You've all seen her or known her - that woman who strokes the baby blankets in the baby aisle, looks with longing at the crib sets and sighs at tiny shoes.
She's the one who switches to a longer line when she ends up behind a pregnant woman complaining about morning sickness on the phone to her mother. She's that girl who never RSVPs she's coming to a baby shower, and perhaps you've never understood why.
Maybe you are her or are married to her. You both feel alone each time the pregnancy test comes back negative; or, perhaps the point has come that you don't bother with them anymore.
Every time radiologists ask if there's any chance you're pregnant, you just laugh bitterly (I know I do).
When your friends and family members announce a pregnancy (thoughtful ones announce to you first so you have time to adjust privately), you cry, even though you really are happy for them ... really! It just hurts. Again.
And here comes Mother's Day. Again. The day that stings with reminders of what the seven in eight have that we don't, or so it seems. The day that reminds us of what we do not, no longer or may never be able to have. The day of macaroni art on refrigerators and adorably scribbled cards declaring love for Mommy. The day of flowers and breakfast in bed for all the seemingly perfectly happy moms with their beautiful families. It's all over Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat and absolutely everywhere at church.
So ... could you be one of the people unwittingly making this worse? How can you make it easier?
I have answers to both questions! Even the most well-meaning friend, coworker or church leader can unknowingly make a comment that cuts deep. Often, the seemingly innocent words are the wrong ones.
Things your childless friends want you to stop saying to them
"So, how many children do you have?" (Followed by) "Why not?" (and) "Aww, but you'd make a great mother!"
"Maybe you're not trying hard enough."
"Maybe it's not meant to be." (Or) "Perhaps it's not God's will just yet."
"Don't worry; if you'll just relax and stop thinking about it, it will happen."
"Have you tried ___ ?"
"You want kids? Take mine!"
"You're so LUCKY - I wish I could sleep in."
"I know exactly how you feel!! I had to try for 3 MONTHS for my second baby. It was just awful."
"You should really get over it. It's not the end of the world."
"Just adopt, then you'll get pregnant!"
"You'll understand when you have kids."
"Any news on that yet?"
"But you are a mother, in spirit." (This one is a hard thing to swallow for a lot of women. For others, they do appreciate it.)
So, now that we've covered some of the things you may be saying that you did not realize were not helping, what can you do to BLESS the lives of your childless friends? Well, perhaps it would help to let you in on some of the things we wish you knew.
You can help distract us! Sometimes we really need it, and your support means a lot.
Just because my feelings get hurt, doesn't necessarily mean I'm oversensitive. Sometimes it can mean you're insensitive.
We can make an effort to get along with pregnant women if they can make an effort to not complain about how hard pregnancy is.
Be an encourager, a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.
Flowers are nice for aunts, godmothers and sisters, too.
We can and should honor spiritual and honorary mothers and mentors: those who have contributed to our lives and given of themselves.
As women, we do not acknowledge enough the results of our influence.
In Genesis 3:20, Eve was called the "mother of all living" well before she bore children. As daughters of Eve, women can be maternal without children, too. (I'm not saying we are mothers, just maternal influences).
We can honor the mothers who bore us and those who bear with us. Perhaps this holiday needs to be treated more as Women's Day, with a focus on women being whatever kind of maternal figure each is intended to be.