Mindy Lathen


My purpose of sharing my childhood sexual abuse experience is to spread awareness about the effects of trauma and inspire others to seek help to heal from their past. Now that I’m at a point of clarity and understanding about the abuse I went through, I want to break the silence and encourage other survivors. I want the world to be a little better for those  who have suffered by making this something we can talk about.From the outside, my childhood probably looked pretty normal.

My parents were (and are) married, I excelled in school and soccer, and I had good friends. There were some very big secrets though, secrets I did everything I could to hide. There were scary, traumatic things going on that I didn’t understand, but didn’t feel safe enough with anyone to ask for help.

My uncle started sexually abusing me when I was about 4 years old. (At least that’s my first memory I have of it– he might have started before this.) He would target me at family gatherings and find ways to isolate me from everyone else. He would touch me and do things to me that scared me and made me feel like I was going to die. This continued for about seven years, until I was 11.


It was too much for a girl that young to understand. I didn’t know what sex was, let alone sexual abuse. One of the most painful parts for me, then and now, is that I loved my uncle. As an adult, I can see how he “groomed” me. (I hate that word. It sounds disgusting… well actually it is disgusting.) As a predator, he gained my trust and guaranteed my silence. He played with me and talked to me and made me feel special and loved. My own dad didn’t do those things with me, so my uncle filled a gap in my life in a way that felt good. It was SO confusing that someone I loved and trusted could also do things to me that felt so scary and wrong.

As I got older, the things he did to me seemed to get increasingly more extreme. By the time I was about 11 years old, I started to understand a little more about sex and I connected the dots more about what he was doing to me. I tried to fight back a few times, but it didn’t stop him. I told my older sister about the last incident and she told my mom.

Having my abuse “come out” was almost as traumatic as experiencing the sexual abuse in the first place. (During the abuse I was also protected in a way, because I dissociated, which means I disconnected from myself and reality to not feel so scared and hurt.) My mom confronted me about the abuse and I told her what happened. She then took me to a counselor where I had to tell again. Every time I told someone about it, I felt re-traumatized and it made me feel intense shame about what I had been through. I wanted so badly to just be a normal girl. Having to go to a counselor made me feel like something was deeply wrong with me and that if anyone knew about it, they would not want to be my friend. I felt so confused and alone. I don’t even remember anyone explaining to me why what he did was wrong.

I felt lost and alone in my pain during this time (and for years to come). My family never talked about the abuse. We all dealt with it on our own and I don’t even remember my parents ever talking to me about it after the first time I told my mom. Counseling helped a little, but mostly it just made me feel broken and like I had more shameful secrets to hide.

The most traumatic memory I have from this time period is when my mom took me to the Children’s Justice Center, where I was supposed to tell yet another scary stranger about all the terrible things I had been through. Going there felt like the pinnacle of shame for me. I felt like I was in trouble. I felt so much pressure to “do it right” and also so much confusion and pain. I didn’t want to think about those scary and bad things anymore. I actually felt sad for my uncle, because no one made sure I understood things. I thought he had just made a little mistake and now my mom wanted him to go to prison for it. In all my confusion, I just didn’t want him to get in trouble. Well, the annoying interrogation lady (who, bless her heart, was only trying to help me) got me to talk about only one or two incidents. Because I didn’t tell her more, the judge didn’t press very severe charges on my uncle and he didn’t receive the consequences he deserved. (Looking back now, this infuriates me. I even tried pressing charges again two years ago, but because of some stupid laws, he can’t be punished “again.”)

The effects of trauma (especially repeated childhood trauma) can be extremely severe. I was able to hide a lot of these because I turned my pain and anger inward and became an extreme perfectionist. As a very sensitive, tender person, my trauma and lack of emotional support was especially damaging. My home and family never felt like a safe place where I could talk about feelings or receive the kind of help I needed. I grew up thinking I should just forgive my uncle and move on. Because no one helped me the way I needed, I felt broken, ugly, inferior, unworthy, and like an outcast. I thought I had “moved forward” and forgiven my uncle, but I didn’t know that the trauma had affected me to the core. In the two years since I started healing, I have uncovered layer after layer of damage done by the trauma.

For years, I plugged along, thinking I had left the past behind. I went to therapy off and on because of the anxiety, perfectionism, low self-esteem, and low-level depression I could never get rid of. I didn’t even know it was related to my sexual abuse and emotional neglect. It got a little better from time to time, but then I would be triggered (in ways I wasn’t even aware of at the time) and go back into the hole of feeling terrible. I thought that this was just what life was. I thought maybe everyone felt as bad as I did.

I had no idea that life could be peaceful and fun and not so stressful. I had no idea I could feel loved even when I didn’t achieve something, that I didn’t always have to feel like I was barely surviving. Because of the false beliefs I developed over the years of my childhood, I was stuck in feelings and thought patterns of hopelessness.

Miraculously, two years ago (almost exactly) I realized that I needed to find a therapist who actually specialized in trauma. It took about nine months to find a trauma therapist I clicked with and a LOT of work after that, but I have come out on the other side of my deep healing phase feeling like a different person. I feel free from the layers of shame I carried for so long. I respect and honor myself for what I have been through. I love myself and I like who I am. I am figuring out who I am without all the things I used to do just because I was a perfectionist. I am proud of myself for choosing the path of healing.

I hope to write a lot more about my journey– what I have been through and what I’m still going through to heal. I have found writing to be extremely helpful in my recovery, especially being able to express myself, when for so many years, I wasn’t able to.

If you are someone who has also gone through sexual abuse or trauma of any kind, I hope you will seek support and get the help you need. (I am here for you, too!) I have lots of resources that have helped me and I’m also pretty good (Daniel says incredibly good) at just listening and validating. Going through trauma is terrible, but living with the effects are just about as bad or even worse. I hope you know that you are worth any and all help you receive, and that life is so much better on the other side of recovery.

If you have a loved one who has gone through anything like this, I hope you will talk to them and be there for them in the ways they want and need. (It’s usually best to ask them to know how to help, since everyone is different.) Healing happens in community. I am extremely grateful for Daniel, my sisters, close friends, my therapist, and my sexual abuse recovery coaches, who have helped me so, so much.

My trauma has affected every part of my life, especially marriage and motherhood. As I heal, I am finding ways to let the lessons from my past help me. Because I am a survivor, I feel like my level of appreciation and joy in my family are even higher than they would have been if I hadn’t experienced the lowest lows that I did. My goal is to continue establishing a home where we grow together and enjoy healthy relationships. I am grateful for the strength I find in myself as I grow and develop as a mother.


Mindy Lathen

Salt Lake City, UT

Age 25


Sandra Bosteder

famA time I felt successful as a mother:

It almost feels like I can’t answer that question because I’m still watching my children’s lives unfold. When my children were little, just hearing them breathe at night in their beds, knowing they were warm and safe and at peace made me feel content. Seeing them grow into teenagers dealing with their own gut wrenching issues, I felt heartache as they went through it and joy when they came out on the other side battered a bit (sometimes a lot), but able to continue in forward motion. Now as adults they are lighting their own paths and sometimes it seriously seems they choose paths laden with land mines. Of course, there were first steps, first words, first everything, graduations, all the stuff that brings simultaneous tears and smiles. Maybe I cried the day I saw my grandson born because everything came together in that moment; my son a proud new father, his younger sister a doting auntie. They were united in that magical moment and, perhaps, one of the emotions contained in those gammy tears was a feeling of success.


Strengths as a mother:

My strength as a mom (like all moms, I think) is knowing that within each child is light, intelligence, imagination, creativity, kindness, love, beauty, truth, goodness, and innumerable unique talents and characteristics. Only through white knuckling practice am I gaining strength to focus always on that understanding rather than on what are perceived faults or weaknesses. And I always remember they, too, are the author of their own story. I can only hope to provide insight and a constant, unwavering belief in them.

Keeping my identity:

I am not a woman who thought much of getting married or having children. My identity was never intertwined with that thought. I was an athlete, a scholar, an adventurer, a writer, a coach long before I was a mom. When my children were born, an incredible transformation took place. I didn’t lose my identity. My identity expanded. Initially, I was terrified to be a mom because I did NOT want to continue behaviors that I learned as a child from countless generations of women in my family. I made some mistakes, but I broke the chains of abuse and became a mama grizz, ferocious in protecting my kids even against the male grizz. That became part of my identity that I never expected would exist inside me. Motherhood did not swallow my identity. Rather, it enriched it.

A moment I felt joy as a mother:

Oh! My goodness! So many moments!! Every giggle, all the growing up moments of rolling over, first steps, first words and phrases spoken incorrectly and sweetly, first everythings (except the teen year first everything stuff), graduations, wedding, gammyhood, all the laughter shared on road trips with music pounding out every genre imaginable (even some I had to plug my ears for), every hug, every kiss, every kindness, every homemade card and homemade gift, every everything. But let me share something that happened not too long ago that filled my heart with a different kind of joy. My children stood side-by-side with me when their grandmother was laboring for her last breath. My son sang to her. My daughter cried with her. They were, fortunately, out of the room when the last breath escaped, but they showed incredible love and compassion for their grandma and for me because without them, I would have shouldered that experience alone.

How my mothering differs from child to child:

My children were nearly six years apart (we lost a child in between). My mothering was different because my children were different. They were both really easy going in their young years, but some things happened and my youngest child suffered a major loss. From that point on parenting became completely different, very, very difficult. In fact, I think I have PTSD from it and I’m not kidding. My mothering style became more detective work and social work and grin and bear it or cry and bear it work. My oldest child also gave me some bone chilling experiences after suffering the same loss, but not nearly to the degree (months compared to years and a few occurrences compared to too many to count) as the youngest. Again, it’s so important to maintain hope and project light throughout the entire adventure and NEVER give up on them!


Greatest triumphs/greatest regrets:

Triumphs: (1) Got them both raised; (2) We went on a lot of adventures together, just the three of us. We went to concerts and plays, to wild outdoors places and science places, and all kinds of places. We fixed meals together and ate together (one time we ate at the only open restaurant in town for Christmas dinner…it was a Chinese restaurant) and sometimes watched TV all snuggled up together. We hug and we dream.  I know my kids can survive AND succeed: (3) Standing up to protect my kids against someone from whom there should never have been a threat.

Regrets: (1) Those times when I was too harsh or too lenient. Parenting is on the job training. We either learn to be better or not. I’m thankful I learned quickly I wanted to do better.

An event that altered my life path:

My path was bush whacking through a jungle with no trails, which may be easier than thinking there’s a golden path of sorts. As far as parenting goes, no doubt, divorce was the hungry panther in the jungle. It ripped me apart, but like my friend, Pat Benatar, sings, “the deepest cuts are healed by faith.”

Significant part of my story that is important to me:

I taught my children that no matter how heavy life’s events can be, seek the positive, breathe moment to moment until the difficulties pass, find ways to laugh, find someone to help, hug a tree and a puppy, whatever it takes (that is healthy) to realize life IS good!!

Personality traits that have been a blessing or a curse:

  1.      Analytical thinking has been both. It has helped in innumerable ways to find solutions that many thought were not possible. It also can make me seem aloof and my kids have told me more than once when I solved the mystery wayyyy before the end of the movie to stop thinking so much!! They also hate playing Clue or any of those problem solving games with me. However, because of that they also have started paying attention to situational awareness and instinct and they are getting much better at problem solving and at playing Clue.
  2.      My stereotypical red-headed temper has also been both a blessing and a curse. Although I have learned to control it for the most part, it has come in handy when mama bear needed to protect her cubs and used the extra strength. It rarely is helpful when I KNOW I wasn’t speeding in that speed trap area officer.

If I could shout something from the rooftops and everyone would hear, I would shout, “Spend your life making beautiful memories, treating people kindly, loving friends, family, and strangers, doing what you love and loving what you do, and making love with your soul mate.” Why would I shout that? Because nothing else matters.


Sandra Bodester

Twin Falls, ID

Age 54


Melissa Dimond


Is there an event in your life that altered your life path?

–I can think of three pretty significant events:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Continue reading

NikiJo Bluth

My journey to motherhood… I was 18, just graduated Highschool with my GED and to say i was excited to be going off to college in just a matter of weeks would be an understatement. I was a life guard in North Myrtle Beach having the best summer ever, my life was finally on the right track. Sometime in July I had begun to feel ill, flu like symptoms, tired and no interest in food. After about a week I went to the doctors. I remember feeling very confused when he did a pelvic exam when i knew it was just the flu. A few minutes past and a nurse came in the room and informed me that I was pregnant. I was so mad that they would say such a thing that i stormed out of the office and refused to hear another word of it… no way, not me, not now… I was just getting my life right with God and was going to a Southern Baptist College 2 hours away from home, I was finally Free… I couldn’t be pregnant…But I was, and thru many months of hard decisions on whether to place her for adoption or not I decided to become her Momma; single and scared to death. But together we made it!


Motherhood can take on so many faces… a few yrs. Later i was married and we experienced 10 miscarriages in a 5 yr span. I felt like a failure, like i was being punished for my sins in my earlier years. I just couldn’t continue to put my body and mind, heart and soul thru another loss so in 95” we adopted a beautiful baby boy. I was so happy, finally content with our life as a family of 4. Then in 1998 I became pregnant with twins!!!!! It was such a shock to us but I was beyond thrilled. Then in my 10th week we lost one of the twins.. Again my heart broke and I was at a loss for understanding. But in February of 99 i gave birth to another son. Then for the next 6 years I would give birth to 3 more beautiful babies!! I will never be able to understand all the loss and grief that comes with motherhood. But I have also tasted the sweet joy and happiness that can never be measured or explained.


I think as a mother I had to do some serious soul searching for strength, love, compassion and most of all patience. All of which were not a part of my up bringing and did not come to me as naturally as I had wished. So I decided with my 1st child that I would be a chain breaker and not repeat the same patterns that my parents and their parents had made. This would not be easy but 24 years later its proven to be well worth it!

Motherhood wasn’t something to be valued or treasured in my family… It was something that happened and had to be dealt with… not celebrated or cherished. Children were just another mouth to be fed or body to be clothed. This is why breaking those chains and setting a brand new example to my children was more than just a hope or a dream.. It was a must.

Dreams… wow, those tend to get pushed to the back burner as a mother, don’t they? Sometimes they even get forgotten. I suppose if I was to look around I’d find that my dream of visiting Italy and Greece still exists. Dreams are fun to think about during quiet moments from time to time.

To describe my life story would be more like a describing a very tattered web. I like to joke that most people have family trees, well I have a huge family bush and a thorny one at that. Both my parents have been married 3 times so stability is a foreign concept to me. My biological father came into my life for a brief time when I was 16 only to disappear again. I have 3 sisters that I grew up with.


Although two are half and one is step we were never anything but sisters.  We are always there for each other. Even still today, my big sister is my best friend and one of the only people I trust in this world.


I saw and have been through way more than any little girl should ever need to be witness to. As a teenager I was more a parent to my mom than visa versa and had no rules to follow or structure in my life. I lived at the Beach and lived to party. Then at 17 I decided I needed to get my life together and so a new journey began. I also experienced my first real heart break that would alter my view of the world in a way that would torment me for years to come. I had to learn what it meant to value myself and love myself more than any other person. That I could only depend on me to get my needs met..always. I also had to learn how to trust my father in heaven and trust that he could love me when my earthly fathers couldn’t. Trust doesn’t come easy to a girl like me.

Three words to describe me… strong, because I have overcome a lot in my life and I’m very proud of this. I’m independent and very outgoing, I love new adventures and don’t like to depend on others to supply for my needs, happiness or well-being.

Womanhood and motherhood…LOL. For me it’s a blur. I think I’m just now starting to experience womanhood at 44. It’s a different kind of strong, but it feels good. My confidence is starting to emerge in a more secure sorta way. I like the woman I am today, the woman that I’m still becoming.

I think that thru this crazy journey I have learned that life is what you make it, not what you allow it to make you. Also because I have been thru much I know that it is no ones place to judge another’s walk.. I think if we as women could just stop for a moment and see the uniqueness in each other and not judge but love one another, our light as women and as sisters would shine brighter than the sun.

NikiJo Bluth

Eden, North Carolina

Age 44

Jennifer Anderson

I was single for 34 years of my life. My days were filled working as a Nurse Practitioner, running marathons, competing in triathlons and riding my bike. These activities were safe for me, they fit nicely into my comfort zone. Others things weren’t so safe and comfortable for me – relationships and vulnerability. Many days I wondered if I was good enough to be a wife and a mother. I looked at all my flaws, my hangups, my depression and saw a very inadequate person. Fear filled my heart that I would totally mess up any child that might come my way. How could anyone want a mom or wife like me who would be happy one day and in a dark place the next day?

Antidepressants will do funny things to a person. My moods stabilized and I was able to tuck away the negative feelings about myself and start to see through the fog to the real me, a person of goodness, kindness and worth. I started taking medication in December and by January I met the man that became my husband. At last I had courage to take a leap of faith.

While my husband and I dated we talked of having kids. He had 4 beautiful children from a previous marriage but was willing and eager to have more. However, neither of us were spring chickens anymore. Our biological clocks were ticking loudly. We tried for months to have a child but were unsuccessful so we sought medical help to see if we could find an answer to our struggle. After many tests, pokings and proddings we were told that having a baby was not likely to be in our future. What? How could this be? This was not how it was supposed to go. What had I done? The thing I had been so afraid of had become the thing I wanted the most. I felt as though I had wasted all those younger years and now I was being punished. Suddenly I wanted to be a mom more than anything but was given no hope. Well, almost no hope – the doctor said we had a 1% chance of conceiving.

With such a small possibility of pregnancy we decided to start fertility treatments. Blood draws, consultations and counseling dragged on for what felt like eternity. Finally we had everything arranged to start with my next cycle, but a funny thing happened – my cycle never started. We waited day after day wondering what the problem was. Finally we decided to take a pregnancy test and the result was positive! How could this be? How could this happen when we were given such little hope? It was a miracle! What a relief! We were beyond belief. Not that we were complaining. We just beat the odds by a long shot!

Nine months later Isabelle arrived. A perfect little baby girl so full of life and potential. Once the newness of her arrival started to wear off, feelings of inadequacy began creeping in. I thought, how can a person so imperfect as I am raise this perfect little spirit? Those negative feelings and thoughts poked their head back into my life. I plead, “Please don’t let me mess her up, please help me be a good mom to her – one that nurtures, loves and doesn’t ruin that sweet innocence.”

Somehow, over time, I learned how to be a mother. Perhaps remembering how my mom raised me and through the few babysitting jobs I had as a teenager. Isabelle survived my fumblings, insecurities and even seemed to be turning out ok. Wow, maybe I am cut out to be a mother!

Over the next 5 years I settled into this new role. Then I started not feeling well. Something wasn’t right inside me. My stomach started expanding and my energy started shrinking. The veins in my legs became more prominent. My appetite changed. At first I thought my symptoms were from exercising. I had been training for and completed the Ultimate Challenge bike race, a 110 mile ride with 10,000 feet of elevation gain, who wouldn’t be tired after that? But shouldn’t my abs be flattening, not expanding? I went to my doctor. They drew some blood, ran some tests and on a Friday afternoon told me I had Ovarian Cancer – stage III-C.

Cancer runs in my family. My Grandmom died from Ovarian Cancer, so did my Aunt, just nine months before my diagnosis. My world just turned upside down. I wasn’t supposed to get cancer, at least not at such a young age. My Grandmom and Aunt were in their 60’s, so I had years to go before I needed to worry about any chance of getting cancer. My thoughts turned to my daughter. The thought of not being able to raise her felt worse than my diagnosis! My mind reviewed the past five years. Suddenly I didn’t care what kind of a mom I was, I just wanted more than anything to keep being a mom to Isabelle. I prayed, “Please God, just let me stay on earth so I can keep being her mom. Don’t take me away yet. I know I’ve made mistakes, come up short, judged too quickly, and a million other things but I have so much more to learn, to give and to become.”


Two weeks after my diagnosis I underwent surgery to remove all the cancer that was growing throughout my abdomen. The surgeon said he removed all my insides, set them on a table, sifted through them until all visible cancer cells were found and then stuffed everything back in. That’s exactly what it felt like! The surgery literally took everything out of me. I went from climbing mountains easily on by bike to struggling to stand up, let alone take a step. After 2 weeks I was able to return home much stronger than right after surgery. Now I could walk up a short flight of stairs – as long as I could lay down and rest at the top! Next came chemotherapy – 18 weeks of treatment that extended to 24 weeks due to low blood counts. I lost my hair. Isabelle wasn’t so excited to have a bald mom and dad! I invited her to shave her head too but she wrinkled her nose and told me no, 5 year olds need long hair. I wasn’t the best mom through the surgery and chemo. Instead of the normal run around together outside, we would lay together on the recliner and watch TV. She became my help and support along with my husband who stepped in and took over both his roll and mine so I could heal.

Six months after my diagnosis I completed my treatments. Sometimes it takes the threat of dying to make us want to live fully, dare greatly and love passionately. I’m not sure if I was given a 1% chance of beating cancer, but I beat the odds again. Now I have a scar down my belly (goodbye bikini days), a new head of hair and a new perspective on life. I lost days of being a mom because of fear and unruly thoughts that danced in my head. I focused on thoughts that brought me down, limited me, and diminished my true nature. I now realize that each day is a gift, too short to be wasted looking at the negative, regretting the past or worrying about the future. Today is to be lived in the present, through each breath that passes through the body, each sunrise that brightens the sky, and each smile or tear that flows from Isabelle. Yes, that is living and that is what I want Isabelle to remember about herself and her mother.


Jennifer Anderson

Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Age 47

Julia Gray Collings

‘And I Did Eat’


When I was asked to write an article about my life I was touched. I then wondered if it was really understood who they had asked and whether they truly knew of the condition of the tapestry of my life and the much needed repair work that had occurred on so many occasions! Realising we are all on different journeys to the same destination and with very different experiences but with the same divine heritage, a prayer was offered up to my Heavenly Father requesting the assistance of The Holy Ghost so that I might be able to write with authenticity the things that my
Father in Heaven would have me share and that these words would reach the people they were intended to lift. I have entitled it ‘And I Did Eat’ because like Eve that’s the choice we all made in the [before life] willingly.

My name is Julia Marie, I loved to introduce myself as this as a child, it made me smile for some reason. My maiden name is Gray and I was born in the United Kingdom. I am a spirited passionate girl who is a wife, mother, grandmother and so much more, still working it all out and trying to see myself with all the lights on as it were. Always wanting to throw myself into the experiences of life with gusto that allow me to flourish and grow on this wonderfully colourful planet. Continue reading

Ellie Brown


What childhood dreams did you have about being a mother?

I thought about being a mother all the time when I was a child. The main reason is that I had great (in my mind they were great) ideas about how to run a home and engage with children that my parents were not receptive to or interested in at all. They would tell me, “You can do that when you have a home and family of your own.” It triggered my rebellious side and I determined to be the best mother the world has ever known. Turns out being a mother is a lot harder than I expected! But I think all those years of preparing and that strong willed determination to show my parents they should have listened to me (lol) have really worked in my favor and helped me through some hard times.

How do you feel motherhood is viewed by those close to you? Society? Continue reading

Kristen Averett

To understand where I come from as a mother, one must understand where I came from as a child. I grew up in kind of a rough neighborhood on the south edge of the beautiful community of Springville, UT. I am the youngest of 8 children. My mother was only a few weeks away from 40 and not in the best health and my dad would turn 47 that fall. My dad kindly called me his bonus baby. They had grown up during The Great Depression and adhered to many of the principles they had learned then. Though we were somewhat a lower middle class family, my parents taught their children to work hard and be frugal with money and assets. They lived within their means and expected their children to do the same. I had the rare opportunity to watch my older brothers and sisters raise children the same age as I was, often babysitting those younger. I was able to watch what was and was not working for them and make decisions of what I wanted for my own future family. They are some of my greatest examples.

One of the biggest life changing influences in my life has been The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The gospel of Jesus Christ has allowed me to grow as a person and has been a guide in all that I do especially as a mom. At the age of 21 I had the opportunity to serve a mission for my church. I went to Southern California and worked among the Spanish speaking community there. Upon return, I quickly fell in love with a friend I had met in high school (a story in itself) and we were married in the Jordan River Temple, July 28, 1995.

 My husband, Lyn, suggested that we wait a year to begin our family giving him a little more time to get through school and for us to get to know each other better. That first year I worked full-time while he attended school. My paycheck paid the bills and his went into the bank. The following year I was excited to begin our family as I spent my evenings watching him do homework all night. I was a little bored and wanted to move forward. He was scared to death, being the oldest in a family of 2 kids, never having much experience with babies. By that time we were in a bit of a better position to start a family as he had been promoted to an office accounting job which was his field of study. Ty was born in June, 1997, the following year. I was so excited. I quit my job ready to become a full-time mom. Things didn’t go too smoothly. Soon after, my husband learned that there were issues in the company he was working for and was not willing to overlook the dishonest accounting practices he had uncovered. Here we were with a small family, my husband still a student, and no income.

One of the only true arguments my husband and I have had was over if I would go back to work or not. I told him that I didn’t have a child for someone else to raise him. Part of my argument was that if I were to go back to work, most of my paycheck would go toward child care and gas. I wouldn’t be bringing home enough to make it worthwhile. We found our solution by living on our savings and finding an apartment with lower rent. Those lessons taught by my parents came in handy as times were tight. My husband found a part-time job on campus at BYU that helped to cover our bills, and I helped with groceries by cleaning houses for neighbors on the weekends, and babysitting so that I could stay home with my son. It was one of the best things I did.


Lyn graduated with his Bachelors of Finance, December, 1998. Though that year was financially difficult, our marriage was strengthened as we learned to compromise and work together to meet common goals. January, 1999, I ended up needing a hernia surgery. That meant that we needed to put off having another child for at least a few more months. Lyn was vigorously looking for a new job. That blessing came in March. On the very day I was pronounced healed enough to once again lift Ty, BYU called and offered Lyn a job working in the accounting office at the BYU store. He has worked there ever since. I was ready to have another child as Lyn’s parents had practically taken over their first grandchild, and I felt that in some ways I had given up my first born. I wanted a little one just for me. Ethan was born March, 2000.


Never before had I felt such love for my little family. At the same time it was a time of great confusion for me. Here I had these two fantastic children, but how was I supposed to divide my time between them? Everyone from the grandparents, parents, next door neighbor, to perfect strangers had words of unsolicited advice for me. “Pay more attention to Ty because he is older and will remember if you don’t.” “Don’t spoil the baby.” “Love your kids, they grow up so fast.” they would say. I found myself in a place of turmoil as I tried to balance an active 3 year old and the desire to just hold and enjoy MY newborn son. Add to that, Ethan was fussy, prone to ear infections, and didn’t seem to be thriving as much as Ty had as a baby. I felt trapped in a dark place where there was no relief. In the meantime, there were awesome things happening for our family. We were now in a position to move into a new home. Yet, I was expected to be home caring for little ones with nothing of my own time or space to be me.

That fall, I finally asked for some help realizing I was likely dealing with post partum depression. My husband felt terrible when he realized where I was at and was very supportive in helping me get to a better place. After a priesthood blessing from my dad and an understanding with my husband that I needed some me time, I began getting out for a morning walk. The sun began to shine again. Soon after, we became pregnant with our third child. I was eating better, exercising, and finding myself. I also realized that it didn’t matter what other people thought I should do with my kids. They were my responsibility. I hadn’t had them for others to raise so, right or wrong, I needed to do what felt best to me.

Ayndria was born July, 2002. This beautiful little girl was such a delight. I felt enlivened and joyous to explore the difference between little boys and girls in this precious new little life. There was such a difference this time. Life was fun and things were going well in our new home.


When Ayndria was 9 months old, she began having seizures. Ethan, at age 3, was an emaciated waif, and we had our hands full keeping Ty engaged in his first year of school. The first thing we did was to get Ethan into a gastroenterologist. It turned out that he is asthmatic and has a milk allergy.  As we worked to change our diet, he began to grow and fill out and as an added bonus, my cholesterol dropped. A success!

Ayndria, though showing a slightly abnormal EEG, grew out of her seizures by the time she was 18 months old. In some ways we figure it was a stress response to not being able to express herself. As she became mobile and was able to talk, things improved and the seizures stopped. It is something we no longer worry about and yet something I ponder in my heart.  

Ty’s issues, to some extent, had to do with having a lot of instability in the classroom. His original kindergarten teacher came down with cancer and never made it to class. He had a wonderful substitute teacher the first term, and then a lady who was dealing with her own pregnancy and issues the last ¾ of the year. I made the mistake of unknowingly getting frustrated with her little daughter who was misbehaving in Ethan’s gymnastics class, not realizing who she was and that it would result in retaliation against my older son at school when she became his teacher. The teacher had him labeled as needing remedial help by the end of the year. Not willing to accept the situation, we told Ty that if he would read 100 books by the end of the summer, we would take the family to Lagoon, an amusement park in Northern Utah. I went to the library, found beginning readers and worked with him daily, little by little teaching him how to read and then slowly upping his reading level. We tracked his progress. By the end of the summer the biggest pay off came in him telling me that above going to Lagoon he had learned to love reading. Another blessing we received at this time was the school zoning changed and Ty was able to go to a different school where labels didn’t follow. He started 1st grade needing glasses, which he got, and on grade level with the skills he needed to be successful.

With all this going on, we decided to wait an extra year before adding another child to the mix. It was probably a good thing. Jonathan gave us a little bit of a jolt when he entered life 5 ½ weeks early in February, 2005. The hospital staff was very hesitant to allow him to come home. He needed to learn to eat and hold his body temperature steady. We talked with our children and told them we were in need of their prayers on behalf of their little brother. He was able to meet those goals and allowed to come home on time. Little did we know at the time just what a faith building experience he would provide to our older children. On top of his due date, he came down with RSV and spent 10 days in the pediatric ICU. An average stay with RSV is 3-5 days. We nearly lost him. The doctors told us when all was said and done that his was the worst case they saw that year. He came home tethered to oxygen for the following two months so was nearly 4 months old before he was able to really move. During all this, I felt really rather free. I had an 8 year-old who was an amazing helper, a 5 year-old in kindergarten, and a 3 year-old sweetheart. Really other than summers, I have only had two kids home during the school year at a time if that makes sense. I had gone from needing everything other than the kitchen sink on a changing table in the front room, to a full diaper bag, to sticking an extra diaper in my purse before I headed out the door. I could do this! Here is our family in 2006.


Spencer Seth came a year later in March, 2007. Again, there were complications with him showing up 6 weeks early. He spent 17 days in the NICU and came home past much of what we had dealt with when Jonathan was a baby, thankfully healthy and strong. When I asked the doctor if this was a trend that would continue if we had more children we were told that yes, if we had more children they most likely would continue to come earlier and earlier. After a great deal of prayer we felt we had our hands and hearts full enough and Spencer would complete our family.


Within the next little while we would realize that Jonathan had developmental delays due to his illness. To illustrate this, by the time he was 3 years old, he was on the mental level of an 18 month old child. Intervention was necessary. We enrolled him in a preschool and got him speech therapy. After a year of this he was now 4 and at a 2 year old level. I went to an IEP (individualized education program) meeting at the school and was told by the preschool teacher that Jonathan needed to be enrolled 4 days a week so he could learn how to use scissors. She began yelling at me when I insisted that it was more important that he learn how to talk rather than giving such a young child scissors. I stood my ground, insisting that I would teach him at home while bringing him to the school twice a week for speech therapy. It is amazing how certain people come into our lives at specific times for specific reasons. It just so happened that the principal of the school was our next door neighbor. When I told her how frustrated I was with how I had been treated in the meeting, we began working much better to get the issues Jonathan was facing resolved. As I worked with the speech therapist and Jonathan throughout the following year he improved by leaps and bounds. We got the kindergarten teacher, also my neighbor, to benchmark Jonathan at the end of the school year and get a recommendation for his kindergarten year. Within the previous year he had nearly completely recovered.  She suggested that I work with him through the summer and then enroll him in regular kindergarten. Then if he had to repeat nothing was lost, but if he was able, he would be allowed to advance. That summer we worked hard on letters, numbers, and other skills as suggested by the speech therapist and kindergarten teacher with the knowledge that he would have to do better than most of his peers if he was to be looked at as on track. By the time he was retested at the beginning of kindergarten, he was on par with many of his peers and has since continued to advance with his class with no further difficulty.

If there is one thing that I would tell moms from the roof tops, it is to be involved with your children. Dive in and be their best advocate. If you don’t do it there are very few that will. Teach your children the skills they will need to be independent and strong.  Each child has been through the tradition of reading 100 books at the end of their kindergarten year. It has given them a great foundation for their schooling. They do chores that teach life skills. We are constantly talking about the need for a good education, and celebrate each term and success.

As our children have continued to grow, we have faced various challenges knowing in Whom we can put our trust for the best answers possible. Each child is different and unique. Ty has become a very big personality who is social, happy, and outgoing. He is currently, as of this writing in 2016, on an LDS mission in Barcelona, Spain, where he is having good success. Ethan is studious, crafty in that he can envision and build anything out of whatever material is handy. He is an amazing musician, and recently has taken up a penchant for drama. Ty did drama as well. Here they are 3 years apart and it took clear until the end of Ethan’s sophomore year for mutual friends to realize they are brothers. Ayndria is 14. She is quiet, loves to read and write and may well be a famous author before she is out of college. She is a peacemaker, and generous, and such a dear sweetheart in my eyes. Jonathan is in 6th grade this year. He is one of the truly popular kids in his class. We walk down the street and are recognized as Jon’s mom or dad or sibling. He is on his way to being an entrepreneur as he is always trying to figure out a new business to start when he is older. Spencer tends to be a bit of a serious young man. He loves structure and schedules, and video games, and pulling faces in pictures. Though he was my smallest child, he is within an inch of the same height as Jonathan 2 years his senior. We are often asked if they are twins, which I have to say is better than the question I used to get, asking whether all my kids have the same father.

I have learned you don’t ask about pregnancy (I used to tell people who asked if I was pregnant that I was due in a little over 10 months. Often they didn’t get it), or if people have kids unless they have hinted about it themselves. Children wield some of the greatest power to either hurt or bless a woman’s life. Too many people carry unseen sorrows in their hearts when it comes to their experiences so it is best to tread carefully. My advice to mothers would be to be invested in your children; teach them, advocate for them. You brought them here to Earth. Don’t be responsible for other people’s mistakes in raising them. Take the teaching moments when and where they come. Be willing to sacrifice and if at all possible stay at home with them. There is joy in motherhood. You have the greatest potential for changing the world one child at a time. The ladies that told me children grow up fast were not kidding. Here I am all these years later realizing just how true that is and am now saying it myself. Know that there is life after kids. I am a student at BYU working towards a long desired degree in teaching. I am continually learning how much once again my church means to me. Much of the training I am receiving in school I can relate to what I have already learned by teaching in primary and in other church callings. I see the Lord’s hand and His miracles all around me and you can too if you stop and look.





Martina Stewart

What is a significant part of “your story” that is important to you?

All of it, as every single part has contributed to the person I am today.

Born in Ireland, moved all over Ireland and England before settling in Belmont at eight years of age. Went into foster care at 14 because of circumstances. Married at 20, first child at 21. Did a degree in graphics then changed route to be a childminder to be able to rear my children and provide for them. At 36 years of age, after having four beautiful children, I went from council home to mortgage…one of the biggest scariest but most wonderful un-regrettable experiences.

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Clair Layton Jones

Clair Layton (Jones)When I was young I pictured my life pretty much as it is now, maybe not with four children but certainly a couple. I didn’t picture what work I would be doing, which is building, but knew I loved doing it with my dad. I loved watching my dad building and always joined in. Was nice to spend father daughter time. I found once I got married when my husband was away, I always started building jobs at home, but never knew it would be such a large part of my life now.

Was strange when I found out was pregnant for the first time as my nan had passed away six months before and I was having counselling try to understand her death. In a strange way felt my nan had sent a baby for me. I was so close to my nan as my mum was so hard working.
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