When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Danelle

I met Danelle at my Galentine’s Day Event. We were talking a little before the speakers spoke and she mentioned her struggle with infertility briefly and we connected on Instagram so I could talk to her more and share her story. We share a common goal and I love that!

Danelle is a wife, Target enthusiast, chocolate addict and champion of kitchen karaoke! After years of struggling with infertility, she was left feeling hopeless and alone. In her efforts to find a connection with others experiencing trials, she discovered a love for writing and shares her journey on her blog wecallitajourney.com. Her message is one of hope, faith, and growth. She believes we are all connected through heartache and once we understand that, we can really start to heal. You can also find her on Instagram @wecallitajourney.

Photo by Blackley Photography

Our journey with infertility started almost five years ago. Even writing this now, it’s hard to convince myself that so much time has passed. I don’t like to admit it because hindsight is 20/20 and I might sound crazy but I think I always knew this trial would be a part of my story. Countless times the Spirit has touched my heart reminding me these simple words, “Your heart has been prepared for this.” At times my journey has left me feeling completely broken and worthless but through the cracks, I have felt the warm light of my Heavenly Father’s love. These experiences have been heartbreakingly beautiful and I am finally in a place where I can find gratitude for the journey.

I was married at 19 to an incredible man. The plan was to finish school and have a million babies! Okay… not a million, but we agreed to six! It’s easy to look back and feel ridiculous for how naive we were with family planning. We would talk about names and how far we would space our kids. We even went as far to say how many boys and how many girls we would have… [insert facepalm]. As if we ever really had a say in the matter. (If we’ve learned anything it’s how out of control we really are in all this.) I think about all those times we would panic because we thought we were pregnant and the timing wasn’t following “our plan” [insert facepalm]. All those times we joked about NEVER having kids after seeing one screaming at the grocery store. And lastly, I think about all that money we spent on birth control in the beginning only to find out we were “childproof” all along! If only we knew then what we know now.

I can honestly say for the first six months of trying, it was a relief we weren’t getting pregnant. I guess it’s like they always say, you’re never REALLY ready to have a baby. I think we spent the rest of the year praying that it would “accidentally” happen so that we didn’t have to take responsibility for the timing. After one year of trying we were frustrated with a hint of denial that there was indeed a problem.

I still remember that surreal moment of walking into a Fertility Clinic for the first time after almost two years of trying and thinking, “How are we here?! How are we THAT couple? I’m too young to be dealing with this!” We met with the Dr. and had a plan. We followed the instructions so precisely that it literally drove us crazy! So many tears were shed with that first fertility treatment. At the time I was putting my husband through his Master’s program so it took all our savings to pay for our medications and procedure. Surely the Lord would see how great our sacrifice was and He would bless us with a baby. When we finished the procedure, the nurse told us, “From this point forward, we assume you’re pregnant so no alcohol or hot tubs etc.” During that two week wait for our pregnancy results, we assumed we were so we were being cautious and realistic. When the results finally came and we heard the news that we were not pregnant we were so devastated that we realized how much we had actually believed this was a “sure deal.”

As time went on we tried several more procedures, all ending with failed attempts. Each leaving us a little more bitter, broken, and guarded than before. At one point our Dr. suggested we might be great candidates for an upcoming fertility study. If we were a match, we would be able to try a more aggressive (and much more expensive) approach at no cost for us. It felt like an answer to our prayers. Surely this is where our journey would end! It would all come down to one blood test level. Because I was young and otherwise healthy, there was no reason to think my levels wouldn’t be where it needed to be. Before our blood test, we fasted and prayed. We told our families and THEY fasted and prayed. We went to the temple and then prayed some more. Clearly, the Lord would hear and answer our prayers! The bloodwork came back at a level JUST under what was required and we were left again feeling angry and hopeless.

At this point, my faith in God and in prayer had been shaken. It felt so obvious that my name was not on His priority list. I didn’t know what to pray for anymore. I could no longer get down on my knees and continue begging him for the same thing over and over again. Because I valued my relationship with God, I was scared to ask Him for the things He wasn’t giving me. It would risk me being angry with Him when things didn’t pan out and I did not want to be mad at God, although I think He can take it. For a long time my prayers would sound like this, “Dear God, I’m here. Amen.” At one point I told Him He could put me through this but I was going to kick and scream the whole way. After that, it felt as though His arms embraced me and said, “You can put up a struggle but it will be easier if you don’t. Let me change you.”

It wasn’t until more recently that I have seen the beauty in brokenness. I have truly understood the “refiners fire” and that God is good. I guess I always knew that truth but it has meant so much more now that I’ve experienced it first hand. God has not blessed us with a child yet but He has molded and shaped us both into people we never knew we could be. I have found strength I didn’t know I had and courage I never knew was there. I have felt a deeper love for the Gospel as I cling on to every word in the scriptures and every song sung at church. I have felt God’s love for me more in the last few years than I have at any other time in my life and for that, I am eternally grateful. The heartaches are still there but it hurts less often and each day I relearn how to find gratitude and see God’s hand. I know this will be a lifelong pursuit and I guess that’s why We Call it a Journey.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Catherine & John

I met Catherine and John at the Ogden Temple. I work there and they came to volunteer and we were cleaning the bathroom so we had all night to chat. As I was getting to know them, one of the questions I asked was if they had kids. They told me they lost twins and a little girl, but what truly impressed me was that they said it with hope and faith in their voices. They then proceeded to tell me how they don’t look at it as a loss but as a beautiful future to look forward to raising their children. I was in awe and knew I had to ask to share their story.

John and Catherine got married in May of 2015 and currently live in Utah. John grew up in Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. He is 27 years old and graduated from Nyssa High School in 2009. John won many local tournaments in wrestling and he loved it all through out high school. After high school, he served a mission in the Bangkok Thailand Mission, and after his mission, he studied supply chain management at BYU Idaho and graduated with his Bachelor’s in 2016. He currently works in the IT department of his company. Catherine grew up in Layton, Utah and graduated from Layton High School in 2010. She enjoyed dancing from age 3 up until college. She was on a competition dance team all throughout junior high and high school, and also enjoyed coaching. She served a mission in the West Virginia Charleston Mission. After she returned home she studied at BYU Idaho and graduated with her Bachelor’s in University Studies with a minor in Marriage and Family. She is currently a homemaker.

The following is from their blog. Catherine’s perspective is first, and then John’s.
 
God Has A Plan: Our Story

I am writing our story now because it will be easier for me to remember all of the details that I don’t want to forget and hopefully it can help someone else. Everyone’s stories are different and we all have different struggles and trials that we will have to go through. I believe, though, that as we share our stories and our lives with others that it brings people closer together. I know that I have been blessed by blogs that women have shared about their struggles and stories so I hope that mine will be of some help to someone else.

It all started June of 2015 when John and I decided that we should get off of birth control and try to start our family. We both had received promptings from the spirit that this was something that we should do. In my mind, I thought then that having kids would be easy, right? Well, it wasn’t. Every month I would hope in my mind that the pregnancy test would come out positive so that we could start our family. It was a tough 14 months of always wondering when it would be my turn. We found out I had some health problems in April 2016 and I was going to go see an endocrinologist in September.

Well, everything changed when we found out I was pregnant on August 16, 2016. I had just come home from Bear Lake and was feeling super nauseous and it didn’t go away for a couple of days. I thought it was just heat exhaustion but I thought, “what the heck, just take test.” I was shocked as I saw the plus sign and found out that we were pregnant. I called my husband and we were so excited.

When we went to our first appointment after our trip to Thailand on September 12, we were excited and even more surprised to find out that we were having twins. I knew the chances were high coming in because my mom was a twin and her twin had twins. I just didn’t think that it was going to be my first. We were worried about my recent health problems but pregnancy does crazy things to your body and it actually leveled out my hormones that we were worried about in the past.

As the weeks of pregnancy went by I would try and mentally prepare myself for what my life would be like with two twin babies. I was preparing myself for the change of life. I knew it was going to be the hardest thing that I would ever do and that my whole life would change. I had all of the lovely signs of pregnancy such as nausea, constantly having to use the restroom, sore back, heartburn, having to find new clothes to wear with my growing belly, exhaustion, etc. I will admit that some days were hard but now looking back I wish I would have just lived in the moment and not taken those things for granted.

We were ecstatic when we found out at 18 weeks that we were going to be having twin boys. We started talking about names and putting up cribs and getting ourselves ready to be parents. I had so much joy when I would go to my appointments and watch our babies move and hear their strong heartbeats. One of my most prized memories is being able to feel them both in my tummy.

Everything changed on November 29, 2016. All day I had been feeling sharp pains and cramping in my tummy. It was different than the Braxton Hicks that I would feel from time to time where my belly would get really hard. I didn’t think much of it because it would only happen two times in an hour and last for 10 seconds. In my mind, I thought it could be round ligament pain or Braxton Hicks or dehydration so I just went about my day. Later in the evening, it started to get worse about once every 20 minutes. From around 10:30 pm until 2:30 in the morning it was happening every 10 minutes. I went to the bathroom and found a pinpoint of blood in my urine. I knew something wasn’t right. I woke John up and I called my midwife and she told me to go the hospital.

We ended up going to the hospital and the nurses took us into our first room where we got checked out. We got a urine sample and they tested my temperature and my blood pressure. They hooked me up to some monitors and watched the babies heartbeat. The nurses were surprised that they were able to get two strong heart beats with twins at 21weeks. We knew babies were healthy and that calmed my nerves a bit. They got the urine sample back and thought that I had a kidney infection so more tests were going to be done. I had some relief with that and thought everything was going to be okay.

When one nurse decided to check my cervix she knew something wasn’t right. They brought in another nurse for a second opinion. As she felt my cervix they both got concerned looks on their faces. I was dilated to a three or a four and they could feel the amniotic sac. My mucus plug had come out and babies were preparing for labor. The nurses talked with the doctors and were waiting for what should be done. They started hooking me up to I.V’s and put a catheter into my bladder (which was a terrible feeling). They put me with my head up in a diagonal position so they could take the weight off of my cervix. They told me I was going to be in the hospital until delivery and were going to try and keep the babies in until at least 24 weeks. They were hoping that the muscles of my cervix would relax and labor would be stopped.

About an hour later I received a call from a doctor who basically told me he didn’t think that I was going to be able to stop labor and that I would be delivering that day. They said they could try and stitch up my cervix but they didn’t recommend it because of the health risks since I was already dilating. Another doctor came in and double checked my cervix and agreed with the doctor on the phone. I had what they called an incompetent cervix which means that my muscles weren’t strong enough to hold the weight of pregnancy. They said there was nothing I could have done to prevent it and even if they had checked me a week ago they wouldn’t have been able to tell.

I immediately felt peace. That morning when I first had started having contractions I had felt like I needed to pray that I would be able to accept whatever would happen with my babies. After the news, I, of course, had waves of sadness all day but I felt comfort and knew that God was with me. John was a great support to me and my parents were able to be with us all day which brought a huge strength to me. The nurses that we had were a tender mercy. One of the nurses, named Laurel, was actually good friends with my mom and delivered my younger sister Teresa. She always came by my side and answered my call light when I needed something. Our last nurse, named Kellie, was actually one of the sisters that John home taught when he went to the single’s ward. The Lord blessed us with wonderful nurses who just wanted to help make our stay as comfortable as possible. I feel very blessed.

Once we knew that we would be going through labor and delivery they wheeled me to our delivery room for the day and prepared me for the epidural. I had been so nervous about it but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. That was around 8 or 9 am. They gave me medicine to start contractions and to dilate me to a five. For the next six or seven hours we laid in bed waiting for me to dilate. It took a long time and I just sat there numb waiting. Finally, around 4 PM I felt pressure and felt the need to push and I knew that the babies were coming. We called my midwife and she came with the nurses and got ready for delivery.

Liam James was delivered first at about 4:30 PM. He was 14 ounces and 10 and 1/2 inches long. He died during labor. Kelvin Reed was born about 10 minutes later and was 12 and 1/2 ounces and 10 and 1/2 inches long. He was a fighter for about an hour. We watched his cute little heartbeat and saw his cute little fingers wanting to grab a hold of ours. When we would think he had passed his little heart would continue. He died around 5:45 PM.

We truly felt their spirits with us and are grateful for the time that we had with them. I had always really liked the name Liam and we had felt impressed to name baby A Liam. Later as we remember that the name meant “Guardian” and “Protector” we truly felt that he went first to pave the way so that we could spend some time with his little brother Kelvin. We don’t know all the answers but we truly know these boys had a special bond in heaven and they will continue to be with each other and support each other until we meet them again.

After they were born we were able to hold them for as long as we wanted. We had a volunteer photographer come and take pictures of our little boys. They picked out little outfits for them to wear. They gave us many tangible things to remember our little boys. We had a support group come and give us resources to help with our grieving. We have received so much love and support from many of our friends and family and we are eternally grateful for the support system that we have.

Now that I am home and have been able to face that yesterday wasn’t a dream I can grieve and ponder over things of an eternal nature. I don’t know why certain things happen. I could sit here and be angry at God for wondering why I couldn’t have had a miracle or why my deepest desire to be a mother has been pushed farther forward. It’s always so tempting to ask why? Which I think is okay. It helps us to ponder greater things. What I keep remembering is how grateful I am to know that I am a daughter of God. I know that God loves me and has a plan for me and what I need. Since I know that I also have to accept that my two little boys also are Sons of God. They are His and He has a plan for them too and what they need. He gave me the opportunity to carry them in my belly and to give them a body for their own progression and growth. I am grateful that He is a merciful God and He allows families on earth to be forever. I will admit I am nervous to try and have children again. The doctors are very hopeful that I will be able to have children in the future. These babies taught me what my imperfect body is capable of and what I need to do to carry their future siblings.

Most of all I am grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. This time of year we remember his birth and the purpose of why He came. Why a man who never did any wrong had to go through every type of pain for us? Why He gave up His life so we could have ours again? I am grateful for the resurrection and the Plan of Salvation. I am grateful for the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, that teaches us these certain truths. I am grateful for the temple and that I can go and feel of my Heavenly Father’s love and have a place that I can feel close to home.


A Father’s Struggle

There’s a lot of things that I don’t know. I’m not sure why Liam and Kelvin had to die. Everyone likes to say that their spirits were just too precious to endure the trials of this world, that idea just hasn’t ever worked with me. I’m planning on having other kids and they aren’t going to be any less precious than Liam and Kelvin. I’m not sure if Heavenly Father just wanted them on the other side to do His work there, because I think that plenty of kids die due to the poor choices of other people and not necessarily due to God’s will. I’ve never really been one to believe that every bad thing that happens, happens because God made it happen. I know that He respects agency and allows things to happen… but I think that a lot of the time trials are produced as people walk contrary to the will of God. I’ve heard the analogy that strong winds make strong trees and how opposition makes us stronger, but I think I see things just a little bit different.

I actually don’t think opposition itself makes us stronger, the Atonement makes us stronger. Trees get stronger when they face strong winds because they have the opportunity to do so and that’s what they use their God-given abilities to do so. But if I grab a piece of paper and tear it in half, the paper will never be whole again. In that way, I don’t think that opposition is what shapes us, the use of our agency shapes us. Opposition provides the heat that softens the clay, and we can choose to respond according to Heavenly Father or the Adversary.

Whenever I face a situation in life where there is something that I don’t understand I try and focus on the common road or the things that I need to do no matter what. For example, whether God moved our children to the next world because he had a work for them to do there, or it was just a natural result of the fall, the route does not change for me. My job is to be the best example I can so that my boys can learn from my life, my job is to love my wife and care for her, to serve God and not waiver in the faith. That is the common road, so what I don’t know becomes less important to me. That’s always worked for me until I finally had a little bit of alone time the night after my boys died. Everyone was gone and I finally had a moment to myself, Catherine was tucked in and I didn’t need to be as strong anymore. I went into the living room and was totally overcome with grief. I had a couple questions, and I needed answers and I knew that God could provide them.

Having a knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, I knew exactly where my boys were and I knew where they were going to end up. I have an idea of the caliber of people they are going to become, but I wanted to know how they were doing right then. When most people think of children arriving in Spirit Paradise I think we imagine their minds being unlocked and all of their memories restored. I believe that all men will eventually have their memories of the pre-existence restored, but it’s hard to say when it occurs exactly. Perhaps it comes line upon line as we grow towards perfection just like everything else, but I’m not sure. I also know that people have the opportunity to learn and grow and accept the Gospel in the next life, and part of that Gospel is exercising faith which means there must not be a complete knowledge of things or else there would be no room for faith. I also know that my wife and I would have the opportunity to raise our deceased children during the millennium.

But with all of those things that I knew, there was one big hole of things that I didn’t know. If my children can’t remember the pre-mortal life, and they will be returned to me as an infant… then does that mean they are going to remain as an infant intellectually in Spirit Paradise until they are returned to me? The thought of my helpless premature sons not having their parents there to hold them, and not having the intellectual capacity to understand why is what sent me into my grief. Personally, I don’t have anyone on the other side of the veil that I know and trust. I have grandparents there, but none that I ever associated with more than once or twice. I wanted to know who was going to be there caring for my boys and holding their tiny bodies while they waited for me to be there with them. And the thought of them feeling at all confused or abandoned just wasn’t doing great things for my emotions. I am wired to provide and protect, but right now I couldn’t do either for my boys.

I did pretty good throughout our stay at the hospital, felt at peace and was ready to be there to strengthen everyone else that seemed to be taking it a lot harder than me. My thoughts were constantly turned to my wife and the sweet sisters in my life: Sarah, Teresa, Jacqueline, Tara, and Lani… and how they were going to deal with the loss. I felt the need to make sure everyone was okay, and not because I was trying to run or hide or because I felt obligated to, but because I just care so much about them and the way that they process all of this. But when it was time to say goodbye to my boys, when I was holding them in my hands and preparing to set them in a cart and say goodbye, I couldn’t help but think about all of the plans I had.

I loved being a missionary, I still do whenever I can, I was so excited to sit them down and role play missionary lessons. I wanted to teach them to love and serve and work. Most people that describe me would describe me as a hard worker, and that is something that I wanted to share with them. I was excited for twin boys because I could teach them so much more than how to teach the gospel and how to extend commitments. I could teach them how to work with a companion and to bounce off of each other as they work together to bring someone closer to Christ. I was gonna teach them to wrestle and never quit, to love their mom and respect women, to control their emotions and use the priesthood with power… all of the things that I have learned since I committed myself to Christ. And here I was staring at them, and knowing that they were going to go to the spirit world instead. It wasn’t that I was losing those opportunities, it was not being sure if they would understand that this isn’t what we wanted. As I stared at Liam I couldn’t help but feel so proud of the man that he was, he looked so strong and able to do hard things. I felt like he could carry mountains on his back if he wanted to. I’m not sure what would have happened if Kelvin would have come first, but I don’t think the process would have been quite as easy (just since his body was less mature). It may seem silly but it just really felt like Liam coming first was an act of courage that maybe they requested in Heaven so that everything could work better for everyone else. It was hard having his spirit pass before I could hold him, but I was proud of his courage none the less. Kelvin had the heart that just wouldn’t quit. Nurses said he was gone twice and both times we still found his heartbeat. I was proud of the love that I felt he possessed as he fought to stay in the presence of his mortal family.

I have been writing talks and planning the things that I wanted to teach my boys for years. But I only had a few brief moments alone with Catherine and the boys while they were still in her belly to teach them everything that I knew. Just a few moments before things changed and they left her belly to enter this world, I put my hand on Catherine’s stomach and tried to summon every ounce of priesthood power in my body. I counseled them to have faith and serve God with all their hearts. To love their mother and watch over her as they learned from her. I told them to watch her and use her as a guide for the type of person that they would marry one day as well… and I believe that they heard me. Later when they were born, Reed (Catherine’s Dad) and I took them in our hands and gave them names and blessings. It was a sacred moment for everyone I think.

But at the end of the day, I still needed to know how they were doing and what they were able to comprehend. I found my answers in chapter 15 of the Teaching of the Prophet Joseph F Smith. A lot of the things I learned he said directly, and other things I had to draw connections and listen to my spirit. I’ll let you read the chapter for yourself if you’d like to see which is which.

I know that their spiritual bodies reached a full level of maturity before they were born.

I know that in the spirit world their spirits continue to exist in that capacity.

I’m not sure if they remember the pre-mortal existence or not but I personally don’t think that they do (at least not right away).

I believe that they have the ability to communicate even though they never learned a language on this earth.

I believe that someone is there to teach the plan of Salvation to them and that they will accept it quickly.

I believe that someone will teach them about us and who we are, and how much we love them, and I believe that they will feel that love and love us as well.

I know that they will be resurrected in those tiny bodies that we laid them down to rest in, and then they will grow towards perfection (and I think that it might be that way with all of us).

I know that the blessings given to them will be fulfilled, and I know that they will be alright.

I felt very blessed to find my answers so quickly. I believe that bad things happen in life, and when those bad things happen we will need the guidance of the Holy Ghost to teach us and tell us how to act. That is why it is so important to go to church and partake of the sacrament and to read the scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon) and pray every day. That is why we do those things so that His spirit will always be with us just like it says in the Sacrament prayer. Hard things happen in life, and when they do you’re going to want His guidance. I am grateful for a father that helped me get started in the Book of Mormon as a 14-year-old boy, and for a prophet that challenged us to read it. The testimony I gained from that first completion of the Book of Mormon has completely carried me through every trial I have ever faced since.

I am thankful for a wife that I don’t hesitate to invite my sons to learn from and look up to. I believe that all good things come into our lives by way of the Atonement, but they all come for the purpose of our eternal marriage… and I am grateful to be married to a woman like Catherine that makes me feel like I have already been given everything that my Heavenly Father has. I can’t think of a greater blessing than to be with her and my children for eternity, and we’re already there. It isn’t some distant promise for me, it is already here. And I am grateful for a wife that has made that possible.

Everyone keeps asking what they can do, and it means a lot that they do, but I am happy to say that Christ already did it. The Plan of Salvation is set and the Atonement has been performed. Catherine’s health is doing good so far, so we’re doing okay. The only thing I would ask people to do is to love their families a little more. Read the Book of Mormon, say your prayers, do everything you can to walk uprightly before the Lord so he can be with you through the trials… because trials come. I would ask you to look out for others in need and share your testimony, do the things that you need to do and exercise faith in God.

I know that this Gospel is true. Jesus Christ lives, and because He lives so will my boys. Families can be together forever. The Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and he restored these truths to the earth. God is real. I hope that these things can find their way to another father, or anyone for that matter, that finds themselves in a place similar to where I found myself. And I pray that you can find strength and fortitude in Christ.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Anonymous

This is my first anonymous post, and you will see why as you read. I highly respect this person for being brave enough to share her struggle and for protecting her ex-husband’s identity. I am grateful for her example and faith in overcoming her ex-husband’s addictions and affairs.
I chose to write this post anonymously to respect the privacy of others involved. I’m not here to throw anyone under the bus, I’m just sharing my experience and things I have learned. So, no bio or picture for this post, but hopefully a post that will help someone feel like they aren’t alone if they’re experiencing something similar. Although, I would be thrilled if everyone who read this couldn’t relate at all! Unfortunately, I’ve learned my experience isn’t all that uncommon and happens way more than we realize when we are experiencing it and feel so alone. I’ll also make a disclaimer that I know this is something men and women both struggle with, this post is just written from a wife’s perspective.

I think it’s easy for many people to say they would never stay married to someone with a pornography addiction. It’s easy to say they would never stay with someone if they had an affair. I was one of those people who “would never stay in a marriage if my husband had a pornography addiction or had an affair.” That is, until I was faced with that reality. And while in some cases a spouse may run for the hills immediately, that certainly isn’t the case for everyone. It’s one of those things you don’t really know how you’ll handle it unless you experience it for yourself.

I hadn’t been married long when I was home alone one night while my husband was at work and I had a feeling to check his internet history. I pushed that feeling aside, but when the prompting returned, I acted. I felt guilty for snooping because there hadn’t been any major signs of concern up to that point and I felt bad for obviously not trusting my husband completely, the way I thought I should. But it was then that my eyes began to be opened to a can of worms I hadn’t known anything about.

I found fake e-mail accounts, dating website accounts, searches for sexual encounters, and plenty of inappropriate images that are unfairly engraved into my memory. I remember immediately thinking there must be an explanation; someone must have gotten a hold of his computer! Deep down I knew better, but the denial ran deep and I didn’t want to believe the heartbreaking truth.

I’ll spare every tiny detail, but I confronted my husband and he admitted to just enough to make me feel like I knew everything. However, for the next few days we became more distant and in my gut I knew there was more. I was right; soon he admitted he had had a couple affairs and a couple other sexual encounters.

We separated immediately. I was one of those that said I would never put up with that. But when it fell into my lap, I knew I needed to feel like I gave my marriage 100% before calling it quits. This was someone I loved and it wasn’t as easy to give up on our marriage as I would have thought it would be after being so hurt. We were also sealed in the temple and I had made covenants and wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing… but knowing what the right thing was was going to take a lot of time, effort, and patience.

We went to counseling that focused on sexual addiction and met with our bishop often. After quite some time of trying to make things work, I learned that he was still on dating websites contacting women, creating different types of fake accounts that involved pornography, and that an additional affair had happened before we got married. At this point I finally felt like I had done everything I needed to do to feel like I could walk away from my marriage and be happy. He hadn’t been worthy to marry me in the temple and everything that ever appeared good in our marriage suddenly seemed like a big lie. I knew I would be happier alone than to stay in the unhealthy marriage I was in, and we were divorced shortly after. I knew it was the right thing when I felt total peace with the decision, when I had felt so much confusion before.

This experience taught me a lot about myself. It strengthened my testimony as I relied heavily on prayer, reading my scriptures, and visiting the temple. I learned how to trust my own judgment. Before I knew about his addiction, there were things that were red flags that I didn’t see as red flags. The way he would get offended so easily, or the way he would turn every concern I had back on me like it was my problem – like that one time I thought it was weird he had been messaging an old girl friend from high school about going to lunch sometime. Not a double date, but one on one lunch. He made me feel crazy for thinking this was not okay, and I ended up apologizing for “overreacting.” I wouldn’t have known these were red flags for an addiction until I learned about it more through counseling and there were other wives that explained similar situations. I have since learned to stand up for myself. I learned that Heavenly Father gives us trials and experiences to help us learn and grow in wonderful ways. I am a better wife, a better mom, a more understanding friend, and a less judgmental individual because of my experience. I’m not perfect, but I’m grateful I was able to change for the better in a variety of ways because of this trial.

I also learned that good people struggle. I know several people who have this addiction that I think very highly of. They have happy marriages because they want their marriages to last and they want to avoid pornography. A pornography addiction doesn’t make someone a bad or “creepy” person. It’s a true struggle and my heart aches for those who struggle with it, especially those who wish they didn’t. I learned that the pornography addiction had nothing to do with me. I think it’s easy for a wife to feel like she must be doing something wrong. I felt like if I looked better, or kept the house clean, or cooked dinner more often, that the addiction would disappear. But often, pornography addictions stem back from a long time ago, long before a wife enters the picture. I learned that it’s much more common than I knew. I was so embarrassed and wanted to keep his addiction a secret, but as soon as our families and some friends knew, we were surprised at how loving and kind people were. As soon as I felt like I had people to talk to and it wasn’t a huge secret in our marriage, a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders and it felt good to have support from people I love.

Above all, I learned that the Atonement is real. It helped me to forgive and it healed my broken heart. It isn’t just for those who struggle with addictions, like pornography. It’s for spouses that are hurt by this addiction as well. I believe I would be bitter and resentful of a lot of things if I hadn’t had the Atonement to help me forgive, find peace, and see the blessings in disguise.

While my marriage ended because of this addiction, I’m confident that many marriages don’t need to. If both spouses are open and honest about their triggers and feelings and they really want their marriage to last, their marriage will last. Secrets grow and addictions can become harder to control. Satan knows this is a powerful tool to ruin marriages, so he wants us to believe that no one will love or support us if they know we or our spouse struggle with this. He wants wives to feel like they aren’t enough. However, I promise you that you do deserve better – whether that is leaving an unhealthy marriage, or staying in one where you set boundaries, don’t enable the addictive behaviors, and work on things together.

To anyone feeling like they are alone in a similar experience – you are not alone. Heavenly Father is aware of you and is allowing you to experience this to help you grow in wonderful ways. You are so loved. I know it’s not easy, but you are never alone and Heavenly Father can help you navigate this trial if you turn to Him and do your part.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Karlee

Karlee and I played soccer together growing up. She was always very kind and I am grateful she was willing to write about her divorce. I haven’t experienced divorce for myself, but I FEEL that these people are too often judged too quickly, or assumptions are made when they shouldn’t be. I hope this can help us be slow to judgment and quick to show forth love.

Karlee and her husband have been married for about 3.5 years. They have a two-year-old son and a three-month-old daughter that bring them more joy than anything. They are a Utah Utes loving family and love going to the football games together. She enjoys diet coke, sushi, naps, and warm weather.

Photo by Alicia Bass

I remember, as a teenager, making a list of qualities I wanted in my future husband. I wanted him to be respectful, kind, have a sense of humor, have a strong testimony, take me to the temple, among many other qualities on a long list. I had high expectations for my future husband! But the truth is, I doubted I would ever find someone who met my expectations who could ever truly love me completely. I was insecure and didn’t see my worth. I hoped I would find a good man to marry someday, but didn’t really see that happening for me. This caused me to base a lot of my thoughts about myself on the way guys treated me. If I wasn’t getting asked on dates, I filled my mind with lies about myself; I must not be pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, and so on.

After graduating high school, I moved to St. George to attend what was then Dixie State College. I had recently updated my “future husband list” and had it hanging in my room as a reminder of the type of guy I wanted to date and the type of guy I hoped would want to date me. I didn’t date much my first semester there, but at the end of that first semester I reconnected with and began dating an acquaintance from high school.

This acquaintance and I had one class together when I was a sophomore and he was a senior in high school. The extent of our friendship at the time was being friends in class, me attending his mission farewell, and writing back and forth a little bit while he was on his mission. He was always the funny, outgoing guy. He was well known, a student body officer, he was smart, and he was intriguing to me. When he got home from his mission he showed interest in me, and I thrived on the positive attention he gave me. On paper, everything seemed perfect. He checked off many, if not all, of the qualities I had listed and hanging in my room. We were married just shy of a year later.

At first, I thought we had a good marriage. In hindsight, I can see how immature our marriage was (on both ends) and how many red flags I pretended not to see. It wasn’t until one night when we had been married for just over a year that the spirit led me to find things that were happening that I hadn’t been aware of that was very damaging to my self-esteem and to our marriage. For the next year, we met with our bishop and attended counseling weekly, trying to save our marriage. For a long time, I struggled to know if I should stay married. We had made covenants in the temple and I didn’t think Heavenly Father would let me feel like divorce was the right thing for us. Eventually, though, more things came to light that made reconciliation nearly impossible. It was then that I finally got my answer, and we both agreed that we needed to get divorced.

There were times I struggled with understanding why Heavenly Father let me feel like getting married was the right decision in the first place, or why it took as long as it did to get the answer to get divorced if that’s what was meant to happen anyway. There were times I felt so alone. I was so young, many of my friends hadn’t even gotten married yet, and here I was, married AND divorced. I found comfort in praying, surrounding myself with loving, nonjudgmental friends, and attending the temple. It didn’t come immediately, but soon I realized that I was never alone. Heavenly Father had been with me throughout this whole experience. He knew I had a lot to learn, especially about myself.

This experience, although so challenging at the time, has become a huge blessing in my life in so many ways. I learned that if I was single forever, I would be ok. I could choose to be happy regardless of my situation. I learned that good people struggle with addictions or other hardships and it’s what they do with their experiences that really matter. I became less judgmental of those who struggle with addictions. I got a glimpse of myself as a wife. I was able to make changes I wanted to make in myself, but also realize I was a good wife that gave my marriage 100%. I gained a stronger testimony of, specifically, the Holy Ghost, prayer, and the Atonement. I realized the Atonement isn’t just for those who sin, it’s there for everyone who experiences sadness, pain, or any affliction. It ironically made me realize what I deserved. I became less critical of myself, which is a huge blessing in itself. I learned to trust in Heavenly Father’s timing. He had a plan for me, and this was all part of His plan.

When I moved home from where we had been living, I needed to find a new job. It was at that job that I met a girl who is now my sister-in-law. She eventually lined me up with her brother, Sam, who is now my husband. This was another blessing in disguise. Sam was different in many ways in the most refreshing way. He is quiet and reserved. He’s an avid sports fan and he especially loves his Utah Utes. He never, not even once, judged me for my situation. He is a wonderful dad to our two beautiful children. His testimony strengthens mine. Our marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s a happy, healthy marriage. When I look at my little family, I thank Heavenly Father for blessing me with that trial. It led me to something so, so good. He lovingly allowed me to experience something so hard, something I never would have chosen to experience, to help me grow in personal and spiritual ways that I am forever grateful for.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Nelsy

I met Nelsy at the Munchin’ with Moguls dinner. We were seated next to each other and she started sharing a little bit about her kids and infertility experience. I feel like we were meant to sit by each other that night, and that her story is going to bless someone’s life. Of course I asked her if she’d be willing to share and so here it is.

Nelsy has been married for 11 years. Her husband, Weston, and she went to the same high school but never knew each other. She pretty much fell in love with him right away, it took him six dates to kiss her! Together they have twin girls, Naomi and June. Her days are filled with lots of laughter and lots of diapers. She had a dream that she had twins six months before she got pregnant with them. Yes, she wanted twins. Yes, her hands are full. Yes, her heart is fuller. No, twins don’t run in her family. Yes, she wants more kids.

I still remember the night I saw those first two positive lines. Disbelief, excitement, & pure love rolled over my entire body. My knee caps were even shaking up & down as I stood there glancing back at my own reflection in the bathroom mirror. I was going to be a Mom! We surprised our families with the news early because we couldn’t contain our excitement & I even went out & bought some cute baby clothes. A short-lived two weeks later, a day before our first Dr. appointment… we lost that baby.

Of course, we were devastated. At this point, we had already been trying for over a year & a half.  Although it was the most heartbreaking thing I had ever experienced up until that point, I truly felt it to be somewhat of a tender mercy. I had been questioning for so long & I felt this was God’s way of telling me that it was indeed possible but, to trust in His timing. Somehow I walked away from that experience more positive & hopeful than ever before. It was like a drew up all this extra strength out of thin air, little did I know all that extra strength was coming to me for a reason. I was going to need to rely on it to get me through the next five years. Yes, FIVE.

In the world of infertility, every journey is different & unique. It’s a roller coaster of emotions. Full of ups & downs, uncertainty, frustration, & heartache to name a few. It’s not a topic that most people are comfortable with, no matter what side of it you are on. Every situation is unique & everyone handles things in different ways. Like I mentioned earlier, after our first loss, I was blessed with an unexplained strength that really made a difference for me that first couple of years. Although I was well acquainted with disappointment month after month, somehow my faith stayed strong during that time. But, it wasn’t always that way.

As the months turned into years, the harder & harder it became to rely on that feeling to trust in God’s timing. Finally, my frustration & heartache hit an all-time high shortly after someone close to us announced their surprise pregnancy in the middle of a party. I felt completely blindsided & at that moment it was like a dam broke inside of me. All these feelings I had suppressed for so long came out with a vengeance, torturing every corner of my fragile heart. I had endured a lot of pregnancy announcements up until this point but, this was the most shocking & difficult due to the nature of my relationship with this person. It was the most conflicting feeling I had ever felt. How could I be so happy yet so sad at the same time? That is infertility for you. There is a quote by John Mayer that says: “The saddest kind of sad is the sad that tries not to be sad. You know, when Sad tries to bite its lip & smile and go “No, I’m happy for you.”? That’s when it’s really sad.” That’s exactly how I felt.

This is the part of my journey that was the hardest & most trying. Shortly after this surprise announcement, I had back surgery & spent a lot of time alone at home recovering & feeling sorry for myself. My relationship with my husband & God suffered. I felt angry. I felt guilty. I felt shame. I even felt unworthy. I began to believe these lies from the adversary. I even recall a couple of intense moments waking up in the middle of the night & hearing the words “You’re never going to be a mother”… it was awful, even now writing that makes me feel sick inside. Just as God is real, so is the adversary. Thankfully with time, this darkness began to lift. With the help of priesthood blessings from my husband & prayers from those closest to me, I started to feel God’s love for me again.

I was not always open about my infertility. In many ways, I didn’t want to burden anyone with worry. I also had feelings of shame & embarrassment which I realize now, was so silly. For a time, I was the master at concealing it, but eventually, my silent suffering got the best of me. I didn’t realize how therapeutic it would be for me to put it out there. There were days I could literally feel the prayers of my friends & loved ones carrying me through. I wish I would have confided in someone sooner, so much good can come from talking & having a good cry with a friend.

A year & a half after my back surgery we began fertility treatments. This took us a very long time to start. I had so many fears about the procedures, the hormones, the costs… it was overwhelming, to say the least. You really do have to be mentally, emotionally, physically, and not to mention financially ready to start. It may have taken us longer than I wanted to get there, but the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I’m so grateful that I had such a patient & understanding husband to comfort & support me through it all.

I would never wish infertility on anyone, but just like any trial or test of our faith, we can come out stronger. Through this experience, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of God’s love for us. My relationship with my husband grew in ways that brought us closer together. I gained friendships with others I would have otherwise missed. My heart grew bigger than ever & I have more compassion & understanding than before. My gratitude & appreciation for my sweet girls is deeper than ever, they truly are my greatest blessings. The joy I feel when I look at them is greater than any pain or sorrow I ever felt getting them here. I learned a lot of lessons throughout my infertility journey, but perhaps the biggest one I learned is that God’s plans for us are always BETTER than our own. I promise you they are. He knows your heart, he knows your pain. He will never leave you comfortless. If you look for Him, you will find Him.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Kathryn

Kathryn and I served in the same mission (kind of a common theme lately). She and I were never companions but lived in the same apartment. She was a huge blessing to me in a moment of struggle and need. I didn’t even know her that well and she listened and loved.

Kathryn is currently a 2nd-grade teacher in Orem and absolutely loves the littles! When she happens to drag herself away from school, she likes to be in nature, hiking, taking pictures, star gazing, etc, or at the gym learning some mad kickboxing skills! She’s the 4th of 5 children and her siblings are her best friends.

I came home from serving a mission in June. I got set up on a blind date in September. We immediately started dating, got engaged in March, and we got married in the Manti temple in May. It was the fairytale story. He was the man of my dreams. He was exactly what I was looking for. He and I were going to make a happy life together and work through difficult situations together and those would bring us closer together. We would raise a family together. We would make traditions together. We would have a friend group. Through our time of being engaged, we established strong communication skills, we set goals, we helped each other become stronger. We were referred to as the “dynamic duo.” Love was on our side. It was us against the world. We were ready to take it on together.

Then something changed. We didn’t have each other’s backs anymore. We didn’t make our relationship a priority. We developed our own dreams, instead of developing dreams together. We set goals, but neither one of us followed through with them. Our priorities changed, and they weren’t changed together. We each had our own priorities and we were unable to compromise.

Eventually, our relationship came to a crossroad. A choice had to be made. Neither one of us were happy. We either needed to part ways, or we needed serious intervention. We didn’t feel that trust could ever be healed, and we weren’t sure if the other would put in the work and time to make our relationship healthy again. We didn’t feel like we would ever be completely honest and open with each other.

So, the difficult decision was made. We parted ways. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I thought the mission was, and would always be, the hardest thing I had to go through. It was only preparing me for what was to come. I married the man of my dreams. I loved him. He was my world. I devoted everything to him. I tried so hard to make things work, but I knew that parting ways was the only way both of us would be truly happy in the end. It was torturous. It physically hurt. There was physical pain- excruciating pain. We made promises to Heavenly Father that we were going to be a family forever, and now, we were breaking that promise. I didn’t know if I would ever find someone who compared to the man I fell in love with.

I got very angry with God. I was angry that He allowed me to get married to someone He knew I wouldn’t end up with. I was angry that He allowed me to go through so much pain and suffering. I felt like I was always the girl that made the right choices in High School. I studied the scriptures every night. I prayed. I went to early morning seminary and even did assignments over the summer. I did the Personal Progress Program multiple times. I was constantly preparing to serve a mission.I served faithfully and with all my heart and strength. I married in the temple. I did everything right. I followed the commandments the best I could.

I got on social media and saw my friends who didn’t have the same standards as I did, and they were happily married with children. I was angry because I didn’t understand why God would take away a happy marriage and a family from me when I did everything I was supposed to. Why would He give that opportunity to those who I felt didn’t have the same standards?

I was bitter, cynical. I hated everything and everyone. I had constant anger with me all the time, and no one, not even me, knew when I would explode. Sometimes, it was in my car when I was alone, sometimes it was at my family members who were trying to support me, and sometimes it was in my classroom full of children.

Eventually, I started to see miracles and tender mercies from Heavenly Father. I was humbled because of all the things He was doing for me to carry me through this trial. I got a renter for our apartment within a couple days. I got a check in the mail that I wasn’t expecting that covered the termination fee, and the debt we had accrued together. I had an amazing work family that was so supportive and always willing to help out in any way possible. I had a class full of wonderful, tender, and understanding kids, who gave me hugs all day long. I truly believe that angels in Heaven were working through those kids. I can’t help but believe that Heavenly Father gave me that specific group of kids because He knew they would take care of me.

I started to see all these little things that let me know Heavenly Father does love me. He is looking out for me even if I am having a hard time. I saw a counselor who told me that she felt Heavenly Father was understanding of those feelings and that He wasn’t going to judge or condemn me for having them. That changed everything. I felt better about being angry, which made it less intense.

I learned to do things I loved again. I learned to lean on my Savior again. I learned to appreciate Him and that He felt what I feel. I was humbled, immensely, knowing that Heavenly Father loves me even if I was mad at Him, and blamed Him for everything that went wrong.
I am still working through this change, but I can always see my Savior’s guidance, and I can always tell that I’m not alone, that at times, I am being carried. We can see our Savior’s love if we look for it. We can also see hatred and anger if we look for it. Our emotions reflect what we are focusing on. Thankfully, I was at a point where I had no one else to turn to for help or guidance or a soundboard, then my Heavenly Father.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Kenzie

McKenzie and I served in the same mission and I officially met her at our mutual companion’s wedding. Her and her husband, Braxton, had their little boy, Trevor, with them. He is so cute! And since then I saw through mutual friends some of her posts about the loss of their little girl, Maely. I started following her on Instagram and knew her story would be a blessing to others.

McKenzie was born in El Salvador and adopted along with her twin brother when they were babies. She loves her Latino roots and learning more about that culture. She graduated from BYU with her Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies and plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work. She loves living in Utah surrounded by family and the mountains. She and her husband Braxton met while serving missions in south Texas. They have two special kids and a Wheaten Terrier puppy named Neville Longbottom. McKenzie strives to spread awareness for Down Syndrome and infant loss in any way she can, especially through social media. She finds so much joy in being a wife and mom, serving in Young Women’s in her ward, and in all things Harry Potter.

“Keep trying, be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.”  -Gordon B. Hinckley

Growing up in the LDS faith, I learned that as long as you do your best to obey God’s commandments, that you would be blessed. I learned this in church lessons, by reading scriptures, and through my mom’s example (my dad passed away when I was a baby and she raised us as a single parent). This was instilled in me at a very young age and always stuck with me.

Several years ago, I was home for the summer from BYU, and going to the Young Single Adults ward. For our ward activity one week, we were going to get to have a small, private little devotional with Elder D. Todd Christofferson. I was really excited because even though he and his wife lived in my home stake, we rarely got to hear from him in person because Apostles are busy! I don’t remember everything he talked about that day, but I’ll always remember one thing he said; he told us that as long as we were doing what’s right, he believed “that you will have the righteous desires of your heart.” I truly took that to heart and remembered it constantly; it was great motivation for me to continue trying to live a Christlike life.

Eventually, I got married to an amazing guy! I had served a mission in Texas, and upon returning home, I went on a couple dates and explored some dating opportunities. After a few weeks, I started spending time with an elder I had known from the mission; our friendship quickly progressed into a dating relationship, and we were married a year later. During our sealing, the sealer (who is a family friend) talked about some trials in marriage like infertility but said he didn’t think that would be one of our struggles. Immediately that statement from Elder Christofferson crossed my mind; having kids was one of my biggest dreams and clearly a righteous desire, and I took this to mean that we’d have no problem in that regard (Phew!). When Braxton and I were first married I always told him that I wanted three things: a puppy, a baby and to go to Disneyland (Please feel free to laugh, I am right now!). A little over a year later, we found out I was pregnant! We even went to Disneyland that same summer- check, check! Life was honestly going exactly the way I had expected and planned it to, and I couldn’t be happier. I was doing what was right and felt that I was indeed receiving those righteous desires of my heart.

Halfway through that pregnancy, we found out our baby could have Down Syndrome. My husband and I were pretty crushed. It wasn’t what we wanted and didn’t see how it was going to work. With a lot of patience, faith, and trust, we accepted God’s will. Once our son was born it was ok! We weren’t stressed and knew that he was meant to be ours. Parenting a child with Down Syndrome has its challenges; Trevor is physically and cognitively delayed, which requires a lot of therapy. Braxton and I always felt that if Trevor had a sibling close to his age, it would be the best therapy he could have. We knew a little brother or sister could help his development better than we could! When Trev was almost a year and a half old, we found out I was pregnant again. We were so happy that he was going to be a big brother! Once again, everything was going right.

At my first prenatal appointment, we did a blood test to find out if this baby had any genetic problems like Down Syndrome. When the test came back negative a few weeks later, we were relieved. We were going to get to enjoy pregnancy this time around. We knew we were having a girl (that genetic test tells you the gender of the baby), and of course, I went right out and bought cute clothes and started a board on Pinterest for baby girl nursery ideas (I was just a little excited). I lived in this state of bliss for a couple more months until we went in for my 20-week scan. The nurse had a hard time seeing much during that ultrasound, so my doctor sent me to a specialist. I went to that appointment alone, not thinking it was going to be a big deal at all… Oh, how wrong I was. During that ultrasound, I laid helpless on the table in a dimly lit room as a perinatologist read a huge list of things that were wrong with my little girl. I was in complete shock. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be right! I asked what this meant for my baby’s outlook on life, and the doctor stated that he expected her to be stillborn or die minutes after birth. This is when the tears came. My world came crashing down. Somehow I made it home and called my husband to leave work. My mom and sister were there and I explained what was happening. No one could believe it. Later that night we went to Braxton’s parents’ to talk to this family about our baby. Everyone was distraught. I can easily say that was the very worst day of my life.

One of the things I really struggled with after this news was anger. Anger that so many people were able to have 4, 8 or even 12 kids who were perfectly fine and I couldn’t even have 2. I was so angry that my excitement over being pregnant at the same time as my best friend, sister, and sister-in-law (who were all having girls, too), was taken away. I was so mad that I was figuring out burial and funeral plans instead what outfit my baby would wear home from the hospital. She was never going home with us. I was so mad and heartbroken for Trevor, that he wasn’t going to grow up with his little sister. But most of all, I was angry with God. How could this be what was right for us? I was a good person who had already been through a lot of hard things in life, so why was He adding this on top of it all? Didn’t He see that we were trying to have kids, just like He’s commanded us to? I was supposed to have this righteous desire. It didn’t make sense. I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to go to the temple. I just wanted to be away from Heavenly Father.

A week after we received this news, the fall 2016 General Women’s Session of stake conference was being broadcast. I went with my mom to the stake center to listen to the messages. When President Uchtdorf spoke about faith, I was flooded a wave of emotions. His talk was titled “Fourth Floor, Last Door” and was all about faith. I’m sure that talk was helpful to many who heard it that night, but I needed it desperately. In my head, I knew all the things he was saying, but my heart needed to be reminded of the truthfulness behind his words.

“Faith means that we trust not only in God’s wisdom but that we trust also in His love. It means trusting that God loves us perfectly, that everything He does—every blessing He gives and every blessing He, for a time, withholds—is for our eternal happiness. With this kind of faith, though we may not understand why certain things happen or why certain prayers go unanswered, we can know that in the end, everything will make sense. All things [will] work together for good to them that love God. All will be made right. All will be well.”

The next week some of my dear friends who knew what we were going through, invited Braxton and me to go to conference with them downtown. In that Sunday morning session, I cried and cried as I listened to President Russell M. Nelson’s talk about finding joy, no matter our circumstances (Joy and Spiritual Survival). He stated, “My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. . . Just as the Savior offers peace that ‘passeth all understanding,’ He also offers an intensity, depth, and breadth of joy that defy human logic or mortal comprehension. For example, it doesn’t seem possible to feel joy when your child suffers from an incurable illness or when you lose your job or when your spouse betrays you. Yet that is precisely the joy the Savior offers. His joy is constant, assuring us that our ‘afflictions shall be but a small moment’ and be consecrated to our gain.”  Once again, I knew this was exactly what Braxton and I needed to hear. I was definitely in survival mode, drowning in grief. But Heavenly Father was aware of that and inspired those talks for not just me, but hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. He was trying to tell me that even though having and raising kids is indeed a righteous desire, He has something else planned; I just needed to hold on a little longer and trust in Him.

After Conference, I resolved to try and let my anger go. It didn’t just magically disappear, but I learned how to deal with it better. I knew that my baby girl would NOT want me to use her short life as an excuse to pull away from my Father in Heaven. Satan is so sneaky and will use whatever he can to tug at us little by little until we’re far from our Heavenly Father. I wasn’t going to let that be me. I reread those messages many times in the weeks that followed and can truly say they carried me through some tough days.

A couple months later, the day came when we held our baby for the first, last and only time on this earth. Maely Grace was born at 31 weeks, 16 days before Christmas. She lived for an hour and 6 minutes. In that short period of time, Braxton gave her a name and blessing, Trevor got to interact with her, and we took as many pictures and videos as we could. And just like that Maely was gone; she took her last breath and slipped away without me even realizing it.

The days that followed were some of the most difficult ones I’ve ever experienced. They were filled with an excruciatingly painful physical recovery, planning for and having a memorial service, welcoming a new niece into the family, lots of tears but also an outpouring of love. I cannot begin to express the heartbreak one feels upon seeing their child in a casket and placing it in the ground. How grateful I am to know that Maely isn’t really in there and that we’ll get to be together with her again.

Almost a year has passed since that time; Maely’s first birthday is coming up and my emotions are all over the place. I long for and miss her. I’m so proud of her for making the choice to come to earth for such a short time because she knew how important it was to God’s plan of Salvation. I’m grateful that she showed us that now is the time to pursue adoption (something we always wanted to do, but later on in life). I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to say that I’m grateful for this trial, but I AM grateful for what it’s taught me. I’m more patient, understanding and charitable than I was before. I have a *small* glimpse into what it’s like to suffer from depression and anxiety. I know how it feels to truly think you’re alone. At times I’m still angry and sadder than I can bear. But that’s when I really lean on the Savior and rely on His atonement to pick me back up.

As I think back to Elder Christofferson’s words about receiving the righteous desires of our hearts, I still believe them. He didn’t say that they would all happen in this life; He just said we could have them if we did our best to follow the Savior. So that’s what I’ll do! I’ll strive to find joy, trust that it will all work out, and keep faithfully trudging along to my fourth floor, the last door; the day I’m reunited with Maely Grace. I know Heavenly Father loves me. I know he wants to grant me what I most desire, and that He will- in His own time and in His own way.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Mallory

I met Mallory at the Munchin’ with Mogul’s dinner. We had a kind of Q & A panel there and I asked a question about what you’d say to someone who is the spouse of someone that has a mental illness and she raised her hand and said some things that moved me to tears, one of those being that you need to find someone who can be your safety net. That really resonated with me. She gave me her Instagram info and I sent her a message asking her to write this for the blog.
Mallory comes from a family of 9 kids and loved growing up in a busy household full of laughter. She went to BYU and majored in English and minored in Anthropology. She’s been married to her sweetheart Kory for almost 6 years. They have two beautiful kiddos – their son is almost 4 and their little girl is barely 2. She loves the mountains, a good cup of tea, and a great read. She loves to write and to sew and has spent all her free time in the last 5 months working on remodeling her first home. Together, she and Kory run a men’s shoe company called Taft.

December will mark 6 years of marriage to my sweetheart, Kory. We met through a field-study to India. We both signed up to spend 4 months in the country researching and met at a pre-departure class before we left. Meeting Kory sort of felt like being a magnet. The moment he walked into the room everything changed, and it really has never been the same since. I knew within weeks of knowing him that I would marry him.

Like every dating couple, Kory and I spent endless hours talking. We talked about our families, our aspirations, our hopes, our worldviews, our jobs, our majors, our friends, our favorite movies, our favorite music, our favorite food, our parenting philosophies, our thoughts on religion. Over time, I felt like we knew everything there was to know about each other. Somewhere in the mix of it all, Kory mentioned that he struggled with depression. I hardly even remember it, to be honest, because it was such a non-issue in my mind. I don’t remember my response but I’d imagine my thoughts were somewhere along the lines of  “we love each other so much, I hardly think that will ever be a problem.”

Despite seeing my fair share of loved ones struggle with mental illness, I knew very little about depression. Kory and I, obviously, went on to be married and I hardly gave his depression a passing thought. Over time, I started to notice his depression in subtle ways. Though I was well-intentioned, I really couldn’t grasp the depths of depression. It took years to find a groove. There were a lot of hurt feelings and a lot of misunderstandings on my part. It wasn’t until we had been married for 2 years, and we welcomed our first son into our lives, that I began to understand Kory’s struggle. After the birth of our son, I slipped into postpartum depression. I was totally blindsided by it, I’d lived my entire life very joyfully and optimistically, and I realized for the first time that depression wasn’t a sadness you could just snap out of.

It was a critical time for us, because while I meant well all along the way, before having our son I often found myself frustrated with Kory’s depression. It made me feel inadequate – I had this underlying belief that if I could just get it all right, Kory wouldn’t be depressed. I planned dates, made dinner, kept the house clean, and managed our lives in a way that I thought would alleviate Kory’s depression. Really, I was trying to have control over a situation that I truly had no power over. Over time I realized nothing I did helped and rather than turn to sympathy for Kory, I turned to frustration. All of that changed, though, when I experienced depression first hand. And while it only lasted the first few months of our son’s life, it was a poignant enough experience that it completely changed how I approached Kory’s depression. It really, in retrospect, was a huge turning point.

From that time on, I decided to approach Kory’s depression with nothing but love. I realized that for the first 2 years of our lives, I had tried to fit our marriage into a box of what I thought marriage should look like. The moment I realized our journey, our marriage, was ours alone and didn’t have to look like anyone else’s, I felt so much freer. We always had a deep love for each other, but our relationship deepened as I showed more love and understanding and Kory, in turn, felt more confident confiding in me with even his deepest feelings. It became a cycle, where I loved unconditionally, and Kory shared openly. We grew immensely as a couple over the next few years as we navigated mental illness and several other heavy trials. I soon came to realize that marriage is just taking turns carrying each other.

I also realized the importance of being relentless in pursuing health. When Kory didn’t have the energy or the motivation, I made countless calls to doctors and therapists. We went to homeopathic healers, integrative medicine professionals, psychiatrists, chiropractors, family doctors, hormone specialists, concussion specialists, and more. Kory is inherently frugal and had no desire to spend money on his health and it dawned on me one day that we needed to take his depression as seriously  as we would take cancer. If Kory were diagnosed with cancer we would make any financial sacrifice necessary to make sure he’d have the care he needed. I knew in my heart that his depression could be just as deadly, and needed to be treated with as much caution and aggression. So we’ve attacked it aggressively. I read somewhere that there are 10 different factors that contribute to depression, and you have to have at least 3 of them to become clinically depressed. Reading through the list, Kory had 8+, and some of them were in our control, so we set to work making them non-issues. We’ve had a lot of breakthroughs along the way, and there are a lot of reasons to have hope. The brain has so much neuroplasticity, it really can change and adjust and make new pathways, but it takes active effort. Treating mental illness takes active attention, focused energy, which, I think, is why it consumes so many for so long. While for some it’s as simple as taking a pill, for many its years of focused healing, and it can be exhausting, but I know it can work.  I know the appointments, and the diet changes, and the lifestyle adjustments are all worth it.

While it’s been a long road for Kory (15 years of depression) we’ve had a lot of breakthroughs in the last few years. Kory was diagnosed with MTHFR (you can look it up and read all about it) and discovered he has low testosterone as well. We’ve worked to remedy both of those problems, but it still takes work beyond that. I know that the answers are out there and that, eventually, you meet the person who can help you. Most recently, we met with a psychiatrist who told Kory he thinks OCD is at the root of his depression. “I think you’re all O and no C,” he told him, “which is why it would have gone undiagnosed for so long, you don’t have the normal red flags.” We’ve approached it from a hundred angles, and with countless doctors and it feels like we’re finally getting some traction, but it requires so much hope, which isn’t something many depressed people have in abundance, so I’ve really felt the need to carry the hope in our marriage.

That being said, there’s still a lot of fear. Because even though I can feel it, I can feel that we’ll make it, I know there are times Kory doesn’t feel the same. I know there are times when he feels like he has his back to the corner and there are no ways out. The most poignant example I’ve heard to describe depression and suicide was one Kory shared with me – he said depression feels like being in a burning building, and of course, you don’t want to jump, but it feels like the options are to jump or be consumed – so people jump. I think anyone’s worst fear is losing their loved ones, and it’s heart-wrenching to be in a position where that doesn’t feel far out of reach. I can hardly think about it without sobbing. When I see women who have lost their husbands my breath catches in my chest, because I know that could easily be me, but I can only have faith that it won’t be. The whole experience has been remarkable because I’ve learned that none of us are in control, really. We’re not in charge, but if we spend our lives trying to be, we’ll only be met with misery. You reach a point where you have to surrender to the fact that you’re not in charge, and realize that you can still have joy even if you don’t have control.

Recently I was looking back on our last 6 years of marriage, and it occurred to me that while I still have a lot of hope that Kory will be able to overcome his depression, I wouldn’t take it away from the last 6 years. Kory’s depression has taught me to love more deeply and unconditionally, to see people as they are and accept them as is. It’s taught me to enjoy every good day, even in its simplicity. It’s taught me to handle others gently because I never know the darkness they may be battling. It’s taught me to think before I speak, think before I act, because each of us, really, is more fragile than we realize. I’ve learned to accept my life and my trials and be grateful for them because they teach me in ways I couldn’t otherwise learn. I’m grateful for Kory’s depression because my children have seen, first hand, how to support others through trials, how to be a steady hand and soft shoulder. They’ve seen selflessness as Kory chooses us each and every day, as he chooses to be present with them even as he battles. I’m grateful because I have a marriage I feel so incredibly proud of. A marriage that’s a safety net for me, a marriage that is full of true laughter and joy and light, because we’ve also seen tears and hardship. We’ll continue to battle and to grow, and I know in my heart we’ll come out on top. I know because I’ve prayed and prayed and felt that steady hand reassuring me we’ll make it. I know because we’re tough, because we’re determined because our best days are truly ahead.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Shaleese

Shaleese and I were in the Athletic Training program together at Weber State University. She is smart, driven, funny, beautiful, and has a good head on her shoulders. She was nice to help me when I needed it and a good friend to talk to. I admire her so much. When you’re around her you can just sense this strength she has, it’s hard to explain but it’s tangible, and I think it must be from going through this experience.
Shaleese Marie White is 24 years old (25 next month). She is a certified/licensed athletic trainer. She currently works for Real Salt Lake and she is finishing her master’s degree in health science with an emphasis in athletic training and a minor in sports psychology. She enjoys playing soccer, playing the violin, listening to all types of music, running, anything else outdoors and spending time with the cutest 3-year-old you’ll ever meet! She’s super outgoing and loves to meet new people. In her free time you will find her… well actually she never has free time so who knows.

Spending Thursday nights studying is never fun, especially as a 15-year-old. It was about 10:00 PM when my dad came in my room as I was banging my head against my biology book. Beginning to laugh, he made me a deal in hopes to motivate me. He told me If I studied for ten more minutes, he would take me to lunch after my test tomorrow. Who doesn’t love leaving school early and getting free food with your best friend?! I went to bed that night anxiously awaiting the exam in which I thought would be the most significant test of my life. Little did I know the Lord had a different test in mind.

Friday morning approached and after I submitted my test I rushed to my seat to text my dad that I was finished. Seconds later a voice echoed over the intercom and said, “Can we have Shaleese White down to the office to check out.” I eagerly gathered my things and rushed down the stairs. I was halfway down the last set of stairs and surprisingly saw my aunt standing in the hall instead. I had a strange, comforting feeling, almost peaceful and at the same time, I instantly knew something was wrong. Her first sentence to me was, “Shaleese we need to go to the hospital, it’s your dad, we need to hurry.” I began frantically asking questions and she wouldn’t answer. All she would say is, “we just need to get to the hospital.”  It was as if everything turned into slow motion. The car ride, any words said to me, my thoughts, flashbacks of last night, walking into the hospital, seeing my mom sobbing, everything was slow motion. My mom walked over to me and the words “he’s gone” raced through my head. I felt numb. I kept repeating over and over “it’s not true, it’s a bad dream.” I went home that day with every emotion, however, anger was the leading one. How could God do this to me, to my family? How could God take my best friend? I do everything I am supposed to. I read, pray, pay tithing, do service, etc. Why am I being punished? This anger developed into hatred. I wanted nothing to do with the church I had just joined almost 5 years prior. Being a convert I thought I had developed a strong testimony, I thought I had faith to overcome mountains. At this moment I felt the Lord turned on me and I felt helpless and even worse, furious.

Monday morning finally arrived, and I went back to school. I wanted to get away from the sadness that lingered my home. I had seminary second period. I went but left halfway through. I slowly stopped going to church, youth activities, seminary, reading scriptures, and anything related to the gospel. Everyone justified my actions at first. “She just lost her dad, it’s understandable” or “give her a break she is tired of people asking how she is” and my personal favorite “she’s going through a phase, she’ll grow out of it.”  I stopped caring about everything. I went from being a 4.0 student to barely passing. This digression went on through my junior year. I started hanging out with different friends who chose to drink, party, and not care about consequences. I stopped caring about life and my future. I used my seminary period to get a Jamba Juice or lunch, church on Sunday became a 3-hour nap time, attending school was merely a social thing, and I was not on track to graduate, I just didn’t care anymore. I was infested with anger.

Almost the end of my junior year I had a friend bribe me to go to seminary. She said if I went with her she would buy me an aloha pineapple Jamba Juice… my biggest weakness. After 30 minutes of trying to convince me, I caved. That day changed my life.  The lesson was on trials and enduring to the end. Majority of the class was spent reading 2 Nephi 31, but the two verses that hit me like a spiritual train was 2 Nephi 31: 19-20.

“(19) And now beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this straight and narrow path, I  would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ, with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. (20) Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfast in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold thus saith the Father: ye shall have eternal life.”

This started the uphill battle to turning my life back around. I cried the entire day after that. I prayed for the first time in almost 2 years that day. I reflected on that dreadful day when I lost my best friend. I always angrily questioned where the Lord was during the worst day of my life. How could He just sit and watch my world fall apart? After reflecting I realized that He was there the whole time. I thought about how I came down the stairs and saw my aunt, the strange, comforting feeling I instantly felt. The Lord was trying to help me through it before I even knew what was to come. He never left my side. He patiently waited as I spent two years being unhappy, angry, and blaming Him for all the things that went wrong that day and the next two years. I am by no means perfect now. I still make mistakes, I fall asleep reading scriptures, I miss church sometimes, and I forget to pray and many other errors. That is the most significant thing of this gospel, is knowing no matter where you are in life the Lord loves you and will forgive you. He does not put us through trials to merely watch us struggle, or hope we figure it out on our own. We have trials regardless of what we believe in, however, what we believe in can make the trials bearable and conquerable.

Losing a loved one is never easy, no one is ever fully prepared, and no one deserves it. Death is something we will have to deal with in one way or another, but it is a helpless life event. So, when it happens, be mad, be angry, be sad, cry, scream, ask questions, yell, BUT remember to grasp the Lord with everything you have. I know that the Lord loves us and I know this gospel is true. I know that I can return to him and be with my family forever someday. I know that I can do all things through Christ.

Here I am almost nine years later (next week), and I can say it doesn’t get easier, you simply get stronger. I still miss my dad, I still cry sometimes, I still wonder what it would be like if he was still here. However, I don’t have anger towards God anymore, I don’t block out the loving arms of a savior who lives me. I am about to graduate with my master’s degree, working for Real Salt Lake as a certified/ licensed athletic trainer, teaching sunbeams, 24 and still falling asleep at night reading scriptures and being so grateful for what I’ve experienced and the helping hand I had through it all. Life will hand you situations where you want to throw in the towel and give up; you might even do just that. It’s never too late to turn around. The Lord’s hand is always extended, and in reach, you just have to look up and grab it.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Chelsea

Chelsea and I went to high school together and were in the same Homecoming group one year but that was about the only interaction we had. I am grateful I have gotten to “know” her a little more through social media. She recently posted about her daughter’s baby blessing and how the decision to have her blessed was not an easy one. So, surprise, I asked her if she would write about it and I’m grateful she did because her story has its own stigma that needs to be ended.

Chelsea is a full-time videographer, wife, and mother to a 4-month-old baby girl. Both she and her husband quit their full-time jobs to start businesses the same month they got married. Goodbye insurance and company benefits. Their most recent project is fixing up an old motorhome so they can travel the country (if they can ever finish it, that is). While Chelsea would love to currently be running around the world chasing interesting stories to be filmed, she’s currently working on figuring out motherhood and loving on Ellie every hour of the day.

Photo by Rachel Garrett Photography

Last week, I found myself sitting in the back of a room of a stranger’s house listening, tears in my eyes, feeling so confused and hurt. This room had grandparents, husbands, wives, bishops, young women presidents, neighbors, all of whom were there to find relief. This house is home to a monthly support group for “faith challenged” individuals who are still trying to stay connected to, and positively participate in the LDS faith. Whether it’s policies, church doctrine, personal offense, historical problems (or all of the above)… something brought all of these people in a small town home on a Friday night in south SLC to talk, to listen, to find hope. Never in a million years would I have put myself in this home. Never would I have imagined marrying someone who doesn’t identify with the truth claims of the LDS faith.  Never would I have imagined that I would be in a dual-faith marriage… and happy.

So rewind a few years. Nick and I met in a BYU ward my senior year of college (Nick had been graduated several years at that point). He was the life of the party. My first impression of him was walking into a motor home that he co-owned with a few buddies, surrounded by 30+ other students listening to him belt Celine Dion at the top of his lungs as we drove to a neighborhood pool party. And that was just a glimpse. From owning five go-karts to creating one of the biggest ongoing Provo Halloween parties to date (Harry Potter Halloween)… he was a Provo legend. Honestly, he would be SO embarrassed that I am describing him this way, but there’s no other way to put it. He was something else.

It was love at first sight, followed by a trail of anxiety and hesitation (on my part).  We dated for two-and-a-half years before marrying. There were good times. Hard times. And LOTS of indecision. One thing is for certain, we communicated about EVERYTHING. My mom, a therapist, coached me about things to discuss prior to marriage: lifestyle, sexuality, education, religion, childhood, hobbies, love language, goals, etc. I only say this to point out that I assumed there wouldn’t be any monumental surprises following marriage… but boy was I wrong.

We were married in the Bountiful Temple July 18th, 2014 and living the “Mormon dream” if you will. It was only about three to four months into marriage when Nick approached me and said he had some questions he put on his “spiritual shelf” that he’d like to try to find answers to. Of course, I supported him. I’m a believer in seeking truth. Fast forward a few months later, and everything started unraveling, FAST. With an attempt to find answers came more questions. It was all-consuming. We were knee deep into podcasts, meeting with BYU professors, church history books, and publications. Long story short, we were in wayyy over our heads.

I was serving as Young Women’s President at the time and it was very difficult. I would go to church trying my hardest to help these young girls find a testimony of Jesus Christ and enjoy their experience at church all the while coming home to pick up the pieces of what was left of my husband’s testimony. I was devastated, exhausted, and very discouraged.

However, Nick was 100% transparent and open with me the whole time. We walked through this together (I know not everyone has that same experience). Though we have different needs and beliefs, it was beneficial for me to be so close to him at this time that was rather divisive in nature. Don’t get me wrong, it was DEFINITELY a challenge, and there were times for both of us where we didn’t know if we were going to make it through this alive. But no matter what we strove to be open, communicative, and to understand where the other was coming from.

One misconception I had before this experience was thinking people who left the church were lazy, sinful, or simply not committed. None of those describe Nick. As much as this was devastating to me, it was heartbreaking for him. We’re talking about a man who had dedicated his ENTIRE 31 years of life to learning and preaching the church. We have family home videos of him, just three years of age, giving the first discussion (name tag and all). Nick was the kid who would skip out on high school classes so he could attend seminary lessons from more than one seminary teacher. A boy who heard a John Bytheway talk to not kiss a girl prior to serving a mission and FOLLOWING that counsel. I still can’t believe it. His first kiss was AFTER his mission because he wanted so badly to be the best missionary he could possibly be and to leave any distractions aside. He was an amazing missionary…. the stories I could tell. Throughout my husband’s faith transition, I’ve been told by several people that Nick simply wasn’t dedicated enough… and that’s a lie. He could not have been more orthodox/TBM/100%committed/whatever term you’d like to use. Again, I’m not saying any of this to talk Nick up. I’m saying this to show just how much he lost and mourned through this faith transition. How much I have mourned this new reality we both are living. Neither of us anticipated our current reality.

I didn’t tell a soul for almost a year before I turned to my family because I needed the support. It’s been a lonely journey. After about two years, I decided it was time to talk about it. The only complication was in order to talk about my struggles, I’d have to “out” Nick. He was reluctant. He didn’t want people to act differently around him or treat him like a project. I was scared. I was worried what people would think, and I didn’t want to throw him under the bus. I was also scared that somehow vocalizing it, that our situation would be permanent. That this nightmare of a reality was all a dream and I would wake up soon to the life I thought I’d live. But that’s no way to live. Secrecy only breeds fear and shame.

Once I accepted it was not just his story, but ours to share, it became easier to be more transparent. In being open about this, we discovered that some of our long-time friends were in a very similar situation too, we found the support group that I mentioned above, I joined a few FB forums, listened to podcasts, and tried to learn from other women (and men) in my situation. As with any trial, people in a similar boat came out of the woodwork. It’s like getting a new pair of eyes. I started noticing people sitting in the church pews who I never thought twice about, struggling. It was a weird feeling when we became the “project” if you will and full-well knowing what others might be saying about Nick, about us.

We’re three years into navigating this faith journey. Though, I’m fine thinking and believing differently than my husband, once Ellie (our little girl) came along on June 1st of this year, we knew we’d have to compromise on a lot of things. Her baby blessing was the first of many church landmarks. We had countless conversations about what to do. We met with our bishop many times regarding who should give the blessing and where. We came to the conclusion to ask my dad and to have it at our house. What was initially a highly anticipated, but reluctantly approached event, turned out to be a very beautiful afternoon.

There’s so much I could say about feelings of disownment, judgment and shame that have accompanied this journey. Some people have been understanding and others terribly cruel. I could dwell on the fact that I will most likely not be entering the temple with my husband any time soon. Or that Ellie will most likely be taught at some point that her dad is sinful, lazy, or unworthy. It’s safe to say, our marriage, and small family will be met with new challenges at each new stage of life. I won’t pretend for one second that we have it all together because we don’t.

However, for those reading this who may relate on some level, I will say I’ve found peace. My husband and I are incredibly happy. I have found being open and transparent has brought so much support and love. I’ve met so many women and men in my shoes. We all live different realities because not everyone’s spouses are as understanding, willing to communicate, or even compromise. I love that Ally is providing a platform for women to talk and find camaraderie in hard life experiences. These experiences don’t define us but help give empathy, understanding, and knowledge. I won’t pretend to know how someone’s faith journey will go or to provide any answers. But I will provide a listening ear, all judgment aside. Whether we acknowledge it or not, this camp that Nick and I find ourselves in is growing. I see it. I hope that we can come together and find strength in numbers. I hope we can wrap our arms around each other, physically and figuratively. Just know you’re not alone. Wherever you may be on your spiritual journey, I hope you know there are people who love and support you. I support you.