...or have you also noticed the positive rash of people who are pregnant at the moment? I notice it because I live in community and a fair few members of the community are currently pregnant, or have just recently (in the last fortnight) had babies.
This used to drive me nuts. In my pre-pregnancy days, in my pre not-trying days, I used to feel like I was surrounded by pregnant women. Or I was surrounded by women who had recently been pregnant, or women who had young kids. It was crazy.
Every week I had to run the gauntlet at Moorewomen... "do you have kids?"..."No it's just us"..."any on the way?"..."not at the moment"...
And then if it wasn't that conversation, it was the listening to others talk about their pregnancies; how sick they were (or weren't)...what they craved (or didn't crave)...; their labour/birthing stories... I was going insane!!!
Now don't get me wrong. I was happily not pregnant. I was working, and loving it (for the most part).
But I know many many women at College (now and in the recent past) who have struggled and are currently struggling with infertility (either explained or unexplained). I know women for whom Moorewomen was a weekly torture session to which they subjected themselves because they knew it would be helpful in their pastoral careers. I know many more women who avoid Moorewomen even though they are aware of how helpful it will be in the future, simply because the pain now is too great. It hurts too much to have people assume you have kids; to see women week after week fall pregnant (apparently) easily, with their 2nd (3rd, 4th...) child while you still struggle through falling pregnant with your first. I know women who keep their emotional rollercoaster battles with IVF and other fertility assistance treatments a secret.
I have fought hard to try and keep a level playing field (so to speak) at Moorewomen, so that not every topic is related to having kids, so that people without kids (of whom I was one for my first 3 years of College) could feel free to come and learn and grow without feeling like they were missing out (even though they feel like that anyway).
We at College and in parish ministry need to be more aware of the prevalence of fertility problems. We need to think through how we talk to couples who do not have kids; perhaps being careful of unspoken assumptions about whether or not they will have kids. We also need to think through how to pastorally care for those who struggle with infertility in the long term- many couples try for years to fall pregnant before going to assisted fertility treatments, and many more do not believe in those treatments, and suffer in silence. We need to think through how we place people in Biblestudy groups, how we arrange our creche rosters...etc
In many ways I was lucky. I was a strong personality who could deal with the baby talk week in, week out. I was happy in my work. I was happily not pregnant. And when we were " not not trying" to fall pregnant, I was ok each month when things didn't happen. People who knew me at those times will know that I would assert that I didn't really want kids all that much anyway.
I did want kids. I wanted them so much that I was afraid of having them. I wanted the security of knowing ahead of time if they would be healthy, and that my pregnancies would go well. If I asserted I didn't want them that much anyway, then if I didn't fall pregnant, it wouldn't matter. But each month it did matter. Six months of not not trying and I still wasn't pregnant. On it went. More people I knew were falling pregnant...but not me. And I was still ok. Had I not fallen pregnant when I did, I may not have been ok for that long really. But luckily for us, I fell pregnant.
And then we had to watch the faces of friends (who we knew had been trying much longer than us) fall. And then the smiles masked the pain. Another friend pregnant. Not me again this month. The hearty congratulations, masking the "why?". Some of those friends are still trying over a year later.
We pray every night that they will fall pregnant. Of course prayer should be our first port of call when we seek to pastorally care for those who struggle to conceive.
What are some other practical ways we can care for those who struggle with infertility?