Conceiving Courage

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

 

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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Laboring Through

October 3, 2015 in Adversity, Depression, Doulas, Fear, Gratitude, Heavenly Mother, Lani, Love, Motherhood, Pain, Uncategorized

So Elder Holland hit another home run. I’d say his talk today ranks right up there in my heart with “Like a Broken Vessel” from two Octobers ago. Today Elder Holland honored women and mothers and the ways their service is nearer to Jesus Christ’s role as deliverer than any other service in mortality. He called mothers “messianic figures” and “saviors on Mt. Zion.” He even publicly thanked our dear Mother in Heaven.

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All of the talk was beautiful, but do you know what my absolute favorite part was? My favorite phrase Elder Holland uttered today was this: “laboring through the battered landscape of his despair.” As Elder Holland spoke of a mother striving to bear up her son as he traveled through the darkest days and nights of his intense anguish… I can’t even really describe to you what I felt inside. Perhaps those words and that story impacted me so deeply because I know so intimately what the battered landscape of despair looks like and feels like. Perhaps more intensely, however, I know the sheer magnitude and magnificence of the gratitude that can be felt toward those who have labored with us through the battered landscapes of our despair and anguish.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself thinking a lot about where I was last year. I went to my blog and re-read old posts full of the raw reality of what I went through. The more time passes, the more I forget just how bad it was. But in those moments of remembering, I felt it all come back to me… the utterly bleak and painful reality of what I had experienced. But the overriding and prevailing emotion I felt that night was gratitude. Gratitude beyond my capacity to describe. Gratitude so intense that it gathered with fierceness in my tear ducts and flooded down my face for a very long time.

One image kept coming back to me and renewing the flood of my tears. It was an image of me lying on my friend’s tan leather couch, our kids playing in front of me watching something on Netflix, my friend sitting at her kitchen table sewing together a quilt for her youngest son. If someone were to take a snapshot of that moment, they might conclude all sorts of things. They might wonder why we were “ignoring” each other. They might think it odd that I was seemingly sleeping through my visit with a friend. They might question the depth of our friendship. But all of those assumptions would miss the profound beauty of what was happening in that room.

I couldn’t tell you how many days I spent on my friends’ couches last summer. Sometimes I could have semi-normal conversations. Sometimes all I could do was stare at the wall or ceiling and try to breathe. Sometimes I closed my eyes and attempted (usually with very minimal success) to sleep. My friends really didn’t understand what I was going through. But it didn’t matter. I never once felt like a burden. I never once felt like an intrusion. I knew I could just be… just be… in whatever state I was in, and it was OK. If I wanted to talk, my friends would talk. If I was paralyzed by my body and mind and could only endure, my friends held space for me to endure. They played games with my daughter and fed her lunch. They made it OK for me to do whatever I needed to do. They sat with me, but not in a way that made me feel like a spectacle. They sewed quilts, did their dishes, folded laundry, but all the while bearing me up with their presence, their willingness to witness my pain, their open doors and couches always there whenever I needed them.

As I lay on my friend’s tan leather couch, my body was wracked with agonizing withdrawals, my mind was a whirl of fear and darkness. I didn’t know when the darkness was going to end. But in that moment, despite the fear and pain overwhelming me, I knew I was loved. I knew I was safe. I knew that I had support anytime I needed it. I knew that my friends and family believed in me, prayed for me, and most importantly that they were laboring with me in that landscape of horrific despair.

Elder Holland thanked mothers for their pure Christ-like love and service, and I myself do feel deep gratitude for my mother’s efforts to lift me in my deepest days of darkness. But beyond that I feel gratitude more profound than human language can convey to all the people in my life who labored and bore with me last year through my life’s most painful test of faith. Thank you. More than I can say.

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Processing Motherhood with Poetry

August 16, 2015 in Abortion, Family size, fasting, Fear, Lani, Love, Motherhood, Parenting, Pregnancy

BYU graduation with my incredible grand-Mother

BYU graduation with my incredible grand-Mother

So we moved this summer. In the process of unpacking, I found a composition book with notes, freewriting, story ideas, and poetry from the Creative Writing class I took at BYU during the last semester of my senior year. I was newly pregnant with my first child at the time and thus processing a lot of my mother issues. As usual, one of the ways I chose to do this was through words. The following are two poems I wrote in the early months of 2003 and another written more recently.

This first poem is about my stepmother. She came into my life when I was about three or four years old. My dad met her while attending graduate school at BYU after his marriage with my mother ended. Unfortunately, he was no longer allowed to teach seminary as a divorced man. So he went back to school full time and worked to support our family as a single dad of six. I was the youngest, and desperately in need of maternal love and affection. My dad’s new girlfriend, a former elementary school teacher obtaining her doctorate in neuropsychology, could work magic with small children, and I was smitten from the start. She introduced us to literature, art, history, theater, cultural diversity, music, and lots of new foods. Who I am today I owe in large part to her influence.

Seeds

581653_594088200611546_572607400_nLooking up
A pair of small blue eyes
Soaked in all the love that she emanated
From her tall, beautiful figure.
A little hand,
Fingernails stubby from nibbling,
Grasped tightly
Her warm, slender fingers,
Safe.
A child’s ears
Swallowed her voice–
Drank in deeply the tales
Of Arabian Nights and
Trees that gave and gave.
The growing heart
Embraced the seeds she offered–
Words, knowledge, safety,
Love.
And the seeds still grow.

The next poem describes many women who have mothered me over the years: my mother, my sister, my grandmother, my stepmother, my aunt, and others. As I pondered my pregnancy and the path of motherhood, I thought a lot about these women and having had a rather non-traditional upbringing wondered whether I would be a “successful” mother.

My Mothers

I’ve been saved so many times
By gentle hands and soothing words.
She, with the instincts of life and nature,
Drew me to her.
In nights when only light and noise were solace,
She rescued me.
When the darkness and the silence were unbearable,
Or when I wept, incapable of expressing my fear,
Surrounded by familiar prisons, she pulled me out.
She had so many faces, so many names,
But her heart is called Mother.
Mothers.

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Some of my “Mothers”

And now my own heart strains
As the title bursts upon it.
It hurts, but the pain is also joy.
I fear the title.
Mother.
Can I be Mother?
Will nature teach me how to be a
A Savior–
A Mother?

Now, 12+ years later, I am Mother to four (and a half) children. I wonder all the time if I am really capable of taking on any more, but the truth is I have wondered this every time I have been pregnant. Somehow my children have turned out remarkably well, whether because of or in spite of my efforts. I try to remind myself that, even when I’m not nurturing them as well as I think I should be, they have a life full of love, consistency, and security that I could only have dreamed of as a child.

This last poem I wrote just two years ago. It has been on my mind a lot the past few days. Last week I discovered that I am presently pregnant with another girl. This was a bit (a lot) shocking as I had been anticipating the arrival boy-child who has been visiting me for the past four years. But one of the things that has enabled me to open my heart to this daughter is remembering the millions of girl babies who have been eliminated in areas of the world with boy-baby preference. Girl babies in these areas are far too often aborted (sometimes by force), killed at birth, abandoned, or channeled into the horrific sex-slave trade. There are 163 million females who would have populated Asia but are “missing” because of gendercide. That is more than the entire female population of the United States.

Two years ago, on June 2, 2013, I organized a day of fasting and prayer to raise awareness about this heart-breaking problem. Early that morning, I was awakened by the words of a poem forming in my head, demanding to be written. And when I re-read it now, carrying a daughter in my womb, my heart cries, “I hear you! I want you! I will be your mother!”

3:00 a.m.

When I hear
A baby cry,
Her voice
Her song
An invisible vibration of longing
Penetrates my mortal shell,
Gliding through flesh and bone
Like a delicate silver thread.
It throbs with urgency
As it wraps around
And around
saveagirlAnd around
My heart,
Bleeding ache.
And now
A hundred
A million
A hundred million
Tiny threads,
Bursting with a deafening silence,
Pull me from my sleep
Like newborns in the night,
“Wake up,”
Their silent voices throb,
“Cry for us,
Scream for us,
Mother.”

 A slideshow I made for the June 2 day of prayer… Some of the girls in the video were the daughters of people who participated in the event…

On Being in Love

February 13, 2015 in Attachment, Fear, Gratitude, Jesus Christ, Lani, Love, Marriage

Last night I was thinking about being in love. Felice wrote a great post a few years ago about love. In it she quoted 1 John 4:8:

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Felice is a single mom in search of a mate, but she thanks God every day that she is in love. She says, “That may not make sense, but I think it is key to happiness no matter what your relationship status” (Source).

What does it mean to be in love? Are you in love? What does it really mean to be in love? Some scriptures:

  • “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).
  • “And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21).
  • “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
  • “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

In my essay “Unity with Providers of Care” in The Gift of Giving Life, I wrote about a BYU devotional I attended on the day after Valentine’s Day fifteen years ago. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was the speaker. That devotional was titled: “How Do I Love Thee?“He explained: “The first element of divine love—pure love—taught by [Mormon and Paul] is its kindness, its selfless quality, its lack of ego and vanity and consuming self-centeredness.”

So it would seem that we cannot be “in love” if we are consumed with ourselves. The “natural man” is the ego-driven part of us. The natural man cannot be in love. The natural man is incapable of true love. These words from M. Catherine Thomas‘s The Godseed are instructive:

When a person is born into this world, the ego, with its own agenda and urge to control, begins to enlarge itself and veil the openness and freedom of our spiritual mind. Instead of seeing things as they really are, we see by the dim light of our ego-concerns and fears. Perhaps the main characteristic of the ego is that it behaves like a frightened child (The Godseed, p. 139-140).

It takes a lot of energy to keep the shadow buried and to suppress our multitude of fears. The result is energy depletion. On the emotional level, it is expressed as an inhibition of the capacity to love (Dr. David R Hawkins, qtd. on p. 166).

Fearing and wanting are [the ego’s] predominant emotions and motivating forces (Eckhard Tolle, qtd. on p. 176).

If you try to save your life you will bring yourself to ruin; if you bring yourself to nothing, you will find out who you are (Thomas Keating, qtd. on p. 195).

I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept lately… bringing yourself to nothing. It started at the beginning of January at the yoga/meditation retreat Felice taught. During one of the meditations she said, “Bring yourself to zero.” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, and I have made it my intention ever since.

A few months ago, while I was meditating, I saw in my mind the moon, changing phases. I was thinking about how the gate to the inner court of the temple was opened on the new moon (see Ezekiel 46:1-3). As Felice explained in her new moon blogpost: “It seems to me that if we are seeking Him, there is special opportunity on the Sabbath and the New Moon, when He ‘opens the gates to the inner court.’” I saw in my mind the new moon, empty. I saw the moon gradually filling up with light and becoming full. And then I saw it emptying again. I felt like God was trying to teach me something, but it took some pondering before I gathered it all up.

moon-phases

As I thought about it, I realized that just as the moon and the womb cycle through phases of fullness and emptiness, we too are meant to be continually emptying and filling. Just as the moon goes from full to new, we must pour out ourselves, our egos, our fears, our weapons of war, our grudges, our disappointments, our negative thoughts, our attachment to the world, etc. We must “bring ourselves to zero,” an empty moon, open and purified. Only then is there space for Christ to fill us up. Only with a pure heart, empty like the new moon, can we walk through the gate of the inner court and at-one with Christ, dwell in God, and become full… full moons, full of light, bursting through the dark of the night.

Bringing ourselves to zero can be painful. Unburying and discarding our ego-driven shadow selves is no small task. (Ego eradicator is a yoga technique that helps.) But it is worth the effort because something marvelous happens when we do. We enable ourselves to be in love. And to thank God every day that we are in love.

I’ll close with my favorite scripture of all time:

“Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; . . . that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen” (Moroni 7:48).

 

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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

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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Gift Babies: Hollie’s First Birth

December 1, 2014 in Birth Stories, Book, Fear, hospital birth, Lani, Pregnancy, Uncategorized

We love hearing uplifting birth stories from our readers! Do you have a gift baby? A “gift baby” was born under the influence of The Gift of Giving Life. Please send us your gift baby stories! Here’s one from Hollie:

It took three pregnancy tests to convince me this was really happening. We were married only a month and a half and now a baby was coming. My initial feelings were absolute fear. How on earth could I do this? I was in my second year at university and we were living off of Marks part-time job. This was not the time for having a baby (or so I had thought). If I’m being totally honest, my feelings went a lot deeper and lot more personal than this. All I knew was that I was very much pregnant, and I very much didn’t want to be. I think what was most difficult about dealing with this situation was the guilt that came with it. How could I not want a perfect little son or daughter? I had spent my entire teenaged life dreaming of having a family and now faced with the reality I just wanted a way out.

I felt awful. I kept imagining the beautiful child inside me and thinking ‘How can I not want you?’ I spent a lot of time on my knees and shed an awful lot of tears. A trip to the states and a browse in one of my favourite book shops solved everything. As I stared at the cover of The Gift of Giving Life I felt a little sense of excitement about being able to feel the spirit about being pregnant and giving birth. After reading the contents and seeing the sort of discussions that I would be able to partake of, I knew I had to take this book home. And I was right. This book calmed all of my fears and totally blew my mind. I read the whole thing slowly, and over the course of the nine months. I managed to finish it the week before I gave birth.

One of my favourite parts was reading the thoughts and feelings of a woman who seemed to have been able to put into words the way I had felt when I found out I was pregnant. I remember thinking ‘It’s okay. I’m not the only one. It’s okay to feel like that.’ And that’s all I needed. To know that it was okay to be pregnant and not want to be. After I came to terms with that, I could accept it, take time to heal and figure out that this was the best time for a baby and that although it wasn’t part of our plan, it was definitely a part of Gods plan.

So there I was – five days overdue and at 4 am the contractions woke me up. They were hard, fast and very painful. I was hurting, but I wasn’t afraid and I wasn’t panicked. I was very calm and very focused. I had a firm belief that this was my purpose and what I was designed to do. I knew I could do it and I knew there was no need to worry. I had learned from reading my book that women who have a great fear of giving birth actually tend to have longer labours or complications in childbirth compared with women who are not afraid and keep calm. I even researched this by asking women that I knew, and it seemed to be true. I had great faith that if I stayed calm and had courage that I could do this.

I listened to the sound of rainfall and did my breathing exercises whilst sitting on the bathroom floor trying to figure out when was the right time to call my husband home and when we should go to the hospital. I was so confused – my sister had given birth three days prior and she had been in labour for 40 hours but this was happening so fast. The contractions were almost over-lapping and they were extremely painful. This was difficult for me to deal with without getting panicked, but I just kept telling myself that I could do it and that it would be over soon. This wasn’t going to go on forever, and when it was over I’d have a beautiful little girl to spend everyday with.

At 8.45 am Mark came home, and we called the hospital. It was quite far away so I was reluctant to go in and be assessed because I knew if I wasn’t at least 4 cm dilated they would send us back home. But the contractions were so fast and we felt we should go. We arrived at 10.20 am and after assessment I was told I was 5cm – wow! This was happening quickly. I had always imagined lying on a bed to give birth but sitting down just wasn’t an option in reality. I could feel so much pressure like the baby was coming already so I just had to stand. And I was right – she was coming, and I couldn’t control the urges to push. With my husband there to witness the most incredible moment of our lives and my mother there to hold my hand and motivate me to push that little bit harder, my little Lillie was born at 12.31 pm. It was quick and painful, but I loved every single second. I have never felt anything so exciting and exhilarating. Giving birth to my little girl was the best experience I’ve ever had. It was so positive and so within my capacity. I felt wonderful and so happy to finally have this beautiful, perfect girl.

I truly believe that I owe my birth experience to the things I learned and kept with me from The Gift of Giving Life. I will always treasure the special things I read in it and shared with my husband. I will always treasure calling my sister who was also pregnant with her first and discussing the things we read in this wonderful book. And I will always read this book throughout my pregnancies. It is one of the best books I have ever read and I urge every woman, mother, mother-to be to take in its words and let their hearts be touched.
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P.S. We’ve discounted The Gift of Giving Life for the holidays! Click HERE to snag this super deal!

God Keeps His Promises, part 2

October 15, 2014 in Adversity, Depression, Fear, Lani, Personal Revelation, Priesthood blessings, Waiting

Back in March I wrote a post called “God Keeps His Promises.” Feel free to click over and read it. The main part I want to draw your attention to is this:

I wondered, “Will I need to take this medicine for the rest of my life?” . . .

In another priesthood blessing, God answered my question: “You will be able to be happy without medication.” He didn’t tell me how long it would take, but I was satisfied with just knowing that someday I’d get there. And so I went on, taking my medication, feeling grateful for my rescue from the darkness. . . .

About a year ago, I started cutting back on my dose, little by little, very slowly, adding in supplements recommended by readers and friends to ease the withdrawal. I took a dose last Tuesday, but when I was due for another dose I felt restrained from taking it. The next day I felt restrained, and the next, and the next. I didn’t hear a voice, but I felt a message in my gut: “You’re ready. It’s time.” . . .

The other night, I asked for another priesthood blessing. He said, “God wants to remind you of the promises He has made to you. He will keep those promises.”

It has been seven months. Five of those were excruciating on many levels. Once again I’m taking medication… the same medication God prompted me to stop taking in March. Once again I’m depending upon a pill to remain calm and happy. Needless to say this has been a confusing year.

For much of May and June, as I battled severe anxiety and depression and finally surrendered to the necessity of re-medicating myself, I wondered, “Why would God tell me to stop taking my medication if I was going to crash without it?” Then I stumbled on a video that brought me a lot of peace. It shares a story told by Jeffrey R. Holland…

I took a dead end. Clearly the wrong road. Retraced my steps and got back on the right road. Why did I feel that the dead end was the proper road to take if it wasn’t? When I saw this video, my heart flared with the Spirit and I felt like Jeffrey R. Holland was speaking right to me. Now I can know with a certainty that I’m on the right road for me. I also know that my dead-end detour this summer served many purposes, many of them probably unknown to me, but some of them made clear to me many times over. It was not a waste. Many lives were blessed by it, including my own.

But what about God’s promise that I would be healed and be happy without medication? When I told my (Mormon) psychiatrist about those promises, he encouraged me to re-read a couple of talks. One of them I have adored since I first heard it spoken: “Like a Broken Vessel,” also from Jeffrey R. Holland. He urges:

If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.

This message from a friend also helped me come to peace:

Through prayer, meditation and personal revelation I’ve learned that it’s possible for me to have bipolar and be perfect/whole/complete. And it’s part of God’s plan for me to be medicated. . . . That was God’s answer for me. Not to be healed. For now or for this life? I don’t know. I know I will come forward in the Resurrection whole and perfect and I cling to that hope.

We live in a fallen world. For some of our brains and bodies, the world’s fallen nature has a deeper impact. My pure immortal spirit wanted to flee my fallen body so desperately this year. Enduring the darkness was excruciating. But, for now, medication is God’s compensation to me for the disparities between my spirit and my body. For now, a pill is what is making my brain and body bearable for my spirit. For now, the healing power of God has not removed my body’s weaknesses but enabled me to thrive in spite of them. It is not the healing I wanted or expected, but it is a healing of sorts. But mortality is brief. I will spend most of my existence free of medication. Someday I will be happy without medication. Until then, I’m OK with it.

Our Deliverance

April 1, 2014 in Birth Stories, Dads, Family size, Fear, home birth, Lani, Midwives, Miracles, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Priesthood blessings

When my second child was two-and-a-half, we starting thinking about conceiving a third baby, a thought that both excited and terrified us simultaneously.  Could we really afford another child?  How would we pay for the birth, being without maternity insurance?  Could I really handle mothering three children? Gently, the Lord communicated to us that we would be blessed if we chose to invite another child into our home and that He would ensure that we had the means to provide for that child’s birth and life.

A few months later, I became pregnant. Each day was a constant struggle between faith and fear as we strained to hold fast to the Lord’s assurances that we would have the money we would need.  And I had to make a decision—where would my 3rd baby be born? We had never felt comfortable considering home birth in the past, but we knew that having our third baby at home would cost thousands of dollars less than paying for a hospital birth out-of-pocket. Only a week after I got a positive pregnancy test, I was already agonizing over the decision.  My husband gave me a priesthood blessing in which the Lord told me that He would guide me to make the right decision for us.  This scripture spoke to me in my dilemma:

 

Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him (Alma 58:11).

 

I agonized more and more and settled on a hospital birth with nurse-midwives recommended by a friend.  I definitely never had an overwhelming feeling that it was the answer to my dilemma, but it felt fine in the beginning.  After three or four prenatal appointments, I had met most of the nurse-midwives and loved them all, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t quite the right path for us.  So we went back to the drawing board and opened-up that agonizing question again.  Only this time (and for the first time in my life) I was really open to accepting home birth as the answer, and so was my husband.

On Halloween night (2008), my husband and I spent a couple of hours praying for guidance, searching the scriptures, and exchanging our thoughts and feelings.  We felt that the Lord was leading us toward a home birth and that our next step was to pray and ask the Lord if this choice was right.  When I prayed, I asked God to please help us to receive a clear answer so that we could move forward with confidence.

Then I asked for a priesthood blessing. What followed was one of the most tender and beautiful spiritual experiences of my life—the kind that words feel inadequate to describe or explain.  The actual words of the blessing were marvelous, but more than the words was the feeling that overwhelmed me.  We didn’t get far into the blessing before tears were streaming down my face as I choked back sobs (and I don’t cry easily).  I felt the most incredible burning in my heart—like I was being filled with the burning, life-giving love of God.  There is nothing in the world like that feeling.  It completely overwhelmed me.  I don’t know if an answer to my prayers has ever been so clear. When the blessing was over, I just hugged my husband and sobbed in his arms with joy and gratitude for the beautiful gift God had just given us.

Our answer was clear: we were having our baby at home!

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We continued to seek the Lord’s guidance as we selected the midwives who would attend our baby’s birth, Mary and Nedra. And the Lord, my God, “did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith,” just as He had told me He would, through the scriptures, at the beginning of my pregnancy.

The blessings and miracles continued to pour down upon us.  In February, I attended a doula training workshop (offered for free as a gift to the community by the doula trainer) where I met many women who would become my friends.  One of them, Cassie, offered to be my doula and take photographs of my birth (again, for free).  She also took some maternity photos for us (like the one above).  Unexpected additional income came to us, with the probability of further additional income opportunities in the future.  Just as the Lord had promised, we found ourselves with enough and to spare financially, and our baby’s birth was completely paid-for by my 36th week of pregnancy.

Then, on April 1, 2009, my son made his debut. My water broke in the afternoon, contractions started a couple of hours later, and about five hours later, I was clinging to my husband’s arms over the edge of the fishy pool, moaning through the hardest contractions.

I could tell I was in transition when I found myself reaching my limit.  It was at this time that I turned to God.  I don’t think there is any other physical experience that brings a person closer to the veil between earth and heaven than childbirth—particularly the 7 cm to delivery span.  I silently cried to God: “Help me!” My mind wandered back and forth between my present physical surroundings and an otherworldly distant space.  Somewhere in that space I found myself calling to my deceased friend, “Catheryn, I need you now!”  I don’t know if it was her voice or my own that whispered in my head, “It’s almost over.  You’re almost finished.” My husband’s soothing touch and the words “It’s almost over” playing over and over in my head are what carried me through to the end.

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I moved to the bed for the delivery. Perhaps it was Mary’s oil and hot compresses, but I never really felt the “ring of fire.”  I didn’t even really know the head was out until I heard someone say, “His head is out!”  Then Mary said, “Reach down and pull out your baby!”  I grasped onto his warm, slippery shoulders and pulled him up onto my chest.  It was 10:55 pm on April 1—an April Fool’s day baby!

At first all I could see was the top of his dark-haired head and his slippery arms and back.  We touched and rubbed him—alternating between smiling at each other and staring at our baby—as the midwives draped a towel over him.  I breathed quickly in and out, saying something like, “Oh my gosh!” and then, “Is he OK? Is he OK?”  Mary smiled and calmly said, “He’s just fine!  He’s doing great!”  Everyone started talking and smiling and taking photos.  My husband felt a tear roll down his cheek and watched it land on my shoulder.

Afterward, I was so full of energy and endorphins that I couldn’t stop smiling and didn’t really sleep for at least a day.  Within an hour after the birth, I was up and showering.  Then I went downstairs to grab a bite to eat, almost as though my body hadn’t just given birth (intact perineum… woohoo!).  The next days, weeks, and months I spent in bliss, more deeply in love with my tiny little boy than I ever imagined I could be. I had never experienced anything like the intense, fierce bond I was blessed to experience with that tiny baby boy, despite having two older children (whom I loved).

When the Lord communicated to us all those years ago that we would be blessed for inviting another of His spirit children into our home (two years later, we invited our 4th), I couldn’t have imagined just how blessed we would be.  I know with all my heart that our greatest blessings and joys come when we allow the Lord to guide us in all of our decisions.

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God Keeps His Promises

March 12, 2014 in Adversity, Book, Dads, Depression, Faith, Fear, Grief, Lani, Loss, Miracles, Personal Revelation, Postpartum Depression, Priesthood blessings

It has been nearly two years since I experienced what I can only describe as a “nervous breakdown.”

It started in April of 2012, coinciding with the birth of our book, The Gift of Giving Life, a year and two months after my fourth child’s birth.

And then my Grandma died. And I fell. Fast.

After several months of struggling to breathe, struggling to eat, struggling to keep the panic and despair from crushing me, God sent a friend to my home. She said, “I think maybe it’s time for you to try medication.” I had resisted medicine for a long time, trying countless natural remedies for anxiety and depression to no avail. But my friend had been where I was before, and she could see that I needed more help. She went with me to the doctor. I got my prescription. I held the bottle in my hands, but I was terrified to take it.

So I did the one thing that I always do when I don’t know what to do: I asked my husband for a blessing. In the blessing, God told me that “the medication would be of benefit to me” and that I would “be healed.” With that promise to give me courage, I took my first dose the next day, August 1, 2012. Adjusting to the medication took many weeks, but I clung to that promise despite horrific medication-induced insomnia, emotional ups and downs, and an even-more-horrific spiritual numbness that came over me.

It was during this dark period of adjustment that I hit my deepest lows, losing my very will to live. But, with time, as my body adjusted, my mind and spirit began to come back into balance. My co-authors prayed me well enough to join them in the Los Angeles temple in September, a miraculous feat.

As we celebrated my 32nd birthday, nearly three months after I started my medication, I was truly happy again. I was eating (and finally gaining some weight back). I was enjoying life. I had endured so much discomfort, despair, fear, and doubt in those weeks of adjustment, but God’s word was true. The medication had been of benefit to me. It had helped save my life. God’s promise was fulfilled.

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The relief was so magnificent that I couldn’t help but exclaim in joy and complete sincerity (on a nearly daily basis), smiling from ear to ear to my husband: “I don’t want to die today!” The victory of that declaration filled me with overwhelming gratitude to God and to my many friends and family who had helped me reach that triumphant place, most especially my husband.

The next question that filled my heart and mind was: “How long?” I wondered, “Will I need to take this medicine for the rest of my life?” I was willing to accept whatever I needed to do to stay stable so that I could take care of my family, but I also hoped that I would find a way to heal whatever needed to be healed so that I could move forward without medical assistance.

In another priesthood blessing, God answered my question: “You will be able to be happy without medication.” He didn’t tell me how long it would take, but I was satisfied with just knowing that someday I’d get there. And so I went on, taking my medication, feeling grateful for my rescue from the darkness. 2013 came and then 2014.

It has now been a week since I took any medicine.

About a year ago, I started cutting back on my dose, little by little, very slowly, adding in supplements recommended by readers and friends to ease the withdrawal. I took a dose last Tuesday, but when I was due for another dose I felt restrained from taking it. The next day I felt restrained, and the next, and the next. I didn’t hear a voice, but I felt a message in my gut: “You’re ready. It’s time.”

I have said to my husband more than once in the past few days, “Now watch, I’ll probably crash next week.” (<—That’s a text message from “Anxiety Girl,” of course.) He shakes his head and says, “Nope. You won’t.” And I think I believe him.

The other night, I asked him for another priesthood blessing. He said, “God wants to remind you of the promises He has made to you. He will keep those promises.”

God kept His promises to me.

I am happy (without medication). (!!!)

Sacred Space for Birth, Part 2

December 9, 2013 in Angels, Birth Stories, Fear, home birth, Lani, Music, VBAC

1011942_669099829783949_352451545_nCherise is an Arizona Mother, Doula, Childbirth Educator, Placenta Crafter, and Creator of the marvelous “Big Baby Project” (a website full of empowering vaginal births of babies 9 lbs and over). This is Part 2 of Cherise’s birth story. You can read Part 1 (her quest to find a supportive care provider HERE). I love how the words of one of my favorite songs gave Cherise strength when she felt like giving up. -Lani

 

Sacred Space for Birth, Part 2
By Cherise Sant

Aaron’s estimated “guess date” came and went, and I got to practice the patience I’d so often preached in class. I joined a yoga studio and practiced prenatal yoga for the final month of my pregnancy. That was such a good choice! It was the perfect preparation for birth, as well as a much needed sanctuary in the final days which were such a challenge emotionally.

At 40 ½ weeks gestation, I received a notice that the following week, the water in my neighborhood would be shut off for 12 hours. I laughed and thought wouldn’t that be hilarious if baby came that night? Except it wouldn’t really be hilarious at all. I shared my dilemma on facebook and some amazing women offered their homes should I go into labor on that particular night (even one woman I’d never before met), and I felt God’s love and support again.

Then came week 41, and I was still pregnant. I tried to avoid anyone that would ask questions in effort to keep myself positive and looking forward. I knew my movement wouldn’t be as limber or energetic as before, but I trudged to yoga class anyway. I tucked in with my mantra that I was at peace and accepting God’s plan, and I let the tears flow. Two nights later was the night of the water shut off. I filled the tub and put water on the stove in case baby decided to join us that night. The water was scheduled to come back on at 6am the next morning. My husband was away at work that night and I snuggled down with my then 4 and 6 year old and we all went to sleep. I woke just after 6 a.m. to go to the bathroom and was relieved to see water flowing. All was well. I went back to bed.

At 7:07 I awoke with a pain in my back, so I sat up and that helped some. I stood up and that helped more, but I was tired (I loved to sleep in whenever possible). I bounced on my birth ball while leaning over on the bed. As I felt sensations in my back and belly, I knew that these were contractions, and they were different than what I had experienced thus far for this pregnancy. I called my mom and asked if she could come and help me with my kids. I didn’t know if baby was coming that day but I knew I’d need some help. Just a bit later I called my husband who was just on his way home from work to make sure he was on his way, and I gave my sweet doula the heads up as well. I called my midwife but wasn’t ready for her to come quite yet.

Bouncing on the ball was helpful for a long time, and then I wanted to get in the bath. My husband sat with me until I requested that he set up the birth pool so that I could have more room to move around and more water to cover my belly. I soon asked someone to call the midwife. So then my sweet mother came in and sat next to me. I told her she would feel like she’s not doing anything, but just by being there she would be doing a lot. She wrote in her notebook, and I breathed deeply and imagined swirls of color to keep my mind moving but off the contractions. I walked around, I bounced on the ball in the kitchen, and my birth team arrived.

I don’t remember just who but various people brought me herbal tea with honey, and some gluten free toast. I labored on the toilet as things got quite intense, and I cried. I leaned upon my husband, and he held me as I moaned and swayed. Then the birth photographer and a dear friend came with her new little one. I was at his homebirth just 4 months earlier. She came in to say hi, and I could her little guy breathe. Hearing that newborn breath awoke me to the purpose of all the discomfort I was feeling, and I got excited. It was all really happening.

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After the wave of contractions I experienced in the bathroom there was an internal shift and I knew that it wouldn’t be long now. I knew I had to get to that birth tub. So I did, and then things seemed to slow down for a minute. My kids were going back and forth between PBS kids and checking on me, and during a contraction I could tell my 4 year old daughter was a little concerned about me. After that contraction I looked back at her and smiled warmly. I told her, “Mommy’s okay, I’m just having a baby!” She relaxed and smiled.

And then I got really, really uncomfortable. I started getting grunty and really felt like I had to poop (which I knew was baby), and I got a little excited. After one BIG contraction and guttural moan I pushed hard! I was imagining I was pushing the baby down closer and closer with that push, so I felt satisfied. Until I heard my husband say to our daughter, “Daphne, don’t touch that!” I looked back to see that… I pooped. I pooped! “Oh great!” I yelled, irritated. Of course the evidence was quickly removed and I labored on.

I had been listening to my birth CD and on it was the most beautiful song called “Long Time Sun” sung by Snatam Kaur. I then went into a place of intense pressure while baby worked his way down, and I distinctly remembering feeling like my body would crack open if this continued. And that was a problem because I pretty much had to continue. My mind flooded with doubt and fear – words like “I can’t do this, this is too hard, I don’t wa—“ I recognized immediately the negative talk that had begun, and I remembered that even though I didn’t feel it at that moment, I knew that somewhere I had what it took to birth this baby. I am connected to an endless source of energy and light and power in my Savior, and with his help I can do anything! And then I remembered the words of the song I had just heard…

May the Long Time Sun
Shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on
Guide your way on

I prayed a desperate prayer and tried different positions in the water in a fruitless attempt to find some relief. I moved to a squat – holding onto the sides of the tub and I bore down. Emotions raged, pain seared, and I knew my baby was coming. And then he was with me, and I was with him. Time didn’t mean anything to me then but I know it was only a matter of minutes before his head was born. “His head is out!” I announced excitedly and a bit proud. More pushing, and I remember my mom coming around to the front of the tub with the video camera sobbing unrestrained. My husband (who never left my side) and our other children were at the tub side now.

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Then little Aaron left my body, and I pulled him right up to my chest. The emotions that I experienced at that time cannot be described with words. It was overwhelming, it was so special, and yet so normal, like “Of course, I just had a baby.” I was on top of the world. I stayed in the water for just a few minutes as I let it sink in and looked at my baby. We had a boy! As I’d pulled him up, I immediately could tell that he was little!! My smallest baby for sure, and yes he weighed in at 5 pounds, 15.9 oz. Later I would marvel that I changed course on a path to VBAC and didn’t have planned cesareans at 39 weeks. I couldn’t imagine how small and fragile he would have been 2 ½ weeks prior.

The next hour was a whirlwind but I was lucid and consciously participating. The baby latched on, and I tucked into my own bed and after some delicious food and loving faces I went to sleep. The midwife returned to my home to weigh the baby, check my sutures (I tore along an old scar line), blood pressure, etc. in the days that followed. Everything was perfect. My home was blessed with love and angels at the time of his birth and in the weeks that followed.

Even many months after Aaron’s birth, I could walk back to that spot where the birth pool sat and I gave birth and feel it. I felt the strength, beauty and power of those precious, sacred moments. We’ve since moved away from that home, and on the day we left, I stood there once again and drank in the spirit of love I felt there.

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The children were so glad to have been present, and I believe they have a special bond with him because of that. As a mother I felt so whole and so supported through everything that I felt nothing but love for this new little one. He wasn’t a burden at all as I admit I had felt about the first two. I had enough – I always had enough to give. I believe it is because during his pregnancy and birth that was my reality. I made it my reality with the help of the Lord. The Lord inspired my path, I had a vision of what I wanted, he agreed, then I imagined it, I spoke about it, I felt it, I prepared for it and then I experienced it.

I know the Lord cares about me, so he also cares about you. He cares about our births, and that women and children are met with respect and love during the sacred and tender time of birth. He wants to be involved and will guide your path if you are willing to do the walk of faith. I am forever grateful for such a loving Heavenly Father who always leads to joy and healing.