This year I turned 55. I’m very content with my life and know how blessed I am with good health, friends since childhood, and a family that loves me unconditionally. Even though I lost my adoptive mom when I was eight years old, became a widow at age 44, and was nearly paralyzed in a boogie board accident at age 50, I have a zest for living and a positive outlook that has always been part of my personality.
My “life verse” is Romans 5:2-5. Going through tribulations and confidently understanding that hope is the result has been near and dear to my heart for many years. I’ve never shied away from the inherent understanding that life is tough, but always have the attitude that we must make the best out of what we have and find our purpose.
Yet despite my optimism, a day doesn’t go by that I wonder what my life would have been like if I had been a mother to a biological child.
I met Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, author of Longing for Motherhood, at an event where she shared her beautiful adoption story. Chelsea and I spoke afterwards about being adopted, and then during the conversation with both discovered we had another similarity: we were both unable to have biological children.
It wasn’t until I read Chelsea’s memoir that I fully grasped her heartache: she was born with a rare condition that left her without a uterus.
This stunningly beautiful young woman with a brilliant mind was a strong Christian. Chelsea is so intelligent and has a top-notch education. She has had positions of power in Washington, DC, is a gifted public speaker, and is a podcast host. Here was Chelsea, about half my age, and we both share the grief of childlessness.
It took me longer than expected to get through her well-written book, only because I cried unexpectedly and had to face truths I hadn’t thought about in years. But reading Longing for Motherhood was also empowering, giving me practical tools, scriptures, and permission to even be angry at times.
As a Christian woman, I often did feel punished for not being able to conceive. I knew this wasn’t true, but some women at a church I attended during the time I was seeing a specialist told me I wasn’t praying hard enough or trusting God. They even had the nerve to tell me I needed to take a certain brand of vitamins to conceive! (I soon found a new church.)
One of my favorite chapters in the book was “Seasons of Sorrow.” I felt that at my ripe old age, and given my traumatic life experiences, I knew enough about sorrow. But Chelsea’s compassionate and authentic walk through sorrow, including the acknowledgement of depression, panic attacks, and isolation from friends and family, resonated with me. I felt bad for skipping baby showers in the past, yet this was a healthy response to protect my tender heart.
Being adopted, I knew I always wanted to adopt, but I always thought it would be in addition to having my biological children. When I was told by good-natured friends and co-workers “you can always adopt!” I wanted to scream back “But I really wanted to get pregnant! Don’t you understand?” Instead, I sucked it up and nodded. I have had the gift of fostering children, adopted a teenager out of foster care, and I’m now a stepmom to two beautiful adult daughters, but I still wonder what life would be like with a biological child.
Every year, Mother’s Day is the day I skip church and dining out at restaurants. Please don’t think I’m disrespectful or don’t appreciate my late-adoptive mother or birth mother. It’s just that Mother’s Day is too hard for me, even though nearly twenty years have passed since I learned I couldn’t get pregnant.
If you are a young woman who has recently learned you’re unable to be a biological mother, I encourage you to read this book. Chelsea’s transparency will let you know you are not going through your sense of longing alone. The scriptures will remind you that God knows what you are going through. Specific verses, seemingly written for women like us who cannot conceive or carry a child, will bring tears to your eyes, consoling you like nothing else can. On page 64, Chelsea states that “Nowhere is God’s loyal love on greater display than in Psalms where you can see the frequency of this idea (God’s love) expressed.” I was on a plane and cried as I read the seven Psalms listed.
The longing for motherhood hit me hard, again, the day my adoptive dad passed away from Alzheimer’s. I was dad’s power of attorney, the person who managed his finances, his regular visitor, his child who ensured he was in the best assisted living facility. It was my responsibility to make sure he had proper daily care, the best medical help and all the supplies. After Dad died, I couldn’t help but think the only parent/child relationship I had was now gone. Without a child of my own, what will my aging process look like?
As the CEO at Save the Storks, I understand what a miracle it is to get pregnant. It is devastating to know that over 2,300 abortions take place daily, just in the United States. (This number is likely much higher due to the abortion pill, which isn’t reported.) As a woman who was never able to conceive, I pray for every woman facing an unplanned pregnancy to see her baby as a gift from God, no matter her circumstances.
For every woman, like Chelsea, who learns she cannot conceive or carry a baby, my heart breaks for you. Nothing I can say or do will take away your pain. Please read this book and then seek out trusted friends, a counselor, and a church leader to walk through this valley with you.
I pray that when abortion is at last unnecessary and unthinkable, future generations of women who can’t be a biological mother will not have to wait months or years to adopt, if adoption is their heart’s desire.
If you have a desire to help women who can’t be biological mothers, prayerfully consider starting a group at your church. Having a support group that specifically addresses the heartbreak these women face will show them you understand and will help with their healing process.