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Where is our bundle of joy?

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by Pearl D. Griffith

childless couple pix

 

And Abram said, “Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless…?

Behold, to me thou hast given no seed.” Genesis 15:2-3

 

Involuntary childlessness is no badge of honor for the unsuspecting couple, yet many are forced to wear it bravely and gallantly while the ignorant heap upon them cruel misjudgments.

In this crucial but delicate matter of childlessness, countless couples find themselves without heir not by reason of choice, but like the biblical man and wife Abram and Sarai, they ask God the same question, “Why?”

It is not unusual for couples to marry with the expectation that offspring will follow in due course. However, while that may be the objective or priority for some, others may choose to delay parenting options until they have achieved personal goals such as higher education, housing, career, and the like. Still others may choose marriage without the appendage responsibility of children.

Whatever the individual preference, however, there will always be those for whom a desired conception will remain elusive. And while for some couples the search for remedy might be promising and hopeful, the same may be an unending and futile quest for others.

Not every childless couple will mourn the loss of children, however, as some may view their childless state in a positive light because it is for them purely a matter of personal choice. Others, calling it by the same name, may use the ‘personal choice label’ as a defense mechanism against perceived invasion of their privacy. This article, which leaves the latter well alone, focuses instead on those who are desirous but unable to conceive for reasons that will vary from couple to couple. We will look at what is common among childless couples as well as what is different. We will also explore some of the challenges and coping measures adopted by the childless while trying to make sense of their empty nest.

The secret language of the empty womb:

There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough. Proverbs 30:15, 16 (KJV)

Involuntary childlessness, on the one hand, is characterised by a deep yearning and desire felt by a couple to have a child and on the other by a deep sense of loss when there is none. Like a hunger emanating from the womb, it can neither be explained by them nor fully understood by others. Words fail to quench or pacify this instinctive desire for a child which, in its basic form, is as natural as physical hunger or sexual appetite and nothing to be ashamed of. Although this yearning for a child might be shared mutually by a loving couple, it is often felt more acutely in the woman, sometimes manifest in her life in ways that can take precedence in her over the basic need for sustenance or even conversation.

The childless are forever hopeful, yet often disappointed, as can be seen in the biblical story of a barren woman named Hannah, whose insatiable womb craving expresses itself in language akin to pain, which is not atypical for a person in a similar condition. At home, Hannah’s husband fails miserably in his attempt to pacify her by trying to shift her focus away from her childless state. His well-intentioned questions miss their mark as he tries to engage her in conversation. This leaves her alienated in her grief and sadly misunderstood. By sheer determination she manages to transition from fretting to fasting, but is still left emotionally and psychologically alone in her need.

Childless women can easily identify with Hannah’s quest for relief which leads her to seek refuge in the temple, whilst trying to keep in check a heart that brims over with complaint and grief. There, her sad demeanour and mumbling prayer are further misunderstood by her priest. In her defense, her own words ring hollow and inadequate to try to express the cry emanating from her barren womb.

By contrast, when God responds by giving Hannah a son, she exults; the anguish of her once empty womb replaced now by words like: “My heart rejoices…My horn is exalted…My mouth is enlarged over my enemies.” Emanating from a heart that can now hardly contain her joy, she exults further, “…the poor is taken from the dust, and a beggar is lifted from the dunghill.”

Not every childless woman is a Hannah, however. Occasions such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, baby dedications or christenings, children’s birthday parties and family gatherings, are some of the childless couple’s most vulnerable calendar dates. For example, a frequent occurrence at family gatherings, made in jest at the expense of the childless, is when family members or friends insist on announcing their readiness or longing to become grandparents, uncles, aunts, or cousins. ‘Hurry up’ becomes the dreaded chorus. Experiences like these cause embarrassment and make the couple less inclined to socialise.

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Comments

2010-11-30
Kamella

Dear Pearl, I think your article has indeed covered all the bases in showing the different perspectives of how a childless couple (not by their own choice) is viewed by family, friends and society in general. My view is that this is most effective in one article which encompasses everything rather that in several parts. You have done an excellent job at describing the anguish that couples go through, and we know that despite medical advances, infertility remains a mystery thereby showing us the Will of Almighty God. Many of us have found solace and completeness in adopting children whom God has sent especially for us. You touched on how God brings the childless couple together with a child who desperately needs loving parents. I always think of it this way. Those of us who have never conceived or conceived then lost the baby through miscarriage or death, know this pain can be unbearable at times but with God by our side we all must grieve for what could not have been and embrace what could be a wonderful and rewarding experience through adoption, rather than deny ourselves the joys of parenthood. God bless.
2009-12-04
Roger

A very insightful and thought provoking article indeed...well done! I am also impressed by the quality of the Upstream site...very clean looking and user friendly. Keep up the great work of enlightening others and revealing God's perspective on often overlooked topics. Blessings.
2009-11-23
Flora

This article was very eye-opening. I have many times been insenstive to couples assuming that they just did not want babies BUT it may not always be the case as revealed in this article. Thanks for knowledge imparted.
2009-11-18
emerald evans

Pearl, I have been enlighten by your article on childlessness and appreciate the openess to me and others as well. And I believe that childlessness is another way that God has set those persons apart to do somethings special, what parents of children don't have the time to do well. Because in this life we always want what we don't have, and that's life.
2009-11-17
Richard

Very interesting piece, however I found your article to be extremely long you could have done it in a two part series. However, keep up the good work and I hope I don't have to wait so long again for an update.
2009-11-17
Brenda

Isa 54:1 Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband, says the Lord! Barrenness is not an indicator of sin but may afford great opportunity for spiritual offspring. May those of us who were not able to have children be able to turn the sadness into joy because we have the opportunity to be mothers to many, many spiritual offspring who will look just like their Father in heaven!!
2009-11-17
Euline

Dear Editor, This article should be read especially by insensitive Christians who think child bearing is totally in the hands of the couple. Years ago God placed a sensitivity towards such people within me and I am now very careful about making these remarks. I have children but we should never take that opportunity to produce babies for granted.
2009-11-17
Avonelle

By choice after 10 years of marriage we still don't think we are ready for the big step of child bearing/ rearing. We never hesitated to share that. Lately we have been thinking sharing the fact that we do not really want children could be insensitive to those who want but can't have. I agree in terms of sensitivity, we really don't want the enemy to use us to create unpleasant moments for people.
2009-11-14
Joy

I have read and re-read this article and derive a comfort in such a compassionate dissection and overview of the state of childlessness. I am confident that this article will be a blessing to both couples who can identify with it personally through experience as well as serve as a reminder for those who are not afflicted by childlessness to be more aware and sensitive to those who are.

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