“So, how many children do you have?” My work as an engineer has taken Linda and me to live in most areas of the country, and the question always greets us in our new ward or branch. The question is harmless enough; it’s the response of the asker on finding that we have no children that can be painful. It seems that the stigma of barrenness is as strong in our church culture today as it was in the days of Hannah.
Fourteen years ago, we were typical newlyweds, with plans for a large family. My wife is the oldest of eight, and my patriarchal blessing promises me “sons and daughters,” which sounded like at least four children to us. Somehow, it didn’t work out that way. Between the time I got out of the army and graduated from college, we had a series of miscarriages—we lost count—ending with a tubal pregnancy that almost took Linda’s life. We got the impression that the calling of parenthood was not going to be for us.
“Why don’t you just adopt?” or some variation of that question—complete with a “success” story—usually follows our announcement that we are childless. But in our society, adoption is much easier said than done. Today it seems that most unwanted babies are aborted, creating a fierce competition for the remaining few that are carried full-term and born. Furthermore, the adoption agencies have established standards for adoptive parents that we have been unable to meet, first due to medical reasons and now—though we hate to admit it—age.
It has taken years, but we have overcome the bitterness and have almost reached the point where the questions don’t hurt. The askers are usually well-meaning but insensitive. Through the years, we feel we have examined all the options. It’s just that there are none left. Mother’s Day is hard for my wife, and it is impossible for me to ignore the fact that our firstborn son would have been going with me to general priesthood meeting for the first time this fall. It’s sad to realize that my grandfather’s name dies with me.
But they say that when the Lord closes a door, he opens a window. The opportunities for service that we have had in the Church have been wonderful. Although we haven’t had to arrange for babysitters, we have been blessed with the task of raising the Lord’s children through our ward and branch callings. The graduate course we have taken in heartache has given us an understanding of the pain of others. We have told the Lord that we are at his service, and he has taken us up on it and blessed us in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
Don’t feel sorry for us. If in this life we are not called to be parents, we do have the assurance that we will not always be without children. Someday we will have little ones running around our celestial home. And we will appreciate them all the more for the wait.