I will start by saying that this is probably the most vulnerable post I’ve written, mainly because I don’t want people to feel bad for me. I am not looking for sympathy but to share ideas that many of us may not have considered or thought about. January of this year (2019) my husband and I agreed on trying to conceive a child. By now I could have given birth to a baby, but nothing has happened. It’s been 11 months which I know hasn’t been that long compared to many other women’s journeys of trying to conceive. It’s funny that we make plans but God has long ago already written and published our story. By now I was expecting to be nursing a 2 month old baby, but here we are with no baby. I’m not particularly anxious, I am more at a point where I am saying something like “hmm, this is interesting, I was expecting something else in my life by now and I’m starting to have more questions but I’m also simultaneously perfectly ok and comfortable where I am now”. I wouldn’t say say I’m struggling, as I am confident in God’s hand in my life and I know I will be ok no matter what happens-but I feel this experience, these thoughts and questions are important to share because I know I’m not the only one and I know many are struggling to find the courage to talk about it. This time of waiting has really led me to reflect on our perception and expectations of conception and childbirth in general.
I now understand why many people don’t share when they are trying to conceive… months might pass and answering “not yet” gets harder and more awkward as time goes on and people start struggling to find things to say in reply. I am thankful to God for experiences that help me understand others and have compassion on them. I’m thankful for experiences where my answer might be “no” or “wait” because these are the opportunities I have to truly depend on God.
I won’t lie that it makes me sad to think of the possibility of never giving my family a grandchild. I see all our peers having babies and how their parents are so happy with their grandchildren… I love and deeply appreciate my husband’s and my parents for loving and treating our foster daughter just like any grandparent would, even with the risk of “loosing her” when she returns home. They may not know it, but they are just as “brave” as they say we are because they love her fully knowing she is not here forever… I won’t lie that part of me hurts a little at the thought of possibly never holding a child who is part of me and my husband.
HOWEVER I must make it clear that my husband and I decided to do foster care even before trying to conceive.. it’s simply what God put in our hearts to do. We did not choose this out of a previous failed trial at conceiving. In fact, for a long time I never felt a desire to conceive children, I thought I would only seek to adopt. When I met my husband he shared that adoption had always been something on his heart too so it was a perfect match. However as I grew to know and love my husband more each day I began to change my mind. Further still, having a little girl to love on every day more so has ignited that desire in me. Still, I STRONGLY believe that any children that God puts into our forever family no matter how they get there- through birth or adoption- are the kids He wants to give us and I will be fulfilled by that. Those will be my REAL children… I am simply sharing my thoughts and my honest feelings because I know many others have them too. At this point I actually don’t know if my husband and I can’t have kids, we have not gone to the doctor or done anything to try and figure out what’s going on yet. So something might still happen, I just don’t know yet and if it will, it’s taking a lot longer than I expected. In January I shared our intention of getting pregnant with several people, since then I have heard an array of different reactions at our failure thus far. I know that people do not mean any harm, and that it is all good intentions when they try to give hope. However, these different replies have really gotten me thinking.
When someone decides to share their journey of trying to conceive and how nothing has been happening – Don’t say that it will happen, that God will bless them with a child in His timing…because honestly, what if it doesn’t happen? What if it’s not what God has planned? I understand there is a need to give hope, but hope can come in so many different ways- it doesn’t have to be in the form of the conception of a child. It’s the same for those who are single- if you meet a single person who is longing to meet their significant other, don’t tell them that sooner or later they will and that God has the perfect person for them just around the corner… because the reality is that maybe He doesn’t. This of course doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love them or feel their pain, it’s just that He knows better than all of us do and He may have something completely different, but just as fulfilling, for their lives. Again, hope exists, but it doesn’t have to be in the form of a spouse.
There is nothing wrong with praying for a child or for a spouse, but we must understand that God’s answer is not always “yes”. A better answer can be something like “I don’t know what God has planned for your future but I know that it’s going to be amazing because He is a good and perfect God who loves you immensely” or “God has you here today experiencing this particular thing and I don’t know if it will change, but seek what He might be trying to teach you through this” or even something like “It must be hard to be uncertain about God’s plan for you in this area but I’ll listen if you need to talk even though I might not have all the answers”.
“There is always adoption” or “have you guys considered adoption?” Is another popular reply people give. People who know me, know that I’ve always been interested in adoption. If there is a person who would suggest adoption to a couple who can’t have children it would be me. For a long time I could never understand why people tried so hard to get pregnant and how it’s a really painful struggle for some. Part of me thought it quite selfish for couples to insist on a biologically related child vs an adopted one. If I’m honest, it bothered me to hear about couples who are unable to conceive but never even consider adoption and instead choose to live childless lives. Gaining experience in the area of foster care, hearing and reading stories about the adoption realm and now having this short experience of being unsuccessful in conceiving a child have all greatly opened my mind and heart to be more understanding and compassionate to people in this situation. The short answer is that not everyone is called to adoption. It is not the best choice for everyone and can even be a bad choice for some. People are shaped by their experiences, personalities, and beliefs and sometimes those things greatly hurt their compatibility with adoption. Some can learn and change their minds and hearts, but others will not, and are perhaps not meant to.
If you come across a person who has unsuccessfully been trying to conceive for some time now- it is likely that they have already considered all their options. Adoption probably isn’t some new idea that you are introducing to them. So considering this, if the context of the conversation poses an opportunity, it might be best to ask them what alternative options they have considered would be fitting for their family. First acknowledge the loss, because even though they have not lost a living family member, it is, in a very real sense, a loss to them. So be sympathetic, say something encouraging yet being careful not to give a false hope. If the conversations flows in such a way, you can ask if they’d still like to pursue being parents through some other way.
I’m not saying one should never suggest adoption- some people may just need to be encouraged or to learn more information about it in order to be convinced it’s a good choice for them. I’m just saying, it may not be the best first option nor an option that we must try to force them about with pressure or guilt trip. “There are so many kids waiting to be adopted” is a common phrase I hear and one that I have used myself. While it’s absolutely true, there is a time and a place to say it. It is not the thing to say to someone who is really struggling with the reality that they will never experience pregnancy. Infertility for many will come with pain and a loss of hopes and dreams they probably had for their future, there is no need to add to those complex emotions with putting in your two cents that could actually cause more feelings of shame within that person. Yes of course there are thousands of kids in foster care that need homes, yes of course there are so many orphans around the world that need a mom and dad. Those kids have lost their families but the reality is that in a way, the infertile couple has lost their family as well. Infertility is a result of the fall- death, disease, pain, and suffering are all a result of the fall. God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28) however because of Adam and Eve’s own disobedience people now may be born with or develop problems that prevent them from having children.
I have deeply reflected on the accounts found in the Bible about barren women and how in the culture, that was basically the worse curse a woman can have. Having no heirs was basically the dissolution of your family forever. It is the end of your family’s lineage, legacy, and story. It’s almost as if you ceased to exist all together. Many cultures around the world still hold this view and I can’t imagine the devastation women must feel. When your worth is tied to your ability to conceive and give birth to children, the pressure is real. Having children was so important that many women written about in Scripture were driven to make terrible decisions. Sarah encouraged Abraham to sleep with their servant so that she could bare him a child not trusting that God would allow her to conceive a child herself (Gen 16:2). Lot’s daughters got him drunk in order to sleep with him and in this way preserve their family line (Gen 19:32). Having babies was so important that women despaired if they were barren. Hannah wept and prayed to the L ord to give her a son and promised to dedicate his life to God’s service from the very beginning. I must point out that Hannah was one of two wives that a man named Elkanah had. For years she had no children while the other wife, Peninnah had many. Year after year Peninnah made fun of her and shamed her for being barren. So much so that Hannah would end up weeping (1 Sam 1:6-7).
Today this seems unthinkable and from my experience, now a days it is rather uncommon for women to overtly shame each other for being unable to have children (correct me if I’m wrong), they may pity them but not shame them. In fact, I find the opposite to be true, in an age where women are striving to be more professional equals to men (while looking like a model doing it) it’s more common to find women who look down on other women who decide to become moms. We have people with the view that children are a burden, that they hold you back and kill all your potential. Many may secretly be thinking something like “phew, glad I’m not like that women, stuck with two kids at home… I still have my freedom…” I believe that we live in an era where, like never before, more women are hoping NOT to have kids in the future than hoping to do so. I understand the cost of living is rising and many things complicate the level of comfortable living we can provide for a child. However, that has never stoped women from having children in the past. Every generation thinks that the cost of living is the most expensive it’s been. No matter what way we cut it, deep in the heart of this non desire for children is selfishness. I know many will disagree, but it’s time to truly examine the motives behind the aversion to children we seem to have developed. And I tell you that when we dig to the bottom, you will not find lack of money, lack of resources, lack of space, or lack of anything as the central motive. You will find selfishness. A couple who really wants kids will find a way to make things work out, the love of a child trumps all those other things. Don’t get me wrong, there are also plenty of people who HAVE kids out of selfish reasons, my point is that at this time, the tides are high on the side of NOT having kids out of selfishness.
Before some of you get riled up, I understand that selfishness is not everyone’s case, I understand some people chose not to have kids because they feel God has called them to a life without kids, or other reasons like physical disabilities or illnesses. I am also NOT advocating for people to just have kids left and right without giving any thought to their ability to sustain that child. Yes, planned pregnancies are the way to go, saving money, evaluating the space and ability you’ll have to care for the child are all good things and things that should be done whenever possible.
Anyway, there is a lot to discuss on this topic, but the point is that we need a balanced view on the conception of children. One where we celebrate that children are a gift from God but that also acknowledges that being infertile doesn’t mean you are not receiving God’s gifts or that God is punishing you for some reason. We need a view on child bearing that loves children first, not one that loves the self first. Where it is not a curse to be pregnant but it is also not the ultimate purpose in life. I do hope to conceive one day but I don’t long for it. A longing comes with feelings of unfullfillment, pain, and sometimes even resentment. A longing has no hope, only anguish without a perceived end. A hope rests on God’s goodness even though we might not get exactly what we thought we would… and even though there may be some sadness, there is a visible light that leads us out of the darkness. We must not long for children nor should we have an aversion to them. Instead we must long for Him alone, we must long to fully conceive in our minds and hearts the love, the grace, the mercy and the hope that He offers us each and every day until He returns.
NOTE: these thoughts are assuming healthy individuals within a marriage, not other situations such as rape, incest, or teen pregnancies