About a year and a half ago, I started counting down the months to my 35th birthday.
When I was 12, I counted down the days until I became a teenager. Then at 20, I counted down to adulthood. At 29, I counted down to a new decade. But now, I’m counting down the number of months I have left as a fertile woman. (42, this month.)
Everyone tells me that after 35 years old, it’s a lot harder to get pregnant than before. To them, I say: try getting pregnant when you’re not having sex. Except for medical or Holy Spirit intervention, it’s pretty much impossible.
I had a guy friend ask me the other day if virgins have the same biological clock as married women.
Yes. Yes, we do.
This clock expresses itself in different ways, but it always makes itself heard. It’s hard to explain to a man what it’s like to have my ovaries blare a silent alarm at me once a month, but I’ve hit the point where my hormones hate me, and my reproductive system plays tricks on my mind, even as I ineffectively hit the biological snooze button every few weeks.
Occasionally, I’ll walk out of a grocery store and look around to make sure my kids are with me. Or I’ll be looking at apartments and think, “That one doesn’t have enough rooms for our family.” Or I’ll pass the kids’ clothing store and have a sudden urge to buy newborn clothes for my child.
I could chalk all of these up to the fact that I am the oldest of seven kids; when I moved out of my parents’ house the first time at age 23, my youngest sibling was in first grade. So I’ve always been around babies and large families.
But something maternal in me knows that’s not the whole explanation. It certainly doesn’t explain why some days, the only thing I want to do is grab God’s lapels and yell in His face, screaming with Rachel into Jacob’s: “Give me children, or else I die!” (Gen. 30:1).
Motherhood has been my ultimate “career” goal since I was four years old. For me, the desire to have children of my own is as natural as breathing; I know it’s not that way for everyone, but I’ve known my whole life that I was born to be a mother.
I hold the newborn babies at church, and of course I’m happy in that moment, and I’m so excited to hold my own baby someday; but the most secret core of me holds those babies and sobs uncontrollably that I’m only getting older, as month after month I watch that calendar creep closer to my 35th birthday.
Now, I have friends who are struggling with infertility, and I don’t want to cheapen their struggle or pretend I know all the nuances of it. My heart hurts for and cries with them as they deeply desire children of their own.
But there are some similarities between my life as a barren single woman and their lives as couples unable to conceive.
For instance, I’ve now reached the point where people say things like, “Would you consider adopting?” “You could always try in vitro,” and “Well, there are foster kids who need parents.” Yes, I’ve certainly considered all those things, and I’ll get to my answers in a moment.
Also for instance, I look around at couples conceiving out of wedlock and through sinful circumstances, and I think, “What the heck, God? She slept with her boyfriend while she was married to someone else, and now she gets to be a mother? So not fair!” I see coworkers’ teenage daughters aborting their children and wail – not for the child, but because someone is throwing away the precious, precious opportunity to be a mother (or to give her child to me).
But here is where the differences between me and infertile couples come in: I’m CHOOSING virginity. I’m CHOOSING to not put myself in situations where I could have children outside of wedlock – or at all. Contrary to every fiber that has ever existed in my being, I’m CHOOSING barrenness because God promotes sexual purity (I Cor 7:2, I Cor 6:18-20).
Not gonna lie, it sucks. For several reasons, but for two especially:
I don’t know if I ever can have children. When couples try to conceive, at least they know if they can or can’t have children, or they can work on finding answers if it’s harder than usual. I. Don’t. Know. And considering that I don’t have a boyfriend at the moment, it will be a long time before I can even find out. (I want to assume I’ll be able to, considering my mom was pregnant every 2-4 years until she was in her late 40’s – but maybe I’ll marry a guy who can’t have kids. I just don’t KNOW.)
If I decide to foster and/or adopt, I will be making all those decisions alone. Without a spouse. I’LL be the one buying the house; I’LL be the one making childcare decisions; I’LL be the one raising a child alone. If I ever decide to have children without a man, I will be choosing single motherhood. Motherhood is a big decision on its own; single motherhood is about twelve times as big of a decision.
Of course, I could always choose NOT to adopt or foster. (IVF is just kind of a non-option – for me, anyway – since there are plenty of kids who need homes, without the expensive weirdness of having a stranger’s sperm inside me.) But of course, that would mean the death of a dream. A very, very big dream that I have held longer than almost any other (the longest, of course, being marriage).
And this is where my struggles as a barren woman once again coincide with those of people actually trying to get pregnant: at some point, the dream of having children from my own body is probably going to die.
That thought alone is enough to make me frantically run around screaming. The question I’m asking myself now as I inch closer and closer to 35 is, “Where will I run as I lament the death of my dream?”
There are really only two possibilities: To God, or away from Him.
And so I choose God. I choose to run to Him – not in a “lesser-of-two-evils” sort of way, but in a lapel-shaking “Give-me-Jesus-or-I-die” sort of way.
I said to my roommate the other day, “I need chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream RIGHT NOW, or I’m going to die.” Of course that was hyperbole, but the craving of wanting a baby is at least five times that strong (not hyperbolically).
The truth I remind myself of – at least monthly, if not daily – is that I need to crave Jesus even MORE than I crave a baby or a marriage. A husband will sometimes let me down; the future of a baby is never guaranteed. But Jesus will never let me down; with Him, my future is guaranteed.
Now, I know all that, and I’ve written stuff much like that in many other blog posts, but the one thing that can keep me from fully believing it is the idea that Jesus is not corporeal. He can’t actually physically come give me the attention and/or children I desire.
Sure, He lets me play with my friends’ kids, He gives me a roommate to share life with, and He has provided me with the monetary ability to afford chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream when I crave it. But when it comes to intimacy and children, Jesus makes a pretty unsatisfying husband.
So here are the two truths that respond to the lie that Jesus is a bad husband/God/Father for not giving me children (yet):
It doesn’t matter. It sounds so harsh, but it truly does not matter if God decides to let me give into my hormones or plop a newborn in my lap to adopt. God is still God, He is still good, and He still has a good plan for my life – man or no man, kids or no kids, ice cream or no ice cream.
I may want a wedding, a marriage, and (thirteen) kids (named in alphabetical order) more than my lungs even want breath. But God wants the best for me, and He wants that more than I want motherhood. Not only does He want my best, but He can provide it.
I serve the Author of Time. God created time; He is the master of it.
The Bible says that “In the fullness of time,” God sent Jesus to save the whole world (Gal. 4:4). God orchestrated every event and every prophecy leading up to the birth of Jesus, every desire in every heart leading to the death of Jesus, and every bit of the miracle in which He rose from the dead. Since then, God the Holy Spirit has been working in every heart that has ever said yes to Him, and in every day of my life.
The truth of God’s timing in the life of Jesus reminds me that God’s timing is perfect in mine.
In fact, God’s timing is so perfect that it not only hits snooze on my biological clock – it takes a sledgehammer and smashes it to smithereens. 35? Ptch. Who made up that crazy rule anyway? My mom got pregnant at 48. And Sarah got pregnant at 90.