Monday, February 6, 2017
When 19 Kids and Counting debuted on TLC, people thought they were Mormon. They aren't. They are "Independent Baptists" and have made up a religion of their own that includes allowing God to keep giving you children until your uterus falls out, I guess. I admire their tenacity and courage to stick to their convictions. If I could have 19 kids I would. I've had ten failed pregnancies in all and if it's true what the Mormons say, that those spirits will be given back to me in the next life, we are going to need a clown car! I can't wait!
Mormons believe that the husband and wife nucleus is a celestial (forever) relationship and a family in and of itself. Beyond that, when Andy and I got married, we were counseled from our church leadership to "have as many kids as you feel physically and mentally capable of raising in the light of the gospel. The actual number is between you and God and no one else." (And God was looking over that conversation with one eyebrow cocked and a chuckle saying "Sugar, you are over 40 there is only so much I can do.") My parents had eight children, but as my siblings have married further and further into this nutsy millennium, they have had fewer and fewer children. Its pretty rare to see a baseball team with the same last name these days. Nevertheless, we are encouraged to get married and create families. The end. We Mormons have taken a lot, A LOT of crap over the tradition of our large families. To those people I say - "you're welcome for the Osmonds." To those of you raising a big, awesome, expensive, crazy, needy family I say "remember those of us that would kill for even 1 extra plate to set at dinner. You are amazing! I'm so jealous!!
I've said it a million times, there is nothing I would rather do than stay home, raise my own children, tend a garden and cook for a multitude. I know it's not for everyone, apparently it wasn't even meant for me. But it's what I wanted to be when I grew up. Believe me, when that is all you think about for the first 40 years of your life... and you finally get married and YIKES it still doesn't happen for you, you fill your plate up with work, hobbies, travel, books and bitterness. So when the lesson that Sunday is on "Strengthening Your Relationship with your Children" and you are on miscarriage number 5...or 6....that's the last thing you want to learn about. Please don't tell me to apply the information to my kids at school, or "file it away for the future." There is only so much room in the filing cabinet of Jan's brain and those kinds of things that only fester bitterness...best for everyone that I leave the room. My mom used to warn me not to come. She would say "the lesson this week is on marriage, FYI." Which was code for: "your Sunday nap can start earlier than usual."
My dad used to tell me that I was too defensive. He was so right. That piece of advice haunted me until I fully understood it, could see it, and was able to identify it myself as a character flaw. If I heard criticism of any kind, I immediately went into survival mode. I made excuses, I ran from the people that gave me the advice. I was wracked with personal insecurities. When I heard the truth, I recognized it and beat myself up over it. I spent my whole life trying to overcome stereotypes I believed society had put upon me. I was "put upon!" Oh no! Open the door marked "please offend me" and walk straight through it. I guess I was typical. I never wanted to admit that I was typical? Humpf! Dumb.
Ironic that I became a theatre director because that door is always open. We create something, pick it to death, and then we put it out there for the public to criticize, subjectively. We read the review (that was probably written by someone that has no education in the difference between good and bad theatre) and we rant and rave when they dig at a production that we poured our hearts and hands into. "How dare they!? Art is subjective! They don't understand what we were trying to do! Morons!" It's as if the truth is a weapon, not a tool for improvement."
So I have learned over the years of being childless in a heavily child-ed church, to keep my ears shut sometimes. If I let it affect me every time there was a lesson on family in the LDS church, I would simply never be able to go to my worship services! Heaven forbid I get offended by the cute mom in church that comments "motherhood is fantastic! I love it! It's eeeeeverything!" Those exact words came out of a woman's mouth in one of my Sunday meetings last week. Did I get up and walk out? No. I said in my mind: "Stay in your chair, Hunsaker. You know she doesn't mean to offend you personally. She's saying it because it's true. You feel hurt by it because you want it too. She doesn't know that. She's not thinking about you. She doesn't have to think about you. She gets to say what she wants." And then I said out loud, "SHUUUUUT the fetch up you beast with the perfect ovaries and the precious baby slobber on your shoulder!" And THEN I walked out.
JUST KIDDING!!!! Hehehehe!! I did no such thing. But I sure did think about it. And then I slapped my inner face, did the donkey braying sound effect in my mind and giggled a little. (Years ago one of my technicians found a "constipated donkey" sound effect that made us laugh for hours and I still bring it up sometimes. In my mind. It turns the moment into something I can bear.)
What occurred to me as I matured, is that I didn't have to walk through that door in the first place.
We are a society that is becoming increasingly worried about what we can and cannot say for fear of offending someone. There are laws, policies and procedures we change now to steer clear of discriminating against anyone that might be offended by the current laws, policies and procedures. I used to write theatre reviews, but I just can't anymore. Too many got offended by my honesty and I spend too many hours trying to craft a review that should have taken me ten minutes. But I didn't want to offend anyone that might set my house on fire or stop hiring me.
Honesty is broken. We are seeing it in our highest level of government. It seeps down, or trickles down, if you will, to the generation that is not only seeing and hearing it, but STUDYING it. This group of students is learning that there is no wrong way to define honesty. They don't know who to trust. They don't know what is right to say anymore or wrong...and it's a lot of pressure to live on that tightrope. Tact is a lost art, it's easier to say "I have no filter, sorry! Ha ha!! Not sorry." And move on like having no filter is just part of you, the cute, the trendy, "oh-there-she/he-goes-again, that silly billy with no filter! Isn't that so modern! You go! Exercise those rights, baby!" kind of person.
We will learn soon enough, I fear, that saying the first thing that comes to our heads isn't cute or bold or trendy. Sometimes it might feel heroic but so did lighting an ant hill on fire when I was 9. Heroic to everyone - except the ants. Sometimes it's painful and dangerous. It create narcissism...and hatred, which is exactly what we don't need right now.
Last week I called a kid on the carpet for saying the F-word in class. He said "Sorry, I don't even think about it anymore. I have no filter." To which I replied, "the filter is what makes us different from animals." "I'm an animal then," he replied. (Cue donkey-braying in my head).
I digress, as usual. I had a point, I really did! Oh, yeah...think before you speak....
When I started writing my blog, I expected that there would criticism and offense for the vivid and honest picture of what it's like to have 10 miscarriages. But what I got was a lot of "thank you for posting your true feelings, even if it was hard. I have struggled too...etc..." It has been so good to find a community of people that get it.
There are also those out there that have sent me advice. And as I said earlier, I struggle with "free" advice sometimes. If I want advice, I'll seek it out, or pay for it...even pray for it. But when it comes at you like someones golden epiphany... God bless 'em, they mean well. I know they do. But on behalf of everyone that has ever been a childless Mormon, or even had three kids instead of 13, please read this list and add them to your social graces.
Top Ten Things You Should Never Say to a Childless, Married Mormon Couple: (and what I wish I could say back)
10. "Be grateful. You always get to pee alone."
Why do people say this like its some kind of badge of honor? The dogs used to jump on me too...then I CLOSED THE DOOR. How hard is it?!
9. "Well you get to sit through an entire church meeting without being bugged by our kids. I wouldn't know how that feels. It's been a long time since I felt the Spirit."
Oh no, your kids do bug me. ;-)
8. "Oh you have dogs instead...cute."
Nope. Not cute. A real, live, giving and receiving relationship akin to having children, but less trouble. We rescued our dogs from abuse and they rescued us from a double suicide. I'd say the trade was pretty even.
7. "Think about this positively - you'll never have to take a child to the hospital, or wait for them to come home at night. You won't even have to pay for their college tuition! Lucky!"
Yeah, yeah...give me a bumper sticker "My child is on the honor roll...in HEAVEN." Awkward!
6. (Trying to be so positive!) "You must have so much time on your hands! How would that be?!"
Time? What's that?
5. What's the hold up? 10 years and you still don't have kids?
"We had a bunch of kids but we gave them back. It was too hard. They needed so much all the time. Gah! That's no way to live."
4. (To Andy one day in the temple) "There's no reason you can't get pregnant! I can give you some essential oils that will solve your little fertility problem. I have a pamphlet in my locker downstairs..."
What Andy wishes he could have said: My wife lost the lower half of her body in a freak accident. Have anything for that?
3. "Have faith. It will happen when you least expect it."
Bah! Not with these ovaries it won't.
2. "Have you thought about foster care? There are so many great kids out there that need awesome people like you in their life! And if it doesn't work out you just get different kids. Plus at the end of the month someone hands you a check for keeping your basement full.
So it's like a library system? Kids with bar-codes and due dates? If you don't like them you can just exchange them out for better ones? And if they don't like me? They just get to choose better parents too? I have a big basement - is there a check out limit or can I get 8 at a time?
1. Have you thought about adoption?
Nope. Didn't cross my mind until you said right then! What were we thinking? Adoption! That's the answer. I'll go get me a whole bunch of them kids they have fer sale.
Don't say I didn't teach you anything today.
I don't mean to be so snarky. Adoption is certainly a blessed answer and that system has created a lot of incredible families...(Heidi and Tim I'm talking to YOU) But when I aged out of LDS Family Services it struck a deep and pitiful chord in me. When I was in 5th grade I saw the mom of one of my classmates and she had gray hair. I asked my friend why her grandma picked her up from school every day. It was like asking a woman post-pregnancy when her baby was due. I was only 10. I still remember her ten year-old horrified face: "that's my MOM!" Sigh. Do I want to be 75 when my child crosses the podium to get her high school diploma? There's a reason adoption agencies have an age limit.
The truth of the matter is this: we have prayed, fasted, gone to adoption conferences, seriously looked into the foster program...and we always promised each other, Andy and I, that if one of us was really struck by the Spirit to adopt or foster, we would in a second.
I've spent so much time on my knees about the ache in my heart and how to fill it! One night I cried out to the Lord for 3-4 hours straight. I plead for him to fill my heart with...with...something! Eventually I slept. When I woke up I wondered why I had a headache. I went all day trying to figure out the trigger for my headache. Then as I was getting ready for bed the next night, I walked by the guest room and there were all these pillows on the floor and I suddenly remembered my night of begging. I realized that that wasn't the first time I'd had a true stupor of thought. That re-direction of thought! How powerful! What a blessing. I had been functioning all day. I had been lifted! My heart was light. I knew everything was going to be okay...no matter what.
So when I get those horrible questions from well-meaning friends and family, I am able to say, with faith, "Father, I need to forget that." It is usually accompanied by a jarring silent scream in my head and a wicked laugh that only I can hear, thank goodness. But then...I forget. I have a testimony that the stupor of thought is REAL! I also testify that my specific trials have thickened my thin skin. They have taught me lessons unique to my weaknesses. They have helped me learn to laugh. They have helped me walk into my classroom full of foster kids each day and think "wow - from what rock did you emerge my worthless little Neanderthals?"
But I don't say it out loud. Some things are better left unsaid.
The moral of today's lesson for those of us not privileged or choosing to walk the beaten path: We can be offended or we can put that donkey sound effect on our phone and play it over and over again in the church bathroom while we wait for the last bell to ring.
There I go, giving away my secrets again.