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Provided by Covenant Communications
Author Anita Stansfield is the mother of five children.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from "The Art of Motherhood" (Covenant Communications, $19.99), which includes 30 essays from Mormon authors.

Now that I am more than 30 years into being a mother, I look back with wonder and amazement at the enormous conglomeration of experiences that have comprised the most important aspect of my life. I never could have imagined that it would truly be so difficult — in spite of the many warnings to that effect from more experienced mothers along the way. I also never imagined that it would be so remarkable in those treasured experiences that teach you more about life and love and the magnitude of God’s plan than any other experience in mortality.

I recently became aware of a brand-new mother who is struggling with an enormous adjustment in caring for an infant along with many other challenges in life that have nothing to do with the baby. I see her life and wonder what kind of wisdom I might impart to her as I look back on similar struggles in my own life. I do have some perspective and insight given my own experiences, but I wonder how much of these things simply have to be learned by our own individual school of hard knocks. Learning from those with experience in any matter has a value that cannot be overrated, but it doesn’t negate the fact that we each must travel our own path and make our own journey. And no two journeys are exactly alike.

If I could go back and begin motherhood with what I know now, I could save myself a great deal of stress and anxiety over wondering why the baby wouldn’t stop crying or why I couldn’t stop crying. I could have let so many things roll off my back without scarcely giving them a second thought, knowing that in the grand scheme of a child’s life, bad days — and even bad weeks or months — all get ironed out, and my sincere efforts to be a good mom really did work out OK in spite of all my shortcomings.

But I seriously doubt that my younger, naive, ignorant and idealistic self would have been able to take in the advice of my older and wiser self without some kind of instinctive need to perhaps prove that I could do it better, that I could do it differently, or that no one else could really understand what it was like for me.

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And all of that was true, at least to some degree. Perhaps we are programmed with such beliefs in order to help us rise above the weaknesses of the previous generation and strive to be completely unique in our approach to a life that is never a carbon copy of anybody else’s. And the bottom line is that there are many aspects of life that just have to be experienced in order to be understood.

Any mother or grandmother can tell any young woman that when she holds her own child in her arms — whether she physically gave birth to that child or not — she will feel a kind of love that she never imagined possible, and it will change her irrevocably. And that, perhaps more than anything else, is what connects us as women to each other and to God.

Anita Stansfield's novels range from historical to contemporary and cover a wide gamut of social and emotional issues. She is a wife, the mother of five, and has two adorable grandsons. Her website www.anitastansfield.com.