“Seeing him smile, you forget about everything else,” said Carlos
Santander of his newborn son, Carlos Joseph.
“I could hold him all day.”
His wife, Danielle, can barely put into words the joy she feels
for her baby — a prayer answered after
years of waiting for a child.
“He’s here, he’s in your arms, he’s safe. He loves you so much,
it’s amazing,” she said. This Christmas will be their first as a family. Around
this time last year, the Santanders were wondering when or if they ever would be
Carlos and Danielle first met at a fish fry and later reconnected
while attending daily Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in
Washington. They married in June 2012, and hoped to have a baby right away.
Since then, the couple has prayed novenas for the intention of
becoming pregnant. “There were so many times in our marriage where we could talk
about it, complain about it and cry about it,” said Danielle. “I think it was
important for us to sit down regularly and pray for a child.”
After three-and-a-half years of waiting, they signed up for the
Our Lady of Guadalupe novena for infertility and infant loss through the
diocesan Family Life Office. While they hoped for a child, their greatest
prayer was for an acceptance of God’s will.
“You get married and you assume you’re going to be a mother. I
needed to figure out, how does this work if you don’t have children?” said
Danielle. “My intention more than anything was just to accept that that’s how
it would be.”
The Santanders, parishioners of St. Veronica Church in Chantilly,
felt glad that infertile couples were recognized and supported by Bishop Paul
S. Loverde and the diocese.
“It’s easy to see in the family with five, six children that
they’re open to life,” said Carlos, but many other couples are similarly open
to life yet remain unable to bring a child into the world.
“Most of my friends who got married, it’s taken them a year, two years, six years
before they had a child. It’s so common,” said Danielle.
They saw the novena and closing Mass as an encouraging message — “We
know you’re living your vocation the best that you can, and it takes different
forms,” said Danielle.
Shortly after the novena ended, “I remember thinking, OK that
didn’t work,” said Danielle. “But I felt peaceful. I remember not being too
emotional about not being pregnant.” The couple celebrated Christmas together,
and then went to Ecuador to visit Carlos’ family. The day after they came home,
Danielle learned she was pregnant. Their son was born Sept. 14, 2016.
The Santanders believe God used their difficult situation to
teach them greater trust in Him.
“I realized, even if it was in tears, that I have no control over
this and it's truly God’s will. That’s something good to take with us
throughout marriage,” said Danielle. Her son is a constant reminder of that trust
and God’s gift.
The year’s novena begins Dec. 4 and ends Dec. 12 with a 7
p.m. Mass at St. James Church in Falls Church. The Mass will be celebrated by Fr.
Thomas P. Ferguson, moderator of the curia. To sign up for the Our Lady of Guadalupe
novena for infertility and infant loss, go here.