Almost three weeks ago, I gave birth for the fifth time.
It didn’t matter that this was the fifth time; the reaction I felt at seeing my baby for the first time was the same as all the others before him. The overwhelming feelings of love took away the pain, and I felt nothing but joy for those moments. I have often wondered if this is the same for most women around the world –do they see the positive amid the negative? After traveling through the “valley of sorrow” and “travail,” do they feel the extreme opposite? Do they realize what they are holding in their arms?
These questions have pierced my mind even more this time around, because of some things we are facing as a family. Our oldest child is 8 years old, and, like many highly religious families, having five children (or six, or seven, or whenever we feel we are finished adding to our family) is not seen as a burden, but a blessing. But for others, having large families is nonsensical. In fact, a nameless family member of ours expressed concern over our decision to have more children. We were told, in no uncertain terms, that if we were to continue adding to our family, this person would be very upset with us. At first, I was taken aback and hurt. But then, after sitting down and pondering their words, I realized this person’s position and reasoning and why they would say such things. See, this person is an atheist and an extreme environmentalist. This background made me realize how they see things: “This life is the only one. We did not live before we were born. We will not live after we die, and so this life is all we have, and we must take care of the earth.” Of course they would be upset in us having several children –it goes against everything they believe.
But for me? My view is very, very, very different.
It’s not that I don’t care about taking care of the earth. But for me, there’s more. As a Mormon (LDS) woman, I have been taught that I am a daughter of God. Not only am I His daughter, but I lived with Him before I was born. All of my brothers and sisters lived with him, too (that’s you!). Simply put, He is the literal Father of my spirit. We all knew each other, and we all knew God. He loved us then, and He loves us now. In fact, that love was so great, He presented a plan to us. Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles said:
What occurred in this first estate is dimly understood, but we do know that we lived there as spirits, children of our Heavenly Father, and we made certain steps of advancement to prepare for the opportunity of housing our eternal spirits in earthly bodies. We also know that our Father held a great council to explain the purpose of earth life. We had the opportunity of accepting or rejecting the plan of salvation. It was not forced upon us. The essence of the plan was that man would have an opportunity of working out his own salvation on earth, with God’s help. A leader was selected to teach us how to follow the plan and to redeem us from sin and death. As the Lord explained to Moses, “Behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2).
President Boyd K. Packer has said:
The doctrine is simply this: life did not begin with mortal birth. We lived in spirit form before we entered mortality. We are spiritually the children of God.
What clarity I feel when I hear these words! I am so grateful to have knowledge of who I am, where I am going, and what my purpose is in this life. My faith in the plan our Heavenly Father presented to us is the guiding light in my life. Each time I make a choice, regardless of whether or not it is seen by others as “wrong,” I know that the reasoning behind it comes from my belief in life before and after death. This belief, along with my faith in Christ, is my anchor –to know that my existence on Earth did not just spontaneously occur through birth. I existed before birth! What a glorious thing to know.
Still, I don’t blame my family member for their words of concern and anger; in fact, I appreciate them now. They made me pause long enough to think about why I would choose to have more children, what I truly believe, and why I (and my husband) felt it was necessary to add to our family so soon. I sometimes think about those concerns even now, as I gaze into my newborn’s eyes. I see him focus just past my face, and I wonder what he sees. I wonder if he remembers who his is –a child of God –and I wonder if he remembers just a glimpse of where he has recently come from. I’m so grateful that as he grows, I will have the opportunity to teach him, remind him of what he once knew. I will tell him where he has come from, where he is going, and pray that he will realize in his own heart, the beauty of God’s plan for us.
For all of us.
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Awesome comments. I believe every word. Even though I believe every word I chose to only have 3 children but that is okay. Even with the knowledge we have it doesn’t mean everyone is destined to have lots of kids. I love the fact that there are some who have large families – my in-laws for one who had 8 or my family with 6 but I would never begrudge anyone for their decision. We have, after all, our free agency!!!
Thank you so much for sharing your intimate feelings about your new baby with us. It is such a special time, I’m so glad you have taken the time to look into his eyes. Wonderful that everything went well and you are both healthy.
It is great to know that we all have agency to choose our family situations. I have 4 kids and know that is all we will have. It is hard work, but the best kind of work!
I’ve never had that type of powerful spiritual experience after giving birth. My love grows over time. A few weeks after a new baby is home I find myself smiling and singing more than ever. I often get overwhelmed by the joy and whisper in their little ears things like “You make me so happy.” “You are a super baby!” As they develop into toddlers I start noticing their little personalities and as my happiness grows with them, my whispers start to include, “You are so funny! You must be the smartest little girl in the whole world.” But I always, always say “You make mommy sooo happy.”
Knowing that there is life before birth affects how I treat the little spirits that arrive to my home. I value my children for who they are, spiritual children of our Heavenly Father who has entrusted me, their physical mother, with their care. I assume that I will have to give an accounting to the Lord of how I cared for His children. Like all mothers, I have my short moments, but I hope that I will be able to recall, and my children likewise, will remember many, many hours of service and love that happened in our home.
I don’t think the number of children I have is as important as the quality of nurturing I give. I want to follow the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth as I am able because it brings joy. But I want to replenish the earth with love as much as with people.
My friend has recently struggled with infertility. Her desires to feel the joy of motherhood led her to the foster care system. Watching her and her husband’s efforts as foster parents was a testament to multiplying and replenishing the earth with love. The child they nurtured became more calm and less distressed in their care. She blossomed while surrounded by the love she felt in their home and returned home to her birth mother in a better state of mind than when she left.
Thank you for this well written and thoughtful post. I appreciate the reminder of how blessed I’ve been to bring some of God’s children into this earth. They have been my greatest teachers. I too find comfort in knowing where I came from and who I am as a daughter of a loving God. By the way, congrats on your new little addition. 🙂
This reminds me of the talk (it was included on Saturday’s Links We Like) that Elder Nelson gave at the World Congress on Families. He said:
I appreciate Cheryl sharing her personal experience and feelings on something that our leaders are talking about.
I also want to add that I know that God can help us make these personal decisions about childbearing and rearing. I know from my own experience that God is aware of our particular situations and if we ask, He will help us know what is right. Sometimes people have fewer children than they want, some have more than they expected to have! God can help with that important decision-making process.
It’s so helpful, though, to understand the purposes of life when making those decisions. It’s all too easy to become short-sighted, especially with the trends away from having children that we see the world over.