I have been thinking a lot about having children lately. (Not thinking about having them myself just yet!) I have many dear friends who have just had babies, many who are pregnant, many whom have struggled with infertility issues, some who have gotten pregnant and some who are still trying. I know some whom have miscarried, some who had horrible pregnancies filled with sickness and pain, others who ended up with emergency c-sections. The experiences have been so varied for my friends and they have all been filled with times of joy and times of sadness.
Like I do when faced with incoming information that is hard for me to sort out I think to God and the Bible. It is easy to want to ask...Why did so-and-so have a miscarriage? Why can't so-and-so get pregnant, when so-and-so gets pregnant so easily. I have cried for my friends and felt their pain (only the tiniest portion of the full pain I'm sure). I have prayed for them. In a way, having friends who needed those prayers had reinvigorated my own prayer life. In asking God for the deepest desires of my friends I have felt closer to God.
I struggle with the question of infertility and when I look at the women of the the Bible, it is their main struggle as well. The Bible links women and childbirth from the onset, and it is a link that is filled with pain. Eve's "curse" is literally pain during childbirth. Certainly there is pain associated with the act of labor itself, but I have come to realize that their is pain in the whole process. There is pain in being unable to concieve, or unable to carry a child to term, there is pain in watching others have children if you are unable to, and then there is the pain of childbirth itself, and finally the pain mothers feel trying to protect there children. But I'm certainly not so pessemistic to view the act of having children as a pain-full act. It cannot be full of pain because their remains the room for joy and wonder. When my friends have succeeded in having children, their pain increases their love (if that is even possible, for all my friends love their children more than anything). So is this pain a curse? Yes........and no.
The Bible is filled with "barren" women. Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, Elizabeth to name a few. These women were "cursed" with the title barren and the Bible says that God eventually did give them children. Their responses and attempts are varied and wonderful. Sarah, who is nearly 100 by the time she gets pregnant, laughs at the angel who says that she'll concieve a son. She laughs. Of course, it is preposterous to think of and after decades of barreness it must be easier to laugh. Perhaps their were no more tears that can be shed for that particular pain. But she does bear a son, Isaac.
Hannah prays fervently for a child, offering any future child to God's service. She is so hungry for a child that she wants one even if she has to give him up. She too recieves the gift of a child and true to her word Samuel becomes a prophet for the Lord.
Rachel, wife of Jacob, struggles for years watching her sister and fellow wife bear child after child for him. She is jealous of her sister I'm sure, but loves her none the less. She can't imagine why she isn't blessed as well. Ultimately she goes on to have Joseph (who brings the Israelites to Egypt) and then dies bearing Benjamin. Her greatest joy also cost her her life.
Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist after years of barrenness. Her birth was fortold by God to Zechariah, her husband. She was to give birth to Jesus' cousin, who prepared the way for Jesus himself.
These women all faced barrenness and were given children who became key figures in the Bible. I have seen a bit of their pain in my friends eyes. And as my friends become pregnant and have their tiny beautiful babies, I see the joy that they must have experienced as well. I have seen prayers work alongside medical interventions. I've seen miracles that go beyond the "normal" miracle of birth.
I don't know the answers to infertility. I don't know the causes or the solutions more than basic descriptions. I don't know why it happens to some people who I know would make outstanding parents, and those who take little regard for their children can have them with seeming ease. I don't know what the reason for it is. I know that the pain for those going through it has not eased in these thousands of years, but I also know that prayers are still being answered.
To all my friends who are in the process, whatever part, know that you are all in my prayers.