If you have struggled with the cross of infertility, know you are not alone. Meet author Laura Kelly Fanucci, a woman with a huge heart for those in this season, and one who experienced it herself. She and her husband, Franco, went through years of infertility before the blessing of children came along. And while she has shared in the great joy of having her own children, she also has suffered tragic loss through miscarriage and the deaths of her infant twin daughters. She writes about all of this and more on her website, motheringspirit.com.
Each April we recognize National Infertility Awareness Week. In this interview, Laura shares how we can let those who struggle with infertility know that we see them, we share in their sorrow, and we hold them in our prayers.
Radiant: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your family.
Laura Kelly Fanucci: I’m a writer and speaker on topics ranging from parenting to grief, and I spent over a decade working on theology of vocation with the Collegeville Institute. In addition to writing for numerous online publications, I write a nationally syndicated “Faith at Home” column for Catholic News Service that runs monthly in Catholic newspapers across the U.S. I’ve authored seven books, including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting” and “Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage.” My husband and I live in Minnesota with our five sons. We lost twin daughters shortly after their premature birth in 2016, and we also lost a baby to miscarriage in 2013.
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Radiant: I love your blog post on “Baby kicks and infertility blogs.” Can you share why it is important for you not to forget the season in your life when you and your husband struggled with infertility?
Laura: Remembering the seasons of suffering we’ve experienced helps us to grow in empathy, deepen our prayer and service to others, and stretch our hearts wider to embrace more of the Body of Christ. On difficult days of parenting, I try to pray for couples longing to welcome a child because I want to remember that I wanted exactly this: a child to love and raise, in good times and in bad. Part of my heart will always be with those who are experiencing infertility, and I believe that God works through these connections to deepen our callings to each other.
Radiant: How do you think we can help couples who struggle with infertility feel less invisible? What can we do to support them?
Laura: I’m often struck at Mass by how many couples sitting in the pews are carrying (or have carried) the cross of infertility. Yet we rarely hear about this suffering in homilies, petitions or prayers — within Mass or anywhere in the typical parish’s ministries. The simple act of acknowledging people’s pain is a huge first step in making them feel less alone and invisible. If someone you know is experiencing infertility, you can support them by praying for them, letting them know you’re here to listen if they want to talk, and reaching out around holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day — which can be painful for couples who are longing to be parents.
Radiant: Your book “Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage” is a great Catholic resource for those who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. Can you share how you found the strength to write this book?
Laura: After our twin daughters died from twin-to-twin-transfusion syndrome, I wrote through my grief, sharing online about our suffering and trying to make sense of what had happened through the lens of faith. A publisher (OSV) reached out and asked us to write a book about miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss for Catholic couples. My husband and I felt like this invitation was a calling from God to minister to other grieving couples, so we used the opportunity to create the resource we wished we would have had after experiencing loss.
Radiant: How did you restore your hope after losing your twin daughters?
Laura: Finding hope after loss is never a “one and done” turning point. Five years after our daughters’ deaths, I still struggle with grief and its accompanying emotions: anger, sadness, jealousy and fear. I was unafraid to bring everything I felt to God and to keep praying through my grief, drawing strength from the Psalms that hold the whole range of human experience and emotion. Finding help from support groups and couple’s therapy was also essential for our healing. But grief changes you forever. You can come to hope again — and even take the risk of opening up your heart to the possibility of welcoming another child, knowing that there are no guarantees — but faith will always be a journey with plenty of valleys.
Radiant: What would you want to say to a woman who is struggling to believe that God has a good plan for her, even in her infertility or infant loss?
Laura: We were never promised a life free from suffering. But we were promised that God would be our companion through it all, never leaving our side even when we could not see or feel it. Every faithful person I know has struggled with doubt or despair at some point in their lives, but the suffering we experience does not mean that God has abandoned us. It may be that our dreams are taking longer to come to fruition than we would like. It may be that the calling we feel will come to life differently than we expected. We may have to endure deep pain or loss on the way. But God desires fullness of life for each of us. We can trust that God is always at work in our lives, often mysteriously, and that suffering and death are never the end of the story.
Radiant: Do you have any book recommendations or suggested resources for those who are struggling with infertility?
Laura: “The Infertility Companion for Catholics” has been recommended by a number of friends who’ve experienced infertility. Finding a NaPro-trained provider is invaluable for learning more about the particular medical issues couples may be facing and what treatment options are available.
Radiant: What else is on your heart to share?
Laura: My husband and I struggled with infertility for the first several years of our marriage. Today no one would think this was the case, since we have a full house bustling with five kids. But what can be seen from the outside is only part of the story. The more I share about our experiences with infertility, miscarriage and infant loss, the more I hear from others who have struggled with the same. I’m reminded never to judge someone by their present life or outward appearances, because invisible suffering is much more common than we realize. It’s a call to deep compassion and gentleness with each other.