Faith, Fertility, and Motherhood

by - June 12, 2009

For your reading pleasure from 1 Samuel:
1 There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"

9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD's temple. 10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. 11 And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."

12 As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."
15 "Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."
17 Eli answered, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him."
18 She said, "May your servant find favor in your eyes." Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, c]">[c] saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."

More than several years ago in college, I read an intriguing book about five Biblical characters' prayer lives. One was Hannah, mother of Samuel. Her story, posted above, really touched me because she entrusted her fertility and surrendered her motherhood to God before her son was even conceived. In college I began praying that my future children would learn to love God, and that I would place my desire for their affection towards me beneath my desire that they would know and love Jesus.

When Joe and I began to seriously think about having children, I prayed a very simple prayer, something along the lines of, "God, I think I may be ready to have children, but I want your will and your timing. If it is your will, please open my womb and prepare my heart." About two months later, Scooby was conceived. Six weeks into the pregnancy I had spotting and was heart broken that I had lost the pregnancy. However, things were fine and Scooby is here with us now.

We never went back on birth control in any form but decided to trust again in God's timing, secretly hoping we wouldn't get pregnant right away. Around February, not long after Scooby's first birthday, Joe and I once again began talking about growing the family. In my heart of hearts, I was terrified of disrupting the peace as I totally cherished our little trio. I was overwhelmed at the thought of being home alone each day with an infant and toddler and fearful that I didn't have enough love for two. Once again though, I prayed that God would open my womb if it was his will and that he would prepare my heart for whatever came. While in words I trusted God, in my heart and in action I retracted this submission of will and tried to control circumstances. However, we still managed to conceive. Were it 15 years ago before insanely sensitive at-home digital pregnancy tests, I never would have known early in March that I was pregnant and had miscarried four days later.

Every woman experiences miscarriage in her own way. Mine happened so quickly that I had barely processed the affirmative test. I was not bitter, I was not angry, I was not sad. I was certainly not apathetic and did experience feelings of loss, but I saw the entire experience as a reminder that God alone is sovereign over my fertility. In some respects I had anticipated a miscarriage as a third of pregnancies end in miscarriage and many of my friends have recently experienced miscarriages. I had a feeling for the week leading up to the test and miscarriage that something wasn't right. I've never viewed my children as my own, but as individuals created (or to be created) by a God who has known them far longer and far more deeply than I ever will. Through my miscarriage, I felt loved by God. He loved me enough to remind me that his plans are far greater than my own. I repented of my lack of trust and my attempts to assert my will over his and I felt at peace.

As it turns out, I conceived again mid April and am now 10 weeks along in my third pregnancy. It took Joe and I several weeks to get excited. I read that after a miscarriage, pregnancy never again holds the same carefree joy and that some women stay disconnected emotionally until they actually are holding the healthy infant in their arms. To be honest, I don't think I had that carefree joy while pregnant with Scooby due to the early complications, but it does feel different this time. During the first month, I was constantly anxious and having to constantly pray God would protect this baby and that I would trust God's will with my pregnancy. I still feel a little disconnected and fearful of losing this one too.

It is one thing to know something and another to let that knowledge transform your heart. To some, I might sound delusional in my beliefs, to some I might sound overly pious. Some might say I have it together. I won't claim any of that, because although I have personally experienced God's love and sovereignty over my life, I swim in doubts daily - doubts that seem to drown out whatever conversation I do manage to have with God. However, God hears my prayers... the ones that echo in my head at 3 am when I can't sleep, the ones spoken in fear, the ones said with a lack of confidence that he even hears me. Fortunately, my faith or lack of faith doesn't change who he is, how he loves, or his pursuit of me.

I am still terrified of having two children. Most evenings before I go to bed, I feel like a terrible failure at loving my child, and it just now occurs to me this is because I am trying to love Scooby with mama love and not God love - and I can't offer the love my children need if I am not immersed in it myself. Though it is so vital to his development, Mama and Dada love will fail him. I typically attribute my feelings of failure to exhaustion, not reading to him enough, letting him watch too much tv, or my being holed up on the couch with morning sickness, but the source is much deeper. Scooby will primarily learn of God's love by seeing his parents daily transformed by the power of the cross. My flippant postponement of developing my faith and spending time with God in the name of the chaos that is motherhood does not cut it.

Fortunately, I am surrounded by some amazing women I am blessed to call friends. They are excellent examples of women allowing God to guide their lives as wives, mothers and individuals, and they openly share their failures and daily struggles. Several have committed to holding me accountable. Thanks, ladies!

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  1. Amazing post!....and congratulations! How exciting :)

  2. Paige, I love reading your brain. You have so much wisdom and I know God teaches me through you! We are so excited about your new little baby! So glad we can do life together :-)

  3. Paige that is wonderful news! We love reading your blog and watching Daniel grow. And now another little Puckett to play in the garden. So, due in January?? We hope to see you guys in Sept for the nancysmitty wedding!!

  4. Oh Paige, I'm so sad that you did not get a chance to meet your second baby. It's pretty crazy how many people "1 in 3" is... I'm glad you have shared your loss, and your gain. I pray that your third baby will be safe and that you will soon hold him/her in you arms after a wonderful labor! And yes, having a toddler and an infant is certainly a challenge, or so I've heard... ;)

  5. My heart swelled when I read your post. I am one of the '1 in 3'. This being our second pregnancy, our due date is well 5 days from today. I can appreciate what you wrote about staying 'disconnected' , but have also been extremely faithful in God amongst a mist of doubts.
    Congratulations to you.

  6. Paige, I know that this is almost 2 weeks late and so much has happened since then, but I'm reading this great book right now, Feminine Appeal, and I came across the perfect words in regard to the situation that you wrote about in this post. You may not be feeling the same way now, but if these thoughts and feelings arise again, hear is a reminder of the truth in God's Word in regards to this situation ...

    In talking about the demanding job of motherhood, Carolyn Mahaney says this, "Though the mission is grave and vast, God's grace is greater. He kindly reminds us in His Word: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9)."

    "So if today you missed opportunities to show a tender love, or if you neglected to pray for your children, or if you were impatient with them, and even if you lost your smile and feel like a complete failure as a mother -- take heart!"

    "God's grace is sufficient for you. Look to the cross where Christ died. There He purchased forgiveness for our sins and power to grow in godliness. Not one of us is equal to this task of mothering, but He will help us in our weakness. God will provide all the grace we need to love our children tenderly."

    Know that I'm still praying for you!



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