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.

savannah baby

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!

First Blood

August 9, 2013 in Adversity, Atonement, Death, Divine nature, Eve, Fear, Fertility, Lani, Menstruation, Motherhood, Old Testament Women, Pain, Preparation, Puberty, Rites of passage, Savior, Symbolism, Temple, Young Women

Photo on 2013-04-08 at 20.30For the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about preparing my oldest daughter for menstruation and puberty. She will be turning ten next month, so I know these milestones are quickly approaching us. This past week I started compiling a book I intend to give her for her birthday in September. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning several nights ago, planning and writing. I can’t wait to share the book with her.

Included in her book will be some poetry. I’d like to share some of those short poems with you. “The Fall” and “Sacrifice” I wrote earlier this week. “Menarche” I wrote tonight. It was inspired, in part, by my visit to the temple today. I was able to see the new endowment film, and (as friends had told me I would) I loved the portrayal of Eve.

Dear First Parents, I honor you. Your courage is awe-inspiring.

 

The Fall
By Lani Axman

She fell from Eden-womb,
A sapling
From whom
All the temples on Earth
Would be built,
Their blueprints
Pulsing through her
Like songs
Waiting to be sung,
Whispered in the language
Of her Mother.

 

Woman in Red, by Dina Argov (Source)

Woman in Red, by Dina Argov (Source)

Menarche
By Lani Axman

When the first blood appeared,
Did you scream,
Fearing that you would surely die,
That the fruit had opened your eyes
Only to close them for good?
Or did a familiar whisper
Call to you,
Embrace you with
Love, made audible:
“Fear not, Eve,
For I bring you tidings of great joy:
The Mother of All Living
Has emerged.”

 

Sacrifice
By Lani Axman

Adam spills blood
On holy altars
Where lambs and doves
Bleed hope of reconciliation
Again and again.
And he waits.

Eve spills blood
From the temple
Of her womb,
Where life and death
Mingle in sacrifice
Again and again.
And she waits.

"Empty Nest," by Bethany DuVall (Source)

“Empty Nest,” by Bethany DuVall (Source)

Birth Symbolism and the Temple: a Visual Journey

June 7, 2013 in Breastfeeding, Robyn, Symbolism, Temple, Uncategorized

 

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As I sat in the creation room of the Idaho Falls temple a few weeks ago, my mind turned to birth.  I pondered upon the different symbols within the accounts of the Creation, The Fall, and Plan of Salvation and how they relate to childbearing.  Heather’s essay, “The Two Veils,” (The Gift of Giving Life, 58) is a beautiful explanation of these truths.  I hope you will read that too if you have not already.  This post also has some thoughts about the temple and birth.  If you have been to the Idaho Falls temple (or other temple with like murals), you can visualize the different murals on the walls.

The Creation

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At conception the sacred body temple is entered and life is created.  This maybe a bit obvious at first that these two principles complement the other but that does not make it any less miraculous. The creation of our earth is a beautiful type and shadow of the gathering of matter unorganized to create life within the womb.  There are particular stages of development in both the Creation of the earth and the conception and gestation of a living soul.  The intricacies of conception and creation denote the existence of a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful.  As I read the account in Genesis I am reminded of the intelligences that needed to take form inside a empty womb, “And the earth was without form and void” (Genesis 1:2).  As the creation continues we are reminded that the introduction of light is an integral process.  I don’t know at what point we are given the light of Christ but we know that all who chose to come to this earth receive it.  In Genesis we are told “and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divideth the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:2-4).

getty_rm_photo_of_sperm_fertilizing_egg

 

 

The Garden of Eden

1-eden1

The Garden of Eden is indicative of the pure innocent babe inside the uterus receiving all of the nutrients without having to work.  In a state of paradise, the baby does not yet have any worries or anxieties.  They are completely taken care of by their own “tree of life,” (Genesis 2:9) the placenta.  They don’t have to cry for want or need.  It is automatically supplied to them.  Water is a key part of the creation process in Genesis, “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.  And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (Genesis 2:6-7).  The waters that surround the baby preserve them in a perfect state for birth.  The amniotic fluid and placenta work together to protect baby before he or she enters the harsh world of briars and thorns.

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The Breath of Life

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At birth to accept this mortal world, the baby will have to take their “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).  This moment in time is crucial and miraculous as the baby’s body adjusts on many levels to their new environment.  I’m sure at the time that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden that their bodies had to make adjustments to survive in the harsh world of briars and thorns.  It is no accident that the Hebrew meaning of the name Eve is “life” or “life-giver.”  Eve had to give life to all the human race symbolically giving us our breath of life.

 

The Fall

 

At birth we enter into the telestial world or in other words, the world in which we now live.  With this world comes the need to work by the “sweat of [our] own brow” (Moses 5:1). We are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth.  We are also told that fulfilling this commandment will require effort on our part, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and they conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16).  The process of childbearing brings different types of sorrow even if a baby is never conceived.  Just ask the woman who desires greatly to get pregnant only to struggle with fertility.  In one way or another a woman experiences her “sorrow” or her Gethsemane that brings her to the Lord.  After being born the baby must now work for nourishment.  Breastfeeding takes effort to establish for mom and baby.  New infants are in a fallen world and stand in need of proper care, which they may or may not get.

20th century

 

 

Kingdoms of Glory

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As we progress through this life from infant to child to adult we learn to take upon us covenants that teach us how to return to live with our Heavenly Father and our families in the celestial kingdom.  We choose to either live on a telestial, terrestrial, or celestial level.  We are each asked to symbolically come to the altar to make sacrifices for our the sake of building the Kingdom of God on the earth. Childbearing is just one of the sacrifices (a.k.a. blessings) that we make here on earth.  How we treat our families and honor the gift of giving life will be a part of what determines if we have lived worthy of the celestial kingdom.  God has said that we are “his work and glory” (Moses 1:39).  It makes sense that our families should also be our “work and glory.”

Ellis Family

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.

Bearing Burdens

March 20, 2013 in Adversity, Angels, Death, Family History, Grief, Lani, Loss, Marriage, Motherhood, Savior

Today, in honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to share the story of my great-grandmother, Cassie. She reminds me that I can do difficult things. -Lani

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.

The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow

January 12, 2013 in Adversity, Gratitude, Lani, Postpartum Depression, Waiting

We’re kind of obsessed with rainbows at our house this week. We moved at the beginning of December, and so we’ve been trying to get organized. I’m not sure how or why I decided to turn the playroom/guest-room into a rainbow room, but that is what it has become. I guess it was partly because it seemed so fitting for this phase of our lives. We have now left behind the dark and stormy clouds that plagued me (and my little family) for much of 2012. And now we’re enjoying the cheerful skies and crisp clean air that come after a storm.

I’ve been pinning lots of ideas on my Pinterest board in this rainbow craze and adapting them for our playroom walls. Here’s one of our creations…

I wanted this message to be prominently displayed where my kids would see it often. Half of my children can’t read yet, but it won’t be long. And I hope that each of them will internalize the message. It’s one of the most basic lessons of mortality… opposition in all things. As President Uchtdorf has taught:

The scriptures tell us there must be opposition in all things, for without it we could not discern the sweet from the bitter. Would the marathon runner feel the triumph of finishing the race had she not felt the pain of the hours of pushing against her limits? Would the pianist feel the joy of mastering an intricate sonata without the painstaking hours of practice?

In stories, as in life, adversity teaches us things we cannot learn otherwise. Adversity helps to develop a depth of character that comes in no other way. Our loving Heavenly Father has set us in a world filled with challenges and trials so that we, through opposition, can learn wisdom, become stronger, and experience joy.

Heather has written about this subject in our book (see “Travail and Joy” in the Pain chapter). I love what she says here:

If we allow it, travail can help us develop our souls into the women and men God would have us be. In Ether 12:27, God said, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble . . . for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”  Travail is a catalyst in which new life and new growth are created. To change something from one form into another requires a great amount of effort. For example, a chick must push and crack its egg to get out, and even the best ore must undergo extremely high temperatures before it becomes pure silver. It is through travail that our souls are stretched and pulled until at last—if we choose to allow it—we become reborn as stronger, more patient, understanding, and mature souls.

Having just emerged from a phase of travail (a birth canal, if you will), I can bear a second witness that what Heather wrote is true. I was stretched and pulled, I wrestled daily with God and Satan and angels and demons and who knows what else. I spent many moments painfully afraid that I would never see the “sun” again… that I would spend the rest of my existence in a pit of despair. It was an intense and crazy storm, but I survived. And I emerged. And I was, as Heather stated, “reborn a stronger, more patient, understanding, and mature soul.” And the sun did come out again. And there have been beautiful blue skies and rainbows to reward me for all that I endured. And I have even felt grateful for the storm that got me here.

A couple of nights ago, I was talking with my husband about how I was feeling. I told him how my experiences of the past year have given me a great gift. They have given me a deep appreciation and gratitude for “normal” days. I told him:

“I feel normal. I don’t want to die today. How AWESOME is that?”

When you’ve experienced deep darkness, every bit of light you’re able to recover feels monumental and celebratory. And when you find yourself climbing back to where “normal” used to be, it feels so extra-ordinary that you almost feel strange calling it “normal.” It’s no longer normal, it has now become AWESOME. And what used to be an “awesome day” has now become positively euphoric. I hope I never take for granted a normal day… never take for granted my will to live.

So if you find yourself weighed-down by dark clouds of despair, take heart. The sun will come out again. It will. And you may even be grateful for the clouds that made the sunshine all the more welcomed and cherished. Hang on, my friend.

My life is a birth canal

September 21, 2012 in Adversity, Lani

Right now I feel like my life is a birth canal, my universe pressing in on me from all sides, so much pressure.

And as I look back over my nearly-32 years on this earth, I can see that my whole life was a series of wombs and birth canals. Comfortable lulls followed by strait and narrow (frequently uncomfortable) squeezes into my next phase of growth and development.

“This too shall pass,” we hear. A couple of months ago I Googled the phrase because I wanted to know where it came from. I had always heard it used to comfort those in suffering, but it applies to the “wombs” of our life as well:

The phrase appears in the works of Persian Sufi poets, such as Sanai and Attar of Nishapur. Attar records the fable of a powerful king who asks assembled wise men to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad, and vice versa. After deliberation the sages hand him a simple ring with the words ‘This too will pass’ etched on it, which has the desired effect. (Source)

Wherever we are in life, the one certainty is change. Things will not always be as they now are. The best of times are just as temporary as the worst.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the contractions of our earthly trials only lasted a few hours as the contractions of birth do? Wouldn’t it be nice if we were given nine months of peaceful rest in the comfortable wombs of our lives? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could hook up some Pitocin and an epidural to quicken and numb the pain of those difficult squeezes into growth?

The mortal in me says, “Yes!” But the immortal in me says, “No!” And as much as the mortal in me wants to roll her eyes and say, “Whatever, dude, hook me up and numb me out ’cause I refuse to feel this anymore,” she also knows that the immortal in me is right. Sigh.

And so I go on, slowly easing my way forward, not knowing for sure where I’m going or what I will see when I emerge from this birthing time, but hoping that there are comforting hands and a warm embrace awaiting me.

I can do this.

So can you.

Sacrifice and Childbearing

May 11, 2012 in Adversity, Atonement, Breastfeeding, Prayer, Robyn, Savior, Uncategorized, VBAC

Can a woman FAIL at childbirth?

My answer is NO.

What if they carefully prepared to have their birth be one way but circumstances dictated another direction?

Was that a FAIL?

Again, I say NO.

I feel that childbirth is more about the offering and sacrifice made on the part of the mother.  What path did that woman tread?  What was her journey to get there?  It is certainly not something I can judge.

“Sacrifices were thus instructive as well as worshipful. They were accompanied by prayer, devotion, and dedication, and represented an acknowledgment on the part of the individual of his duty toward God, and also a thankfulness to the Lord for his life and blessings upon the earth.” (Bible Dictionary, “Sacrifice.”)

Childbirth offers women a unique opportunity sacrifice and thus to be instructed, worshipful, prayerful, devoted and dedicated.  The entire process should be an acknowledgement of our “duty toward God” and “thankfulness to the Lord for his life and blessings upon the earth.”

At one point or another each woman will sacrifice something to bring that child into the world.  For some women it is sacrificing a career, or for others it is difficulty in conceiving.  And for some it is pregnancy that tests the limits of their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual reserves.  Some women easily conceive and carry a baby but experience difficult or even traumatic birth experiences.  Maybe the trial didn’t come until the baby did with the darkness of postpartum depression.

Over the years of teaching childbirth preparation and assisting women through childbearing I have come to realize that the Atonement is to be central to the experience.  At what point in your childbearing experiences were you drawn to rely upon its power? I came to the realization recently the the Savior also atoned for our unrealized expectations.  For example, being unable to bear children, or unable to breastfeed, or unable to have the natural birth or VBAC you were planning.  In one way or another the Lord desires that you come to Him and allow his Atonement to heal your heart.

These quotes by Kathy McGrath sum up how sacrifice in childbearing change us:

“Birth is the beginning—the beginning of life, the beginning of parenthood, the beginning of family. Every woman who births must make the journey—cross the boundary—into motherhood. No two women will do it exactly the same way. Each of us must find our own way, our own path.” 

“When we’re up against a great challenge, we really find out who we are. Challenges of all kinds—physical, emotional, and spiritual—force us to the edge of our limits and help us discover that we have within ourselves the wisdom and the resources to deal with whatever is on the other side—useful qualities for a new mother.”

To each woman who has sacrificed and laid herself before the “altar” of motherhood I say thank you, bless you, I reverence you. (Yes, you have laid yourself at that altar even if you did not conceive, but offered your body to carry life.)

To my dear mother, I am honored that you gave yourself to give me life.  I am humbled and ever grateful for your sacrifice.

 

Wishing you a Merry Mother’s Day!