Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Grandchildless - The renewed sting.

I will not become a mother, or a grandmother in 2013, or any year thereafter. I won’t have a brag book to carry around and I won’t have stories of my children figuring out what grandma name to call me. I think I would have liked Gramela, but who knows? It won’t ever matter. I won’t know the feeling of the baby who was part of me, having a baby who is part of her. I won’t see my legacy in future generations, raised by me and the man God gave me to love. We are not parents. We did not choose it. Childlessness chose us.

So, my life looks different than the life of my parenting, and now grandparenting, friends. Life sometimes passes us by because the world revolves around families. People become friends with the parents of their children’s playmates, or with people who have children close in age to their own. It’s a great bonding experience for most Americans. For some of us, it feels like we are on the outside of a grand game; and no one picked us for their team. It’s not because we don’t have a lot to offer, or that others don’t find us friend-worthy. It just takes more effort on our part to reach out, but reaching out involves being in close proximity to the thing we want most: children. So, sometimes, we withdraw into painful loneliness and even shut out those who love us most.

It’s hard to put yourself out there when the chances of heartbreak are nearly 100%. I consider myself to be healed from the heartbreak of infertility. I’m not angry about it, and I LOVE new babies, born to my friends and young couples I meet through church or work, or wherever. I love hanging with my friends kids and being a sounding board and sometimes even an advice giver when they ask for it. But, as we reach our middle forties…and our friends’ children are starting families of their own, Grandchildlessness has reared it’s head. I knew it would. I wrote about it in my book on childlessness and insisted that chapter stay in the book. It’s important.

Infertility did not stop when I came to terms with childlessness. The ramifications will slap me in the face, at least occasionally, until I breathe my last breath this side of Heaven. It can either break me to the point of depression, self-loathing and endless grief, OR I can choose to live out the plan God has for my life. The plan he knew before I was conceived and still chose to put in place the moment I was  formed in our mother’s womb. He knew me, He knew my pain, and died to bear my sorrows. The brokenness was redeemed, by Him, almost 2ooo years before I was born.

The only cure for my heartbreak is to rejoice. A rejoicing heart can go through heartache, but it will not be broken. A rejoicing heart gives thanks in every situation and worships God from a place of purity and passion.  A rejoicing heart shines the light of Jesus everywhere it goes and the Holy Spirit radiates from it. Yes, rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn, bear one another’s burdens, and let Him raise me up on wings as eagles; that’s the life I want, that’s the relationship I want.

My pain is not greater than anyone else’s pain. It’s source is different, but we all have a cross to bear. There is pain and anguish I will never experience, things I will be spared, simply because I am childless. Is there a greater pain than burying your child? I will not experience that devastation. Is there heartache when your child chooses dangerous paths? I won’t be put through it. Yes, there is grief in my childless heart and there was a time that It could not be consoled. But it is finished. Bring on the brag books and baby shower invitations…I want to rejoice!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I was born this way...

I don't have children. It's not my fault. It's not my choice. I was born in a body that doesn't work like most other women. But, I'm not alone. 12.5 percent of those born and reaching adulthood will have fertility issues. There are over 5 million childless couples in the United States according to recent census information. More than half of those did not choose their childless state.

There is no special, extra sensitve treatment for us on Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day or Easter. These holidays are centered around children and parenting by throngs of marketing groups and media personalities across the country. No, the childless are required to be quiet in their pain and celebrate as if they are overjoyed by the season, even if they are in so much emotional pain they can hardly get out of bed. Of course we know the true meaning of these special dates, but the same ads that pull your heartstrings toward the latest trend in gifts and social events, can remind us of heartbreak we can't quench.

"I'm just a little blue this time of year," I told a good friend on a shopping trip.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," she said, "lets go in the toy store, that always cheers me up."

Yep, that will do it, that will pull me right out of my Not-a-mom funk. Let's go to the toy store so I can see all the things I would buy for my kids. IF I had them.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-toys. I just wish the child bearing community could understand our broken hearts. Maybe be a bit more sensitve?? Is that really too much to ask.

Normally I am fine. I love my life. It is rewarding, filled with love and very busy. I don't sit around, day-by-day, counting the sorrows of childnessness. But, certain times of the year, I just get a little blue.

What can you do? What should friends say?

Well, I'm not going to congress to petition for hate crime legislation to be enacted over words like toy store, playground and toddler bed. I won't picket MOPS or Mom's Time groups because they exclude me from their Christmas tea. And I certainly won't require insurance companies to grant insurance coverage to children who are not legally mine, just so I can have equal access. It would just be nice to have a little break from the cacophany of people who tell me I MUST put up a Christmas Tree, or go to the toy store, or visit Santa. I might do any or all of those things, but not in moments that are a bit raw. On those days, I want to sit quietly with a cup of tea and a book, my puppy in my lap and count the blessings I do have in my life. Not in spite of being childless or as a result of being childless, but just because they are blessings and we all have them.

There is really nothing you can do. Just say you get it. Just say you are sorry. Just don't offer to loan me your children. I don't want borrowed kids.

What can you do? Have a cup of tea with me and talk about your dream vacation spot. It might be mine too. Tell me about the last movie you saw? Or ask me about the book I'm reading...or about my dog.
Don't ask me if there is anything I can't do...because I will tell you there are two things I cannot do. I cannot ever be a mother, and I cannot do algebra.

But it's okay. I was born this way, or made this way by illness that invaded my body...either way it's not my fault. All I need you to do is to love me, just the way I am, and I will do the same for you.

Blessings and Joy to all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Other Side of the Coin

The blog I posted the other day was directed to those who might make comments to the person on the journey through infertility, without thinking of the impact of those comments. A friend commented that I didn't give any advice about how to handle those comments with grace. She was right, I didn't. At the time, I was rather incensed by the fact that a friend had told me how lucky I was not to have children. That is indeed one of the most common and most hurtful things I hear as a woman who did not choose to be childless.

However, having our feelings hurt, or taking offense when there is not intent to hurt us, is not a healthy or Godly way to handle such comments or stinging reminders. That said, I want to put a disclaimer here before I begin the discussion. We are all in different places on this journey, so for some of us, it is much easier to handle things with grace than it is for others. Telling someone in the midst of their journey with infertility to "get over it" or "don't take comments so seriously" is like telling someone who just lost a family member not to grieve. This journey is filled with processes, places and perspectives that can change from day to day. It is an emotional roller coaster and indeed, the most difficult struggle I have ever faced in my life. I in now way want to discount what my sisters and brothers on the infertility road are going through. Please know that I love each of you so much and my prayer for all of you is that you will have the child you so desire, and that while you walk this mile, those around you will be gentle, supportive and caring.

So, how do we handle comments that are not intended to hurt, yet bring pain like acid to the surface of our pleasant facade? For me, that kind of grace only came once I was able to accept that God had a plan and purpose for my life and that children might no be part of it. That took years and it was only after every option had been exhausted. In retrospect, I can offer some advice that I didn't use myself during our journey through drugs, doctors visits, marital stress and begging God for a child.

  • Remember that most people are not trying to be cruel, they just don't understand the impact of what they are saying.
  • Keep a journal so that you can vent your frustrations and hurt feelings.
  • Know that there are things in everyone's life they wish were different. We all have our own pain. While we are in the midst of our own, it is sometimes difficult to realize the person who just broke our heart, may be broken-hearted too.
  • Realize that helpful advice, such as "you can always adopt," or "My mom's aunt tried...(fill in the blank)...and had 4 kids." is their way of trying to show you that they care.
  • Give yourself permission to share your pain over infertility and/or childlessness. They can't know if you don't tell them.
  • Pray for yourself and ask others to do the same. When they are praying for you, they will feel more vested in your situation and in turn will be more sensitive naturally. 
Beside the Empty cradle has an entire chapter about this topic. It is not cut and dried and there is no simple answer. My faith in God is the only way I could get through this and come out with my joy in tact. Know that no matter what you're going through, Jesus knows your pain, and he loves you so much. Give your friends and family some grace and trust that they love you too. 

Blessings everyone, 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I went to a fundraising gala this weekend for Second Harvest Community Foodbank. It was a thirties themed party and we had a wonderful time dressing up, socializing, and honoring the organization and several humanitarians they recognized during the evening. As I was relaying the events of the weekend to a friend, she told me she was jealous of me because I could still have a social life like we did in highschool. I was surprised by her thoughtless comment.

"No, seriously? I do not follow visiting basketball teams to McDonald's and give them my number."

I thought she would laugh, realize what she said, and that would be the end of the discussion, or, maybe we would spend a few moments reminiscing about our silliness, almost 30 years ago. Instead,  she thought I needed further explanation of her comment.

“I mean you are free to do what you like, because you aren’t tied down to kids and your husband lets you have fun. You are lucky not to have to worry about kids every time you want to go out.”

It’s comments like this that can bring me to the brink of tears and laughter at the same time.  I don’t think I will ever understand comments like these. Over the years I have had women tell me they wish they could trade places, ask me if I wanted their kids, and roll their eyes toward me as their child asks for yet another toy at the store then say, “You are so lucky you don’t have to deal with this stuff.”


Newsflash to the parenting world, those of us who are childless, not by choice, would trade with you in a heartbeat, except we would NEVER wish the inability to have children on anyone.

Yes, I know that most parents are kidding when they say these things. They are just relieving stress, laughing instead of crying etc. I also understand that parenting is not an easy task. It lasts a lifetime and includes its own set of unique trials, tribulations, and heartache along with the joy, incredible moments of pride and love like no one but a parent can know. Still, when statements like that are made to someone on the infertility journey, it is anything but funny.

The amount of pain inflicted by careless remarks is staggering. If you ask 100 childless couples how often they hear these types of things, or the dreaded advice from everyone from grandma to the grocery clerk, they will tell you that it is a minimum of once a week. Usually more.

So, while we will do our best to overlook the insensitive moments, because we all have them. Please do us a favor, and think about who you are talking to before you speak.

Yes, it’s true that I have the freedom to attend social events with or without my sweet hubby and that I never have to find a sitter, call in to check on things or get home before ten because my sitter has homework to finish. However, had God decided that children were in His plan for my life…I would have gladly arranged childcare or, more likely, stayed home and made memories with them.  

God Bless Everyone!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Handling comments from new friends

I know this is similar to my post from Mother's Day, but I think this topic is so important. It is one of the most difficult parts of the journey with infertility, it is the issue that makes infertility an unavoidable topic for those in the midst of the journey, and unforgettable for those who have reached the end of the road.

I love meeting new people, but there is a part of every new friendship that is still awkward for me, and sometimes for my new friends. It is the moment the subject of children comes up.

"We have 4 kids, how many do you have."

"We don't have any children."

Eyebrows raise, "Oh, why not."

"Well, we couldn't have children, but we're good with it now."

"Oh, you don't have to be strong for me."

"No really, God has healed our hearts and we are good with His plan for us."

"Oh, now you know, I'm just going to pray that you get pregnant when you least expect it."

At that point I am holding back the laughter that used to be tears. Part of the reason we don't have children is because I had uterine cancer seven years ago, and no longer have a uterus or ovaries. So, while I'm not putting God in a box, I am also not looking for a surprise pregnancy. (There is a story in Beside the Empty Cradle about a similar discussion.)

People want to help, I understand that. Every person in whatever stage of their walk with infertility understands that the parenting world just wants to help. Unfortunately that help usually just leaves people feeling uncomfortable. The helpful phrases from new acquaintances include...

  • Well, you can always adopt.
  • Maybe it's just not God's plan for you. (even those who are okay with childlessness, feel queasy when they hear this early on.)
  • Oh, you're so lucky not to be tied down with kids.
  • Really? You can't be happy without kids.
  • You should just relax, then you'll get pregnant.
  • My aunt's, friend's, daughter tried..........

The list could go on and on and on, but these are some of the big ones. A few of these pieces of wisdom might even be welcome from someone you've known for years, or who is on the same journey as you...but upon an initial meeting it can be a painful reminder that most of the world believes there is something wrong with childless families, and that there is something you absolutely are doing wrong if you don't have children and want them. (I think the parenting world needs to read my book as much or more than those on the infertility roller coaster.)

Of course, we are not the only ones who face advice that is unwarranted and sometimes just plain rude. I have friends who are in their 30s, 40s and even their 50s or older, who have never married, and don't have children. They hear advice and comments all the time. We need to STOP. As a society we must stop thinking we have the right or the need to fix everyone's life. My single friends are often happy with their life. And if they have a tinge of wonder about spouses or children, that is very personal, shared with family or close friends...not usually upon an initial introduction.

So how can we handle those conversations with grace, leaving both parties feeling positive about the new friendship? Honestly, it's on us. We need to realize the comments and advice are not a personal assault. Smile, be gracious, and if you have a great sense of humor and can make a joke to turn the conversation around, go ahead, but be careful not to do so at the expense of making your new friend feel stupid about their comment. I have actually been known to give a small uncomfortable laugh, and say you know, I have thought about those same things, and sometime maybe we will have time for me to tell you my story. You will really be surprised. Then, I have an opportunity for a second meeting with my new friend. And, when I share our story, my testimony and my heart in the issue of infertility and childlessness, my friend is more educated and knows better the next time she meets someone who is walking the infertility journey.

We must all remain teachable, and we must all be willing to lovingly teach others.

God Bless Everyone!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Here is an excerpt from Beside the Empty Cradle: Finding Peace in Childlessness.

The queasy mornings started the day my doctor went of vacation. Two pink lines put me on cloud nine, but I waited to tell John. I didn’t want to hurt him again. I knew this time would be different. The queasy mornings were a welcome addition to my day. I woke up hoping to feel nauseated. A checklist of symptoms grew in my mind.

Lack of energy – check.

Tiny sensations in my belly – check.

Nausea – check.

A new chapter in our life was growing in me. It was all I could do to contain my excitement until I could see my Doctor. His two-week vacation dragged on while my anticipation grew.

I was scheduled to be his first appointment when he returned from Greece. Until then, I kept my pink-lined-stick in a zip lock bag stashed in my top dresser drawer. I could hardly wait to show him, and let his tests confirm what I already knew.

I didn’t have much energy all day, but I had decided that would be normal for the next several months. After dinner, John went to relax in his recliner and I went into my office to work on an article.

There was no sudden movement, no cramping. Warmth on my legs sent me dashing to the bathroom. It was 7 feet from my desk, but by the time I reached the tile floor there was already a trail of blood on the carpet. It would not stop; I was loosing too much blood. Dizzy and scared I yelled for John.

In the emergency room the hemorrhaging continued. A negative pregnancy test ruled out my self-diagnosed miscarriage. The list of possibilities was short, but inconclusive, until the doctors could stop the bleeding. My hemoglobin was dangerously low, less than seven. The nurse couldn’t keep the warm blankets coming fast enough.
To read more about the diagnosis that changed our lives forever and the hope we found through faith in Christ, follow this blog and order your copy of our book, Beside the Empty Cradle, from your favorite Christian bookstore, Amazon or by requesting more information in the comments section of this post today. 

To bring Pamela to your infertility support group, women's event or church service email (info @ freshcupministries.com) You will need to remove the brackets and the spaces on either side of the @ sign for the email address to work...unfortunately to avoid automated crawlers and spiders we must post it this way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Healing from the Grief

I was speaking to a woman about my book recently. She had not read the book, but as we talked about the concept she asked me if I thought my heart was healed from the desire to have children. I told her that it was. She paused a few seconds and then said, “My friend can’t have kids either. I wish she could just get over it. Her grief isn’t doing anything but keeping her from moving on.” I was shocked and a little horrified. I pray that no one ever thinks that I would tell someone in the midst of their infertility journey, or even someone who is permanently childless, not by choice, to get over it. Healing and living does not mean that there is no longer a desire to love a child, in your home, permanently. According to several of my friends who are adoptive parents, even growing your family through adoption does not take away the what-ifs about a child from your own womb.

Infertility and childlessness is different than other heartbreaks, and the grief, while just as painful as that from the loss of someone through death, is often much harder to move past. While I have found peace and healing for my brokenness there will always be a part of my heart that wonders what it would have been like to have been a mother. Telling someone to "get over it," denies the pain that is very real in their heart. It is equivalent to telling a mother who has lost a child that they should just get over it...that is indeed not humanly possible. There will always be a hole in that mother's heart and a series of what would my child be like today, for the rest of their life. For the infertile or childless couple there are often babies who have gone to Heaven before they were carried to full term, and there are what-ifs and what-would-they-be-like-todays that invade routine thoughts frequently.

Sensitivity as your friend heals is much more beneficial to both of you. It's okay to encourage your friend to heal, to get involved with activities that make life more enjoyable in general...but at all costs avoid the insensitivity of the phrase, "get over it."

Healing does not mean you deny ever being broken. Healing also does not mean that you have no scar and sometimes the memory of the brokenness can bring back tears of momentary grief. That does not mean that you don’t have faith, aren’t accepting God’s plan for your life, or that you are saying you are happy about your infertility. You can be joy filled and still know that something in your life is not the way you wanted it.
Instead of healing indicating that one has “gotten over it” perhaps we should look at healing as the bridge over troubled water, like Simon and Garfunkel sang about, but where does that bridge lead? My prayer for every permanently childless couple is that it leads to a life beyond the grief. My prayer for every family whose childless state has not been deemed permanent is that they will fill their family with the children God may have for them, through biology, adoption or whatever means He chooses to use.

Sometimes, a look beneath the bridge will bring a tear, sometimes relief when we realize how far we’ve come. And often, glimpses at the troubled water there is become less frequent. But in Christ we can face the floods of emotion that come with infertility and childlessness, and allow Him to lift us from those troubled waters so that we may cross the bridge.