The moment the nurse placed him in my arms, I knew we belonged to each other. All the tears and frustrations of the past several years pooled into a fountain of joy. Now I understood why God has us wait for a baby: So we could have this baby.
After my husband and I struggled with infertility, the Lord blew us away with His kindness and matched us with a loving birthmother. Through her brave choice, He gave us a son.
People were happy for us. They threw us showers, brought meals, and eagerly cuddled our son. Yet amid the celebration, we heard comments hinting at something better to come. A wink here, a nudged elbow there, the crack of a smile implying special intuition. I cringed every time someone uttered the words:
“Now that you’ve adopted, you’ll get pregnant. It happens all the time.”
No fences? Huh. It was my first thought as I scanned our new neighborhood. From our home at the bottom of the cul-de-sac to the top of the hill, most of the houses sat next to each other without borders, their lush backyards blending into one long green alley.
My husband and I had just moved to a small town in Missouri, where we knew no one except one of his colleagues. As transplants from Arizona, we experienced major culture shock transitioning from the reclusive lifestyle of desert suburbia to the porch-squatting, casserole-swapping Midwest.
While my husband immediately took to the friendly atmosphere and began reaching out to get to know our neighbors, I shuttered myself inside. Because we were going through infertility, I wanted to avoid people and circumstances that could cause pain.
As I peered out our sliding glass door, seeing our neighbors fire up their grills and play catch with their kids, I sunk into loneliness. All I had to do was step outside and shout a hello. Instead, I drew the shades, slumped down on the couch, and questioned God: “Why did you put us here?”
On the floor in front of me, a fraying carpet strand held my gaze. “Don’t look up,” I whispered through gritted teeth. Pushing against the cold metal chair, I leaned forward and buried my nose in an outdated People magazine. The lower I hunched, the less pain I absorbed from this torture chamber known as the waiting room.
When I was struggling to get pregnant, I dreaded going to the gynecologist. The moment I set foot in the office, I got smacked in the face with glaring signs of what I didn’t have: moms patting their growing bellies, babies cooing or crying, sonograms whooshing with sounds of life. Even the clock in the exam room ticked incessant reminders that I was half-past due for motherhood.
I didn’t want to wait. Not here. Not for a baby. All I could think of was how much better life would be when this was over. When I could cradle my child. When I could sprint through the door and sob in the car.
I wore it with the confidence of a No Fear brand ambassador. I believed my neon yellow WWJD bracelet flashed the message I’M A CHRISTIAN, setting me apart from the world and in with the Jesus freaks.
Like other Christian movements of the 1990s, the “What Would Jesus Do?” phenomenon spawned a generation of youth group zealots motivated by peer pressure and rewarded with false assurances of holiness. Yet also like other movements during that era, WWJD carried a grain of truth. Christians should act like Jesus. Even in our current politicized evangelical landscape, the command to imitate Christ is indisputable.
Though WWJD had obvious flaws, I wonder if it deserves something of a reboot today. Hop onto any social media platform, and you’ll soon find examples of Christians acting in less than Christ-like ways. While many evangelicals have panned cancel culture, the problem extends beyond casting out a public figure to casting stones at anyone who expresses a thought or opinion that bothers you.
Before I became a mom, I pictured happiness as a gallery of chubby smiles, goofy faces, and sleeping babes nestled in their mama’s arms. That vision crystalized into a deep, unmet longing when I couldn’t get pregnant for months, then years. As I scrolled through my friends’ photos on social media, the whispers of future fulfillment grew to a roar: “Once you have kids, then you’ll be happy!”
In his kindness, God redeemed my tears and blessed me with the joy of raising two sons. Though I was grateful that he answered my prayers, having kids surprised me in a less-than-blissful way. As I labored to keep two young children fed, safe, and cared for, I realized my kids weren’t filling my life with continuous sunshine. Mothering made me tired, annoyed, sad, confused, and enraged, sometimes all within the span of a few minutes. Happiness seemed fleeting—like naptime, it didn’t last long enough.
The problem wasn’t that my kids were terrible or that I’d naively assumed motherhood would be easy. It was that I was treating my kids like vending machines. I thought they’d supply doses of happy feelings whenever I wanted and satisfy my craving for meaning in life.