“So…do you guys think you might, I mean, someday, ever want to have kids?” My friend asks me as we play with her toddler on the floor. I see the curve of her belly, pregnant with their second. She doesn’t know we’ve actually been trying for over a year—with no success of conceiving. She doesn’t know I actually ache to be in her shoes. Swollen feet and all. “Oh, yeah,” I say, “We definitely want kids.” And I roll the ball to her toddler, trying to act as natural as possible.
Inside, I have no idea if I will be able to have kids. And I wonder if she knows, we’re trying. I wonder if she knows I would be a mom by now, if I could. And that as disheveled and chaotic as she feels, and as unattractive as she thinks she looks, with her postpartum curves—she actually looks incredibly beautiful to me. But I don’t know how to say this. Not today.
My friend is sweet, and doesn’t press further. And I feel relieved when she doesn’t.
I was completely blindsided by it: infertility. I remember so naively waiting those two minutes for that first pregnancy test, feeling so sure it would be positive. I envisioned us jumping up and down in celebration. But instead, we just stood there. “Maybe it will just take a little while,” my husband said. “Yeah,” I tried to shrug off the disappointment, “Maybe.”
But month after month of trying to conceive, my period came back. And months turned into years of waiting. And crying. And praying. And wondering…
What was wrong with us?
All of our friends were on babies #2 and #3, but we could not get pregnant with one. As our friends’ families grew with new babies—it was just still just the two of us. As our friends traded in their cars for SUV’s and minivans, and turned offices into nurseries—we would walk by our extra bedrooms and pray God would fill them someday. Somehow.
Sometimes it felt like the world kept rushing past us, while we just stayed still, frozen in time. Waiting for God to move.
Now looking back on those years of waiting, I see God was moving the whole time. In fact, He did some of His best work in us during those years. And He did it, before I ever got pregnant. He opened my eyes to see. And instead of seeing my life as a barren wasteland of disappointment, I saw Him. I saw His beauty–and that though my womb was barren, my soul didn’t have to be. He began to make me alive in Him and began to birth something in me that would change the way I see forever. (You can read more about my infertility story here.)
But what about in the meantime? How does infertility affect friendships between women? And if you are already a mom, how should you approach a friend who is possibly unable to conceive?
I can’t speak for other women—I only know my own experience with infertility—but here are a few ways women who are already mothers can honor their “childless” friends, whether they are “childless” by choice, singleness, or infertility.
1. Realize the Mommy Club can be slightly exclusive. Being a mom now for two and a half years, I have grown to love the Mommy Club. I love swapping labor stories, poop stories, and tantrum stories with other other moms, just to know I’m not alone in this. Motherhood is an incredible bond between women (even women who are just passing by in the grocery store!) But the “Mommy Club,” as wonderful as it is, can be a little exclusive at times to non-mothers, especially in the Church. And this often happens quite innocently. All the moms are laughing and going on and on, swapping war-stories from the mommy trenches, and raving about the best butt paste, and the non-mother has nothing to contribute except, “I babysat in high school once.” (Cricket, cricket.)
Now, this doesn’t mean you should drop your mom fellowship time. (Not at all!) It’s just something to be aware of, so that you can love, and include, and value the woman who is not a mother, just as much as the one who is. And in order to do this, we as moms have to, “Look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
2. Include Your Non-Mom Friends. I think many moms assume that “non-moms” would never want to come to a play date, or meet up at the mall when your kids are present. But I loved when my friends would include me in things like this, without the prerequisite of being a mom. I’m so thankful for friends that invited me into their daily life at home with kids because this helped me see what it was like to be a mom, and made me desire to be a mom.
Although motherhood is a strong bond, it’s not the only bond women can have. For Christians hopefully there is a bond even stronger than motherhood, and that is being a part of God’s kingdom together. Being a daughter of God connects me to every other female in the body of Christ—whether she’s two, or twenty-two, or sixty-two. It’s a sisterhood that began long before I ever conceived my daughter. And it’s one that will need to exist while I raise my daughter, and long after she has a family of her own.
3. Be Sensitive In Approaching The Topic Of Infertility. If you are already a mom and curiously wondering if, or when your childless friend will ever have children, try to be patient. I never minded at all if someone asked, “Do you think you ever want to have kids?” It was what happened beyond that question. The moment you ask, “Well, are you trying?” You are pawing at a box she might not want opened—or hasn’t initiated opening, anyway. For your friend who is battling infertility, it might feel to her like you are going through her underwear drawer. It might feel like you are saying, “So..when are you gonna have kids? Are you having sex, or what? What birth control are you using? How long have you been off of it? Is he still wearing a condom? How’s your man’s sperm count? Is everything working down there with you two? Are you guys having enough sex?” (Whoa.) No, thanks.
Don’t let your curiosity get the best of you. Or your friendship. You may get the information you want, but you’ll damage the friendship. I think that the woman that is comfortable talking about her infertility, will talk about it. So let her bring it up.
And if she does share intimate details with you, honor her in that. Be very careful not to gossip about anything she shares with you. (That means not telling anybody she hasn’t specifically told you to tell.) This comes down to simply loving your infertile friends, being patient with them, and learning how to honor them and uphold their privacy through the process.
4. Be Exceedingly Thankful To Be A Mom. It’s especially difficult for women who could never conceive, or lost every child in miscarriage to hear women gripe and complain about being a mom. It’s true that motherhood has intense challenges, sleepless nights, and can at times make you feel like you are totally losing it. But, for the Christian, we are called to battle back with joy and gratitude and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
Complaining and grumbling not only steals your joy and darkens your perspective, but it can make the hearts of others ache, too. So be joyful in your mothering, knowing that others are watching and listening. You might be afraid that if you “enjoy” your motherhood too much in front of “childless” women, you will cause them pain. However, I think the opposite is true. Your grumbling causes them pain, not your joy. So be exceedingly joyful in your motherhood, and if, or when they get to enter motherhood they will be more likely to be joyful in it, too.
5. Be Available For Your Infertile Friends. The longer a woman, or couple experiences infertility, the more likely they will be to open up about it. And if they open up to you, give them the encouragement they need. Pray for them, comfort them with Scripture, and remind them that God is lovingly leading their life together. We were very private about our struggle with infertility, but the few people we did open up to provided such a source of comfort and strength to us during the process.
Infertility Doesn’t Have To Break A Friendship
As Christians, we have this amazing opportunity to love each other. The seasons of our lives don’t always line up perfectly with each other. And although some friendships may drift while others thrive, let’s let it be because of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And not because of the anger, bitterness, and jealousy of an infertile couple. Let’s not let friendships be broken by prying questions, or gossip, or because we were too selfish to look past ourselves.
I think something really beautiful happens when people from different seasons of life are both vulnerable and strengthening to each other. Titus 2 talks about how within the body of Christ we all need each other. So, wherever you are at, whether you are in a house filled with the cries and screams of little children, or you are praying desperately for a miracle in your womb, or you are a grandmother, or you are a single person who is traveling the globe, let’s love each other. Because before any of us were mothers, we were daughters. We were sisters. We were children, born into the Kingdom of God and saved by the blood and mercy of Jesus Christ. The One whom we love, and live for.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).
This post was first published on Loving My Lot as a guest post I wrote for author/blogger Jeanne Harrison. Be sure to check out Jeanne’s other posts, like Mom vs. Mom: The War I Didn’t See Coming, and her new blog turned book, “Loving My Lot”, which you can purchase by clicking on the picture link below!
Photo Credit: D’Attoma Studios
Great advice! Now that my husband and I are experiencing infertility, I feel so bad about all the times I judged (in my heart, not verbally, but judged nonetheless) couples for not starting their family within the first year or 2 of marriage. “They must be on BC” or “They must be selfishly waiting to have children until XYZ” or whatever. Whether or not any of those couples were experiencing infertility, or just purposely waiting, I don’t know. But what I do know is that God has changed my heart in this area. And now I need to remember to respond graciously to those who are bold enough to inquire of me why we don’t have children yet.
And I agree especially with #4. I would much rather hear moms talk to me about how much they love motherhood rather than complaining and whining about all their problems with their kids.
I really appreciate your honesty here! I too was very humbled when we experienced infertility. I just assumed people without kids–didn’t want any. Although, that can be the case, I now know, it’s not always. I think there just needs to be loads of grace on both sides of this issue, for the infertile couple, and the couple with kids. We need to walk in love with one another, and that’s the foundation of it all! Now that I am a mom, I want to be real about the struggles, but also to fight back with joy. Whether in the midst of infertility, or motherhood, it seems like gratitude is the key to our joy and satisfaction in God. Thanks for bringing up the things that go through our heads, that we’re not always brave enough to talk about! 😉