by Lani

Conceiving Courage

March 29, 2016 in Adversity, Book, Conception, Depression, Events, Faith, Family size, Fear, joy, Lani, Motherhood, Personal Revelation, Pregnancy by Lani

 

Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. -Joshua 1:9

Almost three years ago, Robyn and I hosted a Gift of Giving Life party at my parents’ home in Utah County. It was very well attended, and I was privileged to meet many beautiful women who have since become my friends in addition to reconnecting with other women who were already dear to me.

Robyn, Lani, and Robyn's sister

Robyn, Lani, and Robyn’s sister

At the time I was busy mothering my four children, my youngest being just over 2 and my oldest 9 years old. The previous summer and fall (2012) had been harrowing for me as I battled for my life with severe anxiety and depression. Finally having regained joy and peace and a solid foundation, naturally I was not inclined to do anything to jeopardize the calm I had so painfully won. And yet… deep down inside my heart I felt that there was at least one child who was still hoping to join my family. Meanwhile, my husband had very strong feelings against having any more children. And most of the time I was inclined to think he was right. I didn’t think I could do it.

As part of the event, we broke into two groups to discuss and share spiritual experiences related to pregnancy, birth, and mothering. Among the women in the group I joined were several seasoned mothers of very large families. I couldn’t believe my ears when they talked about how much “easier” it got as their families grew (in years and number). “The older kids are so helpful!” they shared.

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A friend of mine (who also had four young children at the time) and I were aghast as we shared our fears that we couldn’t possibly handle any more children, despite feeling that our families weren’t complete. These mothers assuaged our concerns, saying, “Right now you are in the hardest part! With lots of little kids and none old enough to help out. It gets easier!” Even so, my friend and I were still hesitant.

My hesitation eventually gave way to courage, however, and over the course of the following year I attempted weaning off my anti-depressant in order to prepare my body for another pregnancy. When my weaning attempt turned into an even more severe and prolonged battle with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts (summer and fall of 2014), my intention of bearing any more children seemed impossible to retain. My husband and I just didn’t think my mind/body/spirit could handle it. So we did what we could to prevent pregnancy. In our then-thirteen years of marriage we had never had an unplanned pregnancy. And our prevention methods continued to work well for us… for most of a year.

Then, in May of 2015, I stared down at a positive pregnancy test after my morning meditation. Immediately I was overcome by so many emotions. I did not see that coming. It was not planned or expected or convenient. But nevertheless it was happening. Friends and family were also surprised but full of support and faith. Many separately shared their strong feelings that all would be well and that this baby would be a beautiful healing blessing to me and my family. I hoped they were right and courageously moved toward my baby’s birth.

It has now been almost a year since I stared at that surprisingly positive pregnancy test. My oldest daughter is nearly a teenager now. The other kids are 10, 7, and 5. And our sweet Baby Hope is 3 months old. Out of the most difficult and darkest years of my life emerged the brightest and most beautiful.

When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us
And threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us,
And we know that deliv’rance is nigh.

(Hymn #19)

Hope smiling brightly

I have been wanting to shout to the world, “They were right! They were all so right!” The seasoned mothers-of-many at the Gift of Giving Life party I hosted three years ago were right! Having a baby when you have several older kids to help is amazing. It is so much easier. And my friends and family who encouraged me throughout my pregnancy were right. This baby has been one of the greatest healing gifts of my life.

I am so happy. Life is so good.

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If you are interested in hosting a Gift of Giving Life party, you can apply to be a hostess. A GOGL party is a gathering designed to get women (and men when appropriate) together in person to share how God’s hand has worked in their lives (in the area of giving life). It is an opportunity for people who wouldn’t normally to hear spiritual birth-related stories. It is also a great way to spread the word about our book.

We offer hostesses books at wholesale. You can pass on the savings or use profit to cover party costs. We have held many of these gatherings in different states with amazing results (friendships, fun, spiritual growth).

If you would like to apply to be a hostess please email us at thegiftofgivinglife@gmail.com for more information.

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by Robyn

How a Prisoner of War Story Helped Me Prepare for Birth

January 20, 2016 in Adversity, Book, Depression, Faith, Fear, Gratitude, Guest Post, Jesus Christ, joy, Missions, Motherhood, Pain, Postpartum Depression, Pregnancy, Preparation, Robyn, Savior, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Waiting by Robyn

American and Filipino prisoners of war captured by the Japanese are shown at the start of the Death March after the surrender of Bataan on April 9 near Mariveles in the Philippines in 1942 during World War II. Starting on April 10 from Mariveles, on the southern end of the Bataan Penisula, 70,000 POWs were force-marched to Camp O'Donnell, a new prison camp 65 miles away. (AP Photo)

American and Filipino prisoners of war captured by the Japanese are shown at the start of the Death March after the surrender of Bataan on April 9 near Mariveles in the Philippines in 1942 during World War II. Starting on April 10 from Mariveles, on the southern end of the Bataan Penisula, 70,000 POWs were force-marched to Camp O’Donnell, a new prison camp 65 miles away. (AP Photo)

 

I want to thank my friend Natalie for this beautiful post.  We became friends because of our mutual love for birth but beyond that Natalie really is a beautiful person inside and out.  –Robyn


I am currently “overdue” with my FIFTH boy. Yes, my fifth. There are no girls among them. That’s a lot of boys. And oh how I love them. 
And after all these boys, I am a bit experienced, in my own experience at least.  And that is why I have been so scared recently. Yes, scared to bring home another baby because I know what could possibly be coming along with him.  Finally, after going through 4 newborn phases, I’ve figured out that I usually get a good case of post partum OCD/anxiety. After I give birth, I really struggle with the newborn phase. I struggle with scary and intrusive thoughts, anxiety, lots of crying, irrational fears…… which result in guilt, embarrassment, shame, and feelings of failure, for a few months.  I’ve had some hard times. I know that there are a lot of mamas out there who also have hard times after their babies arrive. Oh how we love our babies, but we don’t love what the hormones that come along with them, can do to us.  And there are many mamas who go through much more intense experiences than I do –especially with post partum depression that can last for many, many months.
My poor little soon-to-be baby boy.  I am so excited to meet him, but I have not felt ready to jump into that phase of life again.  And yes, I’m over 40 weeks!  What 40 week pregnant woman isn’t asking every other mom what she can do to encourage her baby’s eviction!?  Me. I’ve been over here chanting… “Not quite yet. Not quite yet.”  So even before he’s here, I’ve already felt guilty for not being ready.
But that all changed a couple of days ago. On my actual “due date,” we had the adult session for our stake conference.  I decided to go, even though I’m at that phase where I just want to hibernate and not socialize or be seen in public. Yet, I knew it would probably be good for me to be spiritually fed. So I changed into my maxi skirt, told my husband to pull on my boots for me, and off we went.
I have been trying really hard to get emotionally and mentally prepared for this next phase.  I also have been constantly reminding myself that I have overcome it before, and I can overcome it again.  I’ve prayed and have continually given myself pep talks and positive affirmations.  I’ve been trying, but had not quite conquered the fear of the future. Earlier that day, I had broken down into tears, while telling my sister-in-laws how nervous I was to care for another baby. 
But we made the trek through the snow to our stake center. And on this night, a special story really struck me. Yes, a story about a man who was a prisoner of war.  I will share most of the story, but you can read the full article on LDS Living:

“When my father, Alfred R. Young, was liberated from a Japanese POW camp at the end of World War II, he weighed 90 lbs.—scrawny for any man, but skeletal for someone 6 feet 3 inches tall. His weight, however, was only ashadow of concern compared to his mental and emotional condition after 39 months of wartime captivity. He endured two hellship voyages; physical, mental and emotional starvation; innumerable beatings; forced labor; disease; psychological abuse; isolation; and six months of Allied bombing raids that eventually obliterated his prison camp, devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, and killed many of the men who had become his brothers.
His physical internment ended in 1945, but Dad was still a captive almost eight years later when I was born. I knew he was a captive because Icould see he was somewhere else, walled up inside the sternness of his countenance. I knew it because I could see emptiness in the depths of his eyes.
One of those pictures was a close-up of a man completely alone, whose eyes were so deeply set that sunlight could not reach them. I can still remember my amazement upon learning that the man in the picture was my father.
In 1939, Dad had enlisted in the US Army Air Corps and was bound for Fort McDowell near San Francisco. From there, he was sent to Clark Field—an air base on Luzon Island in the Philippines.
Dad’s enlistment required only two years of duty overseas, but by 1941, America was preparing for war and his return to the States was canceled. Consequently, on December 8, 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dad endured the terrible destruction that swept over Clark Field, doing to America’s air power in the Pacific what had just been done to its navy. Before the war was two days old, Dad had lost two bombers and was the sole survivor of his crew.
Christmas 1941 found him in a foxhole on an island named Bataan. In the dead of night, his outfit was split up and he was assigned to a group that boarded an inner island cruiser. He was assigned to a machine gun post on the Pulangi River among the iguanas and head hunters.
For four months, he watched planeload after planeload of American officers and men evacuating from the Del Monte Air Field just a few miles tothe north. As a bombardier, he should have been aboard, but the call never came. One morning, he and his men awoke to discover that their officers had vanished in the night. Those left behind survived on worm infested rice, lived off the land, traded with the More people, and eventually retreated into the hills.
Life as a Prisoner
When his command surrendered in May 1942, he passed through thegate of a makeshift prison camp at Malabalay. From there he was among prisonersloaded into what would become known as a hellship and was taken to Manila’s in famous Bilibid Prison. From Bilibid, he and thousands of other prisoners were loaded into the holds of unmarked freighters bound for hard labor in Japan to drive the Imperial machinery of war.
Climbing down the metal ladders into the dark holds of those ships, prisoners were forced at rifle butt onto cargo shelves where they crawled in darkness toward the bulkhead. Dad descended until nothing but the naked rivets and rough joinery of the hull separated him from the murky waters of Manila Bay. In the deep shadows, he crawled through the prisoners, already packed intothe hold like bodies without coffins, until he came to the small wedge of a space where the curvature of the hull met the underside of a cargo shelf. The hatch closed. Darkness swallowed him.
Cradled in cold steel and stifling stench, groaning men with dysentery and other diseases lived and died around him in their own waste. It was impossible to know whether the shadowy forms around him were still men, orcorpses. The only reprieve was waiting on deck in the long lines for the over-the-side latrines that had to serve nearly 2,000 prisoners.
Because the freighters were unmarked, during their journey they came under Allied submarine attack. Dad watched, with the rest of the men inline, none of whom had a life jacket, as the captain tried to out-maneuver white tufted torpedo trails that claimed more than 3,000 prisoners. Fortunately, Dad’s ship escaped such a fate.
Not until the prisoners aboard the Tottori Maru were unloaded in Busan and hosed down on the docks like cattle, were all the dead discovered inthe holds. From Busan they sailed for Mojiand. Dad was sent to a labor camp on the island of Kawasaki in Yokohama’s waterfront industrial area.
There he endured steel gray days of disease, deprivation, starvation, forced labor, humiliation, beatings, and the constant threat of death for more than three years. He worked at the nearby steel mill, brick factory, railroadyard, and docks.
Reading material in the camp was scarce. He read Robin Hood so many  times he never wanted to see it again. Commenting one day to a fellow prisoner about how glad he would be for anything new to read, Jim Nelson, a young man from Utah, said he had a book he would gladly loan to him, but it was about religion. Dad exclaimed that he was desperate enough to read anything. Anything!
With the book in hand, Dad took it to the mat where he slept, sat down cross-legged under his blanket and began his first reading of the Book of Mormon. Much to his delight, it was not a book about religion, it was a story.
In fact, it was a story about a family, and memories of childhood and family were something that had already saved his life through the long ordeal of captivity. Whether it was the dreariness of meaningless labor or surviving the kicks and fists of his captors, he escaped into his memories of home, and in the Book of Mormon he found himself suddenly in a family with a bunch of rough and rowdy kids who acted just like his five brothers and two sisters.
Before the story was 10 pages old, the neighbors had tried to kill the father, the family had left home, wealth, and comfort behind to cross a wilderness, and the boys were swept up in a quest. And it was an exciting onethat resulted in theft of the family fortune, assault and battery on the youngest brother, beheading a corrupt military commander, subterfuge (complete with costume), kidnapping a servant, and smuggling a priceless treasure out of town in the dead of night. Whether or not the book had any religious significance, it was one walloping good tale!
After completing the Book of Mormon, Dad asked if there were other books like it that Jim would let him read. Jim admitted he had another book, but he really didn’t think Dad would like it. Dad pleaded, however, and excitedly returned to his mat and his blanket to lose himself once again, this time in the pages of something called the Doctrine and Covenants. When he finally finished, Jim wanted to know what Dad thought. Dad replied thoughtfully: “It’s very well-written, but the plot is lousy.”
Liberation at Last
From October 1944 through July 1945, as Allied air strikes intensified over Tokyo and Yokohama, Dad lived in the crosshairs of Allied bombsights that widened their circle of terror night after night and then day after day, killing  many friends and forcing him to dispose of their remains while assigned to body-burning work details.
Liberation finally came on August 29, 1945. In the chaos of release, Dad lost track of Jim. In fact, he tried to lose track of everything stained with the memory of his time as a POW. However, he crammed a  duffle bag with  belongings and memories he wanted to forget and put Jim’s books  on top of everything else.
On his way home, Dad kept leaving the duffle bag behind from ship to ship and port to port, trying to lose it. But from Tokyo Bay to Tulsa, it kept turning up, always a few days or weeks behind. But those were days for forgetting. The world had changed. Dad was out of step and anxious to make up for lost years. So the books followed him through his re-enlistment, marriage, a promising career in nuclear weapons, and the death of a daughter.
The books were still there when I was born in Albuquerque in 1953. Owing to the loss of their daughter, my parents feared to even hope that they might bring me home from the hospital, but I survived. And after a year, they began to look farther ahead, wanting to offer me a better home environment than they knew how to create. Those were days before post-traumatic stress had a name, and Dad was still captive to the ghosts of Kawasaki, disabling headaches, paralyzing dreams, alcoholism, and other disabilities resulting from the beatings, psychological abuse, and starvation.
Faced with a crisis of parenting, Dad remembered the Book of Mormon and the talks he had had with Jim about the Church. So he looked up the Church in the phone book and left a message asking that the missionaries drop by. Time passed, the message was lost, and the missionaries never came; at least, not in response to the phone message.
Weeks later, however, two full-time missionaries, traveling through our neighborhood en route to their tracting area, decided to try just one more door before going home for dinner.  They picked out our little house in the middle of the block. No one answered the doorbell; Mother was in the backyard and Dad wasn’t home from work.  But as the two missionaries mounted their bikes and were about to leave, Dad, who had worked a lot of overtime recently and had decided to come home early that afternoon, pulled into the driveway. Ignorant of Dad’s message asking that the missionaries drop by, they  introduced themselves.  Dad replied: “It’s about time. We’ve been waiting for you.”
Mother and Dad were baptized in the spring of 1956. In August ofthe following year, our little family was sealed in the Los Angeles Temple. On the way back to Albuquerque, we stopped in Reno, Nevada. Dad had had no contact with Jim Nelson since the war but had heard he was living in Nevada.
We stopped at a pay phone and Dad found a listing for James Nelson. A phone call and a brief conversation with Mrs. Nelson confirmed that it was the same Jim Nelson who had been a prisoner of war in Japan, but he was still at work. We drove to the Nelson home and were sitting in the living room when Jim got there. The reunion was everything that could be wished, but nothing was said about the Church. Nothing, that is, until Dad reached down to pick up the two books he had hidden on the floor beside the couch.
“Jim,” he said as he lifted the volumes into view, “We’re on our way home from the LA Temple where we’ve been sealed and thought we’d drop by to return your books.”
Until the day Dad died, in 2012, he was true to what many people have heard him say: “If what I went through was the only way I could receive the Book of Mormon, I would do it all again—even knowing beforehand what Iwould have to endure—just to have that book.”
Wow. Wow. What an amazing story.  What a HARD experience.  I sat there feeling grateful for the blessedlife that I live, and for the challenges that I have, even though some trials may be difficult.  And then it hit me.
“If what I’ve gone through is the only way I could have received my children in this life, I would/will do it all again – even knowing beforehand what I would/will have to endure – just to have my precious children.”
 
And just like that, something clicked in my mind and in my heart.  I wondered if there was a time when I was accepting my life’s mission as a Mother, where I told Heavenly Father the same sort of thing. That I was willing to go through such hardships, to bring my children to me in this earth life. Somewhere, sometime, I just might have agreed to this.  I know I can do it. I know it’s worth it. I know I’ll have another beautiful little soul to love and who will love me for many years to come. To enrich and bless my life. To teach me. To help me grow, and who can live with the rest of our family forever and ever. What a blessing. And I will go through what I need to go through, to have him in my life.
How especially blessed am I to know of God’s love for me. That He will be there for me, if these times are difficult, and if I have to go through the hardships of newborn life. I had someone remind me of a beautiful song, that I could apply to my post partum period.  I love it so much – it’s been in my head ever since. I want to share the words that strengthen me, even when I feel like my world is falling apart.  The song is “MyKindness Shall Not Depart from Thee,” written by Rob Gardner.  You can listen to it on this link .
Though thine afflictions seem
At times too great to bear,
I know thine every thought and everycare.
And though the very jaws
Of hell gape after thee I am with thee.
 
And with everlasting mercy will I succor thee,
And with healing will I take thee ‘neath my wings.
Though the mountains shall depart,
And the hills shall be removed,
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea,
Know, my child,
My kindness shall not depart from thee!
 
The Son of Man hath descended below all things.
Art thou greater than He?
 
So hold on thy way,
For I shall be with thee.
And mine angels shall encircle thee.
Doubt not what thou knowest,
Fear not man, for he
Cannot hurt thee.
 
And with everlasting kindness will Isuccor thee,
And with mercy will I take thee ‘neath mywings.
For the mountains shall depart,
And the hills shall be removed,
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea,
But know, my child,
My kindness shall not depart from thee!
 
You can watch the music video here:

 

 

Kindness – Paul Cardall – from Ephraim’s Rescue Soundtrack (2013)
by Robyn

Did Mary Really Ride a Donkey to Bethlehem?

December 8, 2015 in Angels, Christmas, Jesus Christ, joy, Mary, Pregnancy, Robyn, Savior, Symbolism, Uncategorized by Robyn

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There are many beautiful works of art depicting Mary riding a donkey as Joseph led them to Bethlehem. I never questioned whether or not Mary rode a donkey on her journey with Joseph.  However, as I was researching the symbolism of Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem and Christ riding a donkey as he entered Jerusalem in the Triumphal Entry, I realized that the scriptures don’t actually say that she did.  She could have. It is likely that she did given it was the popular mode of transportation for people of her day and circumstances.  But we really don’t know.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that it is commonly accepted. And so I wanted to delve into the symbolism of Christ riding the donkey into Jerusalem and what that may mean for our common belief that Mary rode upon a donkey too.   In Egypt the donkey is a symbol for the god of evil. In Hebrew writings the donkey or ass symbolized the devil, evil, harm or non-covenant people (Lost Language of Symbolism, 307-308).  What does the Son of God riding upon something that symbolized evil mean?

 

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The answer is two fold in Christ riding upon the donkey/ass. First, it symbolized that He would overcome all evil even the devil himself. This He did with his sinless life though being sorely tempted by even Satan himself.  By riding into Jerusalem in this manner He foreshadows His triumph over physical and spiritual death and His ability to grant salvation.

Secondly, riding upon the ass represented that He was the God of the Jews and Gentiles, “Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also” (Romans 3:29).  In addition, the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles as well as be “blessed and numbered among the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 10:18).  The word Gentile means “the nations.”  It designates people of non-Israelite lineage but also nations that are without the gospel (Bible Dictionary, 679).

He is the Lord to each one of us whether we know it or not.  Christ did not come for the saint but for the sinner.  He is your Savior whether or not you accept Him as such.  He loves you whether or not you love Him.  He waits for you even when you stray.  He is merciful and makes it possible for each one of us to receive His salvation in one way or another.  To Him we are numbered.  He knows us.

And so Mary riding upon the back of a donkey pregnant with the babe Jesus is a beautiful foreshadowing of what was to come. So whenever I see Mary riding upon the donkey I think of the power and triumph of Christ entering Jerusalem upon a donkey with the crowds of people throwing their clothes and palm fronds in His path honoring Him as a King proclaiming,

“Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9).

These beautiful words are similar to the refrain of heavenly hosts heralding the birth of Jesus,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).

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In pondering these symbols a conversation with a dear friend of mine came to mind as we talked about her approaching birth.  She could feel the darkness surrounding her, trying to rob her of the joy that should accompany the birth of a child.  Knowing the challenges she had faced in the past I was reminded that she had overcome them.  The darkness did not beat her.  She had triumphed.  So if you find yourself pregnant or with a little one during this sacred time, or struggling in anyway, I hope you know that Christ will help you triumph over the evil.  It is not unusual to feel weighed down physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as you overcome the evil of the world and choose to give the Gift of Life.  May you seek to be ever closer to Him and feel his love surround you as you bravely move forward to your “Bethlehem.”

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

 

The Gift of Giving Life is on sale for the Holidays.

Buy at Amazon.

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by Robyn

VBA2C Birth Story

September 8, 2015 in Adversity, Birth Stories, Book, Cesarean, Doulas, Faith, fasting, Fear, Gratitude, hospital birth, joy, Love, Obstetricians, Prayer, Robyn, Savior, Uncategorized, VBAC by Robyn

Kylie 4 crop

 

My friend, Kylie, was kind enough to let me share her birth story here on the blog.  I came to know her through ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network).  Interestingly enough, I came to a place last year when I was contemplating closing our little ICAN chapter.  Not much had been happening with it and I felt like I needed to simplify.  It seemed like the obvious thing to let go of.  And then, I prayed to ask Heavenly Father which direction I should take birth work right at that time and ICAN is what He asked me to put my energies into. So I held on. A few month later our little chapter began to explode.  Our attendance tripled and we experienced seven VBACs in less than a year.  I had the privilege of going to six of these births as a doula.  One of which was Kylie’s birth.  Kylie is beautiful inside and out.  It was a sacred experience to be with her and Adam on that special day.  My heart is full as I contemplate God’s hand in all these blessings. -Robyn

 

So to start I feel it’s appropriate to share the births of my other children.

1st child: emergency C-section When I was pregnant with my first child, I just planned on your typical birth experience that I thought everyone had: Hospital, epidural, no eating, IV, eventually pushing, and having a baby. The day before my due date my doctor swept my membranes and I went into labor 7 hours later. When I got to the hospital I was already 5cm dilated and it still didn’t hurt much, but since the anesthesiologist was there, I got my epidural. My son’s heart rate dropped a few times (partially due to epi, and lying flat on my back and not moving), and they might have given me a small dose of Pitocin. Only 3 short hours later we were ready to push! I was excited and nervous. When they told me to push, I realized I couldn’t even push because I couldn’t feel anything. I think at that point I started to realize I might not be able to do this. The Dr. got vacuum extraction and after only 4 attempts at that I was whisked off to surgery (my son’s heart rate had dropped below 40). I didn’t get to touch my son for over an hour. I fell asleep after surgery, and when I woke up I held him for a few min and then fell asleep again for a few more hours. At the time I felt fine emotionally. I was a little sad I was separated from him a bit at first, and I didn’t get to nurse him till the next day, but it didn’t really strike me as a “traumatic” birth experience until a few weeks later. I cried and mourned the loss of a vaginal birth that would never be mine to cherish. I was told I shouldn’t try a VBAC since my diagnosis was CPD (Cephalo-Pelvic Disproportion: too small pelvis).

2nd child: Scheduled C-section With my next pregnancy we went for a planned, repeat C-section. Off and on I struggled with wanting to try a VBAC, but I didn’t want another emergency C-section. I was scared of going through everything just for the same result. My pregnancy was easy, low-risk, and we planned the C-section for 2 days before the due date. I secretly prayed I’d have the experience of feeling a contraction or two. The night before the scheduled cesarean, I started having small contractions. 6 hours later, while we were being prepped at the hospital, the monitor showed I was having contractions every 5 min. I was happy. I knew my baby girl was ready to come that day. Everything went perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a better scheduled cesarean birth experience. I got to touch and hold her just minutes after being born and only 15 min later I got to breastfeed her successfully. She never left my “ear sight” and my husband held her the whole time they stitched me up. It was a healing experience compared to my first birth and I really did enjoy it. It was all excitement and no drama. I really felt at peace with our road of cesarean births ahead of us.

Kylie pregnant

The VBAC Journey begins: A few months before our next pregnancy, things started to come up. Three things specifically happened within two weeks that made me decide to research the VBAC route. One, I met someone who introduced me to ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network). Two, Adam said he could see us having 5 kids. (Not that we will for sure, but that idea was exciting for me, because I’d always wanted a lot of kids!). And three, I came across an article on FB about a woman trying to get a VBAC at her hospital and they used some research saying that having a lot of repeat cesareans was actually really dangerous to the mother. I had never heard that having 5 C-sections was dangerous. I had talked to 5 doctors and not one of them ever told me the specific risks related to repeat cesareans. And I had told all of them I wanted a lot of children. I was confused and frustrated. I started researching and sure enough found out that I did NOT want any more C-sections if I could avoid it. I then found out that it was possible to VBAC after 2 cesareans if you could find a supportive provider. I did find a supportive provider and hospital (45 away) through my local ICAN chapter. I researched, studied, read, prayed, and fasted to make sure this was the right choice. I feel like I was divinely led to reconsider my birth options. And time and again the thought came to my mind, trust in the arm of God, and not the arm of flesh. Which, to me, meant I needed to trust the choice Heavenly Father was guiding me to make, and not rely only on doctors/professional advice.

Kylie 2 crop BW

VBAC Birth Story: Throughout my pregnancy I continued to research and pray. I hired a doula (a professional birth assistant) and she taught us the Bradley Method of Natural Child Birth. I did some Spinning Babies techniques and did pelvic rocks multiple times a day. (In the meantime my doula and doctor worked together to help 2 other women have successful VBACs!). As my due date drew closer I was getting more excited and nervous. Then my “due date” came and went. We went to Bear lake for a family reunion the week following my due date (and even went down to Orem, Utah the day after the reunion ended)! And still no baby. Luckily my doctor was patient and willing to wait with me. We decided my due date was 5 days off, but that still put me “overdue.” I was starting to feel a little impatient, but was still glad to wait so that my baby could have as much time as she needed to develop in there. I wanted her to be ready as much as I was!

Then on Aug 10th at 2:20 am I felt the first contraction. I started timing them and they were ranging between 7-10 min apart. I woke Adam up at 4 am and he started cleaning the house while I tried to rest. Then my kids woke up and we decided to go for a walk. We walked past a breakfast joint near our house and decided to go get breakfast! It was delicious and just what I needed. My contractions started getting worse as we walked home and my water broke on its own around 1 pm. I called over a babysitter and finally my doula arrived. I told her I checked the “purple line test” for dilation and it was to the top. I cried saying I didn’t want to have my baby in the car! She assured me I wouldn’t and we loaded up and made the 45 min drive to the hospital. Contractions got worse and I knew I had entered transition labor. When we were almost to the hospital I threw up that beautiful breakfast I ate. We pulled into the hospital entrance and Adam ran in to get me a wheel chair because I said I couldn’t walk that far. They got me into a check in bed and went through procedures and I was starting to feel this was unbearable. But I was 8 cm dilated! Then they got us into our birth room and I tried a yoga ball. All I could do was sit on it and lean onto the bed. Adam helped me cool down by pressing a wet rag to my forehead and on my arms. It was the most intense thing I’ve ever experienced. I literally would start to say “oh, no…” every time another contraction started to come. My back labor was intense and I just wanted rest. I was also a lot more vocal during labor than I thought I’d be! At some point my hospital gown came off and I was ah natural except for my sports bra! I did a few different positions but always stayed in the bed.

At one point her heart rate dropped a little and the nurse said I might be complete and need to push. She checked me and I was complete except for a tiny lip of cervix left. She pushed it out of the way and the pushing stage began. We tried the squatting position a few times but I turned out to be too tired to keep pushing like that, so we moved to a side laying position. I pushed on both sides and did squatting again once more, but ended on my right side with Adam holding my upper leg. I was scared of the pushing stage at first because that’s where things went wrong with my first labor, and I was scared it would hurt more. But it turned out that it felt so good to push because it made my back labor go away. And the harder I pushed the more it went away! Everyone told me my pushing was very effective and they could see her head pushing against me every time. At some point after we had been pushing for forever I asked why no one was offering to help me! Are they really going to let me do this all by myself?? And my doula said, “You’re doing it! YOU’RE birthing your baby.” And I realized I was. No vacuum extractors this time. No forecepts. No C-sections. And after an hour and fifteen min of pushing she was born. Her head came out and then both shoulders at once with arms by the sides (causing me to get a 3rd degree tear). But she was out (a full 11 ounces bigger than either of my babies)! They set her right on my stomach. And I got to hold and touch her and watch her give her first cries. All new experiences for me. (I’m crying as I type this!). My husband and I both cried. We experienced the biggest high of our lives. I had felt the most intense physical pressure in my life, but I experienced the most joy I’ve ever experienced in my life. Nothing can compare.

I gained a testimony of God’s creation of women’s bodies. I know nothing was wrong with my body and that God had made my body to do an amazing thing. I believe in and love my body more than I ever did. He made me strong enough, both physically and mentally to have an all-natural birth so that I could witness His marvelous hand, and grow closer to my Savior and closer to my husband.

Kylie crop BW

 

by Robyn

The Path of a Modern Mormon Midwife

June 16, 2015 in Angels, Book, Education, Faith, Fear, home birth, hospital birth, Jesus Christ, joy, Midwives, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

An Interview With Valerie Hall, LM, CPM

So what is it like to be a midwife? Valerie Hall LM, CPM, graciously agreed amidst her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me about her work as a midwife.  I have known Valerie since she began her journey by becoming a childbirth educator.  She was also present at the birth of my sixth child.  I also loved taking part in the Midwife Assistant classes she offered.   My favorite part of the class was the beginning when she would ask the “hard questions,” meaning, the thought-provoking ones that cause you to search your soul a little bit. While I am not ready to begin as a student midwife yet I value the training and experiences I had in her class.  It allowed me to peek into the world of a midwife and evaluate the blessings and sacrifices associated with it.  I hope that other such classes will be offered for other women trying to decide upon the path of midwifery. Valerie has a website for her practice, Generations Homebirth, and she also has a facebook page.   –Robyn

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photo by Cali Stoddard

Tell us a little about how you were guided to become a midwife.

I believe my first step toward midwifery was the firm conviction I had even before I was married that it was essential for me to give birth without medications. I’m not sure why that was planted in my heart, but it was very clear. Our first baby was born in a California hospital without medications but certainly not without unwelcome interference. It was a long time before I processed the pain of that experience, but it made an activist out of me. “Activist” is the word my Dad used to describe me because it was nicer than “fanatic”.

Five more babies came along, all born in hospitals and all without medications. My activism went dormant when it became clear that most people just didn’t want to hear about it. When our 4th child and 1st daughter was expecting her first baby, she called to say that she wanted a natural birth and asked about what classes were available. From there it was a slippery slope for my husband Steve and me. We became Bradley Method teachers, then I started attending births as doula and took the DONA training.

My very first job turned out to be a precipitate birth where I beat the paramedics by about 7 minutes and the baby did not breathe for what seemed like forever. This was definitely beyond my training level! All turned out well. In the first year of doula work I caught the baby 3 times and I promise it was never my fault. At that point Steve started urging me to look into Midwifery school.

I started looking but quickly realized that at 51 years old I was way too old to start this career. But Heavenly Father would not take NO for an answer and I felt actually shoved into midwifery. Doors opened. Money appeared (usually at the last moment). Previously planned doors closed. Things fell into place. I kicked and cried and fretted and worried but always sought the next little patch of light which never failed to appear just as I was about to give up.

 

What is a typical day or week for you as a midwife?

I do all my care in my clients’ homes except for a few who come from a distance and choose to meet me at my house. So a typical week looks like this:

Monday: Office work. This never, ever ends. It’s like dishes or laundry. You can’t catch up. I’m not good at sitting in front of a desk for hours on end so I’ve learned strategies for survival, like taking a break and doing crazy dances with my grandchildren who live with me.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: Usually at least 2 of these days are spent traveling to clients’ homes. My assistant Angela Geurts does all my scheduling for me, bless her. So on one day I go north to the Rexburg area and on one day I go south as far as Blackfoot or Pocatello. If I can’t get all the visits in, then I do a 3rd day. I also serve on the Board of Directors for Midwives College of Utah and of the Idaho Midwifery Council (I’m giving that up soon) and on the Idaho Board of Midwifery. So there are often online or phone meetings for those organizations and also projects that I have to do for them. I try to fit those in on the days when I don’t have too many visits. Sometimes I’m gone from 8 am to 6 or 7 pm, although that usually doesn’t happen more than once per week. I schedule a full hour for each visit plus driving time. Sometimes a student travels with me.

Fridays: In the morning one of my students comes for a few hours to help with things like organizing the office (a spare bedroom in our home), making up birth kits, scanning and entering documents, sterilizing instruments, restocking my bags, etc. Sometimes I can do home chores while they’re doing this but I usually need to be close at hand to answer questions.

Of course, if someone has a baby we have to revise the schedule unless the whole thing takes place at night. Angela has a big job!

 

What led you to begin offering assistant midwife classes?

I had been thinking of offering Midwife Assistant classes for a long time. When I first went out into solo practice I didn’t think I was likely to get students who wanted to get their clinical credits with me because I don’t do a high volume of births (about 25-30 per year) so it would be quite slow. I needed trained assistants. I realized that there are many women who are not ready to jump into midwifery but who would like a gentle introduction. Also, there’s a great need to educate women so there will be someone to help at births in case of emergency. That’s something I feel very strongly about. Birth knowledge is not something that should be kept as a professional secret available only to the few. It belongs to all women. Every ward should have someone who is at least somewhat prepared to help in cases where professional help is not available. Of all the emergency scenarios people talk about, emergency childbirth is the one you’re most likely to encounter in your life. It happens every day.

As it turned out, I do have students so my need for assistants is much less than I had expected. But I’m going to keep offering the classes as long as there’s any interest because it’s a good introduction to midwifery. There are now three licensed midwives in my area and I think there might be demand for good trained assistants.

 

What advice would you give someone who is considering whether or not to begin training to be a midwife?

I don’t have a lot of advice for people considering midwifery training. Just like any other major life decision, it needs to be searched out diligently and then prayed about. I do believe that it will soon become important to attend an accredited school. There is no royal road or shortcut to competence in midwifery. It’s a very responsible job and can be hard on a family if not approached with care. It’s worth taking your time and really investigating before jumping in. The rewards are great but so are the sacrifices. It’s worth investing in a quality education. “Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every byway, till you find your dream”. If it’s the path for you, you will come to know that.

 

What is one of the funniest experiences you have had as a midwife?

There are so many good stories! This is why midwives write books. I will too someday. Stories are mostly funny after the fact, and I’m the victim in most of them. Once I was attending a mother for her 3rd baby, and I’d been present as a student for the first two so I knew that this mom always worked hard to get her babies out. This time she was birthing on her bed in a suspended squat, supported from behind by her husband. Baby was finally almost crowning after a real effort at pushing. In the intensity of the moment I forgot the fact that her water hadn’t broken yet. I was practically lying across the bed with my hands outstretched and my face right in the path. Sure enough, the water broke and caught me full in the face, completely drenching my hair. But Baby was right behind it and I barely had time to run my arm across my face to clear my eyes before I had to catch. Baby needed a bit of stimulation to get started, so there wasn’t time to do anything about cleaning up for quite a while. When I finally had a chance to go into the bathroom and wash, I looked like a creature from the Black Lagoon. Naturally, this was a birth that took place fairly far away from my home and the mom had Rh negative blood type, so I had to take blood samples into the lab before I could go home and shower. I can only hope the lab people were pretty bleary-eyed at 4 am and didn’t think strange things. Angela was my assistant and she’s still laughing about that.

 

What is one of the most spiritual experiences you have had as midwife?

To be a midwife is to be a watcher at the gates of life. Every birth is a spiritual experience. Sometimes I’m very aware of the watchers from the other side of the veil. One of the richest experiences was the birth of one of my grandsons. My daughter-in-law was laboring well and there was deep peace in the room. As the birth drew near I became aware that the room was full of women. I couldn’t quite see them but I knew who some of them were. My Great-Aunt Dade who delivered many babies as a rural nurse, my Great-great-great grandmother Morilla Spink Bates who was a pioneer midwife, my own grandmothers, and other ancestors. I also recognized the presence of many whose names I did not know; they were ancestors of my daughter-in-law. I did not say anything but knew those women were there to lend support and to usher my grandson into his mortal experience.

 

Tell us more about the projects you are working on.

I’m currently working on several projects for the MCU board and the Board of Midwifery. At the same time I’m working on a book on Emergency Childbirth. It’s meant to be an updated manual like the old classic by Dr. Gregory White. But I’m also considering including it as a chapter in a longer work on preparedness for women and babies. I really need an illustrator! I’m also considering how I can complete my Bachelors degree in midwifery (I graduated with an AS from MCU). And of course I want to update my files so that all my notes are in electronic form and well-indexed so that I can find what I need easily.

Has working in midwifery affected your testimony?  How does your work as a midwife combine with your testimony?

 

My testimony of the Gospel and of my Savior’s grace has been greatly strengthened by my practice of midwifery. I know for certain that my strength is weakness and all power comes from Him. His plan is perfect, though we are not. I can testify that He lives, that He leads us along and knows of our needs and answers our prayers.

One of the great problems for midwives is fear. I think every midwifery student encounters this. There are so many things to be afraid of, but fear and faith cannot exist in the same person at the same time. Therefore faith must prevail. That which you feed is that which grows. I have learned to feed my faith, not my fears, and I have learned to rely on the strength of the Lord instead of my own. I must not carry fear or resentment or pride into the room where a birth is occurring. Since I never know the day nor the hour when I will be attending a birth, I must keep my repentance current.

I was given a powerful gift 38 years ago on the day I received my endowment for the first time. I believe that it was in some way tied to my mission among women. For some reason, the Lord saw fit to roll back the veil and let me truly understand the relationship of men and women on this earth and in the eternities. In one instant I saw the glory and nobility and unity of the sexes. Then it closed down and I could never explain it in words to myself or anyone else. But I had seen and understood for that one second, and in all the years since I have never had any troubles or doubts about the place of women in the Lord’s plan. It is glorious. In the World we have tribulation and uncertainty and sometimes anger or resentment about these things. But in the Lord we have peace everlasting. It is my testimony that we can choose where we will live, in Babylon or in Zion. We can choose whom we accept as authorities, the philosophies of men or the messengers from our Heavenly parents. You may have different questions or struggles than mine, but the source of light is the same for all of us. Let there be Light in your life.

 

by Lani

The Yoga of Motherhood

March 19, 2015 in Divine nature, Intuition, joy, Lani, Marriage, meditation, Motherhood, Pain, Parenting, Rebirth, Rites of passage, Yoga by Lani

 

Perhaps the essential purpose of all relationships is to create the laboratory in which we uncover our own divine nature and encourage theirs. -M. Catherine Thomas

In perusing the journal I wrote during my first pregnancy, I chuckled to myself when I stumbled upon these words (written September 10, 2003, just a couple of weeks before I gave birth):

Sometimes I almost wish for a trial or challenge to come so that I can be refined by its fire. . . . I almost hope that motherhood will be a challengeWell, I know that it will be a great challenge. But I hope I will look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow every day. Because I do want so much to develop and become a better, more loving and more Christ-like person.

The very next entry wasn’t until two months later, November 21. I wrote this:

I said last time I wrote that I sort of wished for a trial to come. Well, it certainly came. The first few days and weeks after my baby was born were some of the most difficult of my life. I didn’t get any real sleep until after we came home from the hospitalwhich was two days after her birth. I was exhausted and overwhelmed by the new role of mother. I was having difficulty breastfeedingwhich made everything more difficult. . . . Plus I was trying to recover from childbirth (which left me with multiple tears and lots of pain). It was hard for me to do virtually anything because it hurt to move.

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The remaining pages of that journal include a lot of venting about the challenges of caring for a very high-needs baby (who turned into a wonderful young lady, by the way). She didn’t sleep well, she didn’t eat well, she wanted to be held constantly, etc. etc. In June of 2004, I wrote down a passage from a book that helped me put things into perspective: “One of the greatest surprises, and greatest joys, comes as you realize that those have-to’s in your life actually got you where you wanted to be all along” (Emily Watts, Being the Mom). Indeed they have. My four children, and all the have-to’s that come with them, have done exactly what I hoped for as a soon-to-be mother: they have made me into a “better, more loving and more Christ-like person.”

Loveliest of the arts

Back in February I started Kundalini Yoga teacher training, so naturally I’ve got yoga on the brain. What is yoga? Here’s how Yogi Bhajan describes it:

Yoga is essentially a relationship. Consider the origin of the word “yoga.” Yoga, as we in the West understand it, has come from the biblical word, yoke. This originated from the root word in Sanskrit: jugit. They both mean “to join together,” or “to unite.” Yoga is the union of the individual’s unit consciousness with the Infinite Consciousness. The definition of a yogi is a person who has totally leaned on the Supreme Consciousness, which is God, until he or she has merged the unit self with the Infinite Self. That is all it means (The Aquarian Teacher, p. 14).

So the ultimate goal of yoga is union with God. How do we unite with God?

Last weekend in teacher training, our instructor said: “Confront your ego/shadow self until you get to I am, I Am.” After saying this, she shared a story about her early years as a yogi in Brooklyn, NY, living in the ashram. Every morning before sunrise, she went to group sadhana [daily yoga/meditation practice]. She had grown up as an only child, so it was quite an experience being with all of those people. She said that life in the ashram was: constantly having people pushing your buttons, triggering your stuff. As she said those words, I thought: sounds like a family. Isn’t that why God gave us families? To help us confront our egos, our shadow selves, until we get to I Am?

Byron Katie has said:

The people we most need are the people we’re living with now. Again and again, they will show us the truth we don’t want to see, until we see it. Our parents, our children, our spouses and our friends will continue to press every button we have, until we realize what it is that we don’t want to know about ourselves yet (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, Light in the Wilderness, p. 165).

And Richard Rohr has said:

So we absolutely need conflicts, relationship difficulties, moral failures, defeats to our grandiosity, even seeming enemies, or we will have no way to ever spot or track our shadow self. They [others] are our necessary mirrors (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, The Godseed, p. 168).

Yogi Bhajan called marriage between a man and woman the highest yoga: “Male and female make a union and this complete union is the greatest yoga” (The Master’s Touch, p. 138). Indeed, marriage provides ample opportunities for confronting our shadow selves, refining our behavior, and drawing closer to God. Perhaps it’s because I married a very kind, easy-to-live-with guy, but marriage hasn’t been my highest yoga. For me, it has been the yoga of motherhood that has tested and refined me most of all.

Yogi Bhajan taught that it was the job of a yoga teacher to “poke, provoke, confront, and elevate.” If that is the case, no one has been a greater teacher to me than my children. No spiritual practice has done more to purify my soul than motherhood. Yogi Bhajan said: “The ocean is a very calm thing, but when the winds are heavy and high, then it’s very choppy. The wind represents your egothe higher the ego, the choppier is a person’s life.” Clearly I came to this world with a whole lot of ego to process through. My teachers have had quite a job to do, and they have done it very well.

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Being a mother has required more discipline, patience, endurance, sacrifice, strength, selflessness, service, intuition, love, and reliance upon God than anything I have ever done. Mothers partner with God in a way that no one else can. I put this slideshow together as a tribute to the divine yoga of motherhood.

I remember when Dallin H. Oaks shared this story in conference:

One of our family members recently overheard a young couple on an airline flight explaining that they chose to have a dog instead of children. “Dogs are less trouble,” they declared. “Dogs don’t talk back, and we never have to ground them.”

True. Dogs are lovely companions. But we’re in this life to be refined into godliness. Yoga is the “sacred science of god-realization.” I thank heaven for my four excellent yoga teachers who “poke, provoke, confront, and elevate” me daily.

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by Lani

Channing’s Milk-Sharing Story

February 25, 2015 in Adversity, Breastfeeding, Gratitude, joy, Loss, Love, Motherhood by Lani

By Channing Parker

Before the birth of my daughter, my pregnancy daydreams focused heavily on nursing my new baby while she slept in my arms. With each feeding, she would snuggle in close to me and drink until she was satisfied. I would pull her close, take in her sweet baby goodness, and drift off in blissful mommy vibes. When the time came for her to be welcomed to this side of heaven, I just knew that everything was going to go perfectly according to my plans. She settled in for her first feed, she latched beautifully, ate, and snuggled into her first newborn sleep.

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Does it sound like a dream? I think those were my post-delivery hormones talking. The harsh reality outside of the delivery room was that my daughter had a very difficult time nursing. My dreams of peaceful rocking chair feedings came crashing down when we got home. Each time I nursed my toes curled as I offered my raw, cracked skin over and over again trying to help my daughter successfully latch. Every feed ended with both of us soaked in tears and milk. I was so frustrated! I had milk to give and a hungry baby to eat it, but something went wrong between point A and B and we failed to fill her tummy. We were just one week in and I was ready to give up until I stumbled upon a solution that was perfect for us – bottle-nursing. Bottle nursing consists of pumping breast milk and feeding it to baby via a bottle. My first pumping session produced more milk than could be eaten in one feeding, and for the first time since my daughter was born, I felt a sense of relief.

I hoarded any extra milk I had in the freezer. Within a month, my little freezer was bursting with frozen breast milk. It was at this point that I realized my body produced abnormally large amounts of milk – enough to fill about three babies per feeding. I went back and forth considering dumping all the extra down the drain when I was inspired to look into informal milk donation. I prayed and poured my heart over my decision to donate my milk to a mother who adopted her baby, born just a few weeks after my daughter. I moved forward and met this mom and her baby.

We talked for a while and got to know each other and cooed over our babies. I joyfully packed every bag of milk I had into her cooler. She gave me a hug walked away with a huge smile. At that moment, I realized she was carrying away 120 ounces of me. My tears. My milk. My heart. I felt lighter. Over the next ten months, God lead three other women just like her to my tiny freezer. Each time they came, they chipped away at the raw pain inside me and took those pieces away in bags of breast milk. Those parts of me that ached to be acknowledged and loved were wrapped in hugs and grateful smiles from fellow mothers. Eventually, the place in my soul that once housed a gnawing emptiness began to be filled with hope, love, and friendship.

God turned my dream of feeding one baby into something even more beautiful and fulfilling. He took my fiery determination to breastfeed and passion for my child and softened it into a passionate compassion for His children. The Lord knew that the joy of feeding just one baby was not enough for me, so he allowed me to feed four more. I look back on my experience as a milk donor and joyfully praise Him. How great His wisdom and His love!

My experience with milk donation is that an ounce given is received back one hundred times over in the the joy of selfless service. For both donor and recipient, an exchange of freely given breast milk is about so much more than filling bellies. It is about finding healing and bringing peace to the hearts that long for love, and that is a treasure that cannot be measured in ounces.

DSC_0114Channing Parker is an LDS wife and mother who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a passionate student and teacher of yoga and loves to share her love of life and learning with others. Find her at The Little Blog Of Awesome and let some of her radiance and joy rub off on you!

by Lani

Towers of Strength: a Call for Stories

January 28, 2015 in Adversity, Atonement, Book, Book reviews, Depression, Divine nature, Fear, Grace, Grief, joy, Lani, Miracles, Pain, Postpartum Depression by Lani

Last weekend I attended Felice’s Therapeutic Imagery Facilitator Training. It was five billion times more awesome than I ever could have imagined it would be. I’ve been guiding my daughters on imagery journeys nearly every night since, and I can’t wait to share these new skills with everyone and anyone I can. So much healing happened in that sacred space last weekend. What an honor and privilege to have been a part of it. I love these women!

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After the workshop was over, I was talking with the lovely Anna Hargadon (one of the creators of the awesome film Women of Faith). She asked me, “So what’s your next project? Do you have anything you’re working on?” Maybe it was God’s way of nudging me to get moving. One of the first things that happened after I recovered my will to live last fall was that God gave me an assignment. It’s time to write another book, He said.

So this is me acting on that prompting. Last Sunday, as I drove home from church, the book’s title came to me. It was inspired by something I learned reading Heather’s new book, Walking with the Women of the New Testament. In my review of her book, I wrote:

Heather writes, “While we don’t know the details of Mary Magdalene’s infirmity, we might deduce based on what we know of the others whom Christ healed from evil spirits that she was tormented with some sort of mental infirmity. The fact that she had seven devils cast out of her suggests that her infirmity may have been severe” (p. 77).

Heather explains that Christ called Mary “Magdalene” (meaning “tower of strength”) probably in much the same way that he called Simon “Peter” (meaning “rock”). After her healing, Mary became a devoted follower of Christ and a likely “tower of strength” to those around her, including Christ Himself. Of all the people Christ could have appeared to immediately after His resurrection, He chose Mary Magdalene.

Being a woman who struggles with “mental infirmities,” I gather peace from Mary’s remarkable recovery. If Christ can turn an infirm and darkness-plagued Mary into a “tower of strength,” maybe then there is hope for me too?

The title God gave to me for this book is inspired by Mary Magdalene, the original “Tower of Strength” and one of my heroes.

Towers of Strength: Stories of Triumph over Darkness. What do you think? This probably isn’t what the book will look like, but I had fun making a pretend cover. A quick search on Deseret Book’s website only brought up a few titles discussing mental illness, and none of them (as far as I could tell) is written from the perspective of the “mentally ill.” Mental health practitioners and caregivers certainly have valuable insights and perspectives to share, but I just feel strongly that we need to give a voice to the ones living with the illnesses. I feel like there is a sort of assumption that the mentally ill aren’t capable of speaking for themselves, but I couldn’t disagree more. Our voices need to be heard. It’s time.

So far this is what I have in mind:

  • Spiritual thoughts and stories about mental illness from the perspective of Latter-day Saints, emphasis on stories of triumph.
  • Written by those who have lived with and/or overcome mental illness.
  • Stories of all types of triumph (through counseling, medication, meditation, energy healing, temple work, prayer, priesthood, etc.)
  • Similar to The Gift of Giving Life with stories from a wide variety of people with a wide variety of challenges.
  • Intended to bring hope to those who are still struggling in darkness and their loved ones and to help doctors, counselors, and caregivers to better understand the perspective of “patients.”

If you feel impressed that you have a story to share or know someone who might, please send me an email (askbusca at gmail dot com). And please spread the word on whatever groups, forums, and facebook pages you feel might generate interest. The deadline for story submissions is May 1st. And if you know of a publisher who might be interested, please pass the word along to them too! Thank you!

**Posted today, January 28, 2015, in memory of Ashton Mayberry who suffered from depression and anxiety and took his own life on January 28, 2014.**

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by Robyn

A Gift for an Angel

December 9, 2014 in Angels, Birthdays, Christmas, Death, fasting, Grief, home birth, Jesus Christ, joy, Loss, Love, Mary, Robyn, Savior, Thoughts, Uncategorized by Robyn

December is special to me for many reasons.  Not only do I get to celebrate Christ’s birth, I get to celebrate my firstborn son’s birthday.  Kyle only spent two birthdays on earth with us before he died  but we still celebrate his birth every year.  If you have read “Birth in Remembrance of Him” in the Gift of Giving Life then you are familiar with his birth story.  His birth will always be very special to me.  He came just days before Christmas surprising us on a starry night.  No hospital, no midwife, just me, my husband and a newborn baby in a tiny little room.  I felt a special kinship with Mary, Joseph and the precious Baby Jesus.  I will always treasure that night.

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The cutest angel on our tree.

 

How does one celebrate an angel birthday? I don’t think there is a right way to do it.    We started by releasing balloons for each year old he would be.  We each write a message on the balloon and release it into the sky.  As the years pass, the number of balloons has grown so we are looking to change things around a bit. We will likely continue to open a gift from Kyle.  It is usually a Christmas book or other classic children’s book.  We have also donated a book to our local library because Kyle loved books so much.

This year I decided to give Kyle a gift.  It was early because I gave it to him on Fast Sunday.  As I have blogged about before, I moved this past year.  In my old ward, I often shared my testimony.  It was not unusual for there to be lots of pauses which made it easier for me to get up. The new ward has a line waiting every fast Sunday so if you want to get up you have to get up early and get into the line up.  I also felt a little more nervous to get up in this new ward.  And there is always the challenge of keeping the toddler happy while you go wait your turn.  While she was distracted with the cute boys behind her I snuck to the stand and waited my turn.  And then the bonus, my four year old followed me.  I admit to feeling like my thoughts were scattered but what I do know is,

“Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.” Doctrine and Covenants 62:3

My belief is that my angel, Kyle, will read it.  It is my gift to him.  And that is the glue that will bind us together forever as a family, Christ.  Our living testimonies of Him.  I also realized after finally getting up was that I could keep giving that gift to him.  So I have shared my testimony in my primary class, Family Home Evening, on my Facebook page, Instagram account and blog.  And now you get to hear it too.

I do know that Christ lives.  He is my Light.  He brings me hope as I seek repentance and forgiveness. He has the power to save.  He leads and guides His living church through a living prophet of God on the earth.  I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God as is the Bible.  My heart rejoices in their power.  I know that it is because of the Savior that my family can be together forever.  This is not wishful thinking.  This is eternal truth.  I bear witness to it.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

by Lani

Born Again

November 13, 2014 in Atonement, Depression, Divine nature, Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ, joy, Lani, Rebirth, Savior by Lani

This morning I was rereading some of my favorite book, Light in the Wilderness by M. Catherine Thomas. Chapter ten is about being transformed and born again, swallowed up in Christ. For some, like Alma the Younger, this transformation happens in a dramatic and instantaneous way. For most of us, however, “we are born again by degrees,” as Elder Bruce R. McConkie has said (p. 217). The latter has definitely been true for me.

Looking back, I can recognize pivotal times of transition throughout my life when I moved from a lower to a higher plane… when I was baptized, the first time I felt God’s love wash away my heartache as a teenager, starting college, receiving my endowment, giving birth to each of my children, starting my blog, moving to Arizona, writing The Gift of Giving Life, grieving my grandmother’s death, learning to meditate, surviving this year. Sometimes the process was relatively painless, but other times it was steep and intense. The end result was always the same, however. Joy. Every time we are born again, our capacity for joy is heightened.

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This past Sunday I had a taste of the heightened joy that is my reward for my most recent transformative rebirth. I have sat through thousands of Sacrament meetings in my thirty-four years. I have felt the Spirit thousands of times while sitting in those Sacrament meetings. Feeling the Spirit was as familiar to me as feeling hungry or cold. But for most of the past six months, my ability to feel and recognize the Holy Spirit was virtually gone. I felt cut off from heaven, truth, light. This is a byproduct of mental illness for some of us. And it’s absolutely horrific. I think it’s fair to say that this inability to feel the Spirit has been a small glimpse of the bitterness of hell. These words describing hell from Life Everlasting by Duane S. Crowther brought this point home to me a few days ago:

What is the darkness in which these spirits dwell? It appears that it is a complete absence of the light, guidance, truth, and inspiration of Christ.(p. 160).

I was grateful to be reminded by Truman G. Madsen recently that Christ has personally seen and felt that horrifically dark place. “He was ‘in all points tempted like as we are’ (Paul), with ‘temptations of every kind’ (Alma). How low then can we go in our thoughts? Not as low as he in the contemplation of evil. He was tempted through ‘the darkest abyss’ and ‘descended below all things'” (Christ and the Inner Life, p. 35). It was quite an epiphany to realize that if I had been tempted to end my own life, Christ himself was also tempted to do so.

So having spent six months inhabiting a body that no longer felt the Spirit in the ways I was used to, seeing a dark and hellish abyss, sitting through Sacrament meetings devoid of any “warm fuzzies” or “burning in the bosoms,” you can imagine my surprise and delight when I felt something last Sunday in Sacrament meeting. And I didn’t just feel a little something, my entire body was on fire. And I cried and cried and cried. And I felt the Spirit burning away months of ache, jump-starting my spiritual instruments, blazing them to life again. And I cried and cried and cried. Bliss. That. That is what bliss feels like. And I think it’s fair to say that I have now had a small taste of what heaven feels like.

I adore this passage from F. Enzio Busche’s amazing talk, “Truth Is the Issue“:

This is that place where the conversion and the rebirth of the soul are happening. This is the place where the prophets were before they were called to serve. . . . This is the place where sanctifications and rededications and renewal of covenants are happening. This is the place where suddenly the atonement of Christ is understood and embraced. This is the place where suddenly, when commitments have solemnly been established, the soul begins to “sing the song of redeeming love” and indestructible faith in Christ is born (Alma 5:26). This is the place where we suddenly see the heavens open as we feel the full impact of the love of our Heavenly Father, which fills us with indescribable joy. With this fulfillment of love in our hearts, we will never be happy anymore just by being ourselves or living our own lives. We will not be satisfied until we have surrendered our lives into the arms of the loving Christ, and until He has become the doer of all our deeds and He has become the speaker of all our words.

I clap my hands for joy and exclaim with King Benjamin’s people: “This is the desire of my heart!” I want to be changed from this carnal and fallen state, become a new creature in Christ, a branch on His vine, the hands and voice that do and speak His will in every circumstance. My brother reminded me (when I was feeling hopeless) a couple of weeks ago that it’s my choice, that I can achieve the future I yearn for simply by choosing it every day. I choose to believe that I will get there someday.

my phoenix shirt

my phoenix shirt