Mother’s Blessings

November 27, 2006 | 29 comments
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Last Saturday, I had lunch with my oldest daughter and her best friend, Adrea, who happens to be my best friend’s oldest daughter. My friend, Buffy, and I went through our first pregnancies laughing at ourselves and at each other, but also struggling in our new marriages. After our daughters were born a month apart, we did rather domestic things together–sewing and decorating and shopping for cute baby clothes. But both of us still harbored dreams of becoming writers.

Buff was killed in a car accident twelve years ago. She never did become a writer, except in her journal. My daughter and I went to her home that day and just sat, weeping stunned tears with the rest of the family. Adrea didn’t want company. She was ensconced in a sacred sphere of grief which only her mother could assuage.

Now, my daughter and Adrea are mothers. Both had their children with them at lunch, which made for some delightful chaos.

Adrea told me about giving birth to her baby. She was in labor for eighteen hours, determined to deliver without an epidural. (Her mother and I had both gone “natural” in our birthings.) But there came a point where she simply could not continue, when she was too exhausted to endure another contraction. At that moment, she felt her mother with her. As she described the feeling, I could picture Buffy actually blessing her. That presence gave Adrea miraculous strength, and she delivered a son.

My own grandmother was severely anemic and fainted several times while delivering her first child, but then heard her mother (far away in another state) praying for her, and was strengthened. (My great-grandmother verified that she had sensed her daughter’s need and had indeed gotten on her knees to pray for her.)

I suspect that most T&S readers know that the Latter-day Saints had a tradition for many years of women (often midwives or close friends) washing, anointing and blessing a travailing woman from the early days of the Church until the 1940’s. I wish we still had it. There is something divinely circular in the scene of a woman, particularly a mother, blessing another woman, particularly her own daughter. In the sacred sphere of childbirth–a sphere as holy and personal as grief–women offer great power to each other. ( Thus, to me, the picture of Elizabeth and Mary embracing as they sense the burden they are both joyfully carrying is more powerful than Joseph looking down into the manger.)

Childbirth is an intimate and primal thing, something men will never really understand. The idea of being blessed by the very woman who went through it for you is truly beautiful. In the four times I’ve given birth, I have loved looking at my husband, but I have told him to shut up at least twice. And I do remember my last delivery, and the exact moment when I knew how bad the next push–the crowning push would be. I said, “I don’t want to do this.” His response was somewhat different than what a woman’s would’ve been: He gave me a tender but rather blank look and said, “It’s too late.”

How much more significant might it have been to look into my own mother’s eyes and hear her say, “You can do this. You’re almost there. You’re almost there.” And in my mother’s face, which looks a lot like mine, and even in her stomach, I would see the tokens of my own birth. I would feel anew the sweet bonds of our womanhood, our sisterhood, our motherhood, and the depths and lengths we were willing to go to for each other.

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29 Responses to Mother’s Blessings

  1. Russell Arben Fox on November 27, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    There is something divinely circular in the scene of a woman, particularly a mother, blessing another woman, particularly her own daughter. In the sacred sphere of childbirth–a sphere as holy and personal as grief–women offer great power to each other….Childbirth is an intimate and primal thing, something men will never really understand. The idea of being blessed by the very woman who went through it for you is truly beautiful.

    I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments, Margaret; thanks for sharing them in such beautiful words. What you say about the blessings and prayers that women can provide for other women–a sad loss to say the least–has been an important part of my own thinking about gender in the church (a thinking which has also been a part of how I’ve come to approach questions of gender more broadly). Very simply put, it’s a matter of recognizing and maximizing (and equalizing) the complementary uniquenesses of both women and men, rather than try to mix them into something indistinguishable. My wife helped me to start thinking in this way during another blessing question, involving our first baby. This is what I wrote about it, in an old T&S thread:

    When our first daughter was born, I was younger and more confrontational than I am now (I hadn’t outgrown my BYU experiences yet). I wanted Melissa, if not to be part of the circle, then at least to carry the baby forward, maybe hold her while we gave the blessing. Melissa absolutely refused. She said “I’ve already carried the baby; now it’s your turn to do something for her entirely on your own.” I’ve no idea if I really would have gone through with my plan, but I’m grateful Melissa put her foot down: she forced me to think about blessing our children in terms of my own uniquely male “offering” to our child, a perspective which has returned to me with the blessing of every subsequent daughter.

  2. Jim F. on November 27, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    Margaret, clearly the bond between mother and daughter at childbirth is strong, important, and even holy. I won’t disagree with you at all on that. However, it seems to me that the way you paint the picture in this piece makes birth something in which men are, at best, moved to the periphery; they are little more than genial but disconnected sperm donors.

    Given our understanding of sealing and the importance of families, that seems as almost mistaken as the older view that “men are the creators of children and women merely the passive receptacles in which children grow until birth.” Isn’t there a way of understanding birth that recognizes that important connection between mother and daughter as well as the divine connection between husband and wife?

  3. J. Stapley on November 27, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    This is beautiful, Margaret.

  4. Naismith on November 27, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    “Childbirth is an intimate and primal thing, something men will never really understand.”
    I am not so sure about this. I think also other women, including some mothers, may not understand why some of us would choose to birth without drugs, etc.

    I was privileged to be at my daughter’s first birth, which her husband also attended. I never felt that we were competing; I did different things. He was her best friend and met her needs more directly. I counseled them, suggested new positions, etc., and negotiated with the hospital staff.

    It was a wonderful experience, and I was so glad I listened to my mom’s intuition (the baby was three weeks early) rather than my husband’s advice not to fly up early (“You’ll be sitting their for weeks, waiting”).

  5. Matt W. on November 27, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    hmmm… My Wife doesn’t want her family in the room with her during birthing. Just me and the doctor and the nurses until the work is done. To each their own. Of course, her mom would probably just start telling her how she didn’t need an epidural, at which point my wife would get mad. every man, and every woman, it seems, are different.

  6. kris on November 27, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you, Margaret. This post is so poignant to me, as it has been in the last year that I have studied women’s “confinement” blessings in greater detail and I’m expecting my fifth (and last) baby in 4 weeks. I cannot help but think there would be something so special in having the women in my ward community lay their hands upon me and bless me as I approach this last birthing experience. Perhaps the saddest part though, is the lack of a group blessing in general. While I know, that my dearest friends will pray for me as individuals, imagine a circle of sisters gathering and calling down the powers of heaven together. Interestingly enough, when I have suggested the idea that Mormon women do this at a baby shower, instead of just indulging in the more consumer aspects of gift-buying, I have been met with blank stares or the suggestion that we might be doing something “wrong”.

    Thanks again, for this thoughtful meditation on childbirth.

  7. Russell Arben Fox on November 27, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    “Isn’t there a way of understanding birth that recognizes that important connection between mother and daughter as well as the divine connection between husband and wife?”

    Jim, I really don’t see how Margaret’s reflections are in any incompatible with the above. Does “the divine connection between husband and wife” mean an identity in their appreciations and understandings of each others’ experiences? Presumably not; even Christ, who we believe experienced and comprehended everything necessary to save us, still never gave birth, and so cannot personally attest to those particular pains and fears. So, bringing in someone–namely, a female someone–to complement the spiritual succoring that a woman giving birth may need or desire doesn’t appear to me to involve anything that would minimize my role standing there in the birthing room beside my wife. I’ve been with my wife for every birth, and every time, it’s been fairly clear to me that I am basically at a loss as to how to truly empathize with her–and therefore bless her–in her most pain-filled moments. That doesn’t mean I acknowledged a defect in my connection with her; just a qualification of its type.

  8. Jim F. on November 27, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    Russell: I don’t disagree with you: Margaret’s claim doesn’t logically entail that the husband is unimportant. In spite of that I think that Margaret’s piece minimizes her husband’s role. The only thing in it about Bruce is his need to shut up sometimes, his blank look, and his incomprehension. Of course, the topic isn’t what part husbands play. It was mothers’ blessings. So one cannot expect Bruce to be playing a major role. Nevertheless, as I hear it, the tone of the last two paragraphs is mildly dismissive of the husband.

    However, I don’t think that Margaret is dismissive of Bruce. I’ve never seen anything to suggest that. My point is about this piece and its tone, not about Margaret’s relation to her husband.

  9. Marjorie Conder on November 27, 2006 at 8:09 pm

    Is it possible that birth is an ordinance conferred by women upon humanity? (Is it an ordinance that belongs to the holy order of marriage?) And is it possible that Priesthood ordinances when performed by a worthy father bring symmetry? (And are these also ordinances that belong to the holy order of marriage?)

    I would further think that a selected circle of sisters (spiritually mature and not likely to get “weirded out” by such an event) could properly gather to pray for a woman in a woman’s need. This prayer would not invoke priesthood, but be in the “name of Jesus Christ.” We are assured that such prayers can “move mountains.”

    I think we hardly understand ordained priesthood and know even less about unordained female power.

  10. Clark on November 27, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    Funny aside that lines up a bit with Jim’s points (and caveats).

    When my wife first found out she was pregnant she used to talk about the special daughter in heaven that she felt eagerly awaiting a body. Partially out of my generally attitude of skepticism I used to joke that, no, it was a boy. There was some good natured ribbing for the first couple of months.

    Then we had the ultrasound and it was a boy.

    As a bit of a goodnatured tweak on my wife, but moreso some of the common rhetoric I hear in church about mothers and babies, I used to say that I knew it was a son and that women could just never understand the spiritual bond between a Father and a son. (grin)

  11. Proud Daughter of Eve on November 27, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    I wonder if we could send a petition to the Prophet and ask him to open those blessings up again. I know some might be angered at the thought of having to ask permission but I trust Gordon B. Hinckley. I think if he said “no” he’d tell us why.

  12. Margaret Young on November 27, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    Jim–I agree that the tone is a bit dismissive of Bruce. However, I’m afraid my post does indeed reflect my view–though I hadn’t intended to single Bruce out and publicly dismiss him. I find it humorous to remember Bruce at the births of our children, but sweetly humorous, not cynicallly so.

    I am glad we’ve moved from the time when men waited in a room completely separate from their wives during delivery (my father got to see only one of his children born), and I think the family bonding which occurs AFTER the birth does indeed belong to the husband and wife together, and should exclude the wife’s mother. But the birth itself–no, that belongs to women.

    Bruce was in awe at our children’s birth. He watched the process and did his best to be a good coach. But there is a tremendous difference between a supportive husband and a woman who has herself given birth. I am grateful for the blessings Bruce gave me, but a priesthood blessing prior to hard labor is like a kind word before the woman leaps off a cliff. She finds herself in a strange world where she must surrender to nature, where she groans and screams in ways she herself finds utterly foreign, and feels her body open in irrestible and seemingly impossible ways. The experience is uniquely hers and something a man is simply not equipped to understand. (Not even Carol Burnett’s metaphor about pulling the lower lip over the head will suffice.) The husband may be stunned and awestruck by the birth, but he will never know what it’s like to feel the child you’ve been sharing your blood and food and love with emerge from your body in the most exquisite stinging you’ve never imagined.

    So yes, I do believe there is a separation of the sexes as labor progresses, and have even noted that the two times I had male ob/gyns deliver my babies were markedly different from the two times I used midwives. The midwives STAYED with me throughout labor and used drugs sparingly. The male doctors felt quite free to speed up my labor with pitosin (even when I asked that it not be used) in order to accommodate their schedules, and were present for only the final five minutes of the birth. I do think there are some gender implications there, though I can’t say if a female ob/gyn would be like the male doctors.

    My mother was not with me when I delivered my first child. (She was in China.) The midwife who worked with me said just before my daughter’s birth, “I think this is a girl. I can feel her spirit. It’s a sweet, tinkley spirit.” She herself had had seven children, and when I said, “I can’t do this. It hurts. It hurts,” she whispered that I could do it. Then she directed my hand into my womb and had me hold my baby’s unborn fingers.

    Perhaps a man would have done likewise, but I don’t think so.

    I also don’t think the idea of birthing being a sacred sphere of women needs to dismiss men from their own sacred spheres or from the shared spheres of husband and wife together. Since you know Bruce, you know what a sensitive and righteous man he is. He and I are full partners in raising our children, and I honor his wisdom and longsuffering. (I am also glad he can do math, because my children would all fail if I had to tutor them.) There is a shared sphere of parenting where husband and wife feel pain and joy and concern equally and learn to console and negotiate rather than to blame. That’s marriage, and that’s what sealing involves–that continuous, steady sharing of whatever waits on the table or around the next bend, even if that bend is death itself.

    But all in all, I would really like to have the privilege of women blessing women prior to childbirth restored to us.

  13. Julie M. Smith on November 27, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    “I think the family bonding which occurs AFTER the birth does indeed belong to the husband and wife together, and should exclude the wife’s mother. But the birth itself–no, that belongs to women.”

    Margaret, I’m wondering why you’ve chosen to use such a didactic tone for the post and some of the follow-up comments. It seems to delegitimate the experiences of or desires of others. I remember people being stunned that I didn’t want any of my friends to escort me to the temple or to be there when I took out my own endowment. For reasons I still can’t fully articulate, I wanted this to be a private, sorta anonymous experience. (And it was and it went very well.)

    Anyway, I can’t think of any reason why *everyone’s* post birth bonding should exclude the mother-in-law, why the birth itself should be less focused on the husband-wife bond, etc. To each her own.

    “a priesthood blessing prior to hard labor is like a kind word before the woman leaps off a cliff”

    I’m really uncomfortable with this formulation, because at the ideal, the priesthood blessing should be what Christ would say if he were there and I think it is central to our theology that Christ can relate to all of the human condition, including childbirth, etc. Personally, I think a large reason for the current gender-exclusionary priesthood structure is to create for men experiences that are otherwise culturally limited to women. Blessing a woman about to birth would be a prime example of that. I’d be hardpressed to think of an experience that would give a man better consciousness-raising (in the 1970s feminist sense) experience than to be the conduit through which Christ blesses his pregnant wife.

    “I also don’t think the idea of birthing being a sacred sphere of women needs to dismiss men from their own sacred spheres”

    What are men’s sacred spheres? Can you formulate that in a way that feminists won’t (rightly) attack and, if not, then should we really be encouraging the idea of anything as a sacred sphere for women? Whenever this game is played, women end up losing.

  14. Naismith on November 27, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    “The husband may be stunned and awestruck by the birth, but he will never know what it’s like to feel the child you’ve been sharing your blood and food and love with emerge from your body in the most exquisite stinging you’ve never imagined.”

    Neither do women who had C-sections. Does this mean that I would not be allowed to attend my daughter’s birth, if I had never birthed vaginally?

    And please keep in mind that nowadays many women elect C-sections, for whatever reason.

    The female MDs who were at my granddaughter’s birth were also pro-Pitocin; I’m not sure gender per se has anything to do with it.

  15. Margaret Young on November 27, 2006 at 10:15 pm

    It was not my intent to offend anyone, but clearly I have. I simply wanted to share some thoughts about my friend and her daughter and the important place of mothers during birth–which also led me to ponder the legacy of maternal blessings (something Shakespeare also portrayed in his plays). I apologize for the tone–which I did not see as didactic but which others obviously did.
    I would like to have my post completely deleted (including comments) so that no further argument ensue. I enjoy a good conversation, but I never enjoy an argument, and I certainly don’t like to start one. Could one of you on the T&S staff please delete this post, inasmuch as I don’t know how to do it.
    Thank you.

  16. Julie M. Smith on November 27, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    Aww, Margaret, now I feel bad. I sincerely do not want you to delete this post. I wasn’t offended–I think your post was interesting and worthwhile. If *my* comments have taken the discussion in a direction you didn’t want to go, we can delete them.

  17. Russell Arben Fox on November 27, 2006 at 10:48 pm

    Well Margaret, I appreciate your desire not to start an argument, but I’m not going to be the one to delete your post, as I don’t see an argument. I see a difference in views. Moreover, I don’t know why Julie or anyone else thinks your tone has been didactic: your post and comments have been littered with statements like “I think” or “I wish” or “I would feel”–hardly emphatic! You raised (beautifully!) an important point, and made it clear that you felt strongly about it; if that alone is what constitutes “didactism,” then almost all of us are guilty of it.

    A couple of short responses to Julie:

    “Personally, I think a large reason for the current gender-exclusionary priesthood structure is to create for men experiences that are otherwise culturally limited to women. Blessing a woman about to birth would be a prime example of that.”

    I agree–in part–with your reasoning about our gender-exclusionary priesthood structure, and I agree fully with your example. But why would an invitation for a woman or a circle of women to be part of the experience of birth for one of their sisters in the gospel (and indeed, in Margaret’s ideal sense, one of their own daughters or sisters or friends) somehow prevent the husband from doing what you suggest. As I said in my original comment, I don’t see anything in Margaret’s wish that suggests sidelining the male; I see a suggestion that the male has his place–and that, complementarily, at birth women should have a place, perhaps more of a place, than they currently have.

    “What are men’s sacred spheres? Can you formulate that in a way that feminists won’t (rightly) attack and, if not, then should we really be encouraging the idea of anything as a sacred sphere for women?”

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but are you saying that feminists would be right to attack men baptizing their children, men giving their children and wives blessings when they are sick, men blessing the sacrament, men confirming the Holy Ghost upon their children, etc., etc.? If those aren’t sacred spheres, what are? And if they are a cause for feminist ire, and we’re supposed to be concerned about that ire, then doesn’t that mean we have far bigger problems then a questions about what happened to women washing and blessing one another before childbirth?

  18. Jim F. on November 27, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    Margaret, you’ve certainly not offended me. If you want to do that, you’ll have to try a lot harder. I don’t agree with you here, but it is a mild disagreement, one that doesn’t hurt me. I hope you are not hurt either. Friends should be able to disagree.

    Overall, I like your post and, as I said, I think you make important points about the holy nature of mother-daughter relations. That is a point that should be made.

    Like Russell, I won’t be the one to delete the post or the discussion that has ensued. And I hope that you don’t figure out how to do so until you decide that it isn’t worth doing.

  19. Jim F. on November 27, 2006 at 11:42 pm

    Something I intended to include in my last response, but left out: If my comments were hurtful, please forgive me. I didn’t intend to cause offense, but I sometimes do anyway.

  20. Julie M. Smith on November 27, 2006 at 11:55 pm

    Russell asks, “But why would an invitation for a woman or a circle of women to be part of the experience of birth . . . somehow prevent the husband from doing what you suggest.”

    I don’t know that it would. I was just responding to something Margaret said that I thought sounded dismissive of the power of a priesthood blessing given to a pregnant woman. I actually really like the idea of having a prayer at a baby shower and can’t see any reason not to do this. (I wonder if it would freak people out?)

    As for the rest of your comment, I guess we are defining “sacred sphere” differently: I don’t think of any of the current priesthood things that you mention as being a part of that. I was reading Margaret to say that a sacred sphere was a physical space where men (in this case) either weren’t allowed, welcome, essential or something like that.

    And, again, to Margaret: I’m very sorry if I’ve turned a lovely personal reflection into a contentious theo-political knock-down.

  21. Bored in Vernal on November 28, 2006 at 12:08 am

    I’m so glad this wasn’t removed before I could read it. My views are remarkably similar to Margaret’s. More than likely I am done having children. But if I were to have another child at my age I would now have enough confidence to ask my women friends for a blessing (and I finally know a few who might actually give me one!) When I was younger and actually bearing children I was sad that the Church no longer accepted this ordinance and didn’t feel it was right to go against the counsel in this matter. I feel that I missed a great deal, even though the blessings my husband gave me were very meaningful.

    I know that each woman will have her own preferences for childbirth. But for me nothing beats a circle of caring women to assist in this sacred moment. I had midwives for three of my 8 children. My best friend was present at one of the births. My husband was there for all of them, but I think the females in the room were more attuned to my needs than he was. My mother was not there for any, but we don’t have a very close relationship.

    For me the ordinance of washing and anointing in the temple has a lot to do with this subject. I may be alone in mourning the change in this ordinance. I loved the way it used to be done.

    Eve–I don’t have as much faith as you do that a petition would be well received. But if anyone wants to send one, I will gladly sign it. I just think we’d do better to just begin performing these types of blessings/anointings quietly on our own.

  22. Julie M. Smith on November 28, 2006 at 12:09 am

    “I may be alone in mourning the change in this ordinance. ”

    Nope.

  23. meems on November 28, 2006 at 12:46 am

    I second that. I was extremely depressed at the changing of that ordinance and felt very blessed to have gone through prior to it\’s changing. It was the best part of receiving my endowments.

    I also am glad this post wasn\’t deleted! I am so touched by Margaret\’s writing and her thoughts on this matter. As a the mom in a \”part-member\” family, we don\’t have the blessings of the priesthood in our home. We don\’t talk about the priesthood, and I rarely bring up stuff about it with my kids, because I don\’t want them feeling bad or making their dad feel bad for not having it. But the other night, my 7-yr. old daughter brought out a little clay pot she had made and was pretending it was filled with \”magic priesthood oil\” and wanted to give me a blessing with it. She said this was very special priesthood oil because it was \”women\’s priesthood.\” She put her fingers into her little blue bowl and drew up the imaginary magic women\’s priesthood oil and gave me a \”women\’s blessing.\” I have no clue of how any of this entered her little mind, or why, but I loved it, and it felt very sweet. I felt kind of sad when I had to give her the talk about how only men can have the priesthood!

  24. Matt W. on November 28, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    I believe President Hinckley addressed the Issue of Mother’s Blessings in Conference around 1990 or so. I’ll see if I can dig it up.

  25. Matt W. on November 28, 2006 at 2:54 pm

    Nope, I was wrong.

  26. Heather O. on November 29, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    I had all my sisters in with me when my son was born. I don’t think any of them had seen a baby be born, before or since. I had 2 midwives, and my husband. It was an incredible experience, all the way around. I would have loved to have had my mother there, although she did come the next day. There was only support and love there, and I’m convinced having my sisters there, even when I was in tears from the pain, made it all the easier. I was disappointed when they had to leave when I finally got my epidural, and I actually felt a little lonely when the pain subsided and everybody decided to leave and get something to eat while I slept. The women who delivered my son were not the ones who gave me my prenatal care, and when I went back to the practitioner who had treated me for most of my pregnancy, she said that the word at the hospital where I delivered was that my birth was “beautiful”. I don’t think many of the people there had seen such family support for their mothers, and it was truly beautiful.

    I don’t think Margaret is suggesting that a husband is superfluous, or unnecessary. Indeed, I would never want to deliver without my husband, for him to miss out on such a precious moment of seeing his child enter the world. But there is nothing like having women in the room who are rooting for you, because they know your pain, and they know something that you don’t–the joy that you are about to experience when it is over. It’s truly awesome.

  27. plutarch on November 29, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    I’ve had some second thoughts about putting these comments out there, largely because they’re, well, pretty obviously male. And therefore to be more or less automatically discounted in the context of mystical sister-sister, mother-daughter or mother-child bonding and birth. But it seems to me that males are roughly 50% of the population and not without interest or involvement in the process of having children or similar stressful but important moments in life.

    Further, having attended the c-section births of two of three sons, I reluctantly admit that I did not find the mechanics of birth mind-blowingly wonderful. Painful, certainly, more to my wife but somewhat to me, too, in that I cared very deeply about her pain. Miraculous, maybe, in the same sense that most of life is—it’s going on all the time in the world, but because this involved people I care about a lot, it was more important to me. But babies don’t seem to me inherently interesting before they get some personality, somewhere between nine to twelve months of age. (Boy, did I get slammed by a Relief Society president—who’s also a therapist—for saying that once. My wife seemed to find the comment and the slam both mildly amusing. Good thing I’m not married to the RS president.) So maybe I don’t get the process at all, although I’d say that my wife and then my sons are the people I feel closest to and care about most in the world. I recognize these comments so far may be off-putting, especially to women.

    There are several topics here on which I’ll nevertheless make brief comments:

    1. Blessings by sisters. Leaving aside any issues of priesthood, I’d say it’s a good thing to receive blessings by people who care about you. The more alternatives for that, the better, as a general matter. I’ve seen a couple of my grown sons give their mother priesthood blessings, and they do it with different approaches than I do. Not better (I still do it better), but really good. I look for ways to give them (and her) that experience. For those women who are unable to bond as closely with males (even their husbands) in the birth context, whatever lends them God’s strength is a good thing, within some bounds.

    2. Husbands at birth. Not to dump on Margaret (whom I don’t know personally and whose posts I enjoy and respect), I also got the sense of Bruce being dismissed in the birth discussion. As a husband, I would like to be given a chance to be at least the first line of help and strength in connection with my wife giving birth. Maybe that’s just my ego talking, but to approach it otherwise would put a bit of a dent in the closeness and interdependence of our marriage. Every marriage is different in its mix of personalities, strengths and closeness, it seems. Our marriage, like many others, has survived a number of such dents, and I hope it can survive more. Other than that, see topic 1 above.

    3. Mothers and daughters at birth. It’d be great if all mothers and daughters shared the kind of relationships Margaret describes above. But even males now know that mother-daughter relationships are tricky and sometimes even toxic. My wife gets no support from her mother and has to handle that relationship with asbestos gloves, and I’m not much help with it, I’m afraid, other than to offer whatever unconditional support I can. She has one sister, who is a source of emotional strength and empathy but not Mormon.

    4. Privacy. My wife and I are probably more private about these things than most people. I sometimes cringe at descriptions of new-age births attended by hordes and captured on film for posterity, but that’s all just contrary to my reticent male, northern European approach. Earlier this year when my wife was having major surgery and wanted to retreat to gather her strengths and devote them to this process, the RS president (same one as above) told me I was going about it wrong to try to help her do it that way. I don’t think our way is the only legitimate way, but I do think it is a legitimate way. In the toughest times, try to do it the way that works for you. You find your strength where you can—again, within some bounds. If I thought that my wife would find strength and help instead of more drains on her resources from sisters, the Relief Society or the bishop (even less likely to be a help than a hindrance in our case), I’d encourage her to go to those. But she didn’t think that, and neither did I. She called the RS president (whom she’s known for about 25 years) a day or two before surgery so the president wouldn’t feel left out. The response was organizational, not personal. After the phone call her comment was “I called my friend, but I’m afraid I just got the Relief Society president.”

    All this being said, it feels to me like the best sources of strength for us are the marriage itself and individual relationships with God. Not all marriages work well, not all husbands are helpful, not all mother-daughter relationships are good ones, and not all Relief Societies can help without excluding the husband. Everybody’s got a different mix of strengths available to them, and you do what seems to work best for the one who most needs the strength.

    This has been longer than I intended, and it may just be idiosyncratic.

  28. Matt W. on November 29, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    plutarch, thanks, appreciated. Is someone going to Honor Margaret’s request to remove this?

  29. random me on November 30, 2006 at 5:38 am

    ahhh… a favorite topic of mine, the birth stuff! naismith, sure women may be electing c-sections far too frequently now, but science and medicine say that’s not such a good thing.

    i adore the roles my mom and sister played in my births, but my husband was first and foremost. i am a birth doula and frequently find myself feeling the need to defend men and the role they should/shouldn’t play in childbirth. my husband was absolutely a part of my labors and deliveries and i could not have labored or delivered as well as i did without him there. he is well-informed and terribly involved and he made a huge difference in the outcomes of my deliveries. when i said i couldn’t do it, HE was the one who lovingly stroked my hair and said, “but you ARE doing it!” as strongly as i feel about a doula’s role in childbirth and even being one myself, i’ve interestingly never used a doula because my husband is always so incredibly involved.

    also contrary to the beliefs of the pregnancy circles in which i run, i sometimes feel the need to defend obstetricians. i agree that the majority out there are NOT beneficial to anyone but themselves. the medical model of care versus the midwifery model of care are polar opposites in too many aspects, as are the statistical results that each obtains. BUT i have used personally both obstetricians and midwives (separately) for my pregnancies, labors, and deliveries and it would be a toss-up over which i preferred. we had VERY involved male obstetricians (who, in an area with a low lds population, both just happened to be lds) and the care we received was phenomenal. they were as hands-on, gentle, non-intervening, and empowering as any midwife i’ve met. just have to shop around, i guess…

WELCOME

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