Fruitfulness is not productivity. It’s a lesson I keep learning and relearning because, throughout this journey of infertility, a little inner voice has kept whispering to me, “You’re doing it wrong. You should be doing more. You should be more.”
It’s not a new voice, nor is it unique to me or my situation, but the effects are the same: guilt, shame, and periods of frenetic activity followed by periods of absolute paralysis. And it’s a voice that resounds throughout our culture, with every podcast, self-help book and social media influencer offering a patent-pending strategy to get things done, be the best version of yourself, be a boss babe, never break a promise to yourself, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And as we try to bear our crosses along the road of infertility, we can get seduced into the idea that we’re doing infertility wrong. That we should be doing it differently.
Because we should be fruitful.
So, doesn’t that mean that I need to be doing more and producing more? Doesn’t that mean that I should be accomplishing all my “should”?
I should be doing more ministry and service, pouring my energy and time into all sorts of worthy causes. Shouldn’t I be setting up a support group, or writing and sharing hope with others?
I should be more active in the lives of my friends with children. Shouldn’t I be babysitting more, bringing over more dinners?
I should be making fast progress on my thesis, taking advantage of this wide-open-empty-lonely time. Shouldn’t I be throwing myself into work?
Because I should be fruitful.
We have, thanks to infertility, the time, the space, and maybe more disposable income than the mamas of young children that we long to be. So shouldn’t we be doing all the things as a result? Except that, maybe for some of us, infertility has not given us time and space. Maybe we’re emotionally tapped out. Maybe our work is not an escape so much as an agonizing performance of “being okay”. Maybe our hormones ride the rollercoasters of our cycles. And maybe even the most joyous events for others can be the triggers of great pain and desperate attempts to hold back tears.
The challenge is that, often, we hear about fruitfulness in infertility from those who may be at a different point in their infertility journey, or maybe their cross just looks a bit different, or maybe they are just… well… they’re not us and their journey is not our journey and their fruitfulness, as a consequence, will not be the same as ours.
Fruitfulness will look different for us than for others. Fruitfulness now will look different to fruitfulness later. And fruitfulness, ultimately, is not about adding things to your CV nor is it represented by a busy and intense agenda. Fruitfulness is about letting God work within us wherever we are. Fruitfulness can be showing up for prayer after a long season of silence. Fruitfulness can be telling God how angry and hurt we are. Fruitfulness can be in our relationships with our friends and family and even sharing our pain with them. Fruitfulness can be supporting a friend who just had a baby, even amidst the ache in our own hearts.
Fruitfulness is part of our journey and not just an outcome. It means trusting that God is working some fruit in us and through us. It means letting Him be the gardener and us the vine. And there is no five-step self-help program to achieve that, but we can start, I think, by looking around at where we are, rather than where we think we should be, and letting ourselves rest and wait for a God who knows how and when and where to move us.