The scripture has many examples of barren women who eventually, by God’s grace have a child. I suppose some people struggling with infertility read these scriptures full of hope that one day God might bless them in this way too. Some (like me up until recently) might avoid looking at them altogether because although they may have been blessed by God, He may not choose to bless me this way and that’s a hard thing to face. And some may choose to read about these women’s characters to see how they dealt with infertility. This is what I have been doing recently.
As I said, there are a number of barren women in the bible and I'm not going to cover most of them today. For now I'm just going to touch on one word said by two different women in the scripture about their struggle of infertility.
After struggling with infertility for years Rachel finally conceives and has a precious baby boy. When she does she says something that I think many if not all women struggling to have a baby would feel at some point in their journey. In Gen 30:23 it says "She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.”
Over in Luke 1 we meet Elizabeth. She was also barren for a long time before she conceived her son John. When she does she says in verse 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
The word used by both of these women about their infertility is “reproach”. The word reproach means disgrace, rebuke and shame. It can also mean notoriety. Being known for something and in this situation it’s for the simple fact that they couldn’t have children.
I can tell you quite honestly that I have felt this feeling of shame that is involved with infertility. A shame that I don’t think a lot of people who haven't struggled with it themselves understands or even realise exists.
I struggle with this shame on a daily basis. Here are some of the more frequent reasons I feel ashamed of myself. Do you relate to any of these?
Infertility and Shame
It makes me feel like I’m much less of a woman. All the other women around me are being bright and beautiful little mother's. They're raising their children the way God commanded them to. But I can't do that.
It makes me feel unloved and unwanted by God. He asks in Gen 1:28 for the whole world to be populated. He wants people to raise up families for Him. I can't do that so I question why God wouldn’t want me to have kids. Does He love me? Has He forgotten me? Does He think I wouldn't make a good mother? Has He rejected me? This is just a taste of some of the self destructive questions that can plague my mind if I’m not careful to squash them as soon as they come up.
It means my husband can't have the children he's always wanted. If I can't have these children for him there will always be something missing from his life. If he had married anyone else he could have been happier and have the children he so longs for.
Then there's the weight gain (which obviously isn’t a factor for all people with infertility but is a problem for me and many others with PCOS). I feel so scared people will look at me and just expect that I am lazy and eat terribly because of my size. Or worse, think that I’m pregnant. It's happened before and it's incredibly embarrassing. I dread having those awkward conversations trying to explain to people why I am the way I am. It’s so shameful.
My medication makes me feel pretty lousy. I constantly feel like I'm going to throw up a tiny bit. The very thought of some foods makes me want to wretch. And I would love to have a day or two where I wasn’t just utterly exhausted.
And we have the anxiety and depression side of things. That on top of feeling sick from medication sometimes leaves me in a bad way. Sometimes I can’t even leave my house. If I’m honest sometimes I can’t even leave my bed.
So when Rachel and Elizabeth say God has taken away their shame when they became pregnant, I have to say I get it. Infertility makes you feel totally ashamed. It makes you feel so unimportant and like you are far less worthy than other women.
I don’t have any amazing profound advice on this. I wish I did. Like I said, I struggle with it everyday. All I can offer you if you’re in the same boat is a “me too.” You’re not alone. We are in this boat together and I’m really sorry you are in this situation.
I can’t say for sure why it is God has given us this trial. But I know that through it all, He loves us. And on those especially hard days when shame and sadness consume our hearts we need to remember this.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:38-39