Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Spiritually Nourishing Journey: The Gift of Giving Life

The Gift of Giving Life has been on my doula wish list since I first started hearing whispers of it. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be blessed with the privilege of being part of a virtual book tour! As soon as I received this book, I devoured it. Even with a (nearly) 3 year old and a 3 month old nursling, I couldn't put it down! It was even better than I imagined it to be. What was supposed to be a book review turned out to be an unexpected, yet much needed reflective journey. This may be a different review because I kept a journal of sorts as I read through each chapter. I wanted to record any impressions that came to mind. In this post, I will share my journey of the past two weeks in its very raw, heartfelt form. Grab a hot chocolate, and get comfortable. This is kind of long. 

Look what I got in the mail!
From the book jacket, "Pregnancy and childbirth are not to be feared; they are divinely appointed processes that can be joyful, spiritual, and bring families closer to God. The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth offers something that no other pregnancy book has before- a spiritual look at pregnancy and birth by and for Latter-day Saint women and other women of faith. Through moving stories from women in the scriptures, women from early Latter-day Saint history, and dozens of modern mothers, The Gift of Giving Life assures readers that God cares deeply about the entire procreative process.

Topics covered include: constant nourishment, meditation, fear, pain, healing from loss, the physical and spiritual ties between the Atonement and childbirth, the role of the Relief Society in postpartum recovery, and more. Birthing women, birth attendants, childbirth educators, and interested readers of all faiths are invited to rediscover within these pages the divinity and gift of giving life."

Foreward, Chapter 1: Our Legacy, & Chapter 2:The Importance of Giving Life

Today I read through Chapter 2. I still love how the book is so segmented. Even something as aesthetically pleasing as frequent stopping places is a big deal to me and helps me to thoroughly enjoy reading this book. It allows me to get to a finishing spot really quickly in order to tend to my babies. I always feel a little interrupted when reading most books as it makes me uneasy to need to stop reading in the middle of a chapter. This book is a collection of short essays and birth stories, so I do not feel that anxiety.

My babies
I am filled with love for this book as I have finished up the second chapter. This is truly chicken soup for a Latter-day Saint doula's soul. Any mother, especially a Latter-day Saint mother, would appreciate the stories in this book. It is so detailed and well-researched. I can  tell a lot of "Search, Ponder and Pray" went into the writing of this book. So much love.

I have never read a book that has moved me to tears so much. The Foreward brought me to tears when I read it, and the adoption story at the end of Chapter 2 is making me bawl like a baby. I can't imagine what it must be like to feel a life growing inside of you for 9 months, give birth to a precious baby, and then have to say good-bye forever, even when you know it is the best and right thing to do. I can't imagine. I am looking forward to more.

Chapter 3:Personal Revelation & Chapter 4:Patience

I love this book! I just can't get over how much I adore every word. I love the aesthetics even- I love that the pages with personal stories are a different color. I love the symbols at the top of the page that provide a trigger warning. I love how the chapters are arranged.

As I've continued to read, I keep wishing that I had read this when I was pregnant just four months ago. So many words were exactly what I needed to hear during that time. I want to share this book with everyone. I want to shout from the rooftops, "Read this book!" I want to gift it to my midwife...my doula...I want to share it with my cherished LDS friends.

Chapter 5: Preparation & Chapter 6: Meditation

Playing with Lily at the park
Meditation. This is not something that I do very well. Prayer, yes. Meditation, no. I am guilty of doing as President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, praying to Heavenly Father like I am ordering groceries. I dump my "I thank thees" and "I ask thees" at His feet, and I sometimes wait in silence for an answer. I'll spend a few minutes waiting, listening for anything Heavenly Father might have to say to me. Most of the time, I feel like I do not receive anything. At least nothing that I recognize. Every now and then a word or two will come to mind. Words like, "Wait." Or, "Keep going." Or, "It's not that serious." If I am truly honest with myself, I don't really get any answers other than, "I'm here. I hear you. Thanks for checking in. Just go about your day." I suppose I won't be able to have these amazing deep experiences every day. And most of the time, when I do have an experience, its not during my prayers. It's when I am sitting on my couch right after getting my child (now children) down for a nap, and I gaze out of the windows to enjoy the sunlight and silence. Sometimes I feel His love and awareness in those moments. Or at the park watching Lily play. Or giving birth. Or witnessing a birth. Or reading a story out of the Friend magazine with my daughter.

I decided to try the meditation thing in the shower today. Lots of moms' Sacred Grove is in the shower. I retreated to the shower for my home birth. I've shed many a tear in the shower. I had no expectations. I decided to merely observe what thoughts came to mind. My first thought, "Prayer. You're doing it wrong." Sometimes saying my prayers and reading my scriptures frustrates me because I have attached expectations to them. I expect saying my prayers will help me have a good day. I expect the mere act of reading my blessings that I feel I desperately need. I often accuse myself of "doing those things just so I can get stuff." What if I just said my prayers just to commune with the Lord? What if I read my scriptures just to be with Him? No strings attached. No expectations. My next thought? Well, you'll just have to check back in a few weeks because I am not ready to reveal that yet.

Chapter 7: The Spirit-Mind-Body Connection

Constant nourishment. '"I once told a friend that I wished I had an umbilical cord to Heaven, to constantly fill me with God's love. I will never forget her answer. She said, "It is only an illusion that there is not."' (236)

Love. This. Book.

That is all.

Chapter 8: Fear & Chapter 9: Pain

"The Buddhists say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a painful feeling about pain. Pain is simply a sensation, but suffering comes from thinking that what is shouldn't be. I saw that no matter what happened to me in this life, I could trust that God had me in mind and that life happens for me, not to me. It's all for my good." (254) LOVE!

Chapter 10: The Atonement

"Regardless of where a mother labors, it should feel safe to her. The Savior sought familiarity, privacy, and seclusion for the work He was about to do. Women find themselves doing the same as the labor." (344)

Trigger warning: Loss

This was a hard chapter to read. Infant loss, stillbirth, abortion, birth trauma. It was very heavy, but there were so many lessons about truly relying on the Lord and His Infinite Atonement. This chapter contained excellent advice on the stages of grief and helping women through there grief if ever called upon to do so. I was thankful for the symbol at the top of the page to warn me about the sensitive nature of the essays. I was just taken-aback by how many women have experienced such heartbreaking loss. How did they recover? How did they even survive these experiences? Ultimately, the only thing that helped these women was drawing on the power of the Atonement. As hard as it was to read, I think this was a necessary component to a book about birth. As much as I like to share a lot of positive birth experiences, and as much as I wish every birth was all sunshine and daisies, and as much as I want to change the face of birth and help it have a better reputation, the simple truth of the matter is, birth is not always a wonderful experience. Sometimes there is death. Pain. Loss. These mamas need to be heard too. They need a safe place to grieve, and this book has a fantastic website with resources to help women through that process.

Chapter 11: Unity

"Strengthening Marriage during Pregnancy and Beyond" is a fantastic essay. These is so much information that I want to shout from the rooftops! I know that the lessons I have gleaned from this essay will allow me to serve my clients in a much greater way.

Chapter 12: The Fourth Trimester

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I am kind of sad that a part of my journey has come to a close. I know that this will be a great resource for me, and I can't wait to be able to dig in the footnotes of the
The fourth trimester
chapters and ponder the things more. I feel like reading this book was such a spiritually nourishing journey. In such a short amount of time, I feel like this book has changed me. It has inspired me and encouraged me to be a better wife, mother, doula, Relief Society sister and Latter-day Saint. It has encouraged me to be a better daughter of my Heavenly Father. I feel all the women who contributed to this amazing work were inspired of the Lord. I have said lately to several people, "I am so lonely, though I am never alone." I feel like reading this book gave me some of the companionship that I have been craving. There are other women out there who get what I am going through when I thought no one else would or could. There are others who have been where I am now and who, through this book, have given me the strength to carry on. They have buoyed me up. This opportunity could not have come at a more perfect time.

One last thought, I couldn't help but notice that there were 12 chapters. I'm not sure if this was done on purpose, but I love the significance of the number 12. Hopefully someone can come along and provide some insight on that.

Final thoughts: I think this is my favorite book about birth ever! Believe me, this is a big deal, because I have read some truly amazing books. However, the authors "have written the book unabashedly for a Latter-day Saint audience" (xvii), and I can't help but feel a deep, heartfelt connection with a book that is written about two of my most favorite topics in the world: my faith and birth. Order your copy here.


  1. I love this play-by-play of your thoughts while reading the book. I don't think it was a coincidence that we ended up with 12 chapters either. I don't recall us doing it on purpose, but it does seem fitting doesn't it? God most definitely guided our book-writing process all along the way. Thank you for this beautiful post, Kristi!

  2. Kristi, I loved how you recorded thoughts on each chapter. As Lani said, we didn't purposely form 12 chapters but I think it was meant to be and does symbolize the power of birth. I looked up the symbolism of 12 and it is generally indicative of the priesthood, its power and right to govern(Lost Language of Symbolism, 134). For example, the 12 apostles, the 12 oxen upon which the baptismal fonts in the temples rest, healing a woman of her issue of blood of 12 years, etc. The number 12 is to remind us of the necessity of the ordinances to progress to the celestial kingdom. The twelve in the case of the number of chapters here may indicate the necessity of our birth into this world to progress on that journey toward the celestial kingdom. There is much more on the number 12. I may just have to write a blog post on this one.

  3. Wow, I loved reading all of your thoughts and insights into the book. I am glad that it inspired you!