You Have a Chronic Illness and Decide Not to
By Lisa Copen
of us have children
of us do not. Some of us plan
to have children, some of us adopt
some of us listen to God and He
says, "let the dream go."
I take a couple of years off after
graduation and go back to college,
I could have my masters degree
by the time I'm 25," I enthusiastically
told my mom. Despite raising me
to believe I could do anything
I put my mind to, her heartfelt
response was, "But I want
you to have a baby by the time
I am pushing 32 and the baby has
yet to arrive. I married at 27,
tried to have the baby in the
following years and my husband
and I have now been waiting for
eight months to adopt. They say
the "average wait" is
a year and a half.
why an article about not having
children? As the director of Rest
Ministries I understand that there
are many husbands and wives who
have made the difficult choice
to not pursue parenthood. It's
a choice that is more than difficult,
because they wanted children.
Illness may have made bearing
a child impossible. For some,
the idea of caring for a child
seemed like a burden too great
to bear. Above all else, though
these men and women feel that
God did not say, "Not yet,"
but rather, "no."
believe that since we are a ministry
that encourages people in the
various aspects of their lives,
we are called to address the ups
and downs of parenting when you
have a chronic illness. However,
for those of you who pick up this
newsletter and read about parenting,
this article is an attempt to
provide you with a feeling of
and not a twinge of pain of not
having a child.
do not feel qualified to write
this article; the sacrifice and
surrender that has been made by
those who have decided to not
parent is something that I have
not experienced firsthand. However,
I have experienced infertility.
I have felt the grief, the frustration,
the darkness and the feeling that
no one understands how much strength
it takes to get out of bed and
paste a smile on my face, when
babies seem to be multiplying
everywhere I look. Women who are
qualified to write this article
have not been able to emotionally
commit to putting their feelings
down on paper and having them
shared with so many. I understand.
So I have asked them questions
and have agreed to share their
feelings with you without sharing
their identity. I hope this helps
you know that you are not alone.
have always wanted children; It
was a matter of when, not if.
When I was diagnosed with lupus
my first question to the doctor
was "what about children?"
He assured me that children were
still a possibility and that he
would monitor my pregnancy carefully.
My husband and I decided to wait
until I got a handle on my illness
and started to feel better. That
time never came. After many long
talks and a lot of prayer, we
have decided to put this dream
aside and start the grieving process.
More than anything in this world
a child should want to be wanted,
to be loved. I know it sounds
selfish, but as much as I want
a child, my life is a mess and
just being a wife drains me. I
don't believe it's God's will
for me to be a parent. I don't
know why or how He's going to
get me through accepting this,
but I am confident that in time
it will make some sort of sense.
I know God's providing a peace
about my decision for my husband
and me despite the fact that it
got plenty of time." "Just
relax and it will happen."
"You're letting your illness
win if you don' have a baby."
"You can always get help."
When you asked me to share my
story, I had just received an
email from an old fri that said,
"Are you every going to have
that baby? You're not getting
any younger!" I don't even
know where to begin to explain
it all to people-and then I get
mad because I really don't owe
anyone an explanation. I don't
have plenty of time. While a healthy
person may, my illness gets worse
every day. Every year that passes
means that I am going to have
less quality time with a child
and more "down time"
having to make excuses about why
mom can't play. Secondly, I have
relaxed, as much as one possibly
can while being poked and prodded,
tested and drugged. I've been
given dirty looks by lab technicians
and doctors that have told me
I have no business having a child.
Thirdly, my illness is not winning.
It's taken a lot from me, but
I've always made my own choices
based on what is best for me,
not on what my illness dictates.
Lastly, while some people may
be able to freely hire help, we
can't afford it, and likely never
will. If I have a child, I want
to raise him or her.
now, I believe that it is not
in God's will for me to have a
baby or even adopt an older child.
I simply cannot care for a child
in the way that I believe God
wants me to. He has allowed me
to be a "big sister"
for an eleven-year-old girl next
door who has a difficult family
life. I feel like God has given
me the chance to make a difference
for her and be someone special
in her life. For now, I am learning
to find peace about not being
a mom; but I'm not putting God
in a box-I open to Him changing
You asked me to share a bit about
deciding to not be a parent. I
am honored to share this with
you, but I don't feel like I am
in the position to share any words
of wisdom because I am still learning
how to cope with it every day.
My husband and I truly wanted
children, but as the years passed
and my illness progressed, both
us begin to wonder if children
were going to be a part of our
future. We got a puppy and I'm
it's mommy. For now, unless God
sends us a sign we are not going
to pursue having or adopting a
child. It still hurts. I will
go days without thinking about
it and then wake up one morning
and suddenly remember that I won't
ever hear someone call me mom.
The grief will hit me so hard,
I will stay in bed half the day.
I cry and pray and eventually
get up and get on with the day.
I still allow myself to grieve.
I still ache when knowing that
all my friends are seeing each
other at MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers)
and I am at a doctor's appointment
figuring out which medication
to try next. It's not fair. It's
not easy. I am just taking one
day at a time and relying on my
faith that God will get me through
of us have felt the words spoken
by Rachel. "When Rachel saw
that she was not bearing Jacob
any children, she became jealous
of her sister. So she said to
Jacob, "'Give me children,
or I'll die!'" Genesis 30:1.
While a part of our dreams may
die when we decide not to have
children due to our illness, we
do not die. We live on. And despite
the paint hat we may experience,
God still calls us to serve and
to be faithful.
has given us people to care for
and reach out to. He has given
us children as neighbors, nieces
and nephews, and we are to teach
these children about His lovingkindness.
Even though they are not our own,
they are His, and we may be the
only example of God's love that
Copen is the founder and director
of Rest Ministries. She lives
with rheumatoid arthritis and
fibromyalgia and is the author
Chronic Illness Enters Your Life
He Will Give You Rest
monthly support newsletter, Volume
5, Issue 5. ©
Prayer also offers encouragement
and support while on the path of infertility.
have chosen not to parent, but are
still grieving the loss of not having
a child, this may be a source of comfort
more information and support about
living with infertility, we suggest
visiting the website of Hannah's Prayer
Christian Support for Fertility Challenges.
There is a special discussion group
even for those with chronic illness.