I don't hurt
Through the Orthodox neurosis and sterility – to the acceptance of oneself and God.
Healers in white and black
… My mother and I are sitting in an old mansion of the 18th century in the aroma of incense, candles are burning, icons are hanging all around, there is silence in the operating room, despite a long line of silent visitors. We are in one of the many strange institutions that opened in the 90s, with a healer, a “priest,” who takes in the awesome silence of the office under the quivering candlelight and censer smoke, is concentrated, serious, thin and tall.
I am 16 years old, I am scared and mistrustful, I know the Bible at elective school, and by that time I studied many esoteric trends, but I am internally ready to accept Christianity. However, what is happening in this “center” scares me. But I tolerate: no, I'm not scared and it does not hurt me.
In the 90s there were a lot of such “centers” with many hours of queues, as if a portal had opened: the ban on spiritual things had already been lifted, it was not yet fashionable to believe in God, but it could be treated unconventionally. And all this mass of sorcerers, “people in a cassock” and others who want to make money quickly for the benefit of humanity has surfaced.
In another similar “center”, the healer in the white room of the mystical darkness and the quivering glare of candles on the glass of old icons, fumigating incense, “blessed” us for baptism: she removed the “crown of celibacy” from me and could not take it off without a pectoral cross.
Therefore, in May 1991, my mother and I were baptized and we were hung on the chest the same small golden crosses. I remember very well the moment when the priest said that baptism is not just a reason to wear a cross, we took upon ourselves the obligations of a new life, we are the salt of the earth, and now our life will never be the same again: we must prepare for the first confession and communion.
I bought literature in the church shop and began to read … I was interested in searching for the meaning of life from an early age, questions of being excited literally from the age of three.
So I came to Orthodoxy, I was probably removed from the “crown of celibacy” – I don’t remember what this comic story ended in, but I remember how I repented for it later.
Faith entered my life rapidly and for a long time became the meaning of existence, the purpose of life, a guideline and a core. I began to zealously go to the nearest church, pray, read books and prepare for communion, writing many sins “from birth” out of the booklet. My mother and I began to fast and go on pilgrimages …
I went through all the thresholds of neophyte: from wanting to wear only skirts to not wanting to cut hair (because the Mother of God on the Dread Court in a terrible drum will make one cut cropped female hair), from endless services and prayers, vigils, tough and painstaking posts to special blessings on doing sports. A truly new life has begun! And so began my Orthodox neurosis … as I understood much later …
There was no Orthodox environment around me from young people: a vacuum of communication, filled only with books, the writings of the Holy Fathers and strange pamphlets, in which many terrible and amazing things were written, that everything is sin, you yourself are a sinful being and you should hate yourself for it, detract and fight with oneself above all.
The first dialogue with believing peers finally arose on a regular pilgrimage to Solovki (gradually we traveled all the holy places of Russia with my mother), so I had the first and only Orthodox forum for communication. The first Orthodox family appeared in my environment, I became a godmother and a nanny to three children. From there I scooped information about how the Orthodox family should be built, primarily on abstinence: pregnancy, breastfeeding is a taboo for intimate relationships. Subsequently, this family, unfortunately, broke up due to adultery.
I always had a wonderful and instant contact with any child, my new friends considered him a magical gift, but for me it was natural, like breathing – I perfectly felt the children, I was amazingly easy and interesting with them.
The Orthodox faith divided my life into “before” and “after”, I did not dream of anything so much and desperately, how to be with Christ, was not afraid of anything more than to lose faith, did not guess anything at the moment when the chimes beat 12 times on New Year's Eve, except that God will not leave me. Gradually, I changed my social circle, now I was surrounded by an Orthodox ghetto.
Naturally, I wanted only an Orthodox family, with a certain way of life, values, aspirations and rites. I went to marriage, it was not easy, the whole way was littered with "feats": now abstinence, now virginity, then prayers, then living in monasteries (Diveevo, Optina, Divnogorye, etc.). For several years I studied in the evenings at catechism courses, having a musical education, I was engaged in Kliros singing.
There were very unpleasant memories of this period. From the reprimand of the priest of the church for a red coat to Lent to a frank abomination: after the confession, the elderly priest began to crawl to me to hug and kiss, and he strove to kiss on the lips. The first soul-burning shame, a sense of guilt in what happened, disappointment, confusion, despair, tears … Attempting to reconcile with this fact, internal struggle, the desire to no longer intersect … the desire to leave!
My churching was not cloudless, but everything was covered by the power of faith in Christ. Any oddities I encountered on this path outweighed the conviction that even if stones are visible at the bottom of the source, dregs often appear in the form of sand and silt — the source itself is still not polluted and clean. No, it does not hurt me, I am a soldier of Christ!
It was much easier to feel one’s unworthiness, to learn to humble pride, to self-defeat and self-deprecate in every way than to look adequately at the situation.
All my novels did not evolve for one reason only: men did not want to live the Orthodox life, which I drew with enthusiasm to them, – without a TV, with reading prayers, with observance of fasting. It did not go without tragedies and even curiosities, when young people were forced to buy crosses, to stand in queues for relics for whole nights: I am a strong-willed, purposeful and determined person, moreover, I really burned and lived by it. After many years of trying in relationships, I finally met an amazing person who not only accepted Christianity and was baptized, but also sincerely believed in God. After about two years, the elder blessed us for marriage.
After marriage and marriage, that moment came in the life of a girl who I personally waited with a special feeling: deprivation of virginity. I was frightened only by the cross of large families, but morally I was preparing for it. To abstain and protect ourselves from conceiving children was not in principle in our family plans.
Meanwhile, I am already 27 years old!
I trusted the confessor very much, it’s just happiness to find such a person – this is an absolutely pure, principled, highly spiritual, highly moral and intelligent father of a large family who, because of many things at the parish, practically does not spend the night at home, lives at the temple. It seems that our family is incredibly lucky, we have our own parish, all weekends and holidays are planned out in advance and far ahead.
Our confessor forbids us sexual intercourse immediately after marriage, and even after the wedding, and imposes strict physical posts that begin long before the calendar posts and end only a week after the holidays. According to him, the Orthodox life is an invisible and unseen feat of struggle with the flesh, with sins, with itself.
So began my family Orthodox life. I am still a soldier of Christ. I can take it … It does not hurt me!
In fact, it was physically painful and after three years, it also became morally painful, because the long-awaited pregnancy did not occur.
I went to the doctor right away, as family life began, I had no women's problems, I was remarkably healthy.
We observed all fasting and fasting days, lived a dense church life, went on trips, actively pilgrims, I even visited the Holy Land, I still burned with faith and lived for it. Pregnancy did not occur …
Infertility of unknown origin
A new chapter of my life called “infertility of obscure genesis” began; it was a real grief that I could not discuss, understand and realize to the end, bleeding the wound. And now the time has come when I constantly began to cry bitterly and realized that I could not cope on my own.
We strengthened prayers, fasting and vigils, began to travel around the world and over the years have become experts in the subject of "Orthodox miracles for conception." I’m probably not going to exaggerate if I say that we checked them on ourselves if not all, then 99%. Prayers by agreement, strict knee-leaning posts with 40 bows daily with the wearing of the belt of the Virgin, the miraculous vine of Simeon the Myrrh-flowing from the Serbian Hilandar monastery, the date palm of Sava the Sanctified, dipping in springs, visiting of Holy Mount Athos with many monasteries, and in general we visited dozens of monasteries, we visited dozens of the monastery the whole world. I thought that the main thing – not to lose faith, and if you knock, they will definitely open it.
Internally, I blamed myself, my unworthiness, in myself, I looked for flaws in myself, washed the church floors with tears, asked and begged God and all the saints to have compassion, give me a sign, a hand …
As before, I was surrounded only by the Orthodox community, the Internet forum, and communication was limited only by the Orthodox paradigm, where any misfortunes and problems are covered with humility and the need to accept the situation and once again ask for forgiveness for everything.
But I had more and more questions, the irritation intensified, the grumble inside was becoming more and more palpable, a clear crisis was brewing.
I can't remember the moment when I really exploded – for many, many years I was holding back the growing wave of internal duality.
The riot began with questions to God: for what?
I lost logic in the confessor's instructions, I suddenly took off the mask of humility, began to argue, bring quotes from the Social Concept, which clearly stated that the intimate life of an Orthodox family is a private matter of the couple, the priests should not interfere in it.
My girlfriend long and unsuccessfully tried to convince me to start going to a psychologist. One day she stunned me: “For many years we have been going with you to one priest in the same temple, how has your life changed for the better, and you yourself? Is there a result of these endless confessions, watch services and struggle with yourself? Have you become better over the years? Maybe you need to change something? "
In 2009, I gave up and for the first time crossed the threshold of the psychologist's office. I had a lot of fears and prejudices, the narrowness of my thinking was built in such a way that I was afraid to trust someone other than Orthodox people.
But so began the way out of my sluggish depression, the result was a cardinal change of activity: teaching a new profession, getting fired from an unloved job, and an incredible rise in energy.
For several years I lived with new work, new projects, completely redefined life, left the parish. Finally I honestly found out the relationship with the spiritual father, there were no offenses left, everything burned out. We started going to another temple …
We never for a moment forgot about the grief of childlessness, I tried to look for joy in other areas of life: we visited orphanages, still prayed personally, by agreement, conciliarly. Periodically, I went to the hospital, checked, again received excellent tests, internal wound burned. But what was new was this: I realized this pain, entered my ocean of pain … yes, it hurts me, it hurts me a lot!
Then I came across the Internet on Maria Kikot's book Confessions of a Novice, and a bomb exploded inside me! I did not want to believe in the reality of what was happening, squeezed my eyes, tried to find an excuse for everyone, but stretched a number of other stories about churching, about the loss of guidelines, about frustration, about personal tragedies. All this responded vividly inside, I wanted to talk about it, I tried to discuss it at the Orthodox forum and learned about the "psychology of the sect", about the "Orthodox neurosis." So I understood my diagnosis, and it was again – pain …
Inside a personal drama
It took me quite a long time to realize, accept, I stopped reading the Orthodox forum. Everything that used to breathe in me began to cause suffocation …
I have never read female infertility forums, I was scared by these discussions and brain ovules, I did not try to control the doctors, trusted them and thought that everyone should do their own thing. Alas, over time, I realized: the reality of our medicine is such that at some point we have to take responsibility for the treatment and examination. My husband bought an encyclopedia of gynecology and endocrinology, because of constant stress, I became ill with hypothyroidism.
Over the past three years, we have experienced a lot of pain, both physical and spiritual. I learned to talk with my pain, learned not to depreciate it, learned to cry, grieve, be careful. Fall and stand up.
Each of us has our own cross, each path teaches something, and I often think: what gave me my path? What I gained thanks to him?
My husband and I became a team of two closest people, really one flesh. Our love has grown, got stronger, has become deep, I could not even think at the beginning of the path that a man can be so loving and understanding. And she did not know that a man can be loved and understood with such fullness.
My father is a deeply religious person, he opened amazingly and continues to open for me, it’s like a whole world! All my life I have been surrounded by wonderful men.
My mother always prays fervently for me, I can feel it.
Over the years I have learned a huge number of amazing people, each history of infertility is unique, each person is a universe. Often, infertile couples are well versed in reproduction, almost at the level of doctors, but still their knowledge and doctors cannot create a miracle.
Let me speak one piece of advice from within a personal drama: if you really want to support a barren couple, just show sincere interest and a desire to listen. But remember that not all couples are willing to share their pain and generally discuss this topic.
The most painful and useless is the advice to “turn off the head”, “pass tests”, “take the child from the orphanage” (this is a personal matter of each couple, and not everyone is born with readiness for adoption, strange as it may seem). And also – a lecture about “humility before the will of God”, which devalues other people's experiences, deprivations, and inappropriate optimism (various stories about friends and acquaintances with a positive ending). All this is completely out of topic. After all, the most difficult experience to take is the experience of experiencing powerlessness. The truly supporting factor is the recognition of the reality of others' feelings. It is very important to give a place to be different emotions, including pain – and just to be around.
Yes! It hurts and scares me, but I step forward …
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