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.

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