Celebrating Life on Mother’s Day

April 23, 2016 in Abortion, Adoption, Adversity, Depression, Fertility, Grief, Heavenly Mother, Lani, Loss, Motherhood, Pain, Parenting, Waiting

 

Image SourceMother’s Day can be really hard.

Hard because you want to be a mother, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Hard because you recently lost a child through miscarriage or stillbirth.

Hard because you’re healing from an abortion.

Hard because you have been waiting to adopt for a very long time.

Hard because you weren’t able to have as many children as you wanted.

Hard because your mother passed away, and you miss her terribly.

Hard because you wish you could spend more time with your children.

Hard because you’re a single father without a partner.

Hard because you’re a single mother, and you’re tired of doing it alone.

Hard because you’re unable to be with your husband or wife because of military, work, or other reasons.

Hard because your stepchildren reject you.

Hard because your mother struggled to give you the love you needed.

Hard because you struggle yourself to be the mother you want to be.

Hard because your mother was brutally abusive.

Hard because your mother committed suicide.

Hard because you gave your heart and soul to raising your kids, and now you never hear from them.

Hard because you long to know your Mother in Heaven.

So hard.

It’s OK if you love Mother’s Day. It’s OK if you hate Mother’s Day. Your feelings about Mother’s Day are valid and real, and I want you to let yourself feel them. You don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to hide your tears. Because I believe Dr. Aletha Solter’s words about children are also true about adults:

No matter what the source of stress, children will not feel better until they have been allowed to cry and rage as much as needed (Tears and Tantrums, p. 12).

Sometimes we will cry and rage for years.

I can’t take away your pain. I won’t take away your pain. Your pain belongs to you. But I do want you to know that I celebrate you.

I have carried some heavy rocks in my backpack. One of the heaviest was labeled: no-will-to-live. It was so heavy that when it was gone I felt like I might float right up to cloud nine-hundred-and-nine from the relief of it. I never could have imagined how much joy and hope my future would hold. I thank God every day that I chose life. This Mother’s Day I have so much to celebrate.

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These words quoted in our most recent General Conference are brutally true:

Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure. –Thomas S. Monson

I know you have carried, are carrying, and will carry some of your own heavy rocks. You too have known indescribable sorrows. You have dragged yourself, bloody and bruised, over piercing paths and menacing mountains.

But.

You are still here. You are still breathing. You have successfully endured. All of your days. And all of your nights. And you are still here.

That is why I celebrate you.

Yes, let’s celebrate mothers. Because there are some inspiring and remarkable mothers out there, and thank the Lord for those nurturing souls who heal humanity with their presence. Yes, let’s celebrate women. Because women give life in so many ways beyond what happens in the womb. But even if you don’t personally feel like celebrating anything on May 8th this year (and that is totally OK), I will still be celebrating you.

That’s what Mother’s Day will be for me this year… A celebration of the gift of life. A celebration of the ones who gave us this messy, brutal, exquisitely beautiful thing we’re living every day.

I will celebrate those who have had the courage to give life, and with an extra measure of compassion and awe I will also celebrate those who have had the courage to give life a chance. And to keep giving life a chance… day in and day out… even when those days are full of ache.

I am so glad your mother gave you the gift of life. I am so glad you exist. And every day that you choose to keep going is a gift to humanity and yourself.

On May 8th I’ll be holding you in my heart.

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Sale begins April 24th

Sale begins April 24th

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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Channing’s Milk-Sharing Story

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

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!

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.

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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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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). (!!!)

VBT #7: Modern Pioneer Mom’s Book Review

April 29, 2013 in Birth Stories, Book, Book reviews, Fear, Gratitude, hospital birth, Lani, Motherhood, Obstetricians, Preparation, Traumatic Birth, Virtual Book Tour, Young Women

Today’s Virtual Book Tour stop is by Jennifer at Modern Pioneer Mom. Here’s an excerpt:

Honestly, I was saddened as I’ve looked back on photos of me in the hospital holding my babies, because there were very few of me genuinely smiling.  In a couple of them, I was actually frowning.  It made me sad to look at them, because I loved my babies SO much & was so very excited to have them in my arms, but the photos didn’t show it, because I was miserable from everything that happened.  Though I was happy to have my babies here, my actual birthing experiences were scary, stressful, full of medical intervention, and definitely not empowering.  No one taught me anything other than to do what I was instructed to do.

I loved being pregnant, but I was scared to death of going into labor & giving birth.  Even after actually doing it, I was still scared to go through it again.  I experienced quite a bit of trauma, especially with my first baby.  Unfortunately, I let the nurses take my babies out of my room A LOT, just so that I could sleep and de-stress.  Now I know that I could have (and should have) had a very… different… experience…I’m so grateful to know what I know now, so that I can teach my daughters (and share this book with them) so they can have that ‘very different experience’.

I’ve read many many many accounts of women on blogs (& in books like this one), who LOVED their birthing experience and were empowered through the whole process of labor & delivery.  I’ve seen endless photos of hundreds of women who had huge smiles on their faces portraying the most authentic joy possible, as they hold their beautiful new born babies.  I was not empowered.  But I should have been.  I’ve learned more about pregnancy & birth in the past 2 years than I learned in the prior 17 years of being a mother.

Smelling babyI also love that Jennifer thinks our book smells like a newborn baby! 🙂

Click HERE to read her full post!

And here are the links to the previous posts from this year’s book tour in case you missed some of them:

  1. Mother At Heart
  2. I Love Junk Mail
  3. Better Birth Doula
  4. Cherishing Hopes and Dreams
  5. Mamas and Babies
  6. Bri’s Thoughts
  7. Modern Pioneer Mom

The Birth of Claire Eleanor

January 7, 2013 in Birth Stories, Dads, Fear, Gratitude, hospital birth, Lani, Midwives, miscarriage, Priesthood blessings

Today I’m happy to share the birth of Claire Eleanor, the fourth child of Liz. This birth came after an anxiety-filled pregnancy and a previous stillbirth. This was her first birth without an epidural. I hope you enjoy it (and Liz’s priceless sense of humor) as much as I did. We enter the story after Liz has been experiencing lots of preparatory on and off contractions, a few days past her due date. At this point her contractions were irregular but strong, and Liz was hopeful that this was “it.” -Lani

The Birth of Claire Eleanor
By Liz

On Monday, November 26, Chris and I settled in downstairs to hang out and watch Monday Night Football. Around 8:45-ish, I started to feel some weird pressure in my pelvis with a contraction.  I got down on the floor to squat, thinking that would help things feel better, and I felt something shift, and a small gush.”Ummm… Chris?  I think my water just broke.”

“What?!  Are you sure?!  Get upstairs!  There’s no bathroom down here!  Gross!  Don’t wreck the basement!” So I proceeded to waddle up the stairs, trying not to laugh too hard (laughing made more fluid gush) as Chris followed me up the stairs, showing an unusually high (although appreciated) degree of concern for our carpet.  I ran into the bathroom and Chris called my parents – my mom had called me about twenty minutes earlier to say that she had a bag packed and was ready to go in case I went into labor that night.  Once I verified that my water had broken, although not in a Niagara Falls sort of way, she said she’d get her things together and get on the road, and would be at our house in a little over three hours.  I was giddy – I am finally going to have this baby!!!!!  That said, my contractions weren’t really picking up, so I figured we could just hang out and continue watching the game until things got harder.

Much to my surprise, things started to pick up.  Around 9:25, my friend who had offered to watch my other kids called and said she’d be right over.  I called down to Chris and said to turn off the TV – I thought we should go as soon as Stacy got there.  I jotted down some notes – phone numbers, TV instructions, etc. – and asked Chris to give me a blessing.  I admit I was scared – I wasn’t sure how this whole thing would go down, and I was terrified that something awful would happen in delivery, just like in my nightmares from the preceding months.

Afterwards, I felt so much peace.  I felt like things would be ok, that I would have divine help, and that I didn’t need to be scared.

Around 9:40pm, Stacy arrived and we headed out the door.  We called my midwife’s office, and they let us know that Kristin was on call, which made me happy – Kristin is who delivered my third baby, and I absolutely love her.  Chris was driving a little quickly, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Then, about three minutes away from the house, I had a huge contraction that led me to take off my seat belt, climb up on my knees facing the backseat, and grip the headrest with all of my might.  I told Chris not to crash.  At that point, he definitely started driving much more aggressively than normal.

At 9:58 p.m., we checked into the hospital.  I had three contractions between exiting the car and getting to the check-in desk.  Thankfully the nurses seemed to believe that I was in active labor and they skipped triage, taking me right back to a birthing suite.

As the nurse is asking me about my medical history and whether or not I’m allergic to everything under the sun, she casually mentions that my contractions seem to be coming close.  Uh, you think?  They were getting so hard and the whole time I kept thinking to myself that it was going way too fast.  I felt a couple of double-peaked contractions and it freaked me out – I knew this was a sign of transition.

They tell me that the resident on the floor needs to check me to verify that my water broke (apparently the disgusting mess on the floor was not evidence enough).  I conceded, and he came in and checked me – I was dilated to a 6/7, 95% effaced, and the baby was at a +1 station.  I hopped up and demanded to get in the tub ASAP.  The nurse started to fill it up and I stood in the bathroom, trying to cope with the insane contractions.  It was weird – in all of my other labors, all I wanted was to bend over something and sway while Chris pressed on my back.  This was just the opposite – all I wanted was to arch my back as far as possible.  So I stood there, gripping one of those elderly person hand rails for dear life, bending backwards like a gymnast, trying not to lose my footing on the slippery floors.

I started to feel hot and a bit light-headed, which I knew meant that things were really gearing up.  I finally got in the tub and was thrilled to have some reprieve.  It seems like the water takes the edges off the beginning and ends of the contractions, meaning I got more time to recuperate in between them.  That said, I panicked when I realized that, holy crap, these still really hurt.  I just writhed around, moaning and trying to get a grip on the contractions.

Chris was my rock – sitting right there, telling me I’m doing great, that this one is almost over, that I can do this, that my body knows what to do, that I’m amazing… he talked me through every single contraction like nobody else could have.  Hearing him voice confidence in me gave me the confidence I needed, and it took away the fear.  If he thought I could do it, then I could.

At that point, I started to think how unbelievably stupid this whole thing was, and that I couldn’t do it anymore.  I told Chris that I was done, and I wanted an epidural.  He smiled at me, and said, “Um, I’m pretty sure you’re doing this right now.”  That was not the answer I wanted, but at the same time I knew he was right – it wasn’t going to be long.

All of the sudden, I had a super hard contraction that definitely felt pushy.  I told Chris, and he hopped up to tell the nurse, and came right back by my side.  The next contraction came fast – and felt even more pushy.  I told him that, and he told the nurse again.  I could tell they were starting to panic a little bit since my midwife hadn’t arrived yet. The midwives do waterbirths at that hospital, but the residents/OBs generally don’t.  The nurse came in to tell me that I needed to get out of the tub.  I believe my exact response was, “NO.”  I wasn’t sure I would even be able to – at that point the hospital could’ve been on fire and I probably would’ve refused to get out of the tub.  I believe I also told them that I wasn’t getting out of the tub unless there was an anesthesiologist standing right there with a needle to jab into my back.  As I recall, they laughed at that.  I wasn’t joking.

The next contraction hit me like a freight train, and it was pushing.  I didn’t feel like I had any choice in the matter – my body had taken matters into its own hands, and it was pushing hard.  Sadly, this is where the decision to eat an entire Chipotle burrito just a few hours before backfired.  Labor had come so fast that my body hadn’t had the opportunity to really empty things out in preparation for birth.  The tub became outright disgusting.  I half-heartedly apologized to everybody in the room, but really, I didn’t care how grossed out anybody was – I was too shocked by the fact that my body was trying to birth this baby and I had absolutely no say in the matter.

The nurses frantically told me to get out of the tub right then.  They started explaining all of the reasons that I needed to get out – that Kristin wasn’t there yet, that the resident doesn’t do waterbirths, that my amniotic fluid had meconium in it and that the baby might try to take a breath at birth, thus prohibiting a water birth.  Strangely, they ignored what I considered the most persuasive argument of all – that I was swimming in filth.

I immediately had another contraction and suddenly could feel the baby crowning.  I decided that, holy crap, this baby might actually be born.  I started to climb out of the tub.  I finally opened my eyes and saw how disgusting the tub was, and wondered why nobody made a bigger deal out of that.  I also looked up at the resident who was standing right there, all gowned/gloved up and ready for delivery.  The look of sheer terror on his face is something I will never forget.  I could tell he was appalled by something – it could’ve been the tub (understandable), the weird noises I was making with the contractions (also understandable), or the fact that he was going to have to deliver this crazy lady’s baby.  I later found out that he was a first-year resident who had spent two weeks on the OB floor prior to this, and that he had never done an un-medicated delivery like this.

I climbed out of the tub and made a mad dash for the bed.  I climbed up and positioned myself on my hands and knees, for no other reason than that’s what felt good at the time.  The nurses were toweling me off and I could tell that the resident was a bit concerned about me being in that position.

I made a mental note to kick anybody in the mouth (like a horse would) who told me to turn over.

I was as comfortable as I was going to get, gripping two pillows for dear life, with Chris’ hand on my head/back/shoulder, telling me I’m doing great.

Another contraction hit and my body kept pushing.  At this point, I got scared again.  I admit that part of the reason I didn’t want to get out of the tub is that I’ve always been terrified that birthing without the cushion of water would hurt like the freaking dickens and that I would feel myself tear or something awful.  I figure it hurts less to stub your toe in the pool than it does outside of it – why wouldn’t that be the same with birth?  But as my body began to push, and I felt the baby’s head pushing and crowning, there was hardly any pain.  There was a ton of pressure, and a bit of mild burning where my skin was stretching, but I was relieved to discover that pushing actually felt cool.  I could feel the whole thing, and was intensely aware of what the baby and my body were doing, but luckily the endorphins seemed to really kick in and turn off any pain in the area.  It was crazy – the contraction in my uterus hurt a bit, but the actual baby coming out just felt cool.

With the next push/contraction, I could tell she was almost born.  I felt her head slip out, and they told me to do one more hard push, and I felt her whole body slither right out.  I’m not gonna lie – that is one of the coolest/best feelings in the whole world.  I suddenly felt light as a feather – the pressure was gone, the pain was gone, and I just felt DONE.  It was 11:15pm, just 2.5 hours after my water broke.

I could immediately tell something was amiss – they were hurrying to cut the cord and whisking her off to do something. Apparently she had pooped all over herself in the womb and they were cleaning her off and making sure there wasn’t any meconium in her lungs.  And frankly, I didn’t mind.

I had always thought that after giving birth naturally, I would be overcome with tears and a desire to hold my baby and that the heavens would open and angels would sing the Hallelujah Chorus and that perhaps somebody would be playing a harp.  But nope – I was just so thrilled to be done that I was almost glad that they had taken the baby away for a few minutes.  I just needed to breathe and take a few minutes to recover from what had just happened.  I asked if she was ok, and everybody assured me she was, and I heard her cry, and I was relieved, but I still didn’t really want to move.  When I finally flopped over to lay down, I realized that there were probably 15 nurses in the room, the deer-in-the-headlights resident who had done the delivery, and a third-year resident who had come up to check on things.  The first thing I said?  “Oh, hey Justin.”

Yeah, that third-year resident who just watched me give birth on all fours, like a hippie out of an Ina May Gaskin book?  He goes to my church.  I’m really good friends with his wife.  We may never make eye contact again.

Kristin rushed into the room about five minutes after delivery.  She was pretty ticked that she missed the birth, especially since the nurses are the ones who messed it up by calling the wrong person.  She checked me over and told me that I had a small tear, but nothing needing to be repaired.  I overheard her telling the nurses that she would’ve let me deliver in the tub (although she would’ve drained it and filled it back up), and she was obviously annoyed that they weren’t as gentle as she would have been with the delivery.  The resident mentioned that he had never done a hands-and-knees delivery before, and Kristin says that if the nurses can get their crap together, she can show him lots of awesome “non-traditional” births.

Since they were cleaning up the baby anyways, I asked them to weigh her (normally they wait an hour or so).  She was 8lbs 6oz.  After what seemed like an eternity (but was only about five minutes), they brought her over to me and laid her on my chest, skin to skin.  She looked so small and perfect.  She had lots of hair.  I asked if anybody verified that she was, indeed, a girl, and everybody laughed and said they were 100% sure.

As I was looking her over, trying to determine if she looked like her brothers, I had a rush of happiness come over me – we did it!  She’s here!  She’s alive!  She’s perfect!  And I never have to give birth again!

I started to tear up – I was just so grateful, and I found myself being almost surprised.  So much of my insane anxiety over this pregnancy has been related to loss – despite my best efforts to abate the fear, I always had a deep fear in the back of my mind that I would lose this baby.  Even as I felt her move, I knew that any second she could die in utero and I would have a stillborn.  I realized at some point in my third trimester that everybody in my family that has lost a baby late in pregnancy has lost a girl – my aunt had an 8-month stillborn girl.  My other aunt lost a baby girl at 18 weeks.  I lost a baby girl at 16 weeks.  Despite knowing that it was improbable, illogical, and ultimately ridiculous, my subconscious wondered if I was genetically predisposed to not having a daughter – like I would never be able to carry one to term and have her be born alive.  It’s so weird, because most people don’t consider their baby dying at full-term to be much of a possibility, but for me, it felt not only like a possible outcome, it felt like the probable outcome.

So when she was born, I was hit with such a wave of relief – I was almost shocked and surprised that she was there!  And breathing!  I couldn’t believe how surprised I felt.  Despite trying so hard to have faith and not fear, I still ended up so surprised.  I think this might be a huge factor contributing to my utter bliss in the post-partum period – there are hormones and other things involved, but ultimately I’m just so thrilled to have her here, and to have her alive and breathing.  I feel so lucky.

The resident delivered the placenta and we got her nursing – she nursed like a champ from the beginning, despite the normal “oh holy crap you little wolverine please don’t chew off my nipples” bit during the first few days. And since then, we’ve spent a lot of time just lying by each other – me just listening to her breathe and sniffing her head, and her just dozing in and out of a peaceful slumber.  With my other kids, I’ve never been able to sleep with them too close to me – they make too many little noises and I’m rather particular about how I sleep – I can’t just sleep in any position or have people touching me while I sleep.  But with Claire, she could sleep draped across my face and I’d be happily dozing.  We spent the first week with her cuddled up on my chest, me laying on my back, both of us snoozing away.  It’s been so different and lovely.

“The Responsibility of my Own Case”: Huldah Cordelia Thurston Smith

August 27, 2012 in Birth Stories, Heather, LDS History

This early Later-day Saint woman’s story is one that has really touched my heart. As I did research for our book it was the longest and most detailed birth account I found written in the personal words of an early Later-day Saint woman. Her account is just rich with historical glimpses into early LDS health practices and beliefs and while I loved it for those reasons (among others) we  chose not to include her story in the book because it is a bit of a “horror” story.  We tried hard to share stories in the book that would paint a more  positive picture of birth– women are already afraid enough of birth, we didn’t want to make it worse! Yet ever since I found this woman’s story I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that her story needs to be shared and that she wants it to be shared. I am not sure why, but there is someone out there who needs this story.

I think it is important to note thought that this woman’s experience is (and was) out of the ordinary. During my research I read enough historical birth stories that even 150 years ago many babies and moms made it safely and happily through childbirth (though many of them did die later from infection and disease due to lack of knowledge). What this woman went through was as unusual for her day as it is for ours, which is why she probably wrote it down in detail. Perhaps it was her way of processing and dealing with a traumatic birth experience and healing from it.

I hope that as you read her words you will hear her voice and feel of the testimony of strength of a noble woman. Then afterward I want to share with you what I have learned from her extraordinarily hard experience.

 “ My oldest son, Willard G. Smith, was born September 11, 1870. In the winter of ’69 and ’70, my husband, Willard G. Smith, Sr., again spent about two months in the Territorial Legislature. My mother and two youngest brothers spent the time with me. I came near to dying with measles. My two little girls also had the measles. We finally got through without loss. However, it left me rather delicate, and my little son was born about five months later. He was a fine, husky little fellow; I remained delicate. I seemed to have all the weakness to contend with that females are heir to, and my work and care of three babies kept me drilled down.

“Yet nothing very serious happened until July 29, 1873, when my second son, David Franklin, was born, when I came very nearly losing my life. My doctor was very nice and, I believe, a very capable one. She was a graduate of the University of Stockholm, Sweden. Her diploma had the king’s signature attached. I had a very hard, lingering labor, and I fully believe it was one calling for instrumental assistance, which she understood; but at that time our people were so prejudiced against doctors that even men doctors who dared to use instruments were very much criticized. Being a woman, she was under far greater restrain; few woman had ventured so far from the old and well-beaten path of woman’s true sphere as to step into a professional career. She had, I believe, saved the lives of several people and gained quite a reputation as an M.D. but also had aroused considerable prejudice and unfavorable criticism.

“ When she found my case a difficult one, she tried the old methods of accomplishing the delivery. When all else failed, she caused me to be lifted from the bed and placed in a very trying and unusual position, and finally the strain on the bones became so great that they gave way. The baby burst through with a rush. The pelvic bones were broken in two places. She thought the changed position had worked wonders. ‘Yes,” I said, ‘but it nearly killed me!’ She said, ‘You will feel better soon.’

“ She had me lifted from my bed onto a pallet, wishing to make my bed more comfortable. When she cast an eye on me, she and I both thought I was dying from hemorrhage. She immediately took a cold towel, placed it on my abdomen, bathed my face with cold water, gave me stimulants, and finally, after some time, she had me placed in  a bed where, from nerve shock and continued hemorrhage, I lay hovering between life and death. The doctor tried to tell me how the blood was flooding back on my heart because of a clot which had formed preventing the flow. This I but partially understood. I thought that I had lost enough blood; also I had lost confidence in her and wouldn’t allow her to touch me. She went into the next room wringing her hands and saying that I was dying; and she dared not insist on anything, for my life might go out with the least excitement; and I would not let her touch me.

“She came back to me and said, ‘Just let me put my hand on your stomach. I won’t hurt or do anything to you.’ I finally allowed her to place her hand on me. Shortly, her warm hand and a little pressure on the uterus began to give me a little relief. Then as she moved to give a little attention to something else, I feared she would leave me. The uterine contractions checked the hemorrhage. I was so weak that they dared not move me for any purpose. They just tucked dry clothes around me as best they could.

“ My doctor stayed with me all night and watched over me. She never even laid down. She continued to stay with me for three days. She stayed in my room the next night, made a pallet of quilts near my bed, and I could hear her come to me several times during the night and listen to see if I was breathing. I was almost too weak to speak, but sometimes I opened my eyes that she might see that I was all right. I did not lose myself in sleep and heard every sound and remained very weak and nervous and in such a condition that the doctor dared not bathe me or change my bed or clothes until the third day. By that time my fever was alarming.

“They removed my clothing and soiled bedding, put me into a cold, wet sheet pack after soaking my feet in mustard water with a cold cloth on my head; then with hot water bottles, hot bricks, etc., they gave me a sweat for two or three hours, then bathed and rubbed me down, dried my bed, put me into dry clothes, except that I had cold wet cloths on my head and neck, and my body was put into a cold wet pack with  dry cloth to keep in the heat and all tightly bandaged. Then with a steaming hot brick to my feet, I felt quite comfortable. My nerves we requited and the fever reduced so that I slept all night except when awakened to have my cold wet pack changed, which must be done every three hours. Up to this time, I had been so weak that I could not raise my hand to my head or feed myself. I now felt a little better but could not move my body or lower limbs one particle, no more than if they did not belong to me. No one imagined the cause of my helplessness.

“This condition continued for four weeks. Every time that I was moved, it was like taking my life, for it pulled apart the broken bones, and the pain was intense. I had no hired nurse to call on, and my ‘sister’ (my husband married her in 1867 under the plural marriage law) had so much to do with caring for me and all the housework to  do, and also taking care of my four little children, that it was terrible on her. She was kind to the children and loved them and me, she did all she could do, and I tried to get along with just as little waiting on as possible; and if I thought it possible, would get her to change me less often; and when she was too busy it was omitted entirely. When this was done my fever raged again.

“When my baby was four weeks old, I had a relapse. It happened on a Saturday night. My baby became fretful from nursing feverish milk and I was very sick and alone all night. Along toward morning a complete change came over me and all care and sorrow and responsibility left me. I was shown that I could go from this life. There seemed to be just the thinnest veil between me and the next world. I was perfectly willing to go.

“When Ingree, my husband’s other wife spoke of above, came to me in the morning she said, ‘What has happened? What is the matter? I told her the baby had been very restless all night and asked her to put it on a little bed made of pillows on a chest. This she did, but he wouldn’t lie quietly. After my husband had done a few chores outside, he came in and wanted his breakfast. It was then quite late. Ingree was holding the baby. He said, ‘Take it to Mother.’ This she did not do, saying I was tired, for the baby was fretful all night. He took it from her and brought it to me. I said, ‘No if it must cry, lay it over there out of my way.’ She then got him his meal and they took care of the baby some way.

“He went to Porterville and was gone all day until evening. Ingree, however, was very uneasy. She could see there was something serious the matter and wanted to send for the doctor or my mother or someone. I tried to calm her feelings, told her that she was not to worry. In a short time my brother and his wife and my mother came in to see me. They became very excited and wanted to go for the doctor. I told them to calm themselves and let us have a good visit and a good time while I should be with them, that I was going and was perfectly reconciled to go, and wanted them all the feel all right about it, that there was no blame to be attached to anyone; all that could be done for me had been accomplished.

“They would not be satisfied, and my brother was not long in getting the doctor. She gave the same treatment as before to get the fever down and continued it during the night. The next morning, she have me a thorough examination and found the cause of my trouble to be a broken pelvis, broken in two places; and she gave me treatment for broken bones and bandaged me up. It was then for the first time that I could be moved without tearing apart those bones in there inflamed and painful surroundings. I then commenced to get better and soon began to move my lower limbs and change my position in bed. My recovery was slow; it was three moths before I could stand on my feet and quite a length of time after that before I could walk.”

“This had been a terrible experience for me and for kindhearted, patient, loving Ingree. Never once did she complain or grow impatient with me or the children, whom she petted and loved dearly. She remained with us until sometime in the next February when she went East to visit her people, and I have never seen her since. We corresponded for many years… My doctor lady, a Mrs. Coneley, had long since moved away; and there was no competent help in our county for women. My last two children were born without medical aid. I said to my husband, ‘Go and get a neighbor,’ one that I thought much of, ‘and she will do as I wish her to.’ Others wanted to have their own way and knew nothing. This kind of help made me nervous and through this I had nearly lost my life through hemorrhage twice so he did as I requested, and I got along fine. Yet I realized that the responsibility of my own case was too much for me and an injustice to my good neighbor , who would have been greatly distressed if trouble or death had come to me.”

From “Pioneer Health Care”, Compiled by Emma R. Olsen for the International Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1994, pg. 5-9

I think what impresses me the most about Huldah’s story is that even though she had some very traumatic things happen to her, she kept an amazing attitude. She never once got angry or bitter about what  happened to her and she never blamed anyone else. She was long suffering and patient with the attempts that others made to help her, and even in her pain she was filled with gratitude for their help. It amazes me how she got to a point where she felt like she was ready and willing to leave this world and how she came to peace with that decision. I can’t even begin to imagine that amount of faith that an attitude like that would require.

The other thing that impresses me about this story is the amount of personal responsibility she took for the outcome of her birth. It would have been so easy, and fairly justified, for her to have blamed her doctor for not intervening with forceps when they both knew that she should have or being angry and bitter that her doctor didn’t discover she had broken bones for more than a month. Yet instead she took responsibility for her own choices. She was the one who hired the doctor to assist her and she couldn’t blame someone else for doing the best they could to help her. Her attitude impresses me and I think that in a world where women are so often encouraged to turn the responsibility for their birth outcomes over to a care provider or an institution– whether it be a doctor, a midwife, or a nurse– her story is a good reminder that we each have personal agency and that we need to accept the consequences (good and bad) of the choices we make.

It is also interesting to me that both she and the doctor realized that her case was one that required the use of forceps  but because  cultural prejudices against doctors, espeically female doctors, she was denied the care she needed. I think it is an important lesson that we need to make sure that our own cultural prejudices don’t get in the way of getting the type of care we need– whether that means going with an nontraditional route like a midwife or a birth center or accepting the fact that we need medical assistance, surgery or medications in order to have a successful pregnancy and birth. The Lord knows what each baby and mother need and we can’t let our own prejudices or misconceptions get in the way of getting the type of care we need.

Huldah’s experience, hard thought it was, has really strengthen my testimony of the power that each woman possesses with in her. We are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for! It impressed me beyond anything that even after this traumatic experience she went on to give birth to two more children.  What a brave woman.

It is so beautiful to me that  on her tombstone (pictured above) her posterity chose the title of “mother” to honor her with.  She was a woman who must have truly understood the gift that it is to give life.

What interests you most about her story?

Segullah and Gift Babies

June 19, 2012 in Book, Book reviews, Gratitude, Lani, Slideshow, Virtual Book Tour

We want to give a big thank you to all the participants of our Virtual Book Tour. It has been so rewarding to get such positive preliminary feedback about the book. In case you missed it, our final book tour post was a lovely book review from Jen at Segullah. Here’s an excerpt:

The stories are written by women who gave births in hospitals and homes, with and without drugs, vaginally or by C-section, exactly as they had planned or under wildly unpredictable circumstances. Their experiences are vastly different from one another, yet the common thread throughout is the faith that sustained each new mother. Prayers were offered and answered. Priesthood blessings were asked for and received. The Holy Ghost provided direction, strength, comfort, and healing, and angels were in attendance as tiny new lives were brought into the world.

Read the rest of Jen’s wonderful review HERE.

A week from today we are hosting a Book Launch Party at 6:00 in downtown Salt Lake City. If you’re planning to attend, it would be wonderful if you could visit the facebook event page and RSVP so we can get an idea of how many people to expect and how much food to provide. Please share the event with anyone you think might be interested. We hope to see you there!

As a treat for our Book Launch Party, I’m putting together a slideshow. We’d love to include some photos of your “gift babies”–children you have birthed under the influence of The Gift of Giving Life (the actual book, the blog, or both). They can be either photos of your baby alone or being held by you (or others). We’d also love to include quotes and testimonials from readers about how The Gift of Giving Life has positively impacted their lives.

If you want to participate, please send your photos and/or testimonials to me at laniaxman at gmail dot com with “TGOGL slideshow” as the subject. Can’t wait to see those sweet babies and wonderful words.

My own "gift baby" (photo courtesy of Fife Photography)

 

Bearing Burdens

April 13, 2012 in Adversity, Angels, Family History, Gratitude, Lani, Motherhood, Prayer, Pregnancy

By Lani Axman

I’ve been pondering what I should write here today for a couple of weeks. I had one topic in mind, but as the time came closer for my blogging turn, it felt like there was something else I needed to write. Even now, as I sat down to write this post, what came out of me wasn’t what I was expecting. I’m not sure why this is what I needed to write today, but I hope it touches someone out there who needs it.

When I start feeling sorry for myself or overwhelmed by all the day-to-day problems and concerns in my life as a wife and mother, it often helps me to think about my great-grandmother, Cassie.

Cassie was born in 1890 in a two-room log cabin in Mapleton, UT, “one mile west of one of the most beautiful mts. in the world,” as she described it. Cassie wrote, “Well you know that the years from 1907 to 1918 were the happiest and grandest years of this mortal life to me.” 1907 was the year she met and married her sweetheart, Edmund, and the autumn of 1918 was the start of several years I can’t even fathom enduring.

In October of 1918, Cassie was approximately eight months pregnant with my grandfather. At this time, her mother-in-law (Grandma Roundy) came by train to visit, but she was unknowingly exposed to influenza en route. Within three days, Cassie’s husband Edmund, their four children, Grandma Roundy, a sister-in-law and family, and Cassie’s sister Ella and her husband had all come down with influenza.

These are Cassie’s words about the days that followed:

Memory you can never forget the agonizing hours I spent in those days and the following weeks and months. We had 3 cows, 4 calves, 14 sheep, and 6 head of horses. They must be fed, watered, and the cows milked twice a day. How my back would ache when all was done for the night. It was almost beyond my strength to endure. Edmund raised up in bed and said the most beautiful prayer I ever heard for me. He asked the Lord to bless me and make my back able to bear the burdens that were placed upon me and many more beautiful things.

All of this while eight months pregnant.

Within three days, Cassie’s beloved Edmund passed away. Six weeks later, she gave birth to my grandfather, Edmund. Of this time, Cassie wrote: “No one that hasn’t had this cup of sorrow can understand the awful sorrow and suffering I went through.” And yet, despite her pain, she was able to say, “Thy will not mine Father. All is well done.”

A year later, Cassie married a widower named Moses whose wife was also taken by influenza. Between 1919 and 1923, Cassie gave birth to two more daughters, but she would also lose two sisters, her mother, and finally her second husband Moses. Cassie wrote:

Moses was snatched from me so suddenly I didn’t have time to plead the dear God to spare him to us. I am again a widow and cannot say, ‘Thy will.’ The camel’s back is broken. God has been unkind I feel. He gave me a good husband, a kind father, and now he snatched him home. I cannot forgive him this time. I do not feel submissive. I am miserable and try to feel that I do not love God anymore, but his spirit again softens me and I am ashamed that I pitied myself. I say, ‘I am in your hands, father. Do with me and mine as seemeth you good. All is well, all is well.’ How the days drag on yet always plenty to eat and clothing to wear. Thank God for his blessings.

It wasn’t long until the Great Depression hit, but Cassie managed to raise her large family as a single mother.

On July 20, 1931, Cassie wrote a letter. It was to be placed in a box and opened in fifty years. In it she shared the words she would have her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren hear. These are some of the words she wrote, to me:

Let me here bear you my testimony that I know that God lives, that he can and does answer earnest prayers and faith. I have seen the sick healed. The hearts of the sorrowing made glad. . . . I know that I am writing to a vast amount of spirits unborn that will be born because I choose to fulfill the measure of my creation and have my family instead of following after the teachings of the worldly. . . . . I would that I could look down 50 years and meet you all and shake your hands. Maybe my life of trials and hardships that I am now passing through would be welcomed that great things may follow. . . . You are all literal descendants of the pioneers on your mother’s and father’s side. Don’t fall short of what they expected of their heirs! . . . May health, strength, and happiness and God’s blessings be yours is the prayer of your mother, grandmother, great grandmother, etc.

And here I am, looking back at her, eighty-one years later, living in the lap of luxury compared to Cassie’s life and the lives of most of this world’s inhabitants, and I struggle to say, as she did, “I am in your hands, Father. Do with me and mine as seemeth you good. All is well, all is well.”

Cassie’s strength and courage inspire me to step up, “shake myself from the dust,” stop wallowing in self-pity, and recognize how incredibly blessed I am. She inspires me to do as President Hinckley’s father told him, “Forget yourself and go to work.” She beckons me to set my sights on the vast number of spirits unborn who will come after me, who will look back at me (as I look back at Cassie). What kind of legacy am I leaving for them? Will they feel proud to call themselves mine? Is Cassie proud of what I have done with her genes… her blood, sweat, and tears? What am I doing with my blood, sweat, and tears?

I love these words, shared by Richard G. Scott in our recent General Conference, originally spoken by President Joseph F. Smith:

I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. . . . We are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors . . . who have preceded us into the spirit world. . . . Those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond . . . can see us better than we can see them; . . . they know us better than we know them. . . . We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; . . . their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves.

Does Cassie pray for me, as her Edmund prayed for her, that the Lord may bless me and make my back able to bear the burdens that are placed upon me? However small they may be compared to the burdens she endured?

I like to think so.