In Genesis, Rachel offers Leah an extra night with their husband Jacob in exhange for the mandrakes gathered by Leah’s son. The wild root was believed to magically cure infertility. After years of barrenness, Rachel conceives twice, but ironically dies in childbirth. She names her second son Ben-oni, “son of my sorrow,” before she dies.
After early death and grave illness, premature infertility is the worst physical affliction a woman can face. The Old Testament recognizes murder, illness, family strife of every variety. It does not leave infertility out as one of the most grievous curses humankind encounters and it is a major theme in Genesis.
More than simply a biological phenomenon or an emotional event, inferility is a state of spiritual paralysis. A woman who wants children and cannot conceive stands on one side of a locked door. On the other side are her children waiting to be brought across the threshold and into life. She struggles with the lock. So palpable and living do these children seem, she enters a state that can only be called mourning. She grieves those who have never lived.
One of the greatest crimes of feminism is its callousness to the universal pain of infertility. Feminism has actively promoted promiscuity, which often leads to sexually-transmitted diseases and the inability to conceive. Feminism has actively promoted delayed child-bearing even though female fertility begins to decline in a woman’s late twenties. Feminism has actively denied some of the cultural causes of infertility and instead promoted extreme efforts to overcome it, such as gruesome laboratory procedures and trips around the globe in the quest for available children. Perhaps worst of all, feminism has promoted the deliberate destruction of the unborn, leaving thousands of women who have abortions and then cannot conceive later in life in a state of indescribable guilt and loss.
I’m not suggesting feminism is the only cause of infertility, but it has greatly increased its incidence. There is an entire subculture now in Western society that reverberates with the unrequited hunger for children. It is impossible to say just how many women over the years have stood on this side of that locked door because of the insidious and inhuman ideology of liberalism and female liberation. Not only is this state of things an injustice to women and to the fathers of children never conceived, it is an injustice to those who stand on the other side of that door. As C.S. Lewis said, one of the greatest misdeeds one generation can commit against another is the simple refusal to bring it to life.
As for the women now reliving the ancient sorrow of Rachel, searching for those wild mandrakes, may they experience miracles. May they miraculously conceive as did Rachel and Sarah. Or may they open that door someday in Paradise.