Faith and fertility

We’ll pray for you, they said. And they did. They laid hands on us and prophesied over us. And, at the time, we submitted willingly to this; clung to it. As a young, Christian, married couple, it was part of the journey to fertility to involve the church family. But being infertile and having faith can produce an excruciating tension made even more confusing by one of life’s cruellest experiences.

You accept this challenge: go forth and multiply. Pray quietly as a couple that you’ll have a baby and then wonder what’s going wrong after a few months when nothing happens. There’s a point where you wonder if it’s challenging God’s reach in your life if you seek medical advice, but then you realise that a rational person does not see medicine in opposition to faith, but apposite to it.

Here’s some more background. Being part of a lively, mostly young, faith-based community can be an amazing experience and also a difficult one. As couples pair up, marry and have kids, there can be a cloying sense of exclusion for The Singles (as they were called) and the infertile (or even the child-free). It takes fortitude and private tears to endure the whispers, unkind comments and well-meant encouragements that sting like lemon juice in a paper cut. Your inner voice is louder than anyone else’s. Everywhere you go you see pregnant women. Babies.

But then an un-miracle happened. We became pregnant. This was outside of the period where we’d had fertility treatment, so it was astounding. God had heard us. Prophets and prayer circles cheered at this confirmation of His will. Until, devastatingly, she had a miscarriage.

Frankly, God...

Wait, God, what’s that about? One of those “giveth/taketh away paradoxes” sent to keep our pride in check? You created a life (I was absolutely pro-life from the point of conception at that stage) and then snuffed it out? You made me watch my wife in her agonised, wordless grief as she moaned and imploded. Frankly, God, you can stuff it.

That was the end of my innocence as a Christian.

I stopped tithing. Became angry that the only person I could direct my anger at was the only one who could ameliorate the pain. It was a period of self-isolation and confusion.

There’s little to be said about miscarriage. It’s a physical outrage. The woman may have to endure the numbness of a D&C- a womb-cleaning. The man has to try and comfort without being able to express his grief. It’s a sense of loss for nothing at all to others who expect you to pick up the pieces and move on.

My faith was stripped back to basics. I no longer led a small group, since outward prayer sounded hollow even to myself. It didn’t leave entirely, but it was reduced to an ember.

Perhaps the issues of faith and fertility are entirely disparate. The “miracle of life” may simply be reduced to the coming together of biological bits and pieces. Maybe they’re inseparable- the absence of God is the absence of life. That’s for each individual to decide.

The conclusion isn’t one at all: that I went on to have three living children (and another miscarriage) is something I accept. I love my children; have a private, non-churchy faith that suits me for now. I am quick to admit my own frailties and aware that there’s very little I could say to anyone to recommend my lifestyle. God and I get on alright, but I strongly dislike (and empathise with) seeing the distress that infertile couples belonging to faith-based organisations endure.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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