I've gone through childbirth. Natural childrbirth.
It's hard. It hurts. When you're in the thick of it all, laboring, sweating, wanting to scream, you're still in the dark as to when that baby is coming. When will it end?
And what do you have to look forward to? Squeezing a grapefruit-sized head out of your body. Followed by what feels like two very broad shoulders and two little marshmallow buns.
And when it's all over, it's really just begun. You get to deliver another baby, though this one is lifeless and gross. Nurses press on your abdomen hard, which hurts, and out comes the placenta.
Then post-labor pains really begin to show their ugly face. Excruciating back pain from the intensity of the pushing and the force of the baby descending, and what might be considered one of the most painful parts of the whole experience for some women — engorgement. Your chest fills with unnecessary amounts of milk — enough to feed a 400-pound baby, it feels like. And it fills its reservoirs every two hours or so, sending burning pins and needles shooting through your chest for weeks.
And then the hormones. Where do I start? You cry over anything, you snap, you binge, you're hurting everywhere and you're sleep-deprived. Oh, and let's not forget the diaper you wear for six weeks because of the bleeding.
But you have a baby. All the pain, emotionally and physically, paid off. You carried precious cargo for 40 weeks, and although everything hurts, your baby is grateful. You are grateful. It was worth it.
My sister went through it all, too. But she had a stillborn. She came home empty-handed, and did it all for what feels like absolutely nothing. She cramped, she cried, she bled, she delivered. She got engorged, she wore a diaper, she felt the highs and lows, and longed for explanations. She experienced all that comes with having a baby, with no baby.
It may appear to some that she experienced it all for naught. But I believe my sister, perhaps unbeknownst to her, got a glimpse of what Jesus Christ went through in Gethsemane. He suffered and bled even for those that didn't want it, and those who didn't even believe in him. For a moment, maybe Jesus felt empty-handed, too.
Did he labor for them for nothing? He cried, he bled, he died.
I think my sister has felt, perhaps more than many, an indescribable closeness to Christ and a better understanding of the Atonement. An understanding of what it might feel like to be the Savior for a small moment. What it means to suffer for something or someone for reasons, we as mortals, can't explain.
I'm proud of her. We all are. She demonstrated love and pure unselfishness bringing that baby into the world, with her husband right beside her. Amid the heartache and emotional turmoil she went through, I'm grateful she did it. I've drawn closer to the Savior of my soul through her.
And although I haven't even scraped the surface of the real power of the Atonement, I understand it more than I did yesterday, and that takes me one step closer to really knowing Jesus Christ.
I asked her to tell me some of the things she felt, hoping it might help another, and this was her reply:
We had to say goodbye before we got to say hello to our little one and it was the most difficult thing for us to deal with so far in our lives. What helps me get through this is knowing I am not alone. There are so many women out there that have experienced what I have gone through, and so many who have had it much worse. I'm scared for when I'm pregnant again not knowing what the outcome will be. But I know there are women who have experienced what I have and now hold healthy newborns in their arms today, and that gives me hope.
Julie Boye is a graduate of the University of Utah and mother of two. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.