Hi. 👋🏼We need to talk.
Now, as you read this, I want you to picture us curled up on my couch drinking a cup of coffee. I don't have a rug yet, or a coffee table, so just work with me. But it's important that you hear my heart on this even more than my words. I write about these things largely to give insight into what it's like to be on this side of infertility (or adoption, or anything else I write about). This isn't about pointing a finger at anyone to say "SEE? You were wrong!" rather my hope is to offer some fresh perspective.
When it comes to public commentary on the topic of infertility, I feel like I've literally heard all the things over these past eight years.
A personal favorite is the time I was checking out at Publix about a year after we'd begun trying to get pregnant. The cashier, an aging woman named Doris, was attempting small talk while she scanned my groceries.
"Do you have any kids?" she asked, her southern accent thick.
"Not yet," I replied.
"Why??" Doris put down a case of Diet Coke and stared at me, bewildered.
"Well, I mean...we want kids. We are trying..." I was starting to feel uncomfortable and Doris' intensity was growing.
"Oh honey!" she shook a long, bony finger at me. "You must just not be doing "IT" right! Do you know the right way to do it?" She put a lot of emphasis on the word it, stared at me and waited for my answer.
My mouth gaped as I tried to think of a response. Though words failed me, Doris had a few more of her own.
"You do know position is everything..."
I think I blacked out for a second and I definitely called my mom crying once I got to the car. What I didn't know at the time was that Doris was simply a glimpse of advice to come.
I once had a preacher ask me if I had any unconfessed sin in my life. (What he meant was, you must be doing something in your life that is keeping God from allowing pregnancy.)
I had another man, a Pentecostal farmer from Texas, tell me that there was a curse on my womb because I'd owned Cabbage Patch dolls in my childhood. "You got to burn all those, darlin'. Then God'll open up the floodgates."
These three are just drops in the buckets of counsel I've heard.
Just relax! You'll get pregnant when you stop trying.*
You were right to adopt. Everyone gets pregnant after they adopt.**
You know, if it's God's will for you, you'll be able to get pregnant.
I have received scores of platitudes from many people, but that last one is still the hardest for me. It isn't because I disagree with the statement itself. What I don't agree with is the implied meaning-- the unspoken part of the equation.
When you say: "If it is in God's will for you, you'll get pregnant."
You most likely mean: "I hate to see you walk through this. I trust God with your life and your family."
But you are also implying: "If you don't get pregnant, it is not in God's will for your life. He chose most other women to carry children, but you didn't make the cut."
Now, I'm not a theologian and I don't claim to be. But I do know God, and the more I get to know him, the more this phrase unsettles me.
Personally, I think God is a fan of pregnancy. Jesus could have come to earth by way of a bolt of lightening, or a flaming spaceship surrounded by angels, or any other way he wanted. But heaven chose pregnancy. And that says a lot to me.
Also, in Genesis one of God's first directives to Adam and Eve involves pregnancy.
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it." Gen 1:28
After a little research I learned that the five major examples of infertility in the Bible were resolved with the birth of a significant character including Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist.
At least twice God used fertility as either a reward or comfort to a woman. (Leah and the Shunammite woman)
And there isn't a single instance where God condemned a woman because of barrenness.
It's very painful to hear (even if it's only an implication) that perhaps God doesn't want you to have children. I know that I know that most people who make the "God's will" sort of comments are well-meaning. But I think there is a better way.
It's human nature to want to help someone going through a hard time. As Christians, there can be added pressure to provide some type of meaningful advice. But, I've learned that the people who've impacted me the most in my hard times are the ones with no advice at all. Because what I really need (what any of us need, for that matter) is simply to be reminded that we aren't alone.
The people who have been most impactful in my personal journey are the ones who don't try and fix things. They are the ones who say "I don't know what to say, but I'm here." Showing up is the most powerful thing someone can do.
The next time you come across a woman who's waiting on a baby, perhaps resist the urge to give her biblical advice. She doesn't need to know the story of Abraham and Sarah (NOT HELPFUL to be reminded that you are similar to a woman who conceived in her nineties.) or know where you land doctrinally on the topic of infertility. She will be so blessed to know that you care and that she's in your prayers.
Finally, if you are reading this and you know me and are thinking "Oh no! Is she talking about me?" I'm not. I'm not upset and my feelings aren't hurt. When I hear stuff like this these days, it just reminds me of the younger version of me that was extra sensitive. Unless, of course, you're a Pentecostal farmer from Texas. That guy is still on my bad list.
*This phrase is neither helpful nor accurate. If this is something you say to people- you should stop.
**This is also not true. Don't say this anymore.