Author Lisa Manterfield writes, “But the one thing I was expected to do (…) was to reproduce. As a woman, my raison d’etre, my purpose, was to bear children, to produce the next generation of humankind. If women did not reproduce, there would be no future for our species … and I had failed. Did that mean I was no longer a real woman? Was I still a valuable part of the human race if I didn’t contribute to its future?”
Have you heard the question being asked of couples in their first year of marriage (and their second, and third and fourth year), “When are you two going to have a baby?”
What most of us may not realize—unless we have been in the situation ourselves—is that this type of question can be crushing, devastating, and demoralizing for those who cannot conceive, cannot carry a child, or for those who have chosen not to have children.
I think most of us would like a legacy to leave in this world. Most of us would like to see what genes a child of our family will inherit—will they look like me, walk like me, think like me? Most of us would like to put our stamp on a new person. Most of us would like to hold, smell and snuggle with a tiny infant. Most of us assume that others want the same thing, or can even make it happen if they choose.
We don’t often think about, pray about, or even interact with the couples who can’t or choose not to have children. Do we have little in common, or do we feel uncomfortable?
Many Different Scenarios
Let’s think about those who are unable to conceive. There are some couples who know prior to marriage that they will not be having children of their own because they are unable to conceive, and then there are some couples who go into marriage with high hopes and then are crushed. I know of one couple who knew they could not have their own biological child, talked about it before they got married, and came up with options that they would pursue once married. The decision they made worked well for them and they are extremely happy.
Then there are those couples who didn’t know prior to their marriage that they would be unable to conceive. The struggles and pressures they might have often end up affecting their marriage negatively. But there are many couples who work through these struggles and re-adjust their dreams and their goals. We had a friend once sitting on our living room couch crying her heart out because “nothing was working” and she just couldn’t conceive. She felt inadequate, incapable, and empty. I felt an unhealthy guilt because I had two perfectly healthy children sleeping snuggled in their beds down the hallway. As the years progressed, this couple adopted and then was able to have a biological child of their own. I have heard mothers who are unable to conceive say things like, “There are people getting pregnant when they really don’t want children and many having children who don’t even take care of them when they have them. Life just isn’t fair!”
What Not To Say
Author Lucy Rider, in one of her articles about her infertility, explains her feelings in this way: “It’s guilt. And shame. And anger. A lot of anger. It’s keeping it a secret from my closest friends for so long, and then when I finally tell them, having them freeze and say the wrong thing like, ‘You’re still young.’”
So what are some things we should avoid doing when comforting those who mourn not having children? Don’t tell them you will loan them your children for a span of time (so they can have their baby fix); don’t complain about how hard it is being a parent; don’t tell them how to remedy their barrenness; and don’t talk constantly about your own children.
Have you thought about the couples who married when they were older and they made a decision not to have children or it wasn’t possible for them? They may be happy and content, but the world often sees their marriage through a different lens. And what about the couples who choose by decisions or by default (the world just passed them by until, when they considered children, it was too late) not to birth a child. How do they function in a world that is so focused on children?
Pray For All
When we pray for the Christian family or home, we know there are many different types of families, and we pray for them all! There are the nuclear families, extended families, foster families, step families, blended families, single-parent families, homes where there is a husband and wife with no children, homes with just one person—a single, and many other types of families or homes. No one makeup is more important than another. God in His infinite wisdom loves us all the same. He knows our hearts, He knows our pain, He knows our dreams and walks alongside of us—always and forever.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).
Concordia Center for the Family is committed to praying for and uplifting all types of homes and families.
In the 2016 Theological Conference, “Let’s Talk Life,” Rev. Dr. Robert Weise (Concordia Seminary St. Louis) talked about “Infertility: The Christian Couple’s Struggle With Choice in a Biotech World.” The session was recorded; subscribe to the Michigan District e-news to learn when the video recording becomes available.
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