“Live through the Pain”: A Q&A with Elizabeth Hagan

birthedI have a lot of friends who’ve written books recently, and I hope to highlight many of them over the coming weeks.

To get us started, here’s my good friend Elizabeth Hagan, who wrote the book Birthed: Finding Grace through Infertility. I read parts of this book in various stages of development, and am grateful for Elizabeth’s honesty and nuance on this topic. We’ve all heard infertility stories with a nice pat ending–the treatments worked, or the couple got pregnant when they “relaxed and stopped trying so hard” (ugh). Elizabeth cuts through the treacle and gets to the heart of things, without the predictable ending to the journey.

What led you to write this book? 

I am among the 1 in 8 women in US who are infertile. When this unthinkable thing happened to my husband, Kevin, and me, I felt overwhelmed in my grief. I didn’t know how to make it in a world where friends seemed to be announcing their pregnancies on social media almost every day. I didn’t know how to process my own shame. I didn’t know how to keep pastoring especially during joyful seasons like Advent and Christmas. 

One of my coping tools was Amazon. I ordered all the books on infertility that I could find. I desperately wanted someone to give voice to our deep sense of grief, loss, and frustration with God, our bodies, and our community.  I wanted someone to tell me I wasn’t crazy for wanting to be a mother so badly. I wanted a spiritual guide to tell me not to just “pray harder.” But most of the time with these books I was disappointed. Many times I did not find the author making progress in their journey. I did not read of a how infertility could be connected to a spiritual journey. Most of all I did not find what I needed. So one day almost 6 years ago, I knew I needed to start writing. I needed to write that book I was always searching for and never found. Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility was slowly born.

What will people gain by reading this book that they won’t get anywhere else?

To my knowledge, I am the first pastor who has shared their infertility story ever! How fun to be the first! But there are so many take-aways I believe readers will find (no matter if they’ve lived through infertility or not) such as:

  • When life doesn’t go as you plan, something greater might be emerging beneath the surface. Live through the pain and you will get there!
  • It is ok to live into the mystery — the mystery of not knowing how your dreams will come to fruition, when or if at all
  • A long season of grief doesn’t have to destroy your marriage or friendships. It can in fact bring you closer. 
  • Hope springs eternal even when the worse case scenario happens and happens again. 

Share one idea, quote or section in the book of which you are particularly proud.

So much of this story is about friendship and how grief can be transformed with loyal people by your side. Here’s one part of my story that I am so glad that happened while on a retreat with a friend in Arizona: 

With really wet cheeks by this point, God and I had a moment. With Meredith’s gift of secure presence by my side, courage came to go there—to a very deep place of self-reflective honesty. This is what I knew: I wasn’t just a little afraid; I was deathly afraid. I was afraid to love. I was afraid that who I was made to be was not acceptable. I was afraid to use my voice to say what I wanted to say. Instead, my life game plan consisted of becoming the best imitation of me that could be deemed socially acceptable. I did not send emails I wanted to send. I did not kiss dear ones goodbye on the check. I did not call people when I thought of them. I feared my love was too much. I feared I wasn’t good enough at being me. But, what if? What if, like the therapist said, I held back no more?  I was dying inside and had been for a long time. But, instead of continuing to carry the grief, hope came over me. I stared ahead to the canyons, keeping close to the therapist’s truth-telling words. I knew I was in love. I was in love with the idea of life without the gates I’d built around my heart to keep me safe. I was in love with how much joy might be rising up to meet me. I was in love with a future I couldn’t control, even with dreams of motherhood set aside for a moment. In this love, I wanted to be a woman who didn’t fear telling people how much she loved them. I wanted to be a woman who didn’t fear getting close to those who seemed to love her most. I wanted to be a woman who could confidently claim that her voice was powerful, even in the midst of trouble in baby-making land that rendered her powerless in that aspect of her life. In all these things, visions of joy I did not yet know sprung from me. Maybe, just maybe, the world was missing out on some of the greatest contributions I could offer? Maybe there was light in my voice? Maybe others needed to hear what I had to say as much as I needed to speak it? 

What has been the biggest surprise about getting a book written and published? What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

You are really your best advocate. And with the right fit of a publisher, you’ll have a lot of say in the direction your book takes. Just hang on for the ride! 

I would tell other aspiring authors, never give up on your dream of publication. Keep writing. Keep re-writing. And believe in who you are as a writer. Your day will come. I started drafting this book in 2010 and never would have thought it would have taken me to 2016 to reach publication. Yet, I learned so much along the way and I am so glad I’m here now. 

Dream time: where would you LOVE to see this book get covered? 

I would love to sit down for a chat with Krista Tippett on On Being. It’s my favorite podcast that I listen to every week.

Elizabeth Hagan is an ordained American Baptist minister who serves churches through short-term interims in the Washington DC area. You can order her book Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility over at Chalice Press today.

2 thoughts on ““Live through the Pain”: A Q&A with Elizabeth Hagan

  1. Ted Chadeayne

    This looks like a very interesting resource! My wife and I are infertile (yes, both of us – one by medical circumstances, one by accepting it as a part of our marriage). After a struggle of many years, we adopted two daughters. But, as we were advised at the time: Adoption answers the problem of being childless; it does not “solve” infertility. That is a different issue, and a separate journey. I look forward to reading how grace can come from living through such unexpected – and unwanted – adversity!

    Reply

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