Motherhood was the biggest thing that ever happened to me. The experiences of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding took me on this epic interior journey. It was motherhood that taught me that I had value and shattered all the years of false beliefs that told me that I was nothing. I will always be grateful for the way God designed my body to teach me this lesson.
Now, though, it seems God is teaching me a different lesson, not through the process of childbearing, but through the experiences of multiple miscarriages, and the pain of secondary infertility. I love what Elizabeth Ministry blogger, Ruth said last week about infertility in Scripture, that it’s God’s way of saying, “Something exceptional is happening here! Pay attention!” So I try to pay attention. I try to pay attention to how God is working in my life, and the lives of those around me.
I’ve also been paying attention to St. Elizabeth, Mary’s kinswoman. Through Elizabeth, it seems God is affirming the dignity of those women whose bodies do not work just the way they are supposed to, the infertile women, the women with multiple miscarriages, the women with PCOS, endometriosis, and so many others. I also think about God’s first mandate to married couples, “Be fertile and multiply.” I’m certain this applies to all of us, even those that are “barren”. Because bareness can be fruitful.
When Elizabeth felt lonely and isolated when other women shunned her because they were afraid her infertility would be contagious, or her culture thought that she was a sinner being punished by God, those crosses bore fruit. When the law and cultural expectation mandated that Zechariah should leave Elizabeth by the side of the road to die, Zechariah’s defense of Elizabeth’s dignity bore fruit in a culture that only valued women for their childbearing abilities.
As Elizabeth Ministry founder has pointed out, perhaps Elizabeth’s isolation from others made her commune with God and it was this closeness that allowed Elizabeth to recognize Mary as the Mother of her Lord. Perhaps it was from the pain of rejection that allowed Elizabeth to encourage Mary and lift her up, giving her the confidence to proclaim “All ages will call me blessed.” Perhaps it was the fruit of Zechariah’s courage to go against the cultural expectation and keep Elizabeth that gave Joseph an example and encouragement in choosing to keep Mary as his wife.
We know that eventually Elizabeth bore a son, John the Baptist, when she was past childbearing age, and in this way everyone was given a witness that Elizabeth wasn’t being punished. Her infertility wasn’t a curse, it was a gift that would one day point to the marvelous work of God being done in their midst.
I think that perhaps infertility bears the same message today, and we must pay attention. Today, I think I will continue to hope that I may have more children, but no matter what, I pray that I will be fruitful.