I am writing a book called “Finding” Joy. The word “Finding” is in quotes because you don’t actually find your joy. No one gives it to you. No one makes it for you. You have to create your own joy.
I was asked to speak at a retreat about a year ago and I asked, what message would be helpful for your audience?
The lady said to me, I’d love you to speak on loving the live that you have, even when it doesn’t go the way you think it should go.
I can look back on my life and see all the ways it has gone terribly awry — yet I still love my life even though it did not go according to my own plans.
When i was a teenager I left the church because I was making bad choices and my bishop told my parents. I could have chosen differently, but chose to leave the church for several years and made a lot of bad choices.
I came back to church when I was 21, and I was 5 months pregnant. I knew that no good Mormon man would ever want me, so I prepared to do this on my own. I was going to nursing school so I could provide for my baby.
As I came back to the church and the things that I knew would bring me joy, I became more confident and more self assured. Because of those side effects of living righteously, I met my future husband. He fell in love with me and my baby. So I gave up nursing school to become a full time mom.
That was an unexpected happiness. Something that I didn’t ever anticipate. My own plan was just to muscle through
and be a single mom. Thankfully, Heavenly Father had a different plan that brought me a lot of happiness and joy.
In many ways, we had a very good life but it was also a very difficult life. When I prayed, Heavenly Father said, IT WILL BE HARD.
I prayed again, and asked, is he the right one for me?
He said YES.
So when things got hard, I would just look back and remember that God had already told me it was going to be hard, and I wasn’t surprised.
But as time went by, things kind of shifted–where he had been a truly righteous man, as he became more successful, he started caring more about cars and then he started caring more about making women laugh and started emotional affairs. Those were really difficult for me to handle.
Because of my own childhood traumas I didn’t think I could demand something better. so I emotionally withdrew
from the relationship and buried myself in raising kids and helping him with his businesses and doing our rental
properties. I just became a very busy mom and didn’t have a lot of emotional connection with my husband.
But I found a lot of joy in being a mom.
In 2006, I had my 5th baby and I felt like we were supposed to have another one. My husband had been talking about adopting kids but because of my own childhood trauma I felt like I couldn’t love a child that wasn’t mine. I prayed about it and told him that I thought we should have our own baby. So we got pregnant again and that was my daughter Lily.
I thought I’d get a midwife eventually because I knew the drill. Money was tight. So I waited until about the 5th or 6th month to make the call. When I saw her, she asked me a few questions and then called me after a few weeks and said that she couldn’t help me. I called another midwife and talked to her, but I didn’t feel comfortable
We were living in Oregon at that time, but since I wasn’t having any luck finding a midwife in the area, I decided at the last month of my pregnancy to go to Phoenix and use the midwife I had had the last time we lived there. I took my two youngest kids and I went to flagstaff and stayed with my mom. Once a week, I would visit my midwife, Connie.
On the third week I was there, she said — I think we could probably break your water. I told my husband – this is what is going on and she thinks we should break the water, and immediately he said – I’m going to fly out tomorrow. I told him it was no big deal and that I would be fine. He said, I feel strongly that I need to come right away. I wasn’t happy about it, but I got off the phone and started getting Lily ready for birth. I walked on the treadmill for about three miles and jumped on the trampoline to get her head engaged.
The next day, I was having stomach contractions. My mom was worried about me. She wanted to drive down with me. She said, why don’t you let Leah (her high school friend) drive with you. And then, on the way out the door, she said, “If things don’t go the way you think they should go, just remember that the Lord has a plan.”
Before I had left, my contractions were 5 to 7 minutes apart. I picked up my husband from the hotel. My contractions were 3 minutes apart. I picked up the car seat and we made our way to the midwife.
When we got to the midwife, she started the bathtub, and she wanted to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. She started listening with her stethoscope while my husband and I were chatting. Connie was trying to find the baby’s heartbeat
eventually I said, Is something wrong?
Connie replied, When was the last time you felt the baby moving? I said, yesterday. I remember the baby kicking against the seat belt. My midwife said, I’d like to do an ultrasound really fast at the birthing center.
We went through the birthing center and there were 20 couples having an orientation in the main room. We walked through that room to the ultrasound room.
While we were in there, Connie started looking around. She turned to me and said – Jill, as you can see, your baby’s heart is not beating…
I screamed. My husband turned to me and gave me a blessing. But I was totally numb.
I remembered the words that my mother had spoken to me earlier: “If things don’t go how you planned, remember that God has a plan for you.”
My midwife said we would have to have the baby at the hospital, so I walked out of the ultrasound room, and then I had to face that room full of people attending class. In that moment, I felt like I would never be the same–like life would never be okay again.
We went to the hospital and had Lily and she was completely perfect. Just completely perfect. But the cord had gotten wrapped around her neck three times.
Again, I felt like life was never going to be the same. I had been thinking I was coming home from the hospital with a baby, and I had to face the fact that the car seat was going to be empty.
My husband tried to comfort me. We had this tradition where we liked to go see movies together, because on our wedding night, we went to two movies because we were so nervous. So this time, we went to a comedy, and I laughed like I had never laughed before. I went home, and I felt like a terrible person for laughing at the movie when my baby had just died. But after I did some praying I felt Heavenly Father teach me in that moment: it’s not only okay to look
at the good in a bad situation but it is NECESSARY
It is NECESSARY
Because of that lesson, I was also able to see that my son at the time, who was 15 months old, was a very needy baby
and I had been so worried how I was going to take care of him and give him the attention he needed with the new baby.
As soon as I had the thought that it is ok to look for the good in the bad situation, I thought, well, at least now I can give my son the attention he needs.
I felt bad for that thought, too.
But I knew that it was okay.
Going back home without a new baby I thought, well at least I don’t have to climb over the seat to get to a brand new
baby. All these things started coming to me–things that were benefits.
I thought about what a benefit it was that Connie had delivered four of my five babies. I knew that she had done everything that she could for my baby. If it had been one of the other midwives, I probably would have blamed them for her death.
The day that Lily died, two family members told me that they had seen a vision of her in heaven. Two separate people described her almost in exactly the same way. It brought me a lot of peace.
A lot of family members came to Lily’s funeral. Not many of my family members are active in their religion. So I got to stand and testify that God has a plan for us. I got to share my gospel knowledge with them. I got to tell them about the plan of happiness and how we get to create our own joy out of the experiences life gives us. Life has definitely not gone according to my own plans, but I love the life that I have.
Jill Fagan is the President of Silver Torch Press and her work can be found at SilverTorchPress.com