Longing for Motherhood Author Opens Up About Childlessness, Grief, and Hope in the Lord
She was 19 when the doctor told her she'd never carry children. Years later, Chelsea Patterson Sobolik set out to write the book she wished she'd had.
When Chelsea Patterson Sobolik discovered she could never bear children, she was 19. Devastated, she sought out Christian resources for childless women. She came up nearly empty.
After years of grief, questioning God and learning what hoping in Him truly means, Sobolik decided to change that. The result is Longing For Motherhood: Holding Onto Hope in the Midst of Childlessness. “I essentially wrote the book I wish I’d had,” the 27-year-old told The Stream.
Released by Moody Publishers in March, the book is for women facing infertility and miscarriage, and single women who desire a family. Sobolik believes it will educate churches on how to minister to childless women, as well.
Previously featured in The Stream’s “The Millennial Difference” series (when she was still Chelsea Patterson), Sobolik chatted with The Stream again to share about the book she poured her heart into.
When Grieving is Good
Sobolik doesn’t hold back about the hard times in Longing for Motherhood. In describing what her own grief looked like, she highlights the importance of grief itself.
“I truly don’t believe we can fully begin to heal until we’ve fully grieved what’s missing,” she told The Stream. But that runs contrary to how some Christians reacted when she opened up about her infertility. Though well-meaning, they attempted to pull her out of her grief before she was ready, rather than giving her space to walk through it.
“It makes us feel so uncomfortable when we don’t know what to say to someone who’s suffering,” she said. But she cautions against the “quick fix” mentality, including tossing out cliche Bible verses meant to encourage.
She doesn’t undermine the importance of Scripture; she writes extensively about her reliance on God’s Word during the darkest parts of her suffering. But while Scriptures lead to healing, they aren’t to be used as a “band-aid.”
“David was really honest with the Lord,” she said of the psalmist. “I think sometimes when we’re grieving … what would be sweet to our souls would be a reminder to say that it’s okay to pray really honest prayers to God.”
“Grief isn’t a bad thing,” she added.
“Sustaining Hope” vs. Bad Theology
Another thing Sobolik heard from fellow Christians? That her lack of faith was to blame for her trial. That kind of thinking boils down to “bad theology,” she said.
“There’s so many promises of God,” she explained. “But we can’t cling to him promising us earthly gifts.” We can pray boldly for those blessings, but “it’s not a guarantee.”
When we don’t receive the blessings we long for, “it’s okay to pray honestly and grieve those things,” she told The Stream. “Don’t rush the process either. Quite often, I think we want to rush through the valley to get back to the mountaintop. The road to hope is not a straight line.”
In Longing for Motherhood, Sobolik shares how she learned to distinguish between “worldly hope” and the “eternal, sustaining hope” of God.
How Churches Help and Hurt
Much of Longing for Motherhood centers on local churches — how helpful they can be for someone grieving the absence of a child, or how hurtful. It’s not that church leaders intend to be insensitive, Sobolik explained. But they are often ignorant about the issue.
“Until someone’s actually walked down that road [of childlessness] or knows someone who has, it’s just not high on their radar,” she said.
She hopes her book will make more Christians aware of those suffering childlessness. And there may be more than you think: over 1 in 10 couples struggle with infertility in the U.S.
In light of that, she provides insight on how churches can balance sensitivity with the mandate to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” As one example of something that could be unintentionally hurtful, she writes about a church she attended that invited couples to announce their pregnancies every week. “That kind of stuff can be a really hard reminder for the woman who just miscarried or the woman who’s been trying for four years,” she said.
“A Family Conversation”
Additionally, she challenges the notion that motherhood is the ultimate calling for every woman. A woman’s greatest role is “to glorify God with our whole lives in whatever circumstances we find ourselves,” she writes in Chapter 1.
“I think the church as a whole doesn’t make room for childless women,” she told The Stream. Instead, Christians often put people into categories, and have a difficult time ministering to those who don’t fall neatly into any one box. She wants to see that change.
In all her critiques, Sobolik is gracious, acknowledging that most church leaders she speaks with are eager to learn how they can better serve the childless women in their midst.
“I’m a Christian,” Sobolik told The Stream. “It’s a family conversation. Sometimes families need to have really hard conversations and call things out.”
Life Beyond Childlessness
Even before learning she could not bear children, Sobolik understood the importance of adoption. Her own parents faced infertility before adopting her from Romania as an infant, a journey she writes about in the early pages of Longing for Motherhood. Now she plans to adopt alongside her husband Michael in the future.
In her book Sobolik discusses adoption (including helpful resources), child advocacy, and other ways women can fulfill their desire to mother and help children in need. She briefly addresses the ethical questions surrounding IVF and surrogacy, encouraging Christians to examine these options carefully and with a pro-life mindset.
“Childlessness doesn’t have to be the end of your story,” Sobolik reminds readers in a press release. In the honest, hope-filled pages of Longing for Motherhood, that truth becomes clear.
To learn more about Sobolik and her writing, visit her website.