It begins with hope, the hope of many if not most young couples. Gradually it gives way to anxiety. You do everything imaginable to deal with it. People around generally nod in sympathy but don’t really have the first clue about what you’re going through, and in an effort to be comforting they tend to be insensitive, clumsy or full of knot-headed advice. In the meantime, the anxiety has given way to fear and hopelessness, like traveling a dusty road in a wilderness.
One in seven couples have to face it and deal with it. Which also means that all of us, even if we don’t deal with directly ourselves, will be touched by it.
Infertility: the problem marked by absence rather than symptoms.
We may understand what infertility is, but not what it means, especially for the people experiencing it. And it typically means everything.
I didn’t understand all of the ramifications myself until I read Matt and Cheri Appling’s Plus or Minus: Keeping Your Life, Faith and Love Together Through Infertility. It’s an informative, moving, heartrending account of three couples dealing with infertility. Including the Applings.
What struck me most as I read it, however, was how much it was filled with gentleness, wisdom, and love. While it is certainly a book for couples dealing with infertility, but it is also a book for the rest of us. The wisdom it contains applies far beyond the immediate problem it addresses. And it’s wisdom that can be applied to almost any serious problem people experience.
Infertility is “a whole-life experience that encompasses our marriages, our relationships and our faith,” the Applings write. This isn’t just about being able to have children; this is about what we understand about ourselves and our spouses, and how we consider our marriages, and what we believe about what we think are God’s promises.
|Matt and Cheri Appling|
Infertility shakes all of those suppositions, and shakes them hard. Because of that, it’s not necessarily a problem that can be “solved” by adoption (one of the many things discussed in the book that I previously didn’t grasp). It’s a problem that can karate-chop even the strongest marriages.
Plus or Minus covers a full array of issues and problems associated with infertility, and it does so in an engaging, readable style. How to deal with well-meaning friends. How to understand and deal with in vitro fertilization (and all of us Christians know the drill here). Navigating the world of fertility medicine. Understanding your existence as a husband and wife, and how that existence does not depend upon children. And what happens when all of your friends are getting pregnant and everyone keeps looking at you.
Yes, Plus or Minus is a book about infertility. But even more it is a book about faith, one of the best about faith I’ve come across, because it is written in the words of people who experience infertility and find their ways through it.
And I will say I was personally blessed to read it.
Top photograph by Lilla Frerichs via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.