Guest Post by Rev. Abby Hall Luca
Fertility care, the path to finding your baby and building your family, is certainly not for the faint of heart. The process asks much of our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits. The journey is best undertaken with the care and support of a community of humans committed to being there for you through thick and thin. If you’re currently undergoing assisted reproductive technology (ART) care, you most likely have an amazing crew of staff, technicians, nurses, and doctors committed to caring for your body by offering access to evidence-based medical treatments and therapies. That dedicated care is geared towards growing and retrieving healthy eggs, creating strong and vibrant embryos with those eggs, transferring those embryos into your wise and capable body, and establishing and growing the healthy pregnancy and baby that you’ve always hoped for.
And it’s also true that we aren’t just bodies. My hope is that, in addition to receiving top-notch medical fertility care, you’re also able to tend to your mind through partnered relationships with a counselor or therapist and to your heart through connection to family, friends, and activities that bring you joy. Each of these aspects of self—body, mind, and heart—are very much present throughout the journey to parenthood, and each requires supportive community and tending.
The trifecta of body, heart, and mind, however, is a bit incomplete. When thinking of ourselves as holistic and multi-dimensional beings, we also must consider our spirit, that hard-to-define, intangible part of ourselves that does the work of purpose-finding, meaning-making, and connecting to something larger than ourselves as a source of strength and hope. Thankfully, there are companions and tools to help with that aspect of fertility and family building as well.
What is an Interfaith Chaplain?
Interfaith Chaplains are trained professionals who may come from a variety of religious or spiritual backgrounds and who are committed to providing open, affirming, and bias-free spiritual and/or religious care to people from any religious or spiritual tradition, including none. Being “interfaith” means that these companions understand the traditions and ultimate concerns of a great number of different spiritual paths. We come with no agenda of sharing our own personal religious or spiritual beliefs. Rather, interfaith chaplains meet people where they are and help them tap into their own wisdom, beliefs, and systems of meaning-making to find the peace, reassurance, or answers that they need.
Is this care only for religious people?
There is a common misconception that only the religious are invited to, have need of, want, or benefit from chaplaincy care. The truth is that all of us have systems of belief and of meaning- making through which we encounter everyday life, and which help us navigate uncertainty, stress, grief, and weighty episodes of discernment. We are each unique patchworks built of various philosophies and lifeways that, regardless of our religiosity, comprise our spirits, intersect with our experiences of health and wellness, and can use tending from time to time.
As an interfaith chaplain, I serve the devoutly religious, the strictly secular, and everything between, and I do so without personal evangelical agenda. As a care companion, I exist to gently hold the stories and experiences of others, to provide a soft place to land in times of trouble, and to ask the open, honest questions that will bring each individual deeper into their own unique truth.
How can Spiritual Care help fertility patients?
In my years of sharing space with people undergoing infertility assessment and/or ART-based treatments and therapies, I’ve noticed some common themes. People may feel lost, isolated, or even hopeless. They may find that they don’t have people who will just sit with them and listen, noticing instead that loved ones tend to silver-line or offer unsolicited advice. People may question the meaning of life and their purpose in it, especially when family building has been hard, seems impossible, or fraught with loss.
People also struggle with tough emotions along their journeys—emotions that they may not feel able to express in most places. Often, I hear people describe anger—anger at their higher power for not providing, at partners who are also stressed, at friends who send them unending streams of baby shower invitations, and at people in their social media feeds who are pregnant again and so easily. And to make this even more complicated, many people struggle to feel validated in their strong emotions. There’s shame around the anger, and there’s nowhere to put that feeling either.
Does any of this sound or feel familiar? It’s what so many fertility patients carry. This is the invisible load that many of us bear. The philosophy behind Spiritual Care for fertility treatment is that by simply inviting storytelling, listening without agenda, asking honest and open-ended questions, affirming experiences, and helping people identify the tools, practices, and wisdom inherent in their own spirits, chaplains can release an immense pressure valve for patients and open them up to greater healing and wholeness, no matter the outcome of their care.
Rev. Abby Hall Luca is a Certified Professional Midwife, an Ordained Interfaith Chaplain, and a human with 12+ years of personal experience navigating unexplained infertility. Through her practice The Hearth Chaplain, Abby offers spiritual companionship to people—whether secular, religious, or somewhere in between—who are undergoing fertility treatment. Abby, her partner Stephen, and their black cat Banksy live in a rambling old farmhouse in western Maine at the foothills of the beautiful White Mountains.