May 13, 2013 by mattwilcoxen
Rachel’s words aren’t melodramatic. Barrenness is death. The barren woman knows it, she feels it.
The days become months, the months become years. She grieves for the time that is lost–the time that was without slobbery smiles and smelly diapers, the time that was without swollen breasts and suckling mouths. She already sees the time that won’t exist: the late nights waiting for teens to come home, the weddings, the grandchildren. She wonders if anyone will be there when there is no more time for her at all.
She watches her husband, she longs to see him being made softer, larger by children. But there he shrivels. Those sinewy arms should be hoisting new life above his head. He should be changed by the glory of a juvenile procession meeting him at the door. Instead, he goes to the gym after work; those perfectly sculpted muscles barely exceeding the mannequin’s in their function. The happy man proudly displays a potbelly, but this one wears his six pack like sackcloth and ashes. She sees it, she knows.
“Who am I?”, she wonders. “A reprobate? A biological castaway?” All around her is life–it seems to sprout up infinitely. The 16 year-old next door. The ducks in the park. Her best friend. The elephants at the zoo. Her sister. The anchorwoman on the local news. The woman who sings at church. And then they all have another. And some another. She watches this perpetual springtime from her personal Siberia. Somehow this makes the frostbite worse. She wonders if a worse torture has ever been invented.
She always thought that man was the prouder gender, dominated by his ego and his libido. Now she sees how much sheer pride is attendant with motherhood. She reckons now that if women have been passive and men oppressive, it has not come about through female weakness and male strength. Au contraire; it is the woman’s secret contentment in motherhood, and the man’s pathetic insecurity in his obviously secondary role. So this is why God has been given male names: if God was named “mother” we might actually think gender applies to him.
Easter sermons are difficult. Those who have lost loved ones find succor in the hope of resurrection from the dead. But what hope is there for those whom we have never loved because they have never existed? She asks herself, really, if it might be better to have at least a miscarriage. She realizes how morbidly absurd such thinking is, so she pushes it out of her mind. Or she tries, anyways.
The hardest part about the Bible for her is that there are no stories in there about people like her; Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Hannah, Elizabeth–she can’t stand them. She considered Job, but she realized how inferior his suffering was. He went from one rich, full life to another, with only an intervening period of suffering. How utterly pathetic, she thinks. She’d gladly trade her state for Job’s.
In the end, there is nothing she can do other than cry: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”