Secondary Infertility

The Great Temptation

The great temptation of barrenness is to believe that God’s blessed favor will only come to you in the form of a child of your own.

Well, it doesn’t, though it does come in the form of a child – the child Jesus, born to die for your sins.

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; Break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!” (Isaiah 54:1 and Galatians 4:27 [ESV])

God’s blessed favor is for you.

MC900436345

“To the barren ladies I know and the ones I don’t”

bleeding-heart-flower copySomeone loves you and prays for you and bears with you, dear sisters. Read this and rest today while a sister in Christ shoulders your cross.

I’m the one with more children than you have fingers on your right hand. I feel ostentatious and gaudy around you. I feel like having my babies with me is in poor taste, like I am flaunting my riches. I cringe to imagine that you might feel the same way, you who have suffered so much in your own mind and who are now subjected in real time, in public, to stare in the face the dream that hasn’t come true for you. I am so sorry it hasn’t. I am so sorry to think that I might be causing you more pain. I ache for the love you show my silly little people. I don’t know if I could.

I sin your sins. When I see all the world’s human trash with its ill-bred and empirically worthless children, I seethe to think of the pearls cast before them while your clean neck and open ears and graceful wrists and industrious fingers are bare. When another moron teenager turns up pregnant, I want to rage at God for what I can only see as unimaginable injustice and just plain poor planning. I want to make it right. I want to distribute the world’s children sensibly by my own self-righteous fiat. I want YOU, you wonderful, smart, talented, responsible, faithful Christian person, to be a mother of nations. NOT THEM.

I see it. I didn’t want to, but I loved you so much I finally looked and really saw it, or saw it as well as one such as myself is able to. It was the worst thing I have ever seen. It looks like utter desolation, like horror. I can’t look long. I can’t believe it’s the view out your window every hour of every day. Oh, you. You have lost what you never had.

But I know also that we are nearsighted. I am so nearsighted outside of this metaphor that, without my glasses, I can look into a dark bedroom where I know there is a digital clock and still see no light whatsoever. This is how we see into eternity also. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. So I know that, despite its appearance to myopics like us, the desolation is not utter. I know you know too, and we walk by faith together because our sight is untrustworthy.

I cannot tell you how much I respect and admire you for not trying to take by force what God has not given. You are like the man on a lifeboat, crazy with thirst, who still knows better than to drink seawater even though his companions fall to the temptation. It must be so hard to watch them–to watch them sicken, to watch them die, to watch them live. You are the one who clings to a true hope and has the best chance of healthy survival. You trust the Lord, though he slay you.

I thank you for the witness that you are to the sacred blessing of marriage no matter what the quantifiable yield of that marriage. I thank you for the witness you are to the inherent value of femininity no matter what the quantifiable yield of that femininity.

I don’t say these things to you because I feel I don’t know you well enough, or I don’t know how you are doing with all this right now, or I know you feel as sick of this being the relentless topic of your life as I am of the relentless topics of my life. But I want you to know that I am always thinking all these things even as you are, and I pray for you always. I’m sorry if my not saying something makes it seem like I don’t care or I don’t really get it. I know I don’t really get it, but I try to, and I care so much.

I know you feel empty, but you bear the heaviest burden, and bearing is never without gain. God bless you, strong one.

The Control Factor

MP900321091There is comfort in control.

It is common for victims of assault to comfort themselves with illusions of control. For example, women who have been beaten or raped often find blame in themselves for the crime that was committed against them, because, as long as they are somehow at fault – as long as they are not truly victims of some terrible atrocity outside of their own control – then there is something they can do to keep it from happening again.

We comfort ourselves with illusions of control, as well. As long as there is something we can do to get pregnant – some dietary change or surgical procedure or herbal cocktail or adoption agency we can utilize to give ourselves the gift of a child – then we are not really barren. Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful for all of the healthy foods, vitamin supplements, doctors, procedures, and foster care training I have utilized over the years, for they have offered me physical relief and instructed me in how to better care for my neighbor; however, none of these things have given me control over my parental status.

If we could really control our barrenness, don’t you think all of us would be parents, already?

Seeking control of our fertility is a chasing after the wind. Children, birthed or adopted, are a heritage from the LORD, a gift from Him to receive. Turn back to your Father in heaven and ask Him to give you all good things according to His will. Then, rejoice, for He is wise in His giving.

 

Glory vs. Cross

That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened [Rom 1:20]. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened. (Martin Luther in his Heidelberg Disputation, points 19-22)

For example:

A theologian of glory calls barrenness a trial to be overcome, a burden which can be revoked by some great act of faith on our part, a curse that can be lifted by true love’s kiss. (Works Cited: My Own Wishes and Desires: A Treatise, The Complete Works of Joel Osteen, and The Wisdom of the Disney Princesses)

A theologian of the cross calls barrenness a terrible brokenness of the flesh which results from Sin in the world, a cross to be endured joyfully in light of Christ’s promise to make all things new on The Last Day, a suffering given to us by God who loves us and molds us and disciplines us and shapes us and points us straight to Christ’s own suffering on the cross for our own salvation and comfort. (Works Cited: God’s Word as revealed in The Book of Romans)

MC900441763

Blessed

Do you know what calms and comforts the barren beast in me? Two simple truths gathered from God’s Word:

1. To be blessed is to be forgiven.

In Christ, I am blessed, mother or not. I could have all of the children in the world and still languish apart from God’s forgiveness and reconciliation. God has given to me that which I need most, and I can now live in true peace with or without children.

2. God is wise in His giving.

I don’t need to worry about why God gives some women more children than I have fingers on my right hand and me none. He has promised me in His Word that He works all things for my good and for the good of my neighbor. That’s exactly what I want – God’s best. Enough said.

These Biblical truths don’t mean that my days on this earth are all sunshine and rainbows, but they do provide an anchor to which I can cling in the raging storm of grief. They part the sea of suffering and allow me to pass onto dry land. They tell me the truth of God’s fruitful work for me when Satan would have me despair in my own, pitiful, barren works.

And the truth sets me free.

MP900412054

The Grief of Others

We are not the only ones who grieve over our childlessness.

MP900382691Everyone else – our parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews, friends, acquaintances, pew sisters – all experience grief over that which should not be. And, just like us, their grief goes through cycles.

Think about it.

Who in your life assures you that pregnancy can be achieved if you simply relax or start the adoption process or fast from sugar or go to Dr. Suzie-Q for treatments? Denial.

Who insists that if you prayed harder, believed more fully, gave enough money to the church, displayed enough faith, God would reward you with a child? Bargaining.

Who refuses to go to church or punches pillows or blames your husband’s family for your barrenness? Anger.

Who goes numb or bursts into tears every time the subject comes up? Depression.

Can you recognize the different phases of grief in the people around you? Just as we want others to allow us to grieve our childlessness without expectation or rule, so it is for everyone else who is grieving for us. It is loving to patiently bear with their grief, even if that means listening to and enduring and forgiving the thoughts, words, and deeds of the very ones who hurt us the most.

Remember, it may take years of your not getting pregnant or your not being able to adopt a child before any of these people will join you in the acceptance phase of grief.

In the meantime, I am so sorry it hurts. You are not alone. xo

The Lord Is at Hand

At last weekend’s retreat, the following was said to Pastor Cholak: “I understand that my victory is in Christ. I know that He has promised to make me new on the Last Day, but that doesn’t help me today.”

I don’t think I will ever forget what Pastor Cholak said in response.

He talked of Peter on the boat in the raging storm. The wind. The chaos. The noise. The fear.

And, amidst his terror, Peter saw Jesus out on the water – His Lord, walking towards him upon that churning, spitting sea.

“Come,” Jesus said. At his Savior’s bidding, Peter got out of the boat and walked into the storm.  He crossed those tossing waves and salty white caps to Jesus’ side.

But Peter “saw the wind” and was afraid. He began to sink – down, down, down into the dark, cold, suffocating water. He would die from this.

Except, the Lord was at hand. Literally.

Jesus reached out with His hand and pulled Peter out of the sea – out of death – and took Peter safely through the raging madness to the safety of the boat.

So, what of our own fear when we see the wind, when we sink, when we feel the coldness of our cross’s suffocation creep up our throat?

“The Lord is at hand,” says Pastor Cholak.

Amen. Thank you, Pastor.

MP900227652

Get Ready to GETAWAY!

The Great Getaway is approaching fast, and registration for on-sight attendees is now filled and closed. However, we do have room left for commuting attendees.

Do you crave fellowship with other women who understand what it’s like to be childless or to lose a child? Do you have ethical questions about infertility medicine you’d like to ask a pro-life doctor? Would you enjoy eating decadent desserts prepared by a loving pastor and his wife who just want to spoil you rotten? Do you need a retreat in a beautiful house near a scenic park in historic St. Louis?

Then, you might want to join us this summer for the The Great Getaway on Friday, July 26th through Sunday, July 28th. Retreat details and registration information can be found here.

Children at Birthday Party

To Know and Accept

Pink PlumeriaI KNOW that my life may be a cross of barrenness. It is quite another to ACCEPT that knowledge and live under the cross of Christ.

I KNOW that anything that is mine comes to me as a gift through Christ. It is quite another for me to remember that they do not come through any merit of my own.

Dear Jesus, I know that you are always with me. Teach me to accept your good will for my life. Amen.

Mother’s Day: A Pastoral Plea

MP900341759Thank you, Pastor Schuermann.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. For the barren woman, attending church on this particular Sunday is often an exercise in frustration, woe, even great shame brought on by the absence of longed-for children. Far too often, we pastors help amplify these feelings in her.

This is a pastoral plea. Brothers, I beg you, remember every Sunday your entire flock. But especially this Sunday, remember all the faithful women who Christ has entrusted to your care.

Remember that a part of your flock have received from the Lord the blessed vocation of motherhood, whether their children are biological or adopted. In the prayers of the church rejoice with them, give thanks to God for them, and ask God to help them faithfully raise up these gifts from Him.

But remember, too, that many in your flock – whom you may or may not be aware of – have not received the gift of children from God. And they may be longing for that gift. Please be sensitive to them. Recall that the natural inclination of sinful man towards a theology of glory has resulted in them receiving countless, “helpful” comments and encouragements that are nothing but empty promises and legalistic claptrap. Pray for these women, too, that they would receive what they long for: the gift of a child, biological or adopted. But also do not fail to pray on their behalf that God would give them the faith and trust to contentedly rejoice in what He ultimately does give to them. It may not be a child. In other words, help them to pray, “Nevertheless, Lord, Thy will be done.”

And also remember the sheep of Christ’s flock who are past the time of having any expectation of receiving the gift of a child. Please don’t leave them out. Pray for them, too, that they would recognize in their lives all the good gifts the Lord has given to them. 

Please don’t parade them in front of the congregation in order to offer up prayers on their behalf. Please don’t draw unneeded attention to them by giving flowers or some other admittedly well-intentioned gift only to those in the congregation who have children. Allow the barren to sit and grieve, to receive from their Lord, and to pray along with you. That’s your God-given task in the Divine Service, anyway: to lead them in prayer and to care for them with Christ’s true, comforting Word and Sacrament.

In fact, my encouragement would be, if at all possible, to limit your Mother’s Day references in the service to the prayers. Keep your whole flock focused on Jesus and His forgiveness present there for them today. But in the prayers do indeed pray, praise, and give thanks for the mothers, mothers-to-be, and all those who desire motherhood but have not or will not receive that gift from God.

I think these words, included in this year’s “Let Us Pray” for Easter 7 from the LC-MS, fit the bill nicely:

“Father of glory, Your Son, our Lord Jesus, in His incarnation, took on our created human flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary. He submitted to His mother, honoring and obeying her, so fulfilling the commandment where we have not. On this Mothers’ Day, graciously accept our thanksgiving for our mothers, whom you have given to us. Teach us to honor them aright — loving, obeying and giving thanks for them, as is fitting in Your sight. Strengthen all women with child and protect them in their deliverance. Comfort all women who long to have children, but cannot, that they may find their consolation in You and Your unfailing love. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.”

Rev. Michael P. Schuermann