07 October 2011

Mother's Day for an Infertile Woman

Mother's Day is very much celebrated in the Mormon church and on those Sundays, a couple of people from the congregation are usually asked to speak on the subject of Motherhood.

A few weeks before this last Mother's Day, I was asked to speak in church on that date. At the time, I don't think the person asking me to do this realized that day was Mother's Day and certainly didn't realize I had been infertile for 7 years. (I am glad he didn't know, as he may never have asked me otherwise.) My heart was just pounding out of my chest because I was so grateful I would have the privilege to speak on this subject....there is not a topic more near and dear to my heart. I accepted the assignment immediately.

After another failed IUI (infertility procedure), which I found out about the morning of Mother's Day, here's what I shared with the congregation in Brooklyn. I couldn't hold back the tears on this one. They came before I even said the first word at the pulpit. I just felt so grateful that day to see how far I had come...



Mother’s Day
May 8, 2011

I am happy to be able to speak on Mother's Day - one reason is I can stand and tell each one of you women how much I love you and admire you for all that you do. You really are women of God and I feel blessed that I get to associate with each of you and that we get to be sisters in this Gospel as we all try to be the best women we can be.

Also, I'm just personally happy that I could feel so at peace with speaking on Mother's Day & celebrating this day. You should know that this is significant for me. There were years when I did not enjoy this day and didn't even want to be near this building on Mother's Day as it was too sad for me to be around so many mothers, when I couldn't be one myself. But, because of this Gospel working so beautifully in my life, I am not the same woman that I was back then. And so, it is quite a miracle to me that I could speak to you today so willingly. I’m grateful that I can now celebrate this day, not because I am a mother, but because of what the desire for motherhood has done to my life.

Just like all of you moms who want to be the best you can be for your children, I do too. And I’ve had a long time to think about what it means to be a good mom and to be a good influence.

I’ve come to the conclusion that being at one with our Heavenly Father (& all his goodness) is the way I can become the kind of mother I want to be – it is the way to have the healthiest heart and mind, which I consider the greatest offering of love I could ever offer a child. About four years ago, for the first time ever, I finally decided to really try to be a woman of God and to try to be the kind of woman that I would want to be as a mother. This decision has changed my life more than any other decision I’ve ever made.

Being at one with our Heavenly Father includes so much – to have his heart and his mind means we must work to surrender our natural selves/ego. I didn’t always know how to do this. But I finally realized that it was more than just attending church, saying my prayers or reading ancient scripture, as they are simply tools to help us accomplish something greater. Being at one with our Heavenly Father means having our heart aligned with His. It even means giving up the tendency to be full of fear, frustration, anger, selfishness, doubt, or worry in our day to day experiences and instead - adopting His attributes of love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, hope & charity.

It is a huge sacrifice for most of us to give up our natural selves! We feel entitled to suffer and worry and blame. But many years ago, I realized that it was a choice I could make due to God's gift to us of agency. If I wanted to, I could truly choose to align my ways with those of my Heavenly Father, and choose liberty and eternal life. Or, I could conduct my life in the way my natural self would and choose captivity and spiritual death by succumbing to the negativities, fears, and anxieties of the natural man (which I had previously been doing for years).

Prior to figuring this out, there were a few sources of great sadness in my life. I had already faced a couple of years of infertility, and my former husband began letting me know that he didn’t know if he wanted to be married any longer. At the time, I didn't realize this, but because I was reacting to my circumstances with sadness, fear & loss of hope, it was preventing me from being at one with Heavenly Father. But I began to realize that I was choosing thatmy distance from God wasn’t just a result of my unfortunate circumstances, it was a result of how I chose to react to my circumstances. In the face of criticism, I was letting harsh words ruin my soul & self-worth. In the face of an uncertain marriage, I was letting my fear of losing my husband & being alone destroy my peace. In the face of infertility, I was letting the fear of not being able to conceive bring me remorse & loss of purpose. In the face of a life that was not what I had envisioned for myself, I felt so much sadness . I looked at other mother’s lives with envy. And I wondered how I could ever have meaning or purpose in my life if I didn’t have a husband and a family. For years, these reactions compounded and affected me so greatly that I did not feel the influence of God in my life and I certainly did not have peace & happiness deep within my soul. I did not even have the strength nor the energy to serve another, because I thought my plate was already “so full” and I was already spread so thin because of my own unfortunate circumstances.

BUT, I was blessed to have a wake-up call. Someone pointed out to me that if this was the way I chose to live my life, I would be teaching my children to live this way as well. She also pointed out to me that being a mother itself would bring a lot of trials, and if I couldn’t handle my trials now, how on earth would I be able to be the mother that I wanted to be?!? Once my eyes became open to the fact that I had the power to choose a better way to live, my long-time desire to be a good mother kicked in full force and I deliberately began practicing living in a better way. And I mean it when I say I practiced! I would actually look for little opportunities in my life where I could try to have the heart and mind of God & put this to the test. (I even prayed to have some of those opportunities come my way so I could try it out.) It didn’t come as naturally in the beginning, but little by little, I began conquering all that I had before me. If there was a reason for me to be deeply offended & hurt, I remained still and took no offense. If there was a reason for me to be angry, I responded with a heart full of love and compassion. If there was a reason for me to be impatient, I remained hopeful and calm. If there was a reason for me to blame, I had compassion for another's state of life and forgave with no conditions. If there was a reason to feel hopeless about my future & the loss of my marriage, I trusted that the Lord’s Plan of Salvation was for my greater good and that adversity was part of that beautiful plan. If there was a reason to feel insecure or humiliated by being rejected by my husband or being newly divorced, I believed that it was my divine right to be full of confidence and worth as a daughter of God. If there was a reason to judge, I prayed for another’s weaknesses. And if there was a reason to feel sorry for myself & my circumstances, instead I actually felt grateful for the privilege of learning from this mortal experience, no matter how grim my life seemed. This time of my life was amazing & sanctifying. My existence had changed. This was all made possible by the power of God, through the Atonement and example of Jesus Christ. And today I celebrate why this process began – it was because I wanted to be a good mother.

I believe that Heavenly Father has chosen women to carry out a great work. It is so much more than making meal after meal, providing clean laundry, and trying to put your little ones to sleep. The work that mothers do is divine. It is about teaching your children how to live and teaching them how to turn their hearts to our Heavenly Father.

My dear husband, Danny, had some very profound thoughts come to him on his mission regarding the beauty of motherhood, and they so perfectly help to describe how I feel. He wrote these thoughts in the following letter, which he gave to his mother and two older sisters on Mother’s Day. He said:

"My Bishop quoted about Mary, the mother of Christ. He said that Mary was 'a precious and chosen vessel' of the Lord, chosen to bring the Son of God into the world. After hearing that, the thought came to me – is not every mother a chosen vessel? Is not every child born destined to be heirs to God, and joint heirs with Christ? Are not all sons and daughters of God? Aren’t we all striving to reach the same status as Christ - certainly not as Savior, but as an heir to all the Father has? And if this capacity exists in every child born to this world, then aren’t ALL mothers chosen vessels? What greater calling than to raise the children of God and to help them to become like him? There is none. It is the most important!”

I believe that if we have the desire and are patient with ourselves, and if we become willing to sacrifice our natural selves, we can become what He believes we can be.

Elder Jeffrey Holland said:

"Mothers, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones. Yours is the work of salvation and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are, better than you are and better than you ever have been."

We each have the divine right to this blessing – not only those who are mothers, but those who are preparing to become one. I have felt that blessing in my own life. And I believe that this blessing can be bestowed upon each and every one of us.

I am thankful for my own mother on this day, who in my darkest hour, was a woman of God. She was in tune to my needs before she even knew what they were. She instilled confidence in me that I could handle my trials with grace and strength. She was an example of love and forgiveness as the details of my divorce unfolded. She was an example of prayer, faith and fasting as she summoned the blessings of Heavenly Father on my behalf, that I would be able to start a new life with confidence and one day meet a wonderful man of God. I, too, am so grateful for Danny’s mother. She is a woman of God to her core and she exudes that with her every action. I am grateful that Danny could be raised by such an elite woman who is full of love, forgiveness, faith and strength. The blessings of our mothers did not end when we left home, the influence of their example has strengthened us greatly, even as adults.

In closing, Elder Jeffrey Holland said to Mothers:

"There is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and the glory of God. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust Heavenly Father has in you. He is blessing you and He will bless you - especially when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Rely on Him...... and press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope."

I have spoken to you every bit of truth I can muster from my heart! I believe these things to be true and I believe that if we turn to Him and become at one with Him, our lives can be transformed and we can raise our children to carry on His banner.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Has anyone else found peace through infertility (or any other trial)? How did this happen for you or what inspired you to overcome it? I would love to hear.

MK

(Photo above taken by Chris Lindsay in my home, 4 years ago. At the time this photo was taken, I had just barely figured out what life was all about and had completely come to peace with my infertility. I love having this photo as a reminder of that pivotal & beautiful time in my life. My first marriage ended unexpectedly maybe a month after this photo was taken. Wow.)

33 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing that powerful, heart-full talk. How courageous and beautiful you are! Thanks for inspiring me to be and to choose the good too. I love how you describe your journey of change. Your concious efforts are a poignant example of the power of the atonement to let us choose kindness and forgiveness and by that choice be actually transformed in our hearts.

    What a beautiful thing it is to have the gospel written inside you. Thanks for sharing how that process occurs. Can't wait to read more of your life and love lessons!

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  2. thank you for sharing this! i am going to print your talk and keep it close at hand for a reminder when I have those moments when motherhood doesn't feel so divine. xo

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  3. Just found your blog, I love it...fresh, new and different from most. My heart goes out to you, dealing with infertility. A good friend of mine suffered from infertility for years. As soon as she went on a Gluten Free diet, she was able to have children....so weird....she doesn't have celiac disease. Might be worth a try.

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  4. I have to tell you what a tender mercy in answer to prayer this post was for me today! I'm copying parts of it into my journal, right next to quotes from general conference. Thank you for sharing your experiences and faith and wisdom.

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  5. I am currently trying to overcome a big trial. It's hard. Many days I don't know how I'm going to be happy with the life that I now have. I don't think it's any coincidence that I found your blog today. Thank you for sharing this. I am a mom and have a little boy. But since then I have lost another baby boy and gone through cancer, and I really don't know if I will be able to have more babies it seems... and it's crushing to me. But I can't sit around and feel sorry for myself anymore. I need to be a good mother to the boy I have. Thank you for your example. I'm going to print out your talk and read it over, because that is the type of woman that I want to be. I want to be one with God. I want to be a good mom. Thanks again.

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  6. i loved reading this so much mara. i'm so glad you started this blog.

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  7. Hey Mara,
    I followed the link you posted on fb to your blog. It is really lovely and inspirational. And um, this talk is amazing. Note to self: if I ever get asked to speak on mother's day, my talk is already done! haha (don't worry, if that actually happens, I will ask your permission first...)XO

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  8. To Anonymous - Thanks so much for the advice of a gluten-free diet. I smiled big when I got your note because I am on a gluten-free diet! It has been amazing. It hasn't helped w/ pregnancy yet, though I hear it helps many. But I just feel SO much healthier without the gluten. Even if a baby never comes, I plan to be GF for life. I am planning to post about all this soon....

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  9. To all of you - I couldn't be happier that this post has inspired you. I am telling you, I felt some extra guidance & inspiration when writing that message, so I knew I had to share it with you. XO

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  10. I wish I could have been there when you gave this talk, especially in our old ward, surrounded by so many people who love you and have seen the way you have grown through all of this. I can kind of imagine it in my head..

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  11. Mara, thank you so much for this post!! My husband and I have struggled with infertility as well. It seemed that every time I felt at peace with it someone would butt in and ask me about why we don't have any children... Then this spring we had three new baby announcements in the family in three consecutive months. The day the last sister announced they were expecting I thought I was really going to loose it. Later that day we ran into a friend who, thankfully, reminded me of my story of meeting my husband and how I knew that the Lord's hand was guiding me in my life. (I was a bit older and was consigned to the fact that I would never get married!) It was such an amazing Tender Mercy of the Lord! I had peace wash over me and I KNEW that the Lord's hand is STILL in my life whether or not we are blessed with children right now. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story!!

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  12. Molly - you make me melt. Thanks for your note and thanks for sharing your story. Beautiful. It's amazing to see that we have the power to turn around what is in our hearts and minds, if we want to! I remember the days when I used to feel a sting in my heart when new pregnancies were announced by friends & family. But that feels so far away now that I can hardly remember it. Once you start making these changes, it just becomes your natural (& more joyful!) way of life. XO

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  13. Meg - sending you all the love in the world! My heart feels so big right now as I write this. Your desire to be a good mom, even under these most challenging circumstances, is just making me melt.

    I KNOW these trials are for our good & that we can even find JOY in the midst of them as we realize that we have the power to overcome them! I've seen it way too many times in my own life & in plenty of others. It makes sense that all the wise people & prophets in history (& God) are trying to get this through to our heads... It is the secret to life. I know that as you work on changing the feelings in your heart (little by little) and embracing every bit of this life, that you will be able to feel that oneness........and your life, even now, can be full of more joy & peace than you know what to do with. Much love to you on this journey, Mara

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  14. It took us 3 years to get our son, and I will tell you, that baby is the love of our lives. I never fully understood the heartache of our infertility until we started trying for baby number two. My husband is on very expensive fertility meds, and it's hard for us to get pregnant. In the last two years we've had 4 losses. Every loss was different. A couple of them were not hard, but a couple were devastating. Finally I realized I was living my life in a way of "I can't do that because what if we are pregnant". Or, "I can't go because I might be ovulating". It was all consuming. Finally we decided to do what we love more than anything. Something I've put off for years. My husband and I love racing on our tandem bike. We signed up for LOTOJA (a 206 mile bike race). I knew it was 5 months away, so I might not be able to do it, but I needed to stop waiting in the "waiting place" (have you read "Oh The Places You'll Go"...best kids book EVER). Well, we had another loss in those 5 months but we pressed on. We did the race together in September and I found out I was pregnant the next day! This pregnancy has been different. I Really think this is it. I was told by our infertility doctor yesterday that I'm ready to be transferred to my midwife!!! I have felt overwhelmed with gratitude, and having never been happier feeling so sick. I needed the shift in knowing that it is the Lords timing, and that I can't allow our infertility to be all consuming. It gets in the way of our beautiful life, and the child we have already been blessed with. Thank you for this post. This topic is so dear to my heart. I would not wish infertility upon my worst enemy. Hardest thing I've ever done. But I will tell you what, when it does happen whether through pregnancy/adoption, it really is all the sweeter. Hugs to you, and I look forward to following your blog now! Found you on pinterest!

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  15. Oh Mara, Thank you for this post. I needed it. Your faith gives me hope that one day, I'll have the same peace and gratitude that you have. I'm not sure I'm there yet as far as speaking in church on Mother's Day. (I think I'd have some resentment if someone asked me to do that right now) But your example has reminded me that as we allow the Atonement heal our hearts, we truly can approach these trials with gratitude and humility knowing that they have refined us and shaped us into becoming more like Christ and ultimately becoming the women that Heavenly Father wants us to become. That is what it is all about, whether a mother in this life or the next, we're all given experiences that help us progress in the way God would have us progress. And what a blessing that is!

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  16. I can't tell you how much your blog means to me.
    I may not have the same obstacles you've faced, but just being an LDS woman in a big city is hard to come across. I'm from Los Angeles and have had such a hard time keeping my faith and values in dating and just my social life in general because of the environment. I'm really young, but I've been having very strong desires to be a mother. I just really need to learn patience. Not a trait I currently have.
    As for whether or not my obstacles have become blessings, I've still yet to discover. I'm still going through much learning and growth from all these trials I'm facing. I'm tempted to write a blog about it, but it's difficult to write about living with depression. Most people don't believe it's a serious issue. I know people who think it's just an excuse or that it's all in a person's head.
    Thank you for all this advice you've been posting.

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  17. Anonymous- I love every word you wrote. THANK YOU for so beautifully summarizing what this life is all about. I know that healing CAN come to you as you very literally apply the healing of the Atonement to your life. I am so excited for what is before you. These kind of moments are the greatest opportunities of our lives. Much love, Mara

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  18. Youowemeasoda- I know exactly what it's like to be single in a big city and yes, it can be extremely difficult. I recommend to VISUALIZE the kind of mother you want to be and the kind of man you want to marry. Imagine the qualities and character you desire. Then cling to that vision and think of it OFTEN - especially while on dates!! If your behavior or a person you are dating does not line up with that vision, make some adjustments until your life feels aligned with what you want. it totally changes dating! xo, mara

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  19. This talk is so beautiful (as is the rest of your blog). I have been crazy inspired. I thought it was interesting that I was so moved by this and also from another talk given by a women who was in your same situation.
    If you follow this link and then click on "Reachel's thoughts on motherhood" you will be taken to her talk.
    She has two sweet babies now and I can honestly say that all that time preparing has made her a wonderful mother.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

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  20. I freaking love your blog and find myself wanting to shout a big "AMEN" after every post I read! My ex-husband and I tried to conceive for 2 years before our 4 year marriage ended. I've been divorced for nearly 1 year now, and though life isn't anything like I planned for it to be, I've never been happier. I want to comment after every post (I love Aveda curl cream - thank for the money saving Garnier tip!), but I won't. But I'll definitely continue to read and share your blog with everyone I know :). The message you're sharing is so important and truly life changing.

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  21. Thank you Mara for so perfectly describing the innate, unstoppable desire for marriage and motherhood! I'm 35 and single and I love your dating "tips" too! True things speak to the heart when we hear/read them and your words are easily recognizable as just that...true. Thank you for an uplifting little read! BTW, I think I stroll in the park and a chat sounds absolutely delightful. (we have few mutual friends...I felt jealous of them that they already know you)

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  22. and i say WOW to your post! this post and other recent events combine to be a powerful motivator to me as a mother to my two boys. each day is so precious and important. i need to take advantage of each opportunity to teach my boys and to love them.

    i just found your blog via kelly mccaleb's blog. i've been reading through the archives [glad i found it before there were too many to read!] and am looking forward to many more, especially your insights on marriage as mine struggles

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  23. Hi Mara - found your blog through a friend of a friend, I think. I too had infertility problems and had a friend give me a useful tip that has worked twice. Of course I don't know what you are going through but you did mention IUI, which is what I did. You know how they tell you to call in the day your ovulation stick shows a surge, then they make an appt for the next day? Well, if you are able to predict what day that will be, just call in the day BEFORE your surge day, so you visit the dr. ON your surge day. Like, if you surge on Wed and they make an appt for you on Thu but on Tues you know you're going to surge the next day, just call in Tues (may be a little dishonest but who cares when you're trying to have a kid!?) and make an appt for Wed, your surge day. Or just insist to your dr. that you want to come in the DAY OF your actual surge instead of the day after. Anyhow, like I said, has worked twice now for me. Feel free to ignore my advice, I know I hated hearing what others had to say, but just thought I'd share in the off chance it could work. Good luck!

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  24. "Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been
    PREPARING THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE TO BE FAITHFUL TO THE LORD THEIR GOD." Alma 48:7 Book of Mormon

    This is the phrase I aspire to when I start to get bogged down by the mundane tasks of motherhood. I guess it's my way of saying what you said here:

    "I believe that Heavenly Father has chosen women to carry out a great work. It is so much more than making meal after meal, providing clean laundry, and trying to put your little ones to sleep. The work that mothers do is divine. It is about teaching your children how to live and teaching them how to turn their hearts to our Heavenly Father."

    It's cool how the verse is actually talking about a military leader, but it applies to motherhood and womanhood. Thanks for reminding me.

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  25. I am amazed at this post and what you have learned and the peace you have found. I am not there yet. I want to be but I am not sure how to release this hurt and pain and anger. I feel how you did when you said I am struggling to find my purpose. I know it requires me to relearn my faith. Thank you for your example.

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  26. I am so grateful that you recognize God in all aspects of your experience. But I am truly inspired by your understanding of agency. I too, know how it feels to loose faith and distance yourself from God because of infertility. We have struggled 8 years with it and out of those struggles came 3 amazing, perfect daughters. Through adoption and many in-vitro treatments my faith and love for my Heavenly Father has grown in ways I didn't know was possible. I had to go into the black to see the light. I was then able to made a choice, I knew God's plan for me was for me to do as much as I could do and then He would fill in the rest. I was not sure where that would take me. But now, after 8 years of pain, heart ache, struggle, and understanding total loss, I can see His plan for me was perfect. Endure to the end. Have faith and be okay with the pain, without that pain your joy won't be as sweet! Thank you for this amazing article. Much love to you.

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  27. My son just passed away in November (a mere 51 days after he was born)and through it all my foundation in my faith in Christ and the Atonement made that heartache bearable. I never felt alone in my grief because I knew He was there with me.

    The blessings promised me will be mine as long as I remain faithful to the covenants I have made in the Temple. The resurrection is real and is so comforting to know that we can be together forever.

    I really appreciate you talking about becoming a true woman of God, and letting go of our natural selves. Thank you for sharing your testimony! I echo your sentiments that we choose happiness. We can choose.


    http://thepodgefiles.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thank you Tracy, for sharing what you did. We are so sorry for your loss, but also grateful that you have found the ultimate source of comfort. Thank you for adding your voice to the many different and trying circumstances of life that people pass through, and yet can still turn to that great truth -- That you can indeed choose how you respond, and that depending on the choices you make you either allow or block God from giving you the comfort and peace and love we all so diligently seek when faced with such things.

      We can choose! Thank you!

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  28. Love this post !! I can find myself in your words

    I try really hard to be grateful for the opportunity to learn with infertility, but its still painful sometimes, specially mother`s day!!!

    I loved your blog. My husband showed me today, he served with Danny in Manaus, we where there for the dedication. You are a beautiful couple

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  29. I am 56 and divorced. I supposed I'm going to be punished for getting a divorce. My husband was borderline fertile. I went through a number of painful and expensive tests and they never found any problems with me. I know I"m supposed to be optimistic and all that but I feel really bad that my line is going to die out. It doesn't sound very encouraging for the next life either. All I hear about is adoption and adopted children won't get my line going either--just someone else's.

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  30. This was an amazing post! Thank you! I've just begun my journey to finding healing and happiness despite my circumstances. My husband and I just experienced our first failed IVF. I really thought I was doing well with trusting Heavenly Father and believing his promises and trusting that He'll ALWAYS take care of us and His will brings the greatest blessings. Since getting the result of our IVF last month, it has been a little different story. I'm working and trying to get to that place you talked about. That place where I can be so happy even when things are not going the way I hoped and prayed they would. I am really wanting to become the woman/wife/mother that Heavenly Father wants me to be and that my family need. I'm just trying to figure out where to start.

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  31. Thanks for giving nice information regarding fertility problems. It would be more helpful if it contains treatment tips.

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  32. In our ward in Frankfurt we had two couples in their 30s that had been married for over 10 years and were childless. Independent of each other they each adopted a child. Soon after they had an adopted child, both women became pregnant and soon each gave birth to a healthy child.
    Coincidence? I don't think so. Would it work like this in every case? I don't know. But maybe it is worth a try. Adopt a child and see what happens.

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