Of all the things that happened during my ten years in the Quiverful movement I think that the one thing that caused me the most pain was my inability to bear children. Being infertile in a movement based upon the notion that God grants the righteous a full quiver of arrows led to all sorts of interesting assumptions by people that swore I was their Sister in Christ.
Based upon the ways I was treated because of my fertility challenges I came to realize that my church ‘family’ was as dysfunction and rude as any family featured on a sleazy television talk show.
I’d been an only child, growing up in a large home in south Louisiana. My parents had an arranged marriage, which wasn’t uncommon in Cajun culture of the time. But they could barely tolerate each other long enough to produce me, much less brothers and sisters. As a kid I always wanted brothers or sisters.
My childhood was a lonely one. I spent my time either under the watchful eye of the nuns at school, in my room playing quietly or sitting in the kitchen talking to Mamie, our family maid. There weren’t many kids in the neighborhood.
Those early experiences made me determined to have more than one child, to have at least three or four.
Many years later when my husband and I were baby Christians at Possum Creek Church we only had two children, a daughter of 4 and our son was 7. We’d never really discussed how many kids we wanted but once we were members of PCC we started to absorb some of the ideals bandied about by our new friends.
But the thing that tipped us into embracing the Quiverful was a medical emergency. Our four year old daughter, Laura, ended up in ICU with ITP – idiopathic cord blood was banked for future possible use on our daughter.. Her body started to routinely kill off her platelets for no known reason. After a few scary bouts where we almost lost our baby the doctors started to tell us that they might have to use chemotherapy to stop her immune system from doing further damage. One doctor advised us to have another child and make sure that the
My husband James and I discussed this. I talked to the ladies of ourabout the idea of having another child and they challenged me to allow God to gift us with as many children as He deemed. While James and I didn’t use birth control, we’d never considered allowing God to direct the number of our offspring. I’d figured at some point we’d just decide our family was large enough and we’d stop having kids by artificial methods.
Being that we were both very new Christians we were both excited and pleased to learn that not only were we being lead into the right way pleasing to God but it would benefit our child. James and I were eager to discover the will of God and do it.
What followed wasn’t pleasant. All around me at Possum Creek ladies got pregnant with ease and were delivered of healthy babies while it seemed nothing I did resulted in pregnancy. I fasted, I prayed and I pleaded with God. Was He angry with me? Had I done something unforgivable in my past that kept me from conceiving?
Ten years of frustrations. When I did manage to conceive I would get to the ninthand miscarry. Over those ten years I became pregnant and lost the baby no less than nine times.
At first my church family members were sympathetic but as time went on I became the target of some rather ugly advice. It started simply when a close friend whispered to me during a fellowship meeting that God told her I’d lost my baby because I would drink an occasional soda and everyone knew that brand caused fetal tissue death. And it all went downhill from there.
For one thing the ‘helpful suggestions’ started to get meaner. Now I wasn’t being advised to use this natural hormone cream or that supplement. From my friend’s comment about having brought this onto myself by my habits I started being picked apart by critical comments. Some began to suggest in prayer that whatever I’d done to bring this barrenness upon myself be revealed to me so I could repent, pray and be healed. After all, God did bless the righteous with many arrows in their quivers so obviously there was something unrighteous about me. It didn’t hit me fully how looked down upon I’d become until a church member referred to me as her ‘heathen buddy who only has two children’ Someone else spread on the prayer list that I had problems related to a past abortion, even though I’d never had an abortion.
It was like bleeding to death from a million paper cuts. For me that’s what it felt like, like my soul was dying slowly. I cried nearly every single day and forgave over and over again, starting to feel like there really was something wrong with my soul. My daughter Laura says that is the one constant she remembers from those day. That I wept daily and I wept in church before the altar.
The beginning of the end of both my membership in Possum Creek and our attempts to have another child came at Christmas time four years ago. That Christmas morning I had to be taken to the nearest hospital because I was miscarrying for the ninth time. This time hurt so much more, both physically and emotionally, than all the other times. I’d somehow managed to make it to 12 weeks. I’d assumed that since I was past that 9 week danger zone that this baby would be alright.
Four am Christmas morning. Me curled into fetal position, weeping and wailing even as the morphine was kicking in while James was holding me in his arms. He whispered to me, “Enough. This is killing you. We can’t do this anymore.”
It was the first wise sensible thing anyone had to say yet about our reproductive madness. I never really recovered physically from that final miscarriage. Every month came and I bled profusely as my red blood cell count kept dropping. My doctor didn’t seem to be able to do anything to slow down the bleeding or build up my cell count. I became increasing wan and weak, even after a few D&Cs to clean out the bleeding.
Someone that was not a friend sent out a church wide email saying to pray for me because I’d had another abortion. I tried several times to correct this gossip in the guise of prayer without much success.
At this time Possum Creek church had started teaching that there was no illness that Jesus couldn’t cure, in fact, they proclaimed that it was always God’s will to heal. You didn’t get a healing from being prayed for? You didn’t have enough faith. You simply had to have faith.
The more they harped on being healed by your faith, the angrier I became. Every Bible study, worship service and conference became an opportunity for someone in the church to chide me for not having faith enough that God was going to heal me. I was walking in unbelief according to many. My doctor was urging me to have a complete hysterectomy to regain my health.
And I wasn’t the only one being urged to shun modern medical treatment to wait for the Lord’s healing power. During those times two cancer patients in the congregation refused all medical treatment and ended up losing their lives following the church teaching.
After all that I ended up having that hysterectomy and leaving Possum Creek. My doctor told me after the surgery that there was no way I could have carried another child to term because of the scarring.
I should have had that surgery years before. I should have listened to my inner voice. I should have ignored the judgment of the others but I didn’t.
(The name of the church has been changed to protect the identity of the members.)
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