Sunday, January 29, 2012

The thing Nobody Talks About

I started Nobody Talks About with capital letters because I have always appreciated how A. A. Milne (author of the Winnie the Pooh books) capitalizes certain words in the middle of sentences when Pooh, or another character finds them especially meaningful. For example:
“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.” Winnie the Pooh

One of the reasons I started this blog is because fertility challenges are among those things that Nobody Talks About. And I've always been an open-communication-type person, of course, at the appropriate time. But some of the most important things in our lives, things that shape us, things that we need support around, things that are really tough to handle on our own are things Nobody Talks About. Death. Feeling depressed. Feeling alone. And not being able to have children the typical way. And sometimes the oppressive feeling that comes from not being able to talk about it is almost as awful as the thing itself. And the funny thing is, when you do talk about it, inevitably you find someone else who can relate and empathize or sympathize. And then the thing that felt So Huge and Burdensome is a bit easier to bear because someone else is bearing the load with you. Immediately after starting my blog I had 2 friends contact me who were dealing with their own fertility struggles. They'd never talked to anyone about it because it was one of those things Nobody Talks About.

The interesting thing is, this even happens in churches. And one would think that in church we should feel free to Let It All Hang Out. But we don't often. And for people struggling to have children, church can sometimes be a sad and lonely place. You look around and see so many happy families and pregnant women. And often times in pre-marriage counseling they remind you that one of the reasons God created marriage was for reproduction and Psalm 127:4-5 "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." And you're walking around with an empty quiver wondering why. And, after you've been married for about 3 years, well meaning people start asking things like, "So...are you thinking about starting a family?" And honestly you kind of want to slap them or scream at the top of your lungs, "YES! That's ALL we think about!" But you aren't supposed to do that, particularly in church, so you paste on a smile and say something non-committal like, "All in God's time." The interesting thing is, the bible talks about several "barren" women who longed for children, Hannah, Sarah, Rachel. But I've rarely heard a sermon about what it must have been like for those women to not be able to reproduce.

Today, Aaron and I went to a service dedicated to couples dealing with the challenges of infertility at Cedar Park Church, Presentation Sunday. Says their website:
In commemoration of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Mary and Joseph 40 days after His birth, we have designated the last Sunday in January as Presentation Sunday. On that day, along with other churches around the world, we will be praying for couples who are desiring to have children, but have encountered difficulty in doing so.

As a couple who has struggled with having children for years, it was an amazing service to be at. Here were hundreds of couples willing to step forward and say, "Yes, we're struggling." And here was a church willing to acknowledge the pain of that struggle and come along side them. One of the things I appreciated was that there were no "promises." Yes, they said hundreds of babies had been born since they began having these services over 20+ years ago. And they had testimonies of people who had conceived after attending the service a previous year. But they acknowledged that there was no "one size fits all" solution. Some of the couples who shared testimonies talked about how they succeeded through embryo adoption, some through IVF, some through the "old-fashioned" way. They also welcomed people of all faiths, sharing that God blesses all. They also took away the stigma, shame and, of all the crazy things, guilt one can feel when they can't have children. Sometimes I know I felt like I had done everything in my power, and that maybe God was mad at me, or if I would just learn the lesson He wanted me to, then we would have a child. Those thoughts weren't from God, or things He would do. The church acknowledged that this is a far greater challenge, with up to 1 in 4 couples struggling to have children, than one might think.

Perhaps the best part was that they also "walked the walk." The church has its own Embryo Adoption Ministry where they match families who have embryos remaining after an IVF cycle with families who would like to adopt those embryos to start their own family. They also have a Foster Care ministry to help children who desperately need homes find them. And every summer the church sponsors and runs a week long camp called "Royal Family Kids Camp" for foster children with only a $25 registration fee, which can be waived.

Thank you Cedar Park, for spending an entire Sunday on the thing Nobody Talks About.