Solidarity to Women with Infertility - A Letter from Stephanie Bosse
(Click on the letters to enlarge)
I grew up believing I was born to be a Mother. It was not a question or a wonder; it was something I was certain of. But the things I arrive at 46 years old, both with and without, surprising me. I had a belief and a plan, then God had a different one, and it’s ok.
I cannot have children. I suffer from infertility and this is the first time in all the years of surgeries, tests, medications and pain that I’ve actually said that statement. I chose for a very long time not to let those struggles define me with such a lifeless word. I chose to believe that there was always hope and that God’s plan was so much mightier than my own. Infertility is typically multiple decades of hoping, wishing, grieving and hurting but with God, and each other, it does not have to be our title. While I don’t think we should wear suffering on our sleeve or wallow in self pity, I fervently believe that as Catholic’s who boldly love and commit to our womanhood, this is something we should be discussing and it is something we should be there for one another about.
Right now many of you (or your sisters or friends) are where I started. My stepdaughter has recently begun going through issues I struggled with at her age and I know she is lonely, frightened and stressed. While I cannot tell her everything will be all right I can pray with and for her, (Page 2) I can share her journey and I can hear her. I know that many of you struggle with the fear of not being able to have children and that many of you suffer from hormonal issues that you rarely talk about. As embarrassing as some things may be to discuss I think we can to do more in sharing these parts of our femininity. Oftentimes we don’t ask because we aren’t certain what to say to someone having difficulties, but I think it should be less about worrying “how to ask” and more about finding ways that encourage others to speak. We need to be able to talk about our suffering without making others uncomfortable, without feeling embarrassment and without believing that it takes away from our strength because we are so very strong.
I cannot say that my particular challenge has not come with it’s own spiritual warfare, it has and this is all the more reason for us to speak bravely to each other. Jesus did not expect us to suffer alone; he did not want the infertile woman to be undone by the challenge. I believe he expected us to do this together.
"Jesus did not expect us to suffer alone; he did not want the infertile woman to be undone by the challenge. I believe he expected us to do this together."
Saint John Paul II said, “never ever give up on hope.... be not afraid.” When we struggle alone and find ourselves in darkness it is difficult to hope. And while prayer can sustain us, sharing our experiences can replace the shadows with the peace of knowing that we do not suffer alone. Jesus wants us to find that truth, that peace, in each other.
I tell you this, dear sisters, I did not expect the story I was given. And yet my life is filled with a unique kind of motherhood and joy beyond my expectations. What I HAVE is so much more than what I am missing and I - am FULL.
With prayers and so much love for you, Stephanie
Get to know Stephanie
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I am 46 years old, married for 14 years to my best friend Tim, stepmother to two incredible young adults, and I work for the Catholic Relief Services for the Ethical Trade Program. I currently put together the content for the Ethical Trade social media channels and while I think I’m entirely to old to do this job, I love it. I am an extroverted introvert (just learned that was a thing) most comfortable in small groups but can oddly speak in front of thousands of strangers without issue. I regularly think of the perfect thing to say a day after I should have said it, and I genuinely hope that whenever I am remembered I am remembered for kindness. I love to laugh and probably do that too loudly at times, adore sappy sweet innocent movies (even if they are terrible), and I am ever trying to institute family traditions. I love rain, fog, face oils, the golden light of fall, the miracle of springtime. I love to travel, I’ve broken my nose ten times, I’ve got a substantial amount of metal in my back, I have curly hair that I fight with regularly, I love reading, singing, baking, cooking, eating, walking, swimming, roller skating and I am constantly learning about the incredible ways people are taking care of one another through better buying habits and ethical choices. (please follow us as we share what we know and learn on our CRS Ethical Trade pages!)
How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?
My Catholic faith is my compass. It allows me to look at the world with understanding, to see myself with honesty and truthfulness, to strive to do the will of God in all things, to help others and to be a person that gives grace, forgiveness, tenderness, mercy and above all love.
From one Catholic woman to another, how have you discovered your sense of belonging in the Church?
I remember so vividly when I felt my own personal calling. I was in my early 20’s and asked for a bible for Christmas. It was my first personal bible and I excitedly opened it. I did the whole “open the bible and find a passage for myself” type of look and happened upon Matthew 12:46. I read the passage and found myself really confused. I had never read this passage before and I grappled with questions about it. Not long after, I decided to go to a bible study at a church I was attending. I was a bit nervous going into a group where I knew no one (and where I was easily 20 years everyone’s junior) and wasn’t totally sure I would even stay for the first full meeting. After introductions, the leader began talking about this weeks topic and said, “it’s just like in our passage from this week, when Mary and Jesus’ brothers stand out side wanting to speak to him…” and THAT WAS THE VERY PASSAGE I HAD FIRST OPENED in my bible. This was the church where I solidified my personal relationship with God. This was also the church where the I first saw the cross as arms ready to enfold me in.
What’s the most empowering piece of advice you’ve been given as a Catholic woman?
One of my bosses once told me “we don’t need to go overseas to do mission, the real mission work is right where we are, every single day.”
Tell us about a woman who inspires you. What lessons have you learned from her? How has she influenced your life?
I can’t pick between these two women; my Mother and my stepdaughter. No one would know it but my Mother has suffered more than anyone I know her entire life. She is fervently prayerful and has always taught me to offer our sufferings to those who suffer more. Because of my Mom I truly see suffering as a gift and though I don’t love or even hope for personal sufferings her example has helped me to try and be the best of myself even in times of great trials. My Mother has the most awe-inspiring faith of anyone I know; she gives more of her time to prayer and devotion to God than anyone I have ever known and I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone with as strong a faith than her. That has been an amazing example and influence for my own faith.
The other person that has inspired me is my stepdaughter. She was gifted with the most remarkable faith and her faith life has not always been easy for her. Having been raised in a home that was strongly Catholic and a home that was supportive of faith but not practicing was a hardship for her. She was pulled in two directions and wasn’t sure where to go. When she went away to college I watched her find herself in her faith and it was a beautiful thing to witness. Where I am a feeling, questioning thinker, Carly is a studier, a lover of theologians, and encyclicals. I’ll never forget when the Nicene Creed changed, Carly was just 16. We were discussing the changes when she looked up the word “consubstantial” and said to me “oh yes, that’s much better!” She has become a Catholic activist, a champion for life, and ministers to those her age about her faith. I love that I get to learn from her and I love knowing her deeply beautiful expression of faith. She’s currently saying four rosaries a day for Lent (goals, right?).
What’s your favorite way to pray?
I love to sing! Oh how I hope heaven is full of singing because I feel transported to God and rooted in faith when I get to sing, hum or even just hear music in prayer.
What aspect of your life right now do you find the most beautiful? The most challenging?
My husband and I moved across country (from Florida to California) a year and a half ago to be closer to my parents. It has been an incredible move for us. We have grown closer than ever and feel deeply blessed to live where we do – it has been a beautiful and fruitful decision for us. At the same time, there have been two difficulties with the move. We miss the kids (Brian and Carly) – we get to see them of course, but not nearly enough and it goes without saying that it is hard to be so far away from them. As well, not long after we moved my husband suffered a concussion and has not been able to return to his job. It has been wonderful to spend the amount of time we have with each other (he’s an airline pilot so this is the most we’ve ever seen each other) but it is hard that he continues to struggle with post-concussion issues along with his inability to work. God has been amazing to us through it all but if you could spare a prayer please send one out for his healing (physical and emotional).
What’s the best smell in the world to you?
Robert Ripley said “Anybody who is born in Santa Rosa must turn out to be either an artist or a poet, for the spirit of the hills gets into your blood out there.” You could fly me around the world and cover my eyes and ears and land me in my wine country birthplace and I would know it by my nose. The smell of eucalyptus trees and foggy earth, the scent of grape vines and earth; the smell of the first rains as they hit the oak trees and the rocks or the cool wheat grassy evenings of summer with just a hint of coastal fog. The best smell in the world to me is where I was raised.
What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday off?
Did I mention we moved to the base of the Sierra Foothills in California? There is so much to do here. A Saturday off is a day to explore! To hike, to check out old mining towns, to go to Yosemite or Lake Tahoe to end our day going to a farmers market, munching on fresh sourdough and berries and watching a sunset from our amazing perch that looks out towards the Central Valley of California.
Fill in the blank
A typical day in my life looks like…
Well, I not only work from home but I work part-time doing social media (which never sleeps) and because CRS is in Baltimore my colleagues start there day hours before me so there is no typical day when it comes to work. Intentionally I do try to begin each day with a devotional, drink a cup of lemon water or tea made by my husband, eat a bowl of oatmeal or a fresh baked scone, take a 5 mile walk (before or after meetings), and pray before bed.
My favorite quote is...
Today it’s, "intense love does not measure, it just gives.” - Saint Teresa of Kolkatta
I feel most inspired when…
People either bring me to great laughter or gentle tears; I suppose that means, when I see someone living the passion and purpose to do good, I’m greatly inspired.
The Catholic Church is…