Re-imagining what life looks like when confronted by childlessness and infertility is a common theme throughout Saltwater and Honey. We are so grateful to guest blogger Sue who is sharing her personal story below.
A few weeks ago, I had a full hysterectomy – everything out – tubes, ovaries and womb. Nothing that unusual in this, it is an operation that many women have every year. Except I am forty-two, single and childless.
Saying those words single and childless sounds so stark and so harsh, but I am very thankful that I can now say both without huge feelings of self-pity or sadness, but it still does not feel entirely comfortable.
It is not what I imagined growing up. I remember once writing about what I wanted when I was younger, and I said I wanted to be a Mum to six sextuplets…but writing it in such a way I was actually saying I wanted 36 children. Insane!! Six would have been more than enough, 36 was a crazy amount. The reality is I have no children. I have never peed on a stick and seen the blue line, never marvelled at the image of my child on an ultrasound screen, stroked my own rounded tummy, had the mummy to be chats, gone pram shopping, huffed and puffed through childbirth or held my own tiny creation in my arms.
It is not because I have not yet ‘Found the One’. So often that phrase is used by truly well-meaning people (sometimes just by downright rude people who feel they have carte blanche to comment on my life). But, it makes me feel like everyone else is playing some kind of massive game of ‘Hide & Seek’ and I have failed to master the rules. There have been chances, “Mr We’re Too Young to Get Serious” and “Mr Could Have Married Him But Fortunately I Didn’t”, more recently there has been “Mr Amazing and Adorable But Life is Too Complicated to Make it Work Right Now”. Truth is, even if I had ‘found’ the most amazing man ever my body was never going to be able to give us babies.
It has been a really tough journey, quite lonely at times, knowing that part of my body which is meant to be the source of life and joy has been the source of pain and grief. I have tried recommended diets, medications, exercise and three operations before the big one in the last five years. Heading towards my 40s I became contentedly single, happy in my own company. Not aggressively single, not closed off to the idea that one day I might meet someone, but happy as I was and secure in that. What I had not yet fully got my head round was life without children. I thought about sperm donation – the Bishop could not sack me for that…no rules broken about sex before marriage etc… But, did I want the Daily Mail splashing me on the front cover with headlines about a pregnant virgin Vicar?! I thought about adopting, but the reality is as a single Vicar I could not see how I could make that work and give the best of myself to my parish and to a child.
So, in the same way I had to learn to be content in my own company, I had to learn how to be content in my childlessness. I have had fantastic doctors along the way who have done their best to get me to a pain free point. I have had many friends and strangers pray for healing to get me to a life free from pain. Neither got me physically pain free, but emotionally and spiritually they did. The only solution in the end to get a free from pain life, one where I was not worried about bleeding, pain and being able to get through meetings/conferences or just a night out was to have the full hysterectomy.
We know that God tells us that He has good plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us and I totally believe that, it has been part of my life mantra (Jeremiah 29). I also know that Jesus said He has come that we may have life in all its fullness (John 10:10). I know it, I teach it, but I had to believe it too, really trust those promises. When we read on in Jeremiah beyond the promise of a lovely future God tells us that He will be found by us, He will listen to us, but to find Him we have to seek Him with all our heart. I realised I knew this and believed this and yet somehow I didn’t do it and did not trust it.
Truth be told, my heart still held on to the ideal that it would be truly full and totally content when it was filled with the love of and for a good man and bursting with love and pride at my own child. Delighting in all he or she did….putting every painting on the wall, photographing every moment, not minding when they created havoc in my tidy house and refused to eat my homemade dinners… It is funny the lies we learn to live and to love in order to make ourselves feel better.
I have in my study this picture frame:
Those truths have become so important…
I have had to tell that negative committee that I have not “lost THE ONE”. I have Him, the only one who can ever truly satisfy in my heart. Those negative voices may want me to be believe no husband and no children makes me somehow deficient, but Jesus tells me that because I know Him, because I am in relationship with Him I can have life in all its fullness. I am enough just as I am. One day that may involve a husband and in some way children whether they are step, fostered, or adopted. But, whilst they would enrich my life, enrich who I am as a person, not having them does not make me deficient.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I am enough.
I am a precious child of my Heavenly Father.
I am loved with an everlasting love.
He rejoices over me with singing because of who I am and not because of who I may one day be and He is not waiting until I am something more until He starts.
This new beginning in my life has involved a painful ending… Laying down of dreams, hopes, the plan my 20 something-self held in my head of how life would work out, guilt I will never make my sister an Auntie, my Dad a Grandad, my best friend a Godmother.
But, I hope it will also bring an ending to pain. To the daily feeling of a knife being stuck in my tummy, to cramps, nausea, heavy and irregular bleeding.
I don’t know what new beginnings are in store for me, but I know I trust in a God who loves me and who promises me a hope and a future. I am forty-two, single and childless, but I am a beloved child of God.