Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Sacred and Transforming Weight of Motherhood


I recently read an article on ChurchofJesusChrist.org titled "A Sacred Weight". In it, the author described two different kinds of weight that we feel as mothers. I haven't been able to stop thinking about these weights and how they mold and shape us in our lives. Allow me to try and articulate the thoughts that have been running around in my mind since reading this enlightening article.

The first weight I have been thinking about is the actual physical feeling and presence of our children. For me, this weight started when my children were in the womb. I had average to large sized babies and by the end of each pregnancy I was REALLY feeling the weight. Soon after they were born, the weight shifted from my belly to my arms and chest. It was the greatest feeling in the world even during those long, sleepless nights. The physical weight can also be a toddler on our laps, a child's head resting on our shoulder or a the subtle weight of a hand clasped in our own. Physical weight is one you never forget, it is one that you sense is missing when apart from your children for too long. When I am away from this physical weight, I have found that I miss it. It is a weight that I still to this day long for after the stillbirth of my second son over 9 years ago. Leaving the hospital with both an empty womb and empty arms was a stark absence of that sacred physical weight mothers are privileged to know, and an overabundance of the emotional weight that also comes with motherhood.

Which brings me to the second weight I have been pondering and that is the emotional weight of motherhood. This can come from anxiety, grief, exhaustion, feelings of failure or inadequacy, worry, the constant whines and cries of "mom!", endless decisions that need to be made, meals to plan, lessons to teach, mouths to feed, tears to dry and the list goes on and on. The emotional weight is at times an incredibly burdensome and heavy one. It is not a weight that would be missed if you were ever lucky enough to get a break from it, yet it too can be sacred. Without this emotional and actually, very spiritual weight of motherhood, we would never be forced to turn to our loving Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ for help. It is with this weight that we realize that we can't do this motherhood thing alone. We need the divine power that comes into our lives only when we desire it and ask for it. It is also with this weight that we can become who we were created and intended to be. We are transformed by this weight as we learn to rely on our Savior.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has always been a favorite speaker of mine. His love, compassion and personal relationship with the Savior is evident in each talk he gives. His talk titled, "Because She is a Mother" is no exception. In this talk he touches on exactly what I am trying to convey:

"When you have come to the Lord in meekness and lowliness of heart and, as one mother said, 'pounded on the doors of heaven to ask for, to plead for, to demand guidance and wisdom and help for this wondrous task,' that door is thrown open to provide you the influence and the help of all eternity. Claim the promises of the Savior of the world. Ask for the healing balm of the Atonement for whatever may be troubling you or your children. Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you.

You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—He who resolutely goes after the lost sheep, sweeps thoroughly to find the lost coin, waits everlastingly for the return of the prodigal son. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be."

The weight of motherhood may at times feel like too much to bear (or maybe it feels that way all of the time). However, the weight that comes with motherhood is not one that comes without assistance. How blessed are we to have help in this endeavor? How wonderful is it that we have someone who knows exactly how this weight feels and knows just how to help us carry it? I know that there have been many times in my life when feelings of anxiety and worry and inadequacy have consumed my entire being. It is in those times when I have had no other choice but to turn to my Savior and ask Him for help. Not only has He helped share my burden and made it much easier to bear but at the same time has allowed me to be transformed, to grow and become stronger in this journey.

Elder Holland ends his talk saying:

"Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.' You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master’s garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, 'Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.' And it will make your children whole as well."

The weights we carry as mothers are sacred and are something that shouldn't be taken for granted. Knowing that what I am doing is God's work makes me realize and recognize just how willing He is to help me in my times of need.

And for that I am forever grateful.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I cried.




Due to recent events in New York and their change to the abortion law that now legalizes late term abortions after 24 weeks, I have felt the need to share my story. The more I think about this post, the more I realize that it isn't so much my story as it is my son, Michael's, story. I just hope that I can do it justice for him. 

I didn’t hear the shocking news until Wednesday this week (a whole 24 hours after the announcement was made). As I watched videos of people cheering and crying tears of happiness and New York lighting up buildings with pink, I couldn’t help but shed tears of heartache. I cried. I cried, and I haven't stopped crying about it each time it comes to my mind or shows up the news. 

As I cried, I was immediately taken back to 9 years ago when I sat in a small room at Primary Children’s Hospital with my husband, a social worker and our unborn son’s Perinatologist. As we sat and listened to the doctor tell us about our son’s extreme heart condition (Ebsetein’s Anomaly) I felt numb. He went on to tell us that our son would probably not make it to full gestation and even if he did, he wouldn’t live any more than a few minutes after he was born. Tears welled up in my eyes and the image of our son’s oversized heart BEATING kept entering my mind. 

“I want you to know that you qualify for an abortion at this point in your pregnancy and with the poor odds of your baby surviving that have been presented to you today, it may be something worth considering,” he said.

I blinked one hard blink and looked at him. Did he really just say the words I thought he said? I immediately felt sick to my stomach and mustered up any energy I had left in my emotionally exhausted pregnant body to tell him that it was not an option in my mind. To me, having our doctor suggest an abortion made me feel like he didn’t consider what was inside me to be a living child. My child. My unborn child that had every right to live, even if it was not for much longer. Even if that life was only going to be lived in the womb. It was still a life, and it was not my choice to decide whether he lived it or not. I knew that the decision was God's and God's only. 

You see, I had been taught and strongly believed that when you get pregnant, your body is no longer your own. You no longer get to make choices for YOU. This whole “My body, my choice” movement has it so tragically wrong. In the words of our dear prophet, President Nelson:

“Terminating the life of a developing baby involves two individuals with separate bodies, brains, and hearts. A woman’s choice for her own body does not include the right to deprive her baby of life — and a lifetime of choices that her child would make.”

My son went on to LIVE for just one more week after our meeting at Primary Children’s. He was born still at just 22 weeks on November 23rd, 2009 and (aside from his large heart) was completely perfect. He had his brother’s nose. His hands had 10 perfect little fingers and his feet had 10 perfect little toes. 

That last week of my pregnancy with him I cherished every single kick, roll and hiccup. I knew he was THERE and I like to think that he knew I was there too. 

We know without a shadow of a doubt that he received a body and he LIVED even if it wasn’t outside of the womb. Seeing and hearing his heartbeat is something I hope I never forget. There was such a different feeling once he passed away. The only way I can describe it is that there was a void. I knew that he was gone before the ultrasound tech even showed us his heart that was no longer beating. That same heart that we had seen hundreds of times before, beating with every thing it had, fighting to keep our son ALIVE despite it’s anomalies. I knew that his spirit was no longer there and had left his little body to wait for us until we could hold him in Heaven one day.

These little babies have a life and abortions take those precious lives away.

I don’t write this with the intent to change anyone’s mind about abortions. I am not naive enough to think that a little post written by little me on social media will have that kind of power. But I do write this to share what I believe to be true and to be a voice for my son who didn’t have the chance to have one himself. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

If I could, I would tell her everything was going to be alright.


{song credit: "Smallest Wingless" by Craig Cardiff}

My heart has been full these past few days as my thoughts have been turned toward my son, Michael. It all started when we were watching some random home videos the other day, and a video of Michael's burial popped up in the feed. As we watched the video, I saw a mother whose heart was shattered. I could feel that broken heart as if it was currently beating within my chest, not because my heart is broken now, but because I was that mother and the memory of the pain is very real and very raw. I remember distinctly how I felt on that day nearly 8 years ago. I was hurting and crippled with sorrow. I was only able to stand because my loving Heavenly Father had sent angels to hold me up. I yearned to hold my sweet baby in my arms. That's where he should have been. In my arms. Not in a cold, tiny casket. I wasn't bitter. I wasn't mad. But I was broken.

It was an odd feeling looking at this mother who I knew all too well. I wanted to reach through the screen and hold her tight. I wanted to tell her that everything was going to be alright despite the grief she was feeling. I wanted to tell her that even though it was hard for her to imagine ever feeling joy again in that moment, that joy would eventually come into her life again. I wanted to explain how she would go on to have three more beautiful children, and although they could never replace the one she had just lost, they could teach her so much about God's love and His plan for her and her family. I wish I could tell her of the tender experiences that have come about because of the loss of that sweet baby boy. How her oldest son would always remember his baby brother that was in heaven and share his knowledge of that fact with his younger siblings. How there are gentle reminders of him in their home and even a stocking for him on the mantle at Christmas so that he is never forgotten. I wanted to tell her that grief is a roller coaster ride. There would be lots of bad days, but also good days. The bad days would eventually become more rare and her faith in her Savior would continue to help carry her through those bad days and enjoy more fully the good days.

If I had the opportunity I would tell her that Heavenly Father loves her. He was there with her that cold, fall day and one day she would realize just how truly blessed she was to have so much love surrounding her as she buried her son. It would be a pivotal moment in her testimony of her Savior, Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. She would come to know, if she didn't already, that she would see her son again one day. She would draw nearer to her Savior than she ever thought possible. Her heart would be forever changed and she would have more compassion and empathy to those who experience similar losses in their lives. She would learn and grow from this terrible and trying experience.

As the video wrapped up, my sweet daughter said, "Wow, this is kind of sad isn't it?" We had a tender discussion about Michael and the plan of salvation. A while after we were done talking, I heard her telling her brother, "Jesus saves us! We get to see Michael again someday and I can't wait to hold him." It was just another tender experience that I can add to the long list of blessings that have come from that trial in my life.

I loved this video that popped up in my Facebook feed tonight. My favorite quote from it is this:
"(We have a) Savior who loves us so much He allows us to hurt so he can heal us and put us together better than we were before. That is the definition of the Savior's grace." Those words ring so true to me and I know that with each trial I am asked to go through that He is shaping me into who I am to become. In the words of my sweet grandma who I just spoke with tonight on the phone, "we are just all so very blessed no matter what our circumstances".

Monday, May 16, 2016

30

{From the early years, when big thighs and chubby cheeks actually looked cute on me.}
It's been a while since I have done this, and I am feeling a bit rusty. It doesn't help that I am currently running on very low brain power thanks to a new baby and sleep deprivation. We have welcomed our fourth baby to this little family of ours and I am a basket case of emotions with each milestone she reaches, knowing it's the last time I'll get to enjoy them as a mother. (We aren't going to talk about the fact that she fit into 0-3 month clothes this morning!) I will never understand how it is that they can get so big and grow up right under our noses. After being miserable for nine months I think the least these babies could do for us is just slow down and stay teeny tiny for a bit longer.

I have been in a reflective state these past few days and I might as well just mention the reason why since it's the big elephant in the room... I'm turning 30 years old tomorrow. 30! When did that happen? Here I am criticizing my own baby for growing up too fast when I'm feeling the very same way about MYSELF. I keep jokingly, but frantically, asking Jerry what I need to do before my 20's are gone forever. I know in college I wrote a journal entry about the things I wanted to accomplish by the time I was 30. I have no idea where it is though, and I'm actually grateful about that. I'm sure the list had some very unrealistic goals and all I would do is feel like even more of a failure when I looked at the few boxes I would be able to check off.

What is it about turning another decade older that is such a big deal? After all, it really is just one year older than last year. But suddenly I just feel OLD. Think about it. Now during surveys that ask how old you are I will be in the 30-35 category. When people ask how old I am and I tell them, they will believe me rather than be surprised at how young I am. Doing things like riding my son's electric scooter to get the mail, eating cookie dough from the bowl and jumping on the trampoline will be frowned upon because "she's too old to do that" (actually, the jumping on the trampoline would probably be more frowned upon because of how many children I have and the subsequent weak bladder because of said children..but still). Guaranteed all of you age 30 plus readers are thinking, "She's not old, she's still so young! Live it up. 30's are the best." Yet, the 29 year old in me agrees with all the 30 and below readers who are saying, "Whoa, she really is getting old."

All joking aside, I can't help but feel grateful for the years I have had. I have learned and experienced so much and can honestly say that I would rather be 30 and know a thing or two about life than be 20 and not know the things I know now. In 30 years I have learned the simple things like how to talk, how to walk, how to ride a bicycle and how to mow the lawn. I've learned how to make friends. I've learned the importance of making good friends and keeping them. I've learned that being popular isn't as important as I might have thought. I have gained a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and learned how much it means to me to have that truth in my life. I've experienced the joy that comes from accomplishing goals and the disappointment that comes from failure. I have felt what it's like to have my heart broken. I know what true love really is. I know that the best smell on earth is that of a new baby and the sweetest sight is seeing a baby smile in their sleep. I've experience the warmth and completeness that comes from holding a baby in my arms. I've experienced pain, emptiness and the complete and utter despair that comes from losing a baby. I've learned to not be afraid to reach out to others when they are in their own moments of complete and utter despair. I know what it's like to lose sleep over how to help your child overcome their trials in life. I have experienced pride - the good kind (if there is such a thing) - in watching my children learn and grow.  I have learned what it means to work hard. I know that having a clean home makes me happy (even though I'm at a time in my life when it's almost impossible to keep it that way). I know how to plant a garden and keep it alive (mostly). I have learned that the older I get, the less Oreos and cookie dough I can eat without them literally going straight to my behind. And I could go on and on.

In addition to all of the things I have learned in the last 30 years, I have also had the influence of so many incredible people in my life. From teachers to church leaders to friends and family, I have certainly been blessed. I am convinced that I have the most wonderful parents on this planet, which makes sense because they both came from some wonderful parents themselves. They have been there for me, supported me and loved me through every single year of my life and I love them for it. I don't know how I made the best decision of my life at just age 18 when I agreed to marry Jerry, but I did. 18! He robbed the cradle for sure. And it's a good thing because I know that I am my happiest and best self when I am with him. Each and every one of my kids, even though much younger than me, have influenced and taught me a great deal. At an early age I learned the importance of having good friends and because of that I have had some of the most amazing people in my life that I am honored to call friends.

So, on this eve of turning 30, instead of spending it out at Cold Stone living up what's left of my 29 year old metabolism (which is already crap by the way, thank you postpartum) I am writing a blog post. Partly because I am nursing a baby who has a dairy sensitivity and I can't eat ice cream, but mostly because I want to remember what an incredible 30 years it has been. The good, the bad and the ugly. All of it. I'll take 30 over 20 any day and if you see me out on that scooter, hop on your own and join me!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Special Delivery


This last weekend we packed our bags, loaded up the car and headed north to Idaho. We were there to celebrate my sweet grandma's 90th birthday on Saturday. The party wasn't until later in the afternoon so we had some time to kill that morning. Several weeks before this trip I had been feeling guilty that we hadn't delivered Michael's memory boxes for stillborns yet (something we had hoped to do back in NOVEMBER!). They sat in our bedroom all packaged up and ready to go for months, but with morning sickness, regular sickness and just life in general we hadn't found a window of opportunity to deliver them to our local hospital. However, it all ended up working out perfectly as we still had them and were able to bring them with us on our trip. This meant we were able to take them to the hospital where Michael was born, which made it all that more meaningful to us. 

As we pulled up to the hospital the boys were anxious to go inside. We had explained to them that it was not only the hospital where Michael was born, but where the two of them were also born. When we walked through the doorway the familiar smell of that hospital hit me hard. How strange is it that I would remember the smell? I'm convinced that when something life changing happens in our lives, our senses are heightened and we remember things that we probably wouldn't have otherwise. In this case, it was the scent of that hospital. 

We made our way to the Women's Center (only after a small detour at the gift shop as our littlest was distracted by a stuffed puppy). As we walked through the doors of the Women's Center I could tell the nurses were a bit concerned. After all, we had children with us and they are banned in that area of the hospital during cold and flu season. I quickly explained that we were just there to deliver special packages for families with stillborns. Their expressions immediately changed and you could see the gratitude and love. We shared with them a short version of Michael's story and they were so sweet to us! They told us that unfortunately they were in great need of supplies, burial clothes, blankets etc. for stillbirths. I held back the tears as I understood and as I look back on it now I wish I had given them a big hug. Nurses are simply amazing people! 

My heart was full as we left the Women's Center. Memories of Michael's delivery, the nurses that cared for us with so much love during that time and my sweet doctor who handled it all with such reverence were vivid in my mind. I looked at my little family walking in front of me and felt so much gratitude.

I believe that hard things happen to us to allow us to learn and to grow, but also to gain an understanding of what others are going through. I know that the reason we received such great care and a beautiful memory box of our own was because of families before us who had gone through a similar experience. They chose to reach out to others to help them in their time of need. We, in turn, were inspired to do the same. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to honor Michael each year on his birthday by finding small acts of service for families who have also lost their sweet little ones. I'm grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who knew this would benefit our little family and help us to continue to grow even 6 years down the road!

Words can't express how thankful we are to those of you who donated and helped make this project possible this year. For those interested in knowing, our gift bags included:

- a wooden memory box
- two stuffed elephants with instructions for the family to keep one and to bury the other one with their little one. We chose elephants because "an elephant never forgets".
- a foot and hand mold kit
- an ink pad and special paper for hand and foot prints
- a letter to the family from us
- a letter to the nurses with some chocolates, thanking them for their service

I know that these boxes will bring so much comfort to so many families! Once again, thank you, thank you!

 This guy was just 2 years old when we lost Michael. He is always the first one to remind us to include Michael during the holidays. Whether it's a stocking at Christmas, balloons on his birthday or even a valentine card on Valentine's Day. I love how thoughtful this boy is, and how much a part of our family Michael is even though he isn't here with us.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Michael's Memory Boxes for Stillborns



Each year around Michael's birthday we like to do something special for the families in our local hospital who have also lost a baby. We've done things like blankets, beanies, burial outfits and more blankets! This year we have thought long and hard and decided on making memory boxes for stillborns (and also baby's who pass soon after birth).

When we lost Michael, the hospital presented us with a beautiful box full of things that would help remind us of our son. It contained pictures that the nurse had taken of our sweet boy, hand and foot molds, a stuffed bear (that was his exact same size!) and other items that we treasure. I remember being so touched and thinking about the family who had donated the supplies to make such a sweet and tender memory box. They certainly knew the comfort it would bring to us, probably because they had been through a similar experience themselves.

I cannot tell you what comfort these boxes will bring to these families for years to come! One of my kids' favorite things to do is go through Michael's box. They ask questions and ooh and ahh over the cuteness of how tiny his hands and feet were. It brings me so much joy to know that he is real to them even though they never had the chance to meet him.

We priced out the boxes and were excited to be able to purchase a handful of them on our own to deliver on Michael's birthday. But then we had a thought and wondered if there were others who would like to contribute. We know we are not alone in our loss and know so many of you who read this blog have had similar losses of your own (or are close to someone who has). If you would like to contribute in helping us purchase and donate these boxes, we would love it and I KNOW the families will love you for it.

To donate just CLICK HERE. I will also have a link on the sidebar of my blog for the next few weeks. Every and any amount is helpful. We are so excited for this and will be sure to keep everyone up to date with the progress.

Thank you to all of you who have shown us such love and support. You will forever be dear to us!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Showers of Love

photo credit : Lizzyography
Yesterday was one of those days in motherhood that one would call "a doozy".

It wasn't necessarily the particular things that happened that caused it to be such a rough day, but rather mine and the kids attitudes. Yesterday was really like any other day in mothering. I made three different breakfasts for three different children, wiped multiple bottoms (multiple times), started laundry, forgot about laundry, cleaned up play-doh a million times, made lunch only for it to go uneaten, scrubbed off ink that an "artist" used to decorate my van's leather seats using hairspray (it works!), took the two year old to a well check at the doc, carpooled kids home from school, took a short breather trip to Target for an alarm clock (and got home with three bags full of things that did not include an alarm clock), started making dinner only to realize I didn't have the right ingredients... you know, typical-every-day-mom stuff.

However, when you take an average mom day and you throw in children who are sugar crazy and have their sleeping schedules completely out of whack (and you yourself are sugar crazy and have your sleeping schedule completely out of whack) well then, that makes for a day that you hope will never be repeated.

As I laid in bed last night I felt a familiar tinge of guilt. I had felt it many times before after days like yesterday and I couldn't help but beat myself up a bit for not learning from the past. However, as I thought harder about the day I realized something that kind of came as a shock to me. Amidst the craziness and tantrums I was somehow able to find tiny windows of opportunities to let each child know how much I loved them. I had a deep desire to make those windows into doors and from there even bigger.

I couldn't help but think of our Heavenly Father and how he does the same thing with us. During our times of chaos, struggle, trials, loneliness, depression or what have you he always finds opportunities to show us His love. Sometimes those opportunities are windows and other times they are doors and during very special times in life the heavens are completely opened up and we are showered with His love.

My new focus is to make those windows bigger in my every day life with my kids. I want them to know that if they will allow me to I will shower them with all the love I have, no matter what kind of crazy day we are having. I love the quote from Elder Russel M. Ballard that says, "The joy in motherhood comes in moments. There will be hard times. But amid the challenges there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction." Those shining moments of joy and satisfaction, to me, are when there are showers of love in the home.
 
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