In the second of our interviews ahead of March 17th’s LifeCall: Children Longing and Belonging event we speak candidly to Revd Sonya Doragh about infertility, faith and vocation.
“If I had a sugar daddy God I would get him to recreate me so I could conceive, but I am grateful for this bit of my brokenness”.
Sonya’s clarity and refreshing honesty surrounding a topic that is both personal to her and taboo for many in the church enables a honest conversation about the reality of living faithfully with infertility. Combining the ability to retell a difficult and painful personal story of the struggle with infertility with the scriptural knowledge garnered from an MA research into the topic brings a helpful perspective to infertility and faith conversations.
Sonya chairs a panel at the LifeCall: Longing and belonging event which explores these issues both for the benefit of those experiencing infertility issues and separately for church leaders and pastoral teams to help them sensitively understand what infertility truly means for those experiencing it.
“Nobody has the same journey and same experiences” explains Sonya “so the panel will bring different perspectives form both males and females. We want to show the many aspects to this, from those still trying IVF or other methods, from those where the problem is with the male, from those who have had miscarriages.” Sonya and the panel recognise that some couples may struggle coming to this event “for some it may be putting their head above the parapet and acknowledging the problems that happen. But our prayer is that the cathedral and the event will offer a safe place to do this – among those who have shared the journey and know what it’s like. We want to be able to give others the courage to speak”.
She is also hopeful that many will come to the seminar for church leaders as one of the biggest problems infertile couples face is ignorance. “most people genuinely want to help but often they get it so wrong” she explains “very often we are told that there is a lack of faith, one person was told by someone praying for her that God had already made her pregnant, she wasn't and still isn't pregnant. Now God can and does do miracles but those comments are not helpful to the infertile woman.”
Sonya undertstands where the ignorance comes from and wants a broader understanding of the issues. “If we have greater levels of understanding then churches can offer greater levels of prayerful and pastoral support to those experiencing infertility.
“We want to be real, we will talk about the yucky, personal stuff cos we have to. We need to talk about what infertility means for a notion that marriage and sex is there for the production of children. What about sex as a intimate relationship between couples? And let’s face it when you go through any medical process surrounding infertility the intimacy changes and sex can be reduced to a mechanical chore that suddenly becomes everyone’s business. But we also want to share some of the lighter stories and experiences we have had on the way.”
Importantly the event is not just about the emotions of infertility. For Christian’s there is a very real and deep impact that this can have on faith. Sonya’s research throws up some interesting and helpful insights into how the bible relates to infertility. It challenges what is probably the widely understood yet simplistic readings of stories such as Sarah and Abraham and Hannah. “what is interesting is these infertile women disappear from scripture as soon as they have given birth. Clearly the patriarchal world of the Old Testament is interested in genealogy and lineage so that Jesus is shown as the rightful messiah. But interestingly once we get to the New Testament we find that doxology replace genealogy, we see Anna at the temple who must have been childless to devote herself to the temple, even though her womb was empty her arms carry the Christ child. There is a shift from the Old Testament dependance on heirs for idenitity to the New Testament where we see a sole dependance on the figure of Christ.”
Sonya will helpfully explore some of that theology - research that is practically unique - at the event to help build an understanding that this can be a vocation on our lives. To remain faithful through the pains and heartaches of infertility. “This is my baby” concludes Sonya ”it is such a privilege to be able to help equip others on this journey because I now know that God is not unfaithful because I am not pregnant”.
it is such a privilege to be able to help equip others on this journey because I now know that God is not unfaithful because I am not pregnant”.