Being pregnant is so fitting during Advent. This is the season of waiting, preparation, and expectation. The word advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” And we spend this time looking forward to the birth of a child. The year I was eight months pregnant with my daughter I still remember how glorious it was to hear “Mary, being great with child,” as my child kicked inside me.
Being infertile during this season makes the emptiness more acute. That expectant feeling is all too familiar, a longing that grows stronger but is never fulfilled—a seemingly endless attempt to arrive at Christmas morning. It’s hard to see the glow of the manger scene while experiencing such a barren reality. To be ready with the “yes,” but have arms that remain empty.
The days of Advent are long and dark. Even the birds are quiet. The sun doesn’t come out most days, and if it does break up the bleakness, it still sets early in the afternoon. Each night we eat dinner by the faint light from the Advent candles, the wind whistling outside in the darkness, the heaters constantly running.
The weather and liturgical season seem a perfect companion to grief and loss, to another Advent marked by emptiness. This time it is marked by loss: a child there and then gone. There will be no kicking baby during the readings at Mass this year, and there will be no ultrasound image stuck on the refrigerator. There is no “expecting” this year.
But there is much waiting.
Each day the Jesse tree gains one new ornament, while the light from the Advent wreath grows incrementally brighter as the weeks pass. There is the slow change, as grief turns to renewed hope.
There is nothing like miscarriage to make you realize the strength of expectation. Especially when you have waited long months just to see two lines on a pregnancy test. You stare at them in wonder, envision the baby, and imagine everything from hearing the heartbeat to holding a newborn again.
So quickly, the expectation sets in. There is so much hope in the spark of new life. Even the shortest of hopes, the briefest glimmer of expectation, are devastating when they come to nothing.
When Jesus was born, he wasn’t in keeping with the vision people had of the Messiah. They expected someone else, a different sort of king—the babe in swaddling clothes was not what they had in mind. And looking at the nativity this year, the same will be true for me. I thought there would be two babies expected this year—this wasn’t how I imagined this Advent to be. This is not what I would have chosen.
Facing disappointment again during this season, it feels all too easy to lose sight of the baby that did come—and will come again—the reason for the hope that is in us. Our hope is not in vain, and even our wildest expectations will only be exceeded as we welcome this baby into our lives and hearts again this Christmas, after the waiting, hopeful season of Advent.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.