November 17, 2015
Her name is Pearl.
I always wanted to have another baby, and I wanted to name her Pearl.
When I was a young I dreamed of what many girls dream of: find the man of my dreams, get married, and have children. I can say, with a heart full of gratitude, that my childhood dreams came true. I’ve often thought to myself, “I have everything I ever wanted.”
I have two beautiful children. They’re healthy. They’re smart. They’re kind. My son is now almost as tall as I am, and it amazes me that he once grew inside my body. He is so funny. And creative. I love this kid deep in my soul. And my daughter. Oh, she has such a tender place in my heart! She delights in spending time with me. She is affectionate. She’s artistic. Her hair is starting to get curly, and when I look at her I’m captivated.
Why am I so blessed to have these two little people to call my own? I thank God constantly for my children. I feel like I was made to be a mom.
Don’t you think the way a human life begins is fascinating? It is truly a miracle when a human being is conceived and then grows inside a mother’s womb. Only God can orchestrate such a miracle. But He allows man and woman to take part, especially the woman, whose body houses that child. I was able to experience that miracle twice.
But it just felt like that wasn’t enough.
I wanted another child after my daughter Ivy. What reason could there possibly be to NOT take part in creating another human being? I loved being pregnant. The baby moved inside my belly. It was wondrous! And what about the birth! OK, OK, I remember the labor was very (ahem) unpleasant, but meeting that baby?? It was incredible. Holding him or her for the first time? So precious.
Then over time, the wonder of getting to know that baby as an individual. All those cuddles, smiles, laughs…Fine, I remember all the hard stuff too, like the sleeplessness, ear infections, teething, poopy diapers...But to me, the joy of having a little person to love far outweighs the challenges.
And I just wanted another little person to love.
When my youngest was about 18 months old, I started trying to convince my husband that we should have another baby. My argument was: what reason could there possibly be to not take part in creating another human being? One more person to love. There’s no way this could be the wrong decision.
Well, my husband was convinced it was the wrong decision. He loves our children to pieces. Seriously, he is an outstanding father. But he couldn’t ignore our financial situation. We have student loans to pay off. We don’t have a good retirement plan. Our budget is tight and we live month-to-month. Neither one of us has chosen a very lucrative career. He ended up convincing me it just wasn’t wise to add another person to our family.
But I kept the secret dream alive in my heart.
I thought maybe I’d accidentally get pregnant! Then I’d get what I wanted without the weight of wondering if we made the right choice. I briefly considered helping with “accidentally” getting pregnant…but I quickly dismissed it because I could not use deception to create a child. I wouldn’t be able to take full joy in the pregnancy knowing I had tricked my husband into it.
So then I just decided to wait. And trust God. I just kept assuming that one day our financial situation would change, and then my husband would have to agree that another baby was meant for us!
And I grieved. Over the years, it sometimes hurt to see friends, or my own sister, having three or four babies. A “big” family. Sometimes baby showers were hard. Sometimes going to the hospital to meet a brand new baby was hard. I wanted to be there again. With my own new baby in my arms.
I choose to trust God in all things. This was no exception. His ways are higher than ours, and we do not understand why we don’t always get the desires of our hearts, even lovely desires like children.
“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9
Every once in awhile, as I prayed I’d wonder if God was going to fulfill the longing in my heart. I know He sees me. And loves me. I sometimes thought I felt Him promising me that He would fulfill my dream of having another child.
Well, time passed, and I’m not getting any younger. I’ll be 40 in a couple months. This summer I realized that if another pregnancy was going to happen, it had better happen soon. I decided to talk to my husband.
We were on a date, sitting outside at a picnic table. And I presented to him how I had secretly longed for the past 7 years to have another child. And then, I asked him if we could. He was kind. But resolute. He pointed out that our financial situation was actually worse than it had been 7 years ago. And that it would be very challenging to go all the way back to the infant stage when our kids are now 9 and 11. I agreed with him. It was all so logical…but I started to cry. Right there in public. I asked him to please, please at least recognize how much it hurt me to let go of that other child. I asked him to understand how frustrating it was that money, something that seems so superficial, decided that another person was not meant for our family. He was gentle with me, and I appreciated it. I was never angry with him over this. More just disappointed in the circumstances that controlled our decision.
I left there that day carrying a sad song in my heart: “I will never be pregnant again. I will never be pregnant again.”
Have you heard that God makes beauty from ashes? Isaiah 61:1-3 says, “…He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
God never promises to give us everything we ever want, but He does promise to fulfill us in ways we didn’t know were possible.
I’ve been doing a Bible study by Beth Moore called “Breaking Free.” This morning the study dealt with the desire that women have “to be fruitful.” For many of us, that means we desire to bear children. Sadly, some women desire to have children and cannot, due to various reasons such as infertility or possibly because they never marry. The author Beth Moore touched on barrenness. As I read through the lesson, I was thinking of women I know who have faced infertility. I kept thinking how Beth’s words would encourage them. She said that while it is a natural and precious desire for a woman to want to have children, sometimes God does not fulfill that desire with physical offspring.
“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” Isaiah 54:1
How can a barren woman have more “children” than a married woman who actually gave birth? Beth Moore said that underneath women’s desires to have babies is “a desire to have fruitful lives, to invest ourselves in something that matters. Something that affects. Something that grows.”
A barren woman can give birth to ministries that are great and that bear much fruit. She can invest in spiritual children, and believers in the Lord can multiply. Lives can grow. Be nurtured. Be changed by her.
Beth Moore wrote: “My dear friend Johnnie Haines has two fine sons who are her pride and joy. She always longed to have a daughter in addition to her sons, but she never had that daughter. One day she said to me, ‘My boys are virtually grown and I love them so much, but I still wonder from time to time why God never gave me the daughter I longed for too.’ But, you see, He did! For 10 years she led the women’s ministry at a large church in Houston. She mothered numerous young women! The women under her direction are now mature believers who are serving God effectively in their homes, workplaces, and churches.”
Suddenly I recognized myself. Longing for another child that God never gave? That’s me!
Beth Moore continued: “I have another friend by the name of Rhonda Kelley, author of Life Lessons from Women in the Bible. God never gave the Kelleys physical offspring, but He has given them more spiritual offspring than any parents I know! Her husband is a seminary president and she teaches and mentors on the campus both professionally and personally. Only heaven will boast the number of offspring Chuck and Rhonda really have. Their loss was glory’s gain. At this point, I believe both of them would testify that God ultimately did not restrict them from childbearing. Rather, He loosened the restrictions and made them enlarge their tents! The potential for spiritual offspring in the lives of those physically barren is virtually limitless. If He restricts you from physical offspring, He desires to set you free from restrictions in order to bear spiritual offspring.”
Do you find this to be beautiful? I do. I confess that I have not faced infertility, or other heart-breaking losses like miscarriages or stillbirth. I cannot even pretend to understand that kind of grief. But God can. He sees.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
I recognize that my own sorrow over not being able to have another healthy child does not compare to the depth of grief some women have faced in greater childbearing losses. I write today to encourage all of us who have faced disappointment when our dreams of motherhood did not match our reality. A friend of mine encouraged me not long ago by saying, “Just because your hurt isn’t as big as mine does not make your hurt less valid.” That meant a lot to me.
As I read on in the Bible study this morning, Beth Moore wrote: “As we’ve seen today, even the book of Isaiah says that those who are barren can have more offspring than those who are able to conceive and give birth. In fact, barrenness at any point in life affords great opportunity for spiritual offspring. If we live long enough, each of us will be barren. Are we to assume our fruitfulness has ended?” She wrote about the sense of loss she felt at times as she saw her two daughters grow up and leave home. She wrote: “Sometimes I think, ‘Whatever will I do? I was born to be a mommy!’ Then I remember that God has called me primarily to women’s ministry and I will always have the opportunity to ‘mother’ a few spiritual offspring as long as I’m willing to invest myself.”
Oh, friends, how this spoke to me! I have begun to invest myself in ministry. I lead Bible study. I make it a point to encourage friends with Scripture. I teach Sunday school. And, most dear to my heart, I’ve begun writing this blog with the purpose of bringing glory to God and encouraging others. I realize that I have room for these things because I’m not raising a baby at this point in my life.
God didn’t give me another child. Baby Pearl only ever existed in my dreams. She won’t ever grow within me, underneath my heart. I won’t get to hold her in my arms. I won’t get to see her grow into a little person who learns new things and who makes me laugh. Today as I processed this, I had a good, long cry. I grieved again for the child I’ll never have. The result was some red, puffy eyes and a whole lot of used tissues. But also, a new wisdom was given to me today. God is showing me that He is fulfilling my desire for more children in other ways.
For a long time, I have had a dream of writing. It is a dream that grew underneath my heart, where that other baby never grew. And now, through this blog, that dream is being fulfilled.
This is my pearl.