Remember infertility on Mother’s Day

This Sunday dads will wake up extra early to make their wives breakfast in bed, or at least a good cup of strong coffee. Children will work diligently during their Sunday school hour cutting out yellow-and-pink paper flowers or finger painting picture frames.

Teenagers will yield to sitting with their families during the church service, instead of in the balcony. Pastors will lead congregations in special litanies and deliver sermons with exceptional titles such as “The Ideal Woman” or “Parenting with a Purpose.”

Families will leave church hand-in-hand rushing to their cars to make it in time for their 12:15 brunch reservations. This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and for someone like me it is the most dreaded day of the year.

Many Christians this Sunday will debate staying in bed all morning, or perhaps they thought ahead and planned a weekend trip away. They may call their Sunday school director and feign a stomach bug to get out of teaching.

Perhaps they will decide to go to church but sit on the back pew so they can duck out before the roses are handed out. Or maybe they will only make it to the parking lot before the emotions become too much, and wonder through their weeping if they made a mistake attempting to come to church this day.

Infertility is a beast. It is a repulsive, smelly leviathan looming in the shadows beyond hope’s edge. This evil monster eagerly waits in the darkness ready to sink its venomous teeth into one’s joy during the most celebratory moments of life: A child’s birthday party; family sporting events; Christmas morning; baby showers; and of course, this blasted creature completely rips apart Mother’s Day.

I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome in 2006. Naturally, I was devastated to discover that I would have trouble getting pregnant. But being single at the time, I simply hoped for the best and got on with my life.

It wasn’t until I became engaged in 2008 that I became more anxious about the issue. After we were married, my husband and I immediately began trying for a child. After a year of no luck, we began fertility treatments. After a year of painful and emotionally draining treatments, we called it quits with the drugs and simply “put it in God’s hands.” Now a year and a half later, we are still waiting for a miracle.

While I would like to think that I am unique in my problems (I just love a good pity party!), surprisingly 10 percent of Americans suffer from infertility. Even more shocking is that our churches rarely address this issue.

Congregations tend to sweep “bedroom matters” into pastoral counseling offices or basement support groups. Childless couples who are in their 30s and 40s find themselves isolated from Sunday school classes that focus on parenting issues. And though attempts are made to say a special prayer on Mother’s Day for those unnamed women who are “moms yet-to-be,” most infertile women who attend church this Sunday will leave feeling a huge sense of loss, grief and disappointment.

Does the church unintentionally teach couples to be ashamed of their infertility? Rather than hiding infertility issues, what if the church committed to filling the void felt by childless couples?

What if the church had a service to surround childless couples in blessing and prayer? What if the church made more of an effort to integrate infertile couples into its current family ministry model? What if the churches simply said the word “infertility” a thousand times over so it is no longer taboo?

Each Mother’s Day our church prints the names of mothers whose children and spouses have given them roses. Perhaps that’s the most painful part of Mother’s Day, not being named. Christ dedicated his entire ministry to naming and renaming hurting and broken souls. Jesus called out people’s pain. He offered a welcoming place of rest and nourishment.

We can’t deny it. Infertility is out there. We need to call it out. We need to affirm and support our childless families. We need to be the peace of Christ.

This post originally ran on on May 9, 2012.

Erica Cooper

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Erica Cooper is associate pastor and minister to families at First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Ga.

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