Being Infertile

I get frustrated with the word infertile.

What do you think of when you hear that word? I think of faulty reproductive organs, doctors, syringes, ovulation, hospital gowns, sperm counts, hormones, petri dishes, and all kinds of medicine. Do you know what I rarely think of when I hear the word infertile? I rarely think of God.

That is why I prefer to call myself barren. I know that it sounds harsh, maybe even old to our twenty-first century ears, but barren conjures up Biblical images in my mind. It acknowledges that I have a Creator who opens and closes wombs. It affirms that my childlessness is a divinely-allowed state of being rather than a man-made diagnosis of a medical mystery.

I also think the word barren better represents the medical reality of childlessness. Not every woman who is without child is necessarily infertile. Barren means “not productive; desolate; fruitless; lacking.” There are many women in the body of Christ who are barren simply because they have not been given the gift of a husband – the unmarried and the widowed – and their childlessness has nothing to do with infertility. There are also married women who, much to the bewilderment of their doctors, simply never conceive.

If someone calls me infertile, I remember that I am the patient of a limited, human doctor who can only give me a child 33% of the time. If someone calls me barren, however, I remember that I am the child of a merciful, loving God who gives many good gifts, not just the gift of children.

Language is important, don’t you think?