As I’ve walked through my toughest days, one of the most valuable things has been having tenderhearted friends and family walk with me. In your own journey, look for someone who will interact with you from a place of tenderness and compassion. Find someone who will love you in the midst of tears and pain, someone who is comfortable with difficult and unanswered questions. Reach out to your church community; ask your pastor to connect you with other men and women. I’ve found the most helpful companions are those who have experienced deep sorrow themselves.
When I was 19, a doctor said words I hoped never to hear: “You won’t ever be able to carry your own child.” I was too stunned to cry; all I felt was numbness. It took a few days for the shock to turn into myriad emotions—sadness, frustration grief, shame, anger, and loneliness. As I processed my diagnosis, my mind was assaulted by self-doubt and lies from the enemy. I thought, “If I can’t even fulfill the basic duties of a woman, what good am I?”
Childlessness touches the lives of many women and the precious people who love them. Infertility alone affects approximately 12 percent of the US population—that’s over one in ten couples. According to estimates, roughly 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies in the US will end in miscarriage. The risk of miscarriage in known pregnancies under 12 weeks is one in five. This data doesn’t encompass couples who have lost children to illness or accidents, nor does it take into consideration single women who desire to be mothers.
Even though I have experienced only one of the forms that childlessness can take, I’m well acquainted with the grief of being unable to have a biological child. For women like me who want to be mothers, childlessness contradicts what we know about the created order of the world. We have godly desires to parent. Our physical composition tells of this truth. We have breasts to feed a newborn; we have a uterus to grow a fetus. Our bodies were intentionally designed to fulfill God’s mandate to “be fruitful and multiply.”
However, the fall continues to taint; things aren’t the way God originally designed them to be. Women who can’t bear children often choose redemptive alternatives—fostering, adoption, godparenting, and other modes of motherhood. Even in an ideal world, though, the greatest role of a woman is not necessarily to be a mother, but rather to glorify God with our whole lives in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.
In the midst of childlessness, then, I and others like me can find truth and solace in several strongholds:
1. Cling to God’s promises.
Grasping the promises of God has been the single most important thing I’ve done in walking through suffering. I’ve found it most helpful to memorize Scripture verses that tell me who God is and what he’ll do for me, like Psalm 34, which says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).
Hide God’s Word in your heart, so when you encounter a particularly difficult situation, you’ll already be armed with truth and be able to quickly recall God’s promises. Write down the verses on note cards and keep them close at all times. Ask close friends to remind you of them. Do whatever it takes to fill your mind and heart with them. Corrie ten Boom is credited with saying, “Gather the riches of God’s promises. Nobody can take away from you those texts from the Bible which you have learned by heart.”
2. Read books about suffering.
In the early years of this journey, since I couldn’t find a book on the topic of childlessness, I devoured almost every book I could find on the topic of suffering. I knew that running away from intense suffering wouldn’t ultimately alleviate it, so I decided to study it instead. As I read other people’s experiences of intense suffering, I found it encouraging to be reminded that I wasn’t the first person in history to ever experience difficulty, and I wasn’t going to be the last. Even if their sorrow didn’t look exactly like mine, it comforted me to know that God understands the pain of people throughout the millennia and is present with us through it all.