Celiac Disease has over 300 associated symptoms, one of which is infertility. The cause of this is not known for sure. However there is anecdotal evidence to show an obvious relationship. An Italian study showed that women with Celiac Disease had higher rates of missed periods than those without the disease. For most women with Celiac Disease, infertility resolves after starting on a gluten-free diet. If you know me at all, you know I’m not like most people. Correlation- I’ve never been able to conceive.
Often many will say, “Regardless of your infertility, you’ve been important to the lives of many children.” This is indeed true. I have been a youth leader, a nanny, a teacher, an aunt and “mom-in-arms” to many kids. In addition, I get the comments that I’m “still a dog mom.” They are adorable, but somehow still not the same. Sadly, I’ve had other comments that aren’t as compassionate. The parents who have said to me, “You just wouldn’t understand. You’re not a mom.” Gee, thanks.
Maybe my infertility is a blessing in disguise. I can’t pass on Celiac Disease to another generation. (Or any of the other host of family diseases that run rampant in my genetic background. Cancer. Epilepsy. Diabetes. Bi-Polar Disorder.) After a decade, I’ve had time to process my thoughts and emotions. (Don’t be fooled. It took all of those ten plus years to get where I’m at today.) Most years I’m at peace with the situation.
Then there are the years when I’d rather hide from the world on Mother’s Day. Our lives often seem full of stress. Stress in our family, in our jobs, in our community, and even in our church. My nerves can be so close to the surface that you might snag them as you simply walk past me. (People often think I’m “so nice.” Some times I think it’s just because I’ve learned what outward behaviors are socially acceptable.)
We’ve talked about adoption before. In all honesty, for us that involves deep conversations and lots of emotional baggage. We were going to start the process a few years ago. Now we’re older. Life here in Flint gets more chaotic. Each passing school year, administrators add additional responsibilities upon my middle-school-teacher husband. No matter how many years pass, living with infertility still makes me feel like a failure as a woman.
On Mother’s Day a few years ago, it was one of those rough years. The projector stopped working right before service. They couldn’t figure out why. It was literally working just before service started. The minister apologized for the technical difficulty and the inability to show the lengthy Mother’s Day video they had planned.
In that small moment, I thanked God for a busted projector.
Truly, it took all my control during choir rehearsal to not cry aloud like a blubbering idiot. Never mind that I wanted to turn and run out the door as soon as choir was over, ducking out mid-service and walking home next door. Especially as I knew waiting for me at every door were carnations for every woman in the church. Somehow those “token” carnations emphasize my infertility even more.
Why do we address Mother’s Day in church at all? Is it a directive from God? Or is it because it’s a secular holiday anticipated and desired by the congregation? This day is painful for some. Other women like me have faced infertility. Others have lost a mother or a child. Some people have had an abusive mother. (I see this all too often here in Flint. Why do we ask our neighborhood kids to praise their mothers as these women in their homes beat and berate them?) The church is so often alluded to as a hospital for the sick and hurting. I just wonder if we are honoring “tradition” without seeing how it affects those who are truly seeking sanctuary.
If there’s one silver lining in my infertility, it’s that it’s caused me to want to support mothers in general. Maybe because I see what an honor and blessing and hard work it is. Our mothers deserve much more than one day of appreciation. I think especially of food-allergy moms who take so many more extra steps to safe guard their children. A nice lunch or a new piece of jewelry can never compare to their sacrifice. Mothers need our support and encouragement everyday. They need to know the day-to-day monotony of repeating themselves is truly valuable. They need help carrying the fearful weight on their shoulders, wondering if they’re “doing this child-rearing thing” right.
So a challenge on this Mother’s Day. Please do honor your mother in as much as you are able. But honor the other women who have had an impact on your life as well. Teachers, friends, neighbors, etc. Not just today. Do it every day you have breath in your lungs. Do it because they choose to be an intentional part of your life. Honor them because they encourage you to be the best you can be.
May you have a blessed Mother’s Day, whether you are a woman, a man, or even a transgendered person. Know that you are made in the image of the Most High God, who thought you (me) so valuable that He sent His one and only Son to die for your (my) shortcomings so that you (I) may have a personal relationship with Him daily. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Never forget that.
Have you been affected by infertility? What has helped you in your emotional journey? What ways do you use your talents to nurture others?