This is a continuation of Part I in which I share my personal story and my experiences with infertility and offer advice to all who encounter married women without children.
Infertility and Faith: Putting Things in Perspective
Over the years, I saw how the intensity of my supplication (dua) dimmed. And it’s something that I reflect upon often: Why was I no longer pouring my whole heart into my duas? I don’t know, but it seemed almost an acceptance of my state, maybe even a defense mechanism, albeit maybe not the best approach to take. But I can tell you that I never stopped believing in God, nor did I have a crisis of faith. I will confess though that there were many moments of deep sadness, frustration and confusion.
When I used to read Qur’anic passages, hadith, or listen to lectures and sermons on the high station of mothers (we have all heard the reminder that “paradise is beneath the feet of mothers”), my heart would sink a little because I knew that I may never experience this role. It often left me confused, asking the question, “Why me? Why won’t I experience the joy and spiritual rewards motherhood brings to a woman?” But, at the same time, I tried not to forget that just because I wasn’t able to fulfill this role, it did not mean that I couldn’t appreciate its beauty and importance when I saw my own mom or my girlfriends with kids.
Upon further reflection, I’ve also thought about the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (s), of which only one (Lady Khadija (ra)) bore children for the Prophet (s) who lived past the age of two. Most of the other wives remained childless during their married lives with the Prophet (s). It was immensely comforting to know that my situation was not unique, but that this was an experience lived by most of the Prophet’s wives as well. I drew great inspiration and solace from knowing that although some of them may not have had children, the Qur’an gave these pious women the lofty title of “Mother of the Believers” because they had lived lives of virtue and contributed to their communities through social service and scholarship.
What also gave me perspective on my situation was understanding that what we are given and what we are deprived of are both tests from God. I don’t know God’s greater plan, but I have to trust that He is the best of planners and it is He who is in control. Through all of the emotional ups and downs, I try to remind myself of the blessings in my life right now. This idea of living for today, an idea Farzana Gardee explores in her piece “Choosing a Childfree Present” has allowed me to cherish my marriage and all the other relationships and experiences in my life.
How to Empathize With a Woman Who Has Not Given Birth
A friend recently reached out to me asking my advice on how to console a friend who was married but did not yet have kids. Here are some ways to empathize with and comfort a friend struggling with infertility:
1) Listen. People want to vent and air their bottled-up frustrations. Lend a listening ear.
2) Validate. Affirm their struggle and help them regain control of their emotions as best as they can. Remind them to not let other people’s insensitive comments linger for too long. If they they want to avoid situations or places because of these people, remind them that in life there will always be people who make hurtful comments, so rather than avoidance, try to let the unkind words fall away. And it surely is not an easy task.
3) Offer words of comfort, invoking simple duas, such as “May Allah make it easy for you.” Reiterating a connection to God’s mercy and grace can be tremendously helpful and healing to those struggling with infertility and the anxiety that comes with it.
4) Ask about the blessings in their life and help facilitate perspective in their life. Remind them how God tests each of us in different ways, and others may be facing trials we know nothing about. All of us have unique spiritual journeys and we all face anxiety, loss and sadness at some point in our lives.
5) Reaffirm their self-worth. A boost in confidence goes a long way in regaining emotional wellbeing. Do this by reminding them that many great Muslim women in history did not have children, but their impact was no less meaningful and special.
6) Know that solutions aren’t always helpful. Assess whether the person just wants to be heard at this juncture. There’s a time and place to offer solutions and treatment options for infertility. If you’d like to learn more about reproductive infertility, I would recommend reading Less a Child, No Less a Woman by Ayesha Akhtar.
May Allah make us all loving, kind human beings who are gentle and compassionate with one another.
(Photo Source: Arshe Ahmed)
Arshe Ahmed is an Affiliate Program Coordinator for the Princeton Muslim Life Program (MLP). She grew up in Brooklyn, NY and currently lives in central NJ with her husband, Sohaib Sultan, who is the Muslim Chaplain at Princeton University. Arshe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and her fleeting musings can be found on Twitter: @arshe2020.