Well, I certainly didn’t see this coming.
Our child-free journey has been full of ups and downs. Okay, mostly downs. Whenever I would get a well-meaning-but-awkwardly-inappropriate comment or an invitation to [another] baby shower or see baby pictures on Facebook, I would oscillate between hurt and anger. I fought against both emotions, because I know that, untended, they grow roots and unfurl the black flower of bitterness, and the last thing I wanted my life to be characterized by was bitterness. I started deconstructing the first dream of my life and slowly, brick by brick, trying to build a new dream that was more in line with what God had apparently chosen for me: a life defined by roles other than that of mother.
I expected it to be a long, hard road, and it is. I expected feelings of grief for children I would never have and Mother’s Days full of longing. And I had them.
What I did not expect was to reach the other side. And I did.
I am in a place where I completely, totally happy and fulfilled…without children. I had no idea it was possible. I had always thought that if I couldn’t have kids, I would adopt, but when faced with the decision, my husband and I both felt that adoption was not for us. We didn’t think it should be the default position of every infertile couple; we felt that it was a special calling, and neither of us has received that calling yet.
I knew I was in a brand new place when I got an invitation to a baby shower…and for the first time in about 7 years, I considered accepting it. In fact, acceptance was my first thought. I decided years ago to decline baby shower invitations because it wasn’t emotionally healthy for me. It made me discontent. I could bless the mothers in my life in other ways, I concluded. But when I got the invitation, I thought about the mother, who was my friend, the other seminary wives, also my friends, who would be at the shower, and I really, REALLY wanted to go. And I did. And it was awesome. I had a great time and joined in the baby games and shopped for a baby gift and was extremely happy. I knew that I had reached an entirely different level of this journey, one that I didn’t think was possible. I felt that the life God has given me was COMPLETE, without children.
It’s taken years of breaking down and rebuilding, but my new God-given dream is finished, and it is beautiful. It’s a dream of ministry that would be difficult (if not impossible) with kids, travel, writing, exploration, adventure, and possibilities far beyond the scope of what I had dreamed for myself. In Colorado, we were waiting for children, living in a house that was too big and jobs that were going nowhere. Now, our house feels full, like our lives. I am fulfilled and whole in Christ, and not defined by motherhood.
I love my life exactly the way it is right now, and I don’t want it to change.
That’s been the unexpected part of the journey: guilt over feeling fulfilled without kids. I mean, I’m supposed to want them, right? It’s a relief to be free, but I also feel like I’m living selfishly. I minister to 120 students during the day, and then I thoroughly enjoy coming home to soft music, a good book, and a glass of wine at night. I love hugging and kissing and playing with my totally adorable nephew and then handing him back to his parents. I love vacations that are filled with either peaceful relaxation or intense adventure. I love the freedom and money to travel. I love my close friendship with my husband and the fact that our relationship will never experience the drift that sometimes happens in families with kids. I love weekends on the beach with hubby and friends, with a glass of lemonade and my toes in the wave-soaked sand. I love not knowing what’s ahead: the crazy twists and turns my life will take. Getting a PhD? In Scotland, perhaps? Living overseas? Seeing the Northern Lights? Writing a book? Touring Europe with my beloved husband?
So here’s the question that I’ve been asking myself lately: is it okay that I’m okay? I think that as long as I’m reaching out to others, obeying God, helping the less fortunate…I’m pretty sure it’s okay. I don’t want to be selfish, but I certainly am happy to move beyond the miserable undercurrent that poisoned several years of my life. The last step is to shake off the guilt. And then there’s no stopping me.