My husband and I often talk about the ’secret club’ of people with infertility. It’s a strange club. Few people join by choice, close friends might be unaware they have a common membership, and if you end up getting what everyone in the club desires, your membership is immediately void. You could be a member for only a short time, or your membership may never expire.
It is no doubt because of this strangeness that I felt the conclusion of Just the two of us was really unsatisfying. There was just a weird mix of hope and hopelessness. That is, there is hope for all, but for some this hope may come through the situation remaining unchanged. I guess this is simply a reflection of infertility itself. Whilst you are experiencing infertility, there is always uncertainty about the future. This inevitably affects any conclusions we can draw because we just don’t know. And though the final chapters reflect on long term childlessness, there is a sense where the hope still lingers in some form, even if it presents in the form of loss.
The grief of infertility is chronic. It may go through ebbs and flows, stronger at times and more manageable at others, but it is an ever-present grief. This can be a very tiring truth, but I like the encouragement mentioned in the book from Isaiah 40:27-31 – God gives strength to the weary! And this is not just strength to keep on living, but strength to keep on living for God’s glory.
A Christian friend of mine who works with university students told me once that it is difficult to train women for Christian work because women of that age only make plans in 2 year blocks. If they’re married, they may have children by then, if they’re working they might be out of the workforce with family. Even if they’re single, they could possibly even be married and then pregnant in two years time. It is easy to see how the uncertainty infertility brings for a woman’s life can create a perpetual state of existence feeling as if life is on ‘pause’.
And so it is helpful that Just the two of us offers, amongst the inevitable message of hope and healing, a few gentle yet wise rebukes.
We mustn’t make an idol out of family or children. Though it is difficult to let go of the dreams we had for the future and the pictures we created in our minds of what our lives would look like, we are to be careful not to let anyone or anything other than God rule our hearts. Bitterness is a real danger for those whose expectations are not met, and can easily harden us towards God.
I really could associate with the feelings Kath expressed (p164). My Mum is a midwife who absolutely adores her job. She talks so fondly of all of the newborns, and loves to dote on children in general. I am quick to feel jealous when I see her enjoying another’s child, wishing instead that it was her own grandchild she was enjoying.
And yet as the book has so helpfully reminded us all the way through, the message of Jesus is not an empty Hallmark condolence. It’s not even a comforting ‘second best’. The gospel message forces our eyes to the horizon where we see that though the grief of not being able to bear children is right and very real, we must always be able to say there is a joy much greater than children. That joy is being known and owned by God (p 173-4).
Everything is in God’s hands: our past experiences, our present situation, and our future. Infertility is not a mistake. And this should cause us to wonder at what opportunities God has given us as a result of this situation. Though this might seem to us like ‘Plan B’, it was always God’s intention to mould us for good through this momentary trial.