Childless Mothers-Part II

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

To read Part I of Childless Mothers, click here.

So yesterday I encouraged you to find your worth, your value as a woman and as an individual in God, and to remember that you were created for Him above all other roles in your life. All that sounds wonderful, but when you’re struggling and deeply hurt, it all sounds like religious psycho-babble, doesn’t it?  I get it. No, really I do. I waited. No, not for kids, but for marriage…and not just for marriage, but for my first relationship. Growing up in America and not having a boyfriend is an aberration…and believe me, I felt like an aberration. By the time I was in my mid-20s, the same parents who had forbidden me to date throughout high school and college were suddenly burdened by my single status. My dad looked at me like I had an expiration date stamped on my forehead.  He made me feel as if I had failed him as a daughter and my only hope to be in his good graces again would be to be married. And ASAP! Soon enough I began to feel tormented at the sight of couples, who were only a reminder of my failure, both as a daughter and as a normal human being. They seemed to be everywhere. In grocery lines. At the movie theater. At the mall. At Starbucks.  And don’t even get me started when I had to attend weddings with my parents. While my parents acted like they were attending a funeral, I would often feel like someone was pouring hydrogen peroxide onto an open wound I had. Over and over again.

So I get it. I know how it feels when you feel like everyone is passing you by…when you have to deal with the sympathetic, curious looks from not-so-tactful relatives who also have the ability to ask downright obnoxious questions. When you, too, are left with wondering where God is and if He cares, and sometimes in those desperate moments, whether He even really exists.

You’ve prayed. You’ve waited. Now what?

The answer is simple. Wait. I know, I know. You’ve BEEN waiting. But don’t wait with pessimism and whining. When, Lord, when? Why, Lord, why? Why meeeeeeeee, Lord, why meeeeeeeeeeee?

Wait with excitement! Wait with anticipation! The Bible promises that God will keep His promise to you. I can’t guarantee that God’s plan is for you to have a child. But if that is His will for your life, you can be rest assured that it WILL happen.

How do I know? Because Sarah, wife of Abraham, waited. A long time. 

Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. 12So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”

13Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ 14Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18: 11-14

And just as God promised, it did happen:

The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. 2She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. 3And Abraham named their son Isaac. 4Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. 5Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.

6And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter.a All who hear about this will laugh with me. 7Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!” Genesis 21: 1-7

I think God waited to give Sarah and Abraham a son so there would be no doubt in either one of their minds that their child was nothing less than a fulfillment of God’s promise. He worked OUTSIDE her own biological timetable to make good on His promise to her. I think He did that to strengthen her faith, but now it also strengthens OUR faith. Because the same God who blessed Sarah is the same God who can bless you. Age is not a problem for our God.

While I am not saying you have to wait until you are 90-something years old to be a mom like Sarah did, don’t we all have those “If it doesn’t happen by X date/time, it’s over” deadlines erected in our heads?  I recall turning 29 and thinking if I hadn’t met someone by now, then I would most likely still be single at 30, which was my personal “now or never” deadline. And sure enough, I turned 30 and remained single as ever. And wouldn’t you know it, three months later, I was introduced to the man who would become my husband.

So don’t give God a deadline. It doesn’t work. In fact, more often than not, it backfires. Badly. And when it doesn’t happen according to our timetable, we only get more discouraged and disappointed, thinking God has forsaken us.

As I mentioned yesterday, there were several women, in addition to Sarah, whom God blessed with children, even after they suffered from years of infertility:

  • Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah. The Scriptures tell us in Genesis 25:21 that Isaac pleaded to the Lord for his wife who was barren. It was 20 years after their marriage that the Lord blessed Isaac and Rebekah with twin sons, Jacob and Esau.
  • Rachel, wife of Jacob. Jacob married sisters Rachel and Leah. Leah had six sons and a daughter, but the the scripture tell us that the Lord had closed Rachel’s womb. Rachel tried everything she could think of to have children. Once in anguish, she cried out to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die” (Genesis 30:1). Jacob in anger replied, “Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” The Lord eventually did open her womb, and she bore two sons, Joseph and Benjamin.
  • Samson’s mother. The Scriptures do not tell us the name of Samson’s mother, but she was childless until an angel appeared to the wife of Manoah promising a male child, a Nazarite, who would judge the children of Israel (Judges 13).
  • Hannah, wife to Elkanah. Elkanah  had two wives. His favorite wife, Hannah, was barren. Peninnah, the other wife, taunted Hannah since she had no children. Hannah pleaded with God to give her a son, promising to give him back to the Lord’s work. God answered her prayer with the birth of Samuel, the last and greatest judge of Israel. (1 Samuel 1).
  • The Shunammite woman. 2 Kings 4:8-17 relates the account of the Shunammite woman, whom the Bible calls the great woman. She was great in faith, wisdom, and silence. She opened her home to the prophet Elisha and made him his own little private chamber, a favorite place of retreat for him. Elisha wanted to repay the woman for her hospitality, but she made it clear that she was not seeking honor, recognition, or favors from him. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, told Elisha that the woman was barren and her husband was old. Elisha’s promise that she would have a son when spring came around again was fulfilled.
  • Elisabeth, cousin to Mary, mother of Jesus. The Bible also describes Elisabeth as well-stricken in years and barren. She and her husband Zachariah had long already given up hope of ever bearing a child, when an angel appeared to Zachariah promising a son. That son was John the Baptist, the forerunner and greatest prophet who prepared the way for Jesus (Luke 1).

 God opened up all of the wombs of these previously barren woman. In two instances, the women were clearly beyond child bearing years, yet they bore sons of promise. We may not understand the ways of God, but I want to encourage you to continue believing and hoping. The same God who performed those miracles long ago can also perform miracles in your life today. Believe!

Childless Mothers

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

FemmeFuel has devoted May as a special tribute to mothers and motherhood. Yesterday I addressed just one example of the daily storms we as mothers often have to endure. Albeit, the scenario I described yesterday—a rambunctious toddler in an airport— wasn’t anything close to a true life-defining, life-changing storm. But I often find that if we see God and His truth in the daily, seemingly “normal” yet trying events of our life, we are better equipped for the true faith-challenging storms of life that threaten to overwhelm us.

Today I want to address another “storm” that some mothers have to endure. This one is specifically to childless mothers. Childless mothers, I’ve come to realize, are everywhere. They come in all forms: The woman who is struggling with infertility. The woman who is struggling with carrying out a full-term pregnancy. The woman who has lost a child due to illness or accident. And even the woman who is single and still waiting for Mr. Right but is haunted by the deafening sounds of her biological clock ticking away as she waits. Whatever the background, the one thing that all childless mothers have in common is a deep inner soul desire to nurture a child of their own.

If you are a childless mother, you may feel like an aberration and alone in your struggle. However, I want to remind you that you are NOT alone. Childless mothers have a long history in the Bible. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, the Shunammanite woman, and Elisabeth are all women who struggled with infertility at various stages in their lives. Their struggles have been well documented.

In Bible times and even not too long ago in our own culture, women’s primary purpose and role in life was to marry and reproduce children and raise them. Their identity, their self- worth, their value in society was often based on whether they could produce children…but not just any children…a male child.

Even in today’s modern society, single women and married women without children find that they often feel marginalized because they don’t have the one thing that they have absolutely no control over. Rightly so, our culture celebrates marriage and children…but what about the woman who doesn’t have one…or worse, neither. Where does that leave her?

 While marriage and children are undoubtedly blessings from God, finding your true worth in any role beyond a child of God will lead you to feel incomplete. And why is that? Because He is our true creator. We were created for HIS pleasure. For His glory. He designed us to need Him. Unfortunately, we are often too busy trying to fulfill that emptiness with other things that will never complete us.

 I know several women who looked to marriage to complete them…but we (yes, that includes me) quickly learned that real life is nothing like the movies where lines like “You complete me” lead us to hope and believe that there is someone out there who can do only what God can only do. Once the blissful haze of the “honeymoon” season is over, the warts, freckles, and character flaws emerge like the morning sun piercing the sky. 

If you are struggling with trying to have a baby, I encourage you not to deny your feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and disappointment. They are natural, so if you feel them, you should not feel guilty for them. It’s not a reflection of your lack of faith. But what I encourage you to do is work through them. Fight through the lies of worthlessness , depression, and defeat and press onto victory.

Again, I remind you that before you were a wife…before you were a mother…you were a child of God.  And as a child of God, you are made beautiful and COMPLETE.

If being a mother is your heart’s desire, do not stop believing that God is able to fulfill that dream. It may seem over…you’re too old…you’re still single…the doctors just say that your body just can’t carry a full-term pregnancy. But if God wants to open the doors of motherhood to you, no one can shut it. Can’t He who created you also enable you to bear a child?

 Psalm 113:9 “He maketh the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.”

Sex, Lies, and Motherhood Part II

To read Part I of this blog, please click here.

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

This was it. This was why they had been created. So contrary to what Playboy magazine may try to convince us, women’s breasts were more than just merely decorative. They actually had a purpose (although I had to admit, I could have given Pamela Anderson some competition). So once I came to the accept the fact that my breasts had a true functional role in life other than just to fill out a blouse or create lustful thoughts in my husband, I had to also accept that for the next one year, my breasts were not my own. I was a cow. A cow in its truest, rawest functional sense. One that could produce disease-fighting, health-promoting, immunity-boosting benefits for my newly born spawn. I could be depressed about it or I could try to see myself empowered. I am a woman. I had created this little life. Or more accurately, God had created life through me. I looked at myself in the mirror, placed my hands squarely on my childbearing hips, stuck out my sore breasts in pride, sucked in my stomach (or as far in as it would go in) and repeated as confidently as I could…

I am woman. Hear me moo.

But nursing, or in my case, trying to nurse was not my only motherhood challenge.

Motherhood, I found, was also the end of life as I knew it. And I think for me that was the hardest part. I enjoyed my life. It wasn’t an exciting life. I wasn’t out at nightclubs or at the beach. I wasn’t at parties or bars. Granted, I probably wasted much of my time doing absolutely nothing useful or productive for mankind. I’ll be the first to admit that I probably spent most of my pre-motherhood time languidly lounging on the couch (in a flowing white gauzy robe nonetheless) while staring mindlessly for hours at the television, watching whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.  But it was my time. Mine to decide what I wanted to do and mine to do decide when I wanted to do it. Now “my time” is confined to the four walls of my bathroom, the one place where I can close the doors, have some privacy, have some quality quiet time and find solace.  For 10 minutes.

Motherhood was also the end of another favorite pastime of mine. Sleep. Good old fashioned “put your head on the pillow and don’t open your eyes till morning” sleep. I’m talking the real decadent kind of sleep. The sleep ‘til really, really late in the morning. At least until 9:30am! Now my beauty sleep gets constantly interrupted with my daughter waking up for milk periodically through the night. And by periodically, I mean, at the minimum, three to four times.

Oh, wait, you wonder. How old is your daughter? A year and a half. And she’s still waking up for milk in the night? I thought that stopped at 3 months. Yeah, I reply with a tight-lipped grimace. So did I. Apparently I got the one child out of a 100 that can’t seem to stop wanting milk at night.

Tsk, tsk, tsk, you murmur to me with a shaking of you head. You must stop that bad habit right away. You should just let her cry through the night. Yeah, I reply with a tight-lipped grimace. I should. But apparently I married the one husband out of a 100 who values sleep less than letting his sweet baby girl cry for more than 5 seconds at any given time.

Yes, motherhood was definitely the end of many things for me. Some of which (mindless tv…reading…sleeping…sigh) I really miss. And I’m still reading the same book I bought just days before I went into labor. I’m proud to admit that I am making progress. I have now hit chapter three. At this rate, it looks like I’m at a good pace to finish it up just as we drive Ava off to college.

So why do we do it? Or more importantly, why did I do it?  After all, I knew, didn’t I? I knew. Or at least I thought I did.  The twelve years younger sister aka Little Sis—the very person who was the major reason I was so reluctant to take motherhood on so quickly after marriage. In reality, as much work as I remember my baby sister being, it’s nothing compared to being the actual parent…but today she remains the very reason I know that no matter how much work, how exhausted I feel, how frustrated I feel, how much I have to give up (albeit even unwillingly)…in the end, motherhood is all worth it.

I know that just like that little sibling I so desperately wanted who also came so many years later than I wanted…I now cannot imagine my life without my little sister, just as I now cannot imagine my life without my daughter. Both are blood. Through thick and thin. Through stupid fights and misunderstandings, we have ties that bind us. And although Little Sis is 12 years younger, there are some advantages to that, I’ve come to realize. We have a deal. I changed her diapers, and one day she’ll change mine.

I figure between her and Ava, I’m covered. For life.

Sex, Lies, and Motherhood

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

The light, fresh smell of baby powder in the pastel-colored nusery…the sound of a sweet melodic lullaby playing while rocking my baby to sleep in a rocking chair while she gurgles and cooes…days spent gazing in wonder at my most perfect gift from God…

 (now imagine the sound of a record being scratched!)

 Yep, I was NOT one of those women! And I mean that with all respect! I was not one of those women who had sweet, ideal, but let’s face it, basically delusions in my head about what having and raising a baby would be like!  People like my friends who every time they saw a baby would respond “Oooh, I want one!” while I would just smile tremblingly and fearfully and shake my head while responding with “Yeah, they’re cute now, but they’re a lot of work!  A lot.” 

 I knew the truth. After all, I had a sister who was 12 years younger than me. A sister who made her sudden appearance just as I was about to enter wonderful puberty and adolescence. A sister who appeared just as I quit caring that I no longer had a built-in playmate at home…after spending years, 11 years in fact, begging for a younger sibling, my parents indulged me (or so they say…).

 No, I definitely knew the truth. The truth that babies don’t just coo and gurgle all day. That they cry. A lot. For no reason. Or for no reason that you can determine after trying everything under the sun from changing diapers to feeding them. I knew that every time you left with a baby, it was like going on an overseas trip. You had to think of every scenario and pack for every thing. Diapers. Wipes. Changing pad. Diaper Rash cream. Bottle. Spare bottle. Spare formula. Water for the formula. Pacifier. Clothes. Spare clothes. And sometimes even another set of spare clothes. Whew!  As they get older, it gets more complicated. In addition to everything I just mentioned, you also had to pack snacks and toys, and if they’re sick….oh, boy…the list can go on and on…

 No, I definitely knew that babies, as cute and as beautiful as they are…they are a lot of work. A lot. And I warned my friends who didn’t have the benefit of my experience. But did they listen to me? Of course not! Most of them still wanted one! And after they got married…a year or two later, they would each call me with the “wonderful news.” Can you believe that? After everything I told them! And then they would call me and tell me how hard it was. I, being the good friend, I am would listen patiently and encourage them that they could do it while in my head I would be thinking, “Tsk, tsk tsk, didn’t I warn you?”

 No, I knew.

 So eventually, I, too, went on to get married. (sigh). Evenings spent making dinner together and cleaning up together…then hours spent cuddled on the couch while watching a chick flick. Having hot romance novel kind of sex. Every day.

Yep, I was one of those women! Unfortunately, while I had no delusions about children, I definitely had many, many delusions about marriage and what that would be like. But that’s another blog.

 So after I got married and survived the first year of marriage, I started getting hounded by my parents, by my relatives about having kids. The first year it started happening, I would get exasperated and exclaim, “We just got married! Why are you always rushing me! I at least want to be married two years before I can think of kids!” 

 Then the second year came and left, and then I would smile and say, “We’re just not ready yet. Two years went by so fast…I just want to enjoy marriage.” 

 Then the third year came, and my twelve years younger sister started asking me about kids, and I would look at her incredulously and ask, “Do you have any idea how much work you were as a baby and a kid? Oh, you don’t, huh? Well I DO!  YOU are the reason I am waiting until my last egg can be fertilized before I can consider having a kid!” 

 Then my fourth year came and went, and while my parents remained silent and just give me their saddest, most forlorn puppy dog eyes, my relatives would not hold back: When are you going to have a kid? What are you waiting for? You’re getting old…who is going to take care of you when you’re old? I would look downcast and shrug my shoulders and say, “It’s not up to me…it’s up to God.” And then they would look uncomfortably at each other and then sympathetically at me and gently pat me on the shoulder, “Don’t worry, Bindu-mol…it will happen. We’ll pray for you.” 

 Hey, don’t judge me. It’s not my fault that they jumped to the conclusion that I was trying but nothing was happening! I did what I had to do to get them off my back! After all, I knew! Besides, for all of their well-meaning intentions, where would they be for those 3 am feedings? Yeah. Exactly. See…I knew.

 But the fifth year came…and finally I had to ask myself…why aren’t I having kids? Sure, it’ll be a lot of work. But heck, my parents did it. My friends are doing it. I can do it. It’ll be a lot of work, but at least I will not be surprised that it’ll be a lot of work. I will be prepared. After all, I know.

 So on October 14, 2009, beautiful Ava Marianna Mathew was born into the world! The first two nights, it was something unlike anything I had imagined! To my surprise, motherhood was just like the storybooks. The fresh, light smell of baby powder…the baby soft skin that I couldn’t stop touching. The unbelievable feeling of wonder every time I looked at this tiny, tiny baby whom I had talked to endlessly while she had been in my stomach for 9 months. It was perfect.

I found myself energetically getting up when she cried in the middle of the night. I found myself not feeling tired although I had just given birth hours before. I was amazed. This wasn’t as bad as I thought!  I had been wrong about motherhood!

My mom arrived my last day at the hospital, just in time to help us transition to home. She watched Ava at nights, so I could catch up on sleep. She bathed Ava. She completely took care of Ava.

So what was I doing, you ask?  Well, thank you for asking. I nursed. Or at least I tried to. I tried to nurse a crying baby who didn’t want my over-sized breasts. My oversized Triple XXX boobs that should have easily been overflowing with milk and honey. Ava would suckle for two seconds and didn’t get what she wanted and then screamed. Loudly. Very loudly. So I gave up trying to directly nurse her and went for the breast pump. I secluded myself in my master bedroom, attached these suction cups to my sore boobs and awkwardly waited for the tiniest drop of milk. And waited. And waited. I would glance around the room, looking for something to focus on while trying to ignore that awkward, uncomfortable tug of the suction cup around my nipple. Until I caught my reflection in my dresser mirror. My hair was a tangled mess, sticking out in every frizzy way possible. I was sitting in my pjs, still looking 5 months pregnant (which is only cute when you really are five months pregnant), with these futuristic gadgets attached to my boobs. I not only felt like a cow. I not only looked like a cow.  I was a cow. Not one of those metaphorical, low-self-esteem feelings of cow-dom. But an official, true-to-life cow. Being milked for every bit of nutrition that my body could officially produce. A cow. A real, real cow.

To be continued…