As I grew up and watched my mother run the household and the day-to-day activities of family life, I thought for sure motherhood was easy. From my perspective, it appeared as though my mom was able to do whatever she pleased and eat as many M&Ms as she wanted!
I never thought twice about asking her for a favor, childishly assuming she had nothing better to do than tend to my needs. As I looked forward to motherhood, I believed my kids would be well-behaved and life as a mother would be fairly easy. However, just a couple hours into motherhood, I realized that parenting is much more complicated and difficult than I expected.
Thankfully, Heavenly Father is well aware of the enormity of the calling to be a mother and has found many ways to strengthen and magnify His daughters as they raise children in this mortal existence.
As a mother, doula, childbirth educator, and maternal-fetal health advocate, I have witnessed the magnification of mothers continually for over a decade. I have seen God’s hand in every aspect of raising the next generation. Here are three ways I continually see Heavenly Father strengthen and magnify mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and female role models.
1. God foreordained all women to be mothers
Modern day revelation teaches us that all women were foreordained in the preexistence to become mothers, in more ways than just physically. As the family proclamation teaches, gender is part of our eternal identity. Meaning, our gender and accompanying attributes were laid out in the preexistence.
God had already qualified and empowered all women to this demanding role and endowed all women, even those who do not physically give birth, with the ability to mother. Sheri Dew explains: Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us. As daughters of our Heavenly Father, and as daughters of Eve, we are all mothers and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility to love and help lead the rising generation (“Are We Not All Mothers?” Sheri Dew, October 2001 general conference).
The qualities and attributes of mothers are an innate gift from a loving Heavenly Father. Women who become mothers by giving birth, through adoption, or by association with others’ children, are all blessed with feminine qualities that contribute to Christlike love and nurturing.
In her recent women’s conference address, Sister Marriott explains “nurturing is not limited to bearing children. Eve was called a ‘mother’ before she had children. I believe that ‘to mother’ means ‘to give life.’ Think of the many ways you give life. It could mean giving emotional life to the hopeless or spiritual life to the doubter. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can create an emotionally healing place for the discriminated against, the rejected, and the stranger. In these tender yet powerful ways, we build the kingdom of God. Sisters, all of us came to earth with these life-giving, nurturing, maternal gifts because that is God’s plan" (“What Shall We Do?” Neill F. Marriott, April 2016 general conference).
2. The physiology of childbirth transforms and strengthens women.
Despite cultural beliefs, the ability to bear children is not a curse. Childbirth was not a punishment placed upon women after Eve partook of the fruit but was a divine gift to humankind long before Eve was ever placed in the Garden.
Though childbirth is anything but a curse, it is also anything but easy! Pregnancy and birth take a physical and emotional toll on women, but God has found many ways to strengthen and magnify His daughters during this trying, yet edifying experience. One notable example of this is the physiological design of childbirth and how God uses the chemical reactions of birth to magnify and strengthen our relationships.
Women who experience the birthing process will experience a dramatic rise in the hormones that contribute to bonding and nurturing. Oxytocin, the hormone associated with love and bonding, is also the hormone that is created while a woman labors and gives birth. Once the child is born, the mother’s brain creates more oxytocin than her brain will create at any other time in her life, heightening initial bonding as well as her desire to nurture and love the child. Oxytocin also triggers the brain to create endorphins, flooding the mother with feelings of extreme happiness.
God’s love is continuously shown shortly after birth as the heightened amounts of estrogen from pregnancy creates extra oxytocin receptors in the mother’s brain, also heightening her maternal instincts directly after giving birth. This helps the early days of motherhood feel natural, even for a first-time mom.
This teaches us of God’s love for His daughters, His plan for birth to be joyful, and His desire for families to be intrinsically bonded (Linda Folden Palmer, “The Chemistry of Attachment,” Mothering Magazine). The divinely designed hormones of childbirth also bring out a woman’s protective nature, increase her ability to multitask and feel empathy, and keep her alert to any dangers that may threaten her family (Craig H. Kinsley. “Motherhood and the Hormones of Pregnancy Modify Concentrations of Hippocampal Neuronal Dendritic Spines.” Hormones and Behavior. February 2006. 49,2 :131-142).
Oxytocin isn’t reserved solely for birth. Our brains create oxytocin when we have positive interactions with anyone. The more positive and consistent those interactions are, the more oxytocin our brains create. This not only makes us experience joy in the moment but also assists in keeping long-term relationships strong. Oxytocin helps a woman to bond with children, helping her feel rewarded when nurturing them instead of burdened or resentful. Many activities that mothers, sisters, or aunts do with children will create oxytocin, strengthening the relationship and adding joy to it.
3. Nurturing children magnifies women.
Taking care of children magnifies a woman in two ways: (1) Physiological bonding continues as women nurture and enjoy children, and (2) Christlike love is developed and strengthened through countless opportunities to serve.
Whether a woman gives birth to her children or adopts them, she will physiologically bond with her children as she enjoys spending time with them as they grow. Teaching, nurturing, snuggling, singing, dancing, playing, and reading together will add happiness to family life as both mother and child are rewarded by these activities.
As children age, a mother will find new ways to maintain a close and rewarding relationship with her children because her brain has been coded to do so and because she was divinely designed with the heavenly attributes of being a mother. Even when children pull away or relationships are strained, mothers instinctively strive to maintain closeness. This long-term desire is similar to God’s desire for us to remain close to Him.
Serving others is the essence of Christlike love and strengthens the bond between the person who is serving and the person who is being served, no matter who the two people are. Mothers, sisters, and aunts find themselves serving their families on a continual basis. As they emulate Christ’s example of selfless love and service, serving becomes a joy instead of a burden. A woman’s capacity to serve and love continually grows as her family grows and as she follows Christ’s example.
From the pre-existence to our last days on earth, God has created women to thrive in a world that asks much of them. His divine design of the family and of the female body magnifies women physiologically and spiritually throughout their lifespan.
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Marie Bigelow is the author of The Sacred Gift of Childbirth: Making Empowered Choices for You and Your Baby. Her book testifies of God’s love and the divine design of childbirth and teaches readers how to make birthing decisions based on scientific data and LDS doctrine. Marie is a certified birth doula, childbirth educator, and music therapist. She was recently awarded the prestigious Advanced Doula Designation for her contributions to the field of doula work and maternal/fetal health. Marie resides in Boise, Idaho, with her husband, Todd, and four children. To learn more about Marie and the LDS doulas in your area, visit www.MarieBigelow.com.