It was one of those pieces of news that’s like a punch in the gut…and it felt wrong to be feeling that way. I opened the envelope from my friend to discover she and her husband were expecting their second child. I cried off and on all day. My husband came home from work, I cried again, and he consoled me knowing he couldn’t fix it.
Certain life stages are meant to be the most joy-filled times of our lives. Starting a new career. Marriage. Having children. When the weight of time sends these joyous moments to the wind, a spark that can begin the downward spiral toward depression.
The day to day realities of the new job barely resemble the job you thought you applied for. You just haven’t found the right person to settle down with – or worse, you have suffered a broken engagement or a cheating spouse. You’re infertile or have had subsequent miscarriages. I’m sure there are many other life circumstances which cause you to feel you are missing out. Regardless of specifics, hearing of a friends career success, engagement, or pregnancy can be like a knife in the heart. You want to be happy for them. You honestly do. But the most you can honestly say is, “I’m happy you are happy.”
The worst part about being in this in-between life-stage is that the conversation in Christian circles can be very taboo. We are, of course, meant to trust God for His timing, right? That is a very idealistic thought but it doesn’t help on a day to day reality when you jump on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or [insert Social Media of choice here] and see the latest announcements of close friends…or worse yet, your 10th grade science lab partner who you haven’t spoken with in over 10 years. The pain associated with seeing other people living your deepest desires isn’t soothed by simply knowing that God’s timing is perfect.
I’m going on 32, have been married for 3 years, and am constantly faced with my future children without being able to hold them in my arms. Every Mother’s Day is harder than the last. “Happy Mother’s Day,” they say to the women all around me while they casually glance by me, avoiding eye contact.
That is just one day, however, compared to the battery of questions I have to field on a regular basis. “When are you going to start a family?” is casually asked, usually not really wanting to hear the loaded answer I have in my mind. Also, If I mention anything about “news” or “good news” in a conversation, I’m cut off mid-sentence with, “you’re pregnant!!!” My painful, yet casual reply is, “No. I’m not pregnant. I was going to tell you about my husband’s progress in his business venture.” “When are you going to have kids?” or “Are you going to start a family soon?” are also very personal, hard to answer questions. These questions are presumptuous and rather personal because starting a family is a personal choice, involving deep intimacy with one’s spouse, and a lot of delicate factors.
What surprises me most is that these questions are often asked by people I barely know who are hoping to have a surface level conversation, so feeling obligated to have a casual answer ready is painful on the inside and yet light and airy on the outside. You absolutely shouldn’t tell me when you think I should or will have kids, even if God came to you in a vision and gave you a prophecy about my future children. Please keep it to yourself and tell me after the vision has become reality so we can revel in God’s omniscience together.
The thing people don’t think about in these situations, for some reason, is how sensitive this conversation can be. You don’t know if my husband and I have been struggling with infertility for several years or if I’ve had a miscarriage – even several miscarriages – and are dealing with real heartache. Or, maybe the desire burns deeply, yet life circumstances have forced us to need to wait. These are not casual surface level conversations.
In the old testament, children were seen as a blessing from God, brought into the world to build His Kingdom. Fruitful wombs were a reward for godliness and childlessness punishment for sexual sin in certain situations. The only childless women mentioned in the Bible were those who were infertile. Sarah, Monoah’s wife, Rebekah, Hannah, and Elizabeth. Each of these women were then blessed with children who then went on to become intregal in the lineage of Christ.
In the new testament, Jesus reinforces children as a blessing. Nowhere does it say we should only choose to have children if we want them, rather a husband and wife receive children as a blessing – whether biologically or adopted.
No wonder this is such a sensitive topic! I feel like I’m unable to fulfill my calling as a woman without children. Yet, because the both the husband and wife are needed in order to bring forth a child, I also need to be sensitive to my husbands desires to protect and provide. He can only do that fully under the right circumstances.
Since children are seen by God as a blessing resulting from the union of husband and wife, we shouldn’t avoid the conversation altogether just because it is a sensitive subject. In a casual situation, the question, “Have you and your husband talked about starting a family yet?” is perfectly acceptable. I can stay as surface level or go into as much depth as I feel comfortable.
Pregnancy announcements, baby bump photos, and newborn pics on my Facebook feed are painful for me to see right now. Many times I end up just un-following that person on my newsfeed. I can’t shield myself from it forever, though. I see pregnant women and small children on a daily basis. It’s unavoidable. I have accepted that it’s ok to mourn what I cannot yet have but, in time, I will call my friend and tell her how happy I am that she is happy.
Whatever life-stage you are in, want to be in, or feel has passed you by, I would like to encourage you to find a healthy way to cope. Something as simple as being happy that others are happy may just take the edge off.
How have you coped in situations where you feel like you are missing out on what others are able to experience?