On Barrenness, Motherhood, Blessings and Burdens

When we found out we were pregnant with our first child, both my husband and I were elated. Although we were newlyweds, we were ready to build our family. There was no plan to “wait a few years and just enjoy each other.” We enjoyed each other plenty and our love deepened as we face the challenges of early pregnancy hand in hand. Truth be told, there was a part of me that feared that I would struggle with infertility. When I say fear, I mean I was deathly afraid of barrenness, miscarriage or anything close to infertility. In my community, the pressure to start a family early is palpable. Those who struggle to conceive are the subject of so much public pity and prayers, it is almost as if not being parents is a curse to any marriage. Every where in my social circle, marriage without children is treated as a reproach. And it is usually the wife that bears the burden of this public view. From where I was sitting as a fiancée, there were enough people judging my future marriage and wondering how a nice guy like my husband-to-be ended up with a girl like me. More than anything, I wanted to be a crown for my husband and not a reproach. In my heart, I was afraid that people would be quick to say “I told you so” if we had any issues with conceiving after our wedding. I knew they would blame me and I did not want to cry those tears of heartbreak. I did not know if I had the grace to endure the public shame and reproach that would have been my portion if children were not a part of God’s will for our marriage. I doubted that I had the resiliency of character and faith that it would take to be wholly content in God’s plan for us, even as married friends and loved ones celebrated the birth and growth of their own children while my own womb and hands remained empty. It was not a cross I wanted to bear and I would have done almost anything to avoid it.

Knowing that it is God who opens and closes the womb as He sees fit, I was humbled by the gift of our son. I knew I did nothing to deserve the gift of motherhood and that it would take grace to do this role in excellence. As someone who struggled with doing things for the sake of public opinion, it was important for me not to exploit the news of our bundle of joy for “likes” and congratulatory messages on social media. In examining my own heart, I concluded that there was a tiny part of me that wanted to be vindicated in the eyes of others who may have doubted our marriage. Because of that sinful mentality, for me it was best to keep our news off the internet and simply share our joys with loved ones who knew us away from social media. I know many people who share their joys with the world as soon as the blue lines appear. Many want to honor the little life that is growing and testify to God’s goodness. This is absolutely honorable and godly. I did not take this route because my own motives would not have been pure in doing so. I shared photos of our family after our little prince was born because my heart was clear to share our joy at that point.

There was a time during pregnancy when I was sick beyond all comprehension and fearful of being hospitalized due to dehydration. During that time, I started counting the cost of motherhood. Around the clock nausea meant that I did not have the energy to lift my head, much less cook, clean or even go to work. I could not be my fun and attentive self to my husband. I was missing church and excusing myself from all social activities because all my energy was focused on surviving an experience I had always anticipated but now felt like I was in over my head. In those moments of complete helplessness, I understood why some women would desire to delay motherhood.

Despite the relief of giving birth rather than grappling with the reality of infertility, motherhood was not a breeze. I have a husband who has partnered with me at every stage of the way but I still struggled with postpartum blues, feeling overwhelmed whenever I would spend nights alone with our newborn. I realized that although motherhood is a blessing, it is not a breeze. Every day was a constant reminder that if anything goes wrong with our son, I would be the parent to blame. God’s grace was the only thing that saw us through that first year. From relying on loved ones for child care, to taking our baby to the office and even to court with me on some days, life as a working mom of a newborn was challenging at best. I recognized immediately how God was using my role as a mom to challenge my flesh and my predisposition towards selfishness. I literally had to put another human being first because his survival depended on it. In motherhood I learned patience and was reminded once again of my inexhaustible need for God’s grace. I have learned to be ingenious and industrial with our income, squeezing a dollar out of every penny. I have learned to persevere when all I want to do is fall apart. I have also learned to be open and honest with those who can best help me and pray for me when I am completely overwhelmed. There is no room to pretend perfection here. The lineage of my household is depending on me to do this work well.

As someone who got pregnant within the first two months of marriage, I am able to see now how delaying motherhood would have afforded me a different avenue for glorifying God within my marriage. Before we were grappling with my round the clock nausea and extreme weight loss from pregnancy, I had time to oversee the running of our household to my heart’s content. My house was spotless; our kitchen had a new meal cooking for lunch and dinner every day, and my wardrobe and makeup were “selfie ready” at any given moment. It was fun being my husband’s glowing and doting wife, with no cares beyond the two of us and what Christ would have us do in our marriage. That child-free period gave us ample opportunity to be fully focused on one another and in-tune with each other’s needs. Our communication was top notch. Had we continued in our childless stage without the welcomed interruption of 9 months of pregnancy, I am sure my husband and I would have had many more adventures to add to our list. Even as a pregnant newlywed, I had ample opportunity to spoil my husband rotten and savor our time as a family of two. Thankfully, parenthood has deepened rather than depleted our marriage. We cherish our time alone because we know it is hard to come by. Difficult issues are faced head on because there is more at stake than just our own happiness.

Recognizing that God can be glorified with or without the presence of children in a marriage now leads me to repent of my earlier fear of barrenness. I have never experienced the pain of infertility or the loss of miscarriage so I dare not pretend to know how deeply that anguish can go. One thing I am sure of, now more than ever, is God’s goodness, regardless of what the circumstance may be. There is a blessing in whatever God allows, if we look diligently for it. Even when what God allows does not fit our own definition of “good,” there is grace to endure the trials we face until His perspective becomes ours. Even if I never have another child (as much as I desire one more) or if I have many more than I originally intended, I have to remind myself that none of it takes God by surprise. He has prepared the way I would travel before I ever knew anything about the journey.

I believe my desire to be a mother was God-given. My fear of barrenness was not. I desire to raise a family to God’s glory and I want my children and family to always point others to Christ. As an engaged couple and later as newlyweds, my husband and I had peace about starting our family right away. The most important part of my journey as a wife and mother has been holding my plans loosely enough to allow God to interrupt them as He sees fit.


An Honorable Wife, Who Can Find Her?

Today has been one for the books. I did not have to go into the office but between rolling out of bed exhausted because of a co-sleeping toddler and running errands from sun up to sun down, I am just about out of gas on my “day off.” This post has been on my mind for a while but I did not yet have the words. I am prayerful that the words are now adequate to communicate what I have been feeling. Ever since I became a mother, my primary focus has been on building my household – continuing in my journey to be the best wife possible to my husband and also grow into the mother God has called me to be for my children. As a self-employed attorney, I have had the freedom to make my own hours for the most part. When work slows down at the office or clients are few and far between, I take the opportunity to spend quality time with my son and my husband and oversee the running of our home in way that I may not be able to do when work is busier. My heart was content. When my bank account starts reflecting the large amount of time I am spending away from work, I do my best to take my concerns to my Heavenly Father. His provision has always been sufficient for us in times past and I trust His faithfulness. My husband has been an amazing provider and continues in his role. I rest a little easier at night knowing that God has entrusted me to such a capable provider. Every day, week, month and year of our marriage, I learn to trust God in my husband a little more than the season before. There was a time when I would cry in private that our finances were not what I would like – even if basic needs were met, there was no cushion and no extras to enjoy. I was burdened because it seemed that all other couples had more than enough and we had to be satisfied with the bare necessities. God reprimanded me for that mindset because one, it was ungrateful and totally dismissive of all the ways the Lord had lavishly blessed our family. Two, it was born out of a envious and sinful outlook. I was comparing my portion with others and wishing for what they had without taking into account how they may have achieved their results or if their portion in life was even a part of God’s will for my life, home and marriage. Once the Lord chin-checked me on these points, I became more diligent about casting down those kinds of thoughts – those thoughts ultimately were exalting themselves against my knowledge of Christ as a Savior who has given me all that pertains to life and godliness. So, by God’s grace I was at a place of contentment. Our needs were met, my family was safe and healthy and cared for and I had no valid reason to complain.

While I was relishing my time of being content in whatever position God would have us, I was missing a very critical point. I was not checking in with my husband. My hubby is naturally not as vocal as I am about his concerns. Through marriage, I have learned to take my concerns to God before voicing them out loud. Doing this ensures that when I do speak to my husband, my words are seasoned with grace. Although I was being careful in what I say and how I say it to my husband, I was also completely neglecting my husband’s need to be heard. Usually when he is unusually withdrawn, I take notice and coax him into sharing his heart with me. I can’t even remember the last time I did that. My focus had been so centered on our home and our son, I was forgetting my number one human priority. It was not intentional, but the damage was the same.

When my husband was finally able to share his heart with me, I realized that I had allowed resentment to creep into his heart by not being cognizant of his needs. In my own mind, I was focused on building our home and letting work be a secondary priority to the care and upbringing of our children. My husband, however, did not see it this way. From his perspective, I was leaving all the heavy lifting of our financial well being in his hands even though circumstances should have told me that he needed my help and support. He was working full-time, going to school and still struggling to ensure that all our needs were met. His only option to stay afloat as sole provider would be to drop his classes and work full time and part time simultaneously. He was resentful of the lack of help he perceived from my end and I was completely oblivious until he made it known.

The conversation with my husband was a shocking wake-up call to the real state of affairs as it related to my husband’s emotions. I had no clue. I felt like such a failure for not realizing that of course my husband needed my support in a tangible way. I felt like a fraud who had foolishly believed that our home was happy and free of any present conflict. A part of me also felt useless. Maybe my contributions to my family mattered very little when they did not translate to dollar amounts. The enemy took me back to summer of 2012. I had just experienced a 30% pay cut thanks to the state’s diminishing budget and we were planning a wedding. My (then) fiancé was making a bulk of the money that we would be spending for our wedding and our life together. While struggling financially, I was devastated to have some of the leaders at my church advise me not to be a “liability” to my husband. They meant that I should enter my marriage financially secured and able to do for myself. That has always been my plan and my dream but my present circumstances were not lining up with that notion. It felt like my dreams were on hold until I got a better paying job. It seemed to me that I would have to postpone beginning my life with the man I loved because, financially, I wasn’t yet worthy of marriage. The thought itself broke my heart and the word “liability” stuck to me like a bad stench. I could no longer picture my future with joy in my heart. All I could see was my husband not valuing me because I didn’t bring enough to the table, money wise. I fell into a deep depression that did not give way until I was able to receive some words of counsel, advise and prayer from my mentor, one of my aunties in Christ, a working mother of quadruplets who took me under her wings after I came to Christ.

The conversation with my husband felt immediately like a big “I told you so” from the enemy and everyone who had advised me to not be a “liability” to the man I loved. Maybe they had been right along. It was a battle between my emotions and the truth of God for the next two days. I would not let the enemy win but my emotions were so raw and fragile it felt like I was only moments away from giving into despair with each hour. Along with these feelings came the fear of rejection that always loomed in the background whenever I have to put myself out there. The six months of abject poverty and utter hopelessness while job searching upon graduation came to mind immediately. I did not know if I could weather another letter of rejection. Add to it, the demands of wife life and motherhood and I was thoroughly overwhelmed by my thoughts alone. I had not even done anything yet and it already seemed impossible.

One of the thoughts that came to me during these tumultuous two days was “you cannot have it all.” As a wife and new mother, it seemed I would have to sacrifice either my home life or my upward mobility in my career. There seemed to be no way to thrive at both. I was not one of those women who flew effortlessly through making a beautiful home, raising godly and well-adjusted children, maintaining a thriving marriage while climbing the ranks among her colleagues. Everything I have been able to do at home or at work has been by God’s grace alone and through tremendous effort. I was doing good to get the dishes washed each day and possibly get a shower before the afternoon on my days home alone with our son. I had to cut myself a tremendous amount of slack otherwise I would have been convinced that I was failure as a home-maker and first time mom.

How was I going to maintain the quality of life of our household (spiritual well-being and upbringing of the children) while working 40 to 60 hours a week to contribute to our financial upkeep? The Lord Himself knew I was already struggling with the little bit that was on my plate and here I am about to add more.

I was overwhelmed and panicked with the thought of what entering the workforce under someone else’s terms would entail. Thanks be to God for His unwavering faithfulness. The Lord broke through all my panic and emotions and reminded me that His grace has been sufficient for me thus far and He would continue to be my help for the journey ahead.

This post was to share my heart with fellow wives and moms, wives to be and women desiring marriage. Marriage isn’t always what Instagram will have you believe. It is not always pretty or fun. Your husband will not always be your knight in shining armor and you yourself will not always be the honorable wife that scripture describes. But there is grace available for marriage done God’s way. When you have made this covenant before God and according to His leading, He is vested in your success because His glory is at stake. He will sustain you and you can have joy in marriage even when everything isn’t perfect. Please keep me in your prayer as I enter this new season in my life as a working wife and mother. Pray for the grace to do all things in excellence. Thank you so much. God bless you

Yours in Christ,