Neal A. Maxwell taught that although we are happier when we keep the commandments, it is also true that “faithfulness will bring special challenges. It seems God is always stretching those who meekly serve Him.” The time spent suffering was certainly a special challenge which, though incredibly difficult, was a time of intensive growth and discovering how to have joy, even in the midst of a trial. Here are a few of the lessons learned:
1. Be happy for others. I will confess to the stinging feeling of jealousy when it appeared that just about everyone I knew gushed about their soon-to-arrive baby. It seems it's a natural, innate quality in humans, or at least me, to be fiercely envious of those who have what we want. Two miscarriages in a row gave me the chance to work on mastering that imperfect part of myself. It wasn't like I was in line for a child and someone cut in front taking my baby. When I stepped back from our situation, I could think more clearly, and it was easier to come to the conclusion that someone else having a baby had nothing to do with my ability or inability to have one, which in turn, allowed me to be happy for others, even in the midst of hoping for what they'd been blessed with. Jeffrey R. Holland sums up my thoughts perfectly:
"You are not diminished when someone else is added upon."
How simple and true (and easy to forget)!
2. Don't be offended. I once stumbled upon a conversation between someone I knew and a friend of hers where her friend said an old woman at church had asked her when she and her husband were planning on having children. The young lady, offended that anyone would ask, gave a crude answer about her bedroom life which shocked the woman into silence. Though when and how many children to have is a very personal choice to make, that kind of attitude and response is exactly why people are afraid to inquire after one another, which only separates us, makes it difficult to relate to one another, and in turn, makes it difficult to be supportive. We assume everyone else is judging when they ask, when in reality, they're more likely excited for our upcoming adventure. Though there were times I wasn’t able to find the words to speak when someone asked me about having more children because I was so choked-up and sad, more often than not, people have had similar experiences in childlessness and miscarriages. Some people have not and have offered words that were anything but comforting. "You're just stressed," or "It's not your time yet" or "I hope you aren't too upset about it," were said, straight-faced to me. I felt like bursting into tears but I always waited until I was out of sight. When I think about it though, they really were trying and that's what's important. I've learned from these miscarriages that the best thing to hear is "I'm sorry," or "That stinks," or "I've been there, too." In the end, being offended doesn't help the situation at all--it doesn't make me feel better and it closes my relationships with people who were well-meaning. As far as I know, none of us are perfect and I, too, have stuck my foot in my mouth more than once. I learned to better appreciate giving others the benefit of the doubt, and I hope others would do that for me should I inadvertently be offensive.
3. Believe in miracles and tender mercies. Around the time of my second miscarriage, there were an unusually high number of rainbows. I'm sure some would dismiss it as a coincidence in weather patterns, but I like to think of it as a small miracle and tender mercy. I wasn’t able to look at a rainbow and hear my girls' shouts of excitement and not be heartened. So, I tried to see the miracles in my life more often. We take so many things for granted and forget that indeed, they truly are incredible. I had a reproductive physiology and anatomy class in college, and though there are millions of things that could go wrong, the creation of life, more often than not, happens flawlessly. What a miracle! Seeing my daughters grow from helpless infants to talented, intelligent, independent beings was also a powerful reminder. Watching a garden grow, experiencing nature, seeing the stars at night--all miracles. Being bitter and angry reduces those things to seemingly insignificant. Reminding myself that there are miracles and tender mercies if I'm willing to look for them was a cherished blessing that still resonates with me today.
While it's easy to read a list of lessons learned, it was certainly difficult to put everything into practice. I thought about the things I'd learned often and will admit to having slipped back into my bitter, unhappy, jealous self on occasion during that difficult year. Little by little, I did see progress in myself and knew I was being blessed for trying. Life is about gaining experience, both good and bad, and in the end, we can only control our reaction to it. I am still affected by that trial, and all of the sorrow has now turned to joy. Though there sometimes doesn’t seem to be sense to be made of suffering, I think it’s in part to allow us to draw upon the peace, fortitude, and strength that is gained during a trial, knowing we’ve been able to endure a previous difficulty. When faced with something challenging, I now know it is possible to feel joy, even in the midst of it and that God is indeed with each of us every step of the way.
To read the complete list of lessons learned, click HERE.