The inability to conceive a seventh child has taught my wife and me some valuable lessons about fertility — and life.
Fertility is a gift, it’s temporary and God can take it back at any time. We must make wise use of it while we have it. Unfortunately, my wife and I didn’t make wise use of it early in our marriage.
We both regret listening to the pundits who said, “Wait to have children. Get to know one another. Develop your own relationship.”
Four years later, when we were ready to start having children on our time, fertility didn’t cooperate. We lived as if we were in control. Today we laugh about how we would say, “We’ll be happy to have children, as long as we don’t have them around Christmas.”
Little did we know that conception wouldn’t come easily. We miscarried our first child, Gabriel.
God had the last laugh, choosing to “gift” us at the same time that he gifted the world. Our second child, Elias, was conceived just after the date of my own reception into the Catholic Church — March 19, 1995. We shared in the pregnancy of the Holy Family, giving birth to Elias Joseph just two days after Christmas. Our third and fourth children — twin girls Isabel and Claire — were born just 11 days after Christmas.
Of course, embedded in our faith are the paradoxes that strength is found in weakness, life is found in death and gain is found in loss. In reflecting on the loss of our first child, I’m still struck at times with grief over the child who I was never able to hold, whose face I won’t be able to see this side of heaven.
And yet, the loss of his life somehow mystically opened me up to new life in the Church. Gabriel’s death coincided with my own movement through RCIA and into the Church. And, without the loss of Gabriel, Elias wouldn’t have been conceived five months later.
Timing is everything. Today I can see how, in God’s plan, the loss of our first child made so much else possible. I can truly look at Gabriel’s loss and say, “Oh happy loss!” After all, because of that loss, look what we’ve gained — five healthy, happy, living children.
As I approach my 40th birthday — and the reality sets in that more children are highly unlikely — I wonder what gain will be achieved through the loss of our fertility. Might it be a deeper relationship with my children, with my wife, with Christ, with the Church? Might it be living for others more than for myself? Might it be a new hobby or new relationships?
It’s at this midway point that many people begin to wonder or worry about what’s next, perhaps even experiencing something of a midlife crisis. Yet, aside from the sadness of this latest loss, I’m filled with a deep sense of contentment.
There are many things to be chased after — careers, degrees, riches, recognition. All these pale in comparison to the gains I foresee.
Clearly, God is getting us ready for another home: our eternal resting place. There, St. Paul tells us, all loss will be gain.
Tim Drake is the
Register’s senior writer.