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).
Salaam Alaykum sis
I read this and it immediately hit my throat this is something that literally is like the dark cloud over my life…
Thank you for sharing your story
I hope it helps make others to rememberer we are adequate, what ever Allah wills he wills so we have to just be content with it and be greatful for the blessings we do have
I pray your happy and successful in whatever your doing
Wa Alaikum Salam Khadijah! Thank you so much for your comment-it takes bravery to reach out! Alhamdulillah, exactly- we are adequate!!
May Allah (swt) give you strength to lift that cloud! Be gentle, patient, merciful and loving with yourself….because all those qualities come from Allah and He really doesn’t want us to suffer! When I change my focus and think of it as a journey, it changes my perspective and makes me feel as if Allah (swt) gave me this journey for a reason.
Ameen to your beautiful duas. I pray Allah blesses you with much success and happiness too!
BarakAllahfik for your poignant words and honesty about infertility. It is a trial and one that can have ups and downs along the way. I too have travelled along this path and found that like you people would constantly ask questions. Alhamdulillah, for everything! We went the adoption route when we realised that there were so many Muslim children out there who could not be placed with a Muslim family and we continued to pray for birth children. It was not meant to be. Alhamdulillah, my husband and I have raised two beautiful girls (siblings) and have no regrets. This was what Allah wanted for us. If we had had birth children would we have adopted? Probably not. I am proud to have islamically raised my girls and given them a good start for their adult life insha’Allah. May Allah reward us in all of our endeavours . Ameen
Asalamu Aleikum Shaima, thank you so much for your kind and supportive words!I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for sharing about your route to motherhood via adoption-I think of this often! We don’t hear enough about it. This is exactly how I feel, how many of our Muslim children are in need of a loving family?! Alhamdulilah that is so beautiful and subhanAllah that you adopted siblings! I also think it was beautiful that you continued to pray for birth children because Allah(swt) loves to be asked and He will still reward you for that action irrespective of the outcome. Allahu Akbar.
May Allah (swt) reward you and your husband and may your daughters be the coolness of your eyes. Ameen.
I’m not sure where you are in the world (I’m in the UK) but do you have any links on adoption you’d recommend?
I too live in the UK and went through my local council. We attended a few adoption/fostering seminars run by my borough and then a course which basically gave you the ins and outs of the whole process as well as the type of children who are often up for adoption. Once we had gone through that we then had to decide whether we wanted to go ahead. Then the work began. Assigned a social worker, then an in-depth look into our lives, our parents, families etc as well as looking the infertility and whether we had come to terms with it. It is hard as there are loads of questions and interviews as well as interviewing your family and friends. Also depending on your imam, some are very closed and say adoption is haram however my belief is that in fact adoption here in the UK is very similar to Islamic fostering. All children are given a life story book which tells them the circumstances of why they can’t live with their birth family and older children work on it with their social worker. Also, there are now some great Muslim fostering and adoption agencies. I think Penny Appeal run one now but there are so many Muslim children looking for a home and very few Muslim families who want to do it that almost any council will consider you for the process. Also, when you are looking for children to adopt, the search can be countrywide. Muslims are in demand and although they prefer the same ethnic group, just the fact that you are Muslim and can bring the child up in their faith overides ethnicity. Our girls are Asian, I am a white British revert and my husband North African so a real mix there. SubhanAllah, it is quite funny when people say ‘they look just like you.’ I think people genuinely want to see a likeness.
May Allah reward you and you husband.