Are you in The Club?
If nothing else, you at least know someone in The Club. They hold gatherings in houses, coffee shops, churches, and schools. They exchange advice, share stories, and swap resources. They shop at exclusive stores, receive exclusive magazines and memberships, and benefit from frequent exclusive promotional materials that are hung on refrigerators across the country. Members of The Club are recognized daily, though they may sometimes still feel under-appreciated for their contributions.
And it’s true — they sacrifice body, mind, and soul. They put in long hours without pay. They worry about their performance and lose sleep over the effects it might have on The Club’s beneficiaries. And while eventually members’ responsibilities lessen with seniority, membership is a life-long commitment.
It’s stressful to be in The Club. And there are some members who even got drafted to it without ever volunteering their participation.
If you haven’t caught on by now, “The Club” I’m referring to is Motherhood.
In spite of it’s requirements, five years ago all I wanted was to be in The Club. We had settled down in a house in our ideal community and school district. We’d been married for 3 years and were ready to introduce a new tiny member to our family.
But in spite of our frequent *ahem* “application“, The Club just kept rejecting us.
It was a painful roller coaster of hope and disappointment. And while my greatest desire was to be in The Club, I couldn’t help resenting their exclusivity and the painful reminder it was of the experience I thought we might never have.
“Just wait till you have children,” and “When you’re a mom, you’ll understand,” were among the biting phrases members of The Club frequently offered me.
Nowhere was it more prominent of a reminder than at church.
Being fairly new to the community, we were visiting different churches, hoping to find one that had a similar style and feel as the church we grew up in. After visiting a few, it became apparent that the easiest way to connect with church-people… is to have kids.
Them: “Good morning, I’m Chad and this is my wife Andrea. What are your names?”
Us: “I’m Cheyenne and this is Tyler.”
Them: “Welcome! So do you guys have kids?”
*insert awkward pause*
Them: “Well, we’re glad to have you here!”
In my insecurity, I imagined their drive home going something like this:
Andrea: “You know those new people today? What were their names?”
Chad: “I think it was Cheyler and Tyanne.”
Andrea: “Oh, right. Did you notice how awkward it got when you asked if they had kids?”
Chad: “Yeah, I noticed that too.”
Andrea: “Do you think they don’t like kids? Do you think they were annoyed by our kids?”
Chad: “Who knows. And if that is the case, they will just have to deal with it. They’ll understand someday when they become parents.”
I’m sure that’s not what really happened. And I truly believe people had the best intentions and were sincerely trying to create a hospitable place for us to worship. But when the parenthood-connection couldn’t be established, it felt difficult to connect at all. Even the ministries and events offered were mostly for moms, children, and families. And the conversations around us always seemed to be centered on other people’s kids. Infertility is just not a good opening-liner to explain childlessness. We knew we would just have to get past the initial awkwardness of being “three-to-five-years-married-without-children” and focus on the point of church – worship.
It was five years ago – on Mother’s Day – that I got another negative pregnancy test. I was tired and frustrated and crushed with disappointment again. Why did I do that to myself? I should have waited one more day.
The last thing I wanted to do was go to church and get by-passed for a Mother’s-Day-daisy. But we went anyway.
I put on a skirt and feebly attempted a happy face as we found our seats in the row. But when we closed our eyes and bowed our heads in prayer, the pastor’s words wrung my heart like it was nothing but a soggy sponge. I couldn’t hold back the tears that flowed down my face.
“Father God, on this day we recognize all the mothers who have cared for us and who care for our children. For them, we are so grateful. And be near to the mothers who are still waiting for children. Help them to see Your goodness and love for them, even as they wait.”
I am in “The Club” now. But that pastor’s words made a lasting an impact on me – to feel included. Remembered. Honored for the important role I would someday play in my children’s lives. I know don’t want my “membership” to alienate anyone – at least as far as I can control.
So for those hurting today on Mother’s Day: Please know you are cared for more than you realize. I may not see your pain or know which of you is struggling, but I stand with you as one who cannot forget my own struggle. And although I am on the other side of infertility, I will always remember that I am entitled to nothing on Mother’s Day. The greatest gift I could have is my children.
Hang in there, dear friends. And when your time finally comes, don’t forget the journey it took to get there and the ones still struggling down the long, hard road.