Fertile Privilege

Dear Fertile People of the World,

Summer is almost here; ’tis the season when I will be seeing family. I have a gut feeling that someone is going to say something stupid (probably on the Klingon side of the family – I tend to be less patient with them) and I’ll want to fly off the handle.

Fertile People of the World, you who take for granted your ability to have reliably have sex and get pregnant, it’s time to check your privilege.

You have no idea what it is like to be unable to procreate. You don’t know what it’s like to be isolated by sorrow, judgement, worry, and lack of common ground, all at the same time. But you can. One of the great tragedies of the infertile experience is how easy it would be for people to empathize if they just tried.

Yes, infertility has rocked my world. Yes, infertility is a crisis. Yes, my views on a lot of things are different because of the hand life has dealt me. Yes, I want children. Sometimes desperately. Yes, I worry. Yes, I agonize over the morality of decisions I never expected I would have to make. Yes, yes, yes.

Infertility is a valid life experience. The lessons I have learned may be different from what you have learned, but they still count.

Sometimes people don’t have babies. Sometimes really good people don’t have babies. It’s a tragedy.

So when I see you this summer, I don’t need you to point out the upside to having no children. Believe me, I see it. I don’t need you to highlight the moral gray areas of building a family in a non-traditional way. Believe me, I know them intimately. I don’t need you to vocalize my worst fears; there’s a reason I bury them. I don’t need you to probe me for guilt or fault or blame; we all have problems. I don’t need you to advise; I pay (a lot!) for a doctor to do that.

I do need you to include me. I need you to make room at the grown-ups’ table for someone who does not want to talk about birth stories, pregnancy cravings, or which baby-carrier is best. I need you to forfeit your right to know and pass judgement on how our family-building efforts are going. I need you to exude confidence in my ability to make good decisions. I need you to hold my hand and laugh about the silly things that happen when we are together. I need you to be more than your parental status. I need you to ask my advice and acknowledge my wisdom. I need you to respect my marriage; we’ve worked so hard on it.

I need you to acquiesce that you don’t fully understand what it is like to be in my shoes – even if you’ve waited months to get pregnant, even if you’ve been there. I need you to be indignant on my behalf while acknowledging the limitations of your understanding. I need you to consider who you would be if your family had never grown, if the babies who haunted your dreams never came.

Sincerely,

Your Infertile Friend

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An Open Letter to the First Presidency

First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Dear Presidents Monson, Eyring, and Uchtdorf,

This week, Kate Kelly was excommunicated. I’m sure you know about it, since it’s been all over the news. She has been active and engaged in the church all of her life, and a little over a year ago began to lobby that the three of you consider and seek for revelation regarding the place of women in the church – particularly on the question of ordaining us to the priesthood.

Kate Kelly, Founder of Ordain Women

Kate Kelly, LDS Activist

In the near future, she will surely be appealing her excommunication to you. Her future will be in your hands; and while I want to trust the three of you, whom I admire and look to for guidance in matters that affect my life and my family, I am afraid. So many people that I love, admire, and respect have expressed unkind and poorly reasoned opinions of her fate that give me cause for alarm; people who think that excommunication is not a big deal, that she asked for it, that she deserved it, that she lost her testimony, that she is crazy. None of these are determinations that an ordinary person is qualified to make; indeed, there is a fair amount of evidence to the contrary. So much of their reasoning would be taken offensively if it were applied to another extreme minority group – like us. Yet, I see it used against a stranger who was once one of our own without thought or scruple.  When I see such things in people who are otherwise exemplary, I cannot help but wonder what your reactions will be.

I hope you will be fair. I hope you will look at her situation with clear eyes and kind hearts. I hope you will carefully consider what excommunication means in the course of her eternal growth, and I hope you will make a decision that will truly be an act of love.

I hope that as you sit in judgement over her, you will not be inclined to easily dismiss her case. I hope that you will not allow your trust and loyalty to the good bishops of the church to lull you into complacency. They are, by and large, good men, and all good men make mistakes or judge poorly sometimes.

I hope you will not allow surprise or disagreement with her methods to interfere with your assessment of her testimony. I hope you will be understanding. I hope you will make a ruling that is appropriate both to her individually, as well as to the hundreds (possibly thousands) of women who relate and identify with her.

I hope that the delicate balance between the individual decision and the inevitable precedent you will set with your decision does not hold too strong a sway over you.

I hope you will remember that excommunication is a big deal; that it is not something to ever, ever be handed down lightly. I hope you will understand the value of a proportional response, and that you will weigh the annulment of her covenants and sealings against her actions, words, and intents. I hope you will be able to see the desires of her heart, and the way she has carefully navigated the fine line between dissent and apostasy. It’s a hard line for all of us who ask questions, and she has done it with a grace and loyalty to the gospel of Jesus Christ that is admirable.

I hope that you interact with her personally as you come to a decision about her fate. I hope you will respond with both charity and humility. I hope you will be earnest in your attempts to understand and pass righteous judgement. I hope as you consider this case, you will remember that Christ often defended the woman who was shunned by her community. He didn’t berate or belittle her; he inspired her to be more than she was. I have a powerful faith that you gentlemen are capable of similar acts of clemency.

I hope you will remember how many of us look to you in hope, faith and trust that you will be discerning and kind. The three of you have a beautiful history of “going after the one”, and embracing those who are lost or alone. I hope that this instance doesn’t give me reason to doubt your legacy – it’s something I lean on in times of sorrow, when the church seems broken beyond repair.

I hope you will be inspired to talk to us, all of us, about how to communicate with you effectively. Whether she was right or wrong in her actions, she may never had felt the need to take them if there had been a better way. There must be a better way. We love you and trust you; we want your insight, and long for your ear. We need a better line of communication; one that is less susceptible to interference from well-meaning saboteurs and saints alike.

I hope, after all, you will, pray earnestly about women’s places in the church and in eternity. I hope you consider the beautiful vision of a church where men and women are equal in power and influence; it’s not what we are used to, but it is a breathtaking sight. I hope you will ask the Lord for something better; something extraordinary. There is a pain in our family of saints that is caused by The Way Things Are. Maybe He, like us, is just waiting for you to ask. Maybe He has wonderful things in store. I think He does.

I hope you will continue to consider how motherhood and priesthood relate to womanhood and manhood. I am barred from both, and it pains my soul deeply to feel that there is no place for me; that God does find me worthy of his two most important roles. There is more light; there must be more, and I am waiting for you to bring it. I hope it is soon. It’s been too long already.

I hope that the voice of God speaks clearly to you; that you are able to hear what He says, and to share it with the whole earth. I hope you are not hampered by the things of this world as you seek for things of a better. I hope that Joseph Smith’s dream of a beautiful place is realized in a church where there really is room for everyone; where no one feels left out or forgotten.

I hope that you are not daunted by the work there is to do here in our Nauvoo – we are still raising Zion out of a swampy, diseased land, and we need your strength and guidance to do it. There are strong shoulders here – we can do so much more.

We must do more.

Love,

Mae