ramblings from the noisedoctor

March 13, 2007

hannah’s prayer: “supporting couples” by excluding men

Filed under: Christianity, infertility, marriage, soapbox, unclear on the concept — noisedoctor @ 5:36 am

Hannah’s Prayer is a widely known and respected organization that supports “couples” with fertility challenges from/through a Christian/Biblical perspective. I learned about HP through the daily devotional my wife and I have been reading specifically for couples longing to conceive a child.

I thought that when an organization like this says they support “couples” that they would naturally include women and men. But, I was clearly wrong in this case.

Back in December, when my wife scheduled an appointment to meet with a fertility doctor (read a summary of that event) I desperately sought opportunities to converse with other people that have pursued medical treatments for infertility. When I found HP, I felt a deep sense of relief. I thought I had found the perfect opportunity to meet some Christian people, hear some stories about fertility treatments, and glean some wisdom from them. I wanted to solidify some of my convictions regarding what I believe lines up with the Bible before deciding on a course of treatment with the doctor and before the “heart strings” started pulling.

I signed up at HP for their forums and started reading some excellent stories and conversations between members. I sensed a great amount of prayer behind many of the stories–not an obligatory “I’ll pray for you,” but truly heartfelt prayer for one another. I was really getting excited, feeling that this forum was really about to help me out. But, I noticed that everything I read there was posted by women. I wasn’t surprised at that. I do realize that, on average, most men aren’t too wrapped up in discussing fertility concerns and issues. So, I posted a message in the “introduce yourself” board on the forum. I believe the title of my post was “I hope guys are welcome here.” I described my situation and why I was there looking for information.

It was probably an hour before I had an email from a member of the “Hannah’s Prayer Board of Directors:”

Hi! HP is a "for women only" ministry. There are many of our ladies that are uncomfortable knowing that a man is reading the boards. Please do not take any offense at that, but know that we are women ministering to women.

There used to be a men's email group, but unfortunately there wasn't enough interest and it has since been closed.

We would encourage your wife to seek encouragement here.

Thank you for your interest in HP and your cooperation in this matter.

In fairness, I did receive several (probably 10) responses to my post from women welcoming me to the site, offering to pray for us, asking questions, etc. I felt genuinely and warmly welcomed. All the more disappointing to be warned to “stay away” by the management. It felt like a major kick to the place where guys don’t like major kicks.

As I was still stinging from that, I got a very different email from another member of the HP board of directors.

You have sparked our desire to minister to men and create a group for them to get support. We are working on this right now and if you would like to be part of that group as soon as I have it set up we would love to have you join.

Thank you so much for bringing this up as I think that many men would like the support and talk with others dealing with the roll coaster of IF and loss.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Talk about a 180. Now I was feeling better again. I emailed them back to offer my help in testing and/or developing (I am a web developer-type person) the new forums.

But, I waited, and waited, and waited. That was nearly three months ago. My somewhat urgent desire to converse in and seek wisdom from that forum has diminished now. But, I thought I’d check in just to make sure I hadn’t missed them starting this forum for me. But, I was told:

It is still in the works. We have hit a snag or two, but are still working out the details.

Thanks!

I will make sure you get an email when we are up and running with it.

I can understand the potential technical issues with making such a division to now allow men, but to keep them away from the women’s forums. But… it still makes me question the organization just a little bit. Why separate them at all? In fact, I raised that question to a member of their board. Their web site says:

Hannah’s Prayer Ministries provides Christian based support and encouragement to couples around the world who are struggling with the pain of fertility challenges including primary and secondary infertility, pregnancy loss, early infant death and adoption loss. Our outreach extends to those who become parents of living children through pregnancy, adoption and/or foster care.

If you are supporting “couples” then why are you drawing distinctions between men and women. Again, I know that probably 99% of men don’t give much thought to the matter, most likely leaving their wives to seek out support on their own. But, does that justify excluding men? And, there’s no obvious information showing that it’s only for women.

I was told that there is some information buried somewhere that the forums are only for women, though the rest of the site is open to men. To that, I have to think, “mmmmmmmkay…”

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with HP being for women-only. Like I’ve said, I know I’m the exception, not the rule, in seeking involvement in fertility treatment discussions. But, what does bother me is stating that you’re there to support “couples” but won’t let men participate. Now you’re just deluding yourselves. Change your policy. You don’t support “couples,” you support “women.” That is really a good and excellent thing. That’s obviously helpful and God has blessed it and the women involved. But, how about calling it what it is, a support network for women, not couples.

I am torn about posting this, but I’ve held it in for too long now. I also think I’ve left enough time for HP to make changes to their policies and/or technical systems–but that hasn’t happened. It’s somewhat sad to me. HP could have really helped me at a time of deep need.

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5 Comments »

  1. They do have a valid concern, but unfortunately it leaves you out in the cold.

    Comment by totaltransformation — March 13, 2007 @ 8:35 am

  2. I’m really not sure what the “concern” is. If you’re posting such personal information to a public forum, does it really matter whether it’s women or men reading it?

    Comment by noisedoctor — March 13, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  3. Although I definitely see where you’re coming from, I have to wonder if HP refers to “couples” so as not to defraud people into thinking that they are there to serve the woman down the street who has decided that — although she has no interest in marriage — she wants a baby.

    Sadder still, maybe it’s not that they are looking to keep from defrauding, but that they are legally obligated so that Melissa Etheridge doesn’t sue them.

    Granted, you were defrauded, but you aren’t the pain in the neck that the women in my examples would be.

    Comment by Brendt — March 16, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

  4. We offer Christian-based internet support for married, Christian women (husbands, if your wives are active in this ministry, we desire to provide a few special resources for you as well) surviving the physical, emotional, and spiritual struggle brought on by fertility challenges. As we find ourselves in families that do not fit the picture of what we had imagined them to be by now, we strive together to find contentment in God’s plan.

    Maybe you should continue to read the mission statement.

    Comment by Hannah — July 12, 2007 @ 11:57 am

  5. I read the mission statement. I still don’t see how that is compatible from offering forums to women while excluding men provides support for “couples.” That, to me, is support for women–not couples. Believe me, I have the utmost respect and appreciation for what you do to support women that are dealing with infertility. I just wish men were welcomed in your forum–that, or your mission statement and web site made it more clear that men aren’t welcome to participate.

    Comment by noisedoctor — July 12, 2007 @ 3:57 pm


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