Friday, February 09, 2007

Inside Mandolyn's Head, Episode 1: Religion and Infertility

Sometimes, long blog posts need an introduction. Without further ado:

Melissa at Stirrup Queens had a great post on Wednesday- Sermony that really struck a chord with me. She has several questions from a woman planning on writing a sermon designed to reach out to the infertile congregation. I thought I’d leave a comment on her blog, but it turned out to be a little lengthy (ahem). So…in response to her post and a few of the questions Melissa has posted on her blog:

My husband and I have been talking about finding a church lately. I’ve always said that I want to raise my kids with church to give them a basis to form their own beliefs from, just as my parents did. It’s a hard thing for me, organized religion. I haven’t had any specific bad experiences per se, I just don’t feel like I fit in. Yes, I realize how much of a lame excuse that sounds like. I haven’t been to church (other than a few special occasions) in almost ten years. I fell “out of practice” in college. I went to a private college that was once affiliated with a certain denomination (that I grew up a member of, and actually do like, based on beliefs) but found that church services were something that everyone did because they were supposed to. It was beyond cliché, it was sickeningly hypocritical. I realize that happens on a much larger scale than just a college campus, but I suppose the exaggerated environment really struck me.

I don’t believe that religion and spirituality exist in the confines of walls and stained glass windows. I haven’t attending a church service in years, and yet I think I have felt closer to God and more in touch with what I believe since…not that the two are directly related. For me, stepping back and diving into myself and my beliefs and wrestling with it made me truly comfortable with my own spirituality. I felt in touch with religion when I took the time to notice things around me- the crisp morning air, my husband’s sweet touch, the togetherness I feel every year at a family reunion, the sun on my skin, a big sloppy dog kiss. It worked for me. Until infertilty...then I had to reexamine it all over again. I'm a work in progress.

How has dealing with IF changed your view of God (if you had one?)

I don’t know that my IF changed my view of God and religion, but it made me very aware of how differently infertility is perceived through the (religious) eyes of others. I have never been completely comfortable with the thought of God’s Plan for me. Do I have a say in it? Don’t my actions make a difference in what happens? I like to think of it more as God’s Big Flow-chart. Free will has to play into the game somehow. (This is the part where my brother turns red in the face and starts reciting verses, sure that he can make me understand that I’m dangerously mistaken.) So many people gave me religion-based advice and thoughts about my inability to conceive and my miscarriage. I wanted to scream.

“It’ll happen on God’s time, baby, not yours.”
“Let go and let God.”
“It just meant that the baby wasn’t perfect in God’s eyes.”
“We can’t question God’s Will. It was just meant to be.”

If all that is true, then God consciously chooses which babies make it and which don’t. Which wombs and which cycles get to carry a baby to term. And then how is that based? Obviously not on merit, the world has far too much evidence of that. I hardly think it's a lottery. But we’re taught to think (however simplistically) that God rewards good people, and that children are rewards, precious gifts. And then guilt sets in. If all that is true, then I must be doing something wrong, this must be a consequence of my actions, of the way I’m living my life. Maybe I don't deserve a baby. It goes on and on….and I can’t understand that. Maybe I just refuse to. I don’t think that God decided to finally let a baby implant itself in my uterus and then decided he needed to die in a matter of weeks, any more than I think God causes the terrible, horrific things that happen to people all the time. The truth is, my infertility has led me to think that God doesn’t necessarily cause or authorize all the pain and suffering on this Earth, but rather that He’s there to help us through it.

Would it cause more pain to hear it talked about in church or be a comfort to open a dialogue?

I would love to have discussions on infertility at church. I think that it’s one of those messy, uncomfortable issues that people shy away from. It can test your understanding of religion and life in general and it’s easier to ignore it. I’d rather take hard subjects like infertility, roll my sleeves up and talk about them, expose them make them real, and I think church is a wonderful setting to do that in.

Which brings back the question: can someone outside the experience ever speak as honestly and as eloquently as someone inside the experience? Is it the speaker or the personal experience that truly has the power?

While I think that the perspectives from both sides of fertility are important to hear, I don’t think that one side could speak about the other and do it justice. We can speculate and try to empathize with what we don’t know personally, but it isn’t the same. I think the power lies in the personal experience. I've been trying to expand on that thought for the better part of an hour now and haven't come up with anything profound to add. It's just that. If anyone can talk with heartbreaking honesty and absolute eloquence about infertility, it's an infertile, whatever her/his experience and perspective may be. I guess that's all I have to say about that.


Heather said...

I think you explain it really well. That is how I feel about God too [in the how dealing with IF...].

My God is a loving God, he hates seeing me in this pain.

The Town Criers said...

This is a great post. And it's so true insofar as any religion. If you start placing this idea of
G-d's plan in place, how does that make the infertile woman feel? What did she do wrong or why is she being tested? Those answers don't console me.


Michelle said...

Great post. Mike and I have also had difficulties with the Church viewing IVF as an evil sin. I am Catholic, he is Lutheran, and neither church approves of it.

And as I look at Madelyn I have a hard time believing that God will condemn us to hell for seeking medical intervention to create a baby who is SO loved and well taken care of.

Bobby and Ivy said...

Okay, I have to comment on a comment!

Michelle! Don't ever let anyone tell you something like that!! Your precious baby is a GIFT, not a sin! That just boils my blood!

Mandolyn, you have such a great perspective on things. During our battle with IF, this is exactly what my mom kept telling me. That in no way did God hurt me, but rather to use Him to help me. That advice really got me through some very bad times.