January 14, 2013

Does Giving Birth Make a Girl a Woman?

I had gathered with a large number of wonderful ladies and we were going around introducing ourselves. As part of the "about me" sentence, it was suggested that we share how many children we have and how old they are. Of all the women in the room (some younger than me), I was the only one childless. I held it together, but that moment of "I'm Melanie, and I don't have have any children" was raw and painful and even embarrassing. Did I belong?

Later that day, one of my friends, knowing my struggle, pondered, "When did our children become our identity?" A good question, indeed. 

For years now, I have wondered if I would ever been seen as a grown woman--adult, independent, responsible, able. I look young for my age (as in I am mistaken for a teenager on a weekly basis), so this doesn't help my case. But I have been on my own for nearly 10 years. Four and a half of those, I have been married, and together we've maintained a home, jobs, and a bank account. But I still feel like an "outsider" so often. 

So much of women's conversation revolves around their children; and for a good reason. I understand that being a mother does become much of a woman's identity and that her love for her babies is unmatched. But I can't participate in those discussions. I smile, of course, and I truly do enjoy hearing about my friends' children. I love playing with their kids, being called "My Melanie" by those little ones who love me dearly, seeing photo updates of their growth and reading stories of hilarious antics. 

But, no matter how welcoming my friends are & no matter how much I love being with them and their children, nothing can offer me entrance into the sacred club of motherhood other than a child of my own. 

And so, I remain the babysitter, the onlooker, the dreamer. 

How can I change the world's perception of me? Can I be a woman--fully alive, not lacking purpose-- even if I never have children? You might say, "But of course I see you as a peer, Melanie, as a friend." But there's nothing either of us can do to change the gap that exists. 


  1. As your mom, I feel the pain in your heart and it hurts, but there is no doubt that you are a wonderful, complete, God-fearing, God-loving, God-serving woman. Often I wish that His time table coincided with our time table, but His ways are infinitely more spectacular than ours.

  2. I am not in your situation of my husband and i trying for a child and cannot conceive. However, I am in the situation of trying to fit in with other women, when they all have children. This is the difficulty I find us in as we are in search of a new church home. We left our previous church for reasons other than the preaching. We didn't want to leave but for reasons God showed us that it would be healthier for us to leave. We were involved in a nearly/newly wed class where no one had kids yet. Now since we have left I know of two who are expecting this year, but we were all in basically the same stage of life, which made it much easier to feel accepted. Yet, a time came where I still felt like an outsider, and I didn't know why. Now as we have been searching for where God wants us to be now, I find that most churches do not have Sunday School/Bible Study classes for those who are young in their marriage and without kids. Now I find myself having to deal with what I dealt with before the young marrieds and no kids class...how to actually get other women who are mothers to relate to a woman in her early 30's with no children and only a husband, dog and career. It is so hard! However, I believe that God will provide those people in our lives that we need. To make this quite long post short, the point I was trying to get to is that God has a plan. He, for some reason, has taken you all through this journey. Maybe it is to be a witness to another woman some day. Maybe it is to draw the two of you closer to Him and each other. All I know is that God's timing is best! Hence, my getting married much later in life than I wanted, but it is to the best man ever and the best man for me! I pray that God will open the door for you all to have a baby, and I know it will happen in His timing!

  3. I often think of the women who don't even get married. I know several single women (Aunt Bessie) who have never found that special someone to share their life with. I can't imagine the pain that courses through their hearts on a regular basis. They manage to find their identity in being an aunt or a best friend.

    You are a strong woman who's identity is within, and in Christ. You don't need children to make you complete. A child, no matter how you end up getting one (or 3?) will be loved by you and Kevin like no other child. Ask anyone who has adopted a child.

  4. Momma, love you. :)

    Misty, I am so glad you posted your story and felt comfortable sharing. It is tough finding the balance between being honest with how we're feeling & needing to basically "buck up" and get over it. :) God's timing is perfect and I know he has a great plan for the friendships I've formed with the women who have children. I know having babies doesn't separate us from friendship because I have great friends who have kids. But today I felt like pouring it all out there. grittiness and all.

    Britt, true story. It's hard to be "different" sometimes...but I know God faithfully provides our worth in him.

  5. I have been there too. On the first night of a bible study that I joined (95% of the people were the same from the 3 previous studies we had done and all knew my story) the ice breaker was "Say your name and how many children you have...and tell us a bit about them too". Nothing like feeling like an outsider! My husband and I have been married for 7 years, have been trying for 7 years too. We've met with adoption agencies, we've met with an adoption lawyer, we've been thru foster parenting classes and took our first placement (and then got a job in a different state) and we tried the first round of clomid. The drug route and invasive medical route are not something we're willing to pursue, and neither the adoption or foster parenting panned out as we had hoped. I'm in a place where I need to accept what is. My husband has already done so. But when relating to other women and being faced with the "why don't you have kids" question, or trying to answer an uncomfortable question that obviously puts a big gap between me and the mommy-club, things get really touchy and difficult. I have the same question your friend had for you..."when do your children become your identity?" Because I'm a non-mom, maybe I can't understand that perspective of only being identified with how many offspring you've been able to produce. But I just have to believe that in 18 years, when those children are out of the house, all of these mothers whose sole identity was being a mom...will have to figure out who they really are as people and as women of Christ. And I am doing that hard work right now.

  6. wow, Leanne, that is so similar to the experiences I've been in recently. It's sad that these situations even occur, but I am glad to know I'm not alone in them.

    Seven years is certainly a longer, harder journey than we've endeavored. May God give you the grace to endure and the strength to place your hope in Him alone (as I pray the same for myself.)

    Blessings to you and your husband.

  7. Melanie it's been a while since I've gotten around to reading your blog. I have to say I was overwhelmed when I started reading. My husband and I are three years into TTC and many times I have had these same feelings you are expressing in your blog posts. This post especially resignated with me because all of my friends have children and now my baby sister is also pregnant. While I am very excited for my sister and love spending time with my friends and their children sometimes I feel like there is this special society that I can't be a part of because I'm not a mommie myself. Thank you so much for sharing your struggle and please know that there are so many of us out there struggling and praying with you and for you!
    God Bless you and Kevin through it all.

  8. Dema, I am sorry that you can relate this sticky situation, but I am thankful to know I'm not crazy (or alone). Praying we both find "our place."

  9. Oh how I so feel you on the, for lack of a better term, unspoken "mommy club" issue. While I understand that no mothers probably really ever intend to exclude non-moms in social situations, it's really hard to deal with when it happens, especially when you are TTC.

    For me, as a nanny, I got VERY close to my niece. For about a year, I took care of her and saw her more than even her dad (my brother) did. It was more than a babysitter relationship. My sister-in-law involved me in so many decisions and discussions revolving around the infant/toddler stage, and when I would take Ellie out on a weekly basis, people would see us together and assume I was her mom. As you could guess, we formed a pretty strong bond in that year and a half, and I felt as close to a mom as I possibly could be without giving birth to a child of my own or adopting, yet I still had a hard time fitting in with other women. I wasn't TTC at the time, so I didn't feel those extra emotions yet I still felt excluded. There was always this unspoken boundary that I could never cross because I was NOT A MOM. Caring for Ellie was my full-time job. I guess my relationship with her became so much a part of my identity, like careers do for women who aren't moms and motherhood does for moms. Mine felt like a cross between the two, and for as much as I absolutely loved my time with her, this was probably the hardest part for me to deal with emotionally. Just ask Nate. ;o)

    I don't know that there is really any solution to this, and I loved reading all of the other very encouraging comments. It feels really good to know I'm NOT ALONE in having a hard time relating with other women my age during these child-bearing years.

    1. Laura, thanks for sharing your personal story with me. I am so glad to know I have a friend like you will understands and relates to my struggle. Praying for you as well.

  10. Melanie,

    At the risk of sounding like a creeper, I wanted to leave a comment for you :) First of all, as a fellow blogger, I found your blog through the Parton's blog (adoption is near and dear to my heart, and I have been following their journey); I grew up with Rachel's cousin Lyndsay, and also actually met your husband one summer for Bible Quizzing finals at Roberts. So, hi! Secondly, THANK YOU for this post. Unfortunately, my husband is infertile due to childhood cancer, and I have felt this way so many times. Thank you for being so honest and open. I'm so sorry that you are traveling this road, but know that you are not alone and that you are making a difference. Your blog is and will bless more people than you know!

    I look forward to reading more from you!

    1. Ashley, Not a creeper at all! This is what the blogging world is all about! How crazy that you know my husband! I will tell him!

      I truly appreciate your encouragement as I share my personal journey down this sometimes lonely road. It is a blessing to know I can make friends (and an impact) along the way.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. If you want share directly with us, feel free to email kevin.melanie@gmail.com