Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time, I lived with the expectation that I would one day be a mother. Growing up in a large family, expectations of motherhood seeped into me, and I wanted a big family of my own someday. When the years went by and I remained single, hopes of a large family were replaced with hopes of a family of any size. After getting married at nearly 32, the future again looked bright-eyed and full of opportunity. I saved the What to Expect book and my own baby clothes, and a mass of children’s books. I felt Dave and I could be good parents. I waited, I was patient for a season. In a house with empty rooms, and in a car big enough for infant seats, I was expectant. After all, wasn’t this a natural desire from God?

However, life turned upside down after some years when we realized that it would not happen. Health and personal reasons found us solid in the fact that we would remain a family of two. I suddenly felt uncertain of what to hope for. I did not know what life looked like for an older woman with no kids. Questions and doubts stuck to me, and the answers were not clear. I was in my mid-thirties, in a large church, and I did not know a solitary woman older than me who did not have kids. And while I had my husband, I could not find my tribe among the women. I could not find anyone who would look me in the eye and tell me how, with joy and fulfillment, to live this life I never planned for.

I became one of “those women” who’d rather have skipped church on Mother’s Day, and was sensitive to comments such as “you wouldn’t understand if you’re not a mom”. I sighed inside at the umpteenth time I heard “have you thought about adoption”. And adoption or not, one mourns the loss of what might have been. Tending to close up when I feel people don’t understand, I kept my loss and uncertainty tucked away from sight, finding some small sense of community in the online world, where I learned that I was not alone.

I persevered through that dark time by praying to a God I trusted had a purpose for me in spite of what I was experiencing. I didn’t feel it. But there came a day when hope began to grow again. The light slipped in bit by bit, with God using others, in person and virtually, to lead me out the other side of the tunnel. And while I am in a place now where I am sure that God’s plans are beautiful beyond my imagining, it’s not a place without its sorrows still. Family intimacies shared on social media will still pierce my heart, and I know better than to attend a baby shower.

But eight years after we learned we wouldn’t have kids, I stand firm on a foundation of hope, glued there by God’s persistent love. This love says that I am made with a plan and purpose, and that any role or lack thereof does not define my worth in any way. There is a Proverb that includes this stanza:

There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’:

the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water,

and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’ (30:15-16)

The temptation to feel like I am not enough because I did not, and will not, fulfill expectations, comes at me still. But I trust that in Him, I am more than enough.

This year I’ll be hosting a bible study for any woman without kids. We all have a unique story, and the reasons are as many as the women holding them. You may not have married in your child-bearing years. You may have experienced infertility. You may have had multiple miscarriages or a failed adoption. You may have a spouse that says no to kids. But whatever the reason, I want to hold a space for us to meet together. Together we’ll look at scriptures that speak to our circumstances, and together we’ll seek to encourage and strengthen. Whatever your story, whether you have children or not, I hope that you too, can know that you are more than enough in Him.

– Lois Martin