Last week I went to Virginia to visit my in-laws. I hadn’t seen them since 2008. Thanks to a car accident that left me unable to exercise for a couple months, a stressful new job that left little time for the gym, and my decision to turn eating into a hobby I’ve picked up more than a few extra pounds during those two years. And you know how family can be — quick to tell you how plump you look these days. I spent the weeks leading up to the trip trying to build up my self-esteem so I could handle the fat comments. But I get there and not a single person says anything to me about my weight. Instead folks tell me I look great.
What I wasn’t prepared for was this: On Sunday morning Edd and I went to his family’s church. A deaconess, whom I’ve met before, gave me a big hug, told me I’m gorgeous, and exclaimed that Edd and I are perfect for each other. Then she grabbed my stomach and said, “But tell me, why haven’t you had any babies yet?! How old are you? 29! What are you waiting on? You know the only purpose of your marriage is to create life.“
Whoa! So things like love, friendship and partnership mean absolutely nothing? And what if I can’t have children? Does that mean my marriage is doomed?
This exchange was just the beginning of a theme for the trip. We were asked at least once a day by a friend or family member why I wasn’t popping out babies yet, but these questions seemed pretty harmless. However, my discussion with the deaconess would haunt me for the remainder of the trip. And the encounter reminded me of the times at my church in Kentucky when I had the scripture “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) thrown in my face when I said Edd and I weren’t in a rush to have kids.
To judge a woman’s worth by her womb is ridiculous. I know this. I preach this. Yet when someone throws religion in the mix I feel unsteady. I feel like I need to apologize for something and I’m terrified to admit to church leaders that I’m not sure if I want to be a mother ever. What’s wrong with me? Why do religious authorities leave me quaking in my pumps?
I want to be a fruitful writer and multiply the love, good works and inspiring texts in this world. Why can’t that be enough?