General CBF

Fertility grief and the church’s response

By Mary Jo Dailey

I have two wonderful sons, but before I gave birth to my boys, I had a miscarriage. I told no one but my husband. That was 40 years ago, and I still grieve. In my mind, the child was a girl. I named her Katie.

Today, I heard that story repeated almost verbatim, from someone who experienced it last year.

Fertility Grief is a term that encompasses my experience along others: the couple that longed for a child, but was unable to conceive; couples who are undergoing expensive and often unsuccessful, fertility treatments; the birth of a stillborn child; early and late term miscarriages.

According to Mary Elizabeth Hanchey, Co-Founder of the Hannah Ministry at Watts Street Baptist Church, Durham, N.C., fertility grief is felt equally by both women and men and is equal to that of couples who experience the loss of a newborn, but there is no body…no name…no socially recognized response. This is the message that Hanchey delivered during a Thursday workshop at the 2016 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C.

So much that we do as a society and as a church unintentionally causes additional pain to these brothers and sisters.  As a society, we attempt to comfort the couple, especially the woman, with phrases such as, “Well, at least you know you can get pregnant,” “I had a friend who suffered from infertility but when they quit trying she immediately got pregnant,” “God knows best,” and “God must have needed another angel.”

As a church, we hire ministers to families with children. We have made Mother’s and Father’s Days a part of the Christian calendar. We spend Advent awaiting the birth of a child instead of the incarnation of God in Christ. We read in the Bible that children are the way in which God blesses women. The stories of Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth are part of scripture, yet how often do we take time to address how these narratives might be read in light of fertility grief.

As Christians in general and as CBF churches, Hanchey asks us to be aware of those from suffering from fertility grief and to reach out to them as we would any couple who has experienced the loss of a child. Take the casseroles and mow the yards. Listen to them and love them.

More information about fertility grief and the church’s response visit www.projectpomegranate.org.

Mary Jo Dailey is a former high school teacher and a third year student at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. She is a CBF leadership scholar and feels a call to evangelism within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. 

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