I was a young mother of one. My darling was just toddling out of Relief Society when a sister stood and asked a question. Her voice cracked and she was obviously struggling. She asked how could Christ understand her with her infertility when He was a man? Her pain and pleading was evident. Though many thoughts flooded my mind my wandering toddler was making a beeline for the stairs. I never heard what was said, by the time I made it back to the room with my daughter the meeting was over and the woman was gone. Since that day I have thought many times about the relationship between Christ and women.
A gift refused
My first experience with pregnancy ended in miscarriage. It was a rough six months as my husband saw me cry more than I had cried in my whole life. The desire to have a baby is strong; an aching need to hold your own baby in your arms. Many women do not have the opportunity to bear a child. Perhaps they never marry, perhaps they never get pregnant. Perhaps a pregnancy does not last. Perhaps many pregnancies do not last. Maybe they have one child, but had always hoped for a houseful. Even with a houseful of children a miscarriage can be devastating.
It is painful. So painful. Random comments, family and friends, commercials, “baby on board”…it can all become difficult..
Considering that pain, I am reminded of Christ speaking to the Nephites. He repeats for the third time his desire for the Nephites: “How oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.” He has been offering them the gift of eternal life, and so many have refused Him. He wants to enfold His arms around them. He desires for them to be with Him. He wants them so badly to accept His sacrifice that He will make it anyway. He will lay down and die for them even if they never accept His offer. Christ understands aching empty arms. His arms are stretched out still.
At some point in the process of not having or having a child, it is likely you will feel all alone. You may feel betrayed by your body. You may feel that the Healer has not met you with healing when it would be so easy. The process of having a child seems a strange time to feel alone and betrayed. I always hesitate to share my own story..people think it’s amazing. They can’t wait to share it themselves. They are fascinated and excited. Having a baby in an elevator in the hospital on Christmas eve. What a story. I had nightmares for months. In the strange way time can expand endlessly, I felt an eternity of fear and desperation and anger and frustration and pain in the space of time between the first and second floor. Our baby is fine. She’s 7 now. I can’t imagine how my feelings would have stretched out through the years had she not been fine. I know of many people who have had traumatic births or related events that have left them feeling betrayed and alone. Perhaps an emergency c-section. Perhaps a far too early delivery which leaves the baby in a life saving isolette instead of mom’s arms.
Part of my healing through the next few months came in the form of a painting I first saw in college. It is an image of Christ on the cross from above.
I imagine Christ and Heavenly Father had a unique relationship. Christ’s righteousness and sensitivity would have allowed Him such intimate understanding of our Father in Heaven.
Yet He found himself on the cross pleading aloud “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He felt alone. He felt betrayed, not only by Judas and His disciples who could not watch with Him one hour, but by His Father. The desperation and solitude in Gethsemane and on cross…in some small way I can relate.
I don’t like pain though I have a fairly high pain tolerance. I struggle with why there is so much pain connected with childbirth. I want to be tender and gentle as a mother, pain doesn’t always nourish that in me. I have tried epidurals(some successful and some not) and various options for pain control and water birth and there is just pain involved in pregnancy, childbirth and recovery. I recover far better when I don’t use pain medication during delivery, as very difficult as that is. It’s not a minor amount of pain. When I feel strongly that God wants me to have a child, it always comes to mind, that I’m going to feel a heap of pain. Why would God want me to feel pain? Why is it a basic part of my life? I’ve had 11 children. I have chosen again and again to have a child, because I feel God wants me to, knowing it will be painful.
How can I not notice that the atonement was painful? It was Christ’s entire reason for coming to earth. Yes He served as an example. Yes He gained understanding. He helped and healed people. All so He could pray in Gethsemane and die on the cross. Pain. He groaned. He bled from every pore. He felt every pain and sickness and consequence for every sin. He felt it all physically, mentally, emotionally. Pain. His life’s work is focused around feeling our pain.
In some small way, my groaning in pain as I deliver my child is made easier knowing that Christ understands a life’s mission that is inherently painful.
I know that doesn’t mean Christ has had a miscarriage, or dealt with a baby shower invitation right after a failed in vitro. He never had mastitis, or tried to walk after a c-section… I know that certain body parts are lacking and circumstances don’t align…but Christ knows how I feel as a woman. He has offered life and had that offer refused. He has felt alone and betrayed. He has a life mission that was extremely painful…to the point that the Son of God, the Savior of the world groaned.
So in addition to His life being spent feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and liberating the captives…which, when scaled down, is a mom’s average day. Christ can understand me. Me in my most womanly moments. Me in labor. Me losing a pregnancy. Me in trauma with a child. Not because we have similar body parts, but because He knows, through experience, the feelings I feel. That is powerful. That is healing. That is miraculous and strengthening. I’m forever grateful for it.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.