Secondary Infertility

Mayday

No tree wants to be barren, especially in the height of spring.

And when the sun rises on the second Sunday of May, the barren tree closes her eyes against the dreaded dawn. There is no hiding her leafless limbs in this public light. Her bare bark stands out in stark, dark contrast to the other verdant trees in the forest. No blossom crowns her head this Mother’s Day, no fruit snuggles against her naked breast. She has but one, lone Shoot growing from her sterile stump.

“I can bear no fruit,” she laments to the sunrise.

“I AM bearing all of the fruit you need in this life,” answers the Shoot, sprouting leaves of salvation, truth, and love. “I AM the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me bears much fruit. By this my Father is glorified.”

“But my children are dead,” she cries.

The Shoot stretches its arms wide to shade her gaping womb. “I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

“I am alone,” she mourns.

“I AM with you. And so are they.”

The tree opens her eyes to see a robin returning from a morning scavenge, feeding her babies nesting on a forgotten limb.

“But these are not my children.”

“They are yours to serve,” explains the Shoot. “They depend on you for support. I give them to you to shelter and protect. Love them as yourself.”

The barren tree – through no strength of her own – stands tall, lest the baby birds should fall.


Artist Edward Riojas has captured the poignant reality of barrenness in his exquisite cover artwork for He Remembers the Barren, Second Edition.

This moving painting is now available for purchasing. Do you have someone in your life who might appreciate a giclée print of it this Mother’s Day?

He Remembers the Barren, Second Edition

So Much Death

My heart can barely hold the grief.

It leaks out of my eyes as I bow my head in church. I’ve learned to pray with my eyes open, so that the tears drop straight to the floor and not onto my cheeks and clothes in tell-tale streaks.

It shudders from my lungs in seismic waves as Pastor reads the Gospel lesson. I’ve learned to hold my breath until my chest burns, camel-clutching my wayward diaphragm into submission.

It squeezes out of my larynx in pathetic whimpers as I sing, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I’ve learned not to program “O Little Town of Bethlehem” for the Sunday school children lest they witness more sorrow in Advent than their parents want to explain on the drive home.

But my eyes, my lungs, my larynx – all rebels, every one. They get the better of me every Advent, because I know of more children dead than born.

So much death! How can I bear it?

And, as happens every year, I look to the image of my Lord as a tiny baby in the manger, and I remember, “So much life!”

I cannot bear it, so Jesus bears it for me. He is born to conquer death for my sake and for yours. He gives us life everlasting, and He gives it abundantly.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

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Big Sister

MP900341507My young pen pal recently became a big sister through adoption last year – twice!

Here’s how she described her new life as a big sister in her most recent letter to me:

We are super busy. Sometimes I lock myself in my bedroom, lie on my bed, and try to imagine life BEFORE munchkins 2 and 3. It is IMPOSSIBLE. I can’t even think of our living room 2 years ago. 🙂 Right now, Little Brother is hanging onto my chair watching Little Sister ride her tricycle around the kitchen/dining room while holding her baby doll. She stops every time she goes by Little Brother to smile at him.

Isn’t that delightful?

Have you and your husband considered adoption?

Secondary Infertility

I met Tender Heart last weekend.

Her flaxen curls billowed around her pixie face in the September sun. Her tears were tiny, shiny glass balls dangling off the cliffs of her cheeks.

“Everyone else at school has brothers and sisters,” she cried. “I’m the only one who doesn’t. All I want is to be a big sister.”

Eight years young, and Tender Heart already knows the sting of barrenness.

My eyes moved to Mother. Silently, patiently she bore with her daughter’s grief, snuggling Tender Heart deep into the safety of her blanket arms. The only trace of her own deep sadness was the quiet network of shiny rivers streaming down her own cheek cliffs.

And I wept in shame.

For I weep for myself in my barrenness, but Mother weeps for her suffering child.

The mother of one bears a double cross.

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The Great Temptation

The great temptation of barrenness is to believe that God’s blessed favor will only come to you in the form of a child of your own.

Well, it doesn’t, though it does come in the form of a child – the child Jesus, born to die for your sins.

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; Break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!” (Isaiah 54:1 and Galatians 4:27 [ESV])

God’s blessed favor is for you.

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“To the barren ladies I know and the ones I don’t”

bleeding-heart-flower copySomeone loves you and prays for you and bears with you, dear sisters. Read this and rest today while a sister in Christ shoulders your cross.

I’m the one with more children than you have fingers on your right hand. I feel ostentatious and gaudy around you. I feel like having my babies with me is in poor taste, like I am flaunting my riches. I cringe to imagine that you might feel the same way, you who have suffered so much in your own mind and who are now subjected in real time, in public, to stare in the face the dream that hasn’t come true for you. I am so sorry it hasn’t. I am so sorry to think that I might be causing you more pain. I ache for the love you show my silly little people. I don’t know if I could.

I sin your sins. When I see all the world’s human trash with its ill-bred and empirically worthless children, I seethe to think of the pearls cast before them while your clean neck and open ears and graceful wrists and industrious fingers are bare. When another moron teenager turns up pregnant, I want to rage at God for what I can only see as unimaginable injustice and just plain poor planning. I want to make it right. I want to distribute the world’s children sensibly by my own self-righteous fiat. I want YOU, you wonderful, smart, talented, responsible, faithful Christian person, to be a mother of nations. NOT THEM.

I see it. I didn’t want to, but I loved you so much I finally looked and really saw it, or saw it as well as one such as myself is able to. It was the worst thing I have ever seen. It looks like utter desolation, like horror. I can’t look long. I can’t believe it’s the view out your window every hour of every day. Oh, you. You have lost what you never had.

But I know also that we are nearsighted. I am so nearsighted outside of this metaphor that, without my glasses, I can look into a dark bedroom where I know there is a digital clock and still see no light whatsoever. This is how we see into eternity also. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. So I know that, despite its appearance to myopics like us, the desolation is not utter. I know you know too, and we walk by faith together because our sight is untrustworthy.

I cannot tell you how much I respect and admire you for not trying to take by force what God has not given. You are like the man on a lifeboat, crazy with thirst, who still knows better than to drink seawater even though his companions fall to the temptation. It must be so hard to watch them–to watch them sicken, to watch them die, to watch them live. You are the one who clings to a true hope and has the best chance of healthy survival. You trust the Lord, though he slay you.

I thank you for the witness that you are to the sacred blessing of marriage no matter what the quantifiable yield of that marriage. I thank you for the witness you are to the inherent value of femininity no matter what the quantifiable yield of that femininity.

I don’t say these things to you because I feel I don’t know you well enough, or I don’t know how you are doing with all this right now, or I know you feel as sick of this being the relentless topic of your life as I am of the relentless topics of my life. But I want you to know that I am always thinking all these things even as you are, and I pray for you always. I’m sorry if my not saying something makes it seem like I don’t care or I don’t really get it. I know I don’t really get it, but I try to, and I care so much.

I know you feel empty, but you bear the heaviest burden, and bearing is never without gain. God bless you, strong one.