So you have no children?
It was a cold dark November evening. Evan was preparing for his very first church members meeting as pastor of Marlow Baptist church. (Bucks).
We had known much excitement in the week and a half of moving to Marlow. There was the joy of family and friends joining us at the induction service taken by Dr Eryl Davies. There was also the prospect of discovering the lovely area of Marlow situated on the Thames. We were also excited by the new opportunity to minister to God’s people in our first pastorate. All these joys and prospects were all magnified by the fact that I was pregnant with our first child.
Before leaving for the church meeting I felt a sudden sharp pain in my abdomen. Hoping that the pain would pass I continued to get ready to leave, but the pain only became worse and more intense.
I knew that Evan would have to go alone to the meeting which left us both feeling disappointed and sad. Evan was gone longer than I expected and I was in extreme pain I was terrified something serious was wrong.
On arriving home and discovering my worsening condition Evan rang the doctor. I was driven to hospital only to find the doors locked due to security. Eventually I was admitted and rushed to theatre within a hour of my life.
I woke up to find the world still intact but my life totally shattered. Our baby had gone. Psalm 139 13-16 come flooding into my mind and I felt a deep peace comfort me. But I remained in shock!
I longed to see Evan and was glad when the nurses transported me to my own room on the gynigolical ward . Family rushed to be by my bedside and friends sent lots of cards and get well wishes. Life from now on would never be the same.
My frightening ordeal had been the result of experiencing an ectoptic pregnancy which is a life threatening condition that requires emergency surgery. Many women lose ovaries and fallopian tubes as a result of surgery. This leaves the prospect of falling pregnant slim. Certainly many women have to be prescribed hormonal remedies and medication.
There is also the danger that woman who experienced an ectopic pregnancy stand a higher risk of having another. However many do go on and have successful pregnancies.
Concerning my own situation, the surgeon was able to repair the damage done to the erupted ovary and a good prognosis was given. However we never conceived again, leaving many disappointed who tried to comfort us with the reassurance that other babies would follow.
Coming to terms with losing a child is a devastating grief. No parents want to outlive their child. Nothing can ever prepare you for the pain and emptiness you experience or for the affect it can have on you as a couple.
The on going trauma then of not conceiving again and facing the future childless is bleak Or is it?
How do you face the future without children?
There is no quick fix answer. Some would say it’s impossible or even argue that live has no worth or purpose without children.
Marriages struggle with the ups and downs of wanting desperately to become parents and have to deal with the disappointment when all their dreams and desires come to nothing.
A deep sense of failure and worthlessness can shadow a couple and put huge pressure on the best of marriages. Some many unanswered questions can arise.
Such emotions as denial, feelings of anger, failure and blame can play a major part. Many couples feel they are letting each other down, as well as their parents, in depriving them of grand-children. They suffer in not being able to talk openly with the wider family and friends about the reality of their pain. They are misunderstood with people assuming that you never wanted a family. There is also a battle within. Such thoughts “surely God must be dis-pleased with me because he has denied my hearts desire and longing.”
A deep black hole of grief can engulf the couple longing for children which can make them feel different and exclude them from wanting to be part of anything, even church life which is often family centred and focused. Loneliness, sadness, isolation and disappointment are often felt realities for many childless couples.
So is there life and hope beyond not having children?
2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God has given us all that is needed for life and godliness. If that is true (and it is), how can the childless couple apply that verse to their experience and begin to see God’s divine purpose and plan for their lives?
You are my hiding place
Psalm 103 14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
Being in the ministry often seemed to add pressure in dealing with our childless state. How could we identify with parents and their children? How could we make a difference in their lives we were seeking to serve?
As we thought through the Implications of 2 Pet 1:3 we saw that we had the answer. It is God’s word and grace that enables us to live and work for His glory no matter what we are confronted with.
A minister friend once helped us by recalling a time when he had to help an alcoholic who was in need. Our pastor friend had no experience of being an alcoholic himself; nonetheless he had to deal with this real pastoral concern. He did so with prayer and by relying on God’s Spirit and God’s word. We are not meant to have the same experiences in life. The Lord has a unique and perfect calling for each of us as individuals in the image of God.
What are the options?
It is true that children are a blessing and an inheritance from the Lord. (Ps 126). It is also true that God’s purpose and design for couples within marriage is that they maybe fruitful and multiply. But also God’s purpose and design for marriage is for mutual love and companionship. (Gen 2:18)
The Lord looks on a childless couples in the same way He looks on couples with children. We must not imagine that God is punishing those without children. Under the Old Covenant bareness was a covenant curse. Each firstborn son was surrounded with a Messianic hope within the believing faithful remnant. Each godly mother longed for the messiah to come from her womb. However as Christ has now come and fulfilled these covenant expectations, we do not believe that childless should now be viewed as a curse.
There are many examples of significant and useful people in Scripture who were childless and still effectively served the Lord. It has been said that the Lord is more concerned with our holiness rather than our happiness.
Nonetheless many couples find facing the future without children difficult and therefore go down the road of adoption- which I must add is not at all easy for Christian couples today as they have to deal with political correctness and a humanistic agenda within social services (we ourselves were refused to be accepted by one county as adoptive parents because of our Christian views).
Another option is I.V.F treatment. There is no guarantee of a baby at the end of the treatment and for Christians the medical ethics they are confronted with associated with various procedures are vast and complex and difficult decisions have to be thoughtfully and prayerfully made.
We were privileged to foster two little boys for a time. This proved to be a difficult experience from the point of view that at no time were we able to make life changing decisions on behalf of these little ones. This left a feeling of frustration and failing on our part.
I have to add that having a ready mad family can bring extra pressure to a couple yearning so much for their own child. Foster/ adoption is not always the right solution.
What are the Benefits?
Childlessness is no easy situation, but it does have it benefits and blessings! For Evan and myself we are able to be a great blessing to each other. We are free to be involved in the work of God’s kingdom sharing in various ministries knowing and experiencing the joy and blessing that comes through that great privilege. Hospitality is a lot easier and spending time getting to know people is something we both enjoy.
Childlessness is a journey which has to be travelled to learn the benefits and also to be aware of the stumbling blocks. I once read something which was a great help to us. Amy Carmichael speaking on Phil 1:6 spoke of God’s fingers moulding our lives and putting finishing touches on them to make us what he planned for His glory. God only has our best good interest at heart. This is what Amy Carmichael wrote
“These finishing touches often com through the sweet joys of life, but they come too, through the tiny trials, the little disappointments, the small things we hardly like to speak about, and yet which are very real to us. Let us learn of them as the touches of his fingers- “the finishing touches””.
Looking back we know our lives would change forever but we thank God that
Through all the changing scenes of life,
in trouble and in joy,
the praises of my God shall still
my heart and tongue employ.
The Lord has proved Himself faithful to us filling our lives with His beauty, joy and peaceful contentment. Eternity is far more real to us. David could speak of the child that he lost with great assurance “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Sam 12:23 N.I.V. What reunion awaits!
With the passing of years and the shedding of tears we recognize that our happiness and true fulfillment are not found on earth. We long for something far greater than can only be found in the New heavens and the new earth.
Paul said that “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” Acts 14:22 N.I.V
Childlessness is just a trial and tribulation until we reach our final destination-Home!
We thank God for His many comforts and graces we have known and experienced. We have had opportunities of sympathizing with parents who have lost a child or couples who have never been able to conceive and have children. God is faithful and he makes no mistakes. No experience is wasted if our lives are devoted to Him.
Faithful One so unchanging
Ageless One You’re my rock of peace
Lord of all I depend on You
I call out to You, again and again
I call out to You, again and again
You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm
Your love is the anchor
My hope is in You alone
Tracey Richards July 2009