When motherhood hurts

PicassoGrowing up, I was often praised for my future motherhood potential. I had a great desire to be a good Mormon woman and I was constantly working to gain the skills to aid in my quest. I learned to sew, knit, bake, and keep a clean house. I worked with children and found that I loved being with little ones. I prized myself on my ability to calm fussy babies and quell toddler tantrums. Surely this motherhood thing would be the perfect fit for me.

After the birth of our first child, my ideals were mostly attainable. I found myself to be a gentle and patient parent and was happy to have my life absorbed into this tiny person. I baked and sewed and cleaned the house. I went for long walks and read books to my little one. There were still hard moments and sleepless nights but all in all, it really was heavenly–motherhood was everything I hoped it would be and so much more.

And then things changed.

My second baby was welcomed into this world after a traumatic birth followed by a lonely postpartum period. The copious family and friends who had been a stone’s throw after the birth of our first were now over 1,000 miles and a border crossing away. While I had made a few friends in our new location, most of them were also young mothers and unable to devote a significant amount of time to caring for me as I healed physically and emotionally. While I had been finishing up graduate school after the birth of my first, this time I had no outside goals or experiences beyond caring for two young children. I was lonely and dangerously depressed.

I tried to fight it off–I talked about how blessed I was to have this beautiful baby, to be home with my children, to have an amazing husband who did so much to provide for our family. I knew I should be happy–I had everything that a good LDS wife and mother could want. My life was on track, all that I had prepared for and dreamed of was a reality. And yet I couldn’t shake that feeling of devastation and darkness, the deep-seated desire to just not wake up in the morning so I could escape the heartache that this second motherhood had brought into my life.

I’m not sure how or when it ended, just that there came a day when the darkness was less foreboding, the emotional pain less severe and the scales of life tipped back in favour of continued existence. As I look back on that time, I realize that what I wanted more than anything was to be able to express how hard it was without feeling like I was rejecting my own personhood. Since I had always been taught that my highest calling in this life was to be a mother, when motherhood was deeply painful, life seemed futile. If I couldn’t find joy in motherhood then consequently there could be no joy in life.

When the talks from men come about the glories of womanhood and motherhood, I wanted to stand and show them the aches in my heart, the nightmares of repeated birth trauma, the fears of the dark days returning, the sadness that never truly leaves and the scars that never heal. But instead I hold them, fearful that to share my heart will only confirm their suspicions that I’m not who they always wanted me to be, constantly holding out hope that tomorrow I will be the woman I once thought I was.

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Poetry Sundays: Descending Theology: The Crucifixion

Art by William BouguereauIt is increasingly difficult for me to separate the miracle of Christ’s birth from the sorrow of His death. Maybe age does that to us as we move from the first half to the second half of life. Maybe it’s something about Mary. No doubt, on its deepest level, the message of the atonement offers joy–ultimate, celebratory joy. I believe we will all be freed from the effects of sin and sorrow in the eternities. Yet, in a mortal world of violence and heartbreak, that joy often seems far off.

Some of us struggle to believe in a God who would allow the unspeakable cruelty that exists in this world. I imagine everyone who ever lived will at some point find herself wondering how to hold on to faith when a child is lost to disease, a friend is killed in an act of senseless violence, or even when a good soul is taken home at the end of a long life.

I chose today’s poem because Mary Karr is not shy about telling the truth. She speaks our fear that perhaps, “some less than loving watcher watches us.” She is not afraid to visit the darkest places each of us will visit some day, or to say Christ was not a only God, but also a man when he hung there. I chose this poem because, for me, one of the greatest gifts Christ gave us was the comfort of His last words on the cross: His testimony that a kind and nurturing parent waits to receive us home.


Descending Theology: The Crucifixion

To be crucified is first to lie down on a shaved tree, and then to have oafs stretch you out on a crossbar as if for flight, then thick spikes fix you into place.

Once the cross pops up and the pole stob sinks vertically in an earth hole, perhaps at an awkward list, what then can you blame for hurt but your own self's burden?

You're not the figurehead on a ship. You're not flying anywhere, and no one's coming to hug you. You hang like that, a sack of flesh with the hard trinity of nails holding you into place.

Thus hung, your ribcage struggles up to breathe until you suffocate. If God permits this, one wonders if some less than loving watcher

watches us. The man on the cross under massed thunderheads feels his soul leak away, then surge. Some wind         sucks him into the light stream

in the rent sky, and he's snatched back, held close.

An earlier version of this poem may be read here.  Mary Karr’s “Sinners Welcome” the volume from which the poem was selected can be found here.



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Goodbye, Emma Lou

The summer after my freshman year of college, I somehow landed a job working at A Woman’s Place, Salt Lake City’s only (and long since former) feminist bookstore. I’m not quite sure who recommended me for the job in the first place, though I suspect my neighbor Marilyn, who’d supplied me with a steady diet of girl-power literature since I was ten, may have been my benefactor. The shop was an oasis, a safe place, a wonderful experience for an angsty feminist eighteen-year-old girl who’d had Sonia Johnson’s From Housewife to Heretic and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own roiling in her head for the past four years. Regulars described the bookstore as “the only place where you’ll find Emma Lou Thayne on the shelf next to lesbian fiction.”

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The “Measure of our Creation”

Today is the end of my seventh week in a 24-week programming bootcamp. Three months ago, I was only non-chalantly  applying for it, after having applied to another and had not gotten in. It wasn’t originally in my plans to do this now- next year at the earliest, but when opportunities come, I try to take them and not think to much about it. So far that philosophy has worked out.

I had been a stay-at-home-mom for 6 years. We homeschool. It has been a huge lifestyle change, and it’s unlikely to go back to how it was if I get a job after this. I am now gone 8-6 M-F. I have had a lot of disjointed thoughts on this situation this week and I supposed I’ll list them chronologically.

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A Few of My Favorite Things: Christmas Picture Books


One of my favorite holiday traditions growing up was reading stories on Christmas Eve. I’ve continued this with my own family and because I’m such a sucker for beautiful picture books and there are so many lovely holiday ones, we can’t do it all in just one night. Now we read them throughout the month of December to get in the spirit. Tonight I poured through my holiday book boxes and will highlight my top ten favorites.

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Visiting Teaching Message December 2014: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Prince of Peace

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

In what ways does the Savior bring peace to your life?

ww2-warbonds-christmas-adThis is the question posed at the end of the formal December 2014 Visiting Teaching message. Most often the end questions don’t seem to apply to me or the women I visit teach, but I appreciate the idea of inquiry, and the admonition to “seek to know what to share” that is included in the precursory section of each Visiting Teaching message. So I read them, and think about them even if I end up not using them. But…. I thought about that query…. and I thought about Christmas…. and I thought about women through the ages.

I also have a thing for history. I love it. Drawn to the Egyptians as a child, I grew curious about the World Wars as a teen as I wondered about George Santayana’s statement “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I grew to believing Santayana, so began a life-long love in seeking the wisdom, hindsight and experiences of those gone before me. Indeed, it surprises no one who knows me that I listen to a collection of dated audio recordings, including my Christmas favourite, Bing Crosby’s 1944 Live Christmas Broadcast.

There is something nostalgically sad, yet hopefully longing and strangely beautiful  to me about Christmas in wartime.

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The Exponent’s Favorite Charities for Giving Tuesday

Giving TuesdayWe’re all familiar with Black Friday and lately, Cyber Monday is gaining popularity, but I’ve been super excited about Giving Friday the past couple years. #GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back and occurs on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. On this day, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

Here at The Exponent, we wanted to list some of our favorite charities that we like to give to and trust for their good work. Below are some thoughts from our permabloggers and other Exponent II community members.

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