This is a continuation of “Part 1: The Unseen Pain of Social Infertility
Growing Up with the Dream
Some of my friends are childless and perfectly okay with it. I’m not one of them. I’m the one who had the ‘most-likely-to-be-married-first’ tag at school; the one with the glory box packed with an array of lace doilies and whose baby names were long picked out at age 15. I grew up practising motherhood with an extensive collection of dolls, insisting that my prized favourite only ever be called a ‘baby’ by my annoyed siblings. My goal was to have at least four kids, maybe five. Mum was good at it and so would I be. There were no plans for a career – it was all set – with no back-up plan if it didn’t happen.
And then it didn’t happen. My 20s passed with a few prospects. Then the 30s with one or two more, but now in my 40s, most of my male peers prefer a fertile 30 year old and with the current ‘man drought’, they can easily get them. It wasn’t just the numbers. I had whittled down my prospects in seeking a partner who was as passionate about serving the kingdom as I was. Today that choice has left me with an unrealised dream, an ache that still wakes me in the middle of the night and flares up at baby showers. Now I will never have a child of my own.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my life. God has blessed me incredibly and I don’t regret any one of my choices. But the pain is real and it never goes away. I know I will carry it with me for the rest of my life.
Death without a Gravestone
At this point there’s no real cure for singles like me. There’s no medical technology that promises relief for the partner-less and adoption is not usually an option for a lone parent. Like the married woman believing for a miracle child yet receiving none, the single woman today may need to come to a place of acceptance about the status she finds herself in, believing instead that God can give the grace needed to live with a thorn in her flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
But what we can do is speak about it. We can bring the concept of social infertility to the surface and give it the recognition it needs. When the pain is unseen, it is difficult to grieve. Like a death without a gravestone, there’s nothing to mark it. There’s no warm condolences after a failed hormonal treatment. No prayers of intercession for a doctor’s appointment. Not even a partner to share the grief with in moments of vulnerability. It’s usually felt alone, day after day, silently gnawing away at a woman’s heart.
As the church we’re called to carry each other’s burdens and in this way fulfil the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). To bear them of course, we must first recognise them. For many, the pain of being unable to bear a child due to the absence of a partner is felt just as deeply as those who are physically unable to bear them. Like the physically infertile woman, the socially infertile woman needs to feel the love and grace of those who care enough to understand. She needs others to stand with her as she takes her grief to God.
Tania Harris is a pastor, speaker, author and the founder of GodConversations.com, a global ministry that equips people to recognise and respond to God’s voice. With a diverse history as church planter, pastor and Bible College lecturer, her ministry is known for its biblical depth, practical wisdom and ‘God-stories.’ She speaks to groups of all ages and denominations and is a popular voice on radio in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Currently Tania is completing her Doctorate in Ministry researching peoples’ experiences hearing God’s voice. Tania is an ordained minister with the Australian Christian Churches. Hillsong is her church home in Sydney, Australia