By Mallikah b. Murray
My silent struggle with infertility has consumed me in unnecessary feelings of shame and inadequacy since struggling with my menstrual health as a teenager. I know intellectually infertility is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s a medical condition after all, but constant questioning, the urgency from others for us to ‘stop taking our time‘, and comparing myself to other women and families, all simply feeds the taboo that something really is unacceptable about infertility.
It’s become a silent challenge to hold onto my self-worth, so I call upon Allah (subhanu wa ta Allah) to give me the strength to realise I am worthy just the way He made me.
By writing this, I’m finally breaking the silence I’ve maintained for so long.
“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story.
It hates having words wrapped around it-it can’t survive being shared.
Shame loves secrecy…When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.”-Brene Brown
Sometimes coping with infertility feels like an unpredictable, emotional rollercoaster. I go from feeling hopeful we’ll have children, to feeling its ‘unrealistic’ to then becoming rather content that we don’t have kids. I feel guilty that I’m not always hopeful and that I’m not always patient, because I know these are signs of a mu’min, a believer.
Whilst my hope waivers, my husband remains steadfast by having trust, tawwakul in Allah (swt)! I often fire the question to him without warning, “Do you think we’re ever going to have kids???” His answer is always, calmly, “Yes, insha’Allah!” even after 8 years of marriage.
When people innocently ask, “Do you have any kids?” Or harshly say “Are you pregnant yet?” it can put me into a gut-wrenching spin of anxiety. Not because I don’t like the answer, but because I don’t like their reactions. I bluntly answer, “No…..” hoping they don’t pry any further because experience tells me its better that way. One little opening and I’ll find myself being asked about gynaecological tests, family planning clinics and that we must try harder (pun not intended, someone actually said this to us!). Whenever we’re asked, my husband quickly adds in, “Not yet! Make du’a for us insha’Allah!” I wonder how long he will say, “not yet” for. He doesn’t show signs of it getting tiresome.
Again, we know tawwakul ( trust in Allaah) is a sign of a mu’min and indeed it is. But what about realism? What about acceptance? Is there a place for all of this as a Muslimah struggling with her fertility?
I know that Allah subhanu wa ta Allah can and does gift children to whomever He pleases:
“Verily when He intends a thing, His command is,”be” and it is!” (36:82)
I also stand firm in knowing that if Allah doesn’t bless you with children, it doesn’t mean He loves you any less. In fact, our struggles are a way of Allah drawing us closer to Him. Think of the times we spend with Allah subhanu wa ta Allah making dua, pleading for guidance, crying for strength, mercy and ease. These are beautiful acts of worship and Allah loves them all.
As much as I know children are a blessing, I find comfort in knowing that Allah places good deeds above wealth and even above children.
“Wealth and children are [but] adornment of the worldly life.
But the enduring good deeds are better to your Lord for reward and better for [one’s] hope.” (18:46)
My husband was once told, “When are you going to have kids? You’re not getting any younger! Don’t you want to leave a legacy?!” I was surprised by this because Islamic History is full of those leaving incredible legacies without having any children. Our Mother, Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) is known as the Mother Of The Believers and the great Scholar Imam Bukhari narrator of ‘Sahih Bukhari’ (May Allah be pleased with him) are just two examples. They both narrated countless hadiths imperative to our understanding and practice of the deen. What an incredible role and legacy in Islam they leave.
Whenever I contemplate the number of factors that have to be completely synchronised for conception, pregnancy and birth to occur, I realise the fact that Allah makes it appear ‘easy’ is a gift in itself! Embryology is absolutely fascinating!
“We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like clot, then from a morsel of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed … and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term, then do We bring you out as babes.” (22:5)
Power and Decree
However, we live in a world that thinks science and medicine are above the might and power of Allah subhanu wa ta Allah. Doctors tell women they can’t have children and women go on to have multiple children. Doctors tell couples IVF will help, yet they still cannot conceive. Doctors tell people they have only a few days to live and Allah gives them months and even years.Allah is the creator, Al-khaliq and Allah is the ONLY one who gives life.
“To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return.” (2:156)
The more we try to control, the more we forget the One who is in control. The more we worry, the more we forget that Allah has a plan. The more we try to plan, the more we forget that Allah’s timing is nothing less than perfect and Allah is indeed the best of planners!
The struggle may superficially appear to be a struggle with infertility but it’s really an inner struggle to let go and let Allah guide me to my qadr, my destiny. It’s the journey to remain pleased with Allah whatever He decides and knowing that we will be okay. Accepting the journey we’re on then becomes an act of worship and an act of love.
When we hear of others struggling with fertility, we usually hear about it after they successfully conceived, adopted or decided to live fulfilled lives without children. Me? Whilst I’ve always believed we’ll have biological children despite my “slim chances”, I’ve always been passionate about adoption since a teenager and even more as a revert discovering it’s immense reward and that our beloved Prophet ( Sal Allahu alayhi wasalam) was an orphan!
Ultimately, I have no idea what’s on the other side of this challenge. I don’t know where my fertility journey ends. But, I know for sure Allah only wants what is best for us and “doesn’t burden us with more than we can bear.” (2:286)
“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” (2:216)
Whilst we don’t currently have children, I’m very grateful to Allah (swt) for the love, compassion, friendship and sukoon (peace) He has blessed us with despite this difficulty.
May Allah give us all hope and protect us from hopelessness.
May Allah give us strength, perseverance, and ease to cope with our challenges.
Lastly, if He wills, may He grant us all children that are the coolness of our eyes, Aameen.
About the author:
Mallikah b. Murray is a UK revert to Islam who writes to inspire and connect with others and uses writing as a form of self-therapy and growth. Due to her own health struggles she has become passionate about alternative/natural health and women’s health issues. She finds natures beauty an immense reminder of the power of Allah (swt).