Fertility Guilt

Sometimes I feel guilty when I’m around barren couples. I have a healthy eight-month-old who I simply adore, and yet I find myself holding back that joy when I’m in the presence of the childless.

The truth is, three years ago I wondered if I might be barren, too. When I first met Katie, author of He Remembers The Barren, we both didn’t have any children. And we were both honest with each other about how that affected us. I was 29 at the time and two years into marriage. Not too old, but, by many physicians’ standards, losing ground fertility-wise.

Perhaps this is an affect of feminism (It couldn’t possibly be my personality, ha!), but in that season of my life I built up emotionally stoic walls to safeguard against self-pity. And I entrenched myself in my work. Sure, my husband and I wanted children, but if it wasn’t going to happen, then I focused on what was in front of me. After all, I was a deaconess. I had God’s Word in my back pocket (literally), and knew where to go to receive everything I truly needed, rather than wanted.

Then I suffered a miscarriage in 2009. Even though it was very early on (five weeks) and we trust God’s promises for that little one, it shook me only further to think that I might never hold a child of our own. So when I became pregnant again a year later, I kept that stiff upper lip. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Yet as each trimester passed successfully, the magnitude of motherhood began to sink in.

And then joy of all joys, Knox was born. As if making up for nine months (and perhaps years) of emotional avoidance, my whole being and demeanor bursted like a broken dam, as I embodied what I imagined Mary might have felt when she voiced the Magnificat. My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

To say I was overjoyed to hold this little person would be a vast understatement. Even now, my cup runneth over as I look at him.

So when I think about how to address this miracle and blessing with other women who cannot conceive, I hesitate. I mean, I don’t want to come off as insensitive to their thoughts and feelings while gushing about my own. But as dear Katie has encouraged and reminded me, it is important to express what a gift our children are to whomever we come into contact.

I am also reminded that the baptismal liturgy urges all Christians to support these little ones in the faith, to nurture and teach them what God says, and ultimately receive His gifts of Word and Sacrament together. This is the barren soul’s invitation to serve in a very important way, as Sponsor and/or fellow Christian.

So please, dear barren sister and brother, forgive those of us who hold back from discussing their children with you. Be patient with them as they get to know you. My guess is that this takes time–for both parties–to eventually feel comfortable speaking freely. Let us pray that God grants us healthy and open lines of communication, rooted in Christ’s love, to bless us all in our given vocations. This so we may rejoice together in His many, many gifts. In Jesus name, Amen.