By Rev. Barbara Callaghan

Two years ago in the middle of Advent, in the midst of how crazy church life can be in December, I received the good news that I was pregnant. It was thrilling, and wondrous. I felt a newfound awe and connection with Advent, and a whole new meaning of expectant hope and waiting.

A few days before Christmas Eve (the biggest night of the year for Christian ministers!) Kate and I were told that there was a high chance that my pregnancy was actually an ectopic pregnancy. I went from a happy hope, to a clinging hope – hoping that there was some mistake, and that this fledgling life inside might just be fine. Add to my clinging hope a huge fear that I would land in the ER with a ruptured fallopian tube!


I walked through the days before Christmas Eve feeling like a ghost, going through the motions, and doing my job as best I could. It was Christmas after all, and no one in my congregation at the time even knew I was pregnant, let alone, dealing with an ectopic pregnancy. Christmas came, the baby Jesus was born again, and I entered the New Year recovering from the methotrexate treatment that necessarily ended the pregnancy. I could sing Joy to the World, but couldn’t see myself as part of that world because joy was personally foreign at the time.

Of course joy has been found again, but I will always remember the Advent of expecting and losing, with empathy for so many women. I also remember that time  with gratitude, for the future I could never have seen that did eventually include a little baby girl.

I share this part of my journey to motherhood because in churches, we often don’t do a very good job of acknowledging the pain of infertility, of lost babies, of failed adoptions, or of grieving parents – especially during Advent and Christmas. All the focus on miracle pregnancies, and this amazing birth can leave want-to-be parents feeling deeply lonely, invisible, and just in pain.

I’m sorry that we have done this. We need to do better. We will do better. And for now, if you are hurting from the pain of wanting a baby, know that you are prayed for here, even if you haven’t shared your struggle with us. Nameless prayers can be very powerful. You are held here, loved here, and supported here wherever you are on the desire-for-parenthood journey.  Please come and be with us just as you are. And much more importantly than our support, I believe with everything I have in me, that God gets it and is with you. You don’t have to sing Christmas hymns, you’re allowed to be mad, you don’t have to fake anything. And my door of course is always open.