There are some days in our lives that end up to be turning points. Whether they are joyful days or difficult days, they change our lives forever and we never forget them. Last week was Infertility Awareness Week. This made me think about all the couples that suffer through infertility and miscarriages alone. It is not a comfortable subject to talk to anyone about. So, I thought this month I would share my personal story in the hopes that, if even one person comes to Elizabeth Ministry so we can walk with them on their journey, it will be a success. It is never easy to share your personal story, but I have prayed about and contemplated my life based on the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. I have found many insights into my life based on the visitation, and through prayer was moved to share the following story:
I remember my first turning point as if it was yesterday. I had just moved to Lansing, Michigan. My Dad called one night, and I knew right away something was wrong because there was no small talk. He proceeded to try to explain to me that just three months before her 51st birthday, my Mom had died. That phone call and all the feelings with it are etched in me forever. I remember laughing because I thought he was kidding. I even told him that his joke wasn’t funny. I remember him having to explain it to someone else so they could get me to understand and believe. I was 23 years old, and this couldn’t be true. I thought I would never stop crying, and I thought nothing in my life would ever hurt so much. Thankfully I could not see into the future to see that there were many more difficulties waiting for me.
My husband and I had grown up together, and 9 years after our high school graduation we started dating. We were married on September 26, 1998. It was a beautiful fall day in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. The next day we couldn’t wait to leave for Jamaica and assumed we would start a family right away. However, just like He did with Elizabeth, God had different plans for me. We went through months of infertility treatments. At some points I would have done anything they told me to do if it meant we would have a child. I sat in the office and watched teenagers pregnant with children they didn’t want, and watched friends and relatives have children when it seemed impossible to me. With each baby shower invitation, or announcement of a pregnancy, I tried to put on a brave face and smile and wonder why this wasn’t happening to me. Month after month we would receive the call we would dread telling us it wouldn’t be this month either.
One day I finally got the call we had been waiting for. Not only was I pregnant, but my numbers looked like it could be twins. We were so excited we couldn’t contain ourselves. We eventually found out I was only carrying one child, but that did not lessen our joy. What could possibly be more exciting? We were going to be parents.
Unfortunately, 16 weeks later, on October 16, 2000, my world fell apart. It started out like every other day. I got up, got ready, and went to work. Nothing was out of the ordinary until I got home from work. I ate supper and felt a little off. Normally I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, except I was sixteen weeks pregnant. But as I got sick to my stomach, I went into the bathroom and within a few moments gave birth to our son. Nothing could ever prepare someone for the fear, pain, anger, and loneliness that came next. In a somewhat state of shock, my husband cut the umbilical cord and called the doctor. He was able to talk my husband through everything and make sure I was ok. Well, as ok as I would ever be. The next morning I went to the doctor for a checkup and we left without our son, Dylan Jeffrey Kresal. This was something I thought would never happen, but this was more devastating than the day my mother died.
As the days went by, and family came to visit, I remember the feeling of being in a slow-motion fog. Things were happening around me, but I wasn’t paying much attention. However, without these visits, I am not sure what would have happened to me. Some of the best visits were from family members, our parish priest, and women from our church. Just as when Mary visited Elizabeth, they came to visit me because of a call they received from God. Even though their visits were not joyful, they were women who had also walked in my shoes and I was not alone. They were able to offer hope, encouragement, and support. They were the light of Christ in my dark world. Every time I opened the door, I imagined what it must have been like for Elizabeth to open the door to find Mary.
I had suffered through the heartache of infertility just as Elizabeth did, but at times my faith wasn’t quite as strong and I wasn’t sure God would bless our family with children. Like Elizabeth, I wasn’t a young mother. I was 33, and had wanted a family well before that age. I never stopped praying that God would bless me with motherhood. We went through more treatments, and less than a year later I gave birth to our first daughter. I spent 26 weeks of my pregnancy on bed rest, and gave birth six weeks premature. Although she came early, she was healthy and beautiful. We welcomed Jillian LouAnn Kresal into our family on September 11, 2001. There was so much trauma and sadness going on in the world that day, but we had never been so joyful. Some of the same people who helped us through our grief, were able to visit me during my pregnancy, and they were able to share my joy. They supported and encouraged me, and were able to be happy for me.
Who would have imagined that less than two years later I would again be pregnant. We again had gone through infertility treatments, and this time they had caused an over-stimulation of one ovary. Even though I was pregnant, I was all of a sudden in extreme pain. I ended up in the hospital with a twisted ovary. I was in such extreme pain that my hospital stay is mostly a blur. I do remember one night while in the hospital, I miscarried with our second son, Jordan Jeffrey Kresal, during my thirteenth week of pregnancy. I once again felt alone and empty.
Not only did wonderful Elizabeth Ministers sent by God help me again through the trauma and loneliness, they held my hand in the hospital and helped plan a memorial for both of our sons. You know people are sent by God when the wind chill is forty degrees below zero and they are standing at the cemetery with you to bury your son. That was probably not any easier than Mary’s walk to Elizabeth. Mary endured the heat during her walk, and they endured bitter cold to be by my side. The people who helped me had received a calling from God, just as Mary did.
After the second miscarriage I was told I wouldn’t to be able to have any more children. I had a twisted ovary when I miscarried and was rushed into surgery to have it removed. However, like Elizabeth, I never gave up on my faith. I truly felt that God had more plans for our family. I continued to pray and always reminded myself that everything is possible with God. So I waited and prayed. In December of that year, I went to mass to meet the new Bishop in our Diocese. It just so happened that the Gospel reading was the reading of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth. Coincidently, as the Bishop read about the baby leaping in the womb upon their greeting, my stomach did the same thing. At that moment I was certain that the impossible had happened. I was filled with joy because of the certainty God had given me, but for that day I kept it to myself. I confirmed it the next day, and without the assistance of any fertility treatments, and without bedrest, we welcomed our second daughter, Kaitlyn Frances Kresal, into our home on August 6, 2004.
Each year as the Gospel about the visitation is read, I am reminded of the amazing people that have visited me throughout the years and how the Gospel reading was God telling me I was pregnant. I remember that feeling, and am thankful every day that I never gave up on my faith. Like Elizabeth, God showed me that all things are possible for Him. I can see so many parallels in my life to the visitation of Mary and Elizabeth, and just as Elizabeth was overjoyed by Mary’s visit, I too am so thankful and filled with joy for all of those that visited me because they were sent by God. The Elizabeth Ministers that visited helped me to strengthen my faith and reminded me that God had a plan for me.
I have these very distinctive days in my life and a journey of infertility that have changed and formed the person I am today. They strengthened my faith and led me on a journey to want to assist others on their own journeys. I am fortunate to work with some of the wonderful Elizabeth Ministers that helped me so much. Every time the phone rings at Elizabeth Ministry International and I am able to help someone, whether it is a friend or a stranger, I know that God had this planned for me. Without every experience on my journey, I could not be working in pastoral care helping women through the difficult times in their lives. Although it is hard to be thankful for what I went through, I can see my journey was God’s plan for me. We all have turning points in our lives, it is up to us to turn toward God to see the beautiful plan he has for each of us.
29:11 “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”