Angie: Oh my goodness, I am thrilled to present this interview between me (Angie) and Joy DeKok, author of Rain Dance. She is definitely a Courageous Beauty! Remember I'll be doing a month long interview series starting Nov. 1st with women who are Courageous Beauties, not because of their title, but because of the contribution to society and some amazing stories of overcoming obstacles to gain confidence. Joy shares her struggle with a devastating issue and how to shines in the victory of infertility. Please enjoy!
Angie: Where did you get the idea to tackle both infertility and abortion in the same book?
Joy: The idea came to me in a rush while cleaning house - complete with both characters and circumstances intact. It was like the old song - love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage - this novel would be imcomplete without them both.
Angie: How do you feel women's friendships affect women's mental health?
Joy: Girlfriends are essential to our mental health. My most trusted friends know me inside out and love me anyway. We don't have to agree and in fact have found our differences strengthen our relationships. They also keep me honest - they know when I'm faking it and call me on it - gently. You know how it is - you meet for coffee or lunch and everyone asks, "How are you?" In that slightly higher voice you say, "Great. How are you?" The women at the table who know me best, raise their eyebrows and I know we're going to get to the heart of my issue very soon. I love that about them!
Angie: Who do you admire career-wise? and why?
Joy: My publisher, Joan Shoup. She is taking brave risks to publish books she believes in with all her heart. Every step she takes is one of faith and based on integrity. She's also smart and funny.
Angie: Why do you feel women are driven to make choices like a child or a career?
Joy: Sadly, when the focus is that success equals things and that it must come early in life, women who are driven to succed feel they must choose. Whatever doesn't fit the plan, has to go. I wonder how it might be if we taught the women in our circles of influence they can design their own blueprint for their lives - define success their way - if they'd make different choices. Society says this is what they're telling them, but it's not. If you want to be a lawyer, doctor, news anchor, or even a writer, you're told this is the mold - fit into it or you lose.
The truth is, there are a lot of women out there throwing out the old mold and finding ways to be mothers and impact the world in their chosen careers as well. These are not Enjoli women - these are women who have combined their passions and define success not only by a paycheck, but by a level of personal satisfaction that meets their personal standards and often includes unplanned motherhood.
Angie: Why do women experience depression after abortion?
Joy: I'm not an expert, however I can tell you what friends have told me. Deep in their hearts they knew they were ending far more than a "problem" and were removing more than a blob of tissue. This knowledge and the actual procedure, plus hormonal changes, has a natural result: depression. Here the combination of the mental, physical, emotional, and for some spiritual crisis leads the whole woman into a deep-seated depresson. Some also suggest the fact they are encouraged not to grieve their decision contribute to their depression.
Angie: What are the symptoms of Post Abortion Syndrome?
It's very similar to Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome. Sydna Moss explains it in detail here. http://postabortionsyndrome.org/, Please see Synda's website.
Angie: Where can a woman go if she is experiencing depression due to Post Abortive Syndrome?
Joy: An excellent resource for women is Healing Hearts International. This organization has women all over the world ready to counsel other post-abortive women. http://www.healinghearts.org/index.php
Sydna Moss has an excellent book on the topic - Her Choice to Heal is published by Cook and available online for $9.99. That's a start.
Some local crisis pregnancy centers also provide support for these precious women - however it's difficult for them to go "public" so the above resources might be the best place to start.
Angie: Where can a woman go who is experiencing depression due to infertility?
Joy: There is an online magazine called Stepping Stones that is one option. http://www.bethany.org/step
Jennifer Saake also wrote a wonderful book on the topic: http://www.hannahshopebook.com/
The truth is, pastors and counselors need to read these books and they need to talk to people like me - old enough to have healed from most of the hurts although I confess, the sting of being no one's grandma hit home recently and I realized as with all of life's "chronic" conditions, this is one of the hurts that keeps on giving. If there's a woman (say in her 40s or 50s) you know who has experienced infertility, ask her is she is willing to talk to younger women about their journey. Or, they can email me at email@example.com. I encourage professional counseling, but also contact with someone who has walked the path.
Angie: What are some good responses when people are inconsiderate about infertility issues?
Joy: It took me a long to have the courage to say the following things. . .
For example when told I wasn't given children because God knew I'd be a bad mother, I learned to say, "Do you really believe that?" They would say, "Well, yes, don't you?" This was my opportunity to ask gently if they knew any woman who was sinless and still conceived. I kept my voice gentle and quiet - no sarcasam - I knew the answer and when asked - so did they. While I wish I could say it always ended pleasantly - it didn't. But, most of the time, an apology was given to me and accepted with a hug.
When asked if I have a family, I'm quick to introduce my husband to them if he's there. If not, I say, "I am the wife of Jon and auntie to dozens." Some pursue and want to know about my children. Because they asked, I answer, "I was unable to have children, but have the great joy of delighting in our nieces, nephews, and the children of our friends."
Then, I'm quick to ask about them because they are suddenly uncomfortable. When I can switch the conversation back to them, we're good. Later, after they've digested my life circumstance, we can talk about it more.
Angie: What are common mistakes people make/say to women experiencing infertility?
Joy: "Practice makes perfect." Not always and this cliched answer is a regular for couples desiring children. If someone is brave enough to admit they want children and have not been successful, this answer as well as Bible verses, don't help and in fact damage the hearts so willing to trust you with their secret. A better response is, "How can I pray for you?" or "If you ever just want to talk, please call me."
Then, just let them talk. They don't want you to fix them or their situtation - they just need to talk. By listening and nodding you validate them. Generally, we've also heard all the Bible verses about this and we don't need to hear them taken out of context again. Just listen - with your whole heart.
Be gracious if as you share labor and delivery stories we leave the room and join the guys. We understand the importance of you sharing these "war" stories, however, we will always be bystanders in these often long conversations.
Don't assume adoption is God's call for every couple. Know that the couples in your life may have attemtped adoption and have experienced the implosion of a mother who at the last moment changes her mind. We are afraid to tell these things, because if we do, and things go the other way, we're in for a barrage of more advice we simply don't need. We may also not adopt in direct obedience to God. We are intune to His calling on our lives - we know what He wants for us and we are doing our best to obey.
Angie: Could you offer some advice to people who may not understand how to offer compassion to a woman who is infertile?
Joy; Most people have the opposite problem - they are able to have children and worry about unplanned conceptions. Infertility for some reason, scares people. It can also make them uncomfortable when they do become pregnant - they often feel guilty for being so blessed. Please try to understand - we don't want you to not be pregnant because we aren't. We celebrate your pregnancy even as it stings our hearts. We don't want your child - to be honest, until we decide on adoption we only want our own.
Infertile couples are in an extremely tender place. I beg anyone who knows someone in this situation, your acceptance is so needed. Your TLC may bring tears - they are grieving the death of a dream they were sure was vital to their lives. These dreams die hard. Let us hold your babies, but don't expect us to be nursery workers.
Trust us to pray for your children and even be friends with your children - we are not competitors for their hearts - we support you and respect you. When you have lunch with us, we want to hear about your children, but we also want to know how you are as women . . . how are you and Jesus doing? You and your man? We enjoy children and their impact in our lives - let us talk about them now and then. My friends listen to my current Grace and Connor stories - it's their way of including me in their journey as mothers and grandmothers - I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this!
You might notice in my responses, I'm protective of both post-abortive women and women who cannot have children of their own. In my 20's walking this path alone, I was devestated. In my 50's I'm determined to love and nuture these women - sort of be their unofficial "auntie" the way Corrie Ten Boom was to the world at large.
I've only hinted at this in other interivews, but this morning while cleaning house, I sensed God calling me to put aside the novel I've been working on and begin part two of Jonica and Stacie's story - their journey into mid-life. It's called Sun Dance. Like Rain Dance, the girls are talking and this part of the journey is ready to be written. It is time. I will begin very soon.
Angie: I am delighted to have had the opportunity to interview Joy today. If you'd like a copy of her book, Rain Dance, please visit here.
Author Bio: Joy and her husband Jon live on 35 acres of woods and fields. They enjoy exploring their land either on foot or riding their John Deere Gator. Joy is the author of five published books, speaks nationally, and is an author coach. (www.gettingitwrite.net) A few of Joy's favorite things include: dinners out and long talks with her husband, snuggling with their dogs, Sophie & Tucker, reading all kinds of books, lunch with friends, and hot coffee.