April is Infertility Awareness Month. 1 in 8 couples experience infertility. During this month we invite you to walk with us along side of those who face fertility grief. Or to claim the story as your own! Please remember that Project Pomegranate’s recently published book – Though the Darkness Gather Round, Devotions about Infertility, Miscarriage, and Infant Loss – is a great resource. Please share it with your congregation!
April is Infertility Awareness Month. One in every eight couples faces infertility. Sometimes the cause lies with the woman’s body. Sometimes the cause lies with the man’s body. Sometimes the cause is a complicated combination of problems. Sometimes the cause is unknown. But one out of every eight heterosexual couple who are actively trying to get pregnant cannot.
As we pause to think about life in community with those who are trying to have biological children and are not succeeding, we also bring to mind those who simply have not find a suitable life partner, or whose life partner is the same gender, or transgendered, and cannot, therefore, produce biological children. Their grief should not be overlooked.
Among those gathered for worship every Sunday, and among those who remain outside the walls of the church, there are so many people who have cried recently over a negative pregnancy test, or invasive medical procedures, or the oppressive financial burden of fertility treatments, or the sense that their body is broken and at fault, or the lack of a way forward for having babies.
So many who are surrounded by reminders that other people their age are making cute pregnancy announcements and celebrating baby showers with cake and gifts; who see pregnant bellies everywhere; who must answer prying family members who ask when they will start “trying.”
So many people who need to hear from the church:
- You are not alone.
- Your grief matters.
- There is a place for you here, in this community, even though you do not have children.
- God is not punishing you.
- God is not withholding blessing.
- You are God’s beloved.
But unless we are intentional about thinking through what is said from the pulpit, as well as what transpires in hallway conversations and Sunday School sharing, we might give a very different impression.
Grasping for words, we might fall back on the lazy theology that floats in the ethos of congregations.
We might attempt to empower and comfort and offer hope by saying:
- God will never give you more than you can handle; or
- Just ask and you shall receive; or
- Trust God’s plan; or
- God will give you children when the time is right.
Or we might say nothing at all.
So that instead of promising that God is present in the doctor’s offices and in the dark lonely nights and in the midst of the weeping and despair and fear and brokenness, the church says that God has doled out these horrors. That the bleeding and hurting and sobbing and the aching and the empty nursery are simply a part of God’s plan that must be endured. That asking has been rejected. That feeling like the grief can no longer be “handled” is a sign of spiritual weakness.
Or, in the silence, the church says: this grief is not worthy of mention before God.
Infertility Awareness Month gives way to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. In the coming weeks our churches have the opportunity to speak with intentionality so that the one in eight, and all who are in the pews and the hallways and the Sunday School rooms, get a clear sense of what the church, at its best, can say to those who yearn for children with their whole being: You are God’s BELOVED.
(And also, I am so very sorry.)