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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Retreat to show You Are Not Alone

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Helen and Kevin Wagner. Photo: supplied

Kevin and Helen Wagner were so ready for children after their marriage in 2005 that Helen “sobbed for days” the first time she realised they had not conceived.

Kevin is one of nine children, Helen one of four, and they dreamed of having their own big brood. They also valued the church’s teaching about being open and welcoming of the possibility of children in marriage.

But months and years passed, and a baby never came. The couple, who are members of the Emmanuel Community, failed to find guidance in the church with knowing how to cope, and at times felt deeply misunderstood by friends and relatives and crushed by the burden of others’ expectations.

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Now in their late 40s, they hope to help couples on a similar journey to know that they are not alone.

Supported by the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Life, Marriage and Family Office, the Emmanuel Community will facilitate a retreat day for married couples who have been unable to have children due to infertility, miscarriage or stillbirth on Saturday 7 October at the Mt Schoenstatt Spirituality Centre in Mulgoa.

“Kevin and I always received nourishment and consolation from the church in the sacraments and our involvement in the life of the church, but what we didn’t receive during those very painful years was any guidance or support about our situation,” said Helen.

“It’s one reason why we have been motivated to allow God to use us to be that guidance and support and listening ear for others, and why we are so grateful for the support of the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Life, Marriage and Family Office in holding this retreat day.

“Now we have received a particular grace to accept it, but it used to be all-consuming. A few years into our marriage I became so obsessed with wanting a baby that every month I actually believed I was pregnant and every month I was devastated all over again.”

“We learnt about fertility charting and sought a doctor trained in naprotechnology for identifying any medical issues. While naprotechnology was helpful for us in some ways and we know it has helped many couples to have children without using IVF, it was also painful, clinical and cold to go through that process.

“In our case it didn’t identify any issues, but toward the end of it all, during one of the tests, I was lying on an examination table looking at an ultrasound of an empty womb.

“It seemed so cruel because I felt like I should be looking at a baby. Instead, there was nothing.”

“We felt alone, 100 per cent,” said Kevin.

“I think the biggest thing for guys is that you don’t know how to support your wife.

“Other people’s expectations can be very difficult to deal with and you can carry a lot of unnecessary guilt and shame about it all.

“And so we hope the retreat day will be a space where people can spend some time with others who are walking a similar journey and where we can allow God to bring his grace into this suffering so that it can be transformed.”

The You Are Not Alone retreat day will run from 9am-4pm on 7 October and include talks, testimonies and opportunities for conversation, prayer and the sacrament of confession.
Cost is $40 per couple. Register at

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