Let me preface this by saying, no it’s not about you. If you are reading this blog I can pretty much guarantee you are not who I am writing about. And I know people say things with the best of intentions and I do not believe anyone has said anything intentionally to hurt me. But at some point you have to blow off some steam.
It started before we knew the severity of our infertility issues. We didn’t want to just blurt out to people we were having trouble getting pregnant, but we didn’t want to hide it either. And after being asked by almost every older church woman about my intentions for my uterus, I felt I needed to give an honest answer. Mostly because I thought if I shared that we were having trouble people would stop constantly asking me when we were going to have kids, and ‘did we want kids?’ and that we should really ‘get working’ on having kids. Well it stopped those comments.
But it didn’t stop the stupid.
Again, these are lovely people, who were trying to say supportive things, but one of my favorite quotes ever, it even aired in an episode of ‘7th Heaven’: “Sometimes it is better to try to be harmless than to try to be helpful.” Often we are so eager to help we don’t think about what we say or do. I know I do it.
So I was still getting asked constantly about if I was going to have kids and it made me want to cry every time I got asked. So we started telling people we were having some difficulty. And then the comments start.
“Oh you just need to relax, if you’re too stressed about it you won’t get pregnant.”
“Oh don’t worry it’s in God’s hands, you just need to have faith.”
“God won’t give you anything you couldn’t handle”
“Just think how this will strengthen you relationship with God.”
And then after we became Foster parents it got worse.
“Oh see, this (my infertility) was God’s way of helping you become Foster parents.”
“Oh maybe this was all part of God’s plan so that when you do have kids you will have had lots of practice being parents already.”
All of these comments either put the blame on me (I am too stressed and don’t have enough faith), or tell me to accept my fate, or that God wanted us to have some ‘practice’ time before He let us have biological children. And let me say right here for the record, we started the Foster care process BEFORE we knew we were going to have fertility issues. I don’t like people looking at my foster child and saying things like ‘well at least you have a foster child’, like she was a second-best option, or a good way for us to ‘practice’ for when we become ‘real parents’. We are REAL parents and our foster daughter is a REAL child. She is not our ‘practice baby’. And I know people do get into foster care after having fertility issues, and that is great, had we not already been foster parents, the infertility probably would have spurred us on. But it doesn’t make it a second-best option.
The comment that really gets me is “Well God can always give you a miracle.”
And I don’t mean to offend anyone by this or to give the impression that I am not a faithful person, BUT:
I can’t have God in my uterus. (Yes, go ahead make the Mary-Jesus jokes.)
The problem I have with all these comments is the theology is so very wrong. That seems like a petty thing to focus on, but that bad theology has left me in tears and has damaged countless people who have gone through infertility or other tragic situations. It is like when the tragic event of a child dying occurs and people, trying to be helpful, say things like “God just needed another angel” or “God must have wanted to call him/her home.” God does NOT kill children, which is what those statements imply. Not only do they imply that but those kind of statements also imply to the parent that they don’t even have a right to grieve, because this was God’s will and they should feel lucky that their child was ‘called home’ by God.
When people tell me this infertility is all part of God’s plan they are telling me God caused this. This is part of God’s plan for me? Really? Because to believe that makes God a God who wanted me to suffer, or who ‘planned’ this and turned a blind eye to my suffering. Some people have even told me that this is God’s way of teaching me something about life and to remember the story of Job. If I accept that then how come I got to be the ‘lucky’ one to be given this ‘wonderful’ personal lesson from God? Why couldn’t I learn some wisdom by having lots of children?
And maybe this will ‘strengthen my faith in God’, but telling me so implies that maybe it wasn’t strong enough or good enough to begin with. My faith was great I feel, and there are people who have less faith, or no faith, who are not tested in this way.
And what about God not giving me more than I can handle? Because I can tell you right now, if God bothered to ask me I’d tell Him I’ve had more than I can handle. Yes we are making it through and surviving, but that doesn’t mean I can handle it. It means it got thrust on me and I am making my way through the wreckage as best I can. It doesn’t mean I’m ok. We are very different people now from who we were before.
It’s the ‘miracle’ comment that really gets me though. That I should pray for a miracle as my only hope. Yes, I do believe in miracles. But I no sooner believe that God will personally grant my wish then I believe that He will personally come down and punish me for all my sins. Because if God was going to strike me down for my sins He would have done so the day I made my first confession and lied to the priest. I was sure I was going to be struck dead. But I wasn’t, God doesn’t work that way.
Yes God does do miracles, but not in the way we think. God could give me a miracle yes, but God has already given us many miracles including the intelligence and wisdom to create medical technology to help people overcome infertility.
So how do I handle this? What do I believe? Well, I won’t lie, (because then I’d have to go back to confession), sometimes I don’t know what I believe. But I do think that when God gave us free will, he did so not only to us but God imbued the very nature of our existence, the earth, everything, with that free will. The long and short of this is that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes accidents happen, tragic things.
I studied this exact issue, this exact question with Elie Wiesel in Seminary. This man has lived through HELL and he still could feel the presence of God. He recounts in his book, Night that one day the Nazi soldiers decided to kill a young boy by hanging and to make everyone watch. Wiesel recalls that all the older Jewish men are crying out “Where is God now?” And Wiesel answers that God is right there at the Gallows, God is with the dying boy.
God is with us in our suffering. Sometimes that it a great consolation to me and sometimes it makes me want to scream and kick my feet. Bad things happen to good people because God imbued creation with free will and God can’t just violate that gift by intervening every time something bad happens. Do I believe God does break-in sometimes to perform miracles? Yes. But I also believe God has given us many gifts and talents to create our own miracles, that we can thank Him for. I don’t pray to God to fix my infertility. I pray to God for strength, grace, and to be with the doctors and nurses who are working with us to help us have a biological child. I see God in them, that they were called to this line of work.
And I see God in the many, many people who have said the kind of things that are truly nice and kind, such as:
“This must be really hard for you”
“I’ll keep you in my prayers”
“Please let me know if I can do anything”
“I am sorry you are going through this”
If we have biological children will they be miracles? Yes. Will I thank God? Yes. But I will refuse to thank God for my infertility, I will refuse to look back and see it as all part of ‘God’s plan’. This is how I sleep at night, how I handle being a person of faith while struggling personally.