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.

hollandquote

Sale begins April 24th

Sale begins April 24th

Placenta Burying Ritual

July 31, 2013 in Attachment, Birth Stories, Felice, Menstruation, Motherhood, Nourishment, Placenta, Postpartum Care, Rites of passage, Symbolism, Traditions, Traumatic Birth

When Phoebe was 18 months old I realized that I still had her placenta in my freezer. I had just started to date (I was a single mom through most of my pregnancy), and a boyfriend found the placenta box and asked, “What’s this?” That’s when I realized it was time to do something with it.

I had always planned on burying it under a tree, but I wondered if there was some sort of ceremony I could perform. With a little help from Google I found that yes, this type of thing is well written up. So I found a template and made up my own ceremony from that. As I am preparing to move, I found the papers I wrote for the ceremony.

The whole point of the placenta burying ceremony is that it is a strong way of “closure” to the time of immersion mothering right after a birth. It can be done on it’s own or in conjunction with some milestone, such as a blessing, first birthday, return of menstruation, etc. Though I thought 18 months was a long time to keep it in the freezer, I think I did it at just the right time for us.

So here is the outline and some of the words from my ceremony.

1) First I prepared the place I would bury the placenta. I brought a candle, the placenta, a cup with some red juice and some bread.

2) I poured the juice in the cup, lit the candle and held Phoebe and told her the story of her birth. [Tell your child their birth story including any unresolved feelings. Express those.]

[If the birth was in any way traumatic for you or your baby, make sure you have a support person there with you through the process and look for other resources on line to make a part of your ceremony.]

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Here is a small excerpt from my words to Phoebe:

Phoebe [or insert your child’s name] I’m going to tell you the story of your birth. [insert your story] “On the day you were born I was so anxious to meet you…. I got in the birth tub and labored. We called Ken Carabello to give me a blessing, then Davi made me walk for an hour…I kept saying is she here yet? Then when it was time for you to be born auntie Lisa came and I breathed you down, but you were having a hard time, so after a while Davi said we should go to the hospital, so we drove fast… and you were born 20 minutes later at 3:19pm. You were tired. You nursed right away through and snuggled up with me. We went home and you didn’t leave my side the whole time… I was sad about…. But I was so happy that you got here safe and beautifully. You were born naturally and without any drugs and we were both empowered by the whole experience. For a long time afterwards I felt like I could do anything.

And I didn’t like to go anywhere without you. I wanted everyone to know that I had a baby! And I wanted respect. For a long time everyone does help you and give you reverence and respect. But then you get wrapped up in being a mom and life just becomes normal. But it’s important that we don’t forget what a miracle you are and how you got here.

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3) At this ceremony when we are about to bury the placenta is a time to heal from all of the things that were unresolved and let go of things. [make eye contact with child]

-We are letting go of the organ that held us together and nourished you.
-For 18 months now you have been nourished from my breasts,
-As you grow and become independent, you will be nurtured by the Earth Mother, God, and your Heavenly Mother.
-Just like the earth is going to nourish this tree.

phoebe_20080112_01534) Next we buried the placenta and tree. We ate a little of the food and juice.

[Name and celebrate the ways in which your experience of being this child’s mother has enriched you and made you stronger.]

Today I am celebrating being a mother:
The joy you have brought me
all the friendships
The confidence.
The closeness with our heavenly father, who is the preisethood holder in our home.
The whole pregnancy, birth, and mothering experience has made me so strong. I can do anything, and it’s all because of you.

5) Then I mixed some juice with the soil and put it on her bellybutton and said:

You will always be my baby. But motherhood is a journey and the end goal is surrender. I have to raise you to leave me and become independent. So with the burial of this placenta I now release you to grow into the person you were born to be, setting aside my own fears and expectations that I may have for you.

Although I hope that you can always rely on me, like the Mother Earth for Life long nurturing, I wish you never cease to grow in strength, love, wisdom, gratitude, your whole life and into the eternities.

6) Then I used the juice/mud to draw a heart around my own belly button and said:

I bless my womb and reclaim it as a private place belonging only to me. I am moving forward with creative projects like my pregnancy/birth book and a novel.” [Bless and thank and reclaim your women and celebrate your creativity: name any creative projects you are working on.]

Next I got out some lip gloss and put it on to symbolize the return of my sex appeal and interest in sex.

7) Closing:

I would like to close by declaring my willingness to conceive again and my openness to all the love that the universe has to offer me.

mandarinesNext, I poured the rest of the juice onto the earth and scattered the bread crumbs for the birds.

If you want to have your own placenta burying ceremony. You can search the net for ideas or copy this outline and insert your own words. I invited a close friend to video tape it and help me with Phoebe. The dwarf mandarine tree we planted is still thriving.

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.

From the Archive: Having a Baby and Ballroom Dancing

August 15, 2012 in Archive, Felice, Lani, Motherhood, Parenting

Maybe it’s because I’m feeling quite “God-broken” lately, but I thought this was the perfect post for today. Felice wrote this on the old blog back in October of 2009. Enjoy…

Having a Baby and Ballroom Dancing

By Felice Austin

This weekend I traveled to go to the wedding reception of a dear friend and saw a person I hadn’t seen in years. He was one of the first friends I made when I moved to New York City in 1999. Ethan is a friendly guy, and was probably the first friend of many people that have lived in the city. We were never b.f.f., but since the Mormon world is small, we have kept a loose association over the years. This was the first time I had seen him since I had my daughter. We talked a little and we danced (more about this later).

When we talked about old times he said, “You’re much softer now.”

“What do you mean?” I said, even though I knew.

“You were always nice when I knew you in New York. But you had a harder edge to you.” He looked at me as if to ask, what happened?

I smiled and pointed at my daughter. “It was her,” I said. “It was a complete transformation.”

I hate to sum up the last four intense transformative years of my life in one sentence, but it was the best I could do during the break between songs.

In truth, it was many things. Part of my “hard edge” before becoming a mother had to do with my having lost my mother at age eleven. I was a survivor, a fighter, and for the most part, since then I had to take care of myself. While not all women experience the instant love of motherhood, there seems to be some kind of magic for a motherless woman when she becomes a mother. Hope Edelman interviewed dozens of Motherless Mothers in her book of that title and many of them say that becoming a mother filled a huge hole in their being and healed them a way they thought impossible. I definitely experienced that.

Another reason for the softening is that I am a little more God-broken now. But that, too is because of her. It was because of her that when my husband left at 12 weeks pregnant and I had to chose between becoming bitter or becoming better, I chose better.

I gave my will–no small prize–to God, and have had many of my sharp edges smoothed away or hacked off.

It’s tough to break old habits, though, and I remember at one point, a few years ago, I wrote the word SURRENDER on note cards and taped them all over my house.

When the notes fell down, I came up with another reminder. I started ballroom dancing. Someone in the stake was offering free classes Wednesday nights to whoever showed up. I decided that I would go for two reasons. I enjoy simple pleasures, and watching my skirt twirl is one of them. Also, I thought it might be a good exercise in surrender.

I danced years ago in college, and back then I thought I was pretty good, but looking back, I don’t think I was a great partner. I knew all the steps, but I was terrible at following. I was always trying to second guess or lead my partner. This time, I focused more on being led and not on the steps. That meant, if I got an unskilled partner, I just let it play out. Instead of resisting his mistakes and making him feel stupid, I just followed him and we created our own interesting dance.

If you haven’t ever ballroom danced, the thing you need to know about being led is that it is not the same as being pushed around. You have to have tension in your arms. You have to push back a little. If you have no tension, then the space between you and your partner collapses. You become mush together and he can’t lead you. On the other hand, if you push back too much, it is just a struggle. There can only be one leader, and she has to trust him. It’s a good metaphor for marriage, too.

Back to the wedding reception. Ethan happens to be really into ballroom dancing in the last few years, and though it has been a year since I went to class and I don’t remember any moves, I do remember how to follow. He was pleasantly surprised to find that I could dance and after 2 or 3 dances in a row, in which I think he was testing me, he said, “Wow, you follow perfectly.” I just laughed. I didn’t tell him it was because I had a baby, or that I am God-broken now. I just closed my eyes and let Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” wash over me and let him twirl me till it was time to go home.

Bearing Burdens

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

By Lani Axman

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of this while eight months pregnant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like to think so.

Felice’s Birth Story

November 7, 2011 in Birth Stories, Fear, Felice, Holy Ghost, home birth, hospital birth, meditation

This is my first time posting on the new blog. It’s weird to have a month off. But also nice. You may notice that my user name has changed. I’m still the same old Mother Earth, but I started a new blog and that’s why I changed my user. For the birth story of this week, I am posting my own pregnancy and birth story. Enjoy!

I found out I was pregnant a week before my 28th birthday. It was a planned pregnancy, but I was still surprised. I honestly thought I wouldn’t ever get pregnant. I had pretty awful morning sickness, and I was just struggling to survive when my husband started acting weird and unstable. I won’t go into all the details but at 10 weeks pregnant, he filed for divorce.

He had mental health issues before, but his sudden need for attention was putting me through an emotional roller coaster. When it came to the morning sickness, I remember mostly feeling angry. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I hadn’t eaten anything bad, and yet, I was sick and there was nothing I could do about it. On top of that, my spouse’s behavior was all over the place. He filed for divorce one day, then wanted to stay together forever, then asked me if I was going to get an abortion. When he finally moved his stuff out two weeks after filing for divorce, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace and calm wash over me and fill my whole house.

That’s when I knew it was the right thing. Of course, it took another two months or so before I stopped hurting on some other emotional levels (like accepting the idea of being a single mother), but for the most part, I felt really good almost immediately—and my nausea went away at right about that same time. Could they be related? I don’t know.

I  couldn’t use the word divorce or divorced for a really long time, because I didn’t like the stereotype I had of the bitter divorcee. I knew I didn’t want to be like that. I realized then that I had a choice, to become bitter or become better. This was such a huge revelation to me.

I realized that I had been living with an abuser, and that it was a life full of fear. I decided that I wanted to conquer some of my fears. I had all of this sudden confidence. I started reading a book on public speaking and the next month I got up and spoke in testimony meeting (after 10 years fearing it).

People started to notice that I seemed happier and more confident. They did not know yet that I was pregnant or had been abandoned. That was sort of shock to them. Once people found out, I was surprised by the outpouring of love and support that came from all sides. I didn’t have many close friends in my ward because I kept aloof from many people. My husband always told me that people didn’t like me (I realize now that he made up these stories) and so I became withdrawn and unapproachable. Once I came out of that withdrawn state, I realized that people actually loved me and gravitated toward me. So, much of my early pregnancy was spent growing into the fact that I was lovely and loved. I also stared to fall in love with the person inside me. I knew she was a girl and I also knew her name, because she told it to me, years before, in the temple.

When a woman I knew at church found out about my situation, she took me into her confidence. She had had her second baby during the midst of some serious marital turmoil and kept telling me how satisfying it was to have a natural birth. To do something to powerful. A victory.

I still remember sitting across from her at a coffee shop and listening to her whole story and thinking, I don’t want to think about this. I had been too afraid to think about how I would birth. Honestly, I was thinking of getting an elective c-section. I didn’t really know much about my choices.

But she and I became close, and I started frequenting their house around dinner time. They’d feed me, then we’d chat for a few hours and I’d go home and take some sort of homeopathic sleep aid to drug myself to sleep.

She raved about water birth and she also told me about doulas. I thought the idea sounded insane—till I met the one who would became my doula.I had been seeing the same OBGYN for years. I liked her, but once I got pregnant, I wasn’t getting much time with the doctor and I had a lot of needs. I needed someone to talk to me about my fears. She seemed uncomfortable talking on that level, and she just didn’t have the time.

I wished my mother were around (she died when I was 11). But after talking to my aunt and some other older motherly type women, I realized that they weren’t much help. They either didn’t remember giving birth, or didn’t have much information or advice on it.

I felt unprepared and blind. I am a reader, so of course I bought books, but the 5+ I bought were not much help. When I met my doula at an introductory childbirth ed class I was drawn to her light and calm energy.  She agreed to be my doula and I started attending her yoga class. I can’t tell you how transformative this yoga was for me. It was a lovely group of women in a beautiful, healing space. We began each class by introducing ourselves and telling a little about what was going on with us. One woman, who was nearing delivery when I first started coming, said that she was planning to birth at home. I was shocked. “What will you do if you have a problem?” I asked her.

“I’ll just transfer to the hospital,” she said.

I was sort of in awe of this. She came back to the class to visit after she had her baby and said it went well. I guess you could say, I pondered all of these things in my heart.

I kept going to yoga and for the first time in my life I learned to meditate in a way that was really effective for me and I began receiving lots of personal revelation. I also started to have a very real and interactive communication with my unborn baby.

As my pregnancy progressed, I realized that my baby was telling me that she wanted to be born at home. It was funny how far I had come and how much less fear I had by then.  I loved the idea of water birth, so I thought, why not?

So at 32 weeks I told my doctor that I wanted a home water birth. I was surprised by her reaction. She didn’t take it well. Now I know why. She has a totally different world view and home birth was not in it. She is the doctor who is occasionally on television stating her belief that the c-section rate should be 50%. Yikes.

I left her office crying. The midwife I had engaged was a wonderful, spiritual woman. She told me not to worry. She told me to meet her back up doctor so that I would know that not all doctors were that way. Indeed, her back up was a nice. And sort of cute. I could tell my baby had a crush on him. I told her not to get any ideas.

He said, “I know that as a home birth patient, this meeting is really just a formality, just in case.” He admitted that home births are safe and he had no stigma about it. I asked if he wanted a copy of my birth plan, just in case, and he said that I could give it to him, but that he already knew what I wanted–a natural vaginal birth, as gently as possible.

Through the whole pregnancy, I missed my mother intensely. I did find great peace in meditating on her and my other female ancestors, and often felt her presence.  Out of the blue, several of the widows in the ward let me know that they were aware of the fact that I didn’t have a mother and that they were all (seven of them) going to volunteer to be my daughter’s surrogate grandmas and my helpers. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude. Some of them ended up being very key in my transition to motherhood and my daughter still calls one of them Grandma today.

I should mention how big a part the Atonement played throughout my whole pregnancy. I had used the Atonement before in my life for forgiveness, but I had never understood how to use it to take away my pain and sorrow. I learned how. It’s not something I can explain, but I did read every scripture about Jesus I could find and I meditated on him. I also read D&C 121:7 over and over. “Thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.”

At first, getting a divorce after 4 years of marriage seemed horrible—how would I ever I ever be able to be normal after so much abuse? How would I ever even be able to talk about it? But the Atonement is miraculous. I can only describe it like this: I can remember things that happened in my marriage, but they pain me no more. It is truly amazing.

* * * *

As her birth neared, the situation with my ex became full of tension. As an attorney, he was trying to us the law to bully me. He tried to oppose the home birth. He also egged my car, had people crank call me, and he even tried to force me to allow him at the birth.

Some people weighed in and thought I really should let him be there. I think they thought it would make him snap out of whatever it was and get us back together, but they didn’t understand that this man had physically and emotionally abused me. (I was still too ashamed of staying with him for so long and still wasn’t public about that yet.) And if I had learned anything, it was that emotional stuff is what causes most of the complications in labor, so my attorney told him where he could go.  Things remained tense.

I tried to stay calm and focused. I didn’t want anything to interfere with my peaceful birth.

On the day before my guess date, I felt a warm menstrual crampy feeling. I thought nothing of it. Then I realized that the tightening in my belly could possibly be surges. So I called my friend and she came over and we timed my surges. They were one minute long, 4 minutes apart for an hour. In the childbirth education classes I had taken, everyone always said that when that happened (4-1-1), it was time to go to the hospital. So we called my midwife and I called my friend Bethanie and told her to come, too. I was so sure I was going to have my baby in an hour with no pain at all. I called my doula, but she didn’t seem to be worried. She said, “Oh you’ve got hours. Check in with me in the morning.”

I put on some comfy lingerie thingy and was lying on the bed, watching the movie and chatting with my friend.

When Davi, my midwife, came at 11 p.m., she checked me and I wasn’t even effaced. She asked how I felt. I was using my Hypnosis relaxation techniques and the surges didn’t feel painful at all, so I said I was fine, but my back was a little achy. She said I should try to sleep through them and she would come back at 6 a.m.

We filled the birth tub. Bethanie got there soon after. By then, there was no sleeping through anything. The surges were coming strong and I was feeling them in my back—not where I planned to feel them. I tried to breath.

Beth put a hot wash cloth on my back and applied counter pressure. But the washcloth got cold so fast, I got annoyed and said I was getting in the shower to let the water run down my back. I got in the shower and leaned on the 5-gallon emergency water bottles I store in there (it’s a big shower). And let the water run down my back and tried to deeply relax through the surges. After what I thought was maybe 30 minutes in the shower (I was so lucky to have a never ending supply of hot water—miracle?) I decided I had to have made quite a lot of progress and told Beth I wanted to call Davi again.

“Well, she’ll be here in a just a little while,” she said. “It’s already 4:30.”

“What? You mean I have been in the shower for a couple of hours?”

She nodded.

I was amazed. I had heard that time warps in labor, but that was amazing. When Davi came she checked me and said that I was fully effaced but not at all dilated. I was annoyed. I had been working so hard. She said she’d be back in an hour or so with her assistant and that she wanted me to walk. Bethanie took me outside and walked with me, arm in arm.

At 7:30 or 8 my old bishop came over to give me a blessing. I told Davi we were going to go in another room and she said, “Oh, good, Prayer is good.” She was very supportive of the whole thing. Davi is a Sikh and very spiritual.

I don’t remember the blessing at all, but Beth told me later that he specifically blessed that the midwife would know what to do and that everything would go well. (He did not say according to my plan.)

I labored in the tub a bit, which felt nice on my back. I kept trying to visualize my vagina opening as wide as the Grand Canyon. I kept thinking, “She has to be here soon.” I have been doing this forever.

 laboring in tub

I puked again and Davi told me to stop fighting the surges. She was right, when I fought them, I puked. So I just let go and tried to breath. Her assistant kept checking the heart tones–it seemed like every 5 minutes, but I guess was every 30. She kept checking my blood pressure too. I guess they were worried about it. Which is weird because I have always had low blood pressure. I didn’t think much of it, but Davi would occasionally tell me to open up and she’d throw some homeopathic pellets in my mouth to keep my blood pressure down.

At 10 a.m. my friend Lisa showed up from the airport. She didn’t know if I would have a baby yet, but she told me a few days before that she was praying that she could be there at the most useful time, whatever that was.

They put her to work right away on hydration. They were giving me Pedia-lite because of all the puking. My doula, finally showed up around 1:00 p.m. and they made me walk again. This time Davi and Khefri were both supporting me. I remember a neighbor walked by us with her dog and saw me and asked. “Do you need a ride to the hospital or something?” She said.

Davi just smiled and said in her cheerful way, “Oh, everything is fine. She’s just in labor.”

“Uh. Exactly,” said the woman.

We just kept walking. I couldn’t talk through the surges. My back was killing me. Finally, I whispered, sort of ashamed of myself even as I said it, “isn’t there anything you can give me for the pain in my back?”

“Well, there are the sterile water papules,” said Davi.

“Oh, yes! Women swear by them in London,” said Khefri.

“What are those?”

“It’s just sterile water injected into the muscles around your spine and it temporarily paralyzes the muscles so you don’t feel anything.”

“What? How come I never hear of them? Do doctors know about these? Why don’t they give these in hospitals?” I asked.

“Because they are free.”

Even in labor, I was so annoyed. That needs to change, I thought.

We went back to the house and Davi warned me that it would sting really bad for about 3 seconds and then be fine. I bit on a pillow and it did sting, but it was brief.

The injections did help. I was still sort of whiney and weepy, but for the most part just trying to breathe deeply. I sat on the birth ball and leaned over the bed and Khefri massaged my back. Different people were handling the camcorder and whoever it was did a pretty good job. I liked how they occasional swung over to the clock to show what time it was. That was about 1:30.

Then she said she wanted to break the water for whatever reason and I said okay. She warned me that if there was more than 1+ meconeum we had to go to the hospital. It was trace. However, later, when I stood up, we saw more meconeum on the chux pad and she said it was between trace and 1+ and we had to watch it very carefully because the baby was stressed.

She had me try pushing once, but I didn’t feel pushy. I didn’t know exactly what to do. She checked me and said that I had a little lip of cervix that hadn’t effaced and it was blocking the head from coming down. She tried to reduce it with some tool. That hurt. I screamed out in pain, but it seemed to reduce it. I tried pushing again in different positions, but my baby didn’t seem to like any of them. Her heart rate was down to 90 or something. I pushed a few more times and her heart rate recovered, but not quickly.

Finally, Davi said, “Felice that is three strikes: the muconium, the cervical lip and her heart rate in distress.” She said, “Your baby is not going to be born at home. It’s time to go to the hospital. This is not an emergency; we just need to go now.”

I was disappointed but I was so deep in laborland that I just went with the flow. I trusted Davi, and I was just trying to breathe through the surges. We all piled into several cars. I didn’t even bother with the seatbelt. I was wearing a robe, naked underneath except for a bra. Davi’s assistant was in the back seat with me taking the heartbeat every 2 seconds (it seemed). Her heart rate was fine.

They kept telling me, “don’t push,” and I kept thinking, What are you talking about? I’m not doing anything.

“How do I not push?” I asked.

“Just blow.”

So I filled up my cheeks and blew. I guess I was pretty spaced out, looking out the window and not really responding to them. Davi snapped her fingers and said if I didn’t perk up they were going to try to give me a section. I instantly snapped out of it and acted very perky. “Hi, how are you? I’m good.” I said. They all laughed.

When we got there, we parked and took the secret back entrance. I thought I might get a wheelchair or something, but she said, “We don’t have time for that. Run.” So they pulled me, half running behind them with my robe flying open. When we go to the floor, Davi asked the first person she saw where our room was. “I called ahead. Dr. C is meeting us here.”

“Oh,” said, one of the nurses, barely looking up. “It’s the failed home birth.”

Davi didn’t hear her. She saw the room number up on a board and just started pulling me in that direction.

I don’t even remember what the nurse looked like, but her words totally crushed me and did for a long time afterward. If I had been less vulnerable I might have been able to say, I am not a failure. I am here because my midwife brought me here and that is what a good homebirth midwife is supposed to know when to do.

Dr. C showed up and Davi explained what was going on and her reasons for transferring. I was on my back and Dr. Chin asked me if I wanted to try switching positions to all fours or something else. I thought this was very nice of him to ask that, but I couldn’t move. I was crying about feeling like a failure and once on my back, it felt very painful to move. So I didn’t. I pushed a few times, with people holding my legs back.

Pushing didn’t make sense to me. Maybe it would have if I had been in a different position, but even at home, I hadn’t really gotten it.

Looking back on it, I see how the mind-body connection was at work. Though I was anxious to meet my baby and get her out, I also didn’t want her out. I knew that once she was out in the world I could no longer protect her. I knew that once she was born, I would have to deal with my ex again, who had already started to use her as a pawn. So I wasn’t really giving pushing any real effort. I was whining, crying and sort of hoping someone else would make a decision for me. I gave a few okay pushes and then Dr. C told me that my baby was having more trouble recovering after each one and that he’d give me the chance to do it myself, but if I didn’t do it soon, he’d have to use the vacuum. I didn’t do it on my own, so he used the vacuum on the next push and she was out.

It was amazing. The only way I can describe the release of pressure on my belly is like a zit popping. I never really felt the ring of fire, or much physical pain at all during pushing. (I’m not sure if this was effective hypnosis or a miracle or endorphins or all three.)

They put my baby girl on my belly and I grabbed her arms and pulled her up to my chest. The connection was instant. This was what all this work was for. They took her a way for a few minutes to check her over, but all of my birth companions were watching them like mama hawks and making sure she was okay and talking to her. Then they brought her back and Bethanie and Davi helped me latch her on so she could nurse. She was a little tired, but she nursed right away.

Right after the birth I was giddy with endorphins. Dr. Chin took about an hour to sew me up, so I was just laying there with my baby and enjoying being with my birth companions.

I remember feeling like my teeth were gross and said I wished I could brush them. Bethanie whipped out my toothbrush from my emergency bag and brushed my teeth for me while I held my baby and then gave me a cup to spit and water to drink.

I have never had anyone brush my teeth—at least not that I remember—but I will always remember it as one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I couldn’t get up or do it myself and having clean teeth felt so nice. I still cry when I think about it. It was such a gesture of pure love.

My birth companions shielded me from a lot of the hospital nonsense that was going on around me. I didn’t find out till later that the nurse was having a hissy fit in the corner because I had refused the eye drops and the vitamin K shot.

We forgot to look at the clock for the exact time of her birth but it was about 3:19 p.m. (only about 30 minutes after we got there) on her guess date (June 16, 2006). Incidentally, I was also born on my guess date. I guess we are punctual people.

Dr. C told me I could go home 6 hours after I was admitted or 24 hours or 48 hours. By the time he told me this that would have meant we would leave in 3 hours. I didn’t think I would be ready to walk in 3 hours, so I opted to stay overnight.

Lisa, who had flown in from New York and was planning to stay at my house, stayed at the hospital with me. All the others went home after lots of pictures.

 felice and phoebe

I got lucky and had some wonderful recovery nurses. Despite not being able to walk yet, I was full of giddy energy and talking about the birth with Lisa.

Finally, Lisa, who had also been up all night on a red-eye from New York, said, “You should get some sleep while that baby is sleeping,” so I decided to settle in and try. A nurse came to check my vitals and I agreed to let her if she promised to tell the other nurses and the next shift not to bother me. I didn’t need my vitals checked every 4 hours. I was fine.

She said she’d take care of it.

I finally fell asleep and about an hour later another nurse–the next shift–came in to check my vitals. I told her that I was going to check her vitals if she didn’t get out of there. She looked pretty shocked. I don’t think anyone had ever done that to her before. I felt bad, but not really. I was so tired after finally falling asleep and being woken up.

Phoebe slept the whole time. By 9 am I was ready to get the heck out of the hospital but they made us hang around a few more hours. I thought about just leaving, but they actually have an ankle bracelet they put on babies—so none get stolen—so if we tried to leave with her, we would have set off an alarm. Hmm. No worries about stolen babies at a homebirth.

When we left we took everything that wasn’t nailed down. I figured if I had to give birth in the hospital, I was going to get my money’s worth. Blankets, diapers, gloves, Advil, nail scrubber, underwear, pads, and pacifiers. I also asked them for my free gift, which I knew they usually gave out, but they did not offer me. Humph. It was a diaper bag filled with formula, which I threw out, but the bag came in handy.

Buckling her in to the car seat was not something I had wanted to do for 40 days, but we both survived it and we drove home. The house was cleaned and everything was put away and laundry was done. The ladies had been busy.

I fell into my wonderful soft bed and just enjoyed being home. Davi came and checked on me and we talked. I told her about what the nurse had said and she said if she heard it she would have decked her. “You didn’t fail. You were a successful home birth transfer. And you had a lovely birth. There was a lady down the hall who was screaming her head off.” Davi told me that every one of the staff was in awe of me, and that I was very graceful.

I didn’t remember being graceful. I thought I had lost it. Later, when watching my birth video I realized that I was indeed graceful. (Another good reason to film your birth—you don’t remember it accurately).

I wondered afterward, if we really needed to go to the hospital—If I could have done it at home, but in the birth video, I saw that when she came out, Dr. C unwound the cord from her neck, and she was a little blue when she first came out. So, while I could have done it at home, I know that my indecision about getting her out or keeping her in would have likely dragged things out and hurt her.

Looking back on the whole saga, I realize that what I was feeling must be how Heavenly Father feels. He knows we need a body, but once we come here, we are exposed to all the temptations and weaknesses of the flesh. He can’t protect us anymore–well, he can, but only as much as we let him.

Becoming a parent has brought me so much closer to understanding Heavenly Father and how much he loves us. I’m so grateful my little girl chose to come to me and I am so grateful that my body did everything it needed to do. It is truly divine. I am truly divine.

Felice and Phoebe