Barren – such an ugly word. It makes you want to look away. It is a word equated with shame, guilt and sorrow. Something private. Embarrassing. Better to have others think you are “selfish”, that you do not want kids, than to share your sorrow and be judged or even worse – pitied.
I had my first miscarriage in 2004. I told my husband and one other person. I was too ashamed, too full of sorrow to tell anyone else. Six months later, it happened again. When I called the doctor’s office, the nurse said, “I do not know why you are so upset, it is just a fetus, it is not like it was a baby or something.”
I was too beaten down to fight back, I mumbled, hung up, and just kept going on. I did not miss a day of work. I buried it all inside. Keeping my sorrow even from my husband.
It is hard to explain the shame that one feels when you are unable to conceive. Even now I wonder if I should publish this blog post. Why did I feel such shame? I knew in my head that I did not do anything to cause it. But that knowledge alone was not enough to take the feelings away.
Every month was an emotional roller coaster. I would weep every time my “visitor” came, because that meant one more month without a baby. One more month of wondering if it would ever happen. One month more on a roller coaster that I did not want to board.
My breaking point was at a women’s retreat with my church back home. I looked at all the women around me, and they were sitting with their second or even third baby on their lap. Bellies round. I looked down. My lap, my belly, they were painfully empty.
Driving home I found myself crying so hard I could barely see, pounding the steering wheel, screaming at God. It is not fair! I trusted you! I followed you! Why, God why?
And I felt His arms around me, comforting me. He whispered in my ear, “Pray. Pray for those who do not have children. Pray not just for yourself. Pray.” And I so I prayed, driving home, caught in His embrace.
I recently found a journal entry that I wrote during that painful time of my life:
Don’t feel sorry for me. Don’t stop sharing the joys of your children with me. Don’t think you can’t talk to me about pregnancy or babies. You are my sister, and I WANT to share your joy as you share my sorrows.
I am angered, as I know so many women who would be wonderful mothers, and yet they are not. I see so many abusive mothers, and they become mothers again and again. So many abort their babies before they are even born. And yet I, who long so much to be a mother, am not.
I do not understand.
But one thing I do know is that God is still God. God is just. He has a plan for my life that exceeds my expectations. I know that I will not be childless my whole life, I may never physically conceive a child, but I WILL have children. There will be children that I will love.
Oh Lord, I cry out to you. You know your plan for me and my husband. Lord, give me the strength I need to get through each day. May I be content with what I do have. Guide me in the path you want me to take.
Seven years later, I now have three children. I am blessed beyond expectation. My cup runneth over.
I have a heart for women who are trying to conceive. I still keep a prayer list of those I know who are trying to conceive. Over time many names have come off my list as they have had children or adopted, while other names have been added.
My prayer is that they too will be barren no more.
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See also Mariah’s Lasting Gift.
The scripture I clung to during my darkest days:
“Be glad, o barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you have no labor pains because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband. Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:1-5
Some women of the Bible who were barren but went on to conceive. I read, studied and clung to their stories of sorrow, trust and joy.