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Happy Childless-Not-By-Choice Day

By Positivist ~

Important: I am not looking for sympathy here. Please don't dish that out, or empty platitudes. This is not a sob story but a point of discussion.

Childless Millionaire and a Poor Woman Blessed...
Childless Millionaire and a Poor Woman Blessed with Children (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Recently a friend, upon learning of our ongoing struggle with infertility, gasped in horror, "I would DIE without my kids!" Realizing the moment she uttered those words that perhaps they were not helpful to my pain, she stopped short and looked at me strangely. The conversation changed direction abruptly at that point. This topic is not popular.

Now, several friends have dealt with infertility by extracting from the clenched fist of God that which they feel is due them, with an equally wide range of methods as results. We are one of the few folks out there who believed in the sovereignty of God and his perfect, loving plan for our prayer-filled lives.

We have finally concluded that God has nothing to do with fertility--or anything else for that matter--but sadly we are left holding the bag from a belief system that failed us monstrously, not only in this facet of our lives but in many others as well.

Shall I assume that God knows best, or should I assume instead that he has nothing to do with anything? Was it God's plan that we sell the house to raise money for in vitro--$20,000 per implantation, regardless of success? Would it be God's will that my husband and I divorce over our pain? Was it God's will that we kept attending our highly fertile church, despite the intense pain it causes us? Is it simply God's will, perhaps for the betterment of my character, that I am the only woman remaining in the congregation while all the church's mothers are called to the front to get a flower to commemorate their robust reproductive systems? Is my pain an "I love you" from God? Or is it simply God's will that I live a life of endless suffering, for his great glory, because the odour of my gaping, purulent and infected child-wound, the saline tears that flush it, and the cries of anguish that underscore it, are pleasing to God?

It is not infertility exclusively that has driven us from belief, but it certainly has not helped. The usual answers we get from religious people regarding why our prayers (for anything) go unanswered are:
  • We can't understand God's plan ("don't ask questions")
  • Our suffering may have a huge impact on God's kingdom, even decades after our death ("suck it up; someone else's salvation is more important than your peace, fulfillment or happiness in this life")
  • The world is a messy place and who can understand why prayers seem to go unanswered ("excellent question; wanna go ride bikes?")
  • God owes us nothing; we owe him everything ("who cares if it works? It's true, and that's all that matters")
  • You must have done something wrong, believed the wrong thing, or cherry-picked the wrong verses ("you're not doing it [the christian faith] right")

It is easy to deconstruct each of these and to show how absurd they each are. I was of the "God owes us nothing" belief, in case you're wondering, while simultaneously harbouring the belief that he loves us, loves to bestow good gifts on his children, is more kind and giving than any earthly parent, and is moved by compassion to act on our behalf. It's funny how it's so easy to preach that "God owes you nothing" when he in fact has already given you everything--you see, it's people with children who tell me "God owes us nothing" in response to my pain. Wouldn't it be absurd for a well-fed American to shrug off a Somalian child's starvation with "God owes us nothing"? Where's the compassion, never mind the logic?

Atheists, lesbians and humanists salve my wounds; they comfort me and nurture me back to health. Indeed, much kindness exists where I did not expect it.The other problem with the "God owes us nothing" tripe is the fact that the gospels send a very different message with its inane, grandiose and ultimately empty promises. I fell for these promises, hook, line and sinker. I built my life upon the shifting sands of a Middle Eastern failed apocalyptic prophet.

In all of my hardship, the message I am ultimately getting is not a religious one at all. Instead, I rue the day I stepped foot in a charismatic church. I threw away the best years and biggest talents of my life, poured them into a bottomless inferno along with all that I treasured. I shut my brain off--essentially turning off my intellectual gag reflex--so that I could swallow bigger and bigger nuggets of bullshit doled out by Bible-believing pastors. I gobbled it up, believing it was nourishing my heart, mind and spirit. I cherished spiritual food above real nourishment. Instead of thriving, though, I became increasingly cachexic. Lacking grace for my ceaseless pain and so intellectually bereft that I failed to grasp the simplest of religious notions--like understanding when it is appropriate to cherry pick which Bible verse--I finally, late in my third decade on planet earth, dragged my battered, pain-wracked and nutritionally depleted body that housed a spirit broken by God's withholding of compassion, away from the fading embers of God's cruel inferno and quietly licked my open, weeping wounds in the fading shadows of failing belief. Few followed me to this dark wilderness--but I find a kindness there I did not expect. Atheists, lesbians and humanists salve my wounds; they comfort me and nurture me back to health. Indeed, much kindness exists where I did not expect it.

The wilderness becomes my new home.

I am emerging from the debris of a life of pain and suffering. I emerge but not the way I entered my wilderness; I emerge by a different road. I am changed and so is my path. I am entering a promised land--but not the one that was promised to me. It is a new promised land but of my own making. Bereft of grace and intellectually impoverished, my feet stumbled over great pain, and my strength finally failed, but I finally am finding peace.

Tis a strange road, this path we trod, lined with flowers but paved with despair. Nonetheless, we tarry on each in our own way. May we never cease to be moved by compassion, for such is all that sustains us.

So, I wish you all "Happy Childless-Not-By-Choice Day", regardless of your procreative prowess. As you scan your newsfeed and see everyone thanking a deity for their children, please remember (and maybe even remind them) that a deity is not part of the reproductive equation.

If you are a believer reading this, please do not respond with offers of prayer. I lack the grace to hear what you actually said --"I'll pray for you"--and instead hear "fuck you". Most Christians can't handle an upset theological apple cart. Please don't tell me I "did" Christianity wrong. I didn’t.

Above all, I extend my compassion to those who have tried to become parents, without success, and to those who have found that the grace promised them has been withheld and the promises of their beliefs empty. May you find peace and comfort.