Saturday, August 15, 2015

Prayer on the Seashore

Last night I found myself awake and anxious at 2 am. Out of a mix of motives that was about 60% guilt, 30% habit, and 10% faith, I opened my scriptures with the intention of reading a couple verses before bed. I opened to the part of the Book of Mormon where the Jaredites are leaving for the promised land (America).

13 And now I proceed with my record; for behold, it came to pass that the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands. And as they came to the sea they pitched their tents; and they called the name of the place Moriancumer; and they dwelt in tents, and dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of four years.
 14 And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.
 15 And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him. And the Lord said unto him: I will forgive thee and thy brethren of their sins; but thou shalt not sin any more, for ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man; wherefore, if ye will sin until ye are fully ripe ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And these are my thoughts upon the land which I shall give you for your inheritance; for it shall be a land choice above all other lands. (Ether 2:13-15)
And my first thought was, "It must have sucked to be camping on the beach for four years." Seriously. Think about that. I dont care how much you like camping. Thats a lot of sand. "I wonder why they had to stay there so long. I wonder if it was because the Brother of Jared stopped praying? But why would he just stop praying then? He's in the middle of no where. I'm sure he wanted to leave. I'd be praying to get out of there!" And then I started thinking about myself, and what I've been doing, and I realized, "Maybe he started out praying, and the answer was always to stay on the beach. And stay on the beach. And stay on the beach. And Jared eventually got tired of asking and hearing that he needed to stay on the beach, so he stopped praying. But then when it was time to move, the Brother of Jared wasn't listening." And it hit me that I haven't been praying the way I should be. I've been praying some, but I haven't been turning to God with all of my problems. I've been turning to other sources looking for solutions, but I haven't had the faith to turn to God. I ask him for the one thing I want, but I haven't been talking to him about the little things, like how it's getting really sandy and I'm really missing a good shower right now.
So I decided to forget all about the way prayers normally sound and just pour my heart out to God... The fear, the hurt, the frustration. I told him what I really wanted, and what I missed, and what I thought I should have had. I told him how I didn't understand...
Specifically, I told him how I don't understand faith. Why am I responsible to act on things I can't know are true? Why do the heavens need to be hidden from us? And if I do have faith that God exists, and Liam exists, which I do, what's the purpose of separating us? If he's really not that far away, and I believe that he's there, why can't I see him, or be with him? Why does it have to be this way?
And then the one prayer I am always saying broke through in the very end. My prayer that I will have another baby and that I won't have to lose that one. But this time the prayer was completely different. Before there had always been part of my heart that was saying, "God, you better not dare take another baby away from me. How could you have done that. You better not try that again. I deserve better." But now my heart was broken. I was just too exhausted for pride or anger. I was just a child crying. Please. I don't think I can bear it. Please don't make me go through that again.
Around that time I started to feel some peace. I felt vague answers to my questions, not quite in words that I could understand, but more like in a feeling that washed over me and filled in the holes that my questions left, at least temporarily. It wasn't a warm fuzzy feeling, necessarily. But it was peaceful. And it allowed me to fall asleep. I think the only reason I stopped praying was because I started feeling that peaceful sleep fall over me.
This morning, I woke up to find this scripture.
But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction. (Jacob 3:1)
I may not know everything about faith, but I do know that I was consoled in my afflictions last night, and I believe God does plead my cause. Even when he knows our righteous desires can't be answered in the way we want right now, He feels our disappointment and grief, and He weeps with us. He is always on our side. I know my Heavenly Father loves me, even though I'm sometimes stubborn and refuse to admit it when I don't get what I want. And even despite that, He loves me. His silly, rebellious spiritual two year old of a daughter. If I can't understand anything else, I'm glad I can at least understand that.
And even though I'm not sure what the future holds, I feel Heavenly Father smiling, like a father about to hand over a birthday present he knows his daughter will enjoy, and I feel him saying, "Sweetheart. I know you're going to love this. Just wait until you see what I have for you."
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sacrifice

People always talk about how being a parent means sacrificing for your children. I sometimes feel real comfort from that because I feel like the only thing I've been allowed to do for my son is sacrifice.

I sacrificed the time I spent being pregnant. I sacrificed my body by giving birth to him. I sacrificed my innocence by being there for him after his death.

But there's one sacrifice that I still struggle to give. I notice it most when I'm praying for other parents.

I plead with God for other parents. Don't let them go through what I've gone through. Aren't the statistics supposed to be one in one hundred or something like that?* Doesn't that mean that because I had to go through this, ninety nine more babies should live? Can't theirs be one of them?

Please, just let their baby live.

But, because I know, I always have to end my prayers with, "But if he doesn't, please just let them be okay."

And I know they will be. I know that God allows you to survive that even though you think you shouldn't be able to. Somehow you do. That's the sad miracle God grants parents like us.

Thankfully, that's not the only miracle. The real miracle is the same reason why I know not every baby I pray for will live. It's the sacrifice I mentioned.

It's that my son is well. I hate clich├ęs, and although it's true that he's in a better place, that he's where he's meant to be... how can a mother believe any place is better for her baby than in her own arms? This is what I struggle with. But I do believe it, somehow. He is safe. He is taken care of. He is happy. He is better off--not without me, because he'll never be without me, but outside of this world. He is protected from the muk of the earth and he is needed where he stands. He is where he needs to be, and my sacrifice is to allow him to be there and send him my love and support.

I struggle. Sometimes I feel like I can handle it for myself, but I can't stand to see other mothers and fathers join us. This weekend, I attended a memorial service for an acquaintance's son who lived only two hours. It was a beautiful service that reminded me why each of our sons had to leave us so early. But my heart still breaks to know a portion of that couple's pain.

The difficult part of sacrifice is understanding full well why you need to do it... and still not wanting to. I feel selfish asking God to let these babies live just so that those of us waiting for them won't have to hurt so badly. I am a mother. I know I would make the sacrifice for my son, and any of these other mothers would make the same sacrifice. I don't mean to suggest that they would not or could not do it. So I have to acknowledge that if it has to be that way, please, God, just care for them. Because I know they could do it. But please, please, God, just don't ask them to.

*Regarding a stillbirth like Liam's. Sadly, this doesn't include the statistics of infant death, or the heartbreakingly high rates of miscarriages.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mine

I'm proud of my family.

There was a time, as embarrassing as this is to admit, when I thought of pregnancy as a race. What's even more embarrassing is that time wasn't that long ago. But I didn't necessarily feel rushed because of outside pressure quite so much as my own expectations of what was fair. I knew I wanted a baby. I had always wanted a baby. I knew I wanted a baby more than her. And therefore, the universe should prove it by giving me a baby first. I wanted the world to see how much I wanted this baby by me popping one out at the first possible opportunity.

Pretty flawed thinking.

I've recently started to wonder whether it's the women who want children the most who have to endure infertility and loss. And I don't have any idea why that is... except that maybe God knows those are the women willing to give the most for their children. Those are the women with the strength and love to welcome babies whose plans require grief and longing.

I'm honored to be one of those mothers.

Our story often looks sad, and dark, and even ugly. I struggle when strangers ask if we have any children. Or when I imagine taking family pictures. I want to include Liam. But never in a way that would make him appear ugly. He's my baby. My happy, perfect baby. I don't want the circumstances of his birth to taint that.

I have often lamented the fact that Kam and I had to be introduced to parenthood through such sorrow. But when I think of the alternative--I know there's no way Liam could have been added to our lives in any other way, and I would never give that up.

I don't care anymore about the imaginary race I entered myself in. I don't care that her family looks the way it's "supposed" to, while my family pictures will be missing one beautiful face. I don't know what my family pictures will look like ten years from now. Maybe Liam will have cookie-cutter siblings, or maybe we'll be adding faces who are obviously not biologically related. Maybe there will be many faces, and maybe there will be only a few. And maybe (heaven forbid) we'll even be missing another face or two. But it will be my own beautiful family, and no one elses, nor would I want it to be. And no matter how I add to it, I am blessed for the addition.