on the cover:
The intensity of the “primal, physiological, and social” changes and “spiritual impulses” unleashed by birthing defy easy description. But women need to share these mysterious and sometimes horrifying experiences with each other, and especially with prospective mothers.
“[If I had told you], you wouldn’t have had children,” confessed one woman to her daughter. Those who imagine themselves blissfully nursing, framed by the natural light of a window, like in the paintings, may feel betrayed when they encounter such realities as tender, chapped nipples.
“It was a pain nobody, no woman had ever told me about. It was as if I had entered this secret society that really knew the truth, but wouldn’t tell until you knew it too,” reports a new mother in With Child. “I can handle the requisite pain … but fear [from not knowing what to expect, this] unnecessary terror and fear: that’s not fair.”
It is the same for other developments, both physical and emotional, which may leave a new mother confused. As a corrective, and as a celebration of motherhood, the contributors to With Child explore the literal and ethereal aspects from conception to the empty nest, from the “sorrow of travail” to the joy of feeling the baby’s skin next to one’s own.
“Mormon mothers speak in many tones sweet, commanding, bitter, comic, lyrical, judgmental, nourishing, and just plain tired. Marni Campbell’s book buzzes with the excitement of an all-night retreat and offer gentle comfort for those who think they labor alone.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, author, A Midwife’s Tale
“Women’s sober, witty, impassioned voices take us men where we can never go and help us bear imaginatively what we will never have to bear: irrational weeping; overwhelming pain; aching responsibility; and a ‘surprise sweep of love’ from the Divine across the birthing room.” —Eugene England, author, The Quality of Mercy
about the editor: Marni Asplund-Campbell, M.A., Harvard University, and former Brigham Young University instructor, teaches English at Shoreline Community College in Seattle, Washington. She sings in the Seattle Medieval Women’s Choir and has been president of her local LDS Relief Society. Her poetry and essay have appeared in Dialogue, Exponent II, HipMoma, and Sunstone. She is the mother of three children.
Mormon Women on Mothering
Marni Asplund-Campbell, editor
Salt Lake City
Cover illustration: David Adams, Gabrael Zane Baogert, 1992, pencil and photography
With Child was printed on acid free paper and was composed, printed, and bound in the United States.
© 1998 Signature Books, Inc. Signature Books is a registered trademark of Signature Books, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
With child : Mormon women on mothering / edited by Marni Asplund-Campbell.
ISBN 1-56085-112-0 (pbk.)
1. Mormon women. 2. Motherhood-Religious aspects—Mormon Church. 3. Mormon Church
—Membership. 4. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—Membership. I. Asplund Campbell, Marni
Editor’s Introduction [see below]
01 – Alchemy, by Joanna Brooks
02 – Morning Song, by Marion Bishop
03 – Hearts Swelling “Wide as Eternity”: A Talk for Mother’s Day, by Allison Pingree
04 – Deep in My Trunk, by Julie Turley
05 – Thinking of Me, by Julie Turley
06 – Where I’m From, by Holly Welker
A Delicate Condition
07 – A Hope Invisible, by Pandora Brewer
08 – First Trimester, by Dian Saderup
09 – A Blessing of Duty, by Dian Saderup
10 – Bread and Milk, by Eileen Gibbons Kump
11 – Pregnant Again, by Marni Asplund-Campbell
12 – Young Mother, by Ila Asplund
13 – Giving Birth: Women’s Voices, by Lynn Clark Callister
14 – It Happens So Often, by Heidi Hemming Smith
15 – Mother’s Day, by Tessa Meyer Santiago
16 – Birth Narratives, by Stephanie Smith-Waterman, Arlene Burraston-White, and Julie Nichols
17 – From Salvador, by Marni Asplund-Campbell
18 – My Sisters, My Daughters, by Martha Sonntag Bradley
19 – A Circle of Women, by Elizabeth Bradley
20 – All Parts of Myself, by Karen Farb
21 – Mary and Martha, by Marni Asplund-Campbell
22 – Poetry, by Lara Candland
23 – Speech Therapy, by Karin England
24 – Fighting with My Mother, by Susan Elizabeth Howe
25 – Pennyroyal, Cohosh, Rue, by Julie Nichols
26 – The Shadow Side of Mothering, by Julie Nichols
27 – Getting Away: How It Happens Again and Again, by Dixie Lee Partridge
28 – All Day at 30 Degrees, by Dixie Lee Partridge
29 – Falling Asleep, After the Wedding, by Dixie Lee Partridge
30 – Charm for a Sick Child, by Linda Sillitoe
31 – Red Roses for a Blue Lady, by Carol Bennion Quist
32 – What Nobody Told Me, by Jan Stucki
33 – Among Linens, by Lara Candland
34 – Little Apples, by Lara Candland
35 – Death and Life, by Francine Bennion
36 – Spencer Roy Barentsen, by Kim Barentsen
37 – One More Long Poem, by Lara Candland
38 – Instructions for My Funeral: and Other Posthumous Thoughts, by Louise Plummer
39 – For My Sister, Nearing Armistice, by Linda Sillitoe
Contributors [see below]
[p.vii]Just a few weeks pregnant with my first baby, and not even two months married, I stood at a lobby pay phone in the Wilkinson Center at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and called my parents to tell them the news. My father said, “Well, my dear, just look what you’ve begun.”
Nearly a decade later, now I see almost as much significance in the context of that conversation as in the content. Knowing what I know now, I can hardly believe I dared to speak so eagerly the words that made public and real my motherhood. A generation earlier I probably would not have known, except by intuition, that I was pregnant, and I would have needed to visit a doctor to confirm the fact. But as a woman of the late twentieth century, I bought a test at Fred Meyer that told me, virtually in an instant, that I was, and with “99%” chemical accuracy. (My mother-in-law refused to believe it was true until I saw a real doctor.) A generation earlier, had I known of my condition, I scarcely would have dared tell anyone, let alone call my father, in a public place and share the news with such jolly confidence and biologically precise language. Looking back, I imagine that he must have been a little embarrassed by my enthusiasm.
My mother never knew during her pregnancies, as I did with mine, the gender of her babies before they were born, or their dimensions, weight, and the shapes of their hands and heads in utero. She never saw her cervix with the help of a mirror and speculum, or made a “birth plan,” like I did, complete with instructions about episiotomies, enemas, and what she would wear during her delivery. I also knew, as so many generations of women before me could not, that I had a better-than-excellent chance of surviving the births of my children alive. I knew that my babies would most likely survive infancy. I knew all about the Rh factor, which must have been responsible for so many lost children, and gestational diabetes, which caused so many maternal deaths, and toxoplasmosis, and edema, and placenta previa, and the impor-[p.viii]tance of folic acid in my diet.
I weep and cringe when I imagine my great-great-grandmother giving birth to triplets in a cold February cabin in New Harmony, Utah, losing all three of those tiny girls within a month of their births. I imagine her feeling, without Advil or codeine, the things I never knew until I had children—the pain of torn flesh, weakened muscles, and engorged breasts.
But most of all, I knew, as an expectant mother, as so very many of the women who lived before me, including my mother, did not, that my pregnancy came by choice. There was no question when I was going to be married that I could, and, some said, should practice contraception. I had an array of birth control options presented to me, all of which were available without too much expense, danger, or any social stigma. But at twenty-three I knew that I wanted nothing more than to be pregnant. I’d graduated from college, served a mission, and gotten married with quick efficiency. I knew that I was ready for the next frontier. So I said no thanks to the pill and was throwing up with morning nausea almost before my “honeymoon cystitis” (“Try just shaking hands for a while,” the doctor at the health center said as he handed me my antibiotics) had cleared up. When I shared the news with friends and family, their reactions were more often, “Was that an accident?” and “Did you plan this?” than “Congratulations.” While there may have been too much silence and secrecy about the mechanics of pregnancy and birth in earlier eras, there was also a tacit acceptance of the fact that, barring any physical impediments, married women had babies. But now I, and not biology, or fate, or the hand of God, was responsible for my pregnancy.
I have seen many, many friends agonize, in this completely new context, over the decision to have children. For with the choice comes a grim sort of accountability. We are not just empowered with the safety and hygiene of modern reproductive technology, we are also expected to know when we are truly ready to take on the job. And we impose harsh penalties on those we deem unfit. Once in a religion class at BYU, I sat silent as nearly the entire room of young LDS men and women expressed their feelings from disgust and even rage to embarrassment at the sight of a “battered old station wagon filled with too many kids in DI clothes.” Such a sight was once the norm among Mor-[p.ix]mons—and now that it is clearly no longer a part of our culture, now that we ask those who would be parents to have comfortable incomes, homes, and college funds, we have not created a dialogue which explores the new choices we make, women make, when we decide to get pregnant.
I moved through my first pregnancy feeling that I lived in two distinct worlds. In one I studied Cicero and taught Dickens. I huddled over the space heater at night with my husband and read pages and pages of critical theory and Ibsen. In another dimension, literally underneath my skin, was this all-consuming universe within myself, so real I could close my eyes and see it growing. Nothing that I read or did in my public life explained to me the dark advent inside my body and soul. Nothing prepared me for the huge new emotions that left me speechless. I was desperate to read of other womens’ pregnancies. I needed to know if this sense of being divided was normal. I wanted to hear someone else say it. And I wanted to know about labor. What would it feel like? I searched for writings and found very few that were not technical and dogmatic or vague and sentimental. So in my personal search for mother-texts, I began to make this book.
First, I wanted to find writings that addressed the new context of Mormon motherhood that I still find baffling. Joanna Brooks writes in “Alchemy” of a silent secret that kept the women in her family from bearing many children, as good women should, and her own very new plans for calling her children into the world. Eileen Gibbons Kump’s beautiful story, “Bread and Milk,” reminds us that pregnancy has always been a matter of public interest in Mormon culture, despite our occasional desire to bear it secretly. Allison Pingree’s sermon, “Hearts Swelling ‘Wide as Eternity,’” places the choice to become a parent in the context of Mormon scripture and theology, and Holly Welker’s poem, “Where I’m From,” reminds us that an artist’s desire to have a child is so bewildering perhaps because it is entangled with so many other conflicting desires.
I also wanted to find writings that addressed the silence that surrounds so much of mothering experience. Tessa Santiago accuses her mother, in “Mother’s Day,” of failing to fill her in on the real pains of birth. Her mother responds that if she had, Tessa “would never have had a baby.” While that may be true, Tessa concludes, there are some [p.x]truths that, in all fairness, should be told. Pandora Brewer’s earthy/ethereal journal entries speak some of the truth of the often unspoken ambivalence of pregnancy. Francine Bennion’s “Death and Life” tells a powerful, draining story that is as much about the terror of silence as it is about the delivery and death of her first child. Margaret Young’s description of birth in Salvador gives an uncommonly honest picture of the sounds, smells, and heat of birth. And Dian Saderup’s story, “A Blessing of Duty,” captures the silent joy, pain, and fear of an unplanned pregnancy.
Martha Sonntag Bradley’s and Elizabeth Bradley’s essays together present a stunning picture of silence overcome, of daughters and mothers sharing intimately the essential commonalities of mothering experience. The birth narratives of Stephanie Smith-Waterman, Arlene Burraston-White, and Julie Nichols provide what I wish I’d had when I was first pregnant: honest, first-hand accounts of birth that don’t spare details of thoughtless fathers, enemas, and long labors.
As the manuscript grew, it took on different dimensions. While I hoped initially to focus on pregnancy and birth narratives, I found that many women could not talk about birth without talking about their subsequent lives with children. I began to search for manuscripts that would not only speak in the silence but that would create a new language for mothering experience. For many women, the language comes when they can find words to define time and causality in new ways, just as children force you to alter the rhythms of life. Karen Farb wrote her reflection on her experience of giving birth to and then giving away her daughter only after she came to realize, while raising her second child years later, how much that birth story was still filling her heart and mind, and demanding to be told. She gives new words to feelings of love and connection with a lost child and collapses the myth of past and present as separate realms. Dixie Lee Partridge’s poems create delicate spots of time like shimmering prisms through which we see the refracted rays of hope and yearning for our children as they grow independent. Linda Sillitoe’s “Charm for a Sick Child” and “For my sister, nearing armistice” introduce a mother-language that is a magical amalgamation of word and gesture. The heroine in Lara Candland’s “Poetry” is lost for words in the world of her baby, and only in sleep discovers the slow poetry that is rising in her.
[p.xi]Some who have read this manuscript have asked me, “Why must it be so dark? Can’t you just enjoy motherhood?” But great joy is never achieved without great pain, and without the words to say it, the joy cannot be complete. Julie Nichols writes in her story, “Pennyroyal, Cohosh, Rue,” and her essay, “The Shadow Side of Mothering,” of the darkness that is the twin part of the light of life. Her words remind us that we must all take care to communally nurture those who venture into parenthood and allow them to speak their sorrows. Heidi Hemming
Smith’s essay, “It Happens So Often,” tells of two births and a death, and in drawing parallels between the events highlights the dark responsibility of privilege we enjoy in North America. Kim Barentsen’s essay, “Spencer Roy Barentsen,” gives words to a still-born child and creates deep beauty out of the deepest grief. Carol Bennion Quist, in her essay, “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” describes her life with a mentally disabled child and strips away the tender mythologies of mother-love, showing that often love means simply bearing the burden of physical care for another person, and sometimes handing that care over to someone else.
Jan Stucki writes in her essay, “What Nobody Told Me,” that if we do not acknowledge that the language of mothering may also be the language of Eros, we may never see the full beauty of a child’s body and a mother’s body communicating in flesh. Susan Elizabeth Howe’s poem, “Fighting With My Mother,” and Dian Saderup’s poem, “First Trimester,” use images of combat between mother and child to highlight the resolution of love and affection. Finally, Louise Plummer’s delightful “Instructions for My Funeral and Other Posthumous Thoughts” gives us the ultimate joy of a woman reflecting on her long and very happy life, showing that even in death, a wise woman finds humor and joy.
When I became pregnant for the first time, I felt—almost heard—a gentle entry of spirit into my body. When I tried to describe it to a friend, she laughed at my physiological ignorance. Of course the egg would not have been fertilized, let alone implanted, for several days after I claimed to know that I had conceived. Perhaps we have too many windows now. Perhaps we have lost a measure of the ephemeral mystery of spirit dwelling in soul to the shadowy ultrasound image. For I know that I knew, in the very moment, that my husband and I had [p.xii]created a life.
I see through a window my Eliza, staring though glass that is bubbled with rain. She has giant gaps in her teeth, and holes in the knees of her linty tights. She is tapping hello with her fingertips, through the shop window, and my car windshield, hello and see my new haircut, hello, and come to get me now. Hello and I love you more than you love me.
[p.183]ILA ASPLUND is a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Washington in Seattle. She will finish her university studies abroad in Indonesia, where she will continue to work on her poetry as well as study the art of batik. Ila is interested in the combination of visual art and text; her journals are filled with observations in both words and images.
MARNI ASPLUND-CAMPBELL lives, teaches English, and writes in Seattle, Washington, with her three children and husband, Greg.
KIM BARENTSEN holds a B.S. degree in psychology with honors from Brigham Young University. She is the mother of Spencer and a charming two-year-old boy, David John. Kim is a stay-at-home mom who works part time out of her house as a licensed stockbroker and investment consultant. She and her family reside in the San Francisco Bay area.
FRANCINE BENNION was born in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, in 1935. She and her husband, Robert, have a daughter, Lynne, two sons, Roald and Brett, and four grandchildren. Francine holds degrees in music, French, and English and taught part time for twenty-five years at Ohio State University and Brigham Young University, retiring in 1997 after seven years of team-teaching Honors History of Civilization with her husband. She is glad to be alive.
MARION BISHOP has degrees in English literature, rhetoric, and composition from New York University and Utah State University. Her doctoral research focused on how women use diaries to name and construct their lives. In addition to her academic publications, she has published a personal essay in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. She teaches at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts.
ELIZABETH BRADLEY graduated from Pacific University, in Oregon, [p.184]in creative writing. She is the mother of Aspen Elizabeth Bradley.
MARTHA SONNTAG BRADLEY teaches at the University of Utah and is co-editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.
PANDORA BREWER has lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the past ten years. She has also lived in other states and in Japan. She has a husband working on his dissertation at Harvard, and two small boys. She works as a retail manager. She teaches Sunday school and fears death.
JOANNA BROOKS is a fourth-generation Los Angeleno, the descendent of Okies, Basque Californios, and handcart pioneers. Her poetry, fiction, and academic writing have been published in a number of journals and anthologies. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in American literature at the University of California, Los Angeles.
ARLENE BURRASTON-WHITE was born and raised in Utah. She is the mother of three and grandmother of one. A free-lance writer and editor, she currently resides in Virginia with her husband, O. Kendall White, Jr.
LYNN CLARK CALLISTER, R.N., Ph.D., is assistant dean as well as an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University.
LARA CANDLAND is poetry editor for Hip Mama magazine. She has published poetry and fiction in many journals and anthologies, including The Quarterly and Bite to Eat Place. She is the co-founder of Seattle Experimental Opera and is its chief librettist.
KARIN ENGLAND lives in Alpine, Utah. She is in the creative writing Ph.D. program at the University of Utah and is a member of the English faculty at Utah Valley State College.
KAREN FARB lives and works in New York with her son, Ian.
SUSAN ELIZABETH HOWE is an associate professor of English at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. She is the poetry editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and has also been the poetry [p.185]editor of Exponent II and the managing editor of The Denver Quarterly. The poem “Fighting with My Mother” is from her first collection, Stone Spirits, which was published in 1997 by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.
EILEEN GIBBONS KUMP lives in St. Joseph, Missouri. “Bread and Milk” appears in her collection of short stories entitled Bread and Milk.
JULIE NICHOLS is a part-time instructor of creative writing at Brigham Young University, has a husband and four children (one on a mission in Venezuela), and is currently at work on a book describing her experiences as an apprentice at Touchstone, a healing and educating center in Cotati, California.
DIXIE LEE PARTRIDGE grew up in Wyoming on a farm homesteaded by her great-grandfather. Her first book, Deer in the Haystacks (1984), is part of the Ahsahta Press series Poetry of the West. Her second, Watermark (Saturday Press, 1991), won a national Eileen Barnes Award. She is working on her fourth collection, and looking for a publisher for her third, Not About Dreams. Her poetry and essays have appeared widely in such journals as The Georgia Review, Commonweal, Midwest Quarterly, Northern Lights, Ploughshares, Southern Poetry Review, Quarterly West, Mothering, Dialogue, BYU Studies, Ellipsis, Christian Science Monitor, and others. She is currently poetry editor for Sunstone. She and her husband, Jerry, have raised their family of six children in Richland, Washington, along the Columbia River.
ALLISON PINGREE has a Ph.D. in English, specializing in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature and culture, from Harvard University. She currently works as an associate director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard. Her daughter, Emma Pingree Cannon, was born in September 1993.
LOUISE PLUMMER is a member of the English department faculty at Brigham Young University.
CAROL BENNION QUIST teaches English and humanities at Salt Lake Community College, and is the official manager at Sunstone magazine. She has earned prizes and publication for fiction, non-fiction, light [p.186]verse, and poetry, and currently edits “Poetry Panorama,” the semi-annual Utah State Poetry Society publication.
DIAN SADERUP lives with her family in Orem, Utah.
TESSA MEYER SANTIAGO has three children and teaches in the English and honors departments at Brigham Young University.
LINDA SILLITOE is the mother of three children and eight books, including Crazy for Living: Poems, Sideways to the Sun, and Secrets Keep, all published by Signature Books, as well as five non-fiction works. She currently lives and works in the Phoenix area.
As the daughter of an Air Force pediatrician, HEIDI HEMMING SMITH seems to have sand in her shoes despite a conflicting language for a permanent place to call home. After serving an LDS mission in Ireland, she married her friend and fellow theatre buff Zeric, and upon completion of their bachelor’s degrees they spent two and a half years in West Africa with the Peace Corps. The mother of two memorable children, Colin and Copeland, Heidi currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina. An elementary school teacher, she spends much of her life nurturing small things, including people, plants, and animals. She also enjoys trying exotic recipes and is a sometime artist and photographer.
STEPHANIE SMITH-WATERMAN is an education researcher for a Boston consulting firm. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband, Bryan Waterman, and their two daughters, Anna and Molly.
JAN STUCKI lives in Salt Lake City. She is the mother of two daughters.
JULIE TURLEY lives and writes in New York City.
HOLLY WELKER grew up in southern Arizona and served an LDS mission in Taiwan. She has a B.A. and an M.F.A. from the University of Arizona and is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in creative non-fiction and a Ph.D. in twentieth-century American literature at the University of Iowa. She has published poetry, fiction, and non-fiction in Alligator Juniper, Black Warrior Review, Cumberland Poetry Review, [p.187]Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Other Voices, Sunstone, and TriQuarterly. Her main project at Iowa is a booklength memoir about her mission, tentatively entitled The Rib Cage.
MARGARET YOUNG is the author of two short story collections and three novels, including Dear Stone, forthcoming.