Wednesday, December 28, 2011

vocation, blessings, and crosses

I've done a lot of ranting about the problem of Other People's Children in general, and the children of other infertiles in particular - ranted, raged, condemned (sometimes, I note, with entire justice), and generally run off at the mouth. It's what I do best, and I think one should play to one's strengths.

I haven't done a lot of low-rage, intellectual musing, but I think the proper time for that has come.

Obviously others' children are continued salt in an open wound for a barren woman. And more painful still, when other infertile women become pregnant or adopt, we are not only confronted with yet another other's child (and attacking us from within our "safe" inner sanctum, no less), but, even more painful, we lose a friend and an ally. When that crossing over happens en masse, or has been going on for a long time, each new person who crosses over leaves us more totally alone. We childless women are now an endangered species in the infertility blogosphere. The emotional toll of all these things shouldn't even need explaining (but invariably does).

Leaving aside the anger and the sadness, what about the theological implications?

I am certain beyond doubt that God does not guarantee all women - or married women, or married Christian women, or married Catholic women, or any other demographic - a baby. I am certain beyond doubt that, of those who are not able to have a biological child naturally or with medical intervention, not all are called by God to adoption. Any individual woman or couple might suppose they were not called to adopt, and be mistaken, in that God had actually called them to adopt (and it is clear that everyone with children believes this is the case with me). But it is definitely not the case that God calls 100% of the naturally childless to adoption. (It is also not the case that everyone who would like to be married will eventually find a spouse. God is not in the "even Steven" game; this world is fallen and not everything is going to wind up neatly. Or, as my mother always put it, "Life is not fair." If you haven't already - get used to it.)

Along these same lines, there are childless women who lack the financial resources to pursue all the medical treatment (whether morally questionable or otherwise) that might enable them to bear a child, who lack the information to access all the appropriate treatment, whose other health concerns prevent them from securing all available treatment, or who (rightly) determine that pursuing every available form of treatment would be inappropriate for their lives. There are childless couples who lack the means to adopt (because of finances, age, or other reasons). There is not a band-aid big enough to assign a baby to everyone who wants one so that those not afflicted with this problem can call it "solved" and ignore it.

In the abstract, I know - with certainty - that all these things are true. This leads me to some conclusions. If all these things are true, then it may be the case that I will never have a child. It might also not be the case - people do randomly get pregnant after years of trying - but that ending is not guaranteed. So I must accept that a biological or adoptive child could be cast into my path, but will not necessarily be. I might have to live the rest of my life childless, because anyone might have to live the rest of his life childless. In principle, it can happen. God does not guarantee otherwise. Ergo, God has allowed that this cross should be allotted to some of us.

But if this can happen in theory, and therefore could happen to me, then it could happen to other people, too. And the law of averages dictates that it actually will happen to some small but distinct percentage of infertile women. Since I know far more infertile women than the average person (yes, hello), it should logically be the case that some small but distinct percentage of those I know will be childless for life.

See where I'm going yet? I would guess not, but I may be wrong.

Here's the problem. That doesn't appear to be happening. That is, from my current vantage point, it strongly appears that every infertile couple I know will eventually - probably even relatively soon - have a biological child or adopt. (Yes, TCIE, including you. And stop making that face.) I have no desire to see any individual person (even me) live childless forever. I'm not asking that someone else suffer longer or worse so that I have an ally, or in order to prove one of my pet theories.


What if I am the only infertile who is still childless at 40? What if every other infertile woman on the planet who is that old or older has had a child by that time? In principle, my certainties won't change. I did the math carefully and it all checks. But if, in spite of these principles, God has in fact decided to give every single infertile woman a child but me, what does that mean? It doesn't mean the principles are wrong, but it certainly adds a layer of analysis. It means that I'm childless not because God has allowed me to carry this cross, as He allows some infertile women to do; but rather because He has decided that I, and only I, should be childless, that I should be alone, that I should have no friends who will understand, and that I will have to have other people's children forced on me without ceasing - because everyone else will have children.

That's not good.


  1. I know that we don't see eye to eye on the "whyness" of this -- but you are right, there will, in the end, be some people who remain childless, for whatever reason, and not happily so. And, being another long-standing member of this community, I totally get those feelings of resentment and frustration at continually being asked to be happy for OTHERS and wondering why it isn't happening for ME. I don't have any answers -- I have not handled infertility with any mode of grace, though I have faced it head-on and with a gut-wrenching determination. Should I remain childless past a certain age, I will certainly die a lonely and bitter death, cursing the universe for my plight.

    I love your point about no one being guaranteed children -- and would like to add to it: no one is guaranteed that their child will remain with them, either. When faced with that reality, the bitterness of no children fades slightly (I said SLIGHTLY) when I realize that I may never have children -- but someone else may have one, and lose them terribly young, and never recover. Given those choices, who's to say which burden I'd rather bear?

    As always, your posts cause me to stop, and think. Thank you for that.

  2. Somehow, while possible, I doubt the worst-case scenario will happen. Before my husband and I lucked out, we were contemplating the childless life with near certainty. We know of other older couples who are childless but happy (hence the reason I doubt you'll be the only childless, infertile couple in your age group). We knew then that it was possible get through the trying for children phase and still live a happy, fulfilling life in our small, two-person family and we were preparing for it. The worst case scenario won't happen. If it comes to be that you pass through this with no cihldren, you will not be alone.

    Having said that, there are some infertile couples with children who will understand. I haven't forgotten - not by a long shot. I know how very, very lucky we are. If you had asked us two years ago at this time, we'd have told you there was a 99.99999% certainty that there were no kids but our cousins' in our future. We were within months of stopping. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday that we'd be the only infertile couple in our acquaitance and age group without kiddos. I suppose for some people the feeling fades to nothing with the advent of kids, but not for all. I have a child, but man, I remain an infertile in my soul.

  3. I didn't make a face, for the record. I did laugh out loud, though.

    I brought up this exact point to my therapist Tuesday night. I think you would enjoy debating him on the subject. He likes a good debate. Basically, he reiterated the comments I got on my "I'm Jealous of Sew and Publicly Admitting It" post from other readers, childless and "with child" (though not necessarily in the biblical sense). They, and he, said that a true friendship is based in Christ, not in a shared cross. Even though I may be pained by having to cut a conversation short because Baby A is teething and screaming his head off, or deflated because once again plans to meet up with Mrs B are cancelled because Baby B just will not go down for her stinking nap... that should not change the essence of the friendship based in Christ's love. We can absolutely say yes to the sorrow that comes with our cross, which is, above and beyond most other women who carry the infertility cross, insanely lonely at times watching as others' crosses are lifted before our eyes. And we can also continue to support our friends with their crosses of motherhood, in urging them to offer their pains to God and join us at the foot of the cross. In many ways (not always obvious) we are more blessed because we are being given the opportunity to grow in our faith and go through this purification process longer than others ever had to.

    I'm probably rambling, because I didn't sleep well last night and it's mad early. But hopefully you get my gist.

    Love ya!

  4. I hate that life's not fair and that God doesn't play "Even Stevens". But I don't know how to get Him to change.
    As always, brilliant post that makes me think.