Everyone loves Mothers’ Day, right? What is not to love? You get to show much-deserved appreciation to your mom, go out to eat, buy her Oreo’s and eat them yourself later (oh wait—was that just me?). It is a day dedicated to the most selfless, caring woman you will probably ever know.
But not everyone enjoys Mothers’ Day. Some of us don’t have mothers to send cards to anymore, and will observe the day by visiting a grave site. Some of us have strained family relationships, and this day is a day of tension with our own kids, our own mothers or both. Some have intense regrets or guilt about their own mothering of their kids, young or grown. Others of us have lost children, suddenly and unexpectedly or after a long, difficult struggle. Others still are pained by Mothers’ Day because we want nothing more than to be mothers, but are not able.
For years, I hated this much-revered day, and I can promise you that I was not the only one. I am one of the 6.1 million women in the U.S. who struggle with infertility.
My husband and I had been married two and a half years before deciding it was time to begin our family. Months started spinning by, and yet I was not pregnant.
Pregnancy test after pregnancy test offered no positive result. Months turned into years, and each year, I dreaded Mothers’ Day. The holiday meant for me wanting to stay in bed all day, fearing going out in public and shedding many tears. This anxiety-filled day came and went each year, and with each year I became more embittered toward it.
The worst possible place to be was church on Mothers’ Day. All the mothers would be encouraged and loved on, while I would only be reminded of the joys of motherhood that I might never experience. As a pastor’s wife, I did my best to plaster on my happy face. The questions would come, “So when will you be celebrating Mothers’ Day?” and I would just shrug my shoulders and tell them that it was all in God’s timing. I said those words so often that they became a mere facade of the pain that was hiding underneath. I did not feel spiritually fed or refreshed. I felt ashamed, disgraced and unloved by my Heavenly Father.
When these feelings of intense sadness came over me, I felt like I had nowhere to turn. My husband, while so supportive, could not truly understand my deep hurt. My parents sympathized with my pain, but were so eager for grandchildren that their questions and concerns were a constant reminder of my sadness. The only person that I had to turn to was the one person that I should have looked to right from the beginning.
As I studied the issue of infertility through His eyes, God overwhelmed me with His love and comfort. God’s Word handles the topic of infertility with such grace. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Samson’s mother, Hannah, Elizabeth—all of these women struggled with infertility. Not only does the Bible offer the stories of these women, but there are glimpses of hope in how God cares for these women and the sensitivity with which He handles the issue of infertility. Never once—in any of these stories—is infertility a sign of unrepented sins or lack of faith. On the contrary, these women were tenderly cared for by God and chosen for His good work. So many times during those difficult years, I felt that God’s favor did not shine upon me, but as I read through these stories, I could not deny God’s incredible care and love for childless women just like me.
But what I’d love to see is the same love and care for childless women in our churches. So the question presents itself: How can the church reach out to women struggling with this very private battle? In my experience, the church was the most difficult place for me to be during this struggle. We as the church must have that same godly grace, sensitivity and love towards those struggling with fertility issues. When we take God’s word and act upon it, we can show women that their worth is far more than a pregnancy test. Here are some tips for reaching out to women struggling:
- If your friends have shared with you their struggles, do not ignore their need. Most people are so timid about such a private issue that they disregard the issue. What is needed most are prayers, loving care and concern, and reassurance. Scripture, simple prayers and notes of encouragement mean more than you can imagine.
- Others who know their struggle. The thing that got me through this difficult time was friendships formed with other women who were struggling with infertility as well. On Mother’s Day, we would sit together and understand the unstated hurt that the other was experiencing.
- Advice—when requested. I received some wonderful insight from Godly friends who had struggled with infertility themselves. However, I received equal amounts of unwarranted advice that only hurt and further fortified my shame and disgrace. Be cautious in giving advice when it is not requested.
- The key in all of these is grace. Through God’s church, a woman can be ministered to during this difficult time.
It was God’s grace, and the grace of others, who carried me through my struggle with infertility. And just like I learned infertility in Scripture was not a “curse” or a consequence of sin, I had to learn fertility was neither a blessing as a consequence of faith or obedience. Motherhood is never something we “earn” or something we “lose privilege” of. Rather, children are an undeserved gift. That is all.
I have always had a strong heart for adoption and the plight of the orphan. I am the director of an adoption ministry, and have always yearned for the day when God would give us the opportunity to adopt a child. When I realized I was not able to have biological children, I made it clear to my husband: “I am ready to adopt whenever you are.” It took time, but one day out of the blue, my husband looked at me and said, “I’m ready.” And a new journey into experiencing God’s grace began. God has shown His ultimate and supreme grace to my husband and me, and this summer we will bring home our son from Taiwan.
Mothers’ Day can be one the hardest days of the year—harder still to celebrate it in church. Whether you’re celebrating or suffering this year, I pray God’s grace upon you. I pray you will be strengthened in the grace that has strengthened and is strengthening me: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).