Spirituality and Infertility

by Kathryn Faughey, Ph.D.

Infertility is a crisis in the life of a couple. It is well recognized as a physical, emotional, and financial crisis. However, an often ignored aspect of infertility is that it may be a powerful trigger of a deep spiritual crisis. The experience of infertility shocks most of us down in the deepest part of our being. Our existence, our view of the world and how things ought to be, starts to become unraveled. With it typically comes all the stages of a life crisis: anger, disbelief, bargaining, and resolution. Loss of meaning, soul searching, hope and hopelessness permeate the inner lives of most fertility patients.

Carl Jung, a psychoanalyst, pointed out that somewhere around the mid-to-late thirties an individual is likely to be at a stage of life where he or she starts to turn inward. It is a time of renewed spiritual journeying, growth, and resurgence of the spiritual life.

For many couples, however, this is also when the reality of infertility first strikes. The spiritual life, coinciding with such a painful life crisis, frequently becomes troubled. It is one thing to "rediscover" or "renew" one's spirituality with a baby in one's arms, or a child's small hand in yours. It is another thing to sit at a service and choke back tears of grief or rage because one has not been included in what appears to be, for most people, a basic life event.

Yet, many individuals say they feel distress in reconciling their spiritual lives with the crisis of their infertility. Conflicting emotions may co-exist. All this is natural. Spiritual places of worship celebrate and mark passages in time and life. Existential, personal, soul searching questions such as "why is this happening?" All this can be painful.

Some suggestions: Explore various spiritual centers. Many of them are actively seeking ways to become more inclusive of non-traditional worshipers and non-traditional problems. Some are realizing the pain that overly focused family services are causing for single or infertile individuals. Do some research. Look around and switch until you find somewhere that fits. Try individual endeavors, such as making a retreat or seeking counseling from a professional who is sensitive to spiritual issues. Read some of the classic treatises written on the problem of pain from a spiritual angle.

Why is this happening? It is an age old question. No matter what the outcome to an infertility crisis-we will face that question throughout our lives. What is the meaning of this? Why?

In our quest for answers, let's not forgo a process that has been used for millenniums-that is, strengthening ourselves spiritually; and actively engaging our souls.


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