Each week in church, following communion, we have special music during the collection of the offering.  Since my offering is automatically deducted from my checking account every payday, I don’t spend this time fussing around in my purse or hastily writing out a check.  Instead, I can spend this time listening to the music and stretching the communion devotion just a little farther before the sermon.  Today’s special music in church was a beautiful and moving rendition of Mary, Did You Know.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you.

Now, before you start sending me poison-pen comments about the insensitivity of posting lyrics regarding babies, and delivery, and birth on a blog about infertility, please keep reading….

Infertility is not a modern problem.  Throughout time there have been women just like us who suffered not only the heartache of infertility, but public shame and indignity, as well.   In the Bible there are multiple stories of women being crushed under the weight of infertility.  You know their names – Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth – and although they were blessed with children later in their stories, for some period of their life they suffered just like you and I do now. 

We know now that one in eight women have some experience with infertility, and we only know this due to modern data collection and a (relatively) broadening discourse on the subject.  But there’s no evidence to suggest that this is a modern occurance.  Given that, it may be possible that one in eight women during the Biblical age were also struggling with infertility.

Which means that, in all likelihood, there was a desperate, hurting, shamed woman living in Nazareth at the time during the pregnancy of Mary.  Let’s call her Rebekkah.  In all likelihood, Rebekkah, a woman just like you, and me, looked at Mary in angst as her soul cried out, “Why her, God?  She’s so young, and so poor!  She and Joseph just got engaged, and they’re not even married yet! Why is she pregnant and not me?  I’ve done everything right, married carefully, been a devoted wife and daughter, kept your commands and worshipped you! Why are you punishing me?  Why did you bless her and not me?”

Does this sound familiar to you?  To tell you the truth, the words just flowed off my fingertips with hardly a thought – they are so much a part of my own pain and experiences.  Almost every day I see pregnant, unmarried college students on our campus, and I have to choke down these words once more to keep them from bursting out.

But back to Nazareth.  We have the luxury of being able to view the pregnancy of Mary and the birth of Jesus with all its context as the fulfillment of prophecy, through the Word, revealing the glory and graciousness of God.   Not only can we see all the precursors and prophecies of the coming of Christ, but we can also see His subsequent ministry and His crucifixion.  We know how this story ends.  We know Mary’s purpose, and Jesus’ purpose, in God’s plan and it is this panoramic view of His birth that keeps us from looking at Mary in quite the same way as we look at other unprepared, young mothers. 

Our infertile sister, Rebekkah, doesn’t have the benefit of this knowledge.  She lives in the moment, and she passes Mary in the market, and each time she sees her, the pain of infertility grips her anew.  She can’t see what the future of Jesus, and of Mary, will bring to the world.   She lives where we live now, passing unwed mothers, or teenage mothers, in the street. 

In the same way as Rebekkah, we can’t see what God’s plan is for that young mother, or for the child she carries.  As Christians, we believe there is a plan, but if we can’t see it, if God’s plan doesn’t work according to the way we think it is supposed to work, then we run the risk of  falling into the “why her? why not me?” vicious cycle. 

When the angel announced to Mary the news that she would carry a Savior for the world, her answer was, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”  (Luke 1:38)

And that is our challenge, as well.  Can we, when faced with the seeming “unfairness” of the “unwarranted” pregnancy say to God, “I am your Servant. I know there is a plan for me, just as there is for that mother and child.  May your will be done in my life, according to Your plan.”

I’m not suggesting it’s easy.  I’m not even suggesting that I’ve accomplished this degree of acceptance and trust in my own journey with infertility.  I’m only saying that in those four or five minutes between communion and the sermon, I not only asked, Mary, did you know?, but I had the opportunity to reflect on what a difference in perspective that knowing can make.

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Today I am thinking warm thoughts about some of the mothers I know, either personally, through their blogs, or both. And since a blog centered around infertility might not be the most tactful place to post about motherhood, I posted it on my other blog.

One of the worst parts of the depression that accompanies infertility, in my opinion, is the sense of isolation from other women. This isolation is intense, brutal, and it skews one’s own perception of her place in the world as a woman. At family gatherings I would often find myself on the deck around the grill talking about business or sports with the men in the family because I felt so out of place in the house talking about childbirth, children, and all things mom-related with the women. And in my head I was screaming, “wait, I’m a woman too. I don’t have children, but that doesn’t make me non-woman. I’m not a man…why am I talking at the grill…..”

As a woman, and particularly as a Christian woman, I believe we must find a way around this. Acts 4:32 (NIV) says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” One in heart and one in mind. But we cannot be the family that we are called to be if we keep existing in an “infertile us” and “fertile them” world.

Today, (despite being home with a bug) I’m happy to be one in heart and one in mind and share in the lives of moms. I enjoy being a woman, and I need be included as a part of the community of women. I hope that, through open communication of our hopes, fears, heartaches, and joys as women, those women who have children will not overlook us, but will welcome us back as sisters.

So, if you’re interested in reading about some special moms and why I appreciate them, feel free to visit the other blog.

I  was blessed to have a relationship with my Great-grandmother until I was 17, a woman I’ve always admired as the most loving, quiet (as in not-anxious), generous and genuinely good woman I ever met.  Yes, in a way I idealize her, and I always will.

But last night, my Great-Grandmother came crashing down to earth as a real-live, flawed human being.  She didn’t come back to life, she didn’t visit me as a ghostly apparition.  She just became so much more….imperfect….

And I’m sad about it.  I didn’t want her to be that way.  I wanted her to always stay on that pedestal.

Here’s the story:  I have a cousin who is adopted, and the fact that she is adopted never, never in any way meant to me that she was any less a part of our family.  But last night, my grandmother told me that Great-grandma, although she loved my cousin, never really considered my cousin as her own great-grandchild.   She did not take the same pride in her that she did in her genetic great-grandchildren.  She never considered my cousin to be a real member of the family.

That hit me like a ton of bricks, because it addressed so many of my own fears and hesitations about adoption.  Not that I wouldn’t love my adopted child with all my heart.  I have no doubts about that.  But I do fear that my parents and the rest of my extended family would love any adopted child of mine less than the genetic progeny of the family.  I have felt really guilty about feeling that way for a long time, though in my defense, it’s not the primary reason that Tony and I haven’t adopted. [I’m sure I’ll post more about that at a later time.]   But it has been a nagging concern of mine.

It’s a way of looking at your family that can be difficult and painful; trying to evaluate, not only how do you fit in your family as an infertile woman, but how would any adopted children fit into the family? Is your family open enough, accepting enough, tactful enough to see your child as  your child, regardless of the way that child joined your family?

My Great-grandmother had been my yardstick for Christian living all my life, and this unwelcomed piece of information does not sit well with my understanding of either her,  family or Christianity.

I believe that God honors adoption.  Some of His greatest works were wrought through adoption.  In fact, two of his greatest leaders, Moses and Samuel, were both adopted into other families.   And the letters of Paul indicate the very special relationship we have with God as adopted children.

Interestingly, I read this blog post today that brought the whole thing to mind again.

I will forgive my Great-grandmother for being imperfect.  In so many ways she still epitomizes Christian womanhood for me, and that’s probably where I committed my error.  The only measure of Christian living we look to should be Christ, anyone else is bound to disappoint us, but He never will.

And we can always be assured that He loves us as His very own children.

Christmas is a scary time for me.  No, I’m not afraid of elves or white-bearded men who drive sleighs. 

I’m afraid of me

I never know, from day to day, which me I will encounter.  One moment, I will be swept away in the joy of the season, the decorating, the holiday cheer, the cooking.  The next moment, my spirit will fall crumpled up into my feet as I think about another Christmas without children in my home. 

It’s hard to put up a tree sometimes, knowing that no tricycles or Barbies or Tonka trucks will ever grace the base of the tree.   It’s hard, sometimes, to listen to Christmas music knowing that Santa Clause may be coming to town, but he’s going right past your house to the house next door where the two little blond girls live.  It’s hard, even at times,  making stuffed toys for my neices and nephews, knitting little hats for them, no matter how much love them and enjoy doing it for them.  I won’t be knitting little elf hats for my children. 

Sometimes what is hardest is being invisible.  When the decisions about family get-togethers are made, I’m not consulted about my plans to see how my plans will work into the family schedule.  In the early years of our marriage, Tony and I tried to establish our own family traditions for Christmas, such as, “Christmas Eve will always be our nuclear family time to spend together at church, but Christmas Day is for gifts, and family, and food.”  But when my brother and his wife started having children, suddenly our household family traditions weren’t valued as family, because we didn’t have children of our own.  It’s more difficult for my brother and his family because they have children, so plans revolve around their household.  I’m told where and when to show up.  And I do, even if it means giving up that time alone with my husband on Christmas Eve, because to do otherwise would mean to miss out on spending time with the rest of my loved ones.  The family spins around in a whirlwind of Christmas activity that centers around the households with children, and I try to hold on as best as I can.

Occasionally I feel resentful about the way the holidays center around children.  I can’t help it.  There are times when I really resent my childlessness, and the holiday season is one of them.

But if I breathe, and pray, and stop thinking about gifting, decorations, schedules, and food, I remember that Christmas has always centered on children, or at least the birth of One Child.   If I can keep Christmas focused on Christ, if I can see the child in the manger as the infant given, not to me, but for me, it helps.  It certainly doesn’t take away my pain, but it does put it in perspective.

O come, o come, Emmanuel…and ransom captive meRansom me from the captivity of sorrow. 

As I mentioned in my first post, I keep another blog at etrish.wordpress.com, and on that blog I’ve posted several messages about my recent thoughts on my life with infertility.  Rather than have you go and filter through all those posts, I thought I’d post links to them on this page.  Then we’ll all be up to date on the conversation and ready to move on!

Here they are, in descending chronological order:

Dear Anonymous Visitor

Final Thoughts on National Infertility Week

National Infertility Week Thoughts

Things left undone

Emilie, don’t read this

Of course, I hope you read the other blog, too.  That’s where all the info about school, farming, family, and more insights into eclectic little ol’ me.

If you are struggling with infertility, this is not news to you.  Infertility hurts you.  It hurts your family.  It even hurts your friends.

I believe it even hurts God.

Just think about that for a moment.  For all the times we’ve shaken our fist at heaven and cried out, “Why are you doing this to me?  Where are you? How can you watch me hurt like this?”, what if, instead of only hearing our cries, God also grieved with us?  Would that make a difference in your life?

Jesus wept.

It’s the shortest verse in the Bible, and maybe it’s one of the most important, because through this verse we can see the empathy that God feels for His children in their pain.  John 11:33-36 tells the story of a Jesus who was so moved by the grief of his friends that He wept for them.

No one understands our pain more that God, who sacrificed His own son for us, in essence, giving Christ  up on the cross for us, so that we could then be adopted into His eternal family.  I believe that God knows the pain of miscarriage, the fear of infertility,  or the death of a child, and understands it in a way that our families, our friends, and others cannot. When you feel alone in your pain, you can be assured that you are -never- alone.

He is weeping with us.

I don’t like to define myself as an infertile woman. I prefer to think of myself as a scholar, a hard-worker, a friend, a wife, a daughter, a teacher, and most of all, a Christian woman. But there’s no doubt about it, my ten year battle with infertility has made a mark on my life. I keep another blog, etrish.wordpress.com, but I don’t want that one to be about infertility – I want it to be about everything else in my life.

But because infertility is a recurring theme in my life, I thought it would be best to set up another site to address my struggle in living with infertility. So here it is, my pain, my fears, my triumphs, my thoughts, my reflections, my hopes, and my prayers in my search to find meaning.

What you’ll find here…

...is a Christian woman who has battled against infertility for ten years, and is now working her way through living with childlessness. I draw a lot of strength from my faith and God's promises to me, strength I need each day as I search for purpose in life.

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