In the Waiting Womb
It has been a year of waiting for me. And this against the backdrop of the phenomenon called COVID, with nations around the world waiting for life to resume as they know it even as the constant refrain is to embrace a new normal. Since Oct last year, I have joined the ranks of the unemployed to seek a vocational change, with this sabbatical also giving space for my husband and I to work on our marriage and the procreation front.
Making a baby is certainly not a walk in the park for some of us. I mean Jia Jia can attest to it – 7 years ‘lucky’ since annual attempts for them to mate began in 2015, and more recently with assistance from artificial insemination, no less. I’m grateful that we as humans don’t need to wait an entire year to be in heat.
But monthly waits can get to you, especially as the months roll into years. It can feel like I’m lagging behind in a race for a baby, right from the get-go of the wedding night, as many younger ones overtake me with their first child within the first year. 3 years into our marriage and there had been thoughts if I should ‘drop out of the race’. Long before I crossed my 41st birthday, I wrestled with questions of methods and paths to take in the gamut of options ranging from assisted fertility to adoption.
My husband’s and my journey towards becoming parents is not unique, not just among other childless couples, but by extension for many of you who may have intangible desires waiting to be born into a new reality in your life – a relationship, a career, a vacation, or even a pet? These yearnings may lie dormant, and situations can catalyse an awakening. Situations such as seeing someone venture down a new path, which excites you with what could be; having deeper conversations that unearth long-forgotten dreams; or passing another birthday milestone and wondering what it means to truly live.
This ‘desiring-but-not-yet-having’ state can be a seriously challenging place to be in --- the waiting womb.
This is where dreams and ideas are percolating, and life is bubbling under the surface. However, we may be tempted to suppress them as the pain of unfulfilled longings are harder to manage than downplayed desires.
The 'waiting womb' is also a narrow space where life continues unrelenting, yet stands still all at the same time, filling us with an indecisive sense of feeling stuck, not knowing how to plan for our actions ahead, whether to flow with the status quo or to take a course of action to bring about change. Even with our best-planned efforts, making our desires a reality may not really be fully within our control. I understand from the experience of friends who have brought beautiful babies into this world through IVF, that this is no less a miracle under the hand of God in spite of the human intervention involved.
Shaping the soul
After my first 6 months of marriage, I went for fertility checks as recommended for women post-35 years of age. It felt like more of a routine check back then.
But in the past year when I started exploring fertility treatment with a different doctor, I have felt a growing yearning to be a mother. The waiting period has given me space to solidify my reasons for why I want kids. I can now own these reasons for myself and not go through the motions just because of society’s expectations of what a married woman should desire, depending on whether you are in the children-are-a-blessing-from-God or DINK (dual-income-no-kids) camp… or otherwise.
The journey thus far has been more than a process of choosing methods and options for fertility treatment. It has helped to clarify my core motivations and values. Why would I bear with the pain and discomfort of assisted reproductive treatment which I would otherwise avoid, given a choice? Why would I even want to bring a child into this world when the outlook for future generations seems bleak, notwithstanding news of more and more abandoned or orphaned children in need of a home?
I have come to a place of recognising that I do have fear of pain, but the personal conviction to heed God’s call to be a mother overcomes that – to embrace suffering and the call to love as Jesus has demonstrated. We can live out our Christian calling in different ways; to me, it is the love of God that compels me to say yes to being a mother, in the family context through which God designs His blessings to flow from generation to generation. I believe in sowing into a future generation that will be light in the darkness and a steadfast anchor in the midst of chaos. And I believe that the lived experience of being a parent increases our appreciation for God's fatherly and motherly heart toward us, His children.
Motherhood is ultimately a personal calling. And perhaps similarly for some of you, your unborn dreams and ideals first need a safe place to be explored, wrestled with, nurtured, refined and re-defined somewhat into callings, before they are more ready to be expressed and acted on. There is no better time than that of waiting to strengthen and cement the conviction of your desires.
The past year’s journey also came with a growing palpable sense of restlessness.
“How long more?”
“When is it my turn?”
The waiting game is never easy when it is rife with temptations to compare with others who seem much more productive.
I was initially a little bothered when so many people gave well-intentioned advice on what I should do – IUI, IVF, TCM, adoption, or ‘just relax’. I did not mind so much the fact that they were advising me. It was the tyranny of many choices and I just wanted a clear word from God on what path to take. However, all I received from God was silence. Was I not hearing well enough? Was my mind too cluttered with worries to discern well? My husband and I had been praying for options to take at each monthly follow-up with the fertility doctor, up until I decided to take a break and first clear my COVID vaccination jabs.
It was not until a rhema word from Pastor Jenni unlocked something for me:
Perhaps God just wants me to own my decision and He will back me up as my Father.
I realised that much of my anxiety for wanting to know what to do during this waiting time was borne out of a fear of wasting time, not doing enough of what is within my control, and taking a ‘wrong’ path, even though all alternatives before me seemed possible.
I harboured a fear that my decisions were unwise to men or displeasing to God. And a fear of owning the ensuing consequences of choices made, should people question me with unspoken judgments. Do I have confidence as a maturing child of God that I will choose what is aligned to His good, pleasing and perfect will? Even if I were to choose an option with less desirable consequences, would I have faith in God’s loving kindness that He would intervene? Could I trust that what He allows me to experience is for a greater good?
After being honest with what I really wanted, I shared with my husband that I would rather be spared from going through assisted reproductive treatment at this point in time. We sensed that God has His timing for natural conception. And we now pray every night for a healthy womb and for eggs to ovulate every month as there is still that uncertainty from the check-ups. At the same time we are also looking to adopt a child while waiting for the time to pursue that seriously.
Resting in the present
I am now at greater peace of owning these desires, still in the waiting for God’s timing and His nudge should we need to change course. All this while, we are holding on to promises we have received from Him that our waiting and trust in Him will bear fruit. This has freed us up to focus on enjoying couple life together, making the most of our pre-children freedom and carefree dates (which our married-with-kids friends somewhat wistfully reminisce about).
While there are still lingering questions about a race against time with my biological clock ticking, I remind myself that there is really no one else I am racing with and ultimately all of time and life is in God’s hands. Instead of a harried race, I have a season of soul-restedness to celebrate. Not waiting to live a life of future ideals, but gratefully embracing my current reality.
The present waiting is truly a gift for this moment in time.