My big sister instincts are kicking into high gear (they've been simmering for a few weeks now) and I feel some pulpit pounding coming on--I just can't stop myself. I would apologize, but that's just not how it works around here!
Several years ago I was serving in the Young Women's Organization with one of my neighbors. Her husband was in the military and deployed or gone for short periods of time quite often. She had four children. Some of them had medical problems. Some of them had developmental problems. But all in all, they were a happy family with problems just like anyone else. One evening, on the way home from Girl's Camp, my friend shared a little secret with the rest of us. She was almost six months pregnant. And they had not told anyone!!! When we gasped in astonishment that she could keep it secret for that long, she said they hadn't told anyone because they were worried what people would think, especially her family, and that they would be upset with her because they didn't think she should have anymore children because her life was hard enough as it was. She and her husband (and God) had other ideas.
She told us that she had gone to our bishop in tears, wondering if they had made the right choice and what she should say to her family. He told her that she had nothing to be ashamed of, that many good people today are willfully not fully keeping their covenants or not understanding them by not obeying the law to "multiply and replenish the earth", a law that is still in full force, and that she should have full confidence that she was in the right, and that the Lord would help her and bless her family for their faithfulness.
Her story really shook me up, especially in that stage of life where I was dealing with the opposite struggle. If there is any kind of lesson Mark and I learned from our years of hoping for a baby, it was that "family planning" is really an illusion that makes us mere mortals think we have a little bit of control of how we want things to be. Babies come when they are supposed to come. I couldn't imagine not sharing that kind of happy news with my family, and I hope that I would always show love and support to others.
I remembered this instance again a couple years ago when Mark and I attended a fabulous Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting through our church, titled "Building Up a Righteous Posterity." We were deeply impressed and inspired, and I would encourage anyone to read through it. February 2008 Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Building Up a Righteous Posterity Here is the part that I loved the most. It would have helped my friend feel so much better, I think. This is what was said, in a "conversation" between Pres. Julie Beck of the Relief Society and Elder Oaks and Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
There’s also the ward family. As
we’ve mentioned, in every ward you’re
going to have a spectrum of experience
and challenges. Some of those
women will be able to have children;
some will be married; some will be
widowed; some won’t. In reality there
are a few women who will be able to
have children and have a lot of them.
In that ward family we should rally
around and support those who invite
children into their family. It’s a challenge
to have a large family. I would
certainly hope that no member of the
Church would approach another sister
in the ward and say, “You’re crazy for
having another child,” but rather celebrate
her ability and her desire to have
them and say, “I’m supporting you. Let
me do all I can to encourage and help
you in that.”
I’m glad you mentioned that,
because we do get reports that some
Latter-day Saints criticize other Latterday
Saints for having children. I remember
early in our marriage when
my wife June was pregnant with our
fifth child, a very active sister in our
ward said to her, “What are you trying
to do, populate the world all by
yourself?” And I was proud of June
when she came right back with a
response: “I can’t think of anyone
better to do it.”
And we all acknowledge—Sister
Tanner touched on it—that there are
issues of health, there are issues that
are not materialistic. We’re not talking
about money or political correctness
or deference to society, we’re talking
about legitimate gospel-oriented
things that we watch and measure.
That is all the more reason not to
judge. We teach, we encourage, we
rally, we cheer; within the context of
the gospel we encourage people to
seek that destiny that is theirs.
Today I was reading 2 Cor. 1 and it reminded me that one thing we should be glad about in our tribulations is that we can help others get through theirs with the lessons we will learn. I remember that one thing I didn't like when we were having our infertility issues was when I would do something nice/cool/interesting/fun, such as make a fancy dessert for a family get- together, and I would hear comments like "I remember when I had time to do things like that!" or, "Oh sure, YOU can do that. YOU don't have any kids." I know people mean well, and are trying to make a personal connection, but I always felt like my actions were belittled, that I was only able to be nice/cool/interesting/fun because of my situation, and not just because of who I am and what I like to do, regardless. (And I was right--now I have four kids and I still read fat novels, make fancy desserts, go on dates with my husband, research genealogy, and have time to write long diatribes like this on my blog...)
And now in the opposite challenge, with four kids, three who are quite close together in age, I must admit that I have very much grown to dislike the phrase, "You've got your hands full." It always carries such a reek of disapproval, or at it's best is only focusing on the negative. How about, "You are doing such an awesome job!" or "Look how strong you are!" or even Sister Hinckley's favorite, for when I'm having a bad day, "Well, this family's got a lot of faith...we'll pray you through it."
I've said enough, and I meant what I said.
Hooray for babies!!!