Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Forgotten Barren Woman

This is a very sensitive subject.  I'm not trying to be insensitive or offensive to anyone.  All I am trying to do here is shed light on something that I don't hear people talk about.  Ever.

It's considered slightly taboo, in general, to talk about infertility, miscarriages, etc. I don't understand that fully, partly because I've never dealt with it exactly, but mostly because I'm the sort of person who is blatantly honest and tends to overshare about everything whether other people like it or not.  I do understand why people keep things to themselves--sometimes the pain is too much, and it's even worse when people seem so calloused to that pain.  I can understand that, the need for privacy, for the quiet grief reserved for yourself and those who are in your inner circle. What I don't understand is the way society seems to look down on those who talk openly about their pain, as if there is something to be ashamed of.  There's nothing to be ashamed of regarding infertility, and I think everyone should be permitted to share about their pain, their heartache, their loss, the hopes and dreams they still cling to.  I think everyone should be permitted to share what they want to share, without shame, without fear.

But that's not the world we live in, so a lot of people do choose to be private.  That's okay, too.  There's no shame in keeping things to yourself, either, if that's what you want.  I just wish society would allow others to struggle and grieve openly, if those are their wishes.

As little as I see miscarriage and infertility talked about, I have recently seen more people be vocal about their particular struggles.  I am so glad that they've been sharing.  They share, and others are encouraged, and therefore also feel more free to share.  It begins a wonderful cycle of sharing, and ultimately, healing.  The taboo is lessened, the world seems a little less judgmental and a little more understanding.  It's a beautiful thing.

But I wonder if there are others out there who don't feel as though they have permission from the world to talk about their particular struggles, because they are similar, yet different struggles.  There's a similar, yet different taboo.  It's an unspoken taboo.  It's one I wish to break, or at least lessen a little.  So I'm going to share some of my experiences, some of my struggles, and also some hope in the midst of it all.

You see, I am a barren woman.

That sentence alone might offend some people who know me.  How could I be a barren woman?  I'm not married!  I haven't been actively trying to have children!  It's insulting for a single woman to try to compare herself to women who have tried for cried and prayed and payed for years and years and years to have a child.  It's disgusting for a single woman to say she has a right to grieve for not having children when she hasn't experienced the absolute heartbreak of multiple miscarriages!

But I don't really believe it's insulting or disgusting.  It's just honesty.  And I know it's not the same as a married woman struggling with infertility.  It's definitely not the same.  But I do think I, and others who are like me, need to be recognized.  We need to be permitted to grieve, too.

I'm not talking about the young 20 somethings who think they're going to die single and childless because all their college friends are dating and they're not (though I know it can be hard for them, too--I was young once).  I'm talking about those who have spent decades as a single adult, who have very much wanted a family, and who have not been able to have that family.  It's not the same as suffering and struggling with infertility, but it still yields the same result: childlessness, and a loss of much longed for hopes and dreams.

And as an almost 37 year old Christian woman who once dreamed of having a large family, I do have permission to grieve.  I have permission to talk about that grief.  I have permission to think longingly about the children I never had, the children I will probably never have.  And I have heard the arguments: "You have PLENTY of time" or "You can still adopt as a single parent!"  Single parents are just stinkin' AMAZING, but I am very certain that I am not quite amazing enough to be able to handle it, not that I'm in a place financially or logistically that I could consider adoption, or even fostering.  I might never get married (I have no prospects, and haven't for quite some time).  Then again, I might get the shock of my life and wind up married within the next year.  I'm not sure if that matters much anymore.  The thing is, my heart has very much changed as I've gotten older.  I've realized that I don't think I'd make a very good mom, even if I did find myself in a place where I was able and willing to have kids.  I can barely take care of myself most days.

I'm not saying anything above to throw myself a pity party.  I've had a long time to come to grips with the idea that I'll probably never be a mom, even though there was a time when I couldn't imagine NOT being a mom someday.  Still, even now, I sometimes permit myself a little hope that it might be possible, someday.  I find myself daydreaming, thinking up baby names, wishing I could rock a toddler to sleep (or send back to bed for the 100th time), even wishing I had a teenager to teach how to drive or have "the talk" with, or something crazy like that.  I think about having an adult child someday who would hopefully be like a good friend.  I think about having grand kids.  The older I get, the fuzzier the dream gets.  And that's okay, too.  And maybe there are other women (or even men) out there who can relate.  I want you to know that you're not alone.  I want you to know that it's okay for you to dream, and it's okay for you to grieve for the dreams that haven't come true.

But I pray that the grief never turns to bitterness.  As a single Christian woman, I get the stigma.  SOME other Christians, inadvertently (most of the time), put us into one of two categories.  Either we're in a category where we're doing something wrong or sinful and therefore God has not blessed us with a husband and family, OR we're in a category where God has given us the blessed, wonderful, amazing "gift of singleness" so we magically only have a heart to serve others and never ever ever think of ourselves or our own lives or have our own dreams for a husband or children or family of our own.  And it's easy sometimes to think that no one sees that we are really just women, godly women, who are just like other godly women.  We're doing our best to serve God, and we have the same feelings and dreams as other women (in general).  We are allowed, as single women, to want a family.  For some of us, it never happens.  And I pray that if you're still struggling with that, and it's okay if you are, that you come to a place where you can grieve without being bitter.

I'm thankful that I've never really struggled with jealousy.  When one of my friends gets engaged or married (in a godly relationship), I rejoice.  When one of my friends is pregnant or is able to adopt, I rejoice.  There's just no room for any other feeling because I'm so thrilled for what God is doing in their lives.  I can't take credit for that--I think it's just a gift God has given me, and I pray He gives it to others.  I know it's not always so easy for others, and if that's you, I don't want to minimize your feelings.  If you're struggling with feelings of jealousy as your friends and family all have the things you have longed for, then your feelings are valid.  I am so sorry for your hurt.  I just pray God will bring you peace and so much joy for others that there's no more room for that hurt to live.

I am very blessed in that I have worked with kids for years, and even though I'm not a mom and don't have a family of my own, I've been able to share in the lives of a lot of wonderful families.  I have a LOT of fun nieces and an awesome nephew.  I think that's helped me deal with my struggles.  Another thing I do is try to support adoptions and orphan ministries as much as I can.  If I'm not able to adopt a child of my own, I can sponsor a child overseas.  I can give support to ministries that care for orphans or children in need.  I may never have the title of mother, but there are so many other ways to love.  If you're struggling, if you're hurting, I pray you're able to find ways to love that both minister to your soul and give help to others.

Again, the point of this was not to offend or be insensitive.  And you can think I'm wrong.  I've had people tell me I'm wrong on this issue.  That's okay.  If you're offended by this, this post wasn't for you.  It was for those women, like me, who can't have kids because we're single (and not open to  or able to consider, for whatever reason, the idea of single parenting).  We don't have a husband to grieve with us when the pregnancy tests come back negative.  We don't have a husband to fearfully hope with when we are trying to adopt.  We're in this alone.

Hannah was barren, but she had a good husband who loved her through it, all.  But like Hannah, we can pray.  We can hope.  We can dream.  We can wait.  And maybe we'll wait until we get to the point where we don't want the same things we wanted before.  We can get to the point where all the old dreams become fuzzy, and God sustains us with new dreams.  There's nothing wrong with that.  There's nothing wrong with you.

You are valid.  You are seen.  You are loved.  You have permission to feel whatever it is you feel.