I recently found out that my uterus is filled with tumors – benign tumors, but tumors nonetheless. I am one of many women who suffer with fibroids, a condition that is extremely prevalent among women of color. I am currently waiting for my six month check up to have a repeat ultrasound that will help my gynecologist determine how fast the tumors are growing.
About a year ago, I noticed that my menstrual cycle had changed. This was a bit of a surprise given that I am on birth control and have been for most of my adult life. During my women’s wellness exam last year, my doctor suggested that we do some further tests to find out what could be causing the various changes that were occurring. Not only was I experiencing intense pain before and during my cycle, I was also feeling swelling around my ovaries and was bleeding more than I ever thought possible.
After my first ultrasound, I learned that I have seven tumors of various sizes and types on the outside of my uterus and within my uterus lining. The first question my doctor asked me when I received my results was, “Are you trying to get pregnant?” The question startled me and I asked why she was asking. She said that the current state of my uterus and tumors would impede me from getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term. If I was contemplating having children, we would take one course of action, but if I was not trying to get pregnant, we would go with a different course of action.
In this moment, all of my fears, desires, hopes, resentments and shortcomings reared their ugly heads. I have never wanted to give birth, have never felt called to be someone’s biological mother. This is in part due to my mental health realities – I am one who lives with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder and I always wondered how pregnancy would exacerbate these issues. I am also one who struggles with the reality that there is still an expectation that a woman should be a mother and that this identity is the most important identity.
However, when faced with the reality that I may not be able to naturally bring life into this world, my mind began to race with questions…
Am I less of a woman if I don’t have a child?
Did decisions I make in the past impact this current reality?
How would I be viewed by men if the option to conceive is off the table?
Am I selfish for being a bit relieved?
What did God create me for if I’m not able to bring life into this world?
The Christian faith community has placed the burden of creation on women. I’m not talking about creation in all of its varied and wonderful forms. I’m talking specifically about bringing life into the world. I sometimes feel like many believe that the single most important offering a woman can make to this world is a child. Even though I grew up in a family that valued all types of offerings to humanity, there was an expectation that at some point, I would give birth and create a family. Neither of these things may come to pass and I am left wondering, what then do I have to offer to my God?
I think about an offering as something that is returned to God because it first belonged to God. Within my tradition, we celebrate the sacrament of baptism. We baptize babies and adults alike and it is less about a statement of faith and more about a sign of God’s unrelenting grace and humanity’s inability to live life on our own. Babies are offered back to God and the community promises to raise that child in the faith as the Holy Spirit covers all who attempt to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. What would happen if we thought about offering ourselves up to God in this way? What would it look like for ideas of creation and offering to be expanded? What if we focused on offering the best we have and the best we are to God instead of offering something that isn’t true to who we are?
So many of us are living lives being someone or something that we have not been created to be. This creates all sorts of false truths that hinder our journey into wholeness. I have come to believe that the best thing we can offer to God is our truest self and our truest gifts. It’s not about other’s expectations, society’s expectations or any expectation that makes you feel less than. It is about joining with God’s creative power to continue the cycle of creation, in all of its forms, so that we can offer our best to the one who first created and called us into being.
Within the Christian community this week is Holy Week, the time when we commemorate Jesus’ journey to the cross. As I reflect on this story, I am realizing that God offered us God’s best in the person of Jesus the Christ. That was God’s best. Our best may not be in the form of a child but it should be in the form of deep and abiding love that serves to bring life and life abundant. I’m realizing that this is all I can offer. What will you offer?
Embracing My Shadow. I am also a columnist at ShePreaches Magazine, an online resource for young African-American women in ministry.