Just before the time when I needed to choose my educational path as a freshman in college, I was baptized and became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I embraced my newfound values, I found inspiration in the church’s teachings on families and how the answers to the problems facing society seemingly could be found in the gospel. Encouraged by the scriptures and the value the church puts on education “by study and also by faith,” I sought the answers from science and scholarly study and found that much of what social scientists have found contribute to happy and healthy families are also foundational teachings in the gospel.
BYU and The School of Family Life was the perfect place for me to understand this connection. There I was trained to become an activist for family friendly public policy and was encouraged to continue my scholarship and work.
When I had joined the church, my mother worried if her strong-willed and passionate daughter was up to the challenge of living the traditional role of a Mormon woman. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this stereotype did not always bear out in my observations of women in the church. At BYU, I found many examples of LDS women who were balancing the dual callings of mother and professional. I had hope and faith that the Spirit would guide me to the roles that I would play in my family and community though I did not understand how it would work.
As I came close to completion of a graduate degree, it was revealed to me in a blessing that the path I thought my life would take was different that what my heavenly parents intended. Just as I was expecting to hear counsel to be solely devoted to my family and raising my children, I was encouraged to continue my studies and activism. That was the last thing I expected to hear!
That blessing made me realize that I was going to be atypical in the church. After a shocking birth experience where my right to informed consent was threatened and ultimately withheld, losing my job while on maternity leave and being thrown headlong into the Mommy Wars, I learned first-hand some of the discrimination and hurdles that complicate motherhood. I started to view family policy from the perspective of a mother and became aware that women’s efforts to provide for themselves and their families are still very much devalued in our society.
I was inspired to continue my work as an activist and found ways to work from home as a stay at home mother. In addition to completing a master’s degree with a child on my hip and another in utero, I collaborated with the non-profit, Solace for Mothers, to create an online discussion board for women who were struggling with emotional trauma caused by their childbirth experiences, and volunteered with the organization The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services to promote The Birth Survey, a consumer feedback website reviewing maternity care providers.
Currently enrolled in midwifery school and with plans to pursue a doctorate degree in the future, I find strength in the teachings of the gospel, the stories of women of the restoration and reliance on personal revelation.