Is there an event in your life that altered your life path?
–I can think of three pretty significant events:
- Watching General Conference, a special session of church which is held for our church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or Mormon church)) every 6 months, at a time when I was applying for medical school, and getting the distinct impression that was not the right path. Soon thereafter, I withdrew my application and ended up getting my Master’s degree in Public Health.
- When I had West Nile virus – this came at a time in life where I was not active in my church. I was literally at death’s door, in the neurocritical care unit, in guarded status, and realized that the only thing I wanted, and craved, was to feel like I was ok and right with God. One of the most significant things that kept my spirits up during this experience was kindness, prayers, and visits from faithful members of my church. I had to relearn walking, talking, eating, etc. as I recovered, which gave me a lot of time to think, and I knew I wanted to go back to church. Luckily, my husband joined me, and 4 years later, we were sealed in the Bountiful Temple; to us, this is a very special occasion since we believe it will allow us to be married even after death.
- Having my daughter – I always thought I would be happy to work and raise a child (or children). We have infertility issues, so getting her here was very challenging, and took several years of disappointment, learning about fertility, etc. Eventually we went through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures and were able to get her here! The most surprising thing to me, though, was just how heart-wrenching it was for me to go back to work. It has broken my heart pretty much every morning since. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, and that is wonderful, but it has been the case for me. I’ve learned so much from being a mom, from the importance of family, to the depth of love you can have for another person, to understanding God, who I think of as my Heavenly Father, just a bit more. If I had to pick one event that has changed me, that one would be it.
What times in your life truly tested you, and what did you learn about yourself by dealing (or not dealing) with them?
–There are two I would comment on:
- Having West Nile virus. Not only did it almost kill me, but then, as I recovered, 6 months later I developed dystonia in my left foot and hand. First it came on in my foot, and came along with Complex Regional Pain Syndome (appropriate acronym: CRPS, or as I called it, CRAPS!) Two comments on this whole thing:
- In my acute stage of illness, I was happy to notice that I found ways to be kind to all of my caregivers. I tried to stay positive, through double vision, inability to feel my mouth or swallow, re-learning to walk, having people have to carry me (and help me) with toileting, etc. This was hard, and dreary, as I was in the hospital about three weeks. But I was proud of myself for making the effort, and for trying to be thankful for everything that came back, slowly but surely. I remember vividly remembering how to spit, for example. It was wonderful! Also, on Nov 1, 2006 I was cleared to eat again on my own, and so that has become my “Hershey’s chocolate appreciation day”, since a mini Hershey’s chocolate was the first thing I ate (and savored) after that.
- In the recovery phase, when my dystonia developed, I could no longer ride my road or mountain bike, run, hike, do yoga, etc. without significant pain. Walking was painful. I was told at 1 year after being sick that I should just get used to it. I became pretty down about this, but found that I have continued to improve. I don’t want to admit any long-term effects will be permanent, even 10 years later. I maintain hope that I will get to do all of those things again, and last year started going hiking and found it improves how my foot feels. I’m happy to say I am maintaining hope, and continuing to try new things. I am happy to say I do not accept defeat, despite setbacks and being slowed down on occasion.
- Going through infertility. After having Grace with one round of IVF, we decided to go through IVF again to try to add to our family. We went through two rounds, and neither worked. This is the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced – wanting desperately to add to my family, seeing it come easily to others, hearing stories of unwanted children being mistreated, having Grace ask why she can’t have a little brother or sister. But, I have found myself reflecting on Bible stories of women who also went through this, feeling a kinship with them. I have found myself feeling sympathy for all moms and women on many levels through this struggle. It has made me love and respect decisions of all mommas, and want to be kind to them all. I know what a treasure this experience is, because it has been so hard to come by for me. If I could, I’d adopt, or foster. But, I am thankful for my Grace, and I know how very miraculous getting her here was. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to teach children in Sunday school, and to have friends of Grace around our neighborhood to associate with… and I believe in miracles.
Tell us about your entry into motherhood. How did it feel? What challenges and joys did you experience?
–I developed pre-eclampsia at 34 weeks and was hospitalized, with the hope and expectation that I would be able to wait 2-3 more weeks before Grace was born. However, I developed pulmonary edema 3 days later, and had to have an emergency C-section at 34 ½ weeks. I was having trouble breathing, my blood pressure was dangerously high, and they gave me loads of magnesium. When they took Grace, she was floppy, and they immediately took her away to NICU. I didn’t get to see her, hold her, nurse, etc. I didn’t get to see her for a day. I knew she was safe, but felt so sad missing those experiences. Finally, they wheeled me in to meet her. I immediately knew which baby she was. I noticed a little, 3 kick “flutter kick”, that she did; she had done that in utero for a long time. I was so happy to see her and hold her. The worst, though, was when I was discharged but she had to stay in NICU as she wasn’t sucking/able to nurse yet. I went to the hospital twice each day, and stayed as long as I could, which was exhausting. I couldn’t take anything except Tylenol if I wanted to drive; luckily, I have a high pain tolerance, so it wasn’t too bad, but at the end of many days, I felt numb and like a robot – I just wanted to be a mom, at home, with my baby. Finally, we were told we were going to take her home, and I was sooo happy. But, when we arrived, we found out she hadn’t increased in weight that day, and we had to wait. I was so numb at that point, and angry; I ran into a friend at the hospital (since I had worked there before) – he was at the ATM and I burst into hysterical sobbing when I saw him, proclaiming “they won’t let me take her home! I am so angry!” The NICU nurses worked with me all day to stay with her, showing me even more tricks to help her eat more and gain weight. Luckily, the next day, she was ready! The funny thing is the day we were originally going to take her home was dreary, cold, and rainy, fitting for the events, and, just as fitting, the day we took her home was beautiful, sunny, and lovely.
How did it feel to hold your first baby?
–I felt calm, peaceful, happy, whole, joyful – best moment of my life.
What have some of your greatest challenges been? How have you overcome them? How do you still overcome them?
–I think WNV and infertility are my greatest challenges. As I mentioned, fiercely clinging to hope, and committing to being kind through it all, has helped me. I often reflect on the atonement of Jesus Christ in moments of challenge, since I think it is so critical to know that no one is ever alone. When I had WNV, I had so many times when people would say “huh, never seen THAT before!” and I felt so alone. But I remembered that part of the atonement was coming to an understanding of each of our suffering, so I am never alone. In these types of situations, I now try to think, ok, well, what would Jesus do in this situation? If He loved me enough to want to understand me, I should do the same. I always conclude He would find a way to be kind and serve. I try to remember, and do this, as best as I know how, and can, depending on my energy and resources that day.
What has your experience been with stereotypes about mothers and women? What struggles or triumphs do you have with those stereotypes?
–People can be mean. It makes me sad when people choose to be unkind in the name of some philosophy or idea, when they could, at worst, just be nice, and at best, learn something by getting to know another person’s perspective before jumping to conclusions and categorizing someone. I know moms who strictly parent from a single resource book, I know moms who have never opened a parenting book; I know moms who exclusively nursed, and some who couldn’t, or were just creeped out by it. I know moms who adamantly oppose co-sleeping, and those who think it’s the best thing ever. I know moms who oppose vaccines, and I work in public health so know some who are right on schedule. I know moms whose homes are pristine, I know some whose homes are a little less tidy. I know moms who work and dads who stay at home, I know parents who both work, I know single moms. I love all of these people. What I can do is choose to remember I don’t know what anyone else is going through, really, at any point in life, and try to be kind and supportive. Anyway, I try not to pay attention to stereotypes and categorization because I personally feel that things are never simple, and for the most part, we’re all doing our best to do what is right for our child(ren). I think we all have so much potential to do good, and I want to find ways to support people and let them know they are valued and appreciated.
How have you been able to keep your identity as a person rather than it being only you as a mother?
–For sure, though honestly my very favorite title is “Grace’s mom”. I don’t mind that being my claim to fame at all.
What are some of your greatest regrets?
–I don’t feel like regrets are a good thing to dwell on. Mistakes, challenges, and painful experiences really make us who we are, and provide opportunities to learn and grow.
One mistake I learned a lot from was right before I got WNV, I had the thought come to my mind to go inside and put on mosquito repellant, but brushed it off. It has become something I think of often, and I try to pay much better attention to inspiration, instincts, or whatever you would like to call it/think of this as.
Another mistake I make, usually when I am experiencing large amounts of work-related stress, is giving in to feelings of inadequacy, which spins into me feeling like I’m doing things wrong, which spins into feelings of anger and anxiety, which leads me to act like I’m a victim of stress, and can make me act pretty grumpy. I hate looking back on a day and realizing I may have hurt someone’s feelings, which feeds into this cycle and can make things worse. So, I am striving to do better with positive self-talk more regularly.
What do you still hope to accomplish in your life?
–I want to spend more time with Grace, and to be in a position where I can exercise regularly. I have a secret plan to help move me toward this within the next year or so.
What do you hope to be remembered for?
–Being a kind, positive influence.
What do you hope your child will always know about you? What do you want her to know about herself?
–I hope she knows I am a fighter, I don’t give up, and I love her more than anything else.
I want her to know she is a fighter, she is strong, she is funny, she is brilliant, she has so many talents, she is a miracle; I want her to know mistakes are ok as long as we try to learn from them. I want her to know she has immense potential for good.