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

Conceiving Courage

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

 

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

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

Robyn, Lani, and Robyn's sister

Robyn, Lani, and Robyn’s sister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Hymn #19)

Hope smiling brightly

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

I am so happy. Life is so good.

good courage

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

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

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

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Laboring Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

silentpresence

Processing Motherhood with Poetry

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

BYU graduation with my incredible grand-Mother

BYU graduation with my incredible grand-Mother

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

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

Seeds

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

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

My Mothers

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

mothers

Some of my “Mothers”

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

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

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

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

3:00 a.m.

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

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

Watch with Me

July 13, 2015 in Adversity, Atonement, Breastfeeding, Dads, Doulas, Jesus Christ, Lani, Pain, Sacrament, Symbolism

Yesterday Kevin Barney posted “A Feminine Insight to Gethsemane” on By Common Consent. He explained that, as a man, it had never occurred to him to relate Christ’s longing to “let this cup pass” to a woman’s yearning to avoid the pain of childbirth. His post and the comments are worth checking out, especially the ones plugging The Gift of Giving Life. 😉

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Our wonderful Robyn Allgood is the author of a beautiful essay, “Birth in Remembrance of Him,” examining the connections between Christ’s Atonement and childbirth in The Gift of Giving Life. Here’s an excerpt:

The blood that was squeezed from Christ for us has the power to give us eternal life, while the blood that a woman sheds for her baby gives physical life. The work of labor often causes a woman to sweat as she exerts pressure to push her baby out. As the baby moves through the birth canal, mucous and other fluids are squeezed from the baby’s nose, throat, and other orifices. This squeezing or massaging of the baby prepares the baby to live outside of the womb. In this way, the labor that a woman experiences is benefiting her baby, just as the labor the Savior endured for each one of us is for our benefit.

Just last Sunday we attended Gospel Doctrine in my parents’ ward and discussed Christ’s experience in Gethsemane. As we discussed the Apostles’ difficulty staying awake to “watch with Christ,” our instructor suggested that Christ’s agony and the heaviness He felt were likely so intense and overwhelming that His apostles may have, on some small scale, felt it in the energy pervading the area. Because of their deep love and connection with Christ, they may have been experiencing some sort of “sympathy pains.”

asleep-in-the-gardenThe scriptures say that “when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow” (Luke 22:45). Our instructor suggested that it may have been that they were not necessarily “asleep,” but rather literally unconscious from the depth and intensity of the agonizing atmospheric pain they, as mortals, were incapable of withstanding. Personally, I have on a few occasions felt a pain so intense that I have fainted from it. I think our instructor was definitely onto something, and I think hers is the best explanation I have ever heard for the apostles seemingly “slacking on the job.”

When Christ asked them to “watch with Him,” I think He was, essentially, asking them to “hold space” for Him. I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of holding space lately. Holding space for someone enduring a difficult experience is both an honor and a challenge. Our Gospel Doctrine instructor last Sunday explained that when Christ said, “pray that ye enter not into temptation,” scholars suggest that it meant something more like “pray that ye will not break under the weight of this hard trial.” It seems that Gethsemane was not just a difficult test for Christ but also for His Apostles.

posteriorAs she shared these insights, I also found myself thinking about childbirth. My second baby was posterior, facing my front, or “sunnyside up,” which is not ideal for the journey through the pelvis and birth canal. It wasn’t easy pushing her out, and I was making a lot of noise.

As I worked to push her out, my stepmother was on my left and my husband was on my right. At one point I looked at my stepmom, and I could see that she was crying. When I asked her about it later, I learned that they weren’t tears of joy as I had originally suspected. She was crying because it was so hard for her to see me in that kind of pain. Almost simultaneously, to my right, my husband was bent over, and at first I thought he was vomiting. In fact, he was having a hard time staying conscious and was on the verge of fainting. Though they were not enduring the pain themselves, they were having very real and visceral reactions to it.

After the hard work was over

After the hard work was over

I don’t know if Christ’s apostles could see Him as He prayed. The scriptures aren’t entirely clear. Perhaps they could see Him or yearned to help Him. Or perhaps they could simply feel a small portion of the heaviness and pain projecting from Him as He accomplished the Atonement. They offered “sacred support” in much the way fathers and doulas support their wives and clients through childbirth (see “A Father’s Sacred Support” in The Gift of Giving Life). They could not remove His burden, but I suspect they were able to feel some of the weight of it as they struggled to remain conscious.

It is not easy to hold space for someone in pain, and the Apostles were holding space for the most intense experience of pain that has ever occurred. This perspective has given me a deeper appreciation and respect for the disciples Christ chose to “watch with Him” as well as a heightened sense of gratitude to all those who have “watched with me” in childbirth and other intensely challenging or painful experiences. Their service was a beautiful gift to me.

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Why Being a Mom is Just as Cool as Being Harry Potter

March 26, 2015 in Heather, Motherhood

lily potter
For the last six months my husband and I have been reading the Harry Potter books to our kids before bedtime. Last night we finished the seventh book, and like I always do when good stories come to an end, I felt a bit sad. Ever since I was a child I have always struggled against the longing to be a character in a book. I have spent weeks of my life yearning that I could be Anne, from Anne of Green Gables, Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia, and countless other heroines. I don’t think I have outgrown this longing, because the same thing happened to me again with Harry Potter. For the last few days I have been feeling sad that my life is not as exciting, glamorous, or important as the characters in Harry Potter. My life of changing diapers, cooking meals, and washing dishes has seemed stifling and exceptionally boring the last few weeks. I have found myself longing for magical power, a quest, a mentor, and something important to do that would change the world in a big way.

In fact, this morning as I was setting out the cereal bowls and pouring milk, I was brooding over how un-Harry Potter-ish my life is and wishing that I could magically transform myself into something exciting. “No one ever writes a book with a Mom as the heroine,” I thought to myself, “Moms never do anything important in books.” But then I had to stop right there, because I realized that mothers play a big part in Harry Potter.

I remembered that one of the main themes that runs throughout the Harry Potter books is the power love, and it’s ability to conquer evil. In fact, when Voldemort tries to kill Harry as a baby it is his mother, Lily, who stands up to him and sacrifices her life for her son. Her sacrifice is a powerful type of love that leaves a protection on Harry that makes him virtually untouchable by the evil forces that try to take him down. Her love is the most powerful magic in the whole book. In the end it is her love, which Voldemort unknowingly takes into himself when he takes Harry’s blood, that allows Harry to overcome death and come back to defeat Voldemort once and for all.

As I ate my cereal this morning and I pondered about that idea; that the one who ultimately finishes off Voldemort, the greatest evil the magical world had ever known, was Lily Potter. It was a mother’s love that enabled her son with the power and protection to destroy evil and save the world. As that powerful thought settled in my mind I wondered if I had that type of love. As I watched my four little blonde heads argue and tease each other across their breakfast bowls I wondered if I would die for them. I knew that I loved them, but sometimes I feel really selfish. Being a mother is hard for me and there are days when I fantasize about how nice it would be to be unencumbered by them. So a part of me honestly wondered, “Would I die for them? Did I have that type of love?”

I thought about that as I was cleaning up spilled milk and putting cereal bowls in the sink, and then it hit me. I did love them like that, because I had already shown I was willing to sacrifice my life for them. I thought back to the nights and days when I had given birth to each of them and how, even though I was never in any real danger of dying, I had walked to the edge of death and back for each of them. I had willingly undergone intense pain and anguish for them, and I knew that if it had come down to it I would have given my life to have let them live. As I washed dishes the power of that knowledge settled in my heart and I realized that I did have that type of love, the type of love that protects and empowers; the type of love that destroys and overcomes evil.

Then I thought of the scene we had read last night, where in the final moments of the battle at Hogwarts Molly Weasley, the epitome of the frumpy housewife, takes on Bellatrix Lestrange, a powerful dark witch who can duel three grown wizards at a time. When Bellatrix tries to kill her daughter, Molly rises up, a fierce lioness, and takes her on– single handedly. Bellatrix is surprised when a small, frumpy mother’s skill and power out matches her own and she is overcome. Mrs. Weasley defeat of Bellatrix might just be my new favorite part of the book, because it reminded me that you can never underestimate a mother.

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. Pictured- Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley)

I think that sometimes I feel so unimportant in the whole big drama of the world, and I feel helpless and powerless to make a lasting change for good. There are times that my mothering and my efforts to love and nurture others seems like a royal waste of time and talent. Yet then I think back to Lily Potter and Molly Weasley and see how, between the two of them, they took down the two most evil forces of their time. Their story reminds me that even though I might not look like anything special, in my heart there is real power. I have shown my willingness to die for others, and that is a power that protects and enables. I have the power of a mother’s love, which might just be the most powerful type of magic there is.

So watch out.

Harry Potter Mom

 

The Yoga of Motherhood

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loveliest of the arts

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

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

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

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

Byron Katie has said:

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

And Richard Rohr has said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

Hearts Turning to the Children

January 13, 2015 in Abortion, Intuition, Lani, Missions, Motherhood, Pain, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Prenatal influences, Traumatic Birth

And whoso receiveth one such little one in my name receiveth me. -Matthew 18:5

When I attended Felice’s yoga and meditation retreat at the beginning of the month, it was many things I expected it to be, but there were a few things that surprised me. One of those surprises was how many people told me that they had recently discovered a “castaway” in their family. I knew that the ranks of previously-aborted children coming to earth were growing, but I was still unprepared for the outpouring of witnesses I received at the retreat.

When I began my own journey of discovery with my daughter, I had never heard of “castaways.” I didn’t know anyone who talked about them. Finding and meeting pre-birth expert Sarah Hinze in 2010-2012 was surely no coincidence. Sarah has been a sort of lone voice in the wilderness for the past few decades, sharing her growing pool of case histories about previously-aborted children. She herself was highly skeptical at first. A couple of years ago, Sarah handed me a story that had clearly been typed decades ago and said, “I think this was the first abortion story I ever received.” She shook her head, saying, “I couldn’t believe it was true.” So she had put it away in a file, feeling sure it was an anomaly among pre-birth accounts. But then she received others, and that pushed-aside file started to grow.

Part of one of my favorite paintings (Source)

Part of one of my favorite paintings (Source)

As more and more of these brave and valiant spirits try to make their way to earth again, the powers of darkness are heightening their efforts at preventing their entrance. Personally, I believe that many of these spirits are God’s strongest “warriors.” Satan doesn’t want them here, and he certainly doesn’t want people acknowledging their existence. Revelation chapter 12 takes on new meaning as we consider the vast number of previously-aborted spirits seeking entrance into mortality: “And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born” (vs. 4).

Before I met Sarah, God called me to help rescue these “castaway” children, but it hasn’t been an easy mission call. I was initially a little shell-shocked by the opposition and resistance I encountered from many sides when I joined Sarah in the work of helping these special children tell their stories. So I stepped back a bit from my advocacy efforts.

Since that time, awareness of Sarah’s research has broadened. Though the idea (of aborted souls being given second chances at life) is still far from mainstream, more and more stories are coming out of the woodwork, at least among the people I rub shoulders with. When I think about these “wounded warrior” children, I am grateful for the Spirit of Elijah. The hearts of the fathers and mothers are being turned to the children. As I wrote in our book The Gift of Giving Life:

The Spirit of Elijah will come to all of us.  The tendrils of his spirit reach far and wide—into the hearts of married couples, birth mothers, adoptive parents, foster parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  He calls on the highest and best within each of us to turn and welcome, protect, teach, and nurture the children waiting to be and those already among us.  It may not be easy, but the Lord has promised to help us.

The following is one of the growing number of stories I have received… from a mother whose heart has turned in love to her castaway child:

My first child’s arrival was surrounded with anticipation and joy. I was so thrilled to become a mother, and my husband and I were happy to start our family. We loved our little boy so much, but we quickly discovered that he came to earth with various issues. We wanted to help our son, but struggled to know what to do. He had severe separation anxiety, was only happy in my arms, struggled to bond to his father, and seemed to have “colic” and night terrors. I intuitively knew there was a cause behind it and that he was not just crying for no reason. The list went on and on of things that were “wrong” with his physical body. 
  
We tried many elimination diets, we saw many doctors, even natural healers, but did not find answers. I prayed constantly to understand more, to receive answers, and felt disappointed when I didn’t receive those answers immediately. I tried to have faith that God would give us answers eventually, and tried to be the best mother I could be.

I struggled with feelings of inadequacy and frustration when I couldn’t comfort my child, especially in the night terrors in which my son screamed in terror. At times I felt angry that my poor little boy had to suffer for reasons I didn’t understand. As he grew from a sweet newborn to tenderhearted toddler and fun preschooler, our love for him only increased, but we also felt sorrow that we hadn’t solved all of his problems. 

When my son was four years old, I was praying one morning, and I saw, in my mind, or in a vision, my sweet little boy, in the womb of another woman. I felt the pain, the fear, the emotional distress he was in as he was aborted. Amazed, saddened, and yet grateful to have this knowledge, I asked God, “Is there anything else I need to know about this?” And again in my mind, I saw that the woman who had aborted him was my sister, much older than me, who had been raped in college. In my mind, I could feel the fear and emotional pain of both my son and my sister. I cried for both of them. 

Later that day I felt confirmation that what I had learned about my son being a “castaway” was true. As my husband and I discussed it, we suddenly understood why our baby had been scared of strangers, especially strange men, and feared separation from me, his mother. Puzzle pieces seemed to come together as our hearts were given this knowledge. We felt a new level of gratitude to have our little boy be a part of our family and a new responsibility as we begin this journey of healing. 

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Gift Babies: Hollie’s First Birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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