On Faith, Wombs, and Enoughness
“God doesn’t promise anyone a baby,” she said, sitting across the table from me at lunch. “He only promised He’d be there with me.”
I know, it sounds like a rage-inducing moment when your hope feels stolen, but all I felt was relief. Relief that someone finally said what I feel every single time my infertility comes up and religion is thrown at it like it’s the solution that guarantees a pregnancy.
I was on a lunch date with my faith-filled Christian friend who didn’t get her hoped-for and paid-for baby after two rounds of IVF. Years later, Justine does some of the most important work in infertility I think there can be: teaching people to overcome their infertility diagnosis and be themselves, no matter where they are in their journey. Justine found and grew her faith after stopping her infertility treatments, and I admire her ability to love so generously despite her hardships. Hell, I think she loves harder because of them (and because of her three babies who never got to walk this Earth).
Couples struggling with infertility get a lot of mixed messages from people witnessing our pain and suffering. We’re told to pray harder, to believe more, to never give up because God has a plan. But the conversation rarely goes beyond the “keep fighting, you’ll eventually win” stage.
Goodbye, self-care and self-worth. Hello, dangerous messages that misconstrue what it means to have faith. Because relying on your faith so that you don’t feel alone is one thing, but someone telling you you’re not religious enough or you need to do more praying is kind of like telling you to just relax or to just sleep with your partner more. I’ve seen way too many women hold onto “God will hear your prayers” like that message alone will get them pregnant.
This blog post is hard. Please, don’t leave yet.
Our conversation was calm, casual, and important. The two of us respectful of the other’s beliefs, we stood firm in our own while attempting to find a common answer that felt logical and loving. This wasn’t about bashing anyone or ignoring the value of a belief system. Instead, it was about acknowledging how harmful good things can become if we misinterpret messages. “It just seems so unfair to me, disingenuous even, that there are people who preach that giving it up to God is enough reason to keep fighting.” I paused, thinking of a way to phrase what I wanted to say, but she beat me to it. “God doesn’t want anyone to drown in hormones, debt and sorrow.” She smiled at me across the table, her cool blue eyes inviting me further into the conversation.
I knew then that I could say what had been on my heart since the last time she and I were together and someone else shared the never-stop-fighting message.
“What meaning does that send to people like you, who decided to be done? That God didn’t love you enough? Or that you didn’t trust Him enough? Why is it better to keep fighting a battle than to believe your life will having meaning without a baby?”
“It’s kind of alienating and cruel,” I said. “I just can’t get on board with that.”
We settled onto one key concept:
1. Every person must decide when enough is enough.
We went on to discuss that different people have different enough boundaries. Some people are capable of affording or mentally processing countless rounds of IVF, while others know their mental well-being will suffer if they continue. We talked about finding a balance between infertility and faith – however those apply to you – and remembering each of us has free will.
In truth, this is a very big conversation that needs to include setting your own boundaries and finding a healthy balance between conversations around infertility and faith. Because when people tell me to pray harder or trust more, it makes me feel alone and misunderstood. It makes me feel out of control and weak. And since those are feelings that infertility already gives me, it certainly isn’t what I need.
How do you know how hard I pray or how much I trust? What if I’m already doing all that I can?
This isn’t a condemnation of any praying people. Instead, it’s a starting point for a much larger conversation. Fertility treatments can easily become an obsession and ruin your emotional well-being. You must know your limits (and not push beyond them).
If you’re tired, rest.
If you’re heartbroken, mourn.
If you don’t think you can possibly do another round and want to think about other options, then think.
Those choices are not about giving up or sending the message that you don’t want a baby. They are absolutely, unmistakably about knowing you deserve to take care of yourself while battling one of the hardest fights of your life. Knowing your personal limit can help you feel more control over a process that can make you feel totally out of control. Yes, even though some of the options aren’t what you want them to be.
You are not unworthy or broken because you want to take a different path than what is commonly preached. You are not a bad worshipper or a heathen because you question whether a decision is good for you. You are certainly not alone if this blog post feels like a permission slip to finally feel what you’ve been holding back. Just as Justine said, someone is there with you.
Please, do not let someone else’s opinion of how you worship make you feel inadequate.
You are worthy. You are whole. You are valued.
You deserve to do this journey in the healthiest way for you.