Infertility, the Stuff of Fairytales?
Snow White also has one of the classic, painful conversations with well-meaning family. This is the one where they express their excitement about your children-to-be (how they hope they look like so-and-so or how they can't wait to be an aunt/uncle/grandmother) while you smile wanly.
Then there's King George, whose speech cursing Snow's womb drips with his woundedness as much as his cruelty.
Somehow in this jumble of vignettes, the show managed to evoke the jumble of alienation, anger, and Ache (yes, with a capital) that faces couples struggling with infertility.
Still, when I relayed the King George and Snow White scene to some other, less-than-fertile friends, they had similarly visceral reactions to my own. I suspect that King George's speech nearly knocked the wind out of every one of us for a reason. When you find out you are infertile, this is the fear that the devil on your shoulder whispers into your ear: "God has cursed you."
For believers, our faith in a sovereign God offers us meaning, grace, and hope. But on bad days, it can also leave us feeling stranded by God in circumstances we would never choose.
"Once Upon a Time" did not succeed in transporting me to its fairytale universe complete with magical resolutions. (Anyway, infertile people are plenty used to situations that feel like they can only change by means of magic—whether modern medicine, prayer, or perhaps a strict regimen of both.)
Instead, the show jolted me out of its escapist fantasy with the vivid memory of the "cursed" mindset that can dog infertile couples.
The cursed mindset says that you and your spouse can never be happy, can never be enough without a child.
And that is a lie.
Just like the lie that being infertile has anything to do with how much God loves you.
Marriage is not just about children. A happy marriage is, in itself, a miracle testifying to God's goodness and life's joy. It is allowed to be enough.
Healthy marriages of infertile couples are threatened by the mentality that if the two who became one do not go on to become three or four, they will never really be happy. This is an absurd proposition even by fairy tale standards. We need look no further than Charming and Snow to see what I mean.
This episode invites viewers, now caught up in the Snow White's infertility scare, to forget that she and Prince Charming have already overcome incredible odds simply to find one another. They are beautiful, young, and poised to rule their realm side by side. Their love is so strong that, in another episode, a sorcerer literally tries to bottle it as the most powerful magic of all.
So something is wrong with the storybooks, just as something is wrong with the stories whispered by the devil on our shoulders. We should be very suspicious of any narrative that rules out a happily ever after for people without kids. These couples, with God's help, are writing great endings of their own.
L. Kenna figured out a way to watch TV and movies professionally. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and has taught a variety of courses concerned with the relationship between popular culture and the ways Americans understand their lives. In addition to her academic writing projects, she is working on a book about the experience of infertility inside the church. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.