I have no idea why I have been prompted to write this, other than as I have gone about my very busy life the last few weeks, this experience has popped into my mind over and over and over. Perhaps it is meant for someone out there, or perhaps I still have not completely worked through my own feelings on it and need to do that. At any rate, please bear with me as I get a little bit personal on this post.
Nine years ago on this date, I was lying in a hospital bed, precisely where I had been for the past several weeks and where I would be for another few weeks still, awaiting the delivery of my third daughter. Due to serious complications in the pregnancy, I had been advised by several doctors that should I survive the ordeal, it should be my last pregnancy. It was a heart rending decision to make (and perhaps a post for another time), but we did decide at that point to take surgical steps to prevent a future pregnancy. That is really not what this post is about, other than to set the stage for where my body and mind were at this point in my life.
I (obviously) survived the delivery and welcomed a beautiful baby girl, who has been a handful from the second she was born. As I type this, she is trying to argue with me that she shouldn’t have to go to bed at her usual bedtime tonight because it’s the last day of school tomorrow. But, I digress.
Something about that pregnancy (more accurately EVERYTHING about that pregnancy) put my body into a tailspin. I was constantly exhausted. I could not stop gaining weight. I would visit with my doctor and he would say, “of course you are tired, you have 3 children younger than age 4!” And yet, I knew it was something more.
After months and months of feeling like I was on my death bed and test after test, I finally got a diagnosis — a couple of diagnoses, actually. They were treatable things, and while I am not 100% even 9 years later, I am worlds beyond where I was at that time.
Again, this is not post about limiting family size or chronic illness. although those are certainly topics worthy of discussion someday.
This is a post about church callings and why they sometimes come at the most inopportune times in our lives.
My baby was less than 3 months old when I received a call from the executive secretary in our newly-formed bishopric in a ward that had just split. Since the phone call was literally the day of the split and the appointment was for “me and my husband” to meet with the new bishop, I was quite certain that I was going to be called to be president of an organization. Further confirmation was the fact that I suddenly had names popping into my mind randomly. Most of you will know the kind of thing I am talking about.
Honestly, I just prayed and prayed that it would be anything but Primary, because I just did not feel like I had the physical or emotional energy to deal with that at the time. I was still so sick. I had 3 children, ages 4, 2, and 3 months old. Also, I had very tender feelings about children and motherhood in general at the time. I had regrets about the surgical sterilization decision (even though this had been confirmed to me in several ways…always second guessing!) For these reasons and more, I just didn’t feel like I could handle being around a lot of kids at that time in my life.
Of course, you probably know how this ends. I was called to be Primary president.
The first question the bishop had for me when we met with him in his office was, “How is your health?” and I sat there for a moment trying to think the best way to answer that: “One foot in the grave?” or “Come take a look at my house and ask that again!” or how about just a simple, “I’ve been better!”
But no, I looked at my husband, said, “Um,” and the bishop brushed right on by the topic. End of discussion. Darn, and that was my out! (joking)
Oddly, I KNEW I was supposed to be the Primary president. I had no idea why. I certainly didn’t think (and this was very abundantly confirmed to me as I served) that I was the most capable woman in the ward for this task. I most certainly wasn’t the best with kids (I’m still not) and for that matter didn’t even particularly like being around kids. Yet still, I KNEW. I still don’t get it, and yet it was confirmed to me even before I set foot in his office.
I remember going home that night and wondering how on earth I was going to do it. I wanted to call him back and say, “Yeah, this was a joke, right?” And then I started thinking that maybe the health challenges were my “test” and now that I had accepted the calling, the test would miraculously be over.
I had been in the calling for less than a month when I went to an open house in Salt Lake. I parked my car and started walking to the meeting when I felt a very odd sensation. I ran into the nearest building (Crossroads Mall) and to the nearest restroom, where I proceeded to pass a softball-sized blood clot.
Turned around and went home. The whole way home the battles went on in my head again – What on earth were they thinking calling me to this? What are my ward members thinking of me as I try to organize a very large Primary in a brand new ward and I can’t even go to a meeting without having a health emergency? How can I get out of this now?
By the time I got home 45 minutes later, it had again been confirmed to me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and that what I was giving was what was required. With that, I decided I had better just “forget myself and get to work, ” as President Hinckley might say.
Not that it was easy. Ever. I think I had been in a little more than a year when I practically resigned because of the prospect of starting a new year with less than half the Primary teachers that we needed in place. I wrote a scathing (embarrassed about that now!) letter to the counselor over Primary about how I could not do this without some support from the bishopric…and the next morning had the bishop at my door – filthy house, no shower, screaming kids, and all. Yeah, I think he got the picture.
I have often thought back on all this and wondered why this all happened. There have certainly been times in my life where I have been much more capable, physically and emotionally able to serve and have found myself playing the piano in Relief Society, something I could do in my sleep and requires almost no “challenge” to me, and yet I was pushed to my very limits of sanity with this calling. Why? I partially know the answer to that, and still don’t understand parts of it.
Like I said at the beginning, I am not sure why I have been prompted to write about this experience. Lest I sound completely negative, I LOVED that calling, in the end. I loved the kids – all 200+ of them. I grew so much as a person. My health issues did resolve for the most part during those years that I served, and it’s very possible that just the shear need to be there for the kids spurred that on as well. Certainly, my spiritual side grew exponentially during that time. I think I was probably a better wife and mom during that time as well, more than any other time before or since. I think it even helped me come to terms with the emotional struggles I was having about the family size thing – for I realized that it isn’t the number of children that matter, or if they are your biological children or not. It’s the loving and teaching of children that makes you a mom. And I was “mom” to every one of those little beauties. Even though I am not in touch with most of them anymore, I do get the occasional “I got my mission call” note or a wedding announcement, and I don’t regret the service for a second, even though it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done.
Thank you for reading. I still am not sure why I wrote this, but if you feel like you have something to share/add, I would love to hear it.
Spread the word!