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When Speaking to Those Not Expecting…

When a person is describing the depths love can reach, they will sometimes use the phrase, “If you have kids, you understand…” I know this is a true statement. It is never meant to be a dig at non-parents. Still, when I heard it recently uttered among a group of friends, I felt a stab in my left ventricle.

“Thanks for reminding me I have no clue what that kind of love feels like,” I snarled back internally. “This seems like Safety Patrol all over again, times a million.” In my defense, the comment struck during a period of hormonal imbalance. But even when I’m in my normal frame of mind, hearing the phrase makes me see parenthood as an elusive secret society many of my friends are a part of. And I’m not invited.

I quickly curbed my pitiful thoughts, giving myself a stern talking to. “Oh great Beth. Are you gonna become one of those people? Hyper-sensitive, mercurial, and neurotic? Is this what I get to look forward to?” I could see myself thirty years down the road—barren, bitter, and surrounded by twenty cats.

It is with my adverse reaction in mind that I’d like to give all those who are not struggling to become a parent some tips for communicating with those of us who are. (I also think these suggestions are good for speaking with those not yet married, those who are grieving, and, well, maybe everyone on the planet.)

We don’t want pat answers to try to make us feel better. They don’t. We mentally roll our eyes. Talking about how young I am and how much time Jerimiah and I still have makes me want to slap you in the face with a glove.

Don’t be afraid to ask how we’re doing. Sometimes we actually want you to. We may or may not bust out crying—it’s a risk you’ll have to take.

After we’ve word-vomited and/or cried all over you, remind us we are not the only ones on the planet. Translation: Get your head out of your butt and stop being so self-focused. (You are only allowed to say this if you’re a close friend.) It’s easy to fall into a pattern of feeling sorry for ourselves, so occasional reality checks are healthy.

Around the same time I heard the “if you have kids you’ll understand” statement, one of my best friends and I were talking about her children. Suddenly she blurted out, “I would have babies and give them to you if I could. I want you to have kids so much.” Her words died down to a whisper as unshed tears pooled in her eyes. She meant every word. I grabbed her in a hug fierce enough to crush a small cypress as saltwater plodded down my cheeks.

She gave me something I didn’t even know I craved: empathy. She was hurting for me. As a parent herself, she knew exactly what I was missing out on. But she was vying for me to be invited into the elusive secret society.

And now, weeks later, her empathy is still a balm to my left ventricle.

What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting

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  1. Debbie S. Richardson

    Barren and maybe a little bitter…but NO cats!

    • beth

      Hahahaha!

  2. Jen O Mau

    I had no idea! I think it is wonderful you can use this blog as an outlet for your frustrations. Please know that you have friends that are close that have struggled with the same situation. Love you girl keep that beautiful head up!

    • beth

      Thanks Jen! Love you too woman.

  3. Heather

    Up until recently I had assumed you guys were childfree by choice. I had no idea. I’m so very sorry for some of my past comments.

    I would also give you a baby in a heartbeat, if I could. But you’d have to be okay with a redhead. :P

    • beth

      Heather, you have nothing to be sorry about! I struggled with this post because I didn’t want to seem like I was pointing a finger at anyone–I’m not. I’m typically not an uber-sensitive person, and if someone does hurt my feelings, I usually can’t remember it by the next day.

      Thanks for your kind heart! I think all your redheads are wonderful!! :)

  4. Erin

    Thank you for sharing your heart Beth! I know that has to be a hard thing to do. These are wonderful reminders to be gentle and empathetic with one another. I love your blog! :)

    • beth

      Thank you friend!

  5. I love you. And I am weeping. And I love you. And I want your words to be a big ole band aid for all the other moms to be with hurting LV’s.
    ((<3))

    • beth

      Thanks Carol Anne! Love you too.

  6. Thanks for sharing. I’m a nanny. I go to a church with around 200 members and 75 children under 5. I am surrounded by babies, and invited to a new shower every week. We were the oldest couple in our small group, and officially the only ones without children, and in the span of time that we’ve been trying, several of our friends have had two. So I live in this place. Thank you for the smile about the glove-slap. I SO know how that feels. I may start to carry a pair for such occasions.
    Also thanks for the encouragement to strive for true joy for others. I confess that I sometimes lack it–or have to work for it a whole lot harder than I’d like. Above all, thank you for your transparency. I’ll pray for you as I pray for my own heart.

    • beth

      You are very welcome. You might find some great discount gloves if you go to Claire’s after prom season… :)

      Thank you for your transparency. I’m honored to pray for you too.

  7. Beth,

    I know it took big-time guts to write this post, but I thank you for transparently sharing the other side. I have several friends struggling with infertility, and I’ve said the same thing as your friend did…that I wish I could provide them a child. It’s so hard to see awesome people, like yourself, who’d be amazing parents struggle to become parents. None of us know God’s plan, which is both encouraging and annyoing at the same time, but I applaud you for your outlook and thank you for sharing your heart today.

    You can virtually glove-slap me for saying this if it comes across the wrong way, but I also want to add that I can tell from your posts about working in children’s ministry that you are already a momma to many children and the impact you’re making on their lives will leave an everlasting legacy.

    Praying for you!

    • beth

      You made me bust out laughing! In no way, shape, or form does your comment warrant a virtual glove-slap! I thank you for your sweet and thoughtful encouragement. :)

  8. Hannah

    And of course…. Tears…. You and your heart are an inspiration in my life! Love you!

    • beth

      As are you and yours. Thank you for being that friend. Love you!

  9. Kelly

    Beth,
    My husband sent me this link earlier today. So after my students left I checked my messages and thought I was going to do a little reading to decompress for a few minutes after the school day. Well, I ended up in tears and hoping no one saw me crying as I raced to close my door.
    My husband and I have been married for seven years and we’re the only couple in either family with no children. All of our couple friends have children and even those who have struggled with infertility have at least one biological child. I’ve often wanted to “smack someone in the face with a glove” and have on occasion thought about putting rocks in it too.
    Thank you for putting into words what I often times cannot. You handled this with far more grace than I ever have been able to muster. Thanks for the reminder that we aren’t alone and we certainly won’t be the last people on earth to have struggles.
    God bless you,
    Kelly

    • beth

      Kelly,
      Okay, I feel bad about making you cry at work. I fully blame Ray though for his lack of proper warning. :)
      My heart breaks for your pain. I think you’ve mustered more grace than you realize. After all, you only thought about putting rocks into the glove.
      I’ve added you to a list of friends I’m praying for–I titled the list “Fellow Wishers.”
      Beth

  10. MICHELLE

    I LOVE you!! I’ve been there. I will pray for the miracle….touch the hem of HIS garment kinda praying for you like I haven’t done before!….I’ll also get Dakota to pray. When Dirk and I had given up and stopped praying, he did not! Again, I Love Ya!

    Mick

    • beth

      Wow Dakota! How awesome is that?!
      Thanks for being someone I can talk to. Love you back.

  11. Janette

    “Get your head out of your butt and stop being so self-focused” I ONLY put that because you said it was reserved for close friends!! I hope I can fulfill that card. I will produce your spawns. Oh wait…I can’t even produce my own without meds, nevermind! Let me corrct myself, I will produce your spawns with meds if I could. They would look like Jerimiah and I don’t know if the world is ready for that. ALSO, it may be weird if I told peeps that I was carrying my brothers baby, I do live in the south but don’t choose that path. On a real note, I am really happy that I read this post. I dont always read them but I was pulled in when I saw the picture of you wearing that amazing shirt. I am super blessed to have you as a sister and a wife to my brother. You are amazing! I love you! Please don’t reply to my comment. You are amazing! I Love You!

    • beth

      It’s my blog and I’ll reply if I want to, reply if I want to, reply if I want to. :P You’re not only allowed; you’re expected to tell me how self-focused I’m getting.
      I was going to make you read this post anyway–you need to know you’re better at picking out my clothes than I am. And also that I love you more than I can ever really express. And that you make me laugh so hard milk spews out of my nose.
      Okay, I’m done. :)

  12. Heather, I love your comment. As someone who has chosen not to have kids, I can tell you most people (especially Christians) assume that anyone who has been married longer than 3 years must be trying. My husband and I have been married 6 years and any time we tell people we don’t have kids, they start to look at us with pity. They never think it’s our choice. It’s not the right path for us (at least not for the foreseeable future; there are other things we’re called to right now). So it warms my heart, Heather, to know not everyone makes that assumption.

    To all you future moms, my heart goes out to you. Whether God is directing you toward adoption or telling you to wait, I have no doubt that you will become mothers. Beth, you’ll be a fantastic mom. And I know that’s not so helpful right now, but God wouldn’t put this incredible desire in your heart without planning to fulfill it. I know the waiting is agonizing (as someone who has waited for a great many things, I understand the feeling), but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that God is faithful and His timing doesn’t always make sense to us. But I hold onto the thought that there is more happening in the heavenly realm than we can see and understand.

    • beth

      Thanks for that Halee.

  13. Crying with you, my new best regular-blogging friend. : ) I bet when we met, I asked, “Do you have kids?” and probably said other dumb stuff. I’m not taking your post personally, just thinking I’d love to be more sensitive to what is happening with others. Thanks for the reminder! Love you.

    • beth

      Thanks for your saltwater. Love you too.
      I should actually be arrested by the idiotic statement police for even posting this. I have been the queen of pat answers, though not always in regards to hopeful moms. The reminder applies to me as much as anyone else.

      • I think we’re all guilty. I’m glad we’re also aware.

  14. Hey Beth, not sure if you remember me from BRMCWC. We met in the pitching room. :)

    I’m standing right beside you, dealing with the same embedded thorn in my side. All the things you wrote above? Yep, I’m very familiar with that seesaw of emotions, wanting to be strong and ‘to get over myself’, but also knowing it’s not always easy. Will be praying for you. Marney

    • beth

      Even though anxiety was dominant in my brain when we met, I remember you. :)
      Thank you for sharing. I’ll be praying for you too.

  15. Beth (and Janette), that IS an amazing shirt. As screaming and other evidence reaches me from the other room where various forms of other-worldly torture MUST be occurring, I feel as though I should get up and check to see if I’m needed. However, I feel compelled to offer you a few of MY children. Maybe this wasn’t the best time for me to comment. :)

    Truly, thank you for the reality check and the transparent reminder that I have no idea what’s going on sometimes in the hearts, minds, and lives of those I love. I want to be a true friend, and that means I too, need to stop being so self-focused.

    I puffy heart you. :)

    • beth

      Thanks for the laugh and encouraging word. I puffy heart you back!! :)

  16. Carolyn Trucano

    A little late (both literally and figuratively)on responses. Since we did not know when your change of heart (and desires)occurred over the years you have been married, I hope that we have not been some of the ones who have made insensitive remarks. We have always prayed for great restraint on our lips, reminding ourselves that it was really none of our business.
    However, had we known that it really does matter a great deal, we could have been more encouraging and offering prayerful support that God will grant the desires of your heart. We love you, but realize that God loves you even more!

    • beth

      You and Dad have never been insensitive and are some of the best listeners in my life. If you did not know how much it mattered to me, it’s my own fault for not properly verbalizing it to you. Love you guys.

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