Please Keep Your God out of My Infertility

Dawn Davenport

30

Don't tell me that God made me infertile because I'm not  cut out to be a parent.

I am not easily offended. I hear a lot of stupid and hurtful things that are said to those with infertility and to adoptive families, but most times I see these comments as ignorant or the result of people not understanding infertility or the sensitivities of people who want desperately to be a parent. While these ignorant comments can and do hurt, they don’t make me mad. I save my anger for hate-filled comments that attribute ideas to God—to my God.

Here are a sampling of comments made by so-called religious people.

  • “You are infertile because God doesn’t want you to be a parent.” (This little jewel comes in many different variations: “God doesn’t think you’ll be a good parent” or the one that really makes me want to scream– “God doesn’t think you are ‘mother material’”.
  • “Maybe this wouldn’t be happening if your husband had a better relationship with God” (meaning went to church)
  • “Honey, it’s just meant to be.”
  • “There must be sin in your life preventing you from becoming pregnant.”
  • “I had trouble too, but I prayed really hard and read the Bible and now I have 3 beautiful children.”
  • “You’re infertile because your husband plays Dungeon and Dragons, and God clearly disapproves.”

I am not kidding you folks. These are exact quotes that people have heard—people who are hurting, people who are struggling, people who are suffering from the disease of infertility.

These comments offend me not because I lack faith, but precisely because of my faith. As a Christian it bugs the ever-loving out of me that someone would be so disrespectful to another person in pain, and quite frankly so disrespectful to my God.

One woman in our online support group, when told that God made her infertile because He didn’t think she’d be a good mom, replied:

Well then, I think your God is an a$$hole because why would He give children to people who end up abusing, neglecting or killing them and not to me, who would give anything in the world to have a child and would spend my life being the best mom in the world.

Amen, sister, amen!

Religion is a sticky subject—everyone has different ideas on what it means to be a good Christian or Jew or Muslim or whatever. For this reason, and others, I usually steer clear, but these comments offend me on such a personal level. My religion is very important to who I am and how I live my life. Christians have a bad enough name in some circles. We don’t need knuckleheads who think they have been called by God to set people straight spouting off thoughtless and stupid statements in the name of Christianity.

So here’s the thing: unless you are absolutely sure that God himself has told you to say something that is going to inflict pain and can accomplish nothing other than making a suffering person suffer a little more, keep your thoughts to yourself. And if you do believe that God is telling you to do this, consult with your pastor first before you say anything.

My God calls me to help those who are hurting regardless of the cause or if I believe that they contributed to their own pain, so I suggest that if you really believe that God punishes people with infertility or withholds children as a way of judgment, the truly Christian thing to do is to give them a hug, make them a pot of chicken-noodle soup, and say how sorry you are that they are suffering and that you are praying for them during this hard time.

 

What stupid stuff have you heard in the name of God about infertility or adoption?

P.S. #1 You might enjoy our blog on Stupid Things People Actually Say to the Infertile and Snarky Answers to When are You Going to Have Kids. And heck, while we’re talking about insensitivity, why not read 10 Things You Should Never Say to Parents Through IVF.

P.S. #2 In no way do I think that Christians have a corner on the insensitivity market. Although it is true that all of the above comments came from Christians, I suspect that if we lived in a culture where another religion was predominant we would hear these same comments attributed to their religion.

 

Image credit: Waiting For The Word

25/02/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 30 Comments



30 Responses to Please Keep Your God out of My Infertility

  1. Milanya says:

    My IF diagnosis was made in 2007 (after two IVFs I’m now the mother of a preschooler) At first I was too stunned by assertions that infertility was some kind of divine intervention to respond, but on some level I always knew those assertions were ridiculous.

    Then the following year, national headlines were made by a missing toddler (later found dead) and her mother’s highly questionable behavior. To me, that served as proof of what I had always suspected: that either God doesn’t use infertility to select whom he deems to be suitable parents, or he does but his criteria is pretty arbitrary (to put it respectfully).

    And, I would mention this mother’s name to anyone who suggested my infertility was a message from God. That shut them up pretty fast.

  2. Geochick says:

    i haven’t heard anything that hideous thank G-D. I have heard the gentler yet still crappy comments like “barren people are needed to take care of the kids who need it” which actually wasn’t said to me but to my cousin on a FB a debate between her and my ultra religious aunt. I was the subject of the conversation. How fun that was to stumble across!

  3. Donna says:

    I’m not religious, but Amen sister!

  4. Anonymous IF says:

    To add to my last comment, I have also heard others who do not claim any religious affiliation try to “explain” IF as “nature’s way of controlling the population”. When I hear this explanation and its use as a reason why ART treatments are wrong, I always wish that I could add “so my IF is nature’s way of controlling the population so that there will be more than enough room for you (and your selfish views). NOW it makes sense. It does my heart good to know that I am doing my bit for the environment. Now, tell me what YOU are doing for our planet? These explanations help no one, and hurt far too many. Nothing like kicking someone while they are down under the guise of piety or concern for the environment. UGH!

  5. Anonymous IF says:

    My problem is that IF is so often painted as a punishment in religious scripture-think the stories of Hannah, Sarah, Elizabeth, etc. Or else it is painted as a way for God to sweep in at the last minute and provide a miraculous conception after He/She sees the point as having been made in these character’s narrative. It still amazes me that in the 21st century with all of our technological advancements and the wisdom we have learned about medicine and disease, we still take these particular stories as being literal and use them to shame others about their condition. After all, they were written by a people who lived in an age when they believed that the earth was flat and that a lunar or solar eclipse signified the end of the world. The bible also blames mental illness on demon possession and blindness on the “sinful” nature of one’s parents, but somehow we have evolved on our thinking concerning those conditions. IF’s day will come as well for this type of evolution, but it can’t come fast enough for those who suffer from it and struggle with it. As well, I have a hard time wrestling with the religious community’s disapproval of ART of all shapes and sizes. These procedures are meant to help people to overcome their condition in ways they can live with. Those who consider themselves religious should support these procedures and those who need them to build their families-if the idea of compassion truly means anything to those individuals.

    • Michelle Ward says:

      Let me start off by saying that I have struggled with infertility for several years and have tried almost all meds and had several procedures (to try having babies or take care of different forms of miscarriage). I also am a Christian who takes the Bible literal and believe you have to have look at the Bible as a whole for context and meaning.

      Hannah’s, Sarah’s, Elizabeth’s stories were all not meant to show God sweeping in the last moment to “save” them from their infertility. Sometimes he allowed events to take place a certain way in order to allow a bigger purpose to take place. For example, if Hannah never went through her years of infertility, she would have never made the promise to God for her son to be dedicated to serve the Church and pretty much not be able to spend much time with him. God did not have infertility take place to punish or reveal sin in people’s life’s. Just look at John 9:3 where Jesus answers this question and states that the man was not blind because of sin, but in order to reveal God’s power. I believe the same can be said for infertility.

      Infertility exists for many reasons… could just be the sinful nature of the earth and God allowing free will to take place… could be not the right time for the couple to have a child as He is still working in their lives… or maybe for some reason we are not supposed to have children as their is another focus we are called to do.

      Believe me, I want my miracle baby more than anything.. and I am not trying to push my Bible on other people. However, I do believe it and will defend it when people have an incorrect understanding of it.

      The church as a whole does not disapprove of ART. Heck, I have completed several rounds of IVF and even adopted embryos to transfer. My church community fully supports me.

  6. Rebecca says:

    On the flip side, I look back to our infertility journey and I will never forget when a woman told me she was “praying for healing for us…no matter what that might look like.” It was a prayer so that, yes, we would get pregnant -but she acknowledged that beyond that it was a prayer for healing for our emotions and our marriage. It was very helpful and I was struck that her approach didn’t support the MANY believers that walked the path with us that insisted that it was prayer and faith that would “cure” us. The belief that if we could just figure out what God was trying to teach us, we would get pregnant and move on. We did find healing in our marriage, in our emotional turmoil through God presence, and that healing she prayed for continued as we brought home our 3 kiddos through adoption. Thanks for discussing this—so important!

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Rebecca, I personally love it when people tell me they are praying for me. I appreciate it regardless of their religion or beliefs. A Muslim woman told me a year ago that she was praying for my safe travels home and I appreciated her prayers as much as my church prayer groups prayers for safe travels.

  7. Denise says:

    My parents wanted lots of children, but during that time, were not allowed to adopt unless a doctor certified that they were “totally incapable of becoming pregnant”. After 10 years, they had my sister and myself. I remember a friend of the family telling us that “you girls were the most wanted children in the world”. Years later, throughout infertility treatments, frustrations with the foster care system, adoptions, I remember her words. I truly believe, FOR MY FAMILY, that God has a plan for US, that He wants US to truly appreciate the gift of parenthood. It’s possible that our struggle has made us more appreciative and maybe that’s HIS plan, maybe not…I don’t know. I would never try to second guess the plans of the Almighty, nor would I ever try to determine His plans for anyone else. And for anyone, Christian or not, to do so is unconscionable, in my opinion. I am so sorry that people continue to say unimaginable things to those enduring this disease. They’ve been doing it for decades, maybe generations, and I guess people haven’t learned. Hopefully, through patience and understanding, we can help them to understand how hurtful their words are, but it’s a long drawn out process.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Denise, you and I share a similar belief about God and His role. I personally believe that God is active in my life and it gives me hope when I’m going through hard times to know that there is a greater purpose. What I find offensive is the part where someone would tell another person in pain that God is punishing them. Even if you believed that, it seems unkind at best (and downright mean at worst) to say that to someone in pain.

  8. Cara Johnson-Blystone says:

    No one knows where families are in the grief process when dealing with infertility or if you have given up a child. Acknowledging someone’s pain and telling them you hurt, because you see their pain. Sometimes the best way to live your faith is by simple compassion. No big speeches, plaitutdes, wishes are necessary.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      [Sometimes the best way to live your faith is by simple compassion. No big speeches, platitudes, wishes are necessary.] Words to live by!!

  9. Robin says:

    Our 1st year of marriage we discovered we were pregnant, not with one but two children. We were 20 and 21, happy, scared, and million other emotions as it was not planned, We were both still in college, at 29 1/2 Weeks I went in labor and both boys died at birth. My parents told me “what a blessing”, 6 weeks later after the doc and other medical testing we discovered we had to have them now, right now or I would not be able to have children. I had a daughter 11 months later, then 10 months later a son, the 3 years later our youngest daughter. Again we met with the doctors and at 26 my illnesses took over my body and we were done we had planned and both prayed for a large family and once again my parents “thanked god that he stepped In and stopped me from destroying my life by having more kids”. The difference is that I believe GOD has a plan for each of us and as determined as we were he made it possible for us to adopt 4 chikdren, I don’t think he punished me, I did question my faith when my boys died, but without my faith and belief that his strength helped me I don’t know if I would gave the 7 children we have now. Even at 47 & 49 my parents still make comments about our family , it has caused a huge problem in our relationship but they think it’s helpful to say such hurtful things, in reality no one should say such cruel thingd.

  10. lisenu68 says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. It’s so hurtful to hear this, even though people mean well. There is a parallel situation that’s even more common: this sentiment is also often expressed in response to adoption itself, that the APs were “meant to be” the child’s parents. When I hear that my son was always meant to be ours, always from truly well-meaning people who like or love us, I have to stop to breathe a moment. Though the people who say it are invariably trying to be kind and supportive, they have rarely thought it through to its logical conclusion: if God meant this child to be mine, that means that God meant for him to lose two sets of parents before the age of 2, be transplanted halfway across the world abruptly (because no matter how much they prepared him, how much could he have understood at 20 months?) into a place he didn’t know and could not understand (albeit with people who loved him), for him to feel the confusion, fear and deep grief at the loss of the only life he had ever known, and for him to forever deal with the sequelae of that. It also means that it was meant to be for his birth mother to grow and nourish a child, and then have to part with that child whom she loved more than she loved herself. She lost her baby every bit as much as anyone who has ever lost a baby- *like all of those of us who have*- no matter how they lost it. It’s heartbreaking. In suggesting that my son was meant to be mine, they manage to whitewash all of this. To me, this idea seems cruel and heartless, which is contrary to the idea of a loving God. My happiness doesn’t mean more than theirs does. And I didn’t deserve to be infertile any more than they deserve to lose each other. Stuff happens. We deal with it the best we can. To attribute it to a master plan, to me, seems an act of convenience; it certainly tidies up the story. But in so doing, in my view, it bypasses the serendipity, the spectacular wonder of it all. I think I appreciate it all the more because of the dizzying randomness of it.

  11. Patricia says:

    I heard every single one of these and then some! These were things that made me so downtrodden that I wouldn’t darken the door of a church for over a year! People of “faith” can be so cruel. Now we’ve adopted one and are fostering 3 more children and I’m sick of the “why didn’t you want any of your own?”

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Patricia, I’m sorry. I would say that it isn’t just people of faith that can be cruel, but apparently faith doesn’t exempt you from saying unhelpful and potentially mean things.

  12. Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

    I am posting this anonymously for someone:
    “Hey Dawn,

    I wanted to response to you post on God. I am writing you a private message because unlike you I don’t count myself as someone who has a thick skin.

    At one point in my life I was studying to be in the ministry. I have heard a lot of people “hid behind God” or use satan as an excuse. What I loved about your blog post is your honestly about the whole subject.

    What bugs me the most about these comments, is that it doesn’t take away the pain. I have heard many of those quotes said to me or my husband. I wanted to scream. Even IF and that is a big IF those things are true again it doesn’t take away my pain and anger at God. I just wanted to share my thoughts. Thanks for the post and all you do!

  13. Sara says:

    In my experience, people say these types of things about infertility, and not other diseases or medical conditions, because (most) people don’t look at infertility as a disease. They think of it as a mind over matter thing, or just unfortunate luck. They understand what cancer, or diabetes, or asthma, or (insert whatever medical condition/disease here) are. They know people with those conditions. They see the physical effects of those conditions, etc. But infertility isn’t a disease like those other things, in their mind. That is why it is so important to talk about our experiences, to be advocates, and to educate, so hopefully, things will change.

  14. Beth Presswood says:

    This hits double for us atheists who neither believe in a god, and get told that’s why we’re infertile.

  15. Heidi Saxton says:

    Thoughtless, even downright nasty individuals can be found in any group of people. I’ve found that the quickest way to stop the bad feelings is to take what is helpful, and let the rest go.

    No two people exercise faith in quite the same way — and those who try to see the hand of God in every aspect of life can seem to speak a different “language” than those who don’t — easy for misunderstandings to occur in such situations.

    Because I’m a Catholic Christian, I tend to see God at work in most circumstances. So there have been times when I’ve told myself that it simply wasn’t God’s plan for me to carry children, that he had another plan for me and my family. I never saw this as a “punishment” or a shameful thing — just another source of hope.

    I don’t believe God caused my inability to have children, but that because we live in a broken and fallen world, bad things happen even to the best people. And because of that, God takes the broken and painful places of our lives and invites us to work with him to make something beautiful out of it. Not perfect, but beautiful nonetheless.

    A friend of mine told me about the Japanese ceramic art form called kintsugi. Pottery is broken and glued back together with golden glue, which forms golden seams along the edges of the shards. It’s what I think of, when I think of my life and the lives of my family. I do believe God, who is outside of time, saw the beauty that was going to result from that car accident that injured me, and from the horrific choices that brought my children to us. I do believe that I was not supposed to give birth to my children — if I had, I sincerely doubt I would be parenting these two children. As it is, everything is as it should be.

    Faith can be a real gift, and a tremendous asset, when someone is walking through a dark valley. And sometimes the kindest thing someone can do when they see someone struggling (besides the chicken soup, great idea), is to encourage them to look beyond their immediate pain to find a source of hope. Try to see the light in what they are saying, and let go of the rest. You’ll be better off in the long run.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Oh Heidi, how nicely you put this. I too don’t want anyone to see their infertility as a “punishment” or a shameful thing. I also agree that in my life it is helpful to try to look beyond my immediate pain to find hope.

  16. Anon AP says:

    I have to say that even the relatively benign phrase “I’ll pray for you” irks me. If I were praying already, then it seems like I must not be doing it right. Since I don’t believe in the power of prayer or a higher being, then it seems like the person is then setting themselves to claim credit either for themselves or their faith if medical intervention or a freakish-though-vaguely-possible month of things working properly actually occurs. What’s more is that I am then expected to receive it gracefully instead of saying, “well, if a fervent request is all it takes, then God must just not be listening to many, many infertile folks.” That would be rude, so I don’t, but I do sigh about it later because I have to work to not make other people uncomfortable. I know people mean well and mean it as a kindness, but please just say, “I’m sorry. Please know I’m here for you if I can help.” Pray all you want if you believe that will help – I know it is meant generally as a supportive gesture and one that people believe works – but please don’t tell someone about it unless you know they share your beliefs in that area.

  17. Sara says:

    We were told we were having failed adoptions because our faith wasn’t strong enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑

Content created by Creating a Family. And remember, there are no guarantees in adoption or infertility treatment. The information provided or referenced on this website should be used only as part of an overall plan to help educate you about the joys and challenges of adopting a child or dealing with infertility. Although the following seems obvious, our attorney insists that we tell you specifically that the information provided on this site may not be appropriate or applicable to you, and despite our best efforts, it may contain errors or important omissions. You should rely only upon the professionals you employ to assist you directly with your individual circumstances. CREATING A FAMILY DOES NOT WARRANT THE INFORMATION OR MATERIALS contained or referenced on this website. CREATING A FAMILY EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS LIABILITY FOR ERRORS or omissions in this information and materials and PROVIDES NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, implied, express or statutory. IN NO EVENT WILL CREATING A FAMILY BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES, including without limitation direct or indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages, losses or expenses arising out of or in connection with the use of the information or materials, EVEN IF CREATING A FAMILY OR ITS AGENTS ARE NEGLIGENT AND/OR ARE ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.