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 @ 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.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What to say on Mother's Day

Infertility awareness ribbons worn on
Mother's Day are a great way to say
I understand, without saying a word.
I sat uneasy in the pew, my husband sitting next to me. He knew it was difficult for me to sit through the service without bursting into tears. But I wanted to celebrate mother's as much as anyone else. The problem was, I wanted to celebrate MY motherhood and that was not happening. The day that most people spend rejoicing over their mothers or being showered with gifts and accolades by their children, had become the hardest day of the year for me, every year.

The pastor began his sermon on motherhood. It was okay for a while, but then he began to recognise the oldest and youngest, the mother with the most children, etc. I think he was trying to include every scenario, but when he wanted to recognise the childless by saying, "Who has been trying to become a mother for more than 2 years." It was a painful stab in several hearts, rather than making anyone feel included in the celebration. One woman burst into tears and left the sanctuary. I wanted to, but John's hand on mine and an understanding squeeze kept me in my seat.

That was the last time I went to church on Mother's Day until I was 37. It was just too painful and people truly don't know what to say to those who are walking the journey with infertility on such a poignant day.

More important that what should be said, is what should not:
Don't say...
  • You are a mother to so many.
  • You are a great spiritual mother.
  • Some people just aren't supposed to be mothers.
  • You should just adopt, then this wouldn't be so hard.

The list goes on and on, but the basic idea is that you can't make their childlessness go away by trying to give them a reason to celebrate on such a painful day.

So, what should you say?

Do Say:
  • I'm praying for you today.
  • I'm sorry this is such a hard day for you.
  • It's great to see you here today.
  • If she says happy Mother's Day...Say thank you.

As we walk the journey of infertility, there is little anyone can say to make it feel better. It's hurts, it's confusing and frustrating and it's a very real part of our lives. A bit of understanding, without trying to fix it for us goes a long way. Be a friend, be a prayer warrior, be an encourager. We don't need to be celebrated on this day dedicated to mothers. We want to rejoice with those who rejoice, and that is easier when we aren't fighting back the tears of frustration over well-intended, yet hurtful remarks from people trying to ease our grief.

Blessings to each and every one of you.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lanolin on my belly, drink this, just relax...and other random thoughts

It has always amazed me how many people in the with-children world are infertility experts. So many people I barely knew had stacks of advice for me; each a sure cure for the barren womb.

"Just soak virgin wool in lanolin, and lay strips of it on your belly every night. within two months you will be pregnant. I guarantee it."

I tried it, but I got a rash from the lanolin and then read a report stating many people are allergic to lanolin in it's undiluted state. But, I still wasn't pregnant.

"If you just drink a small glass of red wine every night, it will increase blood flow in your ovaries and you will be pregnant in no time."

Seriously? I am pretty sure alcohol and pregnancy have never been a good idea.

Oh, the advice got better as time went on. Most people just said to relax, "quit thinking about babies and you will have one." I think that mostly works for people who don't want to think about babies. It seems like most teen mom's weren't thinking about babies when they got pregnant. But for me, it didn't work.

At the point I knew there was no hope of becoming pregnant I found the advice from strangers comical. The total hysterectomy made it possible for me to at least stop wondering if this was the month. Unfortunately, unsolicited advice didn't stop there. One woman even suggested that if I had enough faith, God would restore my uterus and ovaries, allowing me to have the baby I dreamed of. I'm not putting God in a box, but really? What kind of advice was that to give a woman grieving the loss of a dream.

Through all of our grief, and even now as we walk in healing, the one thing that will make my skin crawl is the phrase, "Oh well, you can always adopt."

It's not because adoption is not an amazing and very important part of many families. Adoptive parents and children are just as bonded as any other family and they are truly YOUR OWN children once they are in your heart.

My problem with that advice is that it discounts the grief of the couple facing adoption as their only choice to fill their family with children. As if adoption will completely remove all of the emotional stress of finding out your infertility is terminal. Or, even worse, that the infertile couple is also completely out of the loop with modern possibilities and they have no idea that adoption is available. I realize people say things like that out of a desperate need to offer help. We all want to be able to fix someone elses problems. But guess what, permanent infertility, especially when we are talking about a loss or disfigurement of reproductive organs, is not fixable. no one on earth can make it go away.

Of course we know that adoption is something to consider. But sometimes it just isn't possible. If a couple is called to adopt, then they absolutely should, but if not...don't. It's okay to allow the Lord to heal you even if that healing doesn't include children. I always thought a baby would be the only way my heart could ever feel joy, but now, after years on the healing side, I know my joy comes from only one babe...the one in the manger, who grew into the man who took my pain upon his back.

If you want to care for those hurting over infertility, tell them you love them. Tell them you are so sorry for what they are going through and tell them you are praying. But, please, unless you are a fertility specialist, don't try to fix it for them. Just be there when we need a hug.

Blessing and Joy on the Journey,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Baby Shower Blues

As we walked our journey through infertility, and ultimately permanent childlessness, baby showers tied with Mother's Day for the most painful events of the year. It wasn't so much that I couldn't be happy for my friends, with their ever-filling homes. It was the torturous process of shopping for baby gifts, and then making small talk at the shower, where everyone was baby-crazy.

I rememeber spending three hours in one of these stores the week we started Clomid. I was so hopeful. When our neices baby announcement arrived, I went straight to the store to pick up the perfect gift. I found the coolest stroller/car seat/ basinet combo thing. It was exactly what I would have wanted, so in spite of the heafty price tag I bought it for her.

Shortly after that I was diagnosed with endometrial carcinoma, uterin cancer. I would never become pregnant, never feel life in my own body; never experience the pains of labor that bring us to a lifetime of sacrificial, maternal love; never hold my baby - counting fingers and toes... I didn't know I could forgive my body for such betrayal.

Every cute little die-cut invitation with pink bows or pacifiers brought with it a storm of jealousy. I stopped short of speaking my envy out loud, but I really didn't understand why everyone around me was populating the planet while I was saying goodbye to every dream I had.

Eventually, I just quit opening any envelope smaller than the phone bill. It was safer that way. I couldn't bare another trip to Baby's R Us or Baby Gap. The advent of online shopping made it a little easier. Going to their registration list, picking randomly and ordering saved the pain of perusing through stacks of baby items I would never need.

My husband, John, tried to console me, but he didn't see why it upset me so much. He was sad that we wouldn't have our own children too, but he was already moving on. That's part of the bias in the torture of infertility - men aren't expected to attend ritualistic events like showers, no one expects them to gush and coo over baby pictures being passed around a Sunday School classroom and fathers-to-be rarely ask their friends to feel their baby kick. They are given repreve to heal before they  have to face a world full of babies and baby showers.

I knew I had reached a point of healing three years ago. A friend from my church was pregnant. They had struggled with some possible infertility, but in a relatively short time conceived the baby that would be their beautiful little girl. Since her family lives several hours away, our small group wanted to throw a shower for her. I could hardly believe my own ears as I offered to plan the shower. It was confirmation that God was indeed working a miracle in my heart. I loved shopping for decorations, and games I once found drudgery were now part of my plan.

You may not be there yet. It's okay. Please know that their is healing for our broken, grieving hearts. It comes when we least expect it. Sometimes in the healing, a sweet baby or a particularly cute baby announcement can bring tears to my eyes...but now they are tears of joy and rejoicing in the blessing of life. Finally I can rejoice with those who rejoice. That's the power of the God who loves me.

I pray you find blessings and joy in your journey,