My piano audition was humiliating. There was no rhyme or reason to it (except hindsight). My first vocal audition was a practice; I didn't expect to get in, anyway. The second vocal audition had more riding on it. I had already passed my entrance exam, portfolio, class, and interview with flying colors. But the vocal professors claimed "I wasn't good enough" --even after the Music Education advisor told them to admit me. (Ouch, right?)
I had the option to audition again. Brandon and I prayed about it. The answer was no. We were supposed to finish schooling quickly and start a family. Dreams of being a high school choir director (or more) --finished.
When the Spirit prompted us to start our family 18 months after we married, it didn't make sense (although I WAS baby hungry!). We both had a year of school left. I had married young (19). But we decided to obey. Being obedient yielded an immediate pregnancy. Our first child (a beautiful little girl) was born 5 days before we graduated. I still had two finals to take, but what a blessing she was born after my first 3!
I have a very small torso. Each pregnancy has increased a deformity in my ribs --they are no longer shaped the way ribs are supposed to be shaped. It's hard to explain, but the bottom half of my ribs now stick out, rather than taper down. It has made it harder to find shirts that fit properly. It also has made pregnancy very painful towards the end (as my ribs are stretched out more). It has also made my asthma weirder. Pregnancy also makes my asthma worse --luckily, that subsides when each child is born.
Clinical depression entered my life when I was in college, but it has been exasperated and blown out of control by each subsequent pregnancy and labor/delivery. It is more than PPD, although PPD has made it what it is.
As my mother before me, pregnancies have made my monthly cycle scarier. I bleed much more. They are more painful. I will probably eventually have fibroid cysts and may need a hysterectomy.
I bleed extensively after each birth. This is mostly due to my large placentas, but luckily only one delivery presented a scary situation. Now that my caregivers know about my potential hemorrhaging, they are able to take care of it easily. I often wonder how it would have been 160 years ago; would I have survived? Perhaps. Not sure. Will never know.
Losing my dream of teaching music was not the only dream I placed on a shelf when I became a mother. Or a wife. Study abroad in college, getting a Master's, living back East (or internationally), writing my books, etc. These things work well for other women. They have found a way to do "it all." I found (the hard way) that I cannot/could not do these things while my children are young. Depression? Justification? Either way, it is what it is.
Money flies out the door just as quickly as it is earned to pay for clothing, food, shoes, school supplies, field trips, birthday presents, Christmas, piano lessons, glasses, braces (future!), bicycles, backpacks, toys, cleaning supplies, etc.
My body is not the same. Ribs, asthma, Depression aside, my body has been through "war." Every part of my body has been affected by childbirth. Getting "in shape" is very hard; each subsequent pregnancy lays waste to my physical form more.
Losing sleep, queasiness about body fluids, and all expectations about schedules/plans have become the norm. I worry more. I clean more. I spend most of my time "picking up messes" whether they are physical or emotional.
These are the sacrifices I've made. I carry physical, emotional, and mental scars because of them. But why? For what purpose?
Sacrifice isn't sacrifice if it's easy. Sacrifice isn't sacrifice if there's not something more important we are hoping for --even if we never see it in this lifetime. But I have been given something more important than hope.
I have known love deeper than I could ever have imagined.
I know what it feels like to see the face of God in a newborn.
I have been instantly cured of ultimate despair by the worried look and a gentle hand placed on my cheek by a toddler.
I know the joy that comes when a child understands a math problem, the reason for manners, or receives an answer to a prayer.
I have plead with God in such a way that simply by pouring out my soul has rescued me from my deepest fears.
I appreciate my body in ways some could never understand. I have been humbled at how miraculous each organ works to bring about another life. I have witnessed how my body can heal itself.
I can tell others that I understand. I know.
By placing my body into the Hands of God, I have co-created life with my husband and Him. I have brought forth unique, beautiful individuals, with whom my heart will always be tied.
I see the world better; every sunset, every snowstorm, every clash of lightening, every flower --even the blades of grass in a sidewalk crack --are appreciated simply because my child sees it first.
I understand the position of being needed desperately at any moment. I am a healer and savior and counselor and friend to my children.
I have looked into the eyes of my husband and without speaking, known the names of just-born children, witnessed the power of selfless love, and finally grasped the concept of forever.
I have been given the best gifts I never imagined existed because I had never experienced them before. Each sacrifice, coming from desire to be obedient and the desire to seek humility, has given me much more than I could ever have given up. Yes, it seems like I have sacrificed my life and all possible happiness to be a wife and a mother. But in all honesty, I owe Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ more. Again. For eternity. They have given me even more in my sacrifice than I could have been given without it.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave an address called Unselfish Service in the April 2009 General Conference. During this time I was pregnant with our fifth child. I desperately wanted him to be our last child. I was torn between well-meaning people's comments ("why would you care about this decision before he's born? Isn't five enough? It's your decision, what's your problem?") and my own feelings on the matter. This talk was the answer to my prayer. He spoke of parents sacrificing to have children, yes, but what stood out to me was what I had already learned about sacrifice and service, and it is the main reason we are having our sixth child:
We live in a time when sacrifice is definitely out of fashion, when the outside forces that taught our ancestors the need for unselfish cooperative service have diminished. Someone has called this the “me” generation—a selfish time when everyone seems to be asking, what’s in it for me? Even some who should know better seem to be straining to win the praise of those who mock and scoff from the “great and spacious building” identified in vision as the pride of the world (see 1 Nephi 8:26–28; 11:35–36).
The worldly aspiration of our day is to get something for nothing. The ancient evil of greed shows its face in the assertion of entitlement: I am entitled to this or that because of who I am—a son or a daughter, a citizen, a victim, or a member of some other group. Entitlement is generally selfish. It demands much, and it gives little or nothing. Its very concept causes us to seek to elevate ourselves above those around us. This separates us from the divine, evenhanded standard of reward that when anyone obtains any blessing from God, it is by obedience to the law on which that blessing is predicated (see D&C 130:21).
I am so grateful we have Prophets and Apostles who speak to us about simple truth. I'm grateful I listened to the Holy Ghost when I heard this Apostle speak. I'm grateful my husband also listened. I'm so grateful for this little boy growing inside of me and I can't wait to see his face!
P.S. As I was finishing this post, I had to stop and change a blow-out diaper on the toddler, insist the preschooler could wipe his own bum, and encourage the boys to stop throwing water on the bathroom floor. Apropos, eh?
What sacrifices have you made in your life? Have they been worth it? Are you still waiting for them to be worth it?