Mother’s Day can be painful for women struggling with infertility, but a Catholic outreach is reminding them they’re not alone by offering a virtual retreat throughout the holiday weekend.
“Springs of Hope” will take place May 8-10 through the website of Springs in the Desert, a ministry dedicated to assisting women and couples affected by infertility.
The free sessions will be held in password-secured online meetings to ensure the privacy of participants.
Presenters from throughout the nation will explore the grief and isolation associated with infertility, as well as its impact on relationships and spirituality. Topics will also include miscarriage, fostering and adoption.
The retreat will conclude with a Facebook Live conversation with presenters on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, during which participants can share comments, personal stories and reflections on the sessions.
According to Resolve: The National Infertility Association, some 7.3 million Americans from various demographic groups face infertility.
While many tend to think of infertility in regard to young couples unable to conceive, Springs co-founder Kimberly Henkel said the term actually embraces a “broad spectrum” of experiences.
“We have people who have undergone miscarriage, both male and female infertility, younger and older couples,” she said.
Fellow co-founder Ann Koshute added that the ministry has “encountered a lot of women … past childbearing years” who still have “a lingering sadness,” and “a hurt and a pain that they really keep hidden.”
The heartache is often compounded by others’ assumptions and insensitivity, she said.
“As you get older, people might say, ‘You’re well past that time; why are you hanging onto this?’” she said.
Koshute and Henkel are committed to raising both awareness of – and hope in response to – infertility.
“First and foremost, you grieve the loss of it and find a community of support,” said Henkel.
Koshute pointed out that coming to terms with infertility is a process.
“We don’t have any magic solutions,” she said. “There will be pangs and pains that still come along as the years go by.”
At the same time, infertility is not a cause for despair, said Koshute.
“God does not want us to be steeped in grief and live in sadness,” she said. “He has life planned for us and wants to bring that life forth for us.”
Henkel said that a fuller understanding of the divine plan for marriage can promote healing for those unable to conceive.
“The whole beauty of Catholic marriage is that it is an outpouring of God’s love,” she said. “Marriage is not just for the couple; it is for the community and the world.”
As a result, said Henkel, “there is always going to be fruitfulness for your marriage, even though we don’t always immediately recognize the forms it takes, and how it looks.”
“You don’t see all the people you touch and support, and that’s being a mother in a real, concrete and beautiful way,” said Koshute. “When we care for an elderly person or a godchild, that’s being a mother.”
A greater appreciation for women’s vocation in the life of the church – what St. John Paul II called the “feminine genius” — can place both motherhood and infertility in an eternal perspective.
Koshute and Henkel have developed pastoral resources, such as prayers and blessings, that can be used to honor all women on Mother’s Day, whether or not they have given birth.
Above all, they want women and couples in the “desert of infertility” to know that “God wants to well up within them,” said Koshute.
“We see you, we love you, and you’re not ever alone,” she said. “Come and be part of this community. We’re with you.”
To learn more about the free “Springs of Hope” retreat and to register, visit www.springsinthedesert.org.
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