When suddenly, nothing happens

Black Hole, part 4

I am a person of faith. When life is hell, in theory and in practice, I can lean into the hand of the God of the universe, and sometimes I do. Other times I just want kick and scratch that hand out of anger, like a raging punk-ass Thumbelina in the hand of a giant. Right now, I am exhausted.

What I have learned after 29 months of disappointments is that my body simply doesn’t want to conceive naturally. The water is bitter, or at least bereft of necessary nutrients to support new life. Perhaps years of hope deferred have left their tailings in an empty womb. Perhaps some of us weren’t meant to be mothers. I have learned there are many women of various ages who feel that last sentiment acutely. Motherhood and the desire for it are not definitive for femininity, are they? I would like to think that not being a mother does not compromise my identity as a woman, in fact. While this is a recent and fairly privileged idea, I would like to think that it is none the less true. I can be–and am, really–fully female without having a child of my own. So then, why are we so suspicious of women without children (and spouses, to roll it back a notch)? Come to think of it, why does society continue to invest only partially in young women pursuing careers?

We are wrestling with a still new phenomenon of women and work–public work, visible-to-society work. The consequences of which (I suspect) have spurred on the fertility industry. We never think we’ll need help, until we do. Then we are suddenly reliant upon half-caring professionals who, with vague understanding, begin to try first one thing, then another, without having any idea what might actually work. Of course, for many of us, we hadn’t even started thinking about children until our mid-30s because we wanted something like a career, or we waited to get married (a corrective from our parents’ divorce-happy generation), or we weren’t even certain we wanted kids. But, after a while, everyone else started doing it, so we figure we’re supposed to as well. Then, all of a sudden, nothing happens. We’re too stressed, too overworked–too old–to conceive naturally. The job that was a symbol of ‘making it’ casts its shadow. We hear stories of women continuing in their careers after having children, and it sounds great, just like having two cakes and one fork. And we hear stories of women taking time away when their income went solely to childcare. Both are searingly complicated.

In her book, Infertility Cure, Randine Lewis made a point about children for couples after infertility being absolutely desired and adored–and that made me sad, even as I sensed a deep truth to that statement. Why is it that we would need to be deprived of something (someone)? What happens in that time of unfulfillment? This question haunts me. In fact it has followed me through the library doors and into my theological study.

As Christians, we live in a time of unfulfillment:

Christ has died,
Christ is risen, 
Christ will come again. 

We anticipate a Now/Not Yet Kingdom filled by the light of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. But we have no idea what to expect, really. ….It’s a bit like infertility.

2 thoughts on “When suddenly, nothing happens

  1. I don’t have a lot of encouragement, friend. I know the exhaustion and anger of unanswered prayers so I can say that I’m with you in that way. In terms of infertility, all I can really say is that I’m sorry.

    I can relate to and have wrestled deeply with the question of femaleness/womanhood from the angle of not having children and being very sure from a very early age that I did not want kids. Confronting the assumptions that this will change as I get older or get married has been really painful because it has not changed. My questions have, though. “Is there something wrong with me as a woman who has never wanted children?” “Am I less of a human being because I’m a woman who does not want kids?” MY answer is an emphatic – and sometimes a frustrated and angry – no. Society on the other hand…

    1. Two books I’ve read (or at least started) that are proving helpful are “Maybe Baby” by the writers at Salon, and Joan Didion’s “Blue Nights”. The Salon writers include stories from those who decided against having children at some point. It’s amazing to read people who have really wrestled with the question and how to articulate the decision not to have kids. I highly recommend it, along with the rest of the stories.

      Especially in Protestant church culture, I think we will have to be the ones to engage critically with the dominant view of family, even as we learn to say, Yes, children are a blessing. From here, it looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us.

      Thank you for your thoughts.

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