calendar to help you focus on the small things, while keeping your marriage and Advent a priority. Check out the details here!

The important thing is that you keep Advent in Advent. Let’s keep Jesus at the center of this season. Christmas will come, and then you can celebrate!

What else would you add to list?

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Waiting Together – An Advent Devotional for Couples {2019}

Last year, some blogging friends and I worked together to produce our first Advent devotional for Catholic couples. We saw a need and wanted to fill it!

We initially weren’t planning on doing another one this year…but changed our minds at the last minute. So we’re a little later than last year, but we’re still in time for Advent. 😅

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Along with the ladies at Hail Marry, we updated the 2018 devotional to work for 2019. It’s the same format, so I’ll just use last year’s explanation:

Do you want a simple way for you and your spouse to prepare for Christmas together? Waiting Together is an Advent devotional specifically for Catholic couples! Each day in Advent, we give you the Gospel reading for the day, a reflection, questions to discuss together, and a prayer. That’s it! It will take you less than 10 minutes each day. (Most days will probably only take 5 minutes. Easy peasy, right?)

We did change up the design a bit, and we took out all of the challenges (Check out our Advent challenge if you want those!). Plus, we lowered the price!

Full disclosure: many of the reflections are the same from last year….but there are several new ones. And this year we are offering the first 3 days of the devotional for free!

Download a free excerpt

Click the button above to get the excerpt. 😊

Here’s a quick rundown of the details of Waiting Together:

  • 79-page color PDF download
  • Created for Catholic couples
  • Each week has a different theme (hope, faith, joy, and peace)
  • Each day has the Gospel reading for the day, a reflection to read, questions to discuss together, and a prayer
  • Starts on the first day of Advent and ends on Christmas

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We are so excited about this devotional, because one of our goals is to encourage couples to keep their marriage a priority while fostering a prayer life together…and this devotional helps you do exactly that!

👇 Click the button below to purchase

$4.99

 

You can print it out yourself or read it on any device. (I’m a big fan of emailing PDFs to my Kindle – here are instructions on how to do that.) Let us know if you have any questions! Happy Advent!

Gift Guide for Catholic Couples

There are so many occasions that we buy gifts for couples or just our spouse—birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, Christmas, etc. We’re all about buying meaningful gifts that will enrich marriages—whether it’s a fun board game, a book about prayer, or an item that reminds us of our faith…just to name a few.

We wanted to include gifts specifically for couples, or gifts that have options for both men and women. Here is our gift guide!

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Many of these links are affiliate. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission. Read our privacy policy for more information.

Clothing and Jewelry

  • Wooden saint medal bracelets from Kindred Forest Co. – for men and women! You could even get matching saints.
  • Saintsgoals shirts from Annunciation Designs – these are awesome! There is a graphic tee option for both men and women (see pictures below!)
  • Shirts from pycnocline – there are many unisex options! Hard to pick a fave, but Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Benedict are at the top of the list

Saintsgoals shirts from Annunciation Designs

Devotionals and Journals

Books are a great option too! To see our favorite marriage books, check out our Recommendations page.

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A Spouse Who Prays by Katie Warner

Food and Drink

Catholic Curio’s St. Nicholas cookie cutter and how all of the cookies can be decorated!

Multimedia and games

Wall rosaries from SmallThingsGr8Love

Art and decor

Catholic Prayer Gifts

 Prayer notepad from Sweet Little Ones

Stocking Stuffers or Easter basket fillers

Saint pencils from Catholic Curio

Miscellaneous

  • Gift certificate for a marriage retreat
  • Gift card to a restaurant (to be used for a date night!)—you could even pair it with our Date Night Guide
  • My Catholic Keepsake Book from Thy Olive Tree – for couples expecting a baby
  • Cards from Good Portion Co to go with your gift – there is every kind from the sacraments to Christmas to housewarming

What other gifts for Catholic couples should we add to the list??

A Husband and Father’s Perspective on Pregnancy and Infant Loss

October is dedicated to pregnancy and infant loss awareness, and the voice of a husband and father on the topic isn’t something we hear very often. We’re pleased to share the story of Tim and Heidi Indahl, who’ve experienced every kind of loss together—miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. Tim is sharing from his perspective, and he tells their story beautifully, including how their losses have affected their marriage.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission. Read our privacy policy for more information.

 

Our Pregnancy & Infant Loss Journey- A Father’s Perspective

I (Tim) am not really sure where to start sharing about the loss of my children. Maybe I should start at the beginning of my story as a parent, which began with a miscarriage. I remember the excitement of learning Heidi was pregnant—I told everyone! I don’t really remember all the details, but I remember the ultrasound and no heartbeat. There should have been a heartbeat. 

And just like that, joy was turned to sorrow. I was slower to tell people we were expecting after that. With our second miscarriage, we shared the news with close friends…only to find out we’d miscarried again. One of our friends actually told us that we shouldn’t share the news so early and to think about what it did to them. I was so angry, but I didn’t say anything.

Another pregnancy

We didn’t have long to wait before we were expecting again. After making it well into the second trimester, it felt like there was nothing to fear. We learned we were having our first girl, and we (and our families) were excited beyond explanation. This was the first girl in our extended family too. We named her Kenna, and started calling her by name as soon as we knew she was a girl.

When Heidi was almost 30 weeks along, she realized she hadn’t felt Kenna moving. We tried all the things they tell you to try, but nothing helped. So I dropped Heidi off at the hospital and went to find something to do with our two young boys. 

I’m an eternal optimist, and I was hopeful they would find the heartbeat on doppler and we’d go on with our day. But Heidi called and told me they couldn’t find a heartbeat and to come as fast as I could—they were going to get an ultrasound machine. I didn’t have anywhere to drop off our boys, so I drove to the hospital with them. And I prayed. I prayed like I had never prayed in my life before. 

My prayer was frantic, begging God that this was all a mistake, that we would discover that everything was fine. I felt helpless and powerless. I ended up in a small hospital room with Heidi in the labor and delivery center, and the nurses took the boys somewhere.

When they finally did the ultrasound, there was nothing—no movement, no heartbeat, no life. The dam broke, and I cried. We all cried—Heidi, the nurse, our midwife, and me. 

Dreams that would never be

I had to call a lot of people about our weekend plans—some to change plans, some to cancel. I remember one call in particular: I was sitting on my bed, and I had just called and managed to leave a voicemail cancelling our planned trip and explaining why. Heidi had come into the room as I was finishing the message, and I broke down—sobbing violently, not even able to sit up on the bed. It was as if I had made it true by speaking it aloud. Kenna had died, and with her short life flashed the dreams of a father for his daughter—dreams that would never be for her.  

Then we had to go to the hospital for Kenna to be born. I wasn’t sure what to expect…would we be able to weather the challenges of labor, knowing our daughter had already died and that we wouldn’t be taking this baby home from the hospital? 

I remember her being born, cutting the cord, holding her in my arms and crying, holding Heidi as she cradled Kenna in her arms. We only stayed for a few hours, but oh how I wish we had stayed longer, cherishing the moments we could with our precious daughter.  

Tim Heidi Kenna

More losses

After many years, several moves, and 3 new members of our family, our story of loss continued.  First it was a miscarriage. I honestly thought we were past this happening, but I barely had time to process the miscarriage before we learned we were expecting again! 

The pregnancy seemed to be going along fine, until one night around 18 weeks Heidi woke me up in the middle of the night—she was bleeding. Somehow I just knew that our baby had died, and I dreaded going to the hospital to verify what I already knew. But we had to go, so we packed up all the kids and went to the emergency room. Heidi got settled in a room, and I bounced back and forth between her and the waiting room, where the kids were watching cartoons and playing with toys. 

A little bit of hope

After an ultrasound, we discovered a heartbeat!! There was no amniotic fluid, which was a problem, but the baby was alive! I was so elated, because I was so sure we had already lost the baby, that it didn’t really matter at that point. The baby was alive, and hope had returned to my heart.  

This was the start of a four month journey. The doctors didn’t really know what was wrong or what would happen. There were so many different tests, appointments, and suggestions about what we should do. Initially, they thought bed rest. 

Early on, I remember getting Heidi settled in our bed, and after coming downstairs, my legs collapsed under me and I started crying right there on the floor at the foot of the stairs. I’d been holding it all together, doing whatever was in my power to give Heidi what she needed, to be a support for her. In that moment it all felt like too much, but feeling the emotion gave me strength to stand again—to live this journey, wherever it would go. 

When it was time to deliver our daughter Siena, they brought me back to Heidi in the operating room, and I was so nervous. Despite knowing how grim things looked, I dared to hope—while at the same time knowing Siena might not even be born alive. I hoped she would be so that I could hold my living daughter, even if only for a time—that I could watch as her mom held her for the first time. 

The battle for our daughter’s life

When Siena was born, they quickly showed her to us, and then whisked her off to the team of doctors and nurses who would begin the battle for her life. I engaged in my own internal battle—pulled between my desires to be with Heidi and to follow our daughter. Heidi told me to go. I quickly went to the room where Siena was, just in time to witness Siena’s Baptism and Confirmation by a hospital priest, who means so much to me to this day. 

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Then the doctors brought me to the head of Siena’s bed. For this brief time, I finally felt as if I could do something for my daughter. I had stood by helplessly for the last 19 weeks, knowing that I was powerless to do anything for our daughter. I didn’t know how much time we would have with Siena at that point, but in those moments my love could take physical form, even if it was just holding her tiny beautiful hand, caressing her face, kissing her head—pouring love over her in a way I physically had been unable to before that moment. 

I have never seen a room full of people work in concert to try to save a life like all of those doctors and nurses. In the end, they realized that we couldn’t save her, so Heidi and I decided to spend the remaining moments of her life holding her, together with our family. I carried Siena to our room, where I placed her into her mother’s arms. It may have been the hardest and most grace filled walk of my entire life. And then I held them both.  

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There aren’t really words to describe what I felt: sorrow, joy, love, peace, anguish. Siena was a gift—she reminded me of what is so precious about children, life, and family. She was a gift because her oldest brother got to hold her in his arms—something I deeply regret denying him as a 4-year-old with his sister Kenna. To me, Siena was—is—an embodiment of love, and her life encompasses all of our pregnancy and infant loss experience.

 

How Losses Have Affected Our Marriage

Our pregnancy and infant loss journey has had a huge impact on our marriage, so much so that the story of our relationship can’t really be told without it—particularly in the context of our faith. 

As converts to the Catholic faith, wading through Natural Family Planning has been a big piece of this. One of the things we appreciate about the wisdom of NFP is that we had to have hard conversations right away. Instead of just hopping on the pill (or another form of hormonal contraception) at the moment of loss, or putting off the decision to try again, we had to talk about where each of us was physically, mentally, and emotionally. In a couple of our losses, NFP also gave insight into potential problems so that we could make some adjustments before trying to conceive again. 

During our pregnancy with Siena, our Catholic faith gave us common ground for making decisions and language for communicating with caregivers. While we did face some resistance, a few weeks before her birth a doctor told us that many couples walked this road in his years of practice. Those who made the choice we made (to carry to term) were always in a better place six months later. That definitely held true for us, and once again I think this is because we faced difficult conversations rather than avoided them.  

With loss, comes the gift of grace

We have been given a huge grace in that hindsight makes it easy for us to look back and see how God has used each of our losses to move us from where we were at the time, to a place of restored relationship with God and with each other. 

Our first miscarriage—a perfectly formed 8-week baby and the only miscarriage we were able to see remains—really cemented our prolife beliefs. 

Our second loss solidified our leanings towards NFP (which we had only just begun practicing) and our relationship with each other. 

Our stillborn daughter Kenna opened our eyes to the Blessed Mother (and was probably the biggest impetus for Heidi’s book). 

Our third miscarriage carried the grace of prayer as a couple, discerning what we would do next.

Siena, our sweet daughter who passed away a few hours after birth, gave us a gift of community and bolstered faithful trust in a new way. We learned to just take the next step as we waited, not knowing what the final outcome would be.

Indahl kids

That said, we didn’t always see these gifts for what they were when they were happening! Instead, we have been shown that there is a lot of grace in being willing to do hard things, trusting that there is a way that God is using a situation to move us closer to where He would like us to be. 

Even when we couldn’t see how or why, we learned to just take the next step in faith. Leaning on this truth during pregnancy and infant loss has given us a great deal of trust in other challenging situations. If good can come from suffering the death of a child, then it becomes a lot easier to believe that good can come from other seemingly impossible circumstances!

 

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Tim and Heidi live on an 8-acre homestead in southeastern Minnesota with their seven living children. They have five children who had gone on before them—one to stillbirth, one to infant death, and three to miscarriage. Tim is an education professor and Heidi is a homeschooling and work at home author. She wrote Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss, which is available at Our Sunday Visitor and Amazon. Her pregnancy and infant loss website is found here. Follow Heidi on Instagram and Facebook!

 

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