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Beating The Odds: Childless But Not Fruitless.

As the year grinds to an end, you may be considering yourself as one who has failed. Just when you thought you will be a father, is when your lovely wife miscarried. Just when you thought assisted reproductive technology would help, is when the pregnancy test confirms that it has not happened again. IVF attempts have failed to give you the entitlement to motherhood and denied your spouse to be passionately called “daddy.” It’s another surgery again, when the doctors are trying to deal with the issue that has made you considered socially deviant.

Dozens of suggestions have been brought to your attention. Some littered with an aura of scorn and others a genuine plea to ameliorate the condition. As you look in retrospect, you feel you have been a fruitless person. You walk with the burden of the stigma-lensed society weighing down on your shoulders. A feeling of insignificance malignantly hangs over your troubled soul. You feel it is time to throw in the towel.

As someone walking in your shoes, following the acronym: CHILDLESS, I have penned down nine points of considering your childlessness as fruitfulness. In my pastoring years and in doing ministry without a biological child, I have noticed these themes as key to enabling one to live a fruitful life.

1. Consider it an extended honeymoon. Those who choose to be childfree, have many reasons for making that decision. Among those, is that they want to have quality time with their spouses. While your situation and mine are unchosen, we can accept what is obtaining and consider this as an opportunity to learn to love each other in the absence of children. When I want to go for holiday with my wife, I do not think about where to leave the children, I just go!! I consider this as an involuntarily extended honeymoon.

2. Help somebody. Schwartz and Sendor’s research[1] on 132 people with the same chronic illness, revealed the immense benefits of helping others with the same condition. Their study indicated that they had a better self-concept and related better with others after helping others. You may be knowing a friend who is childless, this could be your time to walk to his/her house, or call and find out how this life is treating him/her. This will yield fruits of happiness to your friend, and cheeriness to your soul. REMEMBER, the person who is in dire need of your help, is your spouse.

3.Inspire others with hope. The journey of pain becomes lighter as we encourage others to fearlessly walk in it. Inspiring hope doesn’t have to be a huge task. It could be saying a kind word to someone in pain. It may take sending a message of hope or calling the one suffering. Noticing that a colleague is not well and trying to help is a sign of fruitfulness.

4.Laugh at absurdity. The society expects to see you shrinking and bending towards its ludicrousness. Most of the comments, are meant not only to demean but also to depersonalise you. When you give in, the inflictors have won. Instead walk with you head high. Repeat the words of Jody Day: “Childless is one of the many things I am.” Having this is in mind has helped me walk with my head up high. While I may not be a biological father, I have given birth to many beautiful ideas that have helped those around me. I cannot be belittled by insensitive comments. Winston Churchill once said, “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” Whatever it takes keep moving on, you are childless but not fruitless.

5. Daily journaling. Writing is such a powerful tool that enables one to express feelings and talk to oneself. This is a pastoral tool that has helped me to use personal pain to be a healing balm to others. Journaling enables the one doing it to cope with the pressure of untoward circumstances surrounding him/her. You can benefit from keeping a journal. Take time to reflect on your day. Ask yourself how it has been, challenges you met and how you dealt with them. Describe your feelings in each. Identify what you could do better. What were your coping mechanisms? Were they healthy or not?

6. Love yourself.Few people have time to love the next person. If you are expecting to receive affection from others, you may be disappointed. Self-absorption and emotional incontinence that pervades the post-modern world have a tendency to make one feel alienated. Having a healthy self-concept is the key to being fruitful.

7. Empower yourself. Some people think that a childless person is incapable of doing great things. You can prove them wrong by taking time to empower yourself with knowledge and skills. Use your talents to the best of your ability. Be a fountain of blessings.

8. Succeed in all you do.Whatever task you undertake, do it to perfection. Give yourself to it. Remember, the society is already counting you to be less of a person. It takes accepting one’s situation to be able to have a succeeding attitude and rise above the socially defined status.

9. Stay away from negative people.Gloom and doom love companionship. There are people whose conversation is punctuated with putdowns and negativity. A miasma of pessimism lingers around them and they do not look at anything positively. Their thought pattern is marred with the sadness. Such are the people that kill your fruitfulness. When you have a new idea, they will always say why it will fail. They never see the possibility of success in anything. Investing time in such people is like having shares in a collapsing company.

We wish you a fruitful festive season. May God lift you when you fall, answer you when you call and be with you in all. Find strength from the introspective poem I recently wrote:

My Dream is not Fruitless

The cool air bellowed past the parched meadows
Small wispy clouds emerged from the west
Slowly wafting a wave of hope to me
This was now the time to get my fields watered
At least like others they would be wet and puddled
The singed grass tail ends would soon be turning green
Would my dream come to fruition?

I sat there in anticipation of a heavy downpour
Then suddenly a north-western current took over the stage
At a higher velocity than the western rainmaking breeze
It went past a smouldering stem left by the bee collectors
Behind it followed incensed tongues of fire
They ferociously licked up the remaining stubs
Leaving a trail of soot and nothing for my livestock
Could my dream be fruitless?

Soon I will be counted as a nobody
A poor planner and a cursed non-performer
Neighbours around had their fields blossoming
While mind lay as a fruitless desert
Would my dream rise from fruitlessness?

Then it suddenly dawned to me
My problem was comparing my field with others
I was to use it for something else
I discovered that it was covering a gold belt
The parched grounds were overlaying the precious ore
I just needed to consider another option
Digging deeper than spreading wider
Maybe my dream would be fruitful

My biological child may not have come
He or she may remain in the recess of my mind
However, my fields are not unproductive
I just needed to discover my gold
Covered by the sun scorched plain of childlessness
Truly, my dream is not fruitless

[1] Carolyn Schwartz and Meir Sendor, “Helping Others Helps Oneself: Response Shift Effects in Peer Support
S.Dube