Often when pondering the joy it is to have my two beautiful children, I think of the cast of characters who were responsible for bringing them into the world. I’m sharing the list here because I think it says a lot about LDS communities–how they are structured, how they function, roles, responsibilities, formal and informal authority, stewardships, power, gender roles, balance, reciprocity in relationships, dependence and interdependence, status, family vs ward family vs global family. I don’t want to overshadow the events with too much analysis in this post itself, but those are some of the ideas I have in mind while I write this. I am interested in hearing your thoughts about these themes and discussing it in the comments.
Late 2003–Temple recommend interview:
Stake Presidency member: So, how long have you been married?
me: 3-4 years.
SP: Any kids?
me, pained: No, not yet.
SP, realizing he stumbled into an awkward space, (faux?) cheerfully: Well, I’m sure that blessing will come to you sooner than you think!
Normally these kinds of uninformed platitudes tempt my violent streak, but somehow his unflinching optimism coerces a half smile out of me.
May 2004–Our house:
Our home teacher, a fun, lovable guy whose family had converted within the last few years, was over for a visit. He’s always telling us that we should be visiting him, because we’re “so strong” whereas he always has lots of questions. Our protestations to the contrary only seemed to further ennoble us in his eyes (cf. Arthur Dimmesdale). This visit was no exception. As he’s about to leave, I felt my heart pounding with the impression that I needed to share our secret with him and ask him to pray for us. To my husband’s surprise, I blurted it out–“Brother HT, before you leave–we’re going to be undergoing some fertility treatments this week. Please, as our Home Teacher, could you say a prayer for us?” I immediately felt guilty for putting such unexpected pressure on him and I can tell he’s caught off guard. But he loves us, so he prayed for us.
June 2004–Our house:
I told my visiting teacher that I’m feeling very strange, but I that couldn’t take a test. I just couldn’t look at another negative test. Could not. Sharing details of her feelings as a single mom-to-be years ago, she convinced me to take the test.
Our home teacher was incredulous, and beaming–“Twins?!” He confided that at the time we asked him to pray for us, he’d felt abysmally unworthy of our faith in him. I’m so happy that he could take some credit. He was glowing with joy and pride.
January 9, 2005–Church:
The amen on the closing prayer had scarcely hit the back wall, and I found myself, still seated in the pew, surrounded by a circle of women standing over me. Past Relief Society Presidents, mothers of many, professional women–these are cherished mentors to me.
Sisters: You don’t look well.
I’d been very uncomfortable for the whole meeting. A few tears would roll down my cheeks now and then, but I hardly noticed them, didn’t bother to wipe them. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been comfortable and had just stopped paying attention to discomfort.
me: I’m ok. Just a little backache. I can’t go home yet, I need to do singing time in Primary.
Sister, reaching out and touching my belly: Call your doctor. You should really go to the hospital.
me: Ok, ok! I promise I’ll call my doctor, after singing time.
Sister: If you don’t go to the hospital now, I’ll drag you there myself.
me, for the first time allowing my conscious self to realize the acuteness of my agony, sobbing: Ok. But I’m driving myself.
And I did.
January 9, 2005–Hospital
32 weeks pregnant, 3cm dilated, strong contractions every 3-5 minutes. Desperate to stop the labor, doctors administered maximum doses of a cocktail of drugs. The drugs work by stopping muscle contraction; the heart, as it turns out, is also a muscle. My blood pressure dropped to 60/30. Out of options, and clearly unable to give a higher dose, the nurse told me I’d be sent by ambulance right away to the big hospital, to deliver the babies that day. The big hospital can handle premies this young. I told my husband that I needed a blessing. I refused his offer to just say a blessing himself–we couldn’t wait 20 minutes for another priesthood holder to come with oil, he said. We’ll wait, I said.
Don’t argue with a woman in labor.
My ob/gyn sensed the importance of the ritual and she found an excuse to stall the ambulance staff until a ward member could arrive. With the doctor, two ambulance EMTs, and several nurses looking on, I received a priesthood blessing.
January 9, 2005–Big hospital
The doctors were incredulous. The laboring woman sent to them to be delivered was not in labor.
February 10, 2005–Out and about:
The Relief Society President was accompanying me to help me with some errands that had piled up during weeks of being in the hospital and/or on bedrest (now mercifully called off). I was so large it hurt to walk; she held my hand. She married “late,” by Mormon standards, and never had any children. She told me that helping me these last few months made her feel like my pregnancy was her pregnancy, too. She quickly started to apologize for being so presumptuous, but I squeezed her hand and said, “Me too.”
February 12, 2005–(Little) Hospital
37 weeks pregnant, in the delivery room. My ob/gyn, a second ob/gyn to assist (required for high-risk deliveries), my husband, my mother, two pediatricians, and half a dozen nurses were all in scrubs, filling the large room. I learned by watching the video later that someone had put on some Credence Clearwater Revival. The mood is festive, but I was not present. I was in a self-imposed state of relaxation, in a carefully selected safe place from my childhood–my grandparents’ farm in the Sierra foothills. My ob/gyn helped deliver my daughter, and, seven minutes later, my son.
I found out a few months after the blessing in the hospital that the man who helped bless me was divorcing from his wife. The process had begun almost the same week that he gave me the blessing. He had been the only ward member we were able to contact from the hospital, owing to his phone number by chance being in my husband’s cell phone’s recent calls list. I am so happy it had been him, that he could be needed and honored in a time like that.