Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Speaking of Missy's OVARIES.... (a.k.a. "How Annoying is Your Fish Bowl?")

Once I heard an American complain about all the rude foreigners at Disney World who pushed right into him as he patiently waited in line for the rides.  North Americans have an enormous bubble surrounding them, which they fully expect strangers to respect. 

Touching is perceived as pushing. 

Most global workers eventually adapt our concept of “personal space” so we can survive without being so prickly with those we came to reach, where personal space is an almost non-existent concept.  However, what about emotional space?  Have any of you experienced the trauma of having a very personal issue treated rudely?

Today I am calling on the collective wisdom of our WOTH readers to address a tender subject: how do you handle infertility cross-culturally?  Short of wearing a t-shirt saying “Please stop talking about my ovaries!” what can be done to get the message across that this is a private matter American women do not want discussed publicly?

Missy (not her real name),  a global worker in her early 30’s, works here in Mexico and has been married for almost five years with no children.  She is a private person who struggles with the fishbowl effect of living in the public eye, where everyone seems preoccupied with her apparent inability to give her Mexican husband offspring.  Mind you she has never seen a doctor or had any “problem” diagnosed, but since her sister-in-law seems to be “Fertile Myrtle” it is presumed there is a “problem,” and that the "problem" is hers and not her husband’s.

The humiliation she has endured is unbelievable.  Can you imagine having people actually touch your belly and weep aloud over the death of your ovaries?  What’s worse, people say hurtful things about how Missy is selfish for not caring that her poor husband has the embarrassment of having an infertile wife.  One woman told her she should stop focusing her attention on helping other people's children (which is her ministry), and then God might consider giving her a child of her own.  Really?

Almost comical (if it weren't true), meddlers regularly offer Missy home remedies like powders in her drinking water, special teas, and fermented pineapple cores.  Once she was given a foot massage to stimulate her reproductive organs.  The very worst are men who make public prophesies and suggestions too graphic to print here, and tell of visions they have had of Missy’s birth canal.  Really!

Missy herself would be at peace with God opening and closing her womb according to His will and purposes.  She would be content to wait several more years to start a family or to adopt children if that’s what God wants.  Her husband and dmil* (see side bar) are supportive, though probably clueless as to her predicament.  If and when she does get pregnant, she would like the glory to go to God, not to the "friends" who offered advice and potions.

Her question to you is this:  How can she communicate to her adversaries that she is a private person who is quietly trusting God?  How can she be gracious, while calmly but strongly telling people to shut up stop meddling and leave her alone?

Is it possible to relay this message without offending people cross-culturally?  How would this scene play out in your part of the world?

IRL:  Living in a fish bowl can be pretty annoying sometimes.

P.S.  I voted against the "Stop Talking About My Ovaries" t-shirt, but I did find this one at
that says "mom-to-be:  Just waiting to find out WHEN." 


  1. Is she against going to a doctor? Seems to me that seeing one might not hurt and does not need to take glory away from God, but might help them formulate an answer to people. Usually after a few years, a visit to a doctor is not unusual. It may also help relieve some of the "stress" of the general community because they might then perceive that she cares (not saying she doesn't!! but realizing that other people may think she doesn't as doing nothing can be misunderstood as not caring). Then they can say, "we've seen a doctor, we thank you for your prayers, but all this attention to it is causing me stress and the doctor is very specific about not adding stress. He thinks if I don't have to carry everyone's worry, my chances are greater, so I'd thank you to keep your worries, remedies,suggestions, prayers private and let me relax."

    1. Thanks for your input. I don't believe she is in any way against going to a doctor. Hopefully she will see this and consider this option for communicating that she'd rather not hear about it. The thing is that I get the impression she honestly doesn't care if fertility is delayed as long as God is in charge. That's the part people don't "get" somehow. Hopefully I am not misrepresenting her side of this.

  2. One thing she cannot say is that she doesn't care if fertility is delayed, even with the caveat of "as long as God is in charge." Sometimes the culture just can't handle those things. Even here on a much lower level, I've learned not to try to explain viruses and germs to people when they freak out about me drinking ice water or getting wet or going somewhere with wet hair. The ice water thing I do in the privacy of my home, joking with my family about not telling the neighbors. The others, I give them some accepted "cure" I will do when I get home and, since I don't get sick, they think that took care of it.

    They just can't handle that the "story of their lives" is plausible but not true. These are things they have been told all their lives and just can't see it any other way. They also have a really hard time letting go of the wives-tales even if intellectually they know them to be wrong.

    All that being said, one way to deal with it (if these people are believers) is to turn it around on them. Begin with questioning their faith in God's strength and power. "Do you really think that God is not capable of making me have a child? Do you think that he could only open Sarai's womb and not mine?" etc. and conclude with a statement of her faith, "God is the God of the universe and of my body and when it is His time, He will make this lovely thing happen. Until then, I choose to trust Him."

    Now, if they aren't believers, that's a whole other kettle of fish. Perhaps telling the story of Sarai and the story of Elizabeth and the story of Hannah and then telling them that her God is a God of miracles in His own time and she is content waiting on Him." That might give her more opportunities to share her faith, but it also makes her have to respond instead of just melting into the woodwork.

    Being an MK, I'm not quite a squeamish about personal space/topics as others, but I do get shocked by their wives-tales sometimes. God is the God of that too, and many times it can be used to show Christ to the people around me.

    Beth (from Mexico)

    1. Well said, Beth from Mexico. Thank you! I had to smile about the other cultural differences like ice water (!), wet hair, etc. What about the hot-cold thing? Can't iron after washing in cold water. Mercy! You are so right about not trying to convince people that what they have always believed is simply not so.

      I love the idea of turning the awkward situations into opportunities to show Christ. Yes! That's how He uses all our stories - good and bad.

  3. This is tough, and having struggled mightily with infertility, I can say I would not have handled this well at all. I totally didn't want to talk about it except with our closest friends because it was so very painful. I don't have any good advice for your friend... maybe she should just break down sobbing and run from the room. That's probably what I would have done in her situation. :-) Hugs to her. - Tricia

    1. (((Tricia))) So sorry for the painful journey life has taken you on, too. May you find comfort and wisdom in your situation, too. Thanks for reminding Missy that she is not alone.

  4. She's in a hard place. I think a stock answer that she can use and reuse as often as necessary can be helpful. Something along the lines of: "Nope, no babies yet. In God's timing!" with a subject-change at the ready.

    With regards to conveying her higher sense of privacy and modesty - I think this is the bigger issue. Does she have in-culture women she can take aside and explain the cultural difference re. privacy on our fertility and how hard she is finding this? And then enlist their help in blocking all the well-meaning conversation and assistance?

    (((hugs))) to Missy. I've just yarped that she will have peace in the midst of this, knowing that our Father has her fertility - and relationships with those around her - completely in His hands.

    1. It sounds like her mother-in-law is understanding about it, but I'm not sure she's been able to encourage Missy in any specific way regarding how to handle the advice and assistance people.

      The prayers are really appreciated, I'm sure!


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