And now I want to share something of what I felt when I read it, and why. Please go back and reread from paragraph six down to where she speaks of her miscarriage. I am one of the lucky ones; or more accurately, I am one of the more-obviously-blessed ones. I had five pregnancies and five living children. The pregnancies were relatively uncomplicated. I had Firstborn in a modern hospital with all the bells and whistles; that was my most difficult birth, because I had not yet learned to trust my body’s wisdom. I had her sisters at home with a midwife who went to church with us; she was both extremely competent, and inspired. I learned how to turn the girls when they went breech on me, and I learned to savor the peculiar joys of pregnancy. [Peculiar not as in “odd”, but as in “ransomed” or “purchased”, the same root (pecuniary) as “a peculiar people”. Deuteronomy 14:2.]
I have never felt more blessed or holy than when I was with child. Yes, I was often tired and cranky, but the greater part of my internal experience was sublime. I knew that I was doing the Lord’s work in bringing these precious children into the world. I knew that it was the most important work that I would ever do. I am a better human being because of my strugglings and my sacrifices as a mother. I love my children more because I have given up or postponed lesser things in order to be their mother.
I know, with every fiber of my being, what Sister Soper is talking about when she expounds on Paul’s instruction to present oneself as a living sacrifice, because I have done so, and for the most part gladly. That scripture will never again be meaningless to me, because I have connected it with my own experiences.
I just naturally assumed that when the girls grew up and married, they would conceive and bear as easily as I have done. And I have been so sadly mistaken.
Because of a selfish choice that Lark’s mother made, and the understandable response of Lark’s father, Firstborn will bear no children of her own. She is a loving and passionately committed mother and could not love Lark and her sister more if they were her own flesh and blood, but the fact remains that there are spirits waiting who should have come down this lineage [and been born in the covenant] who will go to another. The choices we make, particularly our reproductive choices, are never just about us, or about one particular unborn child; they affect untold generations and multiple families.
Secondborn has had different struggles; for each of our two precious Bitties, there has been at least one miscarriage. [Doctor Wally speaks very tenderly of the twenty miscarriages that he and his beloved have experienced. In the words of my favorite hymn, “I scarce can take it in.”] And my beloved Middest has experienced only miscarriages; she has not told me how many, but she has shared how difficult they have been. Fourthborn, who does not attend church at present, is nonetheless deeply spiritual, and one of her gifts of the Spirit is that she is so in tune with what her sisters are feeling that she has known when they were pregnant and has felt their physical pain when they miscarried.
When Sister Soper relates how she told her friend, “It wasn’t a waste,” I knew, with that deep knowing that is a testimony of the Spirit, that my own sacrifices and those of my daughters were likewise not wasted. As the Lord told Joseph in Doctrine and Covenants 122:7, “All these things shall give [us] experience, and shall be for [our ultimate] good.” These losses and our individual and family grief over them, the betrayals by faithless men, my own former sense of having been abandoned by man and God, none of this is a waste. All of it can draw us nearer to the Father and to His Son, our Savior, who has paid the price not only for our sins and omissions, but for the sins that have been committed against us, and for the small woundings and petty irritations of daily, mortal life.
Today will be my last Fast and Testimony Meeting in this ward. I have mentioned that as a people, we fast once a month [those of us who are physically capable of doing so] and donate the value of what we would have eaten, for the blessing of the poor. And in connection with that, our worship service is not the usual roster of announcements and doctrinal talks; the individual members may rise and address the congregation and bear witness of the workings of God in their lives. There was one little eight-year-old girl whose insights never failed to delight me; she reminds me a lot of one of my girls when she was younger. Unfortunately, we lost them to another ward in the Great Ward Boundary Shift a couple of months ago.
I have no idea what I will be saying, but I do know that I will be rising to speak. I need to say goodbye, and I need to tell them what they have taught me. They have truly become my brothers and my sisters, and I shall miss them.