Monday, April 24, 2017

Why is barren a dirty word?

It's that time of year again! NIAW 2017 - National Infertility Awareness Week. I am grateful to RESOLVE for having created the safe space for us to reach out to each other and empower each other. In my first post yesterday I called myself barren and someone pointed out to me that barren is a word that is associated with being devalued, and that is very true and something I would love to address.

There is not a good word to use for those of us who are living and have lived through infertility: barren, infertile, childless? None of those words are "acceptable" in society, they all have negative connotations. Rob Bell once talked about reclaiming words, like when the word God or religion rubs you the wrong way due to a bad experience in your life. I'm OK with reclaiming the word barren. It is used to describe some amazing matriarchs in the Bible. These women were a source of solace and inspiration during my darkest hours. Barren does not have to mean useless or empty. For me, it just means that there is something in my life that will always be missing, I acknowledge it, and have learned to not just live with it but embrace it. I also want to acknowledge it even though the word makes others uncomfortable or because they might think I am dwelling on what I don't have. Our journey through infertility has given me something that I might not have necessarily found for myself, I learned to prioritize myself and not think of it as being selfishness but an act of love to myself and those around me. I learned during treatment, and afterwards when I was healing physically and mentally, that I have little to give if I don't first replenish my needs.

Infertile is not any better than barren and it doesn't have the rich heritage that the word barren does. During treatment, I shuttered at even hearing the word childless, I felt that if I thought of that word even for a second that I was jinxing myself, or "giving up." Obviously now I feel different about the word, and have also learned to reclaim it and I often refer to my husband and I as either childless or childfree.

This is part of the conversation for this week, we want others to listen to our stories and not think of us with pity.  Infertility is a grief that has no greeting card you can send. (Well... actually there is this one website: It would be great if when someone is so indelicate as to ask if I have children to be prepared for the answer that I will give: "No, I can't have them, and adoption is not for us."

We are the other side of the coin, the one that people don't want to acknowledge is there because it's not the average story. It makes others uncomfortable with the realization that they are lucky to have what others could only dream of. Let's break that stigma, and add a little more empathy in the world this week.

I am barren AND I am loved, empowered, a child of God with so much to give.