“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” -Psalm 90:12
Whether it’s easy to admit of not, if you’re struggling with infertility, it means you are facing days in your life plans that are freer than you were expecting. We often don’t know how long these days will last — it may be a few extra months, it may be a couple more years, or it could very well be a totally different life from now on than we’d planned. By now we were hoping to be morning sick or chasing a toddler around the house. Some of us were already saving for school tuition and extra mouths to feed. We thought we’d be on our way to quitting our so-so (or very beloved) job and cutting back on other commitments. But here we are. Waiting. Free, but not so “footloose and fancy.”
Psalm 90 beckons us to be wise when we look at our days. Likewise, Ephesians 5:15-16 warn:
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”
While this blog has often talked of the need to seize these days in a spiritual sense, we would be remiss if we didn’t also consider how to use these unexpectedly free hours in a practical sense. I’d like to make some suggestions to pray about as you (and your spouse!) ask yourselves: How can we best use this time?
- Invest in the children and families already in your life. It takes a lot of maturity to look past the desire for your own children and look more widely at those God has already put in your life. Perhaps you might consider investing more fully in nieces and nephews, younger siblings, kids of church friends or neighbors, etc. Besides the personal benefits of gaining more experience with kids, you’ll be using time you have now (that you likely won’t have as much of later) to bless others. You may even find a way to relieve some of the burden of loving your own children. How can you do this?
- Babysit – I know, it’s not usually a fun thing! It will be sanctifying to you and a blessing to others. Consider it an investment in the marriage of another — you and your husband likely have regular date nights, don’t you think your neighbors would love one, too?
- Be involved – Go to sports games and recitals, hand-pick personal birthday gifts, and spend time getting to know these kids a little more. Parents really appreciate someone who shows genuine care for their kids (and kids do, too!).
- Love a mom – Moms need a ton of support. Moms of very young kids are especially in need of an extra hand. Look around at the moms in your life or consider asking your Pastor or his wife if they know a young mom who might need a little help. This might be tagging along on a shopping trip to reign in runaway kids, helping fold laundry while she’s cleaning the bathroom, or just coming over for a visit to give her some adult conversation every now and then.
- Grow in knowledge. Take the time and money you have and learn a new skill or develop ones you already have. Maybe you’ll want to take a course or higher a tutor, or maybe you’ll want to buy some extra materials or just spend more time practicing. It could be years before you’re free to invest in yourself again.
- Grow spiritually. This is the main focus of this blog, but it’s worth reminding you, oh reader, that the Lord is shouting to you in your pain (to paraphrase CS Lewis). Use your freedom (however unwelcome it may be) to memorize scripture, grow your prayer list, read more theology, and take some classes at church. One day you may be thirsting for the chance! The Bible speaks so much of investing in things that cannot be destroyed — no matter what your future holds, you’ll never regret investing in your soul.
- Invest in your marriage. Someday it may seem impossible to work in a date night for months or years. It may be all you can do to say “hey” to your spouse in between a morning feeding and eventually crawling into bed at night. Consider using your days now to build an even stronger foundation for your relationship. Look into a marriage retreat or conference (I recommend this one), read some books together or by yourself (here’s a good list), take up a hobby together or start taking date night more seriously. Your future kids will definitely thank you for having a strong marriage!
- Focus more on your work. When I say “focus on work,” I don’t mean become obsessed with work, distract yourself with overtime, or make your career your idol. But if you’re in a job, why not do it with excellence? Do your duties to the fullest. Improve your credentials or position. Consider making changes if you’re in something you were hoping to leave by now (I know this can be hard to face — like admitting defeat — but I’d encourage you to to see it as good stewardship of your hours and energy).
- Serve your church. Look into more ways you can be blessing your church with your time and energy. It may be teaching a class or serving behind the scenes, or signing up for one-time events. Talk to your pastor or other leaders to explore options you may not even know about.
- Consider missions work. Your church or a para-church organization (like this one or this one) may have some short-term (from weeks, to months, to even a year or two) opportunities that are a good fit for you. Investing your time in the global cause for the gospel is priceless.
- Consider being a foster parent. Even if you aren’t sure adoption is in your future, if your heart is to love and parent children, there’s no reason you can’t start now. There are thousands of children in the foster system today who would benefit from even a temporary stay with a loving family. Every state has a different process for this, usually requiring some informational classes and parenting classes, and an application and interview process. You can google your state or go here for more info.
- Prepare for parenthood. I hesitate to mention this because I personally don’t feel the best way to use infertile months is to obsess over having kids. It’s for you to choose healthy boundaries. You can certainly gauge which investments of time and money might be regrettable in the future. If there’s a chance you’ll be a parent one day, it might be wise to think ahead. Does your church offer a parenting class? Have you heard any book recommendations from friends?
What makes it so hard to face a topic like this? Is it a lack of maturity that isn’t willing to open our hands that were clenched around that one big thing — a B-A-B-Y. A feeling, deep inside (or right out on the surface) of If I can’t do what I want with my time, I’m not doing anything else. Is it a fear that it will be admitting defeat and moving on? Will God think you forgot about trying to conceive? “Oh, look, she’s busy, I guess she’s good after all.” Is it a sort of denial about the situation — we all keep waiting one more month?
As “one of you,” I want to personally challenge you to pray past the pain of redirecting your time and heart. Choose to peacefully hand that pain to the Lord, and step up to opportunity presented to you in this “blank slate” you didn’t know you were going to have. Pray with and without your spouse about how to be faithful stewards of each month you’re handed, and then be faithful.
“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” -1 Corinthians 4:2