According to the National Infertility Association, one in eight couples is infertile.
I’m certain you know at least eight couples. The statistical reality is that one of them—and likely more—is facing infertility.
But infertility remains a silent battle. Couples don’t disclose; the rest of us don’t ask.
The Rev. Elizabeth Hagan’s debut memoir, Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility shatters the silence, guiding her reader on a journey of parenthood, interrupted. Birthed is an actual labor of love: raw and real. Nothing is withheld from the reader. Hagan gives public voice to the deep pain would-be parents feel with every pregnancy announcement, baby shower, baptism, and play date.
Birthed chronicles the parenthood journey of Hagan and her husband, Kevin. The couple endured multiple diagnoses, missed opportunities, devastating phone calls, hormones, and uncertainty. They underwent nine reproductive procedures. They tried to adopt internationally. Friends offered the Hagans sperm and eggs; countless ideas were considered and implemented.
Hagan can even mark the point at which cultural norms tried to undercut her grief. One night, at dinner with friends, Kevin shared brief explanation of their lost pregnancy, which was followed by a timid acknowledgement and eagerness to change the subject.
This could have become the new and final norm for the Hagans, as it does for the majority of couples who cannot conceive. Instead, Elizabeth barreled forth with unapologetic vulnerability. Birthed is what follows: brokenness amid life, careers, and relationships.
Hagan’s tribe—her husband, family, and closest friends—emerge with her as the collective heroes of this journey. They sit in ash heap with her, not outside of it. Through them, Hagan discovers her own resurrection story: the kind of healing that happens when others recognize our pain as their own.
Birthed is a careful cocktail of emotion, balanced with wisdom and practicality. Every infertile couple, for instance, should have a “St. Michaels Covenant,” as coined by Elizabeth and Kevin (p. 39). Rituals abound in this memoir—from the self-described absurd (Chapter 5 and “all those candles”), to the beautiful (Chapter 6 and Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall). Redemption, it turns out, can also come in the form of culinary arts and driveway rock piling.
Lest you get the sense that this is just another white-girl-first-world-problem memoir, it’s not. Hagan grounds her pain in the deep, visceral grief all of us feel when wandering the wilderness of substantial loss.
The Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, Senior Minister of Riverside Baptist Church, describes it best:
“[Birthed] is your story … you will recognize the unfailing love of God in whichever way it has made itself known in your life.”
Birthed, p. vii-viii
Ultimately, Hagan, and we, are faced with a choice: hope or bitterness.
“Making a baby has broken my heart deeper than I’ve ever known. But, at the same time, I’ve also felt more seen and loved by a few of you than I’ve ever imagined … sometimes the only way that real love can go deep down inside of us is for our heart to be cracked open. And through that pain, love has the room to seep into us and live.”
–Birthed, p. 57
This book is a must-read, no matter what role infertility has (or hasn’t) played in our life. Birthed teaches us that empathy is a human trait. To sit with, to wail with, to comfort the mourners is a resurrection story with no distinction between us and the other.
This is a story, as Butler describes, about becoming fully human.
Get your copy of Birthed here, and learn more about Elizabeth.