This post has been sitting on a shelf in my mind for a long time. Most of the time, I’m OK with our infertility journey. We knew when we got married that we’d probably never have bio children. And we would be missing out on the joy we receive from our three beautiful children God has given us through the foster care system. Still there are moments when it hurts not to be pregnant, when it seems every last woman I know is, when I’m so tired of fearing “announcements,” when conversations get stuck on pregnancy and birth-related things, when I mourn that I’ll never hold in my arms the result of our love, when I know I’ll not get to see what a little “Sheldon” or “Twylene” looks like. And the reason I’ve not written this before is because it’s painful. Unless you’ve walked this journey, you cannot understand (but thanks for trying.) (And if you start reading this, please read to the disclaimers at the bottom so you know I’m not whining or asking for pity or complaining!) 🙂
I spend a refreshing morning about every 6 weeks with a group of ladies who are infertile, but are also moms (or hoping to be) through adoption/foster care. Much of our conversation centers on things like, “What does his case look like?” or “Have you heard anything from your agency yet?” or “It really looks like they’re moving her to an aunt’s care,” or “My patience is wearing out!” or “We got an adoption date!” Sometimes we still discuss the pain of a barren womb and the latest thing someone has said to us that left us speechless at some people’s insensitivity. Sometimes we ask advice about a non-supportive family member, and sometimes we rejoice at the miracle of a changed attitude. We discuss racial issues and our fear of attachment disorders. Sometimes we laugh, but sometimes there are tears. It’s a safe place to vent and it’s just such a blessing!
Some of the following content comes from our talks with these or other women, some comes from my own experience. Some of these things I feel less now that I am an adoptive mom, some of them still rear their heads at times, some of them are feelings others have shared…
- Please don’t tell me that you understand just how I feel because you “tried for six (or nine or even twelve) months” before you got pregnant. Most of us would be delighted to only have that many disappointing months instead of six or nine or even twelve years!
- Sometimes it doesn’t make me feel better when you tell me about so-and-so who is pregnant after waiting eight years. It’s one more person that no longer understands and it sometimes makes me question why God blessed them and not me.
- I try very hard to rejoice with every woman who announces a pregnancy, but sometimes I go home and cry in my husband’s arms wondering why God asked us to walk this hard road. If I leave the room quickly while everyone else is rejoicing, it might be because I need to get rid of a few tears, have a mini pity-party, get my emotions in line, and wait for the hubbub to die down so I can act normal. I will be happy for you eventually, sometimes it just takes a little time.
- Please don’t expect me to do extra things because “I have no children so what on earth do I have to do?”. We have a joke in our ladies’ group that all childless women must do is sit around eating bon-bons and reading novels. 🙂 We do have a life even though we don’t have children! And sometimes we’re just as busy as you with your house-full (although it’s a very different kind of busy.)
- Sometimes I question whether I wasn’t given bio children because God knew I’d be a horrible mom. Then my husband gently reminds me that there would be way fewer children in this world if that was God’s way of deciding who had babies.
- Very few times am I included in lists, prayers, etc…families, older people, children, youth. Where am I? Are we a family – just the two of us? (Single people get missed here too, by the way.)
- Sometimes things that people say or do hurt us, then we feel guilty for feeling hurt since we know they didn’t mean it. Most of us don’t mean to be over-sensitive, but we might have just had two friends and a family member tell us their “exciting news” and we’re having a hard time.
- It is VERY kind of you to tell me privately that you are pregnant. I have time to process everything instead of being in a crowd of people to watch me run crying from the room (or try to think of happy things to say when I’d rather run crying from the room.)
- Sometimes you can remind me how blessed I am to have extra time with my husband, time to pursue my hobbies, time to sleep in or go to bed late. It reminds me that there are blessings in this stage of my life. But…
- Please don’t complain or whine about how loud your children are, how naughty they are, how you never have time for yourself. We’d give a lot to have one or more “naughty ones” of our own. It’s like complaining to a starving person how much you need to lose weight.
- Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days of the year for many of us! Some of my friends don’t even go to church because it’s just too painful. If you see a childless woman on this day, you can gently remind her that a mother by definition is someone who gives and/or nurtures life. She can do this every day, whether or not her body’s ever gone through the actual baby process.
- If I seem to be obsessed with a pet, it’s because that pet fills the mothering need in a very small way. Hey, at least the house isn’t completely empty when I walk in the door, and someone(thing) loves me just because I’m me!
- Some people say things that are insensitive (Whether they mean it that way or not, doesn’t really change the way it makes us feel. And I’ve had little experience with this because our families and friends are very supportive. Most of these come from the experiences of ladies I know.) Here are some examples:
- “If you just wouldn’t stress out so much about getting pregnant maybe it would just happen!” or another classic, “You need to just relax.” One lady in my infertility group said that the next time one of her friends moans about getting pregnant too easily she’s going to say, “You just need more stress in your life, or maybe you need to be a bit more tense!” 🙂
- “Oh, you should start the adoption process and then you’d get pregnant. It happens all the time.” Well actually it doesn’t…statistics aren’t very high in favor of that statement.
- “Maybe you just don’t know how to ‘do it.'” Excuse me?? This one doesn’t even deserve any comeback!
- “Maybe when you reach ‘change of life’ you will suddenly have a few children.” You may have little or no idea why this couple has infertility issues (and they might not even know!) so this is really a pointless thing to say.
We walk a difficult path, we childless women. We are told as little girls and older how great a mommy we’d be, the Bible has few examples of infertility and all those (except David’s wife Michal) received a biological child at some point, we are wired to mother, it’s something that can define us if we allow it to. But it doesn’t have to! God has given grace to be content here, now, where we’re planted!
Disclaimer #1 This post isn’t to make you feel like you must walk on eggshells around us or never talk about pregnancy and childbirth or like we are waiting to weep at any slip of your tongue! It’s just a glimpse into one of the difficult paths God calls some of His daughters to walk.
Disclaimer #2 I recognize that there are other difficult things people face…an unfaithful husband, abuse, wayward children, miscarriage, death, chronic illness…this is written from a place I’ve been, not from any of these scenarios.
Disclaimer #3 I know that I can be just as insensitive to your issues as you are to mine, simply because I’ve never walked your path. Please tell me how I can be more sensitive…I want to learn too!