Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Lessons of 2006: Equal To My Day

I became a mother at the age of thirty. I had twelve years of adulthood under my belt by the time my first daughter was born—twelve years of doing what I wanted, when I wanted, and lots of excitement. Within the space of nine months and five days, I had gone from a Professional Single Young Woman to Wife, and then Stay-at-Home-Mom. My busy-yet-organized life of goals and checklists and accomplishments came to a grinding halt.

Good-bye, control freak, hello new mom.

The first out-of-control thing my daughter introduced to me was parental love. I was totally unprepared for the depth of emotion and sense of connection and responsibility I had for her. I was shocked at the heart wrenching sadness I felt when they took her out of the hospital room for a few minutes to do her neo-natal tests. I sobbed when I heard her cries as they stuck her heel. And then I sobbed some more because I knew that old quote about my heart living outside of my body was coming true. What had I done? I had opened myself up for a whole new world of joy and sorrow. As much as I thought I knew what was coming, the love was something beyond any possible description—something I never could have known without experiencing it for myself.

The following weeks and months brought on a slew of things that were beyond my control. After a few weeks, I could no longer remember what it was like to sleep for 8 hours at a time (and I had a relatively mellow baby—it’s just that she ate slow and I obsessed about every little breath she took)—I was thrilled to get 4 hours. What luxury! What utter decadence to sleep for 4 hours! With the sleep deprivation came the slippery slope of “letting myself go.” A shower longer than 2 minutes AND blow-drying my hair became a great indulgence. A really, super-good day included some make up and pants without drawstrings. Oh, and shoes, because on a super-good day, we might leave the house.

While I could often find joy and revel in my new role, I also often felt totally overwhelmed and alone. And then feeling overwhelmed made me feel like a loser. I’d say to myself, “She’s ONE LITTLE BABY! You can’t handle ONE baby? Most of the world does this three or four or five times over and you’re freaking out with ONE?” And of course I thought I was the only horrible woman who wasn’t a natural mother; the only wretch who ever had a hard time nursing, who sometimes cried when her baby cried, and found it difficult to do her wife stuff and housekeeping stuff while trying to figure out the mother stuff.

Eventually I got used to my new life. For two years, I struggled with my new slower pace. My daughter grew into a sweet toddler and I felt like I might be ready for another baby. My second daughter came, and it wasn’t such a terrible adjustment. She slept more and ate faster and life was good. But I had lots more going on the second time around. We were building a house and I was serving in the Young Women’s Presidency and I was carving my niche in a new town and culture. I felt overwhelmed all over again, in a different way.

But even in my stress, I knew that I was trying to do good things. I felt that I was, for the most part, “about my Father’s business”, and that he would help me. A phrase I remembered from Wilford Woodruff’s journals rang through my mind almost everyday. When he was called to be President of the church, Elder Woodruff wrote, “I pray God my Heavenly Father to make me equal to my day” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, p. xxx). I started saying that to myself like a mantra. It was my daily prayer, and I began to see that my prayer was answered. I noticed that as long as I gave my honest best efforts, I had enough energy and health to complete the tasks I faced. Like the principle of tithing, when we put the Lord first, there is always enough. I may have been running on three hours of sleep, but I believe God made me able to finish the worthy things on my daily checklist. Somehow, when I put him first, I had just enough time and just enough energy to do His work.

In the few years of my motherhood I have gained a testimony that raising my children is my part in building the kingdom today. I made a commitment at baptism to take upon me the Lord’s name and his work, and I promised over the altar as I was sealed to my husband that we would be fruitful. Although many days and many tasks seem menial, and there is too much on my plate, I remind myself that I am keeping my covenants and God will help me. Even with the testimony I’ve gained I still find myself saying. “Oh, I would die if Heavenly Father asked me to ___,” or, “They better not EVER ask me to do ___. “

Silly me.

That attitude began to change in the fifth year of our marriage when we decided to have a third child. Like the other two times, we decided to have a baby and I was pregnant within six weeks. I remember thinking as I took the pregnancy test, “This is so exciting and so hopeful…I feel so bad for my friends who go through this month after month, hoping, watching for the two lines and only seeing one…or seeing the two lines and then miscarrying a few weeks later…I am so glad that hasn’t happened to me…[and then the old familiar] I don’t think I could ever live through that!” I never felt ungrateful for this amazing fertility, but I guess I was just sort of used to having a baby when I wanted a baby. I really liked having a spring baby, so I was going to do it again and lah-dee-dah. I felt super-blessed this time because I wasn’t even sick—just tired. Maybe it was a boy!

Of course you know what happened. I went in for my 10-week appointment and everything looked great. Everyone was so happy about my pregnancy, great to see the doctor again, let’s do an ultra sound at 12 weeks to confirm the dates. At the ultra sound, the tech said I must have my dates wrong because the embryo only measured 7 weeks. I felt like my heart stopped and I tried to catch my breath. You see, I never get my dates wrong…my body runs like clockwork, and so do our “romantic dates.” So I held it together in the office, but fell to pieces on the way out because something was very wrong. I just didn’t think that the little fishy we saw on the screen was still alive. A week later, my feelings were confirmed and I went through that process so many women go through—an experience that just weeks before I had sworn I would never survive.

But I was made equal to my day. Not only did I survive, but my heart and soul were opened up and strengthened in ways I hadn’t experienced in years. That humbling experience opened me up to so much more teaching from the Holy Spirit that followed that sad week. I remember Rich’s cousin telling me that she, too, had a miscarriage between her second and third children. She said, “It was really hard because were ‘planners’, too, but six weeks later I conceived my last son and he has been the sunshine of my life. He has totally blessed our family.” And guess what? Six weeks after my miscarriage, I conceived a son who lights up my life everyday.

So I am trying to never say never. I am trying to replace the negative “I can’t…” with the faithful response, “with Heavenly Father, I can.” He knows my limitations and where I need to grow and I know that if I let him, he will always make me equal to my day.


Jenn said...

I hope some day I too can feel equal to my day. Most days I just don't feel like "enough"....KWIM?

Misery Loves Company said...

You never cease to amaze me with your ability to "put pen to paper" and express your deepest feelings...I am so proud of you and I love you so much!!My heart outside my body is how I feel about each one of you. Kids can just kill you, with joy or sorrow....But it is so worth every sleepless, poo cleaning, dish doing, hair washing& bathing moment!!! love mom

The Zimmermans said...

Jamie, your writing inspires me. I came back to your melinhead blog, poked around, and found Framanisco -- just what I was looking for. Let me say simply this: Thank you for writing.

Kevin Z.

Kacy said...

I had a miscarriage before I had my first baby.