To The Childless Mother Suffering from Infertility


For that is what you are.  You are a mother to your very core, and we see it.  We see it in the way you nurture animals, the way you nurture the earth, the way you nurture us through hard times, the way you nurture our children.  You give and you give and you give of yourself and it is not unnoticed, though it may feel that way.  You open yourself wide for love, you pour yourself out for those dear to you; we see it.  And we call you what you are: mother.

But more than that, you are a mother to your very own child who is not yet with you.  However they come, if you still believe they will, then we still believe with you.  And if you need us to believe it on the days when you just can't, well we're here for that too.  The beauty, the purity, the agony with which you long for them has already made you their mother.  Motherhood is nothing if not subjecting yourself to being unspeakably flattened by love, and you're already doing that.

We don't always know what to say to your pain.  You are stronger than we've ever had to be.  But there are a few things you need to hear, even if we can't say them as well as you deserve.

Your suffering is real.  You suffer in secret, or around a very select few.  Most people don't know the deepest longings of your heart.  Many even make ignorant assumptions or ask insensitive questions.  You bear a grief that is largely unseen by the rest of the world, and you bear it for years. You don't even get to work through the stages of grief, because it is never final, never done.  It is an ongoing cycle of hope and pain, and you never get a break from it.  You are so incredibly strong, my dear.  So incredibly beautiful.

Strength doesn't always look strong.  Sometimes your strength lies in knowing when to take care of yourself first.  Sometimes it means not attending our baby shower because you've already co-hosted three this year and you know you can't bear another.  Sometimes it means crying on our shoulder even though you feel like you've done it too many times before.  Sometimes your strength is in your silence, sometimes in your openness. But it's always there, and we see it even when you don't.

You don't have to want to adopt, and you don't need to "just relax".  You are allowed your own journey.  This is your story, yours.  We do not know better than you what it will look like, and we certainly cannot offer you any advice that you haven't already thought of a million times over.  We love you and we want to take your pain away and sometimes we say stupid things.  Forgive us.

If you do adopt, you don't have to stop grieving infertility.  Some do and some don't, but again, this story is yours alone.  If you bring children into your family through adoption, we understand that sometimes you may grieve not carrying them inside of you or not knowing what labor feels like. That doesn't mean you love them any less or that you are any less their real mother.  We recognize that, and we are not afraid to hear the hard stuff.

We need your voice.  When you're ready to speak, that is.  We need you to share your story, we need to gain from your wisdom, we need to change our own paradigm from your experience.  We don't want to pressure you and we don't want you to speak until the time is right, but when it is, we desperately need to hear what you have to say.  We need to hear that suffering produces character. We need to hear that children are only and ever a treasure.  We need to hear that human beings are worth hoping for; we need to hear that life is worth fighting for.

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This is National Infertility Awareness Week.  If there are ones in your life who are affected by infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or secondary infertility, think of them a little bit more this week.  Spend some time in prayer, send an encouraging note, or reach out to them in some other way that would be meaningful to them personally.  Not out of pity, but out of recognition that they are bearers of something that you desperately need.  If you're not sure what that is, this week is a great time to find out.

The Cross and The Crucifix


On Holy Thursday I stared yet again into the black night of all that feels too heavy to carry, raging against this God who somehow expects my back to be strong enough to bear the load.  I want to put it down.  I want to make it stop.  I cannot do this.

On Good Friday, I read His words.

"The cup that my Father has prepared for me, shall I not drink it?"

And it cut me to the core, because of course I will.  He prepared it for me.  

(Sometimes He doesn't, I know that.  Sometimes bad things happen because of the sin of human beings, sometimes they just happen.  I know God didn't "prepare" my oldest son's sufferings; they were the result of a fallen, broken, hurting world.  But I do know He prepared mine.  I know it because of how the weight of it has gloriously ruined me in all the right ways.)

I used to have a problem with crucifixes.  "He's not on the cross anymore!  He rose, He's alive! Don't leave Him on the cross!", I said.

There would be no Resurrection without the Crucifixion.  But the Crucifixion is ugly, it's embarrassing, it's well... sad.  And we like our religion to feel good.

But that was years and tears ago and I don't even have the luxury of choice anymore.  I need to see my Savior on the cross these days as I stumble and fall under the weight of my own.  I need to see the extravagant love of God made visible, offered up for me and for all those hungry for Bread.  I am reminded of the horror that allowed the Resurrection to be possible.  The one that allows you and me to hope in the midst of our own great pain.

Empty crosses are fine, but they simply can't move me the way the limp, beaten body of my Savior does.  They don't fill me with worship and gratitude and humility and love.  In our society, they are incredibly easy to overlook- sometimes bedazzled onto jeans, sometimes encrusted in diamonds around our necks.  It's pretty hard to conjure up any real response to seeing an empty cross.  (An empty tomb, yes.)  But nail Jesus to it and things either get breathtakingly beautiful or they get awkward.  Really fast.  Which, incidentally, seems to be exactly the same reactions that walking-on-earth Jesus elicited, too.

We don't like to suffer, you and I.  We spend most of our lives trying to avoid it, actually.  But what if we believed what Jesus' silent corpse tells us from the cross?  What if we believed that suffering is necessary for our good?  What if we trusted the Father enough to drink the cup He's prepared for us?

I have a dream for the universal church and it looks something like this: instead of seeking to feel good (whether that means wealth and prosperity or miracles and healing), we would seek to emulate Jesus' life of being with the poor and outcast, walking towards suffering (both theirs and our own) willingly, believing it will transform us when we meet God there.  Not that some of us won't be wealthy- some will- and not that miracles and healing won't happen- they will.  But what if Christians spent more time being changed by what is hard and less time chasing after what is glittery?

I believe it's possible.  
I believe it will be the most lovely thing the world has ever seen.  
I believe it starts with the crucifix.

The Story of (the other) Moses


Before I begin I want to say that this is simply my story, my journey.  It is not meant to be a projection onto you or the adoptive mom friend you have.  Though the journey of others might be similar, this one is just mine.

I've always known I was made to be a mother.  When I was 8 years old I wrote "an orphan" on my Christmas list.  By the time I was 13 I had baby names picked out.  (Daisy was the front runner, in case you were wondering.)  When I grew up, Eric and I began dating and were married in a 7 month whirlwind and the extent of our family planning conversation was pretty much agreeing we both want kids someday and sure, maybe we'll adopt.  (If you want advice on maybe a thousand better ways to have that conversation, I have some new ideas 9 years later.)

Before the end of our first year of marriage I had been bit by the baby bug.  (I mean, hello 8 and 13 year old me.)  But around that time we also committed to a tiny little thing known as a long term missions team to Indonesia.  And everyone advised us to wait to have a baby to make the transition easier on me.  So we did. (That's actually not my recommendation now, but my hindsight always has bested my foresight.)  And finally, finally, when all was said and done and we were all settled in, we prayed about it.  And we couldn't shake the feeling that we wanted to adopt first.

The way we chose the country was long and arduous and a story for another day.  But the point is that somewhere along the path of adoption, God broke my heart over the need for adoptive families and it became a passion that I carried like fire in my chest (and sometimes a large soapbox on which I stood).  Then the plane landed in Kampala and we got in a car and drove over dirt roads and over past lives and just like that, we were no longer preparing for an adoption story, we were living an adoption story.  And it has proven far different than what we had expected.

We gave everything we had and we wept tears of failure when it was not enough.  And still I burned for adoption.  We held on to this threesome for dear life and we broke into pieces together.  And still I burned for adoption.  My husband fought with all his strength to not fall into the darkness. And still I burned, and I burned, and I burned for adoption.

I could not rid my mind of the harrowing statistics, the hundreds of children in our own little county who bounced from home to home to home.  I could never justify creating new life when there was so much life around me that needed mothering.  I knew we couldn't take them all in, and I knew that the path we were walking was nearly killing us, but I couldn't work it out to add up to anything else.  It was an equation that, however I turned it, equaled THE ONLY WAY.

And I judged you for not adopting, and for having baby after baby after baby.  I judged you and was at the same time jealous of you and I am so, so sorry.

It's hard to put my finger on exactly when it started to change.  It might have been when we met with a trauma therapist and suddenly there was someone who finally, finally validated that our experience was not just par for the parenting course.  It might have been the months of adoptive parent training that doubled as a support group.  It might have been studying Catholic teaching and beginning to question whether we had denied Jesus lordship over our fertility.  Probably it was the fact that all those things collided in a 6 month period.

We opened ourselves up to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, God's will was different than ours.  I conceded that adoption wasn't the only way to grow a family, and he conceded that all the stars don't have to be in perfect alignment in order to love and care for any child.  We took a deep breath, said "Your will be done", and this was the result:

I don't think there is any way to explain to you what this baby did to my heart.  But I guess I could try.  I could tell you that from the moment the plus sign appeared out of nothingness, I was freed from the guilt of not taking in a million orphans and was filled instead with a peace that said this is exactly right for us today.  That was all I knew, but that was enough.  I could tell you that I stopped judging you for a path that is all your own anyway, and started believing you had a heck of a lot to teach me.  I could tell you that the actual act of giving birth to him made me a more self-assured woman.  I could tell you this baby has made me a softer person, and I mean that figuratively but let's be honest, literally as well.

What Moses taught me is that my strength, my solutions, are useless to God.  They are not what He asks of me.  Instead He asks for my trust, my humility, my offering up of my whole self to Him.  He asks that I permit Him to give me good, beautiful gifts and not assume He would rather I solve the world's problems.

Creating anything, from a piece of art to a human life, is worthy simply for the sake of creation itself. I tend to be a black-and-white thinker, often too practical for my own good, and I can get awfully hung up on the functionality of the thing.  I see a need, I want it met.  Is what you're doing meeting a tangible need? Which is good and often necessary, but simply can never encompass the richness of the human tapestry.  We are a people created to create and we do it, each one of us, in thousands of ways.

Moses is my ever-present reminder that God never asked me to save the world, but to love it, to be present with it, and to offer it the depths of what's inside of me.  With his birth, I watched the last of judgment burn away.  And I breathed a sigh of relief as that weight fell off my weary shoulders and I loved you, all of you, a little bit more.

For all the ways that I talk about Alyosha saving me, Moses has saved me too.  Don't I know it.

P.S. If you're wondering what our "plans" for our family are at this point- well we're laughing at that word, but we're hoping that the future includes a little adoption and a little biology and a whole lotta crazy... because we know that's how we are best changed.

last two photos by Meghan Blaylock Photogrpahy

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)