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Waiting for Abbey and Reading The Gift of Giving Life

I am honored to have been asked to be a “posting participant” in the Virtual Book Tour for The Gift of Giving Life.

When I first heard about The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth, I brushed it aside, simply because of the mounting list of books I wanted to read and the growing stack at my bedside collecting dust. And to be honest, I didn’t have interest in reading another watered-down, spiritually “held back”, flowery LDS book on the topic of mothering. After the third reminder, though, via friends and social media, I knew it was something I was meant to experience. The swellings and stirrings I felt from the first chapter, Heather Farrell’s We Are Each Eve, confirmed the deep, timely influence of this book on my walk as a woman and mother.

Not too many are aware that the greatest heartache of my life has been losing babies. I lost my firstborn, a beautiful baby girl, at full term – a story with so many sacred layers and levels that can’t be given justice in the context of this post. Two years after I said goodbye to my firstborn, Jeff and I had our son Noah. Two years later, we were blessed with our daughter Savannah, and two years after that, our son Sawyer. They are cherished, precious angels, each one of them. When Sawyer was two and I became pregnant again, I was glowing with assurance that this next baby was following suit with the every-two-years pattern and would be welcomed as our fourth child.

Not so. I miscarried that little gift of life and would miscarry three more times in the next 8 years. I won’t detail those losses, only to mention that they were soul-ripping. The fourth late-term miscarriage was so physically and emotionally and spiritually painful that I honestly wasn’t sure I would fully recover. Perhaps what made the final loss so intense was my dangling promise of two more children – a boy and a girl – and at 42 years, coming to the realization that my body was not going to cooperate with my spirit’s willingness to bear them.

I read The Gift of Giving Life in 2012, shortly after the miraculous private adoption of our magnificent son, Eli. I wept with the women who detailed their experiences with loss, grief and divine compensation. I felt a rising empowerment, a blazing second witness that women are in a very real partnership with The Creator of All as they sacrifice and bear down and descend. And then nobly and beautifully ascend. The Atonement of Christ is demonstrated more mightily through the sacrificial practice of mothering than through any other practice on Earth.

The Gift of Giving Life is a book about power. Woven into each chapter are stories that affirm the massive spiritual powers of wisdom, love and creation embodied in the Feminine. I love that this book addresses so many women’s experiences, from so many walks of life, who have the same underlying belief: That God knows our hearts and our needs as women and will mold a perfect plan that, through birth and rebirth, will take our souls and bodies to heights and depths we could never before fathom. I have learned that it is not just the experience of giving birth physically that empowers a woman to call herself mother. It is the praying, the losing, the weeping, the waiting. The pouring of her heart and soul into a vision and promise that only she and her Creator can hold form for.

Today I find myself back in this kind of “labor.” I know there is a girl –whom I call Abigael – that will join our home. She and Eli are pretty much a package deal, so when he showed up, I knew she would soon follow. Eli is 18 months, I am 45, and “the promise of Abbey” lives in both of us. When I start to jump to fearful what-ifs in pondering her debut, I’m reminded that time is merely a relative mortal measurement and there is a decree echoing in some corner of heaven (as it is in my heart) that she is coming. It is done.

And so I wait.

We as mothers need confirmation and validation for the dreams and impressions we hold inside for ourselves and our children. To me, that is what The Gift of Giving Life inspires. I was so moved and impressed with the depth of this book that I invited Lani Axman, one of the authors, into my home while she was in town doing book meetings last year. We sat on my couch and talked about angels and purpose and Spirit and loss, the things of which women who’ve suffered can speak the same language. I knew then, and now, that the essays contained in this book convey powerful messages every woman of faith can glean hope and insight from. I am grateful for the courage and wisdom of Felice Austin, Lani Axman, Heather Farrell, Robyn Allgood and Sheridan Ripley. These women have compiled a bold spiritual work that weaves a divine thread of hope and healing to the heart of the reader.

I add my voice to the other women on The Gift of Giving Life’s Virtual Book Tour. Visit their page to receive giveaways in the pregnancy, birth and baby departments. Most importantly, read the book! 🙂

The Two Who Are Missing

I’m about to share something really personal, even Sacred to me.  I wouldn’t normally post such things, but I’m feeling the, “It’s okay, others might need to hear this” prompt from the Spirit.

I am 41 years old and my husband Jeff and I are not done having children.   We thought we were – seven years ago – after our youngest was two and I’d suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage.  We figured the Lord had completed our family and the three cherished children we’d been blessed with were it.  I accepted this, even though I’d always wanted more kids, and just went forward with motherhood and my life mission.

miscarriage

A few years after that, the desire to add to our family came back.  Strongly.  I chalked it up my mother’s heart not wanting to put final closure on having children.   Yet, the overwhelming desire would not leave, and Jeff and I both began to receive spiritual impressions that our family was incomplete.  I bought a cute little puppy — didn’t help much.  I looked into foster care and adoption – even went so far as to put start putting dossier paperwork together to adopt a little girl from China – but every time we moved forward in the adoption direction, a door would shut or it wouldn’t feel right.

Then my 6 year-old Sawyer pronounces I am to have a baby and starts praying relentlessly for babies to come to his mommy’s tummy.  I’ve learned to never take what comes from the mouth of babes lightly.  His older brother Noah “prophesied” at the age of 3, that he was getting a baby brother soon.  It came out very non-chalantly at the kitchen table after preschool one afternoon as simply, “Mom, Heavenly Father knows I want a baby brother.”  I was pregnant 4 weeks later…with his brother Sawyer.

mother

So eventually, all spiritual and emotional indicators were pointing towards pregnancy as the right thing to pursue.  I was 38, and Jeff was 39 when we made that prayerful decision.  Our kids were 6, 8 and 10.  I swore I wouldn’t have caboose babies later in life!  My dear Grandmother Mary Lou was pregnant with my mother twice…having a baby at 44 and another at 45.  I grew up thinking that was kinda weird.  Yet – I cannot imagine our family without Aunt Kim Sue (my sister’s age) and Uncle Jeff (my age).

I knew pregnancy was the right course, because proceeding in that direction brought no “stupor of thought” and as we went forward, my impressions became stronger.  I begin to sense, then perceive, then know that there was not just one, but two children waiting to join us.  A son and a daughter.  Looking back, I think I needed to have this knowing or I would have given up on bringing them to Earth long ago.

We tried for two years to get pregnant once the decision was made.  In those 2 years, I held out the hope that they would come, but started to become impatient with the Lord.  It was frustrating and disappointing.    Then finally, at age 40 – last summer – I got pregnant.  We were over-the-top excited.

Then I miscarried at 11 weeks.  So devastating.  I went to the Lord in the midst of my deep grief and asked if I should just “give up” on this whole after-40 pregnancy idea.  I immediately felt a withdrawal of the Spirit upon presenting that to Him, which to me was a strong indicator that I should not give up.  I later received beautiful reassurances – promises – that the desires of my heart would be realized.

I got pregnant again within a few months.  I was SURE that this one would take.  At 7 weeks (2 months ago), I miscarried again.  You can read ALL about that devastation on my February post entitled Loss.

There is so much that I could write about miscarriage and infant loss and what I have learned with respect to why the Lord gives and takes away.  Maybe I’ll expound on another post.  There isn’t room on this one now.  (Why is it that I cannot write short posts?)

boy and girl see saw

Prior to and since the 3 miscarriages, I have filled pages in my journal (3 years running) with longings for these children.  One night the longing was so great that I got out of bed and wrote this poem:

For the Two Who Are Missing: My daughter and son, not yet conceived
Cherie Burton, September 1, 2008

I see you, brave son, standing behind your sister
Noble in your resolute desire to strengthen and protect
The sacred bond which cannot endure separation
In either estate.

And you, determined daughter, reaching forward
In beautiful feminine splendor and swirling clouds of joy
Waiting to join a mortal stage compatible with
The majesty of your mission.

It has been a year since my mind’s eye received you both
Since this mother’s heart knew there were two spots missing
In the joyful family portrait which hangs in her hallway
And graces her soul.

So my feet continue walking with the wondrous gift of knowing
That the stars are moving in alignment and purpose
While elements of body and earth combine with the miracle
Of your perfect creation.

May you see with infinite clarity the purity of my intent
To embrace our Father’s design for this glorious family circle
Accepting –daughter and son of the light– my most humble offering
To be your mother forever.

I’ve entertained the thought that these two recent miscarriages were the boy and the girl I’ve been waiting for and that all they needed was a body in that brief time to serve their mortal purpose as my children.  My mother’s heart beats so strongly, though, for the chance to nurture them, love them, raise them to the Light.  I know He knows this.

So I’ll keep waiting on Him…because I know His promises are sure.

Loss

angel_of_grief-280x280

One of the layers of meaning to Sacred Stations involves discerning and honoring the Sacred within your current life Station…even amidst soul-wrenching emotional devastation.

Sacred Routines, Spiritual Surrender, Self Nurturing…   I was teaching these concepts early last month at my workshop, Nourish Thyself.   I remember having the distinct impression during a group exercise that He was going to be taking me to a new level.

It’s one thing to teach divine principles and quite another to be taught them.

At the time of this workshop, I was living in a beautiful home, 6 weeks pregnant (after a difficult miscarriage 4 months prior) and on a spiritual and temporal “high.”   Within one WEEK of said workshop, we lost our business, our income, our home, my health, and the baby.

Going from 5,000 square feet of living space in a bright and lovely home to 1,000 square feet in a dark, cramped basement (with our family of five) has had its challenges.  I may go there during a later post…(in fact, it’s almost a given)…

Going from a potentially lucrative business that my husband labored over for months to a costly litigation process (almost overnight) was troublesome and stressful.

Going from stable health to an ovarian cyst the size of Texas (and a raging infection) was painful and inconvenient.

But going from carrying a long-awaited little life form to a cavalier ultrasound tech announcing, “Your uterus is completely empty,” was almost unbearable.  My pregnancy was last on the list to be taken away that week, becoming the proverbial straw that seemed to (at least temporarily) break this mommy’s back.

It was like I’d experienced loss on just about every mortal level within 7 days’ time.   Home, Health, Abundance, Life….going, going, gone.   I was angry with Father.   He had planted the promise of all these things in my heart over many years’ time only to promptly revoke them within one week.

How could I trust Him to follow through on His assurances, now?   Was the peace I’d felt about my promised blessings a feel-good hope that I’d self-generated?  Had I been deluding myself to believe that He had a plan for my happiness and security?   Why would He not honor the faith I was trying to muster to save that baby?

WHERE was my God of miracles?

Then I remembered, about 2 weeks after-the-fact…after the pouting, and the “whys?” and the wallowing:  Had I not been praying for months to be placed on the path of sanctification?   Was I not teaching others what it means to place your soul on the altar of God?

The lesson behind these losses may not have been to teach me how to cope with loss, but how to cope with His program.  Whether He gives or takes away is not the issue.  The issue is whether I could keep standing in faith, holding out hope, and trust with my whole heart when my agenda does not match His.  THIS was my real miracle.

It took losses of this magnitude, in rapid succession, for me to internalize that the path of sanctification is the path of Sacrifice.

It’s the path to the Loss… of Self.