I’m still “just the dog mom.” In fact, I’m the last female in my graduating high school class who is married without any children. A childless woman reared in the beautiful, humid, southern state of Georgia, I’m similar to a goblin—a non-existent creature with a few rough-edged problems.
The biggest, roughest problem? I don’t have children. Plain and simple.
The next problem following at a close second? I’m 27. And in the south, that’s old for starting a family—like, your-biological-clock-is-ticking-you-old-hag kind of old.
But, unfortunately, both problems tend to reside within others. While my husband and I want kiddos in the future, we’re both content continuing to love on each other and our terrible, but super cute gremlin dogs, Alfie and Daisy. It’s everyone else who seems concerned when my belly never bulges.
What’s even more soul-trampling is that I’m a social misfit not only by southern culture standards but in the church too. As someone who grew up in the Bible Belt, and continues to attend church even out West, I’ve noticed that most small groups, Bible studies, life groups—you name it—for women in their late twenties or early thirties are centered on motherhood.
This past August, I truly wanted to find a life group, a group of like-minded women who could encourage me and hold me accountable. But as I combed the list of life group options for women my age, I discovered there wasn’t one for me. I didn’t fit any actual mold. I didn’t have kids, so I couldn’t relate to any of the parenting classes. In fact, the only life group I remotely fit into was for women nearly 10+ years older than me. I tried it, doing my best to integrate into healthy church culture, but I wasn’t a match there either.
Sometimes, when you don’t have children, you simply don’t belong.
And it’s absolutely gut-wrenching.
When you’re like me and you’ve also had a medical scare threatening your ability to have children, you almost retreat from motherhood’s culture altogether.
So, whether biology is throwing up roadblocks, you aren’t married, or you simply don’t want children, I have a few words of encouragement for you:
God chose a socially outcast woman to bring Jesus into the world.
Yes, Mary had Jesus. She birthed a child, the Child—which seems to divert from the direction of my message—but that’s not the point. Stick with me here:
God chose a woman who fit no proper social status to go through all sorts of church-based condemnation in order to have Christ. God allowed this woman to face rejection over and over to fulfill His purpose—the kind of purpose that would bind the enemy once and for all.
Let's delve into that concept a little more:
No proper status:
Even those outside the Christian realm know that Mary was poor. I mean, she placed her baby in an animal feeding trough. She had literally nothing to show for who she was, what she could bring to the table (which, again, was literally nothing).
For me, I often compare what I don’t bring to the table with what Christian women my age who have kids do bring to the table. I ruminate that they can show up with another human being they birthed, sharing their own wisdom and blessings that I’m immune to, which leaves me with empty hands and an emptier soul. Empty and hollow not because I’m currently in a place where I’m dying to have kids, but because I’m a social outcast. I don’t belong anywhere amidst this middle-school lunch-table sort of scene.
I had a Christian leader whom I deeply admire share one day that the sole purpose of sex is to have children. In fact, as a woman, my purpose is lacking if I’m not producing child after child in my marriage.
I’ve yet to shake that statement. I’d say it was a tough pill to swallow, but I never swallowed it. Instead, I allowed this tart message to sit in my throat for a minute, unsure that I was willing to consume this message as biblical truth. In fact, I continue to discover that many Christians hold to this belief, that women are sinners if they use birth control or don’t have children, regardless of personal, biological, or mental-health-based reasons for abstaining.
This, in its own sense, is church-based condemnation. Mary was pregnant outside of wedlock. I’m over here not pregnant, having been married for nearly four years. In the church leaders’ eyes, Mary and I are actively defying the proper, social, spiritual prerequisites for women. And yet, Mary was the most obedient woman of us all, and meanwhile, I choose to believe Jesus is using my motherless life to fulfill needs I might only understand on the other side of this earth.
To fulfill His purpose:
It’s no secret that all of us want to know why we exist. We crave to know our purpose, to step into it with confidence and assurance that we matter. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I believe God wired us that way to prod us towards Him.
I believe Mary's biggest God-given purpose was to deliver my sweet, redeeming, precious baby Jesus. Likewise, while I don’t have spiritual hindsight, I firmly believe one of my biggest God-given purposes is to share God’s grace and goodness with those struggling with mental health, particularly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The stereotype around OCD prohibits so many sufferers from getting proper help and finding true community. The World Health Organization has actually listed OCD in the top 10 most debilitating diseases/disorders; it’s up there with diabetes and pulmonary diseases. This is tough stuff, and I want to be there for the women who are at their lowest, fighting to keep their heads above OCD's tumultuous waters.
Just like Mary was called to birth the Child who would dig through the trenches with us, who wouldn’t be afraid of our least favorite parts of ourselves, I would like to believe that’s my calling too. It might not ever be to have children, but it is to show up for people who are in the mucky, dark, terrifying trenches of OCD, who are afraid to mention the wild, irrational, debilitating thoughts that drive their obsessions and make them believe they are their own worst monster.
Mary stood in the gap—regardless of social protocols and church rules. And while I don’t have the honor of birthing Jesus, I do have the honor to stand in the gap too, making women feel seen, welcomed, and loved by a good, good God—regardless of social protocols, church rules, and mental health struggles.
In short, our purpose never relies on human precepts. Even the churchy kind. Our purpose resides in a God who loves to step outside the norm to change the world for the better.
So, while I believe God made women with this insanely beautiful, scientifically miraculous ability to conceive, carry, and birth humans into the world, I think He also holds other women on reserve for purposes wilder than our female imaginations could ever create. (And let’s face it, us ladies have some pretty wild, beautiful imaginations that tend to defy reality!)
What an honor to know that God sees the most delicate, near-shattered pieces of us and still whispers to us all: “If you only knew just how big of a space, a marvelous space, you’re taking up right here, right now. Just as you are.”
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/fizkes
Peyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves connecting people to a grace much bigger than expected. Her debut book, Not So by Myself, was promoted by Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and Endorsed by TED Talk speaker and creator of the More Love Letters Movement, Hannah Brencher. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Josh, and their two gremlin dogs, Alfie and Daisy.