It’s Mother’s Day, and the preacher asks for every mother to stand up and be recognized for all they’ve meant to their family. As the congregation begins to applaud, someone leans over and whispers excitedly into your ear, “Why aren’t you standing up? C’mon! It’s Mother’s Day!” Your greatest dream is to be a mother and your dream has not come true. The tears you’ve blinked away all morning are now streaming down your face. “I’m not a mother,” you weep.
Think About It
“Mother’s Day can be quite difficult and painful for those who are not yet mothers,” says Karen Barnes, a young woman who lives in northern Virginia, and who, along with her husband, Cason, struggled with infertility. “Our church has been pretty good in the past couple of years about trying not to alienate those who are struggling in this way,” she says. “Our pastor has even verbalized from the pulpit that it can be a hard day for many. Not just those who are not yet mothers, but also for those who have recently lost a Mom or those who have lost a child. It helped me a lot that he verbally recognized this and helped others to think about it.”
Karen believes that not “thinking about it” is the real issue when it comes to insensitive remarks or questions like, “When are you two going to have children?” “I want people to know that there are probably many people in their lives who are struggling with infertility,” she says. “So we need to learn to be more sensitive . . . how to support those going through this type of situation, and others who are facing things like infant loss, miscarriage, etc.”
Do Something About It
Notifying a pastor about how you feel when mothers are singled out may very well be an eye-opener to your pastor. “For those who have a comfortable relationship with those in church leadership, I’d suggest having a discussion with someone about this aspect,” says Barnes. “I’m sure they would be very willing to do what they can to make everyone feel loved and not excluded on what can be a very hard day.”
To those who have a loved one going through a hard time, Barnes suggests doing something special. “Plan an outing for or with her for that day. Send or take her out for a pedicure and a walk. Do something to make her feel loved,” she says.
She also stresses that if it’s just too hard and painful to go to church on Mother’s Day, it’s okay. “Plan a quiet morning of worship in your own house with your husband and don’t feel guilty about your feelings,” she says. “You are one-hundred-percent justified in how you feel.”
Open up About It
Barnes encourages couples who are experiencing the ups and downs of In Vitro Fertilization, or any other fertility treatment, to share their struggles with those closest to them. “Once we started sharing and talking about it, several things happened for us,” she says. “We found the emotional and prayer support that we needed from others. We started getting so many ‘me, too’ stories and were able to find community, camaraderie, and support from those going through similar struggles. And we found that we could be an encouragement to others. God was able to use our hardship to encourage others who desperately needed it too.”
Pray About It
Barnes’ struggle with infertility has a happy ending . . . make that two happy endings. She and her husband are the proud parents of twin girls. “We will publicly dedicate our girls before the Lord this Mother’s Day,” she beams.
She knows that hers and other’s dreams of motherhood don’t always come true. “I know what it is like to be in the season of waiting, when we don’t know how the Lord is going to answer our prayers,” she explains. “I struggled with people telling me to lean on the promises of God. Well, God doesn’t promise me anything in this scenario.”
“I would have to continually remind myself that his plan is best. I was learning to pray asking God for what I wanted the outcome to be, but also praying for him to prepare my heart if his answer was something different,” Barnes says. “I think that type of prayer is really what helped bring me the most peace in the waiting.”
To hear more about Barnes’ emotional and spiritual roller coaster from infertility to pregnancy to Motherhood, check out her blog, Living With Eyes Wide Open.
Judy Bumgarner is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee. She also works at Brentwood United Methodist Church in the church’s Caring Ministry.