What Not to Say to Infertiles: “It’s God’s Will”

In most South Asian cultures, there are common refrains thrown at those facing negative life events. In Urdu and among Muslims, there are a few with essentially the same idea as in English:

Urdu English
Khuda ki marzi: It’s God’s will / It’s God’s whim
Khuda ki dain: God gives as he chooses
khuda behtar karta hai: God does things for the best
Iss mey bhi kohi behtri hogi: Things happen for the best /
T
here must be good in this

 

Regardless of language, faith, or culture—and regardless of one’s intention—these are awful words repeated mindlessly,without thought to what it truly means. And these aren’t old aunties speaking, who live in villages in some remote part of the world. These are people, mostly women, many of my generation, both who grew up here in the US and those who are in Pakistan. They are friends, family members, acquaintances, and very often, strangers.

In the past, I didn’t know how to respond. And as I mention in many posts, I have had to resist punching someone in the face. Now I feel able to say, and wish I was able to do so in the past, that when someone says any of the above, this is what’s actually being said:

If you miscarry and are struggling to have children, it is for the best. God thinks it makes sense to have you long for a child as well as have you face heartbreak over repeated loss of one. The day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year existence that is infertility serves a greater purpose, and therefore, is justified. God has determined it to be for the best and chosen the loss specifically of your child. Our benevolent God, who chooses to give and take a child, has chosen for you to not have one. As it is the way of an all-knowing higher being, people everywhere are having children by the dozen, but due to the whims of our God, you are special and have been selected to spend an extended period groveling as you kneel on shards of glass that rest on burning coals. God or fate vacillates, and it’s helpful to understand that while the sway to is to provide others with a child and not you.

So you can see why it’s hard for me to not to punch you in the face. If a God exists, I will never accept that certain people have been chosen to have children, anymore than Infertiles are chosen to be deprived of them. If you insist that this is God, then I reject your God, instead, turning to mine—a source I opt to rely on in order to weather hardships which all of us must confront in one way or another.

So instead of mindlessly repeating words to demonstrate your faith and wisdom, I’m pretty sure our greater responsibility is to examine spoken words carefully. If the true intent is to invoke God—fate or any higher purpose/being—with the purpose of providing others comfort, then perhaps the focus should be on providing greater capacity to you for compassion.

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