Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

With Eyes of Faith…Adversarial Growth April 19, 2012

By Dorothy Williams

“Great suffering or trauma

can actually lead to great positive change…”

 

Shawn Achor

Does your mental map include a path that leads up out of adversity to a place where you are stronger than ever before?  Positive psychology researcher, Shawn Achor, believes it is essential to creating happiness and he refers to it as a path that leads to Post-Traumatic Growth.

In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn explains it this way:

“…when soldiers are heading to combat, psychologists commonly tell them they will return either ‘normal’ or with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  What this does, in effect, is give these soldiers a mental map with only two paths – normalcy and psychic distress.  Yet while PTSD is of course a well-documented and serious consequence of war (and while war can be so horrifying that returning ‘normal’ might be a very attractive promise), another large body of research proves the existence of a third, far better path:  Post Traumatic Growth.”

Also known to psychologists as Adversarial Growth, the experience is achievable if you know the right strategies.  Shawn adds, “People’s ability to find the path up rests largely on how they conceive of the cards they have been dealt, so the strategies that most often lead to Adversarial Growth include positive reinterpretation of the situation or event, optimism, acceptance, and coping mechanisms that include focusing on the problem head-on (rather than trying to avoid or deny it).”

Thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, I found the third path. With spring bursting forth here in the Midwest, and Easter’s resurrection power welling up within, I’m compelled to keep exploring it.

How about you? How are you dealing with the adversity that comes with infertility?

Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago.  During a flurry of spring cleaning, she tossed out the cards she was dealt. 

 

With Eyes of Faith: Chero, Elisabeth Leseur March 22, 2012

By Dorothy Williams

“Those whom we encounter on our earthly path

often see in passing the outer wrappings of our being

and go their way, confident of knowing us well enough. 

Let us be careful not to do the same with the companions of our life.”

~Elisabeth Leseur

Among childless women, there are leaders and there are followers.  Many of the Cheroes celebrated on this blog are leaders who made a big splash, had great impact on the world, and made a name for themselves. That’s great if you’re a leader, but not all of us are called to do that. Elisabeth Leseur provides us with an example of what happens when a childless woman simply follows Christ.

In 1889, Pauline Elisabeth Arrighi married Felix Leseur after meeting him through mutual friends.  Felix was a doctor who also directed a large insurance company and it was sometime during medical school that he lost his faith.  After marrying, he permitted Elisabeth to practice her religion, but he and his friends constantly ridiculed her for what they thought were ignorant superstitions.  Despite this tension in their marriage, they loved each other passionately and Felix provided his wife with a wonderful life, which included travel to countries like Italy, Russia, Turkey and Greece. In her own words, Elisabeth provides a glimpse into the relationship: “Some joyful days, because of a present from Felix, and more because of the words that accompanied it – words so full of love that I am moved to great happiness.”

From the time they married until her death from breast cancer in 1914, Elisabeth prayed for her husband’s return to the Christian faith.  She kept a diary to give voice to her experience, but Felix did not learn of it until after she died.  A year later, he not only regained his faith, but also published the diary.  (The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, published by Sopia Institute Press, is still available!)

In his remarks that preface the diary, Felix says: “My beloved wife, Elisabeth, prayed incessantly for my return to the Faith…But she did this secretly, for she never argued with me and never spoke to me of the supernatural side of her life, save by her example.”

A few years later, in 1923, Felix was ordained a Dominican priest, and over the next two decades devoted his ministry to giving talks about Elisabeth’s spirituality.  Father Leseur died in 1950 and the Church opened a cause for his wife’s canonization in 1990.

What I admire about this Chero is that she did not leave a difficult marriage to pursue holiness elsewhere, nor did she worry about leading causes to justify her existence as a childfree woman. So if you’re feeling a lot of societal pressure to go out and do something to fill the void left by infertility, think of Elisabeth…and pray.

Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago.  She is praying for her own husband’s return to the faith and found domestic bliss by acting on the advice of good marriage counselors.  

 

With Eyes of Faith…Hannah’s Significant Other November 17, 2011

By Dorothy Williams

“…why are you weeping? Why are you not eating? Why are you so miserable? Am I not better for you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8)

 

The questions a husband asked his barren wife many centuries ago could just as easily represent feelings secretly harbored by our family members today. Can you imagine poor Elkanah sitting by the bedside of his wife, Hannah, feeling completely helpless and perfectly invisible as she quietly sobbed and rocked herself? 
And I ask myself, how many times did my own husband sit by me feeling the same thing? Or what about my sweet mother?  Or even my best friend? I was blind to their love, too, as I grieved the loss of my children.

 

In the biblical story, Elkanah had two wives named Hannah and Peninnah, but only Hannah was barren.  Peninnah used her status as a “mother of sons and daughters” to provoke and torment Hannah because she viewed her as a rival. Seeing what was going on, Elkanah gave “a double portion to Hannah because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5).

 

When we are provoked, it’s easy to devalue the close relationships we enjoy with our spouse and other best friends. I guess it’s because the power of the moment gets our focus fixed on what we lack rather than on all that we have.  For me, it was like a giant microscope was shoved into my face every time I had to deal with a pregnancy announcement.  My grief forced me to peer down a tube at this giant hole in my soul, blinding me to the daily favor I enjoy as a child of God.

 

And speaking of God, the same questions could be posed in a different way:  Isn’t our relationship with the Lord better for us than ten sons?  And where in our lives has God given us a “double portion” because we are so deeply loved?

 

It’s something to think about this Thanksgiving, as we count our blessings.

 

Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago.  She enjoys time spent with her family in Christ.

 

Guest Post: With Eyes of Faith…Our Sacred Journey October 20, 2011

I’m very pleased to announce a new series of guest bloggers. We’re kicking off this week with Dorothy, who will share her thoughts on faith and infertility. If you’d like to contribute your voice to the conversation, I’d love to hear from you. You can find  Guest Blogger guidelines here

by Dorothy Williams

“Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:27).

 

As a childless Christian, I was shocked to discover the lack of biblical guidance for my particular situation. You know, the kind of specific, scriptural passages which give hope to a permanently barren wife. And I stress the word permanently because the more I researched the topic, the more I saw that infertility was merely a temporary situation for believers.  As I looked at examples from the lives of Abraham and Sara to Hannah to Elizabeth, I saw one miracle baby after another.  Gosh, it seemed that as long as I had God on my side, all I had to do was pray for my circumstances to change and BANG! I would get that miracle baby.

But that didn’t happen.  So where in the bible was support for my situation? Did it mean that my journey was not sacred or my life not meaningful?

After praying about this for over a year, the answer finally came when the Lord prompted me to look more closely at a resurrection story about Jesus.  It’s known as the “Road to Emmaus” and it is contained in a book of the bible called the gospel of Luke (specifically, Luke 24:13-35).  I won’t repeat it here, except for the one line quoted at the top of this blog entry.  The gist of it is that the bible is not actually about me. (Slap my forehead…duh!)   It is about God’s relationship with His people and the gift of His Son, Jesus.

Christians believe that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus saves us from everything that is lacking in the human condition, including infertility. Our journey can be sacred despite all the twists and turns it may take because Christ’s perfection fills up what is imperfect in our own lives.

So I have a renewed devotion to the risen Jesus, of course, but this exercise also gave me a profound respect for authors who write specifically on the topic of being permanently childless.  Their books may not carry the weight of Holy Scripture, but they just might be working with God in a different way to give our lives sacred meaning as we travel together on this unique road.

Dorothy Williams lives in the Chicagoland area and is making the transition from childless to childfree to Christian one prayer at a time.