A couple of months ago, we were at my parents' house getting ready for Christmas dinner when one of my nieces coming running down the stairs crying because of something my crazy son had done. So, I called him down and asked what had happened. His reply was, “Well, I guess I gotta tell you the truth because, ya know Jesus? Ya, well he knows everything anyway.” He continued on with throwing himself under the bus.
My point in telling you this is that when I received the invitation to speak today I really struggled at first as to which direction and approach to take this. Through lots and lots of prayer, I just kept feeling like I just needed to be me. Just share my story. No holds bars. I kept thinking, I've gotta liken my situation to someone in the scriptures, like Alma or Sarah and Hagar or something. But I just felt uncertain about it. Still frustrated, I called my speaking partner to get a feel as to the direction we should go. And, you know what she said to me? She said, “People come from all over not to hear about Alma. We know about Alma. We want to know about you.” And it's funny because those exact words of “just tell about you” kept coming to me while writing this. So that's what you get. The raw, awful truth that's me. I've decided not to sugar coat the story and just give you me. Because ya know Jesus, ya well He knows everything.
So, as I child I never had any reason to doubt that one day I was going to be a mother when I grew up. Like most of you, I played with my dolls all the time. I babysat after school, weekends and all summer long. I watched my sisters for my parents. My mom even told me once that I took the role so seriously that I would even try to take over her discipllinarian role.
So, when I found myself struggling with fertility issues at the beginning of our newly married life, it was pretty devastating at first. Especially being LDS – everyone has a ton of kids and they have them pretty quickly. At this point, we had only been married about a year but people began asking my husband and I when we were going to have a baby. (as if it were their business.) These questions make me really defensive and at times even angry. I tried really hard to answer their question really lighthearted but inside, that darn question from others would literally hurt.
Well, time went on and year after year we still had no baby. I felt my body was betraying me because after all, this was my calling in life, was it not? We are told to multiply and replenish the earth, right? This was a righteous desire, right? So, why were we finding this commandment so hard to keep – and actually not being able to keep it was not the problem. We were not able to follow it at all!
Little things seemed to make the pain hurt the most. Things like seeing the school buses picking up and dropping off the little ones. Commercials with mothers holding their babies. Christmases were very hard. We would always come home to Boise for the holidays but there were literally babies everywhere and watching my sisters with their little ones would kill me inside. They would be opening up their pajamas on Christmas eve or building gingerbread houses together or even just baking cookies for their kids. The holidays are really about and for the children – but we did not have any.
Mother's day! Oh Mother's day! It was THE WORST !! Especially going to church on Mother's day! (The ones I could bring myself to go to.) There was always this awkward moment with you and the young man handing out the plants, or candy bars or whatever the gift may be of “Do I have her the flower? Do I not hand her the flower? For me it was, “Do I take the plant, do I not take the plant.?”
It looked honestly everywhere I looked, I saw a painful reminder of what I lacked. It seemed that women all around me were pregnant. I saw people who mistreated their children were having child after child. Even children were having children. Some woman would complain to me about their children or how miserable they were in their pregnancy and I would literally want to hurt them. My older sisters were almost done having their kids. My younger sisters were having children. My nieces were having children. EVERYONE was having a child !! My friends were all having children, therefore moving to a different phase of their lives. Which, in turn, made the circle of people I was compatible with, that much smaller.
What made it harder is that it's such a lonely trial. I did not know of one single person who I could go to that could honestly say they understood. Not one single person.
My husband and I received fertility treatment after treatment. You name it – we tried it, and probably two or three times. This costing us thousands of dollars. We were actually told twice that treatment was worked and that I was pregnant. Twice, they were what I'll call “false positives.” We even attempted adoption unsuccessfully two times. We fasted. Our families fasted. We prayed. Our families prayed. Our names were added to temple prayer rolls. Still, no baby.
At one point I even tried bargaining with Heavenly Father in an effort to help us reverse this trial. I believed in miracles and I was desperate for one. I was convinced that there was something I needed to do better. Something I was not doing right or some spiritual lesson I needed to learn. I thought also that there was something from my past I had done maybe that I was being punished for. I needed to figure our thing was and fix it! However, trying to change myself and bargaining with the Lord and doing everything I was supposed to be doing still did not change the fact that we were childless.
This struggle lasted for nearly nine years. During this time, I have to be fully honest. My relationship with my Heavenly Father was affected. It seemed that for years my prayers went unanswered – therefore obviously unheard. Soon I hate to admit, I lost the desire to pray alike. I found myself becoming an angry person inside. I became less and less humble and more and more angry. My life was going in a direction I did not want it to. I remember specifically one Sunday at church a woman had come up to me and I was once again asked when we were planning on having kids. I simply told her it was not the Lord's plan for us quite yet. Her response to me haunted me for a long time. She told me that maybe I was not cut out to be a mother because some women just were not, or maybe I just was not ready. This made me sick. REALLY!?! REALLY?!? Because the young 14 year old girl I saw last week was TOTALLY ready to be a mother to the child she was carrying?!?!
I grabbed my husband by the hand and we left the building. When we got home, I went directly to our room and plopped myself down on the floor. It was there on those hardwood floors that I realized I had actually believed my long unanswered prayers meant that I was not loved by or even remembered by my Heavenly Father. He did not know me. He could have cared less who I was or what I was going through. That my prayers must have been bouncing off that ceiling because clearly no one was listening to them. I remember when I actually realized this, I was unexpectedly once again brought to my knees. I prayed for myself, once again but this time concern something else besides having a child. I remember simply asking, “Do you love me? Do you even know I am here? Do you even know who I am?”
As soon as I asked this question, and I mean as soon as I asked this question, for the very first time in my life, it had never happened before and it has not happened since a prayer was answered instantly. I was overwhelmed with feelings of love, happiness and peace. I did not say anything more in that prayer. I just knelt there. I did not want to leave that spot! That feeling of comfort and peace was so longed for. From that moment I began to understand the gift of the atonement. In Gethsemane our Savior took upon himself our pains, our sorrows, our sicknesses. He sweat drops of blood as he suffered for ALL of our afflictions. Even my infertility. Before this answer to this prayer, I know I understood the atonement and that He did what He did for the world. However, now I KNEW that He did what He did for ME!
I knew that because of the gift of the Atonement, the Savior understood my pain. Because He knew me and what I was going through, I did not have to feel alone. My understanding of the Savior's love for me was forever changed.
During my “healing phase,” so to speak, I came across an Ensign, published in 2005. Something Russell M Nelson said to me and I've kept this near ever ever since. He writes …
“I recognize that, on occasion, some of our most fervent prayers may seem to go unanswered. We wonder, 'Why?' But I also know that our prayers are never ignored. we know of our mortal problems and pain, He knows of our immortal progress and potential. If we pray to know His will and submit ourselves to it with patience and courage, heavenly healing can take place in His own way and time. ”
-Russell M. Nelson, “Jesus Christ-the Master Healer,” Ensign, Nov. 2005
About a year or so after that answer to my prayer, we were blessed although adoption with a beautiful son. And three and a half years after that, we were blessed with a perfect adopted daughter. Those are long stories in and of themselves. I do not know if this deeper, personal understanding of the atonement or realizing that my Savior indeed did know me and love me was the lesson I was intended to learn. However, I do know that I am loved. I know that I am worth something. A lot, actually, in the eyes of the Lord. I know my Savior knows me by name.
I had to learn that my importance was not to be determined by the number of children I am blessed with. I actually still have to remind myself of this. I am learning that I am not loved anymore or any less than another who has let's say 8 children. M Russell Ballard once said, “Sadly, in today's world, a person's importance is often judged by the size of audience before which he or she fulfills. That is how media and sports programs are rated, how corporate prominence is sometimes determined and often how Government rank is obtained. That may be why roles such as father, mother, and missionary seldom receive standing ovations. Father, mothers and missions “play” before very small audiences. size of awareness that is of lasting importance – and that is just one, … ”
People still ask “when are you gonna have another one? Are you gonna have another one? And honestly, that question still stands a bit. It still hurts but only because it's out of my control. I do not know if we'll be blessed with another opportunity to adopt. But I do know, that I feel incredibly blessed with the two I've been entrusted with.
So, here's what I've learned … Often times God gives us answers to our problems not by eliminating the problem. (mine still has not gone away), but by giving us the strength to face them.
I feel now that on numerous occasions through my life, God has taught me that I have been preserved and prepared for a unique calling. That makes me special. That reminds me that he has not forgotten me – actually quite the opposite. He remembered me, my strengths and my weaknesses and saved me for something extra special. ? I've had to completely change my way of thinking. I can no longer allow myself to ask “why in the world was I given this trial? Or, what have I done to deserve this? – as if God is really up there casting some curse on me. 've just now started to get an idea as to why I had to wait nine years to get him. I am just beginning to understand that I was being prepared and preserved to raise this particular little boy and this particular little girl. 't forgotten them either.
I've also learned that we should not judge others for their actions and choices and trials. EVER. We honestly have no clue what turmoil they are experiencing.
One day last week, my daughter was having a particularly rough morning. My son took full advantage of it by teasing her with his little plastic snake, that he knew she was afraid of. She fought, Stop it! Stop it! A few times before I decided to step in. I asked him, “son, what part of STOP do you not understand? His response so funny, it took all I had to not laugh out loud.” ”
When we see someone who's struggling, sometimes it's easy to say, “Oh, if that were me, than I'd do such a thing. Or, I'm NEVER do such n.” I swear, during the 9 years I waited for my kids, I thought I was going to be the perfect mother and I had it all figured out! But boy, was I wrong.
You see, my daughter was having a rough enough morning as it was. She did not need her brother kicking her while she was down.
Are we not hard enough on ourselves ?? We should not have to worry about what others are saying to / about us?
President Ukdorf said it so perfectly, so I will quote him word for word.
He said, “Stop it!
We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.
I've learned that if I can keep my focus on others' needs, it helps me forget about my trials. We need to be there to remind others who are struggling that they are not forgotten either. We are not to judge them. Just love them. Both of the birthmother's who have sacrificed so much for my son and my daughter I'm sure have experienced heart ached beyond my comprehension. Yet, have had to struggle with the opinions and judgments of others. I would never want them to feel that we had forgotten them or take their sacrifice for granted. It is my job to help them not feel forgotten.
Maybe you've lost a loved one. He has not forgotten you.
You or one of your children may be an addict. He has not forgotten you.
Maybe you're struggling financially, or with job security. He has not forgotten you.
You may feel all alone. He has not forgotten you.
Maybe you are being hurt or have suffered from abuse. He has not forgotten you.
You may be going through a divorce. He has not forgotten you.
Maybe you're single woman who has wound up pregnant. He has not forgotten you.
We are going to face trials. We are. Some more difficult that others. Some will last a lot longer than others. But the Savior will always be there for us. He has made this a promise. He gave his life for us! For me. For you. That's how we know He remembers us.