This review is a stop on the Virtual Book Tour for The Gift of Giving Life.
So many of you want to know about why I chose a natural childbirth. I didn’t think it would be so tricky to write about, but it has had me stumped for several weeks now as to how to explain my feelings.
I decided that I should write this post in the hopes that perhaps my experiences can help someone else, but everyone reading this needs to remember what a blog is for…expressing people’s personal opinions. In no way do I want to come across as judgmental, just as I do not want to be judged for my opinions. I do not think less of people who do not choose natural childbirth. I do not think I am someone special just because I did it. There are many women who may yearn for the opportunity to have a natural birth but for some reason, medically or otherwise, are not able to. There are many more who long to simply carry a child of their own, but are unable to. I have been there, and I remember the hurt. In no way do I want to offend anyone by what I write, especially when I talk about pregnancy and the blessings and learning opportunities that go along with it.
Women are all different. Too often we try to compare ourselves to others, to measure up to somebody else, but we’re just setting ourselves up for failure. We are not the same. We do not have the same challenges or trials. We don’t all have the same blessings and joys either. My thoughts here are for me, you don’t have to apply them to your own life. Please try and read this simply as my experience, the opportunities that have specifically come to me, and what insight I was able to glean from them for my own life.
Phew. Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
I believe that the family is central to God’s plan of happiness and that we can live with our family members after we die. I believe that God’s commandment to Adam and Eve to “multiply and replenish the earth” remains in force today, and that children have the right to be brought up by loving parents who are committed to each other, their marriage, and their children. I believe that parents have the responsibility to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of their children, and to teach them to be good people and citizens. I believe that families can be more successful when they incorporate faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities into their lives. I try to base my goals and decisions around all of these beliefs.
After our sixth child was born, I had some health struggles. I was battling lots of different physical symptoms and a few emotional ones as well, including depression. Fortunately for me, this only lasted a few months before I was able to be diagnosed with a thyroid disease. A small pill once a day and my world returned to normal, but not before I had come to the conclusion that my family was more than enough for what I could handle and that surviving each day was enough of a challenge for me. We decided that our family was complete, and felt fine about that decision.
It was during those trying times for me (before the diagnosis) that things got really hard. Although Michael had a job, the economy was really bad and he was barely covering his overhead. Without an income, we lived off our food storage and our savings for almost a year. He started applying for jobs, first in Utah, then around the US, and finally anywhere in the world (including a tiny little island called American Samoa)
While all of this was happening, Michael received a very strong revelation in answer to his prayers of what to do. The answer blew both of us away, we were to have another child. What? No! Neither one of us could believe it, but after a few weeks of fasting, prayer, and meditation in the temple, we both knew that this was the right thing for our family, so we tried to have faith and forget our fears!
(I include this background because for me, this is a story of faith. If we have faith, we can ask the Lord for guidance in our lives and trust that the inspiration we receive is from Him. Then we must exercise faith to act upon it.)
A year passed, we were still not pregnant, and we were both silently relieved thinking we had passed the “faith test”. Then, a different one came along. A job offer in American Samoa. Again, we reasoned that this was not the right decision for our family, and again (in a much clearer and personal answer), we received a witness that moving our family to American Samoa was the right thing to do. What? Seriously?…Yep.
So, there we were in American Samoa wondering when this little baby was going to come to our family. Another year went by, and then finally, we discovered that we were pregnant. Because so much time had passed, I think we were kind of relieved now that we could plan and move forward. I wasn’t scared to have another baby any more. I was totally healthy (ha! ha!), totally sane (ha! ha!) and ready for another sweet child to join our family. The scary part for me this time around was the realization that we’d be delivering this baby in American Samoa where the “hospital” with its chickens, rats, and wild dogs running around wasn’t exactly the same standard we’d been used to in the States, and there are no epidurals there! I had no choice but to prepare for a natural childbirth.
I didn’t want to freak out, I mean, women have been doing this for thousands of years right? Why couldn’t I? The thing is, I’m the kind of person who really doesn’t mind pain medication at all! When I have a headache, I take a Tylenol. Sorry to disappoint you if you were reading this hoping I was one of those women who was all about natural everything (and there’s nothing wrong with those people, I’m just not one of them!). I have friends who are into essential oils, herbs, hypnosis, acupuncture reflexology, special diets and much more. Good for them. As for me, I wish I cared more, but at this time in my life, I don’t. When I’m sick, I go to the doctors, and when I have a baby, I get an epidural. The end. (Remember, no judging!)
Well anyway, if you know me, you know that I also like to be prepared. I don’t handle the unexpected very well. I like to know what I’m getting in for, and prepare myself the best I can. I started to get my resources together. I studied several natural birthing books to help me prepare for breathing, pain, etc. They were fine, but it was one book in particular that I can honestly say changed my life.
I have a friend who is a doula and natural childbirth advocate. She wrote a birth story which was submitted for publication in a new book. I had been aware of this for a couple of years, and had been anxiously awaiting the publication. It was finally published just a couple of weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Coincidence? I think not.
Introducing the book, The Gift of Giving Life (click on link to go to webpage, there are Free Bonus Gifts when you buy a copy of The Gift of Giving Life during this book tour.)
As the webpage says, this book doesn’t advocate for any one type of birth, (there are stories of women who deliver by Cesarean with epidurals, without pain medication, at home, water births etc) but it intends to unify families and communities in regard to the sacredness of birth. It is a spiritual look at pregnancy, birth, and mothering for women of all faiths. Although most of the essays and birth stories are written by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the doctrines apply to all Christians, as well as faith filled women of other religions.
I read this book four times during my pregnancy. The pages are bent over, highlighted in different colors, with notes in the margins. I learned more about myself and the divine nature of pregnancy and birth in the last nine months than I did the rest of my life combined (which says a lot because I always wanted to be a mother and have studied this kind of topic diligently for years, including my four year university degree in marriage, family, and human development!)
It’s hard to summarize this book or what I learned in one blog post, I hope you all get a copy and read it yourselves! There are chapters on the importance of giving life, personal revelation, patience, preparation, meditation, fear, pain, the atonement, and unity. In all of these topics, essays based on scriptural doctrine and personal birth stories spoke to me and changed my heart and my desires.
In November, doctors were very concerned about some health problems I was having. There was no specialist on the island to check me out, and no diagnostic machines either. The doctors told me that it wasn’t safe to deliver on the island, and that I needed to fly back to the State to have the baby. At 35 weeks pregnant, we left American Samoa and flew back to Utah. I think that now that we’d be having the baby in the states, most people assumed that I would have an epidural, but I now had my heart set on giving birth naturally. It was my choice. I didn’t have to do it. I wanted to. I knew it would be a privilege.
I felt like I had been saved, like my other four pregnancies had been missed opportunities, that I was being given one last chance to learn what I needed to. I had fallen victim to many others in this state or country where we hand all control and decisions over to our doctor. We assume that he knows best on every count, and we follow his directions like sheep. My last two deliveries were very much like this. Scheduled inductions on a day that was convenient for everyone involved, and then following the steps to get baby here, almost like a factory production line. I hadn’t thought anything of it at the time, and thought that those two births were very successful and easy. Not any more. I finally came to understand how sacred birth is, and what an amazing opportunity those of us who have the privilege of giving birth have to understand ourselves more as women and daughters of God.
While pregnancy and birth are physical processes, they can also be deeply spiritual. As I read and studied about the faith of women in the scriptures, I felt empowered. I knew that God would fortify me with the strength and courage to do this divine thing. He designed my body to be able to do this.
As I read, it wasn’t like I learned anything new, it’s almost like I was being reminded of what I’d always known, but had forgotten. Some of the scriptures and insights that touched me were “remembering” the following:
* Childbirth is a sacred event that is intended to turn our hears and minds, and even bodies to the Savior.
* Heavenly Father created women. He could have designed a way for children to be born without pain, discomfort, and agony. We can only presume that women have the opportunity to gain something from the experience. Giving birth strengthens our love of Jesus Christ. The act of experiencing pain for the sake of another helps us understand the Atonement better.
* Christ came to a point in the Garden of Gethsemane where He would rather not have gone through with it. Yet, He humbly surrendered His will, and that is when His Father sent an angel. Elder Holland said that we have the right and opportunity to call on unseen angles to assist us too, and that the power of heaven stands ready to render aid to a life-giving mother.
* In any situation, when we follow God’s will for us, we should not be praying for our circumstances to be changed, but for strength and courage to be able to handle those circumstances. Although I knew that it was possible that God could take away the pain of childbirth, that was probably not His plan for me! My prayers were pleadings to be given the strength equal to what God was asking of me. I needed to be willing to submit to all things which the Lord saw fit to inflict upon me.
* I needed to have integrity during my pregnancy. For me, this meant not deferring all decisions to my doctor. It meant having confidence in what I knew was best for my body and my baby. It was difficult to do this when I got intense pressure from my doctor to get induced early (solely for his convenience because he was going out of town). At this point there were no health problems for me or the baby, but he was brutal about it. On two visits he reamed into me for not doing things his “production line” way like I had done in the past. He was certain that I would have a “natural experience” if I’d just let him break my bag of waters and start me on pitocin at 39 weeks. (Yes, I cried in the parking lot afterwards). It was really hard, but I knew how I wanted to deliver this baby, and that wasn’t it. I went into labor at 41 weeks on the day he left town (another miracle) so I didn’t have to deliver with him. I delivered with a doctor I’d never met who couldn’t have been more perfect. She let me labor exactly as I wanted and was completely supportive of my decision to give birth naturally.
* One of the things I liked in the chapter on pain was the advice that your body will tell you what position is ideal for labor, and to just follow what your body wants. Again, I count it as no small thing that, for me, the only “comfortable” position for me during contractions was on my knees. This whole pregnancy and conception for me (all three years of it) was about submitting to the will of the Lord. How appropriate that during the most intense parts of labor, I fell to my knees. I spent the whole labor communicating to my Father in Heaven through prayer and asking him to give me strength. I remembered the scripture, “If ye have faith in me ye will have power to do whatever thing is expedient in me”, and it was true. I could do it. It wasn’t easy, and at times when I was alone to deal with the pain (driving in the car to the hospital) I was able to call on Elder Holland’s promise above and receive additional power from heaven.
In Enos 1:12 it says, “And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith”.
My desire in choosing a natural childbirth was to fulfill and more fully experience my sacred role as a life-giver. I wanted to draw closer to the Savior and understand the Atonement more. I wanted Heavenly Father to accept my sacrifice and my faith as signs of my love.
And why did we choose the name Grace? According to the Bible Dictionary, “the main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ….However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient.”
I know that the effort that I made in both learning and preparing for my pregnancy and delivery as well as the actual process of delivery, was pleasing to the Lord. I know that I could not possibly have done it without the divine help and strength that I received through the atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that because of His atonement, I can not only be forgiven for my many sins and wrongdoings, but I can also use this enabling power to do good works, try to be a better person, and ultimately receive exaltation and eternal life.
I am so grateful for Grace.
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