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

Healing Heartbreak

May 8, 2014 in Adversity, Book reviews, Fertility, Grief, Lani, Loss, miscarriage, Pregnancy, Virtual Book Tour

Today’s Virtual Book Tour post comes from Brittney at Notes from a Been-There Mom. Brittney has shared some of her journey on our blog before–the birth story of her fourth baby, born with a cleft palate. Since that birth, she has experienced multiple heart-breaking miscarriages. Those losses have inspired her to partner with me in creating a book for moms mourning miscarriages: Light in the Mourning. You can read more about that project and how to submit stories HERE.

Three weeks before Brittney's first miscarriage

Three weeks before Brittney’s first miscarriage

Here’s an excerpt from Brittney’s beautiful post today:

Day after day, I walked past a copy of The Gift of Giving Life on my dresser. I felt a pull toward it. The book felt like a warm spot it a cold world. But I couldn’t pick it up. The last thing I wanted to read about was the joy of all those moms with beautiful round bellies birthing their healthy babies. (Clearly it had been a while since I’d visited those pages.)

Finally the book won. I decided I’d read all the ribbon stories I’d always skipped but that was it. (Stories mentioning loss are marked with a ribbon to protect the faint of heart like me.) My heart broke as I read stories of mothers suffering; mothers who endured trials I would have thought unendurable. I felt the greatness, strength and beauty of the authors through their words and suddenly found myself in the best of company. I wanted to change their stories, breathe life into their babies and hold them up. Instead, in their respective times of darkness, these women found peace. They found light. I kept reading.

Brittney’s post brought me to tears. I so appreciate her willingness to share her courageous journey. You can read the rest of her post HERE.

 

Cherie Burton Book Review

April 28, 2014 in Adoption, Adversity, Book reviews, Depression, Fertility, Grief, Lani, Loss, miscarriage, Personal Revelation, Virtual Book Tour, Waiting

150602_426562187424709_1846303491_nToday’s Virtual Book Tour post comes from Cherie Burton. Cherie is an amazing, powerful woman and mentor/coach of other strong women. Because of her family’s history with depression and suicide, she is passionate about helping others achieve health and emotional balance. Cherie was also Utah County’s Young Mother of the Year in 2011 and considers being a wife and mother her greatest calling.

I loved meeting Cherie last summer. After she contacted me to set up a meeting, I spent some time on her blog reading about the miraculous and beautiful adoption of her Elijah. It struck a strong chord with me for a number of reasons. One being that I began having spiritual experiences with my own unborn son (also named Elijah) almost as soon as my fourth baby was born. I felt his presence among my children often, I dreamed about him, I saw him in vision. Reading about Cherie finding her Elijah stirred my own heart’s assurance that my Elijah wasn’t a figment of my imagination.

I love Cherie’s post about The Gift of Giving Life. Here’s an excerpt:

the-gift-of-giving-life-book-review-1I read The Gift of Giving Life in 2012, shortly after the miraculous private adoption of our magnificent son, Eli. I wept with the women who detailed their experiences with loss, grief and divine compensation. I felt a rising empowerment, a blazing second witness that women are in a very real partnership with The Creator of All as they sacrifice and bear down and descend. And then nobly and beautifully ascend. The Atonement of Christ is demonstrated more mightily through the sacrificial practice of mothering than through any other practice on Earth.

The Gift of Giving Life is a book about power. Woven into each chapter are stories that affirm the massive spiritual powers of wisdom, love and creation embodied in the Feminine. I love that this book addresses so many women’s experiences, from so many walks of life, who have the same underlying belief: That God knows our hearts and our needs as women and will mold a perfect plan that, through birth and rebirth, will take our souls and bodies to heights and depths we could never before fathom. I have learned that it is not just the experience of giving birth physically that empowers a woman to call herself mother. It is the praying, the losing, the weeping, the waiting. The pouring of her heart and soul into a vision and promise that only she and her Creator can hold form for.

You can read the rest of Cherie’s beautiful post HERE.

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Start Telling Your Stories

April 17, 2014 in Adversity, Birth Stories, Book reviews, Grief, Lani, Loss, Virtual Book Tour

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“Read the book and start telling your stories.” -Ashlee Miller

2014-04-17 08.47.28 amToday’s Virtual Book Tour post comes from Ashlee Miller. Besides being a personal development trainer, Ashlee is a:

  • Vibrant mom of two fantastic boys and one beautiful girl who teach her how to love and live.
  • Happy wife to her husband (and business partner) of almost 15 years.
  • Teacher of faith-based results, natural healing, inner peace and prosperity
  • Student of the scriptures and other good works
  • Lover of delicious food, any kind of of travel, reading, and the beach!

Ashlee’s post is about stories and journeys, coming to terms with loss, and transformation and rebirth. Here’s an excerpt:

The thing about birth, is rarely do our stories just involve those last few hours of pregnancy and then the delivery of a brand new baby.  For most of us, our stories begin long before that as we overcome our excuses, our fears, our false beliefs about birth and ourselves.  We each are set on a path with different experiences and no story can be the same. Every story has triumph and conflict and there are both sad and happy endings.

My story includes more miscarriages than I can remember and three beautiful births.

Read the rest of her post HERE! Then share Ashlee’s post on facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest to earn entries toward our awesome Virtual Book Tour prizes!

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The Stories I Want My Children to Know

November 8, 2013 in Adversity, Conversion, Death, Faith, Family History, Forgiveness, Lani, Loss, miscarriage, Traditions

Trigger warning: this post contains loss

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Auguste and Wilhelm 1927

A few days ago I was reading my husband’s Aunt Kathryn’s journal entries from World War II. My father-in-law was born in Bielefeld, Germany. His oldest sister Kathryn was a teenager during the war. She spent years writing of air raids, alarm sirens, homes turned to rubble, hiding in the basement. Heart-wrenching stories, like this one:

10/6/44: Last Saturday, a major terror raid stormed across our Bielefeld. The destruction to the city is horrendous. I have to cry every time I walk through the devastated streets. Many have lost part or all they owned. Our Edith, our star is gone. . . . Her mother is dead as well. Nothing was found of her. Now Edith’s poor father has lost all–wife, daughter, and home. He volunteered for the front lines. I don’t think he will come back.

Kathryn’s mother, Auguste, became pregnant during the war. I ached for her when I encountered Kathryn’s words of what happened in the middle of eating dinner one evening:

1/18/44: Suddenly Mother became quite ill. She left the room and Dad followed. When I followed them, Mother was sitting in the kitchen and cried. She was in a lot of pain. Dad rode his bicycle to get Dr. Hartog. To make a long story short, Mother had to get to the clinic right away, and lost the baby.

We’ve been talking a lot about our ancestors lately in our home. For the past few Family Home Evenings we have shared stories of brave women from our family lines. I told my kids about my great-grandma Cassie losing her husband when she was eight months pregnant with my grandfather. My husband shared his British grandmother’s conversion to the Church. Sometime we will also tell our kids about Kathryn’s war experiences and their great-grandmother Auguste’s miscarriage.

This recent focus on family history stemmed partially from a discussion at church a few weeks ago introducing the new “Family Tree” story-focused portion of the Family Search website. Earlier this year, the New York Times reported some interesting research: “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.” How much your children know about their family’s story and roots turned out to be “the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.” Those children who know the most about their families tend to be more resilient and better able to cope during stressful situations (See “The Stories That Bind Us,” by Bruce Feiler).

One of the things that struck me most from our discussion at church on this subject was the importance of “telling it like it is.” The most helpful family narratives are those which give the full spectrum of experiences, the ups and downs, the struggles and the triumphs. Telling only rose-colored versions of the past doesn’t provide our children with as effective a narrative from which to build their own lives. Knowing that their parents and ancestors overcame difficulties and heartache gives our children not just people they can relate to on a real, personal level but also encouragement to overcome their own challenges.

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60th Wedding Anniversary (1987)

So I will tell my children that their great-grandmother Auguste had a painful miscarriage during World War II. I will tell them that she endured that loss along with many other losses (of friends and neighbors) and with her hometown being turned to rubble around her. I will tell them that she survived all of that loss and heartache, saw the end of the war, and soon found the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will tell them that their great-grandparents left their homeland and came to America (to live among the very people who had turned their hometown to rubble) because of their faith. That is strength. That is forgiveness. That is inspiring.

These are the stories I want my children to know.

What stories do you want your children to know?

Trial of Faith

May 31, 2013 in Adversity, Atonement, Death, Faith, Grief, Lani, Loss, Marriage, miscarriage, Pain, Pregnancy

Trial of Faith
By Shaylee Ann

My heart ached.
My head pounded.
My faith was tried.
I was in agony.

My womb was empty of the life that once grew there.

I knew before we lost her that I would miscarry.
I was cramping.
I was bleeding.
I was calm.

The compassion I felt for the people I saw as I accepted the loss of our baby was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
I saw mothers with young children, and felt their deep love and concern as they raise sons and daughters in this fallen society.
I felt the pain and sorrow in the hearts of the people all around me.
I grieved for their trials and losses.

I asked the Lord,
Is this what I need to learn?
I prayed that it was, that I had learned it, and that my baby would stay with me.
I knew that my experience wasn’t over yet.
Still, I hoped.

The day came.
Her tiny body left mine in clots of blood and waves of peace.
I prayed, and the Lord was there.
I cried, and my heart was consoled.
My husband came to my side, and we accepted the loss of our baby together.
We distracted ourselves and carried on quietly.
Night came and tears soaked my pillow.

Then came the anger.

Why was my baby taken from me?
Why didn’t I do anything about it?
Why me? Why us? Why now?

I fought in an exhausted haze of confusion.
I didn’t understand.
We loved our baby.
What was happening to us?

I cursed the sympathy and begged for comfort.
I functioned merely on the adrenaline of anger and sorrow.
I wasn’t hungry.
I wasn’t thirsty.
I entertained the releasing thought of death.
Only my husband kept me going.

I gave into the loneliness, the agony and anger.
I questioned God.
I doubted my faith, my abilities, our future.
I succumbed to the numbing, damning influence of the devil.
I lacked confidence in my role as a mother.
I blamed myself.
Again, I wanted to die.

Still, my husband kept me going.

I realized at last that I am surrounded by love.
I am needed.

I craved joy.
I rested in the peace of the Lord.

Morning came, and though the sky was dark, my heart felt . . . light.
I laughed in genuine glee.
I smiled by the grace of His Mercy.

I live, though still in pain, with His healing balm coursing through my soul.

I have my Eternal Companion,
I have the Gospel,
I have family,
I have love,
I have faith.

I miss her with a fierceness that I never imagined would be a part of my life.
I yearn for her spirit.
I ponder on her mission.
I love her.

Yet, I await a new spirit.
I prepare greater than before.
Still, my faith in God, my love for my husband, for my children, and for my life keep me going.

My womb will once more be filled with life.
And I am happy.

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Miscarriage: What Friends Can Do

April 9, 2013 in Adversity, Grief, Guest Post, Lani, Loss, miscarriage

Miscarriage: What Friends Can Do

By Liz Johnson

When people ask me how many children I have, I don’t really know how to answer. The proper response is “four,” because that’s how many I tuck in at night – three beautiful boys and a darling baby girl. But in my heart, I want to answer “five.” And then I guiltily admit that I feel like I should want to answer “seven.”

I have had three miscarriages. In many ways, it’s such a cruel medical term for something that can be so profound and painful, but nonetheless, that’s the word we use. I lost my very first pregnancy when my midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat at my first appointment. After dragging in the ultrasound equipment, we discovered that she couldn’t even find a baby – I had a blighted ovum, which essentially means that a fertilized egg attached to my uterine wall, but a baby never developed. My midwife asked if I’d like to wait for the miscarriage to happen naturally, or whether I’d like to have a D&C. I chose to wait and see if the baby would pass. After the miscarriage failed to happen during that week, I chose to have a D&C one week later.

My second miscarriage (third pregnancy) happened when my son was only nine months old. I had gotten pregnant rather quickly, and we were in the midst of a cross-country move. I was six weeks pregnant, and after we had loaded up the truck and cleaned our apartment, I noticed blood. I was in between insurance coverage and didn’t have a doctor to go see, so the miscarriage wasn’t ever medically managed.

My third miscarriage happened after what appeared to be a miracle pregnancy – despite actively trying to prevent pregnancy, my husband and I had been at the temple and had both received separate promptings that we were to have another baby, and that we would have a girl, and what we were to name her. To our surprise, I found out a week later that I was already pregnant. We excitedly decided that this was obviously something that was meant to happen for our family. You can imagine my shock when, at 16 weeks, I woke up to the sound of my water breaking. A few minutes later, I delivered a still baby girl into the palm of my hand.

I guiltily admit that my first two miscarriages didn’t really affect me – I hardly even felt sad. I just chalked them both up to “things that happen” and focused on getting pregnant again. With my second miscarriage, I even felt a twinge of relief – I hadn’t expected to get pregnant so quickly, and the thought of having two children just 17 months apart (with my husband in his first year of law school) was a bit overwhelming. And so I generally stayed quiet about them. I heard other women talk about their grief and pain with miscarriages, and I just figured that we coped with these things differently. I didn’t know exactly what to say, since I couldn’t really relate.

My third miscarriage, however, was the single most traumatic experience of my life. Suddenly, I knew what these other women were talking about when they said that they were hurting, or that they were sad, or that they were angry. I had nightmares about it for months. I would think about it and have a physical reaction – my heart would race, my palms would get cold and clammy, and I would get so dizzy that I often verged on passing out. I had debilitating panic attacks with both of my subsequent pregnancies that ended up requiring medication. I admit that I was intensely angry at a God that would promise me a baby, and even give her a name, and then take her away before she ever took a breath. The grief process that followed this miscarriage was such a raw, physical, all-encompassing process that it took months and years to fully process… and sometimes I’m not even sure I’ve fully completed it.

Miscarriage is tricky. Just like in pregnancy, women experience the same basic physical event in wildly varying ways. Just like some women have horrible morning sickness in pregnancy and some get barely nauseated, some women are completely knocked to the ground by miscarriage, and some are hardly fazed. This doesn’t make one experience more valid or more real than the other – it just shows that there is a broad spectrum of experience in relation to the loss of a pregnancy. This makes it especially difficult to talk about, as well as find empathy and support. And most miscarriages happen so early in pregnancy that unless a woman reaches out, most people around her don’t even know she was pregnant to begin with.

This is complicated by our tendency to explain miscarriage, either based on our own experience or the experience of somebody else we know. I have talked to dozens of women about miscarriages, and the feelings they have about their babies and pregnancies vary dramatically. Some feel like their miscarried baby came to their family through a subsequent pregnancy. Some feel that their miscarried baby received a body and will be part of their eternal family, and that they will be able to raise them in the next life. Some feel that their miscarriage was simply a biological event and feel no bond nor tie to the baby that could have come from that pregnancy. None of these are invalid or wrong approaches – all mothers are entitled to their own personal revelation about this tender subject.

Despite it being a complicated and delicate matter, it’s crucial that we support women as best we can through miscarriage. If you have a friend who experiences a miscarriage, here are some ways that you can support her.

1 – Let her talk as much or as little as she wants. Some women need to verbally process things more than others. Some women will want to talk for hours and in lots of different settings, and some women will want to process it internally. Some women will need to discuss it for months; others won’t need to discuss it at all.

2 – Share your experience, but be careful not to project your own (or others’) experiences onto hers. As illustrated above, every miscarriage is different. It’s easy to say “I know how you feel” or something similar, but the fact is that you don’t. Instead of projecting your emotions and experiences onto hers, state your own experience, and then ask if she shares in it. Saying something like “when I miscarried, I was really angry. Is that how you feel?” or “my mom said that the first few days after miscarrying were really emotional – how have yours been?” can give her the opportunity to expound on her feelings and help you understand if her experience is similar to the ones you know about. It can also be validating to have you state your feelings first, particularly if she’s feeling emotions that she perceives to be atypical.

3 – Similarly, be careful about making assumptions about the status of this miscarriage as it relates to the mother’s family. While you may feel strongly that a baby you lost will be part of your eternal family, suggesting that to a mother who feels differently can actually be quite painful. I had a friend who lost a baby at 18 weeks, and despite the advanced state of her pregnancy, she did not feel any bond to the pregnancy, nor any reassurance that the baby was part of her family. In fact, she had a lot of peace in knowing that her pregnancy simply wasn’t meant to be. When people would try to reassure her by telling her that she would get to raise her child someday, it actually gave her a deep sense of guilt, because she didn’t feel any bond to the baby she had lost, and somehow felt that she was damaged or not coping properly because her experience didn’t mirror the experience of other women. Instead of comforting, these well-meaning platitudes actually injured her further in her healing process. We need to be careful to not prescribe a universal answer to a very individual question, as it can further complicate the grieving process.

4 – Just do something. So many times we’re afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, or not doing enough, but it hurts infinitely more to not do anything. Bring over a card or a small gift. Write an email to let her know that you’re thinking of her. Offer to babysit other children or bring a meal. Call her and ask if she wants to go out, or if she’d like visitors. If you don’t know what to say, then say that. Just hearing “I can’t imagine what you’re feeling, but I’m sorry, and I’d like to help” means so much. Even if a woman is coping just fine with her miscarriage (as I was after my first two), feeling that outpouring of love and support is really comforting. It’s better to give too much support than not enough.

Women who experience miscarriages, despite undergoing a similar physical occurrence, have wide-ranging and diverse reactions. This can make it difficult to fully support and understand. It’s important that we acknowledge and honor a woman’s experience, however similar or different it may be from others we’ve encountered, and allow women to grieve and process their experience in a way that best suits them. In doing so, we can provide some of the most genuine and sincere support possible.

LizLiz Johnson is the mother of four (five) and resides in Northern Indiana.  She has a BA in International Development and is two postage stamps away from being a certified doula (DONA).  She loves to write, bake, and sing at the top of her lungs while her children beg her to stop.  You can find more of Liz’s writings and rantings at her personal blog: thebookofarmaments.blogspot.com.

Birth Story: The Miracle of Forgiveness

February 11, 2013 in Birth Stories, Book, Forgiveness, Lani, miscarriage, Personal Revelation, Priesthood blessings

The following is the birth story of one of our book’s contributors, Deanna. She received a beautiful Christmas gift this past year. I adore this story. It teaches so many important truths. I hope you love it too. (Please be aware that the first paragraph of this story contains a loss.) -Lani

 

The Miracle of Forgiveness

By Deanna

“For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him.” -1 Samuel 1:27

We had found out we were pregnant Christmas 2011. We were very excited because we had been trying for months even though we’d had no fertility problems conceiving our other two children. Then we miscarried. When I went to see my OB, the nurse asked when I had had a positive pregnancy test. I said, “Christmas morning.” She expressed sympathy and then the words, “You will have that same baby in your arms by the following Christmas,” came into my mind.

Later, I realized that the reason I had miscarried and also the reason I was having trouble getting pregnant was because I was holding a grudge against someone who had deeply offended me. I could not let it go and started to have anxiety attacks and depression. I prayed to be able to forgive her, but I couldn’t reconcile between forgiveness and being taken advantage of by her.

In order for the revelation to be fulfilled (me having that baby by Christmas) I had to conceive late March/early April. That just so happened to be General Conference weekend and “coincidentally” I was also ovulating. Most of the talks were about forgiveness. All along I knew I had to forgive her, but I didn’t know how to do that. During Conference and especially Pres. Monson’s closing remarks, I knew exactly what I had to do. I resolved to do it and sort of made a deal with the Lord that if I did it and forgave her that I would be able to conceive.

We did conceive, and my due date was Dec. 21. I had been late with my other two, so I wasn’t sure that I would even have the baby by Christmas. I started to wonder if the revelation was just “Christmas time.” On the night of Dec. 23 with no real contractions and me feeling very anxious, my husband gave me a blessing. In it he said, “The Lord will fulfill His promises to you.” I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I had faith that he would be born on the perfect day for him.

My contractions (that really let me know “this was it”) started at 1:00 a.m. on Christmas morning. Our son was born on Christmas day at 1:25 p.m. The Lord indeed fulfilled His promise to me.

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