The blessing to me, that was blessing my daughter.

I read something this morning that pierced my soul when I read it.  It literally caused my heart to race and my hands to begin to tremble.  This emotional reaction came on so suddenly and strongly that my cognitive processes were unable to keep up and I didn’t immediately know why this short paragraph had effected me so dramatically.  To put this feeling into context, it was basically a mini-panic attack.  Now, being a advocate for mindfulness, I recognized that I needed to process this experience and get to the root cause of why I felt so attacked by what I read.  So, here is what I learned about myself through my internal reflection.

I’ll start with what triggered this.  It was a testimonial from a man named Adam on the Ordain Women website that was shared on Facebook.  Here is the link, but I’ll also share Adam’s entire testimonial here:

About three years ago I remember standing in a circle, surrounded by men (some important to me, some not so much). We were about to take part in one of the more significant events of a child’s life. In this instance, that child happened to be my own. I remember looking straight ahead through a gap between my uncle in-law and an old friend of mine, who more or less invited himself into the circle. What I saw was a face that stared back at me with a handful of emotions painted on it. Admiration, appreciation, a sense of parental pride, perhaps. Yet there she was, sitting on a bench, a mere spectator. Some of the men in the circle couldn’t tell you the full name of my infant, let alone did they sacrifice their bodies to keep her alive for 9 months. And they certainly had never spent one sleepless night ensuring the comfort of my little girl, amidst incessant cries. I remember thinking, “Something isn’t right here. She should be the one to do this.”

This is simply a small example among countless others that make it crystal clear to me.

I believe women should be ordained.

Now, in full disclosure I am not a supporter of the Ordain Women movement, but I am not a detractor either.  I do think there are equality issues within the Church and culture that need to be addressed, and I think that this movement is shining a light on areas of inequality.  However, my own personal opinion is to have patience with the Lord’s revelatory process and look at the way the system now works and search for the good that exists because of the current sex-segregated priesthood system while not putting blinders on to any gross inequalities and injustices.

Back to Adam’s story though and my personal reaction to it.  As I came to grips with my immediate emotional response, I began to realize that I reacted so strongly to this story because had my wife blessed our first daughter instead of me, irreparable damage may have happened to my family.  Not some imaginary damage, but real, lasting, devastating damage that may have ended my relationship with my wife and daughter.  The fact that I was able to bless my daughter provided me with a measure of protection from forces that were trying to destroy me shortly after my daughter was born.

One seriously under-reported mental health problem among men is male-postpartum depression and anxiety.  I came down with this very swiftly and severely following my daughter’s birth.  Even though I had been through battles with depression prior to this, this time it hit so quickly and so unexpectedly I couldn’t even consider disclosing what I was going through to anyone.  My internal thoughts and my supposed implications of becoming depressed right after the birth of my first-born were too horrific to let anyone who could have helped me know what was going on in the deep, dark recesses of my mind.  I kept a smiling face publicly, but within myself was a torment too great to put into words.  Too often, the only balm that I felt could have ended my torment was to run, to leave me wife and daughter; after all, if this was how bad I felt simply because my daughter had been born, what good was I to them?

Yet the Lord in his infinite wisdom has decreed that fathers should bless their children.  So, in the midst of being racked in my mind with continual torment, I knew that on an upcoming Sunday I would need to stand before a congregation of fellow members, my family, and my wife and allow myself to be a vessel of the Lord and a conduit for revelation.  I needed to spend time in prayer and fasting so I could be the person who the Lord, my daughter, and my wife needed me to be when that blessing was given, and that’s what happened.  Giving my daughter her blessing connected her to me, it renewed within me a strength and commitment to her and to her mother.  Now it was not a complete fix, I did eventually need both therapy and medication to overcome this challenge, but the act of giving my daughter a blessing was a great protection.  It was the first step of many that saved my family from the brink of destruction.

Let me conclude my remarks by speaking directly to you, Adam.  Do not discount your role in the rearing of your child and the importance of the fact that YOU were the person responsible for his/her blessing.  Yes, your wife sacrificed 9 months and the health of her body to bring this child into the world, and she will continue to sacrifice for the care and well-being of this child, but those 9 months also gave her a 9 month advantage in getting to know your child and his/her personality.  As a father, you need every opportunity given to you to connect to your children and understand them, and still you will never catch up with your wife in being able to sense when something is wrong, when they need help, and how to succor and care for them.  She had 9 months of pregnancy followed my months of breastfeeding and cuddling.  You need your time too to get to know this child, and the blessing is a wonderful opportunity to do so.  It is a few minutes where if you can prepare yourself, you can feel the touch of revelation and see the same potential in this child that Heavenly Father does.  These are revelations your wife has likely already received during her months of pregnancy and her first moments with her newborn.

If you feel your wife was a mere spectator during the blessing, take corrective action when your next child is born or during future ordinances.  Be more selective and intentional about who is in the circle beforehand.  Have a family gathering before the service with all invited members of the circle and have your wife offer a prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide your words in the blessing.  In your prayer as a couple the night before, as your wife to say that prayer and ask her to seek for things in that prayer that you ought to include in your blessing the next morning.  Go out of your way to include your wife in this blessing within the Lord’s guidelines as we currently understand them.

I simply want to share that in this specific regard I hope that the Child’s Blessing remains the father’s responsibility.  It was a necessary and protective blessing to me in my family, because if I had witnessed my wife blessing our daughter when I felt so disconnected to this newborn, I may have given in to the horrific thoughts in my mind to take off because clearly my wife wouldn’t have needed me.  She had carried her, she had delivered her, she was now feeding and caring for her.  If she had also blessed her, that what good was I?  I hate to think what I might have done if I can succumbed to such thoughts.  I hope that as we pursue opportunities to increase women’s equality in the Church, we do not eliminate traditions that bring blessings to fathers in our relationships with our children.  This goes so far beyond and deeper than the “women have children; men have the priesthood” platitude, this is about advocating an equality in the father/child and the mother/child relationship.  Something that is vital for both fathers and children.

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5 thoughts on “The blessing to me, that was blessing my daughter.

  1. I think Adam was intentionally vague. He could at the same time be advocating for his wife to have at least been in the circle with him, standing next to him, or at least holding the baby while the baby was being blessed by him. My husband wanted me to hold the baby so I could be a part of the blessing, and respectfully asked the bishop (the same way a deacon is in the circle holding a microphone but doesn’t have the Melchizidek priesthood) and he was denied emphatically. I appreciate you have a sensitive soul and respond to emotions, that’s very commendable and I imagine it helps you relate to others. Then I am sure you can appreciate how a new mother might feel struggling with post-partum depression (80% of new mothers experience some form of post-partum blues, 20% have a deep depression), perhaps even a traumatic C-section where nothing about the birth felt magical or affirming, or is having a hard recovery from ripping and being stictched up “down there” and is very depressed about how the birth went. Only to watch as her husband alone is participating in something she’s not allowed to even if she wanted to, which is also the most important spiritual milestone that child has had (and will have, until his babtism, which she also can’t participate in). Can you not see how your reasoning could also be applied to why women *should* have at least the option to participate in a blessing? Lastly, it was a bit disconcerting for you to give patriarchy credit for why you didn’t leave your wife. I think you are not giving yourself enough credit: *you* made the decision to stay, it was all you. I’ve heard that argument before, that men need patriarchy to feel important and keep them from being lazy/bad husbands, but I think that devalues men–my husband (and you!) are stronger than that.

    • Kristy, I think the need here is to avoid turning the blessing of the child into some kind of zero-sum issue for the parents. The ordinance is primarily a symbolic one and is not a saving ordinance, so I disagree with the idea that it is a spiritually significant milestone. For the child, I would consider the birth itself to be more spiritually significant in the eternal perspective of things. Given how the ordinance is described in the D&C I would say it is mainly for the benefit of the parents the Lord has called for this. So rather than one party taking blessings and opportunity away from the other, the practice of the ordinance should be done in a way that is unifying and mutually uplifting. If doing this during sacrament meetings is failing to provide that need for many modern-day parents, then traditions around the ordinance can be revisited short of revelation.

      Regarding a mother’s postpartum depression, I had written a lengthy addition to that for the post, but deleted it for the sake of brevity. I’m of several thoughts on the topic. First, many mothers with postpartum depression describe a sense of overwhelming isolation and burden. Could the symbolic act of handing her baby over to “the elders before the church, who [then] lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name” not serve as a sign to her that she is not alone and isolated? In fact, I’ve heard many mothers describe it that way. For other mothers facing the issue, other accommodations could be taken. I do think local leaders could be given more leeway in making such decisions. Would it help some mothers who have faced that to have the ordinance done at home? Perhaps allow her to sit in a chair and hold the child?

      Lastly, I am bothered by your relating my need to feel a connection to my daughter as a sense of patriarchy. Perhaps I was not clear enough in relating this story, but I needed no sense of patriarchy to stick around, I needed to like her, and the depression was preventing me from doing so. In the twisted thoughts I was burdened with at the time, I thought that she would be better off without me than going through life if I didn’t like her. What kept me around was finally seeing through the fog and realizing that despite my depression, despite my shortcomings, I had a profound love for this little girl, and I could not “check-out” (and based on your dissertation topic, I’m assuming you can read between those lines) because she deserved to feel and know the love of her mortal father. It’s not needing to feel important, it’s simply needing to feel a connection of love, a love that mothers get many months to nurture during pregnancy, but one that for some fathers is more difficult to cultivate. In fact, by the way you describe patriarchy, those were the types of thoughts that were tormenting me the most: needing to take on more responsibility to not be a “bad” father.

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