Don’t have children until you absolutely cannot live without them.
At least that’s what my mom always told me. I never used to be able to imagine what it would feel like to want a child so desperately, and then all of the sudden one day – I did. I had this hesitation in my head, because we work with kids and we got married so young and Garrett is so scared of babies and I collect lunch money for a living, I always felt okay waiting until later to start thinking on motherhood. Then all of the sudden, my arms felt empty.
It’s weird. It’s not as if I was holding something and had it taken away, I was just standing in church last Mother’s Day and my chest was aching and I was suddenly aware of this absolute void in my arms, like I was embracing empty space that I wanted nothing more than to fill with motherhood. Being a childless woman on Mother’s Day had finally begun to hurt.
The story of Hannah had been a mystery to me up until this moment. The idea that a woman would feel so left behind, so beneath her peers, so empty and aching over her desperation for a child usually went right over my head. But now I get it.
In the church especially, there is an unspoken heirarchy that sorts out the mothers and the childless. I’ve been called selfish, immature, wild. I’ve been treated like a little girl who just isn’t quite grown yet. I’ve felt excluded, I’ve felt less than, I’ve felt so very envious. This is a lot of vulnerability, so bear with me, but I have struggled here.
I write this post because of another Hannah, who is also childless, who is also in fervent prayer over a son that isn’t hers. Because of Shea who waits by a phone to be someone’s mother, even if it’s only for a few days. Because of Kelly who relentlessly loves those who don’t know how to love her back. Because of Carol, who hosts baby showers though she’ll never have one herself.
Mother’s Day can be hard – it is hard for some of us. I just want to shine a light on that for a brief moment. Not so that you can pity us, or be more careful around us – please don’t. But the Church isn’t just for whole families, or conventional motherhood. We are a part of God’s plan for humanity too.
So if your heart aches, and your arms feel empty, please know I’m praying for you this morning. If you’ve buried your baby, if you struggle through the heartbreak of infertility, or if you feel like a failure of a mother – Jesus sees those empty places too.
There is no one in the world I admire more than a mother who holds a child up close to her heart. The risk is so great, the pain is unfathomable, and I can only hope to be as brave as you when I get to hold one of my own someday. You are Jesus, you are His hands and feet. In bath time, and bedtime stories and screaming tantrums in the middle of Target. To unconditionally and sacrificially love – that is the story of God’s love for us. You are my hero, to the end of days.
I pray the strength and peace and grace of Jesus fills you up when you are weary, when you feel discouraged, when your arms are empty. There is no other cure for this pain of motherhood, conventional or otherwise. Just Jesus, the One who will make everything right in the end. The One who will never let your pain go to waste. He heard Hannah’s prayer, He hears yours too.