A Dozen Midwives

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!
me: Ok.

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.

July 2004–Church:

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.

Mid 2005–Church

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.

Comments

  1. Cynthia, thank you for sharing such a touching a personal look back. You inspire me to look back, and see the hands of others, like angels, holding us up as we journey through life.

  2. Thanks for it all, but especially for the closing note, for recognizing what this could have meant to that brother. Men I love could have been that brother.

  3. Julie M. Smith says:

    I love the “web” here. Thanks for posting this.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Simply beautiful, Cynthia. You made me cry while watching TV. Congratulations on the twins.

  5. Randy B. says:

    This really is beautiful, Cynthia. Thanks for letting us have a peek behind the scenes.

    This has been a red-letter day on BCC! Good stuff y’all.

  6. Every paragraph, I thought, “Wow – amazing – I need to comment about that.” Every paragraph, I thought, “OK, forget that last thought; this is even more profound.” At the end, all that was left was, “WOW!”

    Beautiful post.

  7. Your faith really impresses and amazes me. I don’t think about the people around me who help me every day.
    And, it made me appreciate my kids more today, which I really needed.
    Thanks

  8. Little Sister says:

    I want to be like you Cynthia.

  9. Kristine says:

    Cynthia, this is lovely for so many reasons. I have my share of slightly-more-miraculous than the usual miracle of birth tales, and it is sweet to be reminded of them. But I really love the way that your telling of your story subverts the tired and false coupling of priesthood and motherhood. It’s no accident that the power of a God who uses the metaphors of birth and birthing and of mothering (even of a mother hen) should be intimately bound up in the process of creation and birth, that, in fact, the exercise of that power should bind us closer to one another as daughters and sons of God.

  10. sister blah 2 says:

    I’m overwhelmed by the sweet responses from you all whom I respect so much. Thank you.

    Kristine, you have expressed so well what was in my heart when I wrote this, thank you.

    -Cynthia

  11. Peter LLC says:

    Excellent.

  12. When it works right, as it did in your story, there is nothing more sweet than the fellowship of loving saints. My family has also been on the receiving end of this kind of love and support, and I only hope that I can be of equal support to my friends and fellow saints as these folks have been to you.

    Thank you for sharing.

  13. Amazing how the blessing you received by having your children also blessed so many other lives by giving them a chance to be a part of it. Who would think something so personal could afect so many.

  14. Marjorie Conder says:

    Amazing! It leaves me with new resolve to try and be that kind of support. Not necessarily for just pregancy and childbirth, but for any of our brothers and sisters at any of life’s especially significant passages.

  15. Fantastic. It mirrors elements of our experience as well, my wife and I being strangers in a strange land at the time.

    There are quite a few twin parents around here, no?

  16. sister blah 2 says:

    #13–Noray, you’ve touched on perhaps part of the reason I think about the other people so often. And that is that I think I have a need for this to be about blessing more people than just me. During the not-getting-pregnant years, I started to really question the idea of God granting our requests for specific blessings. I was coming face to face with the reality that sometimes those requests are not granted. For every couple who prays for a child a gets one, there is another couple who does not. So there was a period of disorientation when I did get pregnant. I had a lot of “survivor’s guilt” type feelings about accepting this blessing, knowing that others, including some very dear friends who were walking on this journey with me, were still struggling. Maybe my way of making sense of it all was to look for ways to spread the wealth as much as I could.

  17. Cynthia,

    You need to write a book about this, and call it, “More (mid)Wives Than One.” :)

    In all seriousness, though, thanks for this post. It’s a great observation about how we are all connected, through family and church family, and how those connections matter.

  18. Beautiful, Cynthia. Thank you for sharing with us.

  19. This is such a beautiful post. I’ve personally suffered from the “so when are you gonna have kids” questions all the time, as though I were purposely preventing a child from coming into our family.

    Reading this helped.

  20. sister blah 2 says:

    Thanks for your comment Jia. Hang in there is all I can say.

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