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Childbearing pains of a different sort

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Did Eve glance nervously at Adam? Were the palms sweaty as Adam gently squeezed her hand in his?

The diagnosis: “Your troubles in pregnancy and the pain of giving birth will increase.”

How did God’s voice sound? Was it matter-of-fact? Perhaps a grave sadness to those words? What did Eve think, or Adam feel, in the moments, months, years to follow?

The effects of Genesis 3 play themselves out time after time. A doctor delivers the test results to the anxious couple: infertility. Once again, the troubles and pains of childbearing increase in unanticipated ways. Couples find themselves on a journey they never imagined, negotiating one thorny dilemma after another.

Negotiating infertility

I sometimes think Adam and Eve got off easy. After all, they didn’t have to weed through the concerns about using assisted reproductive technologies.

Is it good stewardship to spend thousands of dollars trying in vitro fertilization?

What happens to the fertilized embryos that don’t get used?

Are we playing God?

“If this doesn’t work, we could adopt,” she says.

“But then our kids might think they were only our third choice,” he worries.

No. Adam and Eve simply had the kids they had.

They didn’t have to endure invasive interrogations, either, nor let adoption agencies assess their finances, their relationships, or their overall potential as parents.

They didn’t have to jump through the bureaucratic hoops, or play the waiting game while their file cleared the various layers of legal red tape.

No. Adam and Eve simply had the kids they had.

Nor did they have to put up with the monthly emotional roller coaster of hoping and praying and trying, then dealing with the disappointment. Again.

They didn’t have to mourn the loss of intimacy. Or resist the urge to blame him. Nor fight the temptation to resent her. Sex didn’t have this chore-like agenda attached to it.

They didn’t have to deal with feelings of inadequacy, depression, anger, helplessness, or isolation because they were unable to fulfill God’s mandate to “be fruitful.” They didn’t have to wonder how long they should keep trying. They didn’t have to bury a lifelong dream.

No. Adam and Eve simply had the kids they had.

Good news for us all

And yet, I suspect that Adam and Eve, were they around today, could relate to people who journey with infertility. A son kills his brother, and the pains of childbearing increase in an unanticipated way. The second-guessing is almost inevitable.

What could we have done differently?

Where did we go wrong? Did we do enough?

My God! Why have you forsaken us?!

And I suspect that those who are unable to have children, as well as Adam and Eve – and all the rest of us, too – are the same in that we’re desperate for good news. After all, we far too often experience our world as barren and lifeless.

We all need the good news that the everlasting Father, who has experienced the troubles and pains of childbearing, does not abandon us, but runs out to embrace his sons and daughters.We need the good news that the mighty God does not waver or flinch when our praises run dry, and all we can offer are anguished cries and songs of sorrow.

We need the good news that Jesus is the wonderful counsellor who listens to us, who comforts us; the prince who guides us to peace in and through our suffering.

Of course, even though we’ll never know what Eve felt or Adam thought, we can know the sound of God’s voice. Yet I wonder: if our music fixates on God’s glory and power, do we drown out God? By ignoring pain, do we send the message there’s something wrong with those who suffer? If we don’t make space for lament, how can God speak to all of the feelings we experience?

And I wonder: if we give simplistic and insensitive answers, do we distort the good news? Do we muffle God by adding to the pains of childbearing? If the church doesn’t address the challenges of life with care and thoughtfulness, how will today’s Adam and Eve, who bear the pain of infertility, ever really hear what God has to say to them?

I wonder: what kind of church might we be so the childless will experience the new life God desires for them?

That is, after all, the point. Isn’t it?

–J Janzen, Interim Editor

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