Phew, I have survived another Mother’s Day! Honestly, I feel guilty even writing that because I know there are many people for whom Mother’s Day is a much more painful event than it is for me. Especially for those mothers who have lost a child. I cannot imagine how unbearable that would be. And don’t get me wrong, Mother’s Day is a wonderful day to honor our mothers and all that mothers the world over have done for us.
But I struggle with it, and I know I am not alone in that struggle.
I wavered about whether to post this or not. It feels whiny, oh, poor pitiful me, and entirely too self-focused, but in the end I decided to go ahead and post it anyway because we strive to be real on this blog. My feelings – right or wrong, are very real, and as I mentioned, I know that I am not alone in these feelings. Perhaps another woman will read this post and know that she too is not alone in her pain.
When I was young, like most girls, I assumed that I would grow up to marry and go on to have children. In all the times I “played house” I never imagined a scenario where children would not be part of the equation. Recently I read an article by Melanie Notkin called My Secret Grief. In it she discusses the hidden pain of circumstantial infertility. Unlike the pain of medical infertility, circumstantial infertility is not caused because of some biological issue, but rather because (as the name infers) circumstances never lined up to make motherhood a reality. Notkin put down in words many of the things I’ve never been able to say.
If you are childless (not by choice), it can be difficult to express the feelings that go along with it. If you try, well-meaning people will say all kinds of things which sting and cut at you in ways they cannot comprehend.
As a Christian I struggle with the sadness it brings me. I know that I should be content with what I have (see Philippians 4:11, 1 Timothy 6:6, Hebrews 13:5), and mostly I am, but there are hard days. Really hard days. For the last few years, Mother’s Day has ranked among the top for really hard days.
I vacillate between trying to face reality so I can move on from my desire to be a mother and trying desperately to hold on to the hope that it may one day still happen. I don’t know how to give up my hope of being a mother, but I think I might be happier if I could figure out how to. The Bible says that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). As a never married, single, childless woman I know the truth of that verse all too well.
As My Secret Grief points out, when you get to a certain age if you are still childless it is assumed that you either never really wanted children or you just didn’t try hard enough. I have had countless people tell me I should just go out and find a guy to make a kid with. “Why wait for marriage?” they say. This world doesn’t understand the concept that fornication is a sin. Or they tell you that you should just get a sperm donor, or adopt.
Here’s the thing: I honestly think my child deserves to have two parents. They should have both a mother and a father who is present and active in their childrearing. I understand that this is not always possible and there are many many wonderful single parents out there, but it seems selfish to purposely put your child in the position of only having a single parent. Again, please do not think I am disparaging single parents out there. The majority of them work tirelessly to provide good lives for their children and should be commended for that. But to deliberately deny a child a father just because I would like to be a mother is unfair to them. Perhaps I could manage to get pregnant (this is still medically questionable) or adopt (financially prohibitive) without the presence of a husband, but for the sake of my children, I wouldn’t want to do that. In the eyes of the world this is seen as not wanting it bad enough. Trust me; I’ve heard enough comments to know the reality of this view. The truth is that I do want it that badly; I just don’t want it that selfishly.
I struggle with how heart-broken I am over being childless. I feel guilty because I think my desire shows an inherent lack of gratefulness for what I do have. And I have been blessed! Abundantly blessed! But the sadness and longing remain. God designed women to be mothers and most of us feel that pull to our very core. The Bible gives us seven examples of barren women in the Bible who later went on to give birth. What strikes me about them is that they all cried to the Lord over their situation. Granted, it was tougher in Biblical times because women were mandated to give their husbands children and those who could not were seen as cursed. It was a much more dire situation, but I have no doubt that the tears they cried were much like my own. The Bible says that Hannah prayed with great weeping (I Samuel 1:10). The King James Version says that she was in “bitterness of soul” and that as she prayed she “wept sore”. This was a woman who knew the heartache and sorrow of being childless.
Yet, all seven of these women had husbands. I cannot cry to the Lord for a child (though I have) until I first have a husband. And time has so quickly passed me by. I had to give up an ungodly relationship when I was saved – knowing confidently that the Lord would provide for me. I waited five years to meet a man in the church, but there just weren’t any. I found a sweet man who became a Christian. I wasted five more years of my life on that man and he ended up getting another woman pregnant while we were together. Heartbreaking.
We are told not to be unequally yoked, but there are literally NO single men my age in my church. I know of a total of two single men (both younger than me) in our entire church district. I know dozens of single women in this same age group. And I am not confining myself to a man within a few years of my age. I’m talking within a 15+ year age range; there just aren’t any available men. Let alone a man that would be a good match for me and I for him. It’s difficult to remain hopeful.
Well-meaning friends and relatives tell me that they miss the single life. They wish they had more time for themselves and for the Lord. I have no doubt this is true. If I were married with children, I too would miss my current single life at times. But most of the people who have said this to me weren’t single for all that long. They moved out of their parent’s houses and within a few short years they were married. They never had that much time to themselves. I moved out of my parent’s house seventeen years ago. Seventeen long years ago. I’ve come home to a silent, empty house day after day, week after week, month after month, for years and years and years on end. Most of the time, I’m okay with this. Most of the time, I am content in the Lord. But there are days. Really hard days.
Mother’s Day is especially difficult because I feel I am mourning the family I never had. My pastor, bless his heart, loves to make a big deal out of Mother’s Day. I actually really appreciate him for this because mothers deserve to be recognized for their endless hours of tireless sacrifice for their families. The work they do is acknowledged far too little. Mother’s Day is the one day that people set aside to honor them. It is wonderful and important. But it is difficult. More than once I have been the only adult woman left in the congregation after he calls all the mothers to the front. I want to sink into my seat and just disappear when that happens. I don’t want anyone to see me sitting there by myself and pity me. For the last couple of years, I have made it a point not to be in the sanctuary when this happens because it is just too painful for me.
Is it selfish? Yes. Yes, it is. Mother’s Day is not about me. I should be there to encourage and honor the godly women in my life who give so much for their children. But I hide. I hide because I can’t stand the feeling. I can’t stand how every year someone will say to me, “Next year” when next year never seems to come.
But the day comes and goes and I find after it’s over that I have survived. I’m still breathing. I’m okay. The Lord has granted me strength to get through another day. He is my Provider. He is my Comforter. He is my All-in-All. And after all the feelings have passed, I am reminded that faith is not a feeling. I am blessed. The Lord is MIGHTY in my life. He is my Strong Tower. He is my hope. He is my Loyal Friend and Husbandman. He is enough. I so love and appreciate Him for that. When I feel I am alone, I am never alone. He is with me day after day, week after week, month after month, for years and years and years on end.
And He is with you too.
In His Love,