On Not Being a Mother on Mother’s Day…


“Happy Mother’s Day!”  “Have a great weekend and happy Mother’s Day!”  We all hear those words at this time of year.  You would think that after all these years it wouldn’t bother me.  And it doesn’t… that much… I guess.  Except that I often avoid going to church on Mother’s Day because rose-bearing children shove flowers in my face, shouting “Happy Mother’s Day!”  And it doesn’t stop until I finally accept a flower and then just say to the people who know I don’t have kids, “Well, I guess I am a mother of three furry children.”


The path of not being a mother is one that was sort of by choice, but sort of not.  I always assumed I would have children.  I love children.  I was a classroom teacher.  My whole professional life revolved around children.  I even had names picked out in my 20s for those kids in the future (Elliot for a boy and Alex for a girl).  But then time went by and when all my friends were getting married, I didn’t.  Sure I hoped for a husband and I suppose I could have gotten married if all I’d really wanted was to just be married.  But I wanted just the right guy and I wasn’t willing to settle.  I broke off an engagement in college and I wonder if I would have if I’d known then that I wouldn’t be getting married for 12 more years.  Boyfriends came and went along with a few broken hearts. 



When you’re in your 20s and single, no one bothers you, but when you start approaching 30, things change.  People look at you funny.  Is there something wrong with her?  Does she even like guys?  I ran into an old friend from college, a guy who had been a really good friend back then, who upon finding out I was still single said, “Really? What’s wrong with you?”



But this isn’t a story about not being married, it’s about not being a mother, so on we go.  In my late 20s I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a disease that causes fertility issues.  It’s not the kiss of death to the notion of childbearing, but it does take a bit more effort and it is true that some women with PCOS never conceive.  During this time, I had quite a few friends who struggled with infertility, decided to adopt and painfully endured failed adoptions.  They were heartbroken and I thought to myself, That could be me… because I might not be able to conceive or I might not ever get married.



So, I started to look at the world from the eyes of someone who might never have children.  Instead of saying, “When I have kids…” I would say, “If I ever have kids….”  I tried to appreciate the freedom I had as a person without children.  Then I taught middle school… and that was sort of a clincher.  Oh… this is what they turn into?  I even remember saying to my parents, “You know, even if I do get married, I’m not sure I’ll have kids.”  Their response?  “Well, don’t do it for us.  We already have 4 grandchildren.  We’re fine.”

 
23 years and still insanely happy together.

While I was becoming okay with the idea of not having kids I was still very afraid that I would meet a wonderful man who loved me and desperately wanted kids and that I would someday fail him.  So, it was a relief when I met John who said he didn’t want kids.  We made the decision to not try for kids, but at one point, it appeared that I did get pregnant and had a miscarriage in the early weeks.  (This is something that is very common for women with PCOS, by the way.)  I wasn’t really sad about it, more like a little reflective about the idea that there might have been a child in our lives and that someday in heaven a little person will come up and introduce himself or herself to us.



The path of being a childless couple is not an easy one.  When you say you chose not to have children, people get hostile… really… especially those in the thick of raising young children.  You don’t have kids?  You have to have kids. You don’t have kids? How selfish of you.  You know, you could always adopt. I finally stopped telling people we chose not to have kids.  When asked the inevitable question, “So, do you have kids?”  I would respond wistfully, “No….”  End of conversation.  Oh, dear God, the poor girl is barren.  It worked.



So, I don’t have the sad story of desperately wanting children, but not being able to have them.  I have the story of being married to a wonderful man for 23 years and the gift of so much uninterrupted time together.  Yes, I know there are things we are missing out on by not having kids.  But there are also so many things others will never experience because they did.  There isn’t a right or wrong path.  The path of having kids just wasn’t our path.  I often say that God answered a prayer we never had to pray.  The path of infertility was not the path God had for us.  We believe that God used us in so many ways in ministry because we could be flexible and fill in when other people’s children were sick or had emergencies or dance recitals or whatever.   
 
Me, singing in worship ministry and John, playing drums.
We also helped our friends who had young kids.  “Hey, can we borrow Chloe and Lily today?  We’d like to take them to the festival.”  It was fun to give our friends a break, take the kids out for the day, spend lots of money on them, and then give them back.



I guess, though, the only time when a little sadness crept in from not having children was when my friends started becoming grandparents, although I never dwelt on it enough to process it as sadness.  But recently we became grandparents (sort of), due to some interesting circumstances, so now this childless woman has a beautiful little girl in her life who calls her Grandma.  Who would have thought?



Well, now we’ve come full circle.  Mother’s Day is this weekend.  I have a gift for my mom.  No one will be getting a gift for me, but if I go to church on Sunday, I will be wished a happy Mother’s Day from every adult and child I see (except for those who know us well enough to know) and I will likely have a flower shoved in my face from every child I see until I finally just take one.  And while I don’t have the brokenhearted story of desperately wanting children, but not being able to have them, I wonder… how do those brokenhearted women feel on Mother’s Day? 




17 comments

  1. Great post, Jennifer! Come to church on Sunday. Hopefully sit by your mom like you did last week. Hopefully no flower-shoving at Grace. Last year we started simply putting them out for whoever wants one. For your very reason. You and John are the best!

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    1. Aaawww, so sweet, Pastor Mark. I do appreciate it. On Mother's Day at our church in Camp Verde, they gave out a bookmark to each woman with Psalm 31:10 about being a virtuous woman. I thought that was a great way to handle the day. I actually love being able to honor my mom on Mother's Day and do not resent the day. It just always makes me think about those woman who, for whatever reason, are saddened by it. (And I know that you and Laurie are acutely aware of those feelings.) I WILL see you at church on Sunday. Blessings to you and thanks for taking the time to read my post! --Jennifer

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    2. Oops! Meant to say PROVERBS, not Psalms. :)

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  2. Nice post. Remember that you are a mother to some of the kids you teach. You might not think you are but you are.

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    1. Thank you for that! Actually, when I was a college professor, my college students referred to me as their college mama. It was sweet.

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  3. I could so relate to this. I have PCOS...went through years of infertility, miscarriages (2) and when I was running from God and rebellious He used pregnancy that I was sure I was ending up in another miscarriage to bring me back to Him. Frank and I have also had 3 failed adoptions and when Frank contently announced we are a family of 3, I was diagnosed with lupus. I am so thankful for His grace and provisions.

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    1. Hi Lisa! Thanks for reading the post and I'm so sorry for the difficult journey you've had with infertility. God is good, though, isn't He? His plan is always perfect, even when we don't understand it, don't want it, don't like it. I am so grateful for His love and faithfulness and I'm glad He found a way to bring you back to Him. Blessings to you! --Jennifer

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    2. So, did I understand your message correctly? You ended up with one successful pregnancy?

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  4. Thank you, my dear Lady for sharing your story! I just came from your You Tube channel. We all should not have to feel we have to explain or have people ask or think why. I have my story too, different ;but, I know the subtle and the not so subtle looks ot unasked questions. ~k I don't know what name this will show here ! Karola

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read the post, Karola. God is good and He has a special direction for each of us. xxoo

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  5. I love you Jennifer, as long as I've known you, I have never wondered about you having kids. You have such a sweet, young spirit, ( you never age), you're always happy and kind, and as as far as I'm concerned..my furrbabies are my kids too.. I love you, thankyou for sharing, God is so good. xoxot

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    1. Is that you, Terry? Thanks so much for reading my post and for your kind words. God bless you!!!

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  6. Absolutely Jennifer! His ways are perfect and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love hearing stories of others like yours and how God has used you and John to bless those around you. You really encouraged me 😘

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  7. This is a great post! I have often wondered what life would be like without kids; I bet we would travel a lot more that's for sure.

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    1. I imagine having kids does make traveling a little trickier. Thanks for taking the time to read my post. :)

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  8. Loved your post and hearing about how you feel on Mother's Day. It felt like I could be reading my daughter's post. I did not even think about how she might feel on Mother's Day. And I think some places of worship are realizing that Mother's Day is really about celebrating every woman and are including all ladies when they give out gifts now. I know they did at our church. Thanks again for sharing.

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    1. I wasn't trying to put down my church when I wrote that post. It's just that Mother's Day always falls on a Sunday and that's where I tend to be on Sundays. They actually changed how they did things this year. I appreciated that. I'm mostly concerned about women who are brokenhearted on that day. Thanks for reading the post.

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