Fertile Narcissism

“The faster someone achieves success, the more narcissistic they’ll tend to be.  Slow & steady builds character over the years.”   – Rick Warren

Although I doubt he was tweeting about infertility, I’m convinced Rick Warren’s absolutely right.

We live in a culture that celebrates instant gratification and effortless success.  The gossip media constantly barrage us with breathless coverage of celebrity pregnancies and baby arrivals.  “Look!  Blissful parents!  Gorgeous babies!  Happily-ever-after!”  For couples struggling to conceive, this cultural obsession only makes the burden of infertility harder to bear.

What if it’s not as wonderful as it all looks?  Could there actually be a downside to effortless conception?  And conversely, could the infertility journey be a blessing-in-disguise?  Warren’s tweet certainly suggests the possibility, as do many verses of scripture.

Think about it for a minute…

We’ve all crossed paths with narcissistic pregnant women.  Rather than being thankful for an incredible gift, they seem to take pleasure in complaining about their uncontrollable fertility, or the inconvenience of being pregnant.  Their words and actions reveal a self-absorption that is disturbing, and it does not bode well for the children they’re expecting.

In a Discovery Health documentary, one woman sobbed when her ultrasound revealed she had not conceived a girl.  A healthy 18-week pregnancy was not enough to satisfy her.  Already the mother of four boys, she said she would “always, always be sad” that she was having another.  Apparently, this woman wasn’t as eager to steward a child as she was desperate to fulfill a vision of herself.

She did not consider how wonderful this boy could turn out to be — or how awful a particular girl could have been — because it wasn’t about the child.  It was about her desire to fulfill her plan for her life.

In another story from the same documentary, a fertile mother (also with four boys) elected to use IVF with PGD — three times — in her quest for a girl.  Her first two IVFs yielded only boys, so she had those embryos discarded. Her third IVF yielded one girl and five boys.  The girl was transferred; the remaining embryos were destroyed.

Once again, no thought was given to what had intentionally been created (this time, through IVF).  The unwanted embryos weren’t donated to infertile couples, or even to research.  They were treated like trash — because it wasn’t about anyone else, only about a woman fulfilling her dream of her family on her terms.

That is narcissistic fertility, and it is nothing like what God intends for us as parents.

He wants us to be people of character and of faith who commit ourselves wholeheartedly to stewarding the souls He entrusts to us.  That’s what I see over and over again in infertile couples who become parents — whether by conception or adoption.  They have learned the hard way that instant gratification is not part of God’s character-building formula.  In fact, just the opposite.

The infertility journey has been a sort of spiritual obstacle course for them.  They have become stronger and more mature as they have navigated their way along it.  They’ve learned how to work together to confront problems, deal with difficult emotions, and struggle through heartaches.

As the Bible says, “… we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  This is the blessing-in-disguise of infertility.  Although we would never wish for suffering, when we put God at the center of our experience (rather than our selves), the hardship of infertility sets off a chain reaction that builds character and produces hope that outlasts any circumstance we will ever face — as infertile couples, or as parents.

Narcissistic fertility sees pregnancy as a means of  self-gratification.  God wants so much more for you — and by extension, for the children He intends to entrust to you.   There’s a purpose to His plan.  Persevere, trust Him, and you’ll see.

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