Even for our advanced species, reproduction is a biological imperative. For most of us, we need to have children and build families. It is hard-wired into our DNA.
Since the beginning of recorded time, men and women have been yearning for pregnancy, babies, and families. I have always found it comforting to know that I am never alone in whatever I am feeling; it reduces the feelings of isolation and craziness! Is there something wrong with me that I am feeling this obsessed with having a baby? Well, you only have to look to a book of bible stories to know that you are not alone.
This is what I found:
The story of Hannah is from the book of Samuel. Not only was she childless for many years, but she was taunted by her more fertile co-wife Peninnah. Her husband tried to comfort her, as husbands today try to comfort their wives during infertility, and asked Hannah, “Why are you crying and why aren’t you eating? Am I not more devoted to you than ten sons?” But Hannah could find no solace.
Hannah prayed her heart. She cried out before the holy one, “of all the hosts and hosts that Thou hast created in your world, is it so hard in your eyes to give me one son?” A parable was offered in the text: “To what is this matter like? To a king who made a feast for his servants when a poor man came and stood by the door and said to him, give me a bite, and no one took any notice of him, so he forced his way into the presence of the king and said to him, Your Majesty, out of all the feast which thou hast made, is it so hard in thine eyes to give me one bite?” Shortly afterward, remembers Hannah and they conceive a child, a baby boy they called Samuel.
I continued to look through my book of bible stories, and found several dealing with infertility. In the story of Jacob and Rachel, Rachel was unable to conceive a child so she tells Jacob “Here, take my maid Bilhah. Consort with her, that she may bear on my knees and that through her I too may have children. When Bilhah gave birth, Rachel said, “God has vindicated me, indeed he has heeded my plea and given me a son.” Today, we call this traditional surrogacy.
Isaac and Rebecca also had some difficulties. In the language of the Old Testament, it appears as if they had a male factor problem. Isaac pleaded with the Lord in the presence of his wife rather than for his wife, and then God answered him, not his wife. Rebecca gave birth to twins. Isaac was sixty years old when his wife gave birth, and he had no other children.
And Samson’s mother was childless when an angel of God appeared to her and told her she would conceive. You remember what a mighty warrior Samson was, until they cut his hair.
I also found a reference for adoption in the bible. Michal, the daughter of Saul could have no children. Michal had a married sister. The bible tells of the five sons born to her sister but raised by Michal and called by her name. This scripture teaches that anyone who raises a child in their home considers him as if they gave birth to him.
In the story of Abraham and Sarah, infertility was a very real issue. Sarah finally conceives when she is ninety years old. I believe that Sarah may have been the first post-menopausal women to give birth! Hello media! What was old is new again! And I promised my husband I wouldn’t go into my theories on the Virgin Mary and the conception of Jesus.
So here I am with my mind filled with stories about infertility! What about fairy tales?
Yes, even in fairy tales we find references to infertility. Tom Thumb was so wanted by his parents that they wished if they could only have a child, any child, they wouldn’t care if it was as big as their thumb! And in the story of Sleeping Beauty, the King and Queen were childless for many years, when, with great joy, a daughter was born to them. They had a great party but forgot to invite one of the fairies. Then there is the story Rapunzel with the long golden hair. Her mother thought she would lose the baby if she did not have rhubarb leaves to eat. The husband went into the witch’s garden to get the leaves. We all know how that story ends. And then I was forced into watching a old video with my son and his friends last summer of “The Flintstones”, and there was Barney and Betty Rubble worrying about their home study so they could adopt Bam-Bam.
I am sure that if I conducted a controlled study of this topic, I would find stories of infertility and long awaited children in every culture and religion. From the wives’ tales to the children’s stories, having a child seems to be one of the central themes of humankind. The reason is obvious, without children we do not continue as a species.
You may have explored other corners of the internet gathering information, networking about programs, doctors, and adoption resources. You are perhaps also praying for a miracle, just like our biblical counterparts, but you may turn to medicine to help bring about that miracle. You may find that your miracle lies at the end of an adoption journey or alternative family building options. You are not alone, and you have never been alone.
We are the people creating today’s stories and today’s resolutions for ourselves, and for the generations yet to come, just as those that have come before us created the stories we hear today. I hope that this blog brings some comfort.
By Pamela Madsen, The Fertility Advocate, Guest Blogger