Turning 35 is a traumatic event in the life of a woman, or at least it was in mine.
Surveys that ask for an age category ungraciously and without my permission moved me from the 24-34 category to the 35-45 category. The checkbox next to 35-45 didn’t seem right. It didn’t fit me. But nevertheless, I unwittingly graduated from my peer group.
I also graduated into the less-than-optimal age to bear a child. Even though I had not planned on giving birth to my children, it was still difficult to know that I had crossed that milestone.
Otherwise, things were going very well in my life. I had been offered the job that I had been pursuing for six years. My health had stabilized, after spending six months of the previous year dealing with treatment-resistant asthma. Ken had found a wonderful job at a church, working with college students, which is his passion. After 12 years of marriage with lots of relocation, educational pursuits, and career changes, we were finally settling in to a time of stability.
As I approached 35, and saw our life coming together, there was a piece missing: children. But clearly, Ken felt differently. It wasn’t that Ken didn’t like children; he simply liked “just us” even more. We never really discussed the subject much, but subtle comments, and answers to those who asked us when we were going to have children, confirmed it: Ken did not want children.
Through seven moves and thirteen job changes in twelve years, we had never disagreed on anything significant. At the same time, I didn’t want to “convince” Ken to have kids, especially since we were planning on adopting. You can’t accidentaly adopt a child, nor can one parent adopt without the other. We had to adopt together.
So rather than fuss or argue or manipulate, I decided to pray. I never talked to anyone about it. I just prayed that God would either change Ken’s heart or change mine.
And nothing happened.
So I prayed more.
I wrestled with being in a church that celebrates family and prays for every pregnant woman every week. Names would come. Names would go.
I prayed again.
A coworker reminded me on nearly a daily basis that I was not a mother. To her, it was the reason that I approached the classroom differently, why I struggled under my workload, or why students were always at my office door to ask questions or get advice. These were all shortcomings, in her opinion, all related to one thing: “You don’t understand,” she would condescend, “because you’re not a mother.”
I prayed. And I won Professor of the Year, by the way. Even though I wasn’t a mother.
I would avoid every baby shower I could because I so wanted a piece of motherhood’s joy to be mine, and I was terribly afraid that I would burst into tears.
So I stayed away. And prayed.
When I would mention how busy I was for one reason or another, others would comment, “Well, at least you don’t have children.” They were right. I didn’t. But it wasn’t because I didn’t want to. And I couldn’t even explain why we didn’t have kids. I just had to say that it was true.
And I prayed.
When Ken was away, I would spend hours perusing adoption websites for waiting children. There were so many children both in the United States and abroad who needed a family, and I needed children.
So I prayed some more.
For 2 ½ years I prayed that God would change my heart, or change Ken’s. And after all of that time, my heart had not changed.
And then one evening in July of 2010, as we were eating at a sushi restaurant, Ken said that he had been thinking about it, and he thought that the time had come for us to pursue adoption. Still dazed and confused, two days later we were at an adoption meeting at our church to talk about domestic infant and international adoption.
As dark as my 35th and 36th year had been, 37 was looking much brighter.