Friday, June 20, 2014

Simmer Down Now...


All I can say, in the words of one of my favorite SNL characters: SIMMER DOWN NOW!....

The church has released their own statement in regards to people being worried that these disciplinary councils are a sign that we as church members are not allowed to question church leaders...and I could leave it at that, but in my efforts to use the internet for good, I feel compelled to share my thoughts and impressions on the situation. Take it or leave it. I have prayed and gone back and forth about whether or not to write this post and ultimately feel like I NEED to say what I have to say.

For starters- we ABSOLUTELY can question church leaders. The point in this situation is that the founder of Ordain Women and this particular podcaster were answered REPEATEDLY through statements and even General Conference addresses about their questions. Instead of taking those answers, praying about where they stood with those answers, and moving on, they persisted to continue to badger and question in very public ways not just church leaders, but fundamental doctrine... In essence, they weren't questioning church leaders, they were and are questioning God...

They claimed to be in good standing with the church and to believe the fundamental doctrine...they just wanted changes to the doctrine...seems like in wanting to change the fundamental doctrine you don't believe in it as much as you think you do.

In response to the podcaster... He (the podcaster) openly supported Ordain Women and also made moves for change so that "openly gay" people could be active members of the church. I will address his questions on openly gay members as I plan on addressing Ordain Women in a moment...

The church responded. Gay members are MORE than welcome to worship with us, hold callings, even attend the temple as long as they are willing to live the standards of the church. There is no sin in admitting same sex attraction, the sin comes from acting upon that urge- just as acting upon heterosexual urges outside the bonds of marriage is a sin. What he was calling for is really a non change... in other words- As long as you're willing to submit yourself to the same rules as other members, if you TRULY believe all church doctrine and follow it, you can admit your same sex attraction and still be fit for service and church membership... Just as any person that sins, you lose privileges and must repent if you act upon urges that are contradictory to church doctrine.

So what changes are you calling for? If that isn't good enough, then what you SHOULD be saying is that you want God to change his mind about the first commandment he ever gave- the first commandment of marriage- TO MULTIPLY.

I will openly admit. God never says "And this is the definition of marriage." in the bible... What He does do is make some commandments about marriage when he gives Eve to Adam.

He tells them to cleave to one another, to go forth and be fruitful, he tells them to replenish the earth and work together to be good stewards over it...but first and foremost- the VERY first commandment he gave was to go forth and multiply.

Can a gay couple cleave to one another and help each other through life- YES, Can they raise children? ABSOLUTELY.   In short, a gay couple sadly falls short on the first commandment- to MULTIPLY. A man and a man and a woman and a woman cannot combine their genetic material to create life- ergo- their union is not a true marriage in the eyes of God.

Hold on- don't get upset. I believe in civil rights! I have plenty of gay friends that I love dearly and I definitely think that if you're going to choose to spend 40, 50, 60 years of your life with someone you should have the right to make medical decisions for them, receive tax breaks, etc. The state can define marriage however the heck they want as long as they maintain the separation of church and state and don't try to require churches to change their doctrine. There are plenty of other churches out there that will happily perform gay marriage because they don't see the bible the way my church does and that is totally okay.

And before you tell me that if I believe that the power to have children makes a marriage and that means that infertile couples don't have a real marriage I need to remind you that, in my belief system, the power to create life extends into the next life and that the married men and women who are following the commandments of God will be blessed to create life in the next life. We will all be in perfected bodies when we resurrect and the things barring them from creating life when biologically they should be able to will be gone.

If my humble opinion of the gay marriage topic should really be known its this: the state has NO BUSINESS defining marriage. Give it back to the people. Back in the day, the church would perform their marriages and report to the state (hence having to look through church bibles for marriage records before a certain point). Let the churches perform whatever marriages they want. IF the state wants to give tax breaks, the churches can report the marriages they have performed and the state accepts them. The only law should be "no marriages between men and animals or inanimate objects, and no marrying someone under the age of 18" yada yada... and there you go.

A big belief that we hold as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that all men have agency. We all have the right to choose how we will live their lives and by what moral compass we will walk the paths we travel. Do I believe that there is more to this life and its imperative that we make sure our choices reflect an eternal perspective as opposed to being happy in the moment? Absolutely I do,but some people can't comprehend the idea of living for an afterlife...and that is okay.  I believe that even people who "sin" can be good people. I view homosexuality the same way I view drinking or smoking. You make a choice to act on an impulse and choose to continue to make that choice. Does that make you a bad person? NO. The friends that I have that do live a homosexual lifestyle are some of the kindest, sweetest people I know. They still can exhibit Christlike love and be charitable and kind. We all innately are good because our spirits are innately good. They just made a choice to act on an impulse and live continually acting upon it. Ultimately, where they end up on the eternal end of things is up to them and God. The bible says to judge not lest ye be judged, so I won't judge.

By my  moral compass- Yes, homosexuality is a sin. I can say that and not feel uncomfortable. I can also say that I can love people regardless of their sins because we were told by Christ that the manner of men we ought to be are even as He is. Christ didn't rebuke or condemn the woman caught in the act of adultery. He healed all without paying heed to whether or not they were Jews or Gentiles. He taught everyone equally and in the same way. I can be like Christ and love people in spite of them breaking what I believe to be the laws of God without making them feel like crap for it.

To be tolerant doesn't mean I have to believe their life is right, it just means I accept it, kindly agree to disagree and move on.

If you truly believed the foundational doctrines of the LDS church. If you were worthy of holding a temple recommend as this gentleman said he was, then he wouldn't have continued to question God and what has been laid out plainly for him through His word.

Now, onto Ordain Women.

This sister, while well meaning, at the last statistic I heard, only represents about 1%o of the women of the church...1%.... Nowhere NEAR a majority.

To be honest, I find their overall aim very sad and far from liberating.

They are allowing themselves to believe the biggest lie that Satan has told in the last 40 years or so in his attempt to degrade families and attack us...

the lie that if you don't have what someone else does it makes you less...

If I lived my WHOLE LIFE keeping score of what other people had that I didn't, it would be a very sad life indeed.

Living this life causes people to stop looking inward. They stop looking for their own talents and what makes them special. They become preoccupied with the idea that if they just had what X had, they could truly be happy instead of forging happiness for themselves.

Society tells us that in order to be equal we all need the same privileges...  By that logic, using the aim of Ordain Women, we should be giving the priesthood to infants the minute they are born...

The Webster's definition of liberation is "fighting against societal norms"...

Well, then I REJECT the societal norm and by that definition, the aim of Ordain Women is hardly liberation at all. I am, in fact OFFENDED at the thought that I am less because I don't have a priesthood ordination. I don't need to hold the priesthood to be useful or to be equal to anyone.

I celebrate what makes me different from a man.I am a woman. I have some remarkable blessings because I have two X chromosomes that no man could ever possess.

Studies have shown that women have the ability to multitask better than men because of how our brains formed differently, we are more patient, loving, emotional... I EMBRACE those qualities in myself. Following your heart can be more effective than being logical in many cases. I don't need to prove I can be logical...I can be. I have a brain, just as men can be emotional....

What if...and stay with me here...What if we were made differently because we need one another. Because we are supposed to be partners and work together?

What if, by insisting that everyone is the same we are helping Satan to drive us further apart because, by that insistence, we are rejecting our differences and are making it impossible to work together.

I am my husband's equal in every sense of the word, but I am his equal because I am different. Where I am weak he is strong and visa versa. If I spent my days constantly trying to prove myself to make a point, our relationship would never work. He loves me and accepts my faults and weaknesses and I do the same for him. We work together to achieve goals and to make up the difference when one of us is weak and struggling.

The Priesthood is one difference that blesses us.

Let's be honest, if you sit down and think about it, priesthood holders in the church have to work harder than we do as women.  They can't enter the temple without the highest order of the priesthood. As sisters, we have the right to approach our bishop when we feel ready to make temple covenants and start the process to enter without having the priesthood.

In some ways, its God's biggest complement that we don't have the priesthood. Its God's way of saying that he trusts our intuition enough, that he believes we don't need it to strengthen our faith or draw closer to him...lest we forget that if Eve hadn't been smart enough to eat the forbidden fruit, men would still be stuck in limbo waiting for further light and knowledge... she didn't need the priesthood to see that she couldn't complete God's first commandments given in the garden without partaking of the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil...if you REALLY ponder what that means, it means we were given knowledge BEFORE men because of the actions of an intuitive and emotional lucky are we?

So why can't we allow there to be differences? The priesthood draws men closer to the spirit by giving them the heavy task to act in the name of God- sometimes at the cost of leaving the comfort of their beds at 2 or 3 in the  morning to administer to the sick and afflicted- to leave their poor wives to sit with little children alone through sacrament as they act as bishopric members- through the priesthood their faithfulness is tested...As women, we don't need that test. Inherently, we are closer to the spirit and Eve proved that when she took the fruit. It has been proven countless times since in the stories of pioneer women who WITHOUT the priesthood were able to use their faith to heal their children and livestock when their husbands were deceased or out with the Mormon Battalion... Our faith can move mountains if we let it, if we truly believe. If you think you need the priesthood to bless the lives of others you are sadly and sorely mistaken.

I will say it again- How sad is it that people are going through this life believing that because they are different, they are less?

My husband may hold the priesthood, but I utilize his priesthood on a regular basis. I am the one who asks him to bless our children because, let's face it, men get so caught up in the big picture as logical thinkers, that they fail to see the little things sometimes. Sometimes they just don't think about it...but by asking him to use his priesthood power, I am helping him to grow closer to the spirit. I am reminding him to watch for the little things, I am reminding him that in the hustle and bustle of every day life he needs to take time out and think of others- to see beyond the tip of his nose.

If I held the priesthood and could just do it myself, I would be denying him that blessing and that lesson. I would be denying him the opportunity to grow closer to the spirit and I would be denying myself the opportunity to be humble enough to admit that I CAN'T do everything all on my own (because, let's face it, as women, we have a tendency to try to do everything ourselves.) In the act of asking, I am forced to remember that its okay to ask for help. Its okay that I can't do everything. Its okay that sometimes I fall short... we are our own worst critics as women from weight, hair styles, appearance, and more importantly in life- we judge ourselves harshly and forget that asking for help is vital to our existence, otherwise we will burn out.

Lest we forget that in order to enter the celestial kingdom, the highest degree of glory, a man and a woman have to have one another. A man cannot make it without his wife just because he had the priesthood and not having the priesthood doesn't exclude faithful women from entry. In fact, faithful members of the church that do not marry in this life are promised that blessing in the next regardless of whether they are a man or a woman. God loves us equally and wants us ALL to return to him and receive celestial glory if we have fought to be worthy of it in this life. The priesthood is only a qualifier for celestial glory for MEN. Another complement from God for us "lowly" women. God has basically told us that as long as we are willing to live righteously, follow the commandments, we will be given what we need to make it and achieve glory in the next life....think of it as God saying "Because you're just THAT awesome."

I can testify of times when my husband was out of town and I wanted desperately to call upon his priesthood power for help with a sick or ailing child or I was sick and was in these times I had to rely on my own faith. I prayed and, you know what, God saw my needs. He answered my prayers. I did that- with MY faith. God did that because he saw that I had faith he would make things better. Sometimes my answers came through the kindness of others, sometimes my answers came through deeply personal spiritual experiences that I don't feel I need to expound upon, but the answers to my prayers came. My children received the help the needed, I was given respite in times of illness and affliction.

With or without the priesthood, God will answer my prayers. The priesthood works according to faith. It is the power to act in the name of God- its not the power to BE God on earth-  If I believe I need the priesthood to perform miracles, then I don't have enough faith in my faith.

The men that hold the priesthood will be constrained from acting if it isn't in the will of God.  I think of a scene from one of my favorite books Charly by Jack Weyland. Its based on actual events. At one point, Charly has been diagnosed with cancer. It spreads and gets worse. She asks for a priesthood blessing from her husband Sam. He struggles. He wants to bless her to be healed, but is tongue tied. Eventually, he forces his will and pronounces the blessing of healing...but Charly, in her closeness with the spirit at the time, is all too aware that Sam was not acting in the spirit. She calls him out on it and asks for the blessing she should have received. She received the comfort she sought, and Sam learned a lesson about drawing closer to the spirit and not forcing his will.

It may be the power of God, but it doesn't give men the power to change God's will.

We need to be different. As the above story demonstrates, we need our differences to strengthen one another. In embracing those differences, we WILL defeat Satan, we will allow our faith and testimonies to fighting to make everyone the same, we allow ourselves to become of the world... we accept the lies society tells us and we fail to embrace the truths that God has placed right in front of us...we begin to deny His will and try to invoke our own as we focus too much on what we don't have. We forget to count our blessings, we become unhappy, and then we end up allowing Satan to bind us in the shackles of sin and vice because we start to wonder if what the world says will make us happy is really the answer. We fail to see our own divinity. We fail to trust that God's will is better than our own. We fail to see that he sees eternity as a whole and we only see slices at a time. We fail to let our faith grow.

In the end, these disciplinary councils are about just that. Two people, working with a small number followers, to try to change the will of God. Two people who fail to see their own divinity. Two people struggling with living in the world and not of it.

They were answered. Church leaders, male and female alike, attempted on numerous occasions to give them comfort and counsel, and they chose not to listen. They chose to continue to insight conflict. They chose to continue to try to impose their own will and act as if they were speaking for the church as a whole. They were deflecting their struggles on each of us in an attempt to try to bring the will of the world and the will of God together.

Sadly, the will of the world is NOT the will of God. I think the state of the world right now can testify of that.

In conclusion, we, as church members, as we question doctrine, ourselves, and church leaders need to remember the cautionary tale of Martin Harris and his desire to show the pages they had completed of the Book of Mormon to his wife.

Martin pressed. Joseph continued to pray and question God's will...Finally, God said, do what you want, but you will deal with the consequences...

In the end, the first 118 pages of the Book of Mormon disappeared. Poor Martin dealt with the guilt and spent years unable to trust his wife, Joseph lost his ability to translate for a time, and the church as a whole lost the ENTIRE book of Lehi...

My husband and I were studying 1 Nephi the other night and he posed the question: I wonder what Lehi saw in his vision...Nephi did a brief synopsis, he doesn't tell us what the great and marvelous things his father saw were... We are missing a HUGE chunk of awesomeness because of a time that men failed and imposed their own will.

In short, any time you try to impose your will over God's it won't end well.

He WILL drag you kicking and screaming from one blessing to the next if he has to...because, God never ceases to bless His children...but will you see the blessings as you kick and scream along the way? Probably not.

It is my humble prayer that this sister and brother are able to see the blessings in their lives. That this time of discipline will help them to gain insight and the humility they need to truly hear the voice of the Lord and receive the personal revelation they need to come to terms with God's will.

It is my prayer that they find their way back and, moreover, can see the divinity in our differences as opposed to focusing on what they don't have. It is my prayer that they will come back with greater understanding of the gospel and WHY God does not change.

I know God loves us. I know he made us different with good reason. I know that I am divine in purpose and have endless worth. I know that I am an equal to every other person on this earth and that I can assert that equality through developing my talents and using them to serve God by serving others. We are ALL special. We are ALL equals in his eyes. It is our differences that make us equal. We all have the same chances for redemption, we all have the same chances to exercise our agency, and we will all be judged equally by our works and our faith.

In conclusion, I will say this about the situation this brother and sister find themselves in: Because we are all equals, there are church disciplinary councils EVERY WEEK in some stake, in some city, in some country. These two individuals are NO DIFFERENT than the other brothers and sisters that have been subject to disciplinary council...the only thing that separates them is they chose to make it public and put "bees in the bonnet" in hopes of swaying more people to support their cause. They will be treated the same as every other person that has faced discipline, they have the same opportunity to speak up and share their side of the story. God is no respecter of persons. He loves us and we are chastised in hopes that we will be able to come to some resolution, be humbled and return as the prodigal son, ready to receive whatever blessings he deems fit for us.

Some blessings come soon, some blessings come late, but they ALWAYS come to those who are faithful and wait patiently for them...even those that have gone astray.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tender Mercies as it Storms

Taking a quick minute today to reflect on tender mercies...

I am scheduled for an induction on Monday, but my doc hopes I go into labor sooner. He is concerned that the baby may be growing too fast,  but Monday was the earliest the induction could be scheduled...

I am, however, feeling hopeful. After weeks of contractions and finding that my body once again doesn't want to do what its supposed to in order to get the baby here, I am grateful for a doctor with foresight who is willing to look ahead and be cautious.

Of course, as all of this is going on, the girls have to get sick with some weird, random summer cold.

Poor Phillie was miserable yesterday and the day before, but, after being up all night seems like she is feeling better today (in spite of her cough and stuffy nose) as she has returned to her chipper, silly self...

However, poor Faith woke up even sicker than I ever saw Phillie the last few days (being a few days behind catching the bug.)

Am I nervous? YOU I constantly, silently praying that the girls are better before we bring baby sister home? ABSOLUTELY...

However, in spite of all the things that could be stressing me out and making me nervous, I have seen small tender mercies in today and feel like I need to share them and record them.

Phillie, seeing how sick her big sister is, has been following her around like a shadow. She hands her toys when Faith wants to play, she hands her a sippy when she looks thirsty and has waited patiently for her turn without complaint all day.

I had been concerned in some ways about how Phillie would respond to not being the "baby" anymore...However, today has shown me that her care, compassion,and concern for others has grown leaps and bounds in such a short time. She will be an amazing big sister and I have no doubt that she will show that same kindness to the baby as she sees and understands that baby sister is weaker than her and needs her help and care.

Poor Faith has been super lethargic and has been running a low grade fever all day in spite of being given Tylenol or Ibuprofen...but, she has found comfort in a way that I didn't expect at all, but should have.

This morning she found a picture of Jesus on the top of the entertainment center. My parents were staying with us in anticipation of the arrival of the new baby and it somehow got knocked off our fridge and I placed it there this morning thinking it would go unnoticed.

Faith, has hugged and carried the picture around all day ever since she found it.

Isn't it amazing how intuitive little children are?

Even without being able to verbally communicate, my little girl is able to show me that she understands and knows Him and who He is, and that her knowledge brings her comfort.

I am grateful for tender mercies.

Hugs and loves until next time, darlings.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


As Father's Day has been approaching, I have found myself reflecting on my courtship with my sweet husband.

Had I known all that I do now, I think many of my fears would have been abated, but hind sight is always 20/20.

However, as I have reflected, as I have thought about how silly my fears were I have come to one astounding conclusion: My then fiancee was quietly demonstrating his manhood as we approached our temple date...he was showing me the kind of father he would someday be...and I, clueless, had to watch and wait until almost 4 years later to truly understand the scope of what had occurred during our whirlwind courtship and engagement.

I found this video on the Mormon Channel on Youtube as I had been searching for the best, most inspiring Father's Day tribute I could find.

As I watched and tears came to my eyes, I realized I was sobbing because my heart was full of love for my own dear husband. I knew from his previous actions that should we be in a similar situation to Elder Christofferson's parents, he would do exactly the same thing. He would make the necessary sacrifices to ensure the happiness of me and my children...because he does it every day...because he did it while we were dating and engaged.

Let me take you back almost 4 years.

A few weeks before Jeff met me, he broke up with a young woman he'd been dating for a few  months. There were other reasons that went into ending the relationship, but one of the biggest factors had been his schooling. He was approaching the hardest semester of his program...the "make or break" semester. Many in his challenging RSCET program ended up failing and repeating this semester, some several times.

Jeff knew that he emotionally, physically, and mentally didn't have the capacity to foster any "romantic" relationships as he completed this particular semester. He even quit his part time job, a job he quite enjoyed, in order to focus his attention 100% on school and this particular semester.

When we met, there were no fireworks, no instant attraction. I thought Jeff seemed like a nice fellow and he thought I was a show off but saw that I was kind and didn't discount the possibility of me being one of his many friends that he already had in our single's ward.

It wasn't until a few weeks after we met that I became smitten. Jeff knew that he needed time for fun, and had actually come to my apartment one night in pursuit of one of my roommates. He was intending to ask her on a date. They were running partners, he thought she was a nice girl, and he didn't want to be all work and no play. He figured it would be worth it to ask her out....however, she wasn't there that night. Instead, myself and my other roommate, a recently returned sister missionary that he had been friends with before her mission, entertained him. Eventually, my roommate went to study and Jeff and I were left at my kitchen table discussing everything from life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. I became intrigued by him as we discussed what we saw for our futures, I became smitten when I realized that our dating goals were similar and that we both had similar outlooks on what made relationships successful or broke them. His blue eyes sparkled as he talked about his education and we shared jokes.

I finally had to end our conversation and kick him out of my apartment at 1 AM. I had an early call time for rehearsal the next day...I didn't want him to leave. I could have talked to him all night, but I couldn't.  As he left, I went to bed knowing that I was completely twitterpated. This feeling made me nervous and happy all at once. He had made it clear during our conversation that he was focusing on school this semester and that dating someone seriously was going to be out of the question.  I decided and resolved to try to keep my crush a secret in order to avoid being hurt, but my roommates were intuitive and figured it out and banded together to get Jeff to at least ask me out on a date...

Our first date was a small disaster....but that is a story for another day...

What came next is probably a small miracle.

For some reason, Jeff, who had resolved not to pursue anything, continued to call and ask to spend time with me...and I, who had been offended deeply on our first date, found it in my heart to forgive him and to pursue a friendship... and then, our friendship started to evolve and change...before either of us realized it, we were talk defining the relationship occurred...we just liked each other and weren't pursuing spending time with anyone else.

During this time, unbeknownst to me, Jeff, who had always made it clear that he wasn't interested in marriage until he finished school, decided that he was going to propose...

He went to a local jeweler that was located inside a store that many of his friends would frequent. He had it in his mind that if he ran into anyone he knew, it would be a sign not to continue in his purchase of the ring...Nobody came...and a simple, modest engagement ring was procured...he then made the ultimate sacrifice.

In spite of much of our time together being focused on him studying, he was struggling that semester. He knew he couldn't be engaged and in school...Jeff made the hard choice to withdraw from his big, hard class that semester and to focus the majority of his attention on me, our relationship, and our impending engagement.

I have to laugh at myself when I think of the conversation that occurred after he made this choice and made his sacrifice.

We went to a CES fireside together on Sunday, it was (surprise, surprise) Elder Holland talking about marriage. As we listened to Elder Holland, we wrote notes back and forth. As our conversation progressed, I started to become nervous and scared. I had been to this point before in relationships and had come out hurt, confused, and alone.

The next day, we didn't see one another, I was busy with school. We texted back and forth and made plans to go to steak night at a local sports bar that served a cheap steak dinner every Tuesday. Dinner was pleasant, but my fears bubbled beneath the surface the whole time. I knew I was falling fast and hard for this young man and I didn't want to be hurt, especially knowing how determined he was to finish this semester. I didn't want to ultimately be deemed a distraction and liability and left alone...Finally, I couldn't hold it in anymore and on the car ride home we started discussing my fears and feelings. We pulled into the parking lot of our apartment complex (we lived in the same complex a few apartments away from one another), and he held my hand as I cried and offered him his "out"...I told him that I loved him, I knew I loved him, it was terrifying me...But I loved him enough to know what his aspirations and goals were and that if I was in the way of him pursuing his goals, he needed to end it now before I got in any deeper than I was. He held me as I sobbed (UGLY SOBBED) into his shoulder and laughed. He quietly reassured me the if he had wanted out, he wouldn't have continued to pursue me and that he wouldn't have made the sacrifices he had made to continue to see me...I didn't understand the depth of those sacrifices until much later. It wasn't until after we were engaged that I would find out that he had dropped his classes.

He played this sacrifice off as a choice he had made because he was already getting poor grades and knew there was no way he would be able to recover with the time left in the wasn't until we had been married a few years that he divulged the sacrifice, sheepishly...and I couldn't have loved him more for it...

I could kick myself for doubting him as our courtship progressed knowing what I know now...

He was laying the foundation for our future relationship. He knew that one day, I would be required to make large sacrifices for him and our family, and he knew that this would be the first of many...he truly loved me... I sometimes wish I'd seen it sooner, but it makes me appreciate him and our relationship all the more now.

I, unknowingly, stumbled into a relationship with someone who understood what it meant to be a man, a husband, and, someday a father.

He knew and knows that true love means sacrifice. Some sacrifices, like repeating that semester of school, are big...He didn't ask for accolades or a grand gesture in return. He didn't make a big announcement. He quietly chose to make the sacrifice and trusted that I would bear with him through the consequences of that sacrifice...that I loved him enough to wait patiently as it took longer for him to finish his schooling...

Some sacrifices, like the ones he makes every day are small.

He comes home, tired from a day of work, or travel and snaps quickly and quietly into husband and daddy mode. I'm sure all he wants to do is hide in a corner somewhere to regain his strength and senses, but he walks through the door, accepts the eager hugs and kisses of our sweet babies, plays with them and meets their needs, kisses his tired, haggered wife- who probably not feeling so attractive after a day of housework and child rearing... and asks "What can I do to help?"

He could choose to sit in the corner- he knows I would let him for as long as I could stand it. He knows I would make that sacrifice of a little more of my sanity for him...but he chooses to sacrifice a little of his every day...

The big sacrifice was made so that he could demonstrate his ability to himself and to me to make the little sacrifices that we would need to grow together.

If I could give my girls any advice when it comes to dating in the future, if I could tell them how to know if a young man truly loves them, I would tell them to look to their father and his example.

True love means sacrifice.True love isn't selfish, and true love doesn't require rewards and grand gestures to acknowledge that sacrifice has been made.

I would tell them to look to see what that young man has sacrificed for them. Does he have a servant's heart? Is he willing to do whatever it takes to be sure that their relationship is being fostered to slowly grow and change into something more...can they openly express their fears and know that he won't use those fears against them? Will he, like their father, give up his own comfort momentarily in order to help them when they have no strength left?

They may not see it all at once, but their father really is a "true man"... He works every day to be more like his Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. He quietly gives them love, strength, and sacrifice.

He is the best father they could ask for...I know, and he knows, that one day they will, without meaning it, tell them they "hate" him, he knows that his sacrifices won't always go noticed, but he has faith that he will be rewarded later on with the same courtesy and love he has shown them and me. He has faith that God will reward him for his efforts to be a good provider and for the sacrifices he makes in order to ensure their happiness and his.

Should we someday have a son, I can only pray that he will be able to glean from his father's example to become as wonderful a man as Jeff is.

Happy Father's Day, Jeff.

I love you more every day, with every sacrifice big or small. I only pray I can repay you in kind for all the kindness,love, respect, and sacrifices you have given me. Your small sacrifices don't go unnoticed. I wish I remembered to say more often how much every little thing you do means to me.  I couldn't ask for a better husband or father for my children.

I often tell you that my world doesn't work without you in it, and I mean that with my whole heart. Your small sacrifices allow me the chance to recoup my strength and make me a better person and a better mom. I hope that you can say the same about me, and if you can't, I hope that I can grow to become better so that you are made stronger and better by me.

I love you. Thank you for choosing me and for continuing to choose me every day. I will be grateful every day that you made that choice and continue to.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Shame and Guilt:Mommy Wars

Once upon a time, I actually was contemplating being a nurse. I thought it would be amazing to be a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital. I started taking classes my high school offered that would prepare me for this. One of those classes was Health Occupations. As part of the class, we had to do a shadow project and follow a health care worker around for the day. I called early and managed to snag one of the coveted spots at the labor and delivery unit of the local hospital to shadow the nurses there.

The day I spent there was a whirlwind and a lot of fun to watch. A woman laboring invited me to witness her birth, I got to help in the nursery giving new babies their first "baths", it was a great day...except for one little blip that really bothered me and stayed with me.

There was a young mother getting ready to leave the hospital that day with her baby. I was sitting at the nurses station having a chat with the nurse I'd been shadowing in the nursery asking questions required for my shadow project and another nurse approached.

"The girl in Room 312 is going home in a few minutes...and she is still REFUSING to breast feed. Can you believe it?!" she announced incredulously to the nurses seated at the station.

another nurse that had joined in on my Q&A session spoke up and said:

"Alright, sounds like we need to have another chat."

I then watched as the nurse I'd been shadowing, and three other nurses entered into this girls room and BULLIED her about not wanting to breast feed.

She had her reasons. She was a single mom who worked in a male dominated environment and knew that pumping wasn't going to be a very good option once she went back to work because there wasn't much time to stop and take breaks to do it. She knew legally she had rights to take breaks to pump, but she would rather not have to worry about the hassle of it all.

To me, this made sense...but the nurses kept pushing, bullying, SHAMING her for not being a good mom and doing what was "best" for her baby.

This exchange stuck with me throughout the years.

I understood the importance of breastfeeding. I understood what the baby would be getting, but I didn't see why it was such a big deal that someone DIDN'T breast feed for valid did that make them a "bad mom" (yes, the words "bad mom" were used by those nurses that day) if they were trying to do what worked best for their family and personal situation.

Then, my time to be a mother came.

I had planned on everything being as natural as possible. I didn't want an epidural, I didn't want Pitocin, I wanted to experience everything...

I naively spent hours writing a detailed birthing plan that I gave my midwife and handed in at the hospital when I pre-registered.

Of course, I was planning on breast was natural. It was what I was supposed to do...I had no reason not to.

Then, the Little Diva came over a month early...the birthing plan I had made so painstakingly was null and void. My water had broken, but my body wasn't contracting and I was at high risk for infection...enter the Pitocin drip...Forget about attempting to breast feed within the first hour after birth- Faith was rushed to the NICU before I even had a chance to see her little face with respiratory issues. She ended up on CPAP for the first 8 hours of her life....

Then, the school of hard knocks really began.

There were so many things that I wasn't prepared for...that nobody had told me.

Since I had said I was breast feeding, the nurses hadn't fed Faith at all. I had hemmorhaged and couldn't walk or stand for the first 8 hours after birth because I was on the cusp of needing a transfusion. I couldn't go see her until late the night after I delivered her. Since she was on CPAP they couldn't feed her yet, so they told me they would bring call me in after they could get her on a canula later that night.

Nobody came.

The next morning, a sweet nurse asked if I was ever going to try to feed my baby.

I had been pumping all night trying to get food for them to feed her through a dropper and I wasn't producing ANYTHING.

Nobody had told me that there were different sizes of suction cups for breast pumps, and being well endowed, my awesome pump had turned my nipples to hamburger because the suction cup was too small...

There was problem number 1.

The lactation consultant and nurses banded together, got me the right size suction cups, and encouraged me to keep going....Still...nothing.

Finally, one sweet nurse said we could try to see about latching since Faith was on the nasal canula instead of CPAP, hoping that maybe it would get me to produce to have the natural stimulation.

Again, my well endowed nature worked against me. My breasts were too big to fit into Faith's mouth with a good latch. Every moment we tried again and again to make it work was painful torture with blisters and scabs opening up...and my baby wasn't getting anything.

The idea of a traumatic birth delaying my production was brought up. One nurse brought me a strange device that you put formula into and it attached to your bra, then a long tube extended down the  breast. The baby would still try to latch, but would suck the formula out of the tube until I could start producing milk.

I was still too large to fit into Faith's mouth and the addition of the tube was awkward and frustrating.

Again, I was told I just needed to keep at it.

Faith wasn't eating enough to go home. Finally, in desperation I asked one of the nurses if I could just try to give her a bottle. I was exhausted. I had hemmorhaged, I had been up all night for 2 nights pumping trying to follow the instructions of the lactation consultant and inside the NICU trying to make this breast feeding thing work, and I just wanted to jump over the last hurdle to get my baby home.

The nurse gave me a shpeel about nipple confusion, and I told her I didn't care, I knew she wasn't getting what she needed because we were focusing too much on the breast feeding aspect of things. Sure enough, she devoured a full 30 mL bottle of formula...shocking the nurses...and slept for the next  hours straight... the first sleep I'd gotten since I'd entered the hospital almost 3 days before.

I still would attempt to breast feed and then, after we would fail at yet another attempt, I would top her off with a bottle.

Sure enough, she was able to come home after  4 days instead of after 2 weeks like they had originally thought...all because she was able to eat like she needed to and wanted to...

I went home and continued my crusade. My poor breasts were broken, bleeding, painful to the touch and swollen all the time. I finally started producing, and decided to give up on latching. I was getting almost no sleep in my attempts to get her to latch and it wasn't successful because she couldn't get a good enough latch to get anything out. It also turned out that my little early bird baby was a voracious eater. No matter how much I produced, I was always behind and had to top her off with formula.

Things did get a little better...I went from NO sleep to maybe an hour and a half in a 24 hour period... My body and my baby were completely out of sync. I would just finish pumping, and she would want to eat, which would work out at first, but then, while we was STARVING, she took forever to eat. I would lay her down almost 2 hours later, and I would need to pump again...and the cycle would start over.

Finally, in desperation to produce more milk so I could be a "good mom" and stop having to top her off with formula, I followed the instructions of a lactation consultant and purchased the herbs that were supposed to increase your milk supply...


I AND my baby ended up covered in hives- we were allergic to one or all of them. A call to the doctor revealed that I would have to throw out any milk I'd produced since starting the herbs and that I would have to continue to throw out anything I pumped for the next week to be sure they were out of my system...

Anyone who said there is no reason to cry over spilled milk never had to dump out six 30 mL bottles full of breast milk and face the idea of having to throw out everything they worked to pump after that for a week...

Tired, broken, in that point, after 3 weeks of trying to make it work, I decided to stop breast feeding. It just wasn't going to work.

I already felt bad enough...I knew formula was going to be an extra expense, I knew that breast milk was what was going to be "best" for my baby because that is what everyone had pounded into my head...and of course, when I reached out to fellow mommy friends, I was met with another much SHAME.

I was being selfish. It would get better. I could make it work if I really wanted to, I just wasn't trying hard enough. Had I called my local La Leche League? They could help give me more pointers. If not, I most certainly hadn't done EVERYTHING I could do. I just COULDN'T stop...PERISH THE THOUGHT! My declaration that I was giving up after 3 weeks of hell for my own sanity, so I could be a better mom, so I could enjoy my baby, was akin to having killed a baby seal on national television to the people that I thought were my friends...

Fortunately, I had a supportive family and husband who had watched me struggle through the last three weeks and were completely on board and helpful in any way they could be.

I decided to ignore the nay sayers and detach myself from them for a while, and focus on learning to enjoy my baby and finding a way to get caught up on sleep so I could feel like a normally functioning human again...

A breast exam by my midwife at my 6 week post partum check up revealed that my breast anatomy is actually slightly askew. I was told that no matter what it would likely always take longer for me to produce anything and I would likely have difficulty producing period.

When I found out a few months later that Phillie had surprised us and was on her way, I was dreading my decision...I didn't know what I was going to do.

I definitely didn't want a repeat of what had happened with Faith, and the realization that I would have a 10 month old AND a newborn to take care of weighed heavily.

My older sister was an amazing voice of reason. She calmed me as best as she could when the subject came up. She said to just try and see what happened and that I knew better where my breaking point was going to be this time...that I was prepared to deal with the public opinion because I'd been through it if I decided it just wasn't going to work.

The day came. Phillie arrived. I learned from my previous experience. There was no birth plan. No expectations. After going through 4 weeks of contractions that weren't causing any change, I was scheduled for an induction at 39 weeks ON THE DOT.

Everything went smoothly. I didn't tear, didn't hemmorhage...and Phillie slept through the entire first night of her life (she had a large head and probably a very large headache. The nurses said to not be surprised if she didn't stir since she was probably sleeping off the pain as the swelling in her head went down.)

I had also learned to say that I was going to do "both" when it came to breast or bottle. Of course, I was met with a shpeel about nipple confusion, but the nurses grudgingly brought some bottles of formula in for me to use should the need arise.

I attempted to get Phillie to latch...and, again, we had the same problem...her mouth was too small and I was too large...and of course, there was nothing coming out...

Since Phillie was eager to try to latch, I would try to get as good a latch as I could and let her suckle until frustration of not being satiated would settle in, and then switch to the bottle. I had figured that this would be better than being up all night trying to pump every 45 minutes.

My last day in the hospital, I had a knock at the door. In walked the lactation consultant...smug, and very proud of herself she announced, " I hear you say you're going to do both breast AND bottle...well, that just isn't going to work. I'm here to help you because you NEED to breast feed and breast feed only..."

I sat in shock for a moment.

Finally I said, "If you have any extra tips, I will happily take them. I just know what my body will and won't do. I don't even have colostrum right now. I'm letting the baby latch as best as I can to stimulate production but I know she is going to need a bottle at the end if I don't want her to starve to death."

The lactation consultant walked towards me, "That is just ridiculous. You have something. You HAVE to have SOMETHING."

She moved my baby down on the bed, and quickly reached out and grabbed my nipple, squeezing as HARD as she could for what felt like an eternity...squeezing every which way to try to get some colostrum to come out and determined to prove to this lesser individual (me) that she was dead wrong...she didn't even ask for my permission to touch me.

Finally, after the shock and horror wore off I asked her to stop and she said, "Hmmm...I guess you don't have anything...well, let's work on that latch then so we can be sure that you're stimulating production the RIGHT way." she said very condescendingly.

I showed her what I was doing. A technique the lactation consultant I'd had with Faith taught me in order to try to encourage the baby to get the nipple and as much of the surrounding skin as possible in an attempt to get a good latch.

"Oh, NO NO NO! That is ALL wrong."

She then proceeded to try to show me a very awkward, very ineffective way to get a good latch that wasn't going to work with my well endowed status.

"There," she said, so proud of herself, "Isn't that better?"

"No, actually, its worse. She has all nipple and no surrounding skin. At least she had some skin in her mouth when I was doing it the way they taught me with my first." I said, eager to get a little of my own back since this woman's obvious aim was to humiliate and shame me into submission...

She then proceeded to try again, each latch getting worse and worse. Finally, she reached out and grabbed my breast again, this time doing the EXACT SAME THING I had done.

"That's what I was doing already." I said.

"Well, " she said, "YOU can't do it because you don't have the vantage point that I do. It will be more effective if I do it and you keep practicing that technique I have been trying to teach you. Right now, I just want to get this baby latched." She said smugly.

"How is that?"

"Mmmm, better." I felt exactly the same as it had when I had done it...but I just wanted this woman OUT of my room.

She got up and said, "Well, keep at it...and I don't think you should use the bottle. You never know when you'll start to get something in and I would hate for there to be nipple confusion keeping you from being successful..." followed by a shpeel about why formula was so evil and bad and breast milk was so superior...

We came home from the hospital that evening.

Upon seeing me walk up the stairs to my apartment, Faith saw me and started to wail and scream. She hadn't seen me in 2 1/2 days...and, right on cue, Phillie let out a banshee roar to let me know she was hungry.

I had a screaming baby in a car seat on the floor and a screaming baby in my arms that just wanted to snuggle her mamma...

I handed Faith to my mom, took Phillie back to the bedroom for some privacy and then proceeded to have a panic attack...

My mother, knowing something wasn't right, had handed Faith off and joined me in my bedroom.

I was struggling. Wrestling with guilt and shame over the very idea that I wouldn't want to try to MAKE this work...breast feeding was natural. It was something that I was supposed to be able to do. I was a big fat failure..

Lactation Consultant lady had succeeded. I was feeling fully ashamed for my "selfish" thoughts.

My mother stroked my back and held my screaming infant. After a bit, she took Phillie out of the room and asked my mother in law to make a bottle and feed her and returned to me...shaking, in tears, unable to breathe or move...

and then she said, "Brittany, you have to ask yourself this question: Is breast feeding more important than being the best mom you can be to BOTH of your kids. If you're going to have a break down, I think you know the answer to that and you shouldn't feel guilty. It just doesn't work for some women and that is okay. You need to be the best mom and wife that you can be and if you're too focused on this one aspect of it, then you're going to miss everything that matters."

As she spoke, I calmed and I realized how right she was. Yes, nutritionally, breast milk was best, but emotionally, physically, I was going to be a wreck fighting to MAKE it happen for one child, and in the process I was going to miss out on time that my other child needed, that my husband needed. I couldn't spend weeks taxed and worried about making this work. Nature had put me at a disadvantage, but it didn't make me less of a mother...or even a bad mom. My baby would still be fed, diapered, bathed, and loved. It didn't matter what was in her tummy as long as she was healthy.

And with that, I dried my tears and decided to stop feeling guilty, to stop letting all the other voices shame me. It was MY choice and I was making the best choice I could make for my family as a whole...a choice that would allow me to function as a mom of two infants and be able to function as a wife and home maker at the same time....

In the end, Phillie had the worst type of reflux a baby could have. Even if I had struggled to "make it work", I would have had to stop because the only way to avoid surgery for her reflux was a switch to AR formula and giving her the strongest reflux meds a doctor could prescribe an infant in a rather large dose.

So...why am I bringing this up? Why the long preamble to share my story (especially because it may be TMI for some people...and for that I apologize)?

In the last few weeks, I've had several friends voice their intention to stop breast feeding for one reason or another and I have been truly sickened and saddened to watch them go through much of what I did...

Comments from well meaning "friends" shaming them for their decision, begging them to reconsider...or even their own statements saying that they felt like complete total and udder failures for making the decision to stop... emotionally pained that their child easily took a bottle and slept well for the first time since they came home from the hospital.

I understand that a few years ago, the statistics on breast feeding were grim and more and more moms were opting to bottle feed...I understand that ideally, you want to be able to breast feed because for the first 6 months it allows the baby a chance to get extra antibodies from mom to help keep them healthy...

but I also understand that we don't live in a perfect world...and things don't always work the same way for everyone...

WHY then are we allowing ourselves to be shamed for making decisions that work best for our families as moms? Why are we allowing ourselves to be shamed, to feel shame and guilt, when we bravely, openly admit that something just won't work for us? Why do we shame someone else or try to guilt them into going against what they know is right in their hearts?

I know the breast feeding debate is just another facet of the "mommy wars"...but let's get real...Do you get a medal for making it work? don't. Yes, some statistics somewhere say that breast fed babies are healthier and don't have ear infections...blah blah blah...

Both of my kids were mostly formula fed. Neither has ever had an ear infection in their life so far and the only illness we've ever dealt with was RSV in the winter of 2012...which was running rampant and MANY kids got it...

Yes, you don't want to ignore data, but you also shouldn't ignore your heart.

You are NOT less of a mother if you don't breast feed. You are not less of a mother if you can't breast feed...

What kind of a message does that send to adoptive mothers who have no other choice but formula?

What kind of message does that send to mothers who anatomically have issues that prevent them from breast feeding?

Immediately, when well meaning people ask me about my breast feeding experience and I say that I stopped early, there are looks of condescension and the conversation quickly moves on...

I do not deserve to be vilified for making a choice that worked best for MY family.

My friends in the last few weeks that have had to stop for various reasons don't deserve to be vilified either. They made a noble effort. Their choice to stop was a choice made out of love. A choice that allowed them to be the best mother that they could be for ALL of their children, and the best wife they could be for their husband.

We need to end the culture of shaming that occurs around breast feeding on BOTH ends. People complain all the time that they don't get tolerance to breast feed in public... Well, here is my complaint that I don't receive tolerance for having to make the tough choice not to breast feed because nature has decided to work against me...

Why can't we all just get along and admit that everyone is the best mom they can be as long as they are trying as hard as they can to meet all the needs of their growing families?

Nobody is perfect. Nature didn't bless everyone...and nobody is exempt from having life throw you a curve ball.

Yes, by all means, we need to be supportive...but there is a fine line between supportive and condescending.

Yes, you can suggest that a woman thinking about stopping visit with a lactation consultant or a rep from the La Leche League, but you don't need to imply that if she chooses not to do so that she hasn't done all that she can do to try to make it work if she did try... you don't live her life, in her don't see what her struggles are and you don't see the painstaking hours she has spent going back and forth about her decision.

Yes, you can suggest someone at least give it a try if they aren't planning to breast feed period...but the same logic applies...maybe she has a demanding job and she knows that, while legally they have to give her breaks to pump, its just not practical...Maybe she wants her husband/partner to be more involved and feels that sharing the feeding duties is a good way to encourage that bonding? You don't fully know her heart, her thoughts, or her situation.

To my friends that breast feed, I love you! You are amazing! Congratulations on being able to make it work. I am so excited for you and your family.

To my friends that don't, I love you! You are amazing! Congratulations on being able to make a decision that works best for you and your family! I am excited for you too.

To my friends contemplating giving up because its just not working. You are amazing! Look at you try! There is NO SHAME in stopping if its just not working. You are your own best gauge about whether or not you've tried all you can, and its completely your choice. Fortunately, your baby doesn't have to starve because there are nutrient filled options and you can work to find the one that works best for your baby and their digestive tract. You're not a bad mom, or a monster for considering it. If you decide to soldier on, I support you in that as well and hope that you find success quickly.

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that I said something to the effect of:
I breast fed, I bottle fed, and it didn't matter because they all ended up eating the same french fries off the floor of my minivan and was like "thanks for cleaning"....

In the end, kids are still going to be kids.

The ultimate gauge of what kind of mom you are, good or bad, is going to rely heavily on what they think, and I can tell you that 99.9% of kids think their mom is the best mom ever no matter what...

Take comfort in that.

As I get ready to have another baby and contemplate whether or not I am going to attempt to breast feed again, I think about that often.

She isn't going to remember that I breast fed her, but she is going to remember the time I spent with her and my attitude.

If the best mom I can be is one that doesn't breast feed because I know I need to sleep, or I know nature hasn't exactly blessed me in that department, or I'm sick of getting mastitis every month without fail, or they have teeth and are biting me and I can't get them to stop no matter what I do...then I am okay with that.

I would rather enjoy my kids than stress over one aspect of their upbringing for months, making myself sick, tired and exhausted.

The only medals for motherhood are the ones we give ourselves in our own minds. We all have a journey to travel as mothers. We all have choices to make. We shouldn't shame or make one another feel guilty for making different choices because that is all they are: different choices for different families who lead different lives.

Hugs and loves until next time, darlings.