I had to write a personal narrative as my final paper in my English class. I will probably post all of the papers I wrote for that class, but this one really hits close to home as we get ready for our sweet little one joining us within the next couple of weeks. For anyone who has struggled after a baby, this is for you too.
Angry Prayers and Grace
I was 14 weeks pregnant with our “surprise” baby, and we were sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for her to come in. Something didn’t feel right, I was bleeding, cramping, I wasn’t growing, and I wasn’t feeling sick at all. Our OB came in, she started the ultrasound and looked around for what felt like an eternity, I could see our little baby, and then what we feared most was confirmed, “The baby is no longer developing, I am so sorry” she said, as delicately as she possibly could. We hadn’t planned for another baby, but losing our precious little one changed my husband and I as parents. We hung our heads low as we left the office that day, tears streaming down our faces. We had just embraced the idea of having a large family, we were so excited, and this would have been our 5th baby in 5 years. We were devastated for months by this loss, the depression following a miscarriage was unlike anything I experienced before. I thought I had learned all I needed to know about appreciating motherhood after this intense trial in our lives. Boy, was I wrong.
A little over a year later, as I held our 5th baby in my arms, I felt on top of the world! We had cried, tried, struggled, pleaded, and prayed for another baby. This little “rainbow” baby (a child born after miscarriage or infant loss) was sent to heal our family. I had 5 children 6 and under, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by it. The tremendous joy and satisfaction had completely made up for the aching sadness that came from losing our baby the year before. I bounced back so quickly, both physically and emotionally, and I felt like a rockstar mom with my 5 little ones!
Ten months later we were pregnant with our 6th baby! Little did I know, this was the beginning of the hardest phase of motherhood, I encountered to date. I would learn grace and the enabling power of the Atonement like never before. This is when I would breakdown, hurt, struggle, and feel the most inadequate I ever have. This is also when I would begin to understand how we are meant to wade through trials in this life, no matter how faithful we are, so we can grow in the strength of the Lord.
I remember Jack’s pregnancy and birth so clearly. The day he was born (he was 3 weeks early) I was anxious and didn’t feel ready. I instantly loved him, of course, but I also felt the most exhausted I ever had after all my deliveries. My mind and my body chemistry were not the same after that day. A few weeks later, I experienced a tremendous surge of joy and love for all of my beautiful babies run through my veins in an instant. My heart was so full it felt like it would burst. I think it actually did. At that moment I felt something misfire in my mind. The joy I felt was followed by an unfamiliar, intense sadness that I could not identify. This wouldn’t be the first time this would happen. Anytime I felt emotion surge through me, it would always be followed by sadness, and shortly thereafter, depression and thoughts of suicide. I was scared to feel anything.
My mother and my husband noticed quickly that something wasn’t right. I was anxious, impatient, and somewhat apathetic to everything around me. I wasn’t smiling, I wasn’t snuggling my children as much, I wasn’t holding my baby as much. I would look at him and know I had love inside of me for him, but I couldn’t feel it, I was afraid to feel it. I just knew it was supposed to be there. I felt defeated and depressed that I wasn’t bouncing back to normal. I was caught in a whirlwind of changes, and I couldn’t seem to take a moment to sort through it all.
I never gave in to my thoughts, and I certainly didn’t settle. I was just as concerned as my mom and husband. Then, with my Relief Society President and Visiting Teachers included in my small circle of support, I went on a journey to find doctors who could help me figure out what was going on. Was I finally going to be released from this hell I felt trapped in? Was I finally going to be able to feel again? I had hope.
Just as quickly as I was finding answers and relief, I broke my foot tripping at the bottom of the stairs, with my baby in my arms. He was fine, but in an effort to protect him, my foot was not. The chaos of my life simply wouldn’t allow me to implement the health changes necessary to fix all that was going on in my body hormonally and chemically. Every step forward led to two steps back. I was discouraged and frustrated, and I needed to feel normal yesterday. Couple this with a colicky, extremely temperamental baby who didn’t only wake up at night, but needed my constant touch and presence, I felt my walls caving in. I was living in a glass box. I could see clearly what was going on and how to fix it, but I couldn’t find any way out to actually do anything about it.
One of the changes I needed to make included sleep. I needed sleep to help me heal and recover from the stress, and I could not see any way of achieving this. I was also becoming intolerant to most foods I was eating and the inflammation in my mind and body were out of control. Basically, I was tired and hungry. Doctors, therapists, and my family all confirmed what I feared most, this would take time, but I was afraid if it took too long, it may be too late. I tried to maintain hope that one day I wouldn’t be plagued with these awful feelings of anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. I was ready to be released from it all. I needed to be.
When Jack was 9 months old, with stress piling high, and after months of praying for relief, yet trying to maintain hope that it would all work out, I let out the angriest prayer of my life. It was the wee hours of the morning, and I was crying out and pleading with my baby who wouldn’t be calmed. I turned my yelling and frustration to God:
“Are you there?
Do you know what my body needs?
Have you been listening to any of my prayers?
I already did the work in finding out what I need to fix my broken body!
Why aren’t you helping me fix it?!
I had the baby you told me to have.
Why are you punishing me?!
Why have you forsaken me?
Do you know that I am here?!
I can’t do this alone!!”
After many more exclamations and heartfelt expletives, pleading, and tears, I heard a still small voice enter my mind:
“I am aware of your struggles.
I haven’t left your side.
You knew this was going to happen before you came here, you knew Jack would need this from you, and you agreed to go through this trial so you could be the mother he needed you to be.
You promised that you would do this.
You need to turn your focus to My son, Jack.
You will find relief soon, but you must continue to wade through this trial in faith.”
My anger quickly turned to strength, and my determination to ride through this phase of my life changed. I grew to appreciate my body and my strong-willed spirit, and I was able to hold my chin a little higher. I thought I understood grace before this. It was over the next several months following this experience, when my faith was put to the test for an extended period of time, that I realized grace doesn’t always release us from our trials, sometimes it only helps us find resolve and peace during our trials.
The part that left me in the most awe, was that I was so angry with God, yet He knew my heart and still showed mercy and provided me with an answer when I deserved it the least. During that prayer, I imagined throwing my fists into His chest, screaming at Him at the top of my lungs, tears streaming down my face, and yelling at Him two inches from His. Then, I imagine, He took the blows, wrapped His loving arms around me, calmed me down with a firm voice, and reminded me of my purpose. He added to my faith and enabled me to keep going. To me, this is the strongest example of how His grace works in our lives, or at least in mine.
As I embrace new phases of motherhood, this moment with my Heavenly Father stands out in my mind, enabling me to power through. I am able to find more joy in motherhood, and I have been able to let go of my own expectations. I seek His guidance on my journey more faithfully. The simplest way for me to greet each day now is with a prayer that Heavenly Father will help me do what He sees as most important. I am happier, lighter, and my body is healing. I still have moments of frustration and discouragement, but I am able to face them with more grace and a better attitude. Jack still needs me more than any of my other children, but that is ok. I promised our Father in Heaven I would follow Him, and He promised me that He would help me give these children all they need from me.
Despite the difficulties yet to face me in this life, I feel adequate to face them along side my Savior and Father in Heaven. I may not face each trial gracefully, but I know His grace will be with me. My faith is intact, and it is my goal and prayer that these lessons stay clear in my mind as we continue to walk down the path of life and parenthood in faith. Oh, by the way, Jack finally did start sleeping through the night when he was 18 months old, and we are now expecting our 7th child. Her name is Naomi Grace.
**Thanks for reading! Comment below if you want to see more posts like this!
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2 Comments Add yours
Oh Ashley, I have never met you in person but I am so grateful to have you in our family. I have had these same experiences where everything I needed, especially sleep and emotional support were not only not there but it seemed something was working against me to be sure I felt completely exhausted, alone, forsaken and helpless. For example, without exception, if I had 15 minutes that I could nap, the phone would ring or someone would knock on the door. You are amazing. Don’t give up, you are doing great things!
Thank you for your kind words! I can completely relate!