by Sara Blakeney
I woke up before my alarm clock. Today was the big day! My husband and I would find out what we had been waiting for weeks to know: whether or not we would become parents. As I got dressed, I reflected on my journey. The first in vitro fertilization the year before had been unsuccessful. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked – these medical procedures are never a sure thing, even though we had gone to the top-rated fertility doctor in the country.
For a moment, I felt a pang of fear, “What if this one doesn’t work either?” I shook my head and quickly dismissed the thought. Just because it didn’t work last time doesn’t mean it won’t work the second time around. I felt my hopes begin to rise again. The doctor’s office would call soon with the news. Today was the day!
This roller coaster of emotions was nothing new to me. After all, we had been trying for a family for seven years. I was very familiar with the hope-fear-disappointment-hope-again cycle that went along with every procedure, every doctor’s visit, every diagnostic medical test.
The hardest part was the waiting. I had quit my job in order to spend more time and energy on my fertility treatments. This left me with a lot of time on my hands…time to daydream, time to think of what my life would be like once my dream came true. Problem was, time passed excruciatingly slowly.
True, not being a mother gave me lots of extra time for fun things like being with friends. But that could be difficult too. We were all in our mid-thirties, so my friends were in the throes of motherhood: driving carpool, PTA, sports activities, and family vacations. It’s not that I begrudged them their happy lives, I really was glad for them. But, sometimes it was difficult to sit and listen to them talk about their children because they would get a look of love in their eyes that I couldn’t know. And it left an aching, hollow feeling inside.
Luckily, today the waiting would all end. I tried to keep busy around the house as I awaited the doctor’s call. Then sure enough, midmorning the phone rang. I shot like a bullet to answer it.
“Hello, this is the doctor’s office calling.”
“We have your test results back and”—I held my breath— “we’re happy to report that you’re pregnant.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. The dream had come true – I was going to be a mother! Overjoyed, I immediately called my husband to share the great news.
Then the unthinkable happened.
At nine and a half weeks of pregnancy, we went to the doctor for an ultrasound and received the news that we dreaded most, the fetus was not viable. The world seemed to crash in around me. Dreams shattered and hopes dashed, I was back to that painful no-man’s land of waiting.
Weeks turned to months, and months to years. As time passed without a job and without children, I began to question my purpose for living. “If I’m not a mother, or a successful career woman, then exactly who AM I?” I think that’s one of the most difficult things about being childless. It cuts to the core of our very identity.
My pain and emptiness led me to seek solace in my relationship with God. With nowhere to be and nothing much to do, I would spend lots of time on the couch with a cup of coffee and my Bible. It was then that I discovered this amazing pattern in Scripture I had never seen before. Pretty much every time God showed up and began speaking to someone, He told them what their spiritual calling was. All the way through the Bible, from Abraham to Paul, God would appear and say, “I am the Lord your God, and here’s who you are and what I’m asking you to do.”
So I started praying, “Lord, I have no idea who I am right now. Please show me. Tell me what my calling is.” As I prayed this prayer and sought the Scriptures, over time God began to reveal that He had called me develop my gifts as a speaker, writer, and teacher. And the beauty was I could do this whether or not I had children. I didn’t have to wait around for my body to start cooperating. In fact, my spiritual calling really had nothing to do with my gender. I finally understood what Paul meant in Galatians:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:23)
I realized that for most of my life, my identity had been tied to the roles I held: student, wife, businesswoman, and now, mother-to-be. Only when I had a circumstance painful enough to drive me to the feet of Jesus did I really begin to understand who I was in Him, and that He had a life full of adventure and joy separate and apart from motherhood. God was showing me a whole other dimension of my identity that was not dependent on my roles as a wife or mother.
What about you? Maybe you are waiting to be a first-time mother or wrestling with secondary infertility. Maybe you have endured the excruciating trauma of losing a child, or maybe your children are growing up and you’re staring at an empty nest. Whatever the circumstances, let your pain and the unanswered question of “Why, God?” drive you to find a whole new dimension of your identity. You could be a warrior like Gideon, called to fight against injustice. Or perhaps you are a liberator of the oppressed like Moses. Maybe you are called to be like the prophets of the Old Testament, speaking truth to power. Whatever it is, God has designed it for you and is waiting to tell you all about it!
Sara Blakeney is the author of Ready for More: How Millennials Like You are Destined to Change the Church. She holds a Masters in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is currently working on her PhD in Divinity at Aberdeen University. She is married to her high school sweetheart and lives in Fort Worth, Texas.