I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

02 November 2012

The Girl Effect, part 13

If this is your first time here, this is where I got the idea for these posts: The Girl Effect.

Today, I want to talk about infertility. Before I go far, I want to quote a few people on infertility. I pray that you keep an open mind and listen carefully to what these individuals have to say. Pray for them, and be circumspect how you treat people. Your home, your place of worship and your workplace needs to be a safe place for everyone.  This is not just a first or second world issue. This is a whole world issue. This is a Girl Effect issue. This is a guy issue. This is a married, widowed, divorced, single issue.

...we've been studying the God's word in isolation... our discussion of the Bible's message for women is isolated too.
I only became aware of the extent of this isolation over time. Having twice been excluded from the conversation myself (initially because of singleness and subsequently through infertility), I was painfully aware of the need to expand the circle. Left out for reasons beyond my control and aware of so many other women who for various reasons were also counted out, I was determined to find out if God's message for women was universal--encompassing the full spectrum of every woman's life regardless of her demographics or circumstances. -Carolyn Custis James, Half of the Church, pages 33-34

Infertility is the inability to conceive a child. A couple may be considered infertile if, after two years of regular sexual intercourse, without contraception, the woman has not become pregnant (and there is no other reason, such as breastfeeding or postpartum amenorrhoea). Primary infertility is infertility in a couple who have never had a child. Secondary infertility is failure to conceive following a previous pregnancy. Infertility may be caused by infection in the man or woman, but often there is no obvious underlying cause.
- World Health Organization

Is infertility a common problem?
Yes. About 10 % of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15–44 years have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.
- Centers for Disease Control

 According to the Department of Health and Human Services, USA, approximately 10% to 15% of couples in the USA are infertile - meaning they have not conceived after at least one year of regular, unprotected sex.

Many cases of apparent infertility are treatable. Infertility may have a single cause in one of the partners, or it could be the result of a combination of factors.
- Medical News Today

Flowers - Photo by A.Stahl

It's hard for me to explain the lump in my throat and scar in my heart.
It's taken me years to become able to talk about my infertility - and it's going to take the rest of my life to figure out how to be at peace with it.
I have been in several churches, in several denominations.

In the Pentecostal church, I had people tell me I shouldn't claim infertility - that it was choosing Satan's worst for me and telling God I wasn't open to His gifts.

In the Baptist churches, I was informed by the pastor and children's director that God had blessed me with this season of my life so  I could serve those families who were overwhelmed, and that to look on my own sorrow was to sin against God's will.
In the Messianic Synagogue, a woman took me aside into a surprise anointing session and poured oil on my head praying loudly that I would not return until  I was healed.

These churches said and did many things, but the thing they failed to do was see me as a person with pain. That I was hurting and questioning and what I needed was to be hugged and silently prayed for. I needed someone to look me in the eye and say "How can  I help you?" instead of using me or making me feel small.

The thing I'm starting to see it that our culture expects women to bear children. Our society takes it for granted that women will become mothers, because so many teens, young women and celebrities are having children out of wedlock - and so it just seems that women and babies are a given. If a couple is childless, people assume many things and usually have no issue discussing it with the couple, or behind their backs. This shouldn't be. 

Holy Scripture says children are a *gift* from God.

I am learning to make peace with my pain. With the desires and longings of my heart. God is calling me down a path I never envisioned, and it is rocky ground. It is a daily struggle and choice to believe God is working His best in my life. 

Sisters in Christ, I ask you to thank God for the blessings you have. Anoint the heads of your children with tears of thanks. Rise up to the challenges God gives you in the paths He is leading you on. Support each other - don't judge each other. On Mother's Day, say a prayer for your sisters who are struggling for peace in their hearts as they live with empty arms. Most of all, keep advice to yourself and pray silently for your sisters. Ask them if there is something you can do, but don't tell them what they should do.

Walking in humility, and comforting others with the same grace God has given you is no easy task, but that is true Christianity.
- Anonymous

A few years ago I sat across from a woman who told me she doesn’t go to church on Mother’s Day because it is too hurtful...
Fast forward several years to Mother’s Day.  A pastor asked all mothers to stand. On my immediate right, my mother stood and on my immediate left, a dear friend stood. I, a woman in her late 30s, sat. I don’t know how others saw me, but I felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman. Real women stood, empty shells sat. I do not normally feel this way. I do not like feeling this way. I want no woman to ever feel this way in church again.
- An open letter to pastors {A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day}

 I'm ashamed to admit I'd not really given the whole subject of infertility much thought. I guess I had just taken it for granted that people had babies when they chose to. Once Miriam and I started speaking, I began to wonder who else I knew who might have been affected. It had never occurred to me that maybe some people that I thought just must not have wanted might have very badly wanted children and couldn’t have them. I never thought to be sensitive when meeting someone and immediately asking, “So, how many children do you have?” I started wondering how many people might have extremely painful stories to relate about my thoughlessness.
Facing Infertility By Leah Weitz-Cohen

"When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares."
[Henri Nouwen]
Women and Childlessness: What Happened to Compassion?

Infertility Etiquette

Coping With Infertility at Christmas & Special Days

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