Plus or Minus by Matt and Cheri Appling
Rather than corner off a section of the infertility pie and talk about what it means for couples, authors Matt and Cheri Appling bring some real gut-wrenching wisdom to the table in their new book entitled Plus or Minus. Finding that many doctors were not asking their questions or providing answers to their own questions, Matt and Cheri dig deep into a whole host of questions regarding infertility such as:
“What does it mean to survive infertility?” “What does it mean to keep your marriage happy and healthy under the strain of infertility?” “What does it mean to keep your faith intact when it is being assaulted by infertility?” “What does it mean for a couple to preserve their friendships, their family, and their sanity during infertility?” “What if we never have a baby? How do we survive a lifetime of infertility” (15)?
This book is seeringly honest in understanding infertility as a whole-life experience, from friendships to marriage, to grasping infertility treatments, to the possibility of never having children. What was very illuminating in reading the book was Matt and Cheri’s insistence that infertility struggles have a way of moving into one’s marriage, setting up camp and causing division, yet also with the possibility of bringing two people together. The toll of infertility on marriage is not one of those things that many people speak about, but every couple in the book bears witness to this struggle. Matt and Cheri write, “
“It had already taken its toll on our friendships and our faith. Now it was an unwanted intruder into our marriages. At some point, every infertile couple feels like their marriage is falling apart. The pursuit of children that starts out joyful and exciting becomes a millstone tied around our necks. It takes many forms, but it always makes marriages miserable. Any one of us experienced a combination of breakdowns in communication, emotional trauma, guilt, shame, loss of intimacy, blame and resentment, spiritual crisis, loss of friendships, and ethical conflict, all while in a state of perpetual grief. It is enough to take even the strongest marriage apart” (119).
From the blame game to the pressure to give up, infertility can rock the boat of faithful marriages everywhere, but this conflict also yields opportunities for grace to enter in. The way forward for the Applings was to get on the same page as to how far they were willing to go with infertility treatment. Further, they learned to lean in to each other in the grieving process, rather than always pushing against each other.
Finally, this book is full of sober wisdom in connection to infertility, God’s vantage point, and living out one’s faith in the midst of this struggle. Dealing with a whole host of Scriptures, Cheri and Matt look at if there any promises to God’s people about children, for many pastors have abused these texts promising parents children. Instead, the authors look at these promises as “fortune cookie faith,” meaning that people open up Bible to find what they to in its pages as promises to themselves, rather than looking the context. Matt writes, “The problem we encountered in reading these verses is that we were wanting to take these verses to be personal promises, but we are not these Jews! We are Gentiles, brought into the new covenant, established by Jesus Christ,” (70).
With personal information on IVF treatment, the grieving process, and how one can minister rightly to those struggling with infertility, Plus or Minus is chalk full of truth, wisdom, and counsel that is biblical and practical. For all those conversations that you are afraid to have concerning infertility, this book is a challenge to open up our lives to others.
Thanks to Moody Publishers for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.