Almost three weeks ago, I gave birth for the fifth time.
It didn’t matter that this was the fifth time; the reaction I felt at seeing my baby for the first time was the same as all the others before him. The overwhelming feelings of love took away the pain, and I felt nothing but joy for those moments. I have often wondered if this is the same for most women around the world –do they see the positive amid the negative? After traveling through the “valley of sorrow” and “travail,” do they feel the extreme opposite? Do they realize what they are holding in their arms?
These questions have pierced my mind even more this time around, because of some things we are facing as a family. Our oldest child is 8 years old, and, like many highly religious families, having five children (or six, or seven, or whenever we feel we are finished adding to our family) is not seen as a burden, but a blessing. But for others, having large families is nonsensical. In fact, a nameless family member of ours expressed concern over our decision to have more children. We were told, in no uncertain terms, that if we were to continue adding to our family, this person would be very upset with us. At first, I was taken aback and hurt. But then, after sitting down and pondering their words, I realized this person’s position and reasoning and why they would say such things. See, this person is an atheist and an extreme environmentalist. This background made me realize how they see things: “This life is the only one. We did not live before we were born. We will not live after we die, and so this life is all we have, and we must take care of the earth.” Of course they would be upset in us having several children –it goes against everything they believe.
But for me? My view is very, very, very different.
It’s not that I don’t care about taking care of the earth. But for me, there’s more. As a Mormon (LDS) woman, I have been taught that I am a daughter of God. Not only am I His daughter, but I lived with Him before I was born. All of my brothers and sisters lived with him, too (that’s you!). Simply put, He is the literal Father of my spirit. We all knew each other, and we all knew God. He loved us then, and He loves us now. In fact, that love was so great, He presented a plan to us. Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles said:
What occurred in this first estate is dimly understood, but we do know that we lived there as spirits, children of our Heavenly Father, and we made certain steps of advancement to prepare for the opportunity of housing our eternal spirits in earthly bodies. We also know that our Father held a great council to explain the purpose of earth life. We had the opportunity of accepting or rejecting the plan of salvation. It was not forced upon us. The essence of the plan was that man would have an opportunity of working out his own salvation on earth, with God’s help. A leader was selected to teach us how to follow the plan and to redeem us from sin and death. As the Lord explained to Moses, “Behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2).
President Boyd K. Packer has said:
The doctrine is simply this: life did not begin with mortal birth. We lived in spirit form before we entered mortality. We are spiritually the children of God.
What clarity I feel when I hear these words! I am so grateful to have knowledge of who I am, where I am going, and what my purpose is in this life. My faith in the plan our Heavenly Father presented to us is the guiding light in my life. Each time I make a choice, regardless of whether or not it is seen by others as “wrong,” I know that the reasoning behind it comes from my belief in life before and after death. This belief, along with my faith in Christ, is my anchor –to know that my existence on Earth did not just spontaneously occur through birth. I existed before birth! What a glorious thing to know.
Still, I don’t blame my family member for their words of concern and anger; in fact, I appreciate them now. They made me pause long enough to think about why I would choose to have more children, what I truly believe, and why I (and my husband) felt it was necessary to add to our family so soon. I sometimes think about those concerns even now, as I gaze into my newborn’s eyes. I see him focus just past my face, and I wonder what he sees. I wonder if he remembers who his is –a child of God –and I wonder if he remembers just a glimpse of where he has recently come from. I’m so grateful that as he grows, I will have the opportunity to teach him, remind him of what he once knew. I will tell him where he has come from, where he is going, and pray that he will realize in his own heart, the beauty of God’s plan for us.
For all of us.
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