Monthly Article November 2012 – Fertility

Author: John Watterson

‘You clever girl!’ exclaimed one woman to another. The ‘clever girl’ and her husband had been trying for some time to conceive a child and had finally succeeded. I was just a teenager at the time and recall being puzzled: what was so clever about conception? I am older now and understand better the joy and excitement that having a child brings.

Only…it doesn’t always bring joy and excitement. Our second child had a fatal genetic condition.

But besides sorrow and aching numbness, what about shame, fear and isolation? These can also accompany pregnancy – shame when the pregnancy is the result of abuse; fear when the pregnancy is unexpected and unwanted; isolation when the pregnancy cuts the young expectant mother off from her peer group, when she hasn’t been such a ‘clever girl’.

The beginning of life is fraught with complex emotions for the expectant mother. It goes to the root of what it means to be human. That’s why our first mother was called ‘Eve’ – her name means ‘life’, and she became ‘the mother of all living’. Eve called her first son ‘Cain’, because his name sounds like the word ‘to acquire’ – perhaps she was congratulating herself: ‘Clever girl!’ She called her second son ‘Abel’, which means ‘vapour’ or ‘futility’ – the reality of life outside Eden was no doubt sinking in and the dark clouds of fear and disappointment were gathering on the horizon.

But Eve wasn’t named in vain. She did indeed become ‘the mother of all living’. This doesn’t just mean that her children went on to have children and that they in turn became parents. That is too simplistic an understanding of her name.

Eve became the mother of all living, because God impresses his image on us at conception – even if that conception is an occasion of fear or shame.

Here are some examples. One young woman (her name was Tamar) had sex with her father-in-law and conceived twin boys (Genesis 38). Another woman, called Ruth (Book of Ruth chapter 4) bore a surrogate child which she surrendered into the arms of her mother-in-law; how her own arms must have ached! A third woman, Bathsheba, committed adultery and conceived a child who became a great king (2 Samuel 11). An unmarried teenager called Mary – a girl from a good family – was found to be pregnant and was almost certainly shunned by the women of her village (Luke 1).

However, from these woman, who together experienced fear, aching loss, disgrace and shame – God himself entered the world. Mary’s child was none other than Jesus Christ, the God-Man, who came to bring us life.

Does that mean that pregnancy is now all joy and no shame, fear, loss or isolation? Not at all. Our second child is irreplaceable. Advice, care, support and love are essential for all expectant mothers. But it does mean that God knows the difficulties that attend pregnancy – he knows them, quite literally, from the inside. He isn’t embarrassed by a woman’s sorrow or fear or shame during pregnancy – both she and the child she bears are immensely important to him.