I think I'm slowly improving. My most recent radio interview went pretty well, and last week's newspaper interview by Jason Reynolds of Tennessee Christian News was almost fun. I could tell by his questions that he'd actually read and personally identified with my book before calling me, and this made for an insightful discussion that explored the themes of the book and not just my tongue-in-cheek chapter titles.
Infertility.That word has served as a curse for innumerable couples who have tried so desperately to conceive a child. One author is now sharing her own struggles with infertility and how that battle gave her a major insight into God.
Amanda Hope Haley, a Murfreesboro native, is the author of "Barren Among the Fruitful." The title by Thomas Nelson is part of the InScribed collection, a series of books written by women for women.
"Having no child -- that's a big deal to me," Haley told me. "I feel broken in my body; there is no way God wants me to feel that way."
Haley, who now lives in Denver, lays open her painful seven-year struggle to conceive a child--and her miscarriages. In the end, she came to realize that God gives only one hope: Jesus. Having a child was not to be part of God's plan for her and her husband, David.
The book includes personal stories by some of Haley's friends on their own fertility struggles, including her own mother's difficulties, as well as her husband's perspective.
Haley also shares her extensive research about fertility medical data and health care/insurance facts. And, there is a wealth of questions for individual thought and group discussions.
"It's the book I wish that I had when my husband and I were going through infertility struggles," Haley said.
The book is not just for infertile women, as parents, friends and spouses can come away with something.
Haley said she hopes that infertile women who read the book can realize they are not alone, "like we felt. I hope these women feel a sense of community and this brings them closer to God. Whether you have a child or not, it's about being closer to God. That's my 20-20 hindsight."
She addresses the well-intentioned but extremely hurtful things that people say to women about child-bearing, whether the person realizes she is struggling or not.
"It happens just as soon as you say, 'I do,'" Haley writes. "People go from asking, 'When are you getting married?' to asking, 'When are you having children?' I was a twenty-two-year-old bride standing in the receiving line at my own wedding when I was first smacked with this question."
In writing a story for the book, Haley's mother, Dana Womack, learned that she had said hurtful things.
She did not let many know about her battle while she was trying to conceive a child, although some likely figured it out. People who did know would not always bring their children around the Haleys, believing that seeing the children would be too painful. But, she said, she and her husband would rather have been involved with the children, and the forced separation itself was painful.
The couple came to realize that they were focusing more on having a baby than they were on one another. Haley addresses that problem in "Barren." David shares his side of the struggle, including what he had to do in his medical testing that every man dreads facing in such a situation (and something that I can personally relate to in my own fertility struggles). David handles the situation with humor.
Haley said she has been surprised at how well the book has resonated with men. She acknowledges that "Barren" is a "heavy book."
"You have to look at the absurd situations" like David's experience, she said. "He did a great job, and he is a man of few words."
The couple is largely healed, she said. It has been three years since her last miscarriage. They are confident that God does not plan for them to become parents, although they are godparents. Their lifestyle does not allow for children, as they both travel frequently and "live in a Denver high-rise."
"But we are happy."
"Having a baby isn't a happy ending; at most, it's a stop along the path," she writes. "Finding wholeness by accepting God's plan is a happy ending."
Haley, who has a degree in biblical archaeology, said she is working on a new book about reading the Bible in context. Cherry-picking Scriptures is one of her pet peeves. There is no release date yet for the book.
-- Jason Reynolds is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @reynoldsjason.
I thank Jason for this great write-up. He invested time in reading the book, talking to me, and writing this article. If you'd like to read more of his work about state, national, and world news affecting Tennessee Christians; check out his blog.