My Journey to Motherhood

Hanging over the stairway in my house is a picture taken last summer of my family. My husband and I are surrounded by our six children, their spouses, and our fourteen grandchildren. From looking at that picture you would not think I had any problems getting the large family I wanted when I was younger, but in that you would be mistaken. I now have six children, but during my child bearing years I had twelve pregnancies. Of my first eight pregnancies I was only able to carry two to term.

                There is physical pain involved in a miscarriage; with some I actually experienced labor pains. However, it isn’t the physical pain that is hardest to deal with. Miscarriage usually occurs early enough that most people do not even know a woman is pregnant. Even for those who do, there is usually no sign of the pregnancy; the woman appears normal. So when the miscarriage occurs, most people feel no sense of loss. However, for the woman, the moment she knows she is pregnant, the baby becomes real to her. Perhaps not as real as a full-term child that she holds in her arms, but real just the same. She feels the changes in her own body and is constantly aware of the life growing inside of her, anticipating the child it will become. For the woman, when the pregnancy ends, the sense of loss is keen. People around the woman try to comfort her, and their support and kindness do help, but no one feels the loss as deeply as does she. For others it is a disappointment. For the woman it is the loss of a child. Miscarriage is a very lonely grief.
                I recall times in the months following my miscarriages when I would wake up in the middle of the night sobbing. It was as if it was only in my sleep I completely let down the brave face I kept up during the day and allowed my feelings to vent. On those nights, my husband would hold me until my weeping subsided and I fell back asleep.
                I recall a woman from church whose due date was close to mine with my second pregnancy. My pregnancy ended in miscarriage, but she carried hers to term. Whenever I would see her child, I would feel a stab of pain and think, “I should have a child that age.” The sense of loss that child raised in me was so acute I could hardly bear to look at her. I did not like feeling that way, but for me, that little girl symbolized the baby I would never rock, the first day of kindergarten I would never be a part of, the daughter I would never know.
                I quickly learned that for me, pregnancy did not automatically mean getting a baby.
                It was following my sixth pregnancy which ended in my fourth miscarriage. I was sitting in my doctor’s office. After examining me the doctor looked at me and said, “The question is, do you want to keep trying?”
                I grew up in a large family and with a religious background which values families and children. And so I automatically answered, “Yes.”
                The doctor then began to talk about things I could try and tests that could be done, but I don’t think I listened to much of what he said. Instead, his question kept playing itself over and over in my mind.
                “Do you want to keep trying?”
                That question stuck with me as I left the office and went home. It stayed with me for days. With it came an idea that I had not entertained before—I didn’t have to keep trying to have another baby. There were things that could be done to ensure that I would never again conceive and risk the pain of another miscarriage. The two pregnancies I had carried had given me a daughter and a son, many people’s idea of the perfect family. As I said, I come from a religious background where having children is highly valued and large families are common. It was what I grew up with, it was what I’d always thought I was supposed to do. But my doctor at that time was serving as a Stake President—a high position in my church—and he didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with me deciding to take measures to ensure there would be no more pregnancies. No one could say I hadn’t tried, and no one would blame me for not trying anymore, I reasoned to myself. As the days passed and these thoughts kept rolling through my brain, all of the “shoulds” and “supposed tos” were peeled away, leaving the bare question, “Do you want to keep trying?” It was as simple as that. It was my choice.
                During the next few days I pondered on my role as a mother. Up until then it wasn’t something I had spent much time thinking about. It was something I just did because it was what I was supposed to do. Now, as I watched my two young children they seemed more precious to me than ever before, and I found that I treasured many of the tasks which just weeks before had seemed mundane. I loved holding my children and reading to them. I thought about the times I had rocked them as babies, a phase which was passing much too quickly. I noticed how they were learning and growing, and saw myself reflected back to me in many of their comments and actions. I did not have one dramatic moment which served as an epiphany, but over those days I came to the realization that I loved being a mother. With that I found my answer. It was a resounding, “Yes.” Yes, I did want more children. Yes, I was willing to risk having more miscarriages to get them.
                Despite how hard it was going through those early struggles, I am grateful for this experience. I do not think the most valuable element to come from it was the decision to try to have more children. Rather, I believe it was the process itself--the experience of stepping back, digging past all the clutter to get to the heart of my heart, and finding my true motivation and desire. It was this which made me look at my role as a mother with new eyes.
                I wish I could say that my experience transformed me into the ideal, but I will be the first to profess that I was not a perfect mother. I wasn’t always patient, and none of my children will ever be able to say their mother never yelled. I stumbled through motherhood and felt more inadequate in it than in any other role I’ve taken in life. Still as I look at the picture of my family, I know beyond any doubt that my role as a mother is only rivaled in importance in my life with my role as a follower of Christ and my role as a wife. It is a role which has challenged me and stretched me. But it is also a role which has brought me joy.


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