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. 😉

gethprayer

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.

silentlybeside

On Being in Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

moon-phases

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

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

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

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

 

inlove

God is Not a Single Parent

February 27, 2014 in Dads, Divine nature, Family History, Heavenly Mother, Jesus Christ, Lani, Puberty

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A few months after I turned 12

During my “coming of age,” the years when I grew from girlhood to womanhood, I lived with my dad and stepmom in Massachusetts. At the time my dad and stepmom both had private practices as mental health professionals. My dad worked specifically with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, many of them referred to him by LDS bishops. Living with two therapists, talking about deep spiritual and emotional stuff was normal to me. I talked to my parents a lot about everything.

However, I don’t think I fully grasped until very recently how fortunate I was to come into womanhood in a home where we spoke often of Heavenly Mother. My dad talked about Heavenly Mother a lot. In working with his clients, especially his female clients, Heavenly Mother was frequently an important part of their healing journey. Many had been abused by male authority figures, so it was difficult for them to connect with God the Father. My dad always emphasized that both of our Heavenly Parents are involved in our lives and sending their love and healing to us when we need it. It was my dad who introduced me to the hymn “O My Father” and its mention of Mother in Heaven.

I am so grateful to have experienced my development into womanhood while being tutored by a father who had developed such respect and love for women and Mother in Heaven. I would guess that one of my dad’s first powerful learning experiences in that journey happened on his mission among the Cuna people in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama.

Mola-211x300The Cuna people live in a matriarchal society. Daughters are prized and given elaborate celebrations when they reach puberty. The Cuna also have many beliefs and traditions in common with Latter-day Saints. Their greatest spiritual teacher Ibeorgun (“Man of Light”) descended out of heaven, taught them principles of honesty and chastity and respect for others, and organized their leadership (three top chiefs with twelve chiefs under them). That’s just one of many interesting parallels.

In my dad’s mission journal, he shared his discovery of another theological belief we share in common with the Cuna. Dad had been working with his companion and a Cuna young man on translating the first missionary discussion into the Caribe Cuna language. This discussion included teaching concepts regarding man’s divine heritage as children of God. Here is the rest of the story in his words:

We were in the middle of this project when our Cuna woman friend brought a load of laundry. She had her daughter with her and we stopped to engage them in conversation and decided to try our translated content with her.

After going over the discussion introduction, we came to one of the first questions [spoken in Cuna], “Who created the earth?”

“Pap Tumadi,” she answered. “Great Father” is their title for God.

The next question was, “And who created you?”

We fully expected the same response, “Pap Tumadi,” because that was the “correct” answer.

But, what she answered led me to know we had miscommunicated, “Andi pap e ome.” (“My father and my mother.”)

“No, I’m not talking about the creation of your physical body. I mean, who created your spirit?”

Her answer caused my hair to stand on end, “Pap Tumadi e Ome.” (“Great Father and His Wife.”)

“Are you saying that Pap Tumadi is married?”

“Of course! We have earthly parents, and we have Great Father and His Wife who created us spiritually. The Christian missionaries tell us we are confused when we tell about them. But our traditions are very clear – we have two Great Parents.”

I’m sure it gave my dad great pleasure to tell this woman that he agreed with her 100%. He went on to bring many, many Cuna brothers and sisters into the waters of baptism. His mission was, in part, a fulfillment of a prophecy given by one of the Cuna chiefs, Iguagindibipulele: “The salvation of the Cunas will arrive when Mergies [Americans] come two-by-two to teach the Cuna people.”

My heart is full of gratitude to be part of a Christian church with an understanding of divinity that honors both masculine and feminine. My heart is full of gratitude for an earthly father who instilled within me a knowledge and love for my Divine Mother. And I smile when I think of the young Cuna mother who helped to plant those seeds of respect for Heavenly Mother in my father’s young heart nearly fifty years ago.

Dadwedding

Dad and Me on my wedding day

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Becoming Zion: Book Recommendations

January 17, 2014 in Book reviews, Divine nature, Intuition, Jesus Christ, joy, Lani, Motherhood, Music, Preparation, Savior, Temple, Zion

So I’ve been a bit obsessed of late with Zion. Can you feel the momentum like I can? Things are happening. We are being prepared for big things. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I feel in my gut that we and our children and grandchildren will build Zion, we will BE Zion. I want to get there as quickly as possible. I’m done with darkness and misery and suffering. I can’t wait for light, truth, love, peace, wholeness, and Christ in our midst!  During a recent trauma-release session with a therapist, I was asked to go to a “special place” in my mind. I chose to place myself in the center of Zion’s temple because there was no safer place I could imagine. It was awesome, at least in my imagination.

Maybe you’re as eager as I am? If so, here are some books you might love (if you haven’t read them yet)…

81pYSv-cBJL1) The Triumph of Zion: Our Personal Quest for the New Jerusalem, by John M. Pontius 

I started reading this book at the end of the summer last year (after reading another of his books, Visions of Glory). The vast amount of information contained in The Triumph of Zion made me overlook its minor flaws. I learned so much from this book about Zion, translation (the spiritual kind, not the language kind), the Second Coming, etc. There is a lot of repetition and rehashing of the same information, but I tried to see it as an intentional gift to really embed the information in my brain rather than as an editing mishap. If you want to better understand what needs to happen in order for Zion to be built, this is a great resource.

 

64982762) Light in the Wilderness: Explorations in the Spiritual Life, by M. Catherine Thomas

After two separate strong, wonderful, spiritual women recommended this book to me, I knew it was time. I think I have marked almost every single paragraph in the book with my red pencil and stars and circles and notes. This is one of my new all-time favorite books ever.

If you know Truman G. Madsen’s work, it may interest you to know that his review is quoted on the back cover of Light in the Wilderness: “This remarkable and penetrating book deals with some of the toughest spiritual issues of our time.” I discovered Truman G. Madsen as a teenager and devoured all the books my stepmom had by him. She later gifted them all to me, and I absolutely treasure them. In fact, Truman G. books were the only spiritual books I could stomach during my battle with anxiety/depression in 2012. He was the thread that kept me connected to God. I love him. Light in the Wilderness reminds me a lot of Madsen’s style.

M. Catherine Thomas is a convert, a mother of six, has a PhD in ancient history, taught at BYU and the Jerusalem Center, and has served four Spanish-speaking missions with her husband. I hope I can hear her speak someday. I love her! Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Everything in the Cosmos is playing music based on its particular configuration and vibration. The spheres are full of music. The elements of our physical world play the music given them by their Creator, but . . . we shall see that Man can choose to a degree the energy by which he will vibrate and the music that he will play” (p. 39).

“One day our former glories will be unveiled again; meanwhile, just the knowledge that we are full of unutterable wonders can light our way–yes, can cause us to question our current perceptions of reality and expand toward greater ones” (p. 64).

“But setting aside a human tendency to be gripped by fearful or miserable thoughts, we can quietly, deliberately, and deeply entertain the possibility of the opposite of what the thought is tempting us to believe. What might be a truer way of looking at this situation?” (p. 82).

“How important it is to realize that like is drawn to like: intelligence to intelligence, truth to truth, light to light (see D&C 88:40), but also anger to anger and pain to pain. We will draw to ourselves the sort of energy from unseen beings that we ourselves entertain” (p. 186).

I can’t wait to read this book again, and again, and again. It is like a manual for becoming pure in heart, becoming Zion.

 

97803408243753) The Mozart Effect, by Don Campbell

As I’ve written before, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Zion’s builders/inhabitants it is this: they SING. Over and over and over the scriptures declare that Zion is home to those who sing “songs of everlasting joy.” I got a copy of The Mozart Effect for a few dollars at Goodwill last year and promptly started devouring it. I learned so much about the healing power of music and song from this book. It’s dated (making reference to cassette tapes, etc.) since it was written back in the 90’s, but the information is still as pertinent as ever. If you want to have a better understanding of why Zion’s inhabitants will spend so much time singing (and making music, I’m sure), this book is a great overview.

 

babyandhandxsm4) The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth

Ha ha! Really though. I have long felt that we were inspired to write our book when we did because it would play a part in preparing the mothers of Zion to birth and raise the most powerful spiritual army that has ever lived. You may have heard the phrase often quoted by birth advocates: “Peace on earth begins with birth.” I absolutely believe this is true. And Satan knows it too, which is why he has worked so hard to disempower women in their life-giving journeys from the very beginning of their journeys. If he can throw a wrench in a mother’s views about her body, about her own strength, her connection to her baby, her faith in her intuition from the very beginning, he’s gone a long way toward accomplishing his efforts to weaken families. But if we can strengthen a mother from the very beginning, if we can lift her and support her and help her discover her own power and intuition, we have made huge strides toward weakening Satan’s influence over that particular family. The Gift of Giving Life can strengthen the mothers of Zion, and the mothers of Zion will help usher in a millenia of peace. This army of peace is being unleashed upon the earth even as we speak, and it is growing. So exciting! If you haven’t read our book yet, we hope you will!

Do you have some other Zion-focused book recommendations?

Please share in the comments! 

He will make her wilderness like Eden

December 13, 2013 in Adversity, Depression, Lani, Nourishment, Pain, Personal Revelation, Savior, Waiting, Zion

A few days ago I opened my scriptures in a random place… Jacob 5:

21 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.

22 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.

I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself lately. Lamenting this weak and flawed body/mind I’ve been given. It often feels like my spirit was planted in a very “poor spot of ground,” a very screwed-up, broken body/mind. I have a crooked and sometimes painful back, very poor eyesight, multiple food and chemical sensitivities that sometimes give me head and body aches, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, and other ailments. It’s exhausting living in this body. Sometimes I sincerely doubt my ability to endure to the end.

As I pondered the scriptures I opened to, I saw what God was trying to tell me. Yes, I was planted in what could be called a “poor spot of ground.” But God knew exactly where He was planting me. In fact, my patriarchal blessing specifies that I was placed exactly where I am for a reason: “It is in this environment that you have been brought forth and placed in the families that you have been raised.” And even in this poor spot of ground, God has nourished me with intellect, talents, spiritual gifts, and lots of family and friends who love and support me. Through that abundant nourishment from God, I have, indeed, brought forth much fruit.

Then yesterday, I opened up my scriptures to Mosiah 2, to the beginning of King Benjamin’s address. And I noticed a scripture I hadn’t really “seen” before:

9 And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, . . . hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.

10 I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should . . . think that I of myself am more than a mortal man.

11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind.

I know our prophets are not perfect. I know they experience challenges just like the rest of us. But in that moment it just really struck me as a tender mercy to know that King Benjamin himself was open about experiencing “infirmities of the body and mind.” And I loved that he didn’t just say “infirmities.” He specified that both his body and his mind were affected. As one who experiences infirmities of both the body and the mind, it was comforting. King Benjamin did so much good. There’s no disputing that he played a crucial role on this earth. And he didn’t let his infirmities stand in his way. That inspires me.

 

My mom is always telling me that she never expected me to live very long. I don’t know if it was motherly intuition or just her own imagination. She often says things like, “You didn’t need to come here to be proven, but you wanted to come to make a difference in a world full of problems.” I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know how long God “will suffer that I may live.” But I pray that God’s grace will hold me up and carry me through whatever my future has in store… that I can bring forth more fruit unto the Lord, despite my infirmities. I also hold out hope in the promise found in Ether: “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (12:27).

In two days, I’m singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” with a small group of women in sacrament meeting (pray this sore throat doesn’t get in the way!). I chose the song, in part, because it felt like a very personal prayer/lament. I long for the END. I long for the reign of peace and love. I ache for the day when darkness is destroyed, when the waste places of the world shall blossom like Eden, when my broken body will be made whole. O come, O come. Please come.

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

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)

Every Member a Doula

February 15, 2013 in Adversity, Death, Doulas, Grief, Lani, Loss, Relief Society, Savior

Every Member a Doula
By Lani Axman

A few weeks ago, I was reading along in a book and was struck by some words. This was not a book about birth (on the contrary, it was about dealing with death), but it brought birth to my mind:

In order to be a truly helpful friend to the bereaved, we need to decide whether we can tolerate the other’s pain or not. It is extremely painful to be a witness to intense mourning. It is tempting, when uncomfortable because others are in the throes of grief, to shut them off, to encourage them to stop crying, to deny their pain, or to try to rush them through the painful mourning process. However, fully grieving is necessary and healthy. Denying another the opportunity to grieve fully is a great interference as well as a rejection.

This came from The Courage to Grieve by Judy Tatelbaum. Judy Tatelbaum tells us that those in mourning need special care:

The breaved often need a special friend to act as a kind of spokesperson or intermediary. This person can also act as a confidant, as well as someone who can comfortably run interference for the grieving family. Such an intermediary needs to be comfortable protecting the bereaved, even if it means being impolite at times. . . .

It may help the bereaved to hear of our own experiences. . . . Our sharing can lift some of the painful aloneness felt by the bereaved and may contribute useful information as well. Others who have grieved can offer hope and a model for survival. . . . We should use judgment in sharing our experiences, knowing that we are talking to a very vulnerable human being whose needs at the moment are great.

I couldn’t resist writing in the margin of my book as I read these words: “doula” for grief.

You may have read Heather’s recent post about dolphins and doulas. In it she gives a lovely description of what a doula does for birthing mothers:

Creating a “circle of love” around a laboring woman is exactly what doulas do. Our job is not to help the woman give birth, she has to do that on her own power. Our job is to encircle her with support, protection, love, and to stand as a buffer between her and the rest of the world at such a vulnerable time in her life. A doulas top  priority is to help a woman’s loved ones circle around her and create that “circle of love” for her while she labors and births her baby.

My grandmother died last May, and for the past few months I’ve been coming to grips with that loss and allowing myself to recognize and express my grief. My grandmother raised me from the time I was a tow-headed two-year-old until I was nearly nine years old, and I spent all my summers and school vacations with her throughout the remainder of my childhood and adolescence. She was, in a very real sense, my “mother.” She was the most constant and consistent source of love and security in my life. So this past year has been a hard one as I’ve travelled through various emotional phases… denial of her death’s impact, panic, despair, guilt, recognition of my loss, etc., and I continue to heal a little more each day.

As I read Judy Tatelbaum’s book about grief and, in particular, the passages I quoted above, I realized that going through grief is not unlike giving birth. Both are highly sensitive, vulnerable, sacred, and emotionally and physically taxing experiences. In both situations, the support of the people around us is crucial. The birthing mother and the bereaved both need doulas to comfort, guard, and stand by them as they do their important work.

After I pondered this connection, I then I realized that the same is true for any crisis or challenging life experience. We all need doulas in our lives. The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek, meaning “a woman who serves.” Becoming doulas is exactly what the Savior has asked us to do:

As ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort (Mosiah 18:9).

Ancient carving of a birthing woman receiving support

For those familiar with both Mormon and birth-lingo, perhaps we should proclaim: “Every member a doula!” Every member a “woman who serves.” I am deeply grateful to the people in my life who served me during this past year of vulnerability and grief. They were remarkable doulas, and as I have healed and become stronger I have tried to emulate their love and tenderness in doula-ing the “hands that hang down” (D&C 81:5) around me.

Whether you know someone in grief, in labor, tending to her hospitalized child, coming to grips with a terminal illness, suffering after a traumatic experience, reeling from a divorce, trying to heal from addiction, dying herself, or in any other challenging circumstance, please know that your friend desperately needs an angel in her Gethsemane to strengthen her (Luke 22:43). When we stand as the Savior’s doulas “at all times and in all things, and in all places,” He will “pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon [us]” (Mosiah 18:9-10).

Sometimes I feel sad that I can’t be a professional birth doula at this time in my life, but it makes me happy to think that, in the meantime, I can be a doula to everyone I meet. I heart doula work.

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Related Reading:

“The Angel Standing By,” by Elizabeth Day (in the “Pain” section of The Gift of Giving Life)

“The Society for Relief,” by Felice Austin (in the “Fourth Trimester” section of The Gift of Giving Life)

“Healing from Loss and Other Sorrows,” by Robyn Allgood (in the “Atonement” section of The Gift of Giving Life)

Gestating in Grief, (Birth Faith)

What Friends Can Do, (Birth Faith)

Why hire a doula?, (Birth Faith)

From Beyond the Veil, by Elizabeth

April 9, 2012 in Angels, Birth Stories, Dreams, hospital birth, Lani, Motherhood, Postpartum Depression

Last night my husband and I watched the Church’s Bible videos depicting that last events in the life of Christ. They were so moving, but I think the most touching part for me was when the angel appeared to comfort Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. I have heard and read about that angel so many times, but seeing that angelic comfort depicted before my eyes was so powerful. That scene and Elizabeth’s story have tenderly reminded me that it is during our darkest hours and our most difficult moments that we can feel certain we are in the presence of angels. Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience, Elizabeth. Elizabeth and her husband have been married for nine years. They live in a small town in Utah where they spend their free time swimming, playing board games, and battling with swords. -Lani

*****

This is a tale of the wonderful spirits alive, passed on and not yet born, that helped me before, during, and after the birth of my first son.

My water broke thirty-six hours before I delivered. After twenty-four hours with no contractions, I was given Pitocin; I had tried every natural way under the sun. After seven hours on Pit, I needed sleep, so I got an epidural. After a three-hour nap, I had it turned off. Since things progressed very slowly when I woke up, the nurses/doctors didn’t believe me when I said my baby was coming soon. My doula nearly had to receive the baby, as the nurse barely made it, and my son came with no doctor or midwife.

Six weeks after my son was born, I was suffering from severe postpartum depression.  I would look at my son and wonder when this kid’s mom was going to show up to get him.  I would nurse and try to bond with him, sing hymns to him at night, but nothing would open my heart. I knew this little soul loved me and deserved a mom who loved him back. I kept thinking I did something wrong when I had him that caused me to lose the love I had with him prenatally.  I blamed everything from my need for Pit to me being unfit.

One night while singing “I Am a Child of God” while nursing, I closed my eyes and saw my youngest brother, who passed away eleven years ago. He showed me his view of my birth. I saw him standing behind my doula, giving us support. When I got so exhausted from being on Pitocin for seven hours, I knew I needed sleep to be able to birth my son.  Feeling like a failure, I got my epidural.  My blood pressure that had been creeping progressively very high because of the Pit dropped suddenly to below 90/50. He told me that he was not there to send off my son (whom he knew but wasn’t really close to), but he was there to greet me if I was to head home.

He then showed me an event that happened the first year of my marriage that I had forgotten about. My husband and I were stuck in a bad snow storm and our car nearly rolled. At the time it was pushed back onto its wheels and turned 180 degrees back to straight.  My husband and I looked at each other and said, “I think we have just met our future children.”  In this vision, I saw my son in the middle of five adult spirits, directing them to keep us safe. On my son’s right were two of the children I would eventually miscarry. On his left were a boy and a girl who have not yet had the opportunity to receive a body. My brother reminded me of our Heavenly Father’s love and that I need to bring those last two spirits into the world.

I spent some time pondering what had just transpired, opened my eyes, looked down at my son, and fell in love.

Giving Light

October 28, 2011 in Holy Ghost, Robyn, Savior

As Halloween approaches, instead of haunted houses and spooky forests, my thoughts are turned to the Holy Ghost.  I like to teach my children a little family home evening lesson centered around the Comforter as this time of year approaches.  With that in mind I thought I would share some of my thoughts about the Holy Ghost and birth.

In the Spanish language when a woman gives birth it is said she will “dar la luz,” which literally translated means, “to give light.”  I love this beautiful analogy!  A newborn baby comes from a dark womb into the “light” of this world.  But I also think there is a little more to this idea of giving light.

In John 9:5, Christ proclaims “I am the light of the world.” In Doctrine and Covenants 11:28, he expands on this idea, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I am the life and light of the world.”  Life and light.  As a baby is conceived, carried, and born they are granted life and light.

John 1:9 states that Christ is the “true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”  Every person that is born into this world is granted the light of Christ. This is separate from the gift of the Holy Ghost which every person must consciously accept after baptism. The light of Christ is given to every man born into this world and is “related to man’s conscience and tells him right from wrong. . . it’s influence is preliminary to and preparatory to one’s receiving the Holy Ghost” (Bible Dictionary 725).  It is the light of Christ that can lead us to eventually accept the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Now, I do not propose to know exactly when the light of Christ is given to a person. Is it before birth or at birth?  It seems from the scriptures that coming into this world is required and that women are the instrument through which Christ administers this light. We know that after baptism Christ administers the power of the Holy Ghost through his Priesthood bearers.

 

The Bible Dictionary describes the light of Christ as, “enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ.” How wonderful it is to be a vehicle for the such a beautiful gift.

I believe that a person can develop a stronger or weaker sense of the light of Christ as they live in this world and make choices. However, to allow ourselves to benefit from the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost and other spiritual gifts we are to accept the gift of the Holy Ghost through making the covenants of baptism.  The Holy Ghost offers further light and knowledge on our pathway Home.

In this way, men and women both equally take part in giving light to their children.  They each have different roles that give light and life that comes only from Christ.

*Just as a disclaimer, this is not official doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  This is my own interpretation of certain doctrines as I have pondered them.  Also, this idea is probably not unique to me.  It seems familiar as if I have read it somewhere before.