December 28, 2011

rites of passage

In my last post, I referred to childbirth as a "rite of passage" – a phrase that has been turning over in my head ever since. I originally found this reference in an herb book that I've been consulting throughout my pregnancy.

It got me thinking – do we really see childbirth as a rite of passage in our society? If so, what does that mean for those of us enduring the challenges of infertility?

I see constant references to bearing children as basically establishing a woman's fulfillment in society. It's our inherited form of "bearing fruit" to put it in Biblical terms, with little or nothing to supplement it. Kind of shallow, don't you think? I mean, really – surely there's more to life.

I don't mean to downplay the incredible transformation I am now experiencing as a result of a direct blessing from God. But I still have one foot firmly planted in the IF community – it's not like I ever jumped off that ship and exclaimed "I'm cured and am no longer part of this club!" It is for all of our sakes that I ask the question: What does it mean to be productive, to bear fruit, to become the person God intends me to be? What does it mean to be a woman?

There are women in the Bible who never experienced childbirth, or who endured years of infertility while being ridiculed by others or shamed by society. The feelings of guilt, shame, and private longing run many thousands of years into our inherited past.

As I type this, I am reminded of Proverbs 31: 10-31 "Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character" NIV. Many people think this is a composite of noble women rather than a study of the typical day of one superhuman wife of Solomon's. What I find interesting is that, in no verse is the rearing of children listed as one of her noble characteristics: instead, she's industrious and productive and respected in her own right. Rather than aspiring to do all the things she does, I am encouraged by the thought that there are plenty of ways to be fruitful in this world that have nothing to do with childbirth.

Another way of putting it: I am not only a reflection of my contribution to parenthood. I am multi-faceted and look for ways to be productive for the sake of my household as well as those around me. That, I think, is an accurate definition in part of what it means to be a woman.

Coming full circle, what then are rites of passage into womanhood or adulthood? I think it does change a bit with societal fluctuations. It could be getting your first period; graduating high school and/or college; getting married; landing a first real job; buying a home or car; welcoming a child into the world, regardless of the means. Any others?