In the span of one week this month we had the opportunity to watch two friends expand their families. One here in mortality, and the other, heartbreakingly, for the eternities. Being present at an adoption finalization and at an infant’s funeral in the same week lent me so much perspective.
Adding a new soul in to a family changes the dynamic, no matter how the soul came to the family or for how long you have them earth side. Though adjusting to serving a new family member can feel soul-stretching, adding you to our family has also been a force of peace and joy. Having you with us is a reminder that life is often as sweet as it is bitter, and if we do it right, we can let the bitterness inspire and improve our sweet moments.
When I heard my friend, Xai, had lost her premature baby, Kinsley, I felt so crushed for her. The baby was born at 28 weeks and lived for an hour. This is Xai’s third baby to die prematurely. She has two living sons. I wrote a card for her, expressing my sympathies, sharing my testimony, and offering my help when she’s ready. I had Mercedes draw on the other half of the card.
I should have taken a pic of the card. Mercy drew a rainbow, clouds, rain, a sun, a flower and a “tree.” Last week while we read scriptures we read about when Christ calms the tempest. Mercedes really latched on to when he says “peace, be still.” When I told her what happened to Xai and her baby I asked if she wanted me to write anything for her in the card. She said something about how we can be a family forever. I asked Mercy if she wanted to say something about Jesus and she brought up that scripture. I thought it was so sweet. I wrote under her picture “Mercy wants you to know that Jesus said, ‘Peace, be still.’” I think it’ll make Xai smile.
Attending an infant’s funeral, you might expect to see a mother deep in the throes of grief. But not Xai. Instead, she was resolute in her faith and bore testimony of the miracle of Christ’s Atonement. She shared her gratitude for feeling the peace of Christ’s love through the solidarity and service of her loved ones. She testified of the joy of knowing families are forever.
During the funeral, I wore you in my sling and cried for Xai. I wished I could do something for her, but all I had was my sympathy. Knowing how much I love you, I know how much she loved Kinsley. But much to Xai’s eternal credit, knowing loss has only increased her gratitude and joy. She is a true example to me.
This month also brought us the ability to donate pumped breast milk to the San Jose Mother’s Milk Bank. Becoming a mother came with growing pains and becoming a mother of two has been no exception. I have cried my share of tears over the lonely, thankless monotony that is motherhood of young children. I am tired. And sometimes I feel invisible to the world. You scarcely want to be put down — even when napping — and it leaves me yearning for some autonomy from you. Being able to donate my milk — our milk — has been a way to live outside myself. It’s something I can do in this stage of life to serve and love others outside of myself and our immediate family.
So much of life is on hold right now as I mother you. My opportunities outside of the home are limited. And while I’m comfortable with that — this is a stage to be cherished — sometimes I am left feeling lost and depleted. I sometimes yearn for my “old” self that is defined beyond my own four walls. Being able to pump and donate our excess milk has been a blessing for me. The privilege of it is not lost on me. It is a privilege to be a mother, to nourish my babies with my own body, to be home with them full-time. It is a privilege that both of us are healthy enough to be able to donate. My life is not without very real trials — of health concerns, of financial trouble and sacrifice — but when I pump, I remind myself there are so many who wherever they are, whatever their burdens, need help in carrying their load. Being able to pump and donate has been but another reminder this month that true joy is often accompanied by real sacrifice.
You are an absolute “milk monster.” And during my two weeks of a sinus infection this last month it felt like such a burden. I couldn’t take whatever medications I wanted to take. But when I stopped to nurse you — your body would relax and I got to slow down to notice all your details: your halo of wispy curls, your pudgy, dimpled hands caressing my own, your long lashes, and your blue eyes. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
I hope that our milk brings comfort to a baby and their mama somewhere. A baby who also needs comfort, who needs good health and strength, and a mama who needs to know her sacrifices don’t go unseen and that she’s doing her best by her baby. I hope it gives a mama pause, and helps her slow down and find gratitude in whatever difficult journey she is going through.
Gwen, I hope wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you look for ways to serve. I hope you use the talents Heavenly Father has given you to uplift and serve others. We will not always be able to serve others in a way we would if circumstances were perfect. But we can always extend love through kindness or simple acts, small or large. Wherever you are, lift others up. Use your joy to bless others. And know that we don’t have to wait to be happy. Joy and gratitude can and should come even as we face down difficult circumstances. After all, God created us to have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25)
I love you, Gwendolyn.