What do you call a woman who is married, but has no children?
No, this isn’t a joke. This is a question that darkened my thoughts after the disappointment of my last pregnancy test. Where do I fit in society? Where do I fit in the Church? Is there a place for someone whose category doesn’t have a name? For a long, painful season of my life, I was in identity limbo. I was a no one with no place.
I wrestled with this question more intensely when I talked to the head of the women’s ministry at my church. “We have so many groups for moms, but I don’t fit anywhere.” She was all for me starting something, but neither one of us knew what we could call it.
There were plenty of names that I played around with, but I kept coming across a problem: every name I could think of had a negative component. “Women With No Children.” “Married Without Children.” Even “Infertility Support Group” felt negative, like there’s something wrong with us. I scoured the internet and couldn’t find a term that was any better.
So what do you call a woman who is married but has no children…a name that is positive and can give her dignity?
I mulled over it for many months. I even prayed for God to give me a name. After some time, I gave up.
Names matter. They matter so much that throughout the Bible, we find God renaming people.
When God established his covenant with Abram, he said, “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:5)
When Jesus called Simon to be His disciple, “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).” (John 1:42)
God doesn’t just give new names to individuals, but also to entire peoples:
“And they shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
Names affect how we look at people—how we look at ourselves. And how we look at ourselves permeates the way we live our lives.
So if the name you’ve given yourself is “Barren” or “Infertile,” it’s time to give yourself a new name.
In a moment when my mind was busy with other things and far from the subject matter I’m typing about at this moment, God answered my prayer and gave me a name.
Her name is Priscilla.
Priscilla (or Prisca) is mentioned five times in scripture. Before I describe her, I’ll let you read about her for yourself:
“After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.” (Acts 18:1-3, written by Luke)
“[Apollos] began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18:26, written by Luke)
“The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.” (1 Cor 16:19, written by Paul)
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.” (2 Timothy 4:19, written by Paul)
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.” (Romans 16:3-4, written by Paul)
At first, when referring to this couple, Paul listed the husband’s name first. But after he got to know them, he went against convention and listed her name first. This is a big deal! Priscilla didn’t hide in Aquila’s shadow; her worth was not based on who her husband was and what her husband did. She held her own! When people got to know this dynamic couple, they learned that she was the powerhouse! And for the record, Aquila held his own, too. It takes a strong man to empower his wife to be strong as well.
(By the way, for anyone who believes that the Bible puts down women and is against women in ministry, just point them to Priscilla.)
So what does all of this have to do with my identity as a non-mom?
There is no mention of Priscilla and Aquila being parents. It’s possible they had children, but if they did, it wasn’t in their biography. I know it can be dangerous to jump to conclusions based on silence, but here’s my point:
Priscilla’s identity and usefulness for the Kingdom of God wasn’t dependent on whether or not she was able to bear children.
In a society that was male dominated, she worked alongside—not under—her husband. She was intelligent, capable of teaching leaders. She had an influential role in shaping the early Church. And she was courageous, risking her life for the people she loved.
This is the kind of woman I want to be.
So the next time someone asks me, “Do you have any children?” I’m going to respond with a smile on my face and my head held high, “No, and it’s okay. I’m a Priscilla.”
Questions for Discussion and Contemplation
Is there a name or label that I call myself that is negative or discouraging? Is there a positive name or label I can use instead? (If you can’t think of any, ask God to give you one.)
How can I preach truth to myself in a way that speaks life and gives dignity?
Do I put negative names or labels on other people? How can I speak truth to others in a way that speaks life over them and gives them dignity?